Pixel Scroll 6/1/22 The Ones Who Scroll Away From Pixelas

(1) BURKE TELLS MORE ABOUT HER BALTICON EXPERIENCE. Stephanie Burke has written a 2600-word comment on File 770’s “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels” post that goes into fuller detail about her experience. The link is here. In the last two paragraphs she says —

…It took me close to 20 years to build up my reputation there as a person who did her best to make sure everyone had representation, that willful ignorance would be avoided, to be someone who was safe for anyone to speak to, to offer info, links, and some perspective that may help them as well as learn how I can improv myself, and now it is gone here with no proof and no way to defend myself. All I got was the decision of the board still stands and I still don’t have an idea of what exactly I was supposed to have said. They told me they didn’t have the recordings in the room where ever panel was recorded so unless someone is lying about the recording, I’ll never get the chance to defend myself. Unless of course, the recording is found at the last moment but to me that sounds like looking for proof of guilt than proof of evidence of innocence.

One of the last things I told them and still remains true, was that closest feeling I could aquait with being walked out of that room like that was a time when I was a teen working at a summer camp when some woman claimed that I had stolen her wallet. I was marched out of the room like the cops knew I was guilty, the accusing eyes and twisted lips, only to be let back in a few moments later with the woman happily calling out that she just misplaced her wallet and just found it in her purse and everything was all good and okay now, right? The cops kind of shrugged at me and said okay and that was it but I went into the bathroom and threw up my lunch. This was the closest I had ever come to feeling like that and I never want to feel like that again. I know would feel it again if I walked into another Balticon event….

(2) FIRE DISPLACES SFF WORKSHOP. Taos Toolbox has moved to Albuquerque this year. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook.

Taos Toolbox is not going to be in Taos this year. The two-week intensive science-fiction writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach is usually held at the ski resort of Angel Fire, near Taos, New Mexico. However, the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak wildfire is less than a dozen miles from Angel Fire and not yet close to being contained. Since it’s not good to incinerate workshop attendees, the workshop has moved to a hotel in Albuquerque….

Walter Jon Williams, the event’s founder, filled in the details on Facebook.

So quite a number of plans have gang agley in the last days, so I’ve been putting out fires— nearly literal fires.

Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, starts this weekend, and has been held at the Angel Fire resort for the last decade or more. It’s a deluxe place in a beautiful mountain setting, and unless there’s a mountain bike rally or something, it’s not too crowded or noisy and we can concentrate on our work.

Except this year we have the Hermit’s Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, over 300,000 acres and currently only 60% contained. It’s ten miles from Angel Fire, and when it gets a wind behind it, a fire can race along at 5 miles per day. Angel Fire has been at the “prepare to evacuate” stage for weeks now.

I mean, the pandemic wasn’t enough?

Now the fire is 60% contained, and the odds are Angel Fire would have been fine, but I couldn’t guarantee that. I couldn’t absolutely promise that Hermit’s Peak wouldn’t blaze up again, or that we wouldn’t have to evacuate 20 people to lodging unknown. So I moved the workshop to the Sonesta ES suite hotel in Albuquerque, which is quite luxe, offers free breakfast, and has a fine view of the semi trucks running past on the freeway….

(3) ROYALTY IN GENRE. The British Science Fiction Association anticipated Jubilee Weekend by launching this discussion topic:

Here are two of the many responses.

(4) THE GODFATHER. Craig Miller who created the Official Star Wars Fan Club for Lucasfilm told Facebook friends about his new nickname.

During the Star Wars Celebration panel “Fandom Through the Generations”, Dan Madsen – the founder of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and Star Wars Insider – called me “The Godfather of Star Wars Fandom”.

That actually felt a little weird. I suppose not entirely inaccurate. Part of my job was to take Star Wars to Fandom and to keep Lucasfilm of the mind that fans are important. But I’d never thought of it that way….

The post also contains a photo of the plaque and trophy Craig received this weekend when he was made an Honorary Member of the 501st Legion.

(5) SHOULD IT BE A PERMANENT HUGO? Trevor Quachri expands on a DisCon III panel discussion about the proposed Best Video Game Hugo in “The Play’s the Thing”, his editorial in the May/June Analog.

…So it seems straightforward: games, particularly of a “science fiction, fantasy, or related subject” bent (per the award description) deserve a permanent spot on the ballot, right?

Well, let’s hit the pause button for a moment.

Everyone on that games panel quickly stumbled over the same basic question: Given all of that background, what’s the primary criterion for judging the “best” game in a given year? And what makes the Hugo for Best Video Game different from any of the other already-existing game awards given out by fans, professional game designers, and the like? Is it a “writing in games” award? The Hugos may be primarily literary, but well-written games may not actually be the best games, taken on their own merits. (Chess, for example, isn’t a lesser game because the pieces don’t each have an elaborate backstory.)

And how do you explain what makes a good game to folks unfamiliar with them? Games are built from readily-understandable art to one degree or another—the graphics are art; the music is art; voice acting is acting, which is art; and yes, the stories in games are art—but the thing that makes games unique—the game part—isn’t so easily grasped….

(6) CORA BUHLERT. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Cora Buhlert: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Cora Buhlert is a prolific indie author, champion of independent publishing, blogger, pulp historian as well as a teacher and translator. Based in Germany, her sci-fi writing and reviews are primarily in English but she is also a tireless ambassador for science fiction from beyond the insular English speaking perspective on the genre.

(7) FROM THE START. Wole Talabi shared some “Preliminary Observations From An Incomplete History of African SFF” at the SFWA Blog.

When Did the History of Published African SFF Begin?

Tricky. And there is probably no right answer since publishing from early colonial Africa was problematic and it depends on what you define as SFF. I’ve arbitrarily limited my scope to works published between 1921 and 2021, even though I don’t have any entries from 1921. Why 100 years? To quote Geoff Ryman: Because it’s easy to remember. And the first entry in the database is Cameroonian Jean-Louis Njemba Medou’s Nnanga Kon, a novel published in 1932 in Bulu. I suppose that’s as good a point as any to start. However, that’s only one way to look at things. Another is to observe the rapid increase in published works that begins in 2011, peaks in 2016, and has somewhat stabilized since (although this could simply reflect my inability to keep up with documenting new works).

(8) COVID TRACKING. Balticon 56’s “Covid Reports” page lists five attendees who report they have tested positive.

This page will continue to be updated as COVID-19 positive tests are reported after the con. If you attended Balticon in person and have a positive test result before June 15th, please email covid@balticon.org.

(9) BACK FROM CONQUEST. Kij Johnson reports on a successful Ad Astra Center fundraiser in “Summer starts with a screeching sound, as of hot brakes making a hard turn.”

…Last weekend was a benefit auction for the Ad Astra Center, held at ConQuest, the KC SF convention, this was fantastic fun: we had a great team of six people, and ended up with more than 300 auction items, and made (we think) close to $3000, which is pretty extraordinary, considering this was a small con this year. (I also was on panels with Fonda Lee, Katherine Forrister, and other cool people.) Chris McKitterick and I had a chance to talk about what Ad Astra is looking forward to doing, and I am ever more excited by what’s going to be possible….

(10) SHALLOW ROOTS. Abigail Nussbaum says there’s a reason for the sense of sameness in the series’ second season in “Love, Death, Robots, but no Women” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…There have been thirty-five Love, Death + Robots episodes. Something like thirty of them are based on a previously-published short stories. Only one of those stories is by a woman. (Also, only one of those stories—not the same one—is by a person of color.) And frankly, that’s not only reprehensible in its own right, but it tells in the final product. There’s a certain laddishness to the stories the show chooses to tell, a disinterest in the inner life of anyone but manly, taciturn men. Bug hunt stories abound, and despite the show identifying itself as science fiction, there is no shortage of episodes that are just plain horror, whose appeal seems primarily to be watching a lot of people get torn to bits cinematically (“The Secret War” in season 1; “The Tall Grass”, season 2; “Bad Traveling”, season 3). Though some episodes have female protagonists, there are also a lot of stories where women exist to be ogled (“The Witness”, season 1) or fucked (“Beyond the Aquilla Rift”, season 1; “Snow in the Desert”, season 2).

I watched the recently-released third season over the last couple of evenings and was not impressed…. 

(11) STRANGER TV. In contrast, Nussbaum enthuses about “Stranger Things Season 4, Volume I” on her Tumblr.

Folks, I am somewhat flabbergasted to report that the fourth season of Stranger Things – a show that I would previously have described as “derivative fun, if you don’t think about it too hard” – is not only its best, but genuinely good TV. There are some caveats to this claim – the last two episodes haven’t been released yet, and the protracted episode runtimes (ranging from 63 to 98 minutes) are impossible to justify – though for the most part the show wears them pretty lightly. But even so, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen…. 

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] I still remember The Dune Encyclopedia fondly as it is an amazing creation. Published by Berkley thirty-eight years ago, it was written by Willis E. McNelly and forty-two other individuals not as a work of non-fiction but rather as an in-universe work. Everything in it was something that was supposed to actually be true. It was edited by Hadi Benotto, an archaeologist you’ll find in God Emperor of Dune and Heretics of Dune.

It was authorized by Herbert, who considered it canon, and went into detail such things as character biographies, looks at the worlds in that universe, a look at the spice melange, how such things as the stillsuits and the heighliners of the Spacing Guild function.

Herbert wrote the foreword to The Dune Encyclopedia and said: “Here is a rich background (and foreground) for the Dune Chronicles, including scholarly bypaths and amusing sidelights. Some of the contributions are sure to arouse controversy, based as they are on questionable sources … I must confess that I found it fascinating to re-enter here some of the sources on which the Chronicles are built. As the first ‘Dune fan’, I give this encyclopedia my delighted approval, although I hold my own counsel on some of the issues still to be explored as the Chronicles unfold.” 

Brian Herbert later, being the, well, I can’t use the word I want to use, declared everything here non-canon. That allowed him to write anything he wanted to in the novels he and Kevin J. Anderson have putting out by the armload. He even said his father never intended it to be canon.

If you’d like to purchase a copy today, it’ll cost you dearly, particularly in hardcover. A good copy is now running around two hundred and fifty dollars. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 1, 1926 Andy Griffith. His most notable SFF genre credit is as Harry Broderick on the late Seventies Salvage I which lasted for two short seasons. Actually that was it, other than a one-off on The Bionic Woman. It’s streaming for free on Crackle whatever the Frelling that is. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 1, 1928 Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone. British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were with the critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.)
  • Born June 1, 1940 René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder WomanThe Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic WomanBatman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryEnterpriseStargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions in recent years, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. He directed eight episodes of DS9. And he wrote a lot of novels, none of which I’ve read. Has anyone here read any of them? (Died 2019.)
  • Born June 1, 1947 Jonathan Pryce, 75. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote. 
  • Born June 1, 1948 Powers Boothe. Though not genre, he played saloon owner Cy Tolliver on the Deadwood series, and “Curly Bill” Brocius in Tombstone, one of my favorite films. Now genre wise, he’s in the animated Superman: Brainiac Attacks voicing Lex Luthor, The Avengers as Gideon Malick, Gorilla Grodd and Red Tornado in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and a recurring role as Gideon Malick in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 1, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 68. A filker which gets major points in my book. And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been at least twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. 
  • Born June 1, 1966 David Dean Oberhelman. Another one who died far too young. Mike has an appreciation of him hereThe Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko which he co-wrote with Amy H. Sturgis was published by The Mythopoeic Press. ISFDB lists just one genre essay by him, “From Iberian to Ibran and Catholic to Quintarian”, printed in Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 1, 1996 Tom Holland, 26. He’s known for playing Spider-Man in five films: Captain America: Civil WarSpider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and the recently out Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) IT’S GOT ISSUES. At The Verge, Alex Cranz says, “The merging of Comixology and Kindle has created a hell I’d like to escape”.

In February of this year, Amazon finally completed its consumption of the once independent app for downloading comics, Comixology. Amazon had acquired the app way back in 2013, and apart from removing the ability to buy comics directly from the app, it left it untouched for nearly a decade. But this year, Amazon changed things — incorporating Comixology’s digital marketplace directly into the Kindle ecosystem and totally redesigning the Comixology app. It has taken two distinct mediums — digital comics and digital books — and smashed them together into an unholy blob of content that is worse in every single way. Apparently, if you let one company acquire a near-monopoly in the digital books and comics spaces, it will do terrible things that make the experience worse….

…The new Comixology app is largely just… annoying. That’s the best word for it. Everything you need is still there, but the design isn’t really intuitive, and it can make a large collection of comics (I’ve been using Comixology since 2011) difficult to navigate. It feels sort of like when you go to the grocery store after they move aisles around. Everything is still there, but the change feels so dramatic after years of the familiar.

But where my local Food Bazaar will helpfully label the aisles, Comixology has not. There are no clear labels for useful built-in tools like its “Guided View,” which is designed to fluidly move you from panel to panel with a swipe instead of having each page take up the whole display. The Guided View is still there, but the clear explanation of what it is or how to use it is gone. You access it by double-tapping — which I only know because I was trying to access the menu to leave the book.

(15) CONFRONTING THE BLANK PAGE. Neil Clarke wrestles with the question of what he should be doing in his monthly Clarkesworld editorial: “Managing This Expectation”. He posits several ideas – here are two of them.

…Or perhaps, I’m filing a report of “criminal” acts? Earlier this week I was the victim of an ageist attack suggesting that I was “too old to be editing one of the leading science fiction magazines” and I should “get out of the way” so someone younger can do it. I’m only fifty-five, not the oldest editor I know, and not about to give up the magazine I started over one person’s disrespectful opinion on the matter. Their punishment is measured by the amount of time I continue to edit Clarkesworld.

Could be that it’s like being a referee, outlining how we’d like to see the game played? It’s perfectly fair to criticize or celebrate the finalists or winners of any award. Science fiction is a broad field with a variety of styles that might not appeal to everyone and the awards will reflect some of that. It’s only natural to be thrilled or disappointed when your favorite player wins, loses, or is benched. That said, we want a fair fight here. There should be no punching below the belt–criticizing or campaigning against based on anything other than the work they’ve done….

(16) FANTASY ART ON EXHIBIT. [Item by Bill.] The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, TN is holding this exhibition through September 5: “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration”.

For hundreds of years, artists have been inspired by the imaginative potential of fantasy. Unlike science fiction, which is based on fact, fantasy presents an impossible reality—a universe where dragons breathe fire, angels battle demons, and magicians weave spells. Enchanted offers a thoughtful appraisal of how artists from the early 20th century to the present have brought to life myths, fairy tales, and modern epics like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Featuring nearly 100 artworks, the exhibition explores Greek myths, Arthurian Legends, fairy tales, and modern superheroes.

The Hunter’s description of the event isn’t much, and a better one can be found here at the Norman Rockwell Museum, which organized the event.

There is an accompanying book available from Amazon and Bud’s Art Books.

If you can’t make it to Chattanooga, the exhibition is also travelling to Flint, MI and will be on display at the Flint Institute of Arts from September 24, 2022 – January 8, 2023.

(17) SOME CAN AND SOME CANTON. Camestros Felapton, in “Some Swiss news about far-right publisher Vox Day”, covers Vox Day’s announcement that he’s threatening to sue [Internet Archive link] the journalists who reported his purchase of a Swiss castle.

The journalists’ article includes this paragraph:

…On the internet, Vox Day summarizes the alt-right – to which he avoids being directly attached – as the defense of “the existence of the white man and the future of white children”. The blogger also confesses a certain admiration for Adolf Hitler. “National Socialism is not only human logic, it is also much more logical and true than communism, feminism or secular Zionism,” the Minnesota-born American writes on his blog. …

Vox always objects to being identified with Hitler and Nazis (see “Complaint About Term ‘Neo-Nazi’ Results in Foz Meadows Post Moving from Black Gate to Amazing Stories” from File 770 in 2016).

(18) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch determined these were the “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in May 2022”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
2Sonic the Hedgehog 2Obi-Wan Kenobi
3MorbiusSeverance
4Ghostbusters: AfterlifeStranger Things
5MoonfallDoctor Who
6FirestarterMoon Knight
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomThe Man Who Fell to Earth
8Jurassic WorldThe Time Traveler’s Wife
9The BatmanHalo
10Sonic the HedgehogThe Twilight Zone

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(19) BAGEL POWER. Accented Cinema is prepared to tell you “The Hidden Meaning of Everything Everywhere All at Once”.

Here it is! My analysis of the metaphors hidden in Everything Everywhere At at Once. Did you know why Michelle Yeoh put a googly eye on herself? Let’s find out!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodhunt,” Fandom Games says while earlier installments of this franchise “turned a bunch of nerds into enerds wearing eye shadow,” this installment is “the latest in the ‘kill people in a rapidly shrinking circle genre.”  The narrator thinks the game is boring and says, “call me when Bloodhunt has Ariana Grande and industrial dancing!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/29/22 As Space-Time For Springers Goes By

(1) HYBRID READING SERIES FROM SEATTLE. Clarion West is bringing back their Summer of Science Fiction & Fantasy reading series in 2022. The readings will be held both in-person in Seattle and online. They are free and open to the public. Click on the author’s name below to learn more and to register for the event. All events will be held on Tuesday nights. 

June 21 Susan Palwick
7PM Seattle Public Library
Central Branch
1000 4th Avenue
Supported by the Leslie Howle Instructorship
Susan Palwick (CW ‘85) has published several novels and short story collections, including The Necessary Beggar, Shelter, and Mending the Moon. She is a recipient of the Crawford Award, Alex Award, and Silver Pen Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

June 28 P. Djèlí Clark
7PM Seattle Public Library
Central Branch
1000 4th Avenue
Phenderson Djèlí Clark is the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy-nominated author of the novel A Master of Djinn and the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, as well as numerous short stories.

July 5 Fonda Lee
7PM Seattle Public Library
Central Branch
1000 4th Avenue
Supported by the Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship
Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the epic urban fantasy Green Bone Saga as well as the acclaimed young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer, Exo, and Cross Fire. She is a three-time winner of the Aurora Award, and a multiple finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards.
Register now.

July 12 Tobias Buckell
7:30PM Town Hall Seattle
1119 8th Ave
Supported by the Debbie J. Rose Memorial Instructorship
Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling author and World Fantasy Award winner. His novels and almost one hundred stories have been translated into twenty different languages. His work has been nominated for awards like the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and the Astounding Award for Best New Science Fiction Author.

July 19 Bill Campbell
7:30PM Town Hall Seattle
1119 8th Ave
Bill Campbell is the author of Sunshine Patriots; My Booty Novel; Pop Culture: Politics, Puns, and “Poohbutt” from a Liberal Stay-at-Home Dad; Koontown Killing Kaper; and Baaaad Muthaz, and he has edited several groundbreaking anthologies. He is the winner of a Glyph Pioneer/Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 26 Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
7PM Seattle Public Library
Central Branch
1000 4th Avenue
Supported by the Susan C. Petrey Memorial Fellowship

Annalee Newitz is the author of the book Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age, and the novels The Future of Another Timeline, and Autonomous, which won the Lambda Literary Award. They are also the co-host of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.


Charlie Jane Anders is the author of Victories Greater Than Death, as well as Never Say You Can’t Survive, and Even Greater Mistakes. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night and All the Birds in the Sky. With Annalee Newitz, she co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.
Register now.

(2) FOX ON SFWA. Just learned this made Fox News two days ago: “Sci-Fi Fantasy writers convention boots author for ‘racial slur’; target says he was not offended”. Their coverage begins:

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) booted award-winning author Mercedes Lackey from a conference over her use of a “racial slur,” even though the Black author to whom she had been referring later said he did not consider the term offensive.

Lackey had allegedly referred to Samuel R. “Chip” Delany, 80, a celebrated author and literary critic (winner of multiple SFWA Nebula awards), as “colored” while praising his work in the “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” panel at the SFWA Nebula Conference on Saturday, May 21…. 

Fox’s article includes Lackey’s apology, and the screencap of Delany’s Facebook comments.

(3) TALKING ABOUT EVERYTHING. Abigail Nussbaum says it’s a challenge to review something really good, such as the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once. Clearly, it’s a challenge she is equal to:

…Here is a non-exhaustive list of things I could talk about when talking about Everything Everywhere All at Once. I could discuss the fact that this is the first worthwhile showcase that Hollywood has given Yeoh since she burst onto Western audiences’ consciousness twenty-five years ago in Tomorrow Never Dies, and how it shows off not only her skills as an action heroine, but as a dramatic actress and a comedienne. I could mention that matching Yeoh beat for beat is Quan, the former child star who played Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, who has spent the intervening decades behind the camera as a stunt choreographer, but who returns to the screen now in what should be a star-making turn. I could point out that the film functions as a culmination of two of the early 2020s’ favorite tropes—multiverses and generational trauma—while managing to put its own unique spin on them. I could discuss its myriad references, to everything from Pixar movies to art-house Asian cinema….

And there’s quite a bit more Nussbaum could say – and does – after that excerpt.

(4) ABOUT BARKLEY. Camestros Felapton starts his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with Chris Barkley in “Chris M. Barkley: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Chris Barkley has been an active voice in fandom for over 40 years. He’s been a volunteer at numerous Worldcons, including being the head of media relations at several and more broadly, he’s been one of those vital people in fandom who does the work to make a group of people with common interests a community….

(5) BAD BATCH. Disney + continues the weekend’s parade of introductory trailers with the Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2 Official Trailer.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2009 [By Cat Eldridge.] So tonight we have an interesting short film. And no, I had no idea it existed until now.  2081 which is based off of the Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” story premiered on this date thirteen years ago at the Seattle International Film Festival. 

The story was first published the October 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and was in his Welcome to the Monkey House collection seven years later.

The cast is James Cosmo, Julie Hagerty, Patricia Clarkson, and Armie Hammer. 

The story is one where a future polity is attempting by any means possible to ensure that everyone is absolutely equal. That’s a bit of a SPOLER I know. 

So what did the critics think of it. Well I didn’t find a lot of them who said anything but I really like what Mike Massie at the Gone with The Twins site said about this half hour film cost that just a hundred thousand to produce: “’What are you thinking about?’ ‘I don’t know.’ The basic plot, adapted by Chandler Tuttle (who also directed and edited) from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s short story, is sensational, serving as a warning and as pitch-black satire. The notion of equality taken to hyperbolic extremes is certainly worthy of cinematic translation, as are the various manifestations of crushing governmental control. True freedom requires disparity. Here, however, there are some inconsistencies (such as determining how exactly to make a ballerina, encumbered as she might be with weights chained around her body, perfectly equivalent to a musician). But the use of slow-motion, classical music (featuring the Czeck Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and a cello solo), limited dialogue, and highly contrasting juxtapositions give this brief yet sharply filmed project an admirable level of artistry. The premise is terribly bleak, but Bergeron’s plight manages to be momentarily hopeful, funny, and provocative as well.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really liked it giving it a seventy-three percent rating.

You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago but still remember quite fondly. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s ReposeThe Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. I know that someone here has read them so do tell me about them please. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. It is thought that “The Death’s Head Meteor”, his first story, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, could be the first use of “astronaut” in fiction. He also created the use of a future history before either Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith did so. They’re collected in The Planet of the Double SunThe Sunless World and a number of other overlapping collections. He’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 29, 1939 Alice K Turner. Editor and critic who starting in 1980 served  for twenty years as fiction editor of Playboy. The Playboy Book of Science Fiction which is not available from the usual suspects but which is available at quite reasonable prices in hardcover was edited by her. Snake’s Hands: The Fiction of John Crowley is an expansion of her earlier Snake’s Hands: A Chapbook About the Fiction of John Crowley.  It is available from sellers like ABE Books. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 29, 1942 Kevin Conway. His first genre role was as Roland Weary in Slaughterhouse-Five with later roles in Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace and Black Knight, neither of which I suspect many of you have seen. You will likely have seen him in The Lathe of Heaven as Dr. William Haber. He played Khalistan on “The Rightful Heir” episode of Next Generation, and had one-offs on Dark AngelLife on Mars and Person of Interest. (Died 2020.)
  • Born May 29, 1947 Julie Cobb, 75. Her first credited role as Yeoman Leslie was in an episode of Trek, “By Any Other Name”. She was the only female Redshirt to be killed in that series. She had roles in The Fantastic JourneyFantasy Island, The Incredible Hulk, a recurring role in Salem’s LotBrave New WorldTucker’s Witch, Starman and The New Adventures of Superman.
  • Born May 29, 1952 Louise Cooper. She wrote more than a dozen works of SFF and was best known for her quite excellent Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. She wrote a lot of short fiction, most of it collected in Creatures at ChristmasThe Spiral GardenShort and Scary! and Short and Spooky!. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 29, 1987 Pearl Mackie, 35. Companion to the Twelfth Doctor, the actress was the first openly LGBTQ performer prior to the Fourteenth Doctor and the first LGBTQ companion cast in a regular role in Doctor Who. Mackie, says Moffat, was so chosen as being non-white was not enough. Her other notable genre role was playing Mika Chantry in the audiowork of The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James.
  • Born May 29, 1996 R. F. Kuang, 26. She’s an award-winning Chinese-American fantasy writer. The Poppy War series, so- called grimdark fantasy, consists of The Poppy War which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. She’s won the 2020 Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side introduces us to the ace of aces.
  • Tom Gauld shared his catoon about authors’ pets.

(9) A TOURIST IN TRANSYLVANIA. Slate’s Marissa Martinelli says Daily Dracula is “Why Hundreds of Thousands of People Are Reading Dracula Together Right Now”.

I keep getting these emails from a guy I’ve never met, who says he got stuck while traveling abroad for work. At first, he seemed to be having a nice time, but lately he’s been describing increasingly weird and disturbing circumstances that make me feel like I should help him out. For once, though, I can rest easy that it’s not a spammer trying to scam me out of some money—it’s Jonathan Harker, protagonist of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Dracula Daily is a Substack that emails snippets of the classic horror novel, which takes place over a six-month period, in real time, in the form of the book’s journal entries and letters. The venture is the brainchild of Matt Kirkland, whose previous projects include etching inane tweets into cuneiform tablets and exposing the robotic skeletons lurking beneath your stuffed animals. I spoke to Kirkland about our pal Jonathan, how weird it is that Dracula crawls down walls like a lizard, and the part of the book he’s most excited for readers to experience in email form….

Do you have a sense of what is causing it to take off on Tumblr in particular?

No, I don’t. So much of the posts are about how people are just finding it so funny. We have this dramatic irony of like, “Oh, Jonathan Harker doesn’t know that he’s in Dracula, so he’s not scared enough by going to Dracula’s castle.”

(10) WHEN PEOPLE TAKE THEIR WORK HOME…FOREVER. “U.S. Book Show: The Pandemic and Publishing: How Has Covid Changed the Industry for Good?” asks Publishers Weekly.

…Odom Media Management founder and literary agent Monica Odom was already working from home, expecting a baby, when the pandemic began. “I sold the most books of any year in 2020—and I’m still waiting for them all to publish,” she said. Despite her productivity, she fought “to stay grounded amid the immense collective trauma we were all having, recognizing we were all humans doing this work.” As an aside, she commented, “I did miss the editor lunches.”

That sounds like a throwaway line, yet social distancing highlighted publishing’s reliance on workplace culture. Bogaards suggested the pandemic put “a cap on industry fun,” lowering morale among people who thrive on hard work and literary perks. “The social fabric seems to be fraying at the edges,” Bogaards lamented.

“We’re not having as much fun together, and that does take a toll,” agreed Julia Sommerfeld, publisher of Amazon Publishing and founder of Amazon Original Stories. As remote work developed, she noticed the rise of “a strong online chat culture. The team is always pinging each other and trying to capture that casual conversation. We’re missing the kind of osmosis that happens when we’re all together.”…

(11) STICK A CORK IN IT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Novelty wines are often not a great idea. For the most part, this Star Trek selection seems to follow that trend, at least according to Ars Technica. “We tasted the expanded collection of Star Trek wines and found them… wanting”.

Picard has now wrapped its second season, with a third currently in production, and the folks behind Star Trek Wines have expanded their collection from two varieties to six. So a second informal wine tasting was clearly in order. And who better to help us in this noble endeavor than Q himself—aka actor John de Lancie—and The Orville writer Andre Bormanis, who launched his career as a science advisor on TNG? They joined a fresh group of tasters (eight people in all) on a cool late spring evening in Los Angeles, where the nibbles were plentiful and the conversation flowed freely. (Wine assessments were anonymous, in keeping with the gathering’s super-casual vibe. And the wine was purchased out of pocket, not gifted for promotional purposes.)  

… Alas, the four new varieties in the Star Trek wine collection fall far, far short of their predecessors. We’ll start with the merely bland and inoffensive: an Andorian Blue Premium Chardonnay and the United Federation of Planets Special Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.

The Andorian Blue is, indeed, blue in hue, no doubt thanks to the addition of a food dye. (“What is this, a substrate for a COVID test?” one taster quipped.) It’s a gimmick that imparts a very slight aftertaste that is all the more noticeable because the wine otherwise barely has any flavor. That’s unusual for a chardonnay. I’m not especially fond of white wines, but good chardonnays are generally light to medium body, crisp, and a bit citrus-y. The Andorian Blue is indeed light, but it’s missing any distinctive flavor notes—other than that unfortunate hint of blue dye….

(12) FIRE UP THE BOILER. Game Rant feels qualified to recommend “5 Great Underrated Steampunk Sci-Fi Movies”. But the second one they name is the Will Smith Wild Wild West, so should we trust them?

… A usual definition of the steampunk genre states that it presents inventions, technologies, or historical events that happened differently in the real world or didn’t exist in the first place. For every well-known steampunk movie, there are many underrated ones that flew under the radar and that every fan of the genre should watch….

Their list begins:

5. Invention For Destruction (1958)

Though many steampunk movies are in the English language, some best, most underrated pieces come from non-English-speaking countries. This Czechoslovakian 1958 movie was directed by Karel Zeman and based on Jules Verne’s work. It is a classic, but is mostly unknown among the general audiences and has barely over 2,000 ratings on IMDb.

The movie shows that when somebody creates an invention that has the power to destroy the world, it’s more than likely that someone evil will try to use it for their own nefarious purposes. The film is visually beautiful — shot on a camera from 1928, it offers the charm of even older movies. What’s more, it will keep the viewers guessing throughout, especially if they’re not familiar with the original source material.

(13) ON THE MARCH. Northwestern University declares this tiny robotic crab is smallest-ever remote-controlled walking robot.

Northwestern University engineers have developed the smallest-ever remote-controlled walking robot — and it comes in the form of a tiny, adorable peekytoe crab. Just a half-millimeter wide, the tiny crabs can bend, twist, crawl, walk, turn and even jump. The researchers also developed millimeter-sized robots resembling inchworms, crickets and beetles. Although the research is exploratory at this point, the researchers believe their technology might bring the field closer to realizing micro-sized robots that can perform practical tasks inside tightly confined spaces.

(14) SCARY VIDEO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghost Dogs” on Vimeo, Joe Capps asks, “If dogs were ghosts, what sort of ghosts would they be?” And “Why would ghost dogs be terrified of Roombas?”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/22 This Is The File Primeval, The Murmuring Scrolls And The Pixels

(1) LOOK AT A HUGO NOMINEE. Abigail Nussbaum reviews “She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan” at Strange Horizons.

The twenty-first century has seen a tremendous flowering in the subgenre of epic fantasy. What was once largely a monoculture of vaguely medieval, vaguely Western European settings has seen an influx of writers (or perhaps more accurately, of publishers willing to platform those writers) who look beyond the template set by Middle Earth. From more specific European settings (Naomi Novik, Katherine Arden) to the Middle East (S.A. Chakraborty), and Africa (Marlon James). Perhaps most especially, there have been a slew of epic fantasies set in East Asian-inspired worlds, drawing on the varied cultures of the region and its storied history.

At first glance, Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel, She Who Became the Sun,seems like it would sit comfortably on the shelf beside these works. It is a fantasized, fictionalized account of the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang, the peasant-turned-monk-turned-general who drove the descendants of Genghis Khan out of China and established the Ming dynasty. It is blatantly inspired by the Chinese historical melodramas that have populated our TV screens in recent years. And it features enough battle scenes and political scheming to fill a whole season of Game of Thrones.

On this level, the novel delivers handsomely, and is a thoroughly enjoyable fantasized adventure (though its actual fantasy elements are on the thin side, and not very central to its story). But the further one gets into this gripping, thoughtful novel, the more obvious it becomes that this is first and foremost a novel of character—and that the lens through which it interprets character is that of gender. Not for nothing was Parker-Chan awarded an Otherwise (then Tiptree) fellowship for an earlier draft of this book: at the heart of She Who Became the Sun is an analysis of how two cultures define themselves through—and are weakened by—rigid gender roles, and how specific individuals—by subverting, defying, and most of all queering those roles—can discover an unexpected path to power….

(2) MAY THE FOURTH ETC. National Public Radio celebrates the day: “On May the 4th, let’s remember the time NPR had a ‘Star Wars’ radio drama”.

On this May the 4th, we want to take you back to 1981, when NPR turned its attention to Star Wars. That’s right: Some of you may have forgotten (and some might not even know) that the network created three radio dramas based on George Lucas’ original three movies.

NPR figured it could maybe get more listeners by reviving the radio drama, which had been out of fashion for some 30 years. So the network called Richard Toscan, then-head of the theater program at the University of Southern California. He remembers asking a colleague for advice on what story to dramatize: “There’s this long pause, and he says, ‘Create a scandal.’ “

Toscan was at a loss. Then he mentioned the problem to a student. “And he said, ‘Oh, why don’t you do Star Wars?’ ” Toscan recalls. “There was the scandal.”

See, Star Wars was a commercial juggernaut. And as Toscan puts it, “Folks working at NPR thought, ‘Oh good grief, we’re selling out to Hollywood.’ “

But if this was selling out, it sure came cheap. George Lucas had graduated from USC and was a fan of the campus NPR station. So after a little prodding, he gave away the radio rights to Star Wars for $1 — a public radio budget if there ever was one….

(3) BY GRABTHAR’S HAMMER, WHAT A BARGAIN. “‘Star Wars’ Icon James Earl Jones Only Made $7,000 to Voice Darth Vader in ‘A New Hope’” recalls The Hollywood Reporter.

The actor also says when he first read the script for ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ he thought for sure Vader was lying to Luke Skywalker about being his father.

James Earl Jones was paid only $7,000 to voice Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope — but the actor says for him at the time, it was a huge score.

To celebrate Star Wars Day, The Hollywood Reporter looked back at some interviews Jones gave through the years, in which he talked about voicing the legendary sci-fi villain….

(4) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Disney Plus dropped this Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer for Star Wars Day.

The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. The series stars Ewan McGregor, reprising his role as the iconic Jedi Master, and also marks the return of Hayden Christensen in the role of Darth Vader.

(5) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Grady Hendrix and Alex Irvine on May 18.

Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix is a New York Times bestselling novelist and screenwriter who makes up lies and is mean to babies. He has written terrible books like My Best Friend’s ExorcismThe Final Girl Support GroupThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and Paperbacks from Hell. Currently, he has an unhealthy fixation on gothic romances.

Alex Irvine

Alex Irvine would write nothing but short stories if he thought he could get away with it, but in this fallen world he has also written novels, comics, games, and various forms of interactive narrative. Recent work includes Anthropocene RagThe Comic Book Story of BaseballNew York Collapse, and stories in F&SFAsimov’s, and Tor.com. He lives in Maine.

IN-PERSON at the KGB Bar on May 18, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.  KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(6) THE COLOSSUS OF BED BATH AND BEYOND. There’s a story that explains how it landed here: “The Captain America Statue at Brooklyn’s Bed Bath & Beyond” at Untapped New York.

Shoppers going in to grab one of the innumerable home products on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond or discount fashion garb at the Saks Off 5th outlet may be surprised to see a 13-foot-tall bronze Captain America statue upon entering Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Industry City, Brooklyn. Captain America is so tall, his shield reaches into the mezzanine level of the building’s atrium. He holds his iconic star shield aloft with his left hand, with his right hand clenched into a fist. On the top of the bronze plinth are the words “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn,” a line from the 2011 film Captain America: The First AvengerIn this modern era, it seems rare for any statue to arrive without controversy and this one was no different….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] Remember that fan letter I just wrote to Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo? Well certain films have the same effect upon me. Such is true of The Mummy and the first sequel, The Mummy Returns. (I shall not mention the third film in the series in pain of, well, something horrible happening to all of us. Yes, it is that bad a film.) Both are perfect popcorn films worthy of repeated viewing which I’ve certainly done in the last two decades. 

I know I saw the first one in the theater not long after it came out. It was directed by Stephen Sommers who wrote the screenplay and it claims to be a remake of a 1932 American pre-Code horror film called, errr, The Mummy. It’s out of copyright and you see it here. Boris Karloff was The Mummy.

The 1999 version stars what I think is one of the great movie pulp couples of modern times in Brendan Fraser as Rick O’Connell and Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan. A librarian? Huh?  Are they completely believable in their roles? Well no, but they look like they’re have a lot of fun in a really absurd undertaking and that counts for quite a lot. John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan is just the right amount of comic relief. The secondary characters, good and bad, are great characters  — Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep, Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay and even Patricia Velásquez as Anck-su-namun add a great deal to the film.

The production values are very high and the look of the film, be London or the pulpish Egypt they create is quite amazing. The original script was a Terminator-style Mummy but no one was interested in that. Clive Barker wrote a screenplay next that was so dark and violent everyone cringed. (I want to see that one!) Sommers is, well I can’t count that high, the Director who eventually found a screenplay that worked.

The studio needed a hit after a series of film failures so they gave Sommer an actual budget and turned him loose, one of eighty million dollars. The film would make four hundred and twenty million dollars in its initial showing. Not bad at all. (The first director was offered ten million dollars as his budget.) And of course it gout a Sequel (yes I capitalized that), The Mummy Returns which earned just over four hundred million against a budget of a hundred million. 

Now let’s see how it was received by critics. 

You know I really, really like the reviews of Roger Ebert who wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times so let’s start with his rather nice summation: “There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased.”

Next up is David Hunter of Variety who was more ambivalent: “Far more ambitious than its predecessors but a notch or two below the unique event-movie experience it might have been, Universal’s The Mummy is undermined by weak writing. Overall, though, it should erect pyramids of moola and not sink into the quicksand when Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace opens 12 days into its run.”

Finally let’s end with these words from Bob Graham of the SF Gate: “This comic horror movie emphasizes the comic, and Brendan Fraser is in his element. With his exaggerated features — big eyes, big nose, big lips — Fraser already looks like a comic-book hero. More importantly, he’s got the flair and know-how to bring it off.  “The Mummy” digs up both laughs and chills from timeworn material.     From the gilded bodies of ancient priests about to die — they are going to be “mummified alive” — to the hokey subtitles in the prologue — what do they think they are speaking, anyway, old Egyptian? — this looks as if it’s going to be big-time fun. It is.”

It has an excellent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers of seventy five percent.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. I’m not seeing any of them being available at the usual suspects. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1926 Christine White. Forever known for appearing in one episode of the Twilight Zone, to wit “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” alongside William Shatner as Bob Wilson. She played Julia Wilson, his wife. She, like Shatner, had appeared on the Twilight Zone earlier, though not with him; she had the lead as Kitty Cavanaugh in “The Prime Mover”.  I’m reasonably sure that her only other genre appearance was on One Step Beyond as Nancy Lloyd Chandler in “The Haunting” episode. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 79. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Still does the event calendar for Asimov’s. Do tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1949 Kim Mohan, 73. Editor and author of the Cyborg Command RPG based on an outline by Gary Gygax. He was Editor of TSR’s The Dragon magazine for several years which led to his becoming editor of Amazing Stories from 1991 to 2000. 
  • Born May 4, 1974 – James Bacon, 47. He’s a 16-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately, he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1976 Gail Carriger, 46. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. And let’s not overlook Souless getting a nomination for BSFS’s Compton Crook Award’s Best First Novel. 
  • Born May 4, 1995 Shameik Moore, 27. He voices Miles Morales, the teen-ager who would become Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I review here. It’s by far the best film I saw while in-hospital that year for fifty days straight and I urge you to go see it now. Yes, I know it deservedly won a Hugo at Dublin 2019.  And the sequel is coming up soon! 

(10)  RETAILING SCIENCE. [Item by Bill Higgins.] Many’s the time I’ve toured a museum along with fellow SF fans, so when we get to the gift shop, we usually find ourselves exchanging views on the merchandise offered there. In “Outer Space in the Museum Shop,” Dr. Eleanor Armstrong, an expert on space science communication and museums, contemplates messaging, merchandising, and visitors’ experiences. “Outer Space in the Museum Shop” from EASST Review Volume 41(1) 2022 (that is, the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology).

…Purchasing an item from the shop at a science museum will make that object part of the visitor’s everyday science learning, both at the time of purchase and after the museum visit[…] n this instance, the item comes home from the museum with the visitor, bringing science learning into a different sphere of a visitors’ life, and arguably allowing the item to influence secondary communities, such as family members and larger school groups. Science (and by extension, everyday science learning) never happen in a vacuum, but instead reflect and magnify broader social and political issues in the society in which the museum sits….

(11) LEGENDS BUT NO TOMORROW. CBR says “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Proved Taking Risks Can Pay Off”. It’s going away anyhow.

…While many of the CW shows — and superhero shows in general — stick to that single format, Legends of Tomorrow created entirely new scenarios that existed throughtout time. Seeing the team track down an alien in the 1930s or fight with magicians in the Wild West helped to make each episode special. The show allowed fans to experience their heroes in so many different eras that the plotlines were continually refreshed.

…While fans are upset to see the end of the series — especially with the cliffhanger ending to Season 7 — they can be happy with the impact it had. Legends of Tomorrow evolved from a show featuring other series’ guest characters to one of the longest-running Arrowverse series. The actors, writers, and directors all worked tirelessly to provide a different superhero experience, and it was those risks and differences that kept the series on the air for the better part of a decade.

(12) CARTOONIST KEEPS GOING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Nathan Fitch profiles New Yorker cartoonist George Booth, still active at 95.  This dropped about a week ago.

(13) EDGAR ALLAN POE NEWS. This 2008 adaptation of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” starring Carrington Vilmont, is directed by Robert Eggers, whose current feature is The Northman.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Bill Higgins, 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 Danny SIchel.]

Pixel Scroll 3/15/22 Here’s One Weird Trick To Nominate For The Hugos. SMOFS Hate It. Click Here For More

(1) TIME TO PANIC. Nominations for the 2022 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and Astounding Award for Best New Writer close at 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7), today, March 15, 2022.

If this was a cooking show, the judges would be yelling, “You should be plating!”

Or you could just panic.

(2) REGISTER FOR NEBULA CONFERENCE. The 2022 SFWA Nebula Conference registration is now open. The online event runs May 20-22.

We know that many of you have been eagerly awaiting the opening of registration for this year’s Nebula Conference, tamping down the anxious space bats fluttering in your stomachs as you waited for news. We are pleased to announce that registration is now open! 

Registration Price: $150.00 for One Year of Access Starting May 1st!

Register Here: https://events.sfwa.org/

This year’s conference is fully online, and filled with all the panels and networking opportunities that we can possibly fit into a three-day weekend! The 2022 Nebula Conference Online will once again host the SFWA Nebula Awards Ceremony. 

(3) A SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Chris Barkley is excited that someone on the Chengdu Worldcon committee acknowledged his message “about the current status of the Committee on whether or not your group will be able to fulfill their duties in administering the 2023 World Science Fiction Convention.”  

This morning, at 9:58 am EDT, I received the following response from that account:

Chengdu Worldcon 2023:

“Hi Chris, thank you for the message and concern over the status of our committee. Since we are fully committed to run a most successful convention, we are working hard with locals for the best possible services for our members, including a very affordable membership package. The plan will be announced soon. Sorry for this delayed reply.”

(4) GAMES HUGO SUPPORT SITE GROWS. Ira Alexandre, proponent of a permanent Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo category, has updated the “Games Hugo – FAQ”. They’ve also written a series of tweets defending watching “playthrough” videos as an alternative way for voters to inform themselves rather than playing the games. Thread starts here. (See also “Games Hugo – Playthroughs”)

And if you don’t agree, well —

The category definition itself has been updated to prevent the possibility of conventions being considered in the category. 

(5) WERE YOU THERE? On Twitter, a cosplay fan pointed out a half-hour news documentary of the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, UK is available on YouTube. “The Human Factor – World Science Fiction Convention”.

(6) MS. MARVEL. “The future is in her hands.” Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel comes to Disney+ on June 8. Variety remembers where it all began: “’Ms. Marvel’ Trailer: MCU’s First Muslim Superhero Debuts on Disney+”.

In 2013, Marvel Comics introduced Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager from New Jersey who idolizes Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. By 2014, Kamala had superhuman abilities, her own solo series and her own superhero moniker — Ms. Marvel — making her the first Muslim superhero to headline a Marvel comic.

Nine years later, Kamala is making history once again in “Ms. Marvel,” the latest Disney Plus series from Marvel Studios that debuted its first trailer on Tuesday. The series will debut on June 8….

(7) WHO SAID CASH OFFENDS NO ONE? “Do Ya Wanna Taste It? Thoughts on Peacemaker by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions.

I had no intention of watching HBO Max’s Peacemaker. The whole concept seemed to me indicative of the cynicism and blatant manipulation that characterize this most recent chapter in the lifecycle of the superhero-industrial complex. Superheroes are now the leading product of the increasingly consolidated entertainment empires vying for our money, and each of those empires is now promoting its own streaming platform. Ergo, each superhero property has to function as a launching platform for a spin-off show, be it ever so esoteric and hard to justify artistically. Did you think that The Batman‘s take on the Penguin was weird and over-emphasized, a waste of Colin Farrell under a distracting fat suit in a role that could have been played by any character actor in Hollywood? Well, just sit tight for The Penguin, coming to HBO Max in 2023!

It would be one thing if these shows were bad and easily ignorable. But the same self-correcting mechanism that allows Marvel to keep chugging as the biggest pop culture juggernaut in existence despite the failure of individual movies is clearly informing the production of these shows, which repeatedly forestall the “who asked for this?” reaction with top-notch casting, stratospheric production values, and (up to a certain point) good writing….

(8) MORNING IN THE METAVERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the sf origins of the metaverse.

It tells you a lot about the state of the tech industry that much of its terminology is pilfered from dystopian science fiction novels.  Isaac Asimov gave us ‘robotics.’  HG Wells named the atomic bomb, and Neuromancer author  William Gibson came up with “cyberspace.”  Meanwhile in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson popularised the term ‘avatar’ to refer to the digital embellishment of a human in a shared world he called ‘the Metaverse.’  His vision of how humans might behave in a virtual world was quite prescient. ‘If you’re ugly, you can make your avatar beautiful,’ he wrote.  ‘You can look like a gorilla or a dragon or a giant talking penis in the Metaverse.”,,,

…The idea we’re being sold of the metaverse is essentially a video game, and it’s a dreadfully boring one.  All the exciting promises that glitter among the metaverse hype–the ability to socialise in digital spaces, engage in virtual economies, or build genuine friendships online–have existed in games for decades.  See the sophisticated societies in MMORPGS such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, or the virtual universe of Fortnite and Roblox. They are more like a ‘true’ metaverse than anything Meta has to offer:  virtual worlds where you can customise an avatar, spend digital currency, attend concerts and, in what is becoming a metaverse specialty, tolerate obnoxious branding partnerships with your friends.

(9) EASY BIRTH. Goodreads does a brief Q&A with authors Jo Harkin, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Sue Lynn Tan, Olivia Blake, and John Scalzi in “Today’s Hottest Speculative Fiction Authors Answer Our Burning Questions”. Here’s part of what Scalzi has to say about writing The Kaiju Preservation Society.

GR: What sparked the idea for this book?

JS: The complete and utter collapse of an entirely different novel I was writing and the panic that came from knowing I was going to miss a publication date unless I came up with a new idea, fast. To which my brain said, OK, well, how about big monsters? And I said, YES BIG MONSTERS YES, and then my brain dropped the whole plot into my head.

GR: What was the most challenging part of writing your novel?

JS:  Honestly, nothing was challenging about writing this novel. It was a complete and liberating joy from start to finish, and I completed it quickly and easily. I want my next 60 novels at least to be just like this experience. I may be willing to do some unspeakable live sacrifices to achieve this. 

(10) LESLIE LONSDALE-COOPER. Publisher and translator Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper has died at the age of 96 reports the Guardian.

…Following a move to Methuen, where she became a rights specialist, she met [Michael] Turner and with him began translating the Tintin stories, a project that continued for three decades. “Translation” in this context meant rendering Hergé’s Brussels slang into English utterances that could be fitted into the speech bubbles of Hergé’s original drawings. Leslie was especially proud of their invented Tintinian oaths, such as “blistering barnacles!”…

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1973 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Some affairs are mostly harmless to use. The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy phrase. So it was with The Girl with Something Extra series that debuted forty-nine years ago. That the lead actress was Sally Field tells you how deep the story was intended to be. She was a wife who had ESP, and her husband never quite understood her. It was intended to be cute, really, really cute. 

Rounding out the cast was Teri Garr, Henry Jones and Zohra Lampert.

One critic noted that “The plot for The Girl With Something Extra TV show immediately brings to mind another show that ended in March of 1972 after a whopping eight seasons on the air! That series of course was “Bewitched” which also featured a young newlywed couple with the wife having super-human powers that caused many problems for her and her husband.” 

The audience apparently didn’t grasp its charms and it was canceled after one season of twenty two half episodes. I believe that it might be streaming on Netflix. (I have four streaming services but not that one. I have Britbox, HBO Max, Peacock and Paramount. That’s quite enough, thank you.) 

Lancer Books published a tie-in novel by Paul Farman, The Girl With Something Extra. 

I see a signed script is for sale on eBay. Huh. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 15, 1852 Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (née Persse). Irish dramatist, folklorist, theatre manager. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she created the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre. She produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology. Gods and Fighting Men, all seven hundred pages strong, is the best look at her work. It’s available at all the usual digital sources. (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 15, 1911 Desmond  W. Hall. He served as assistant editor of Astounding Stories of Super Science. His writing career is best remembered for his Hawk Carse series which would as Space Hawk: The Greatest of Interplanetary Adventures in the Fifties. These were co-written with Harry Bates, Astounding Editor. Unfortunately, it appears that he never stayed in print, either in paper or digitally. (Died 1982.)
  • Born March 15, 1920 Lawrence Sanders. Mystery writer who wrote several thrillers that according to ISFDB had genre elements, such as The Tomorrow File and The Passion of Molly T. Now I’ve not read them so I cannot comment how just on how obvious the genre elements are, but I assume it’s similar to what one finds in a Bond film. One of these novels btw is described on the dust jacket as an “erotic spine tingler”. Huh. (Died 1998.)
  • Born March 15, 1924 Walter Gotell. He’s remembered for being General Gogol, head of the KGB, in the Roger Moore Bond films as well as having played the role of Morzeny, in From Russia With Love, one of Connery’s Bond films. He also appeared as Gogol in The Living Daylights, Dalton’s first Bond film. I’m fairly sure that makes him the only actor to be a villain to three different Bonds. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 15, 1926 Rosel George Brown. A talented life cut far too short by cancer. At Detention (1959), she was nominated for the Hugo Award for best new author, but her career was ended when she died of lymphoma at the age of 41. She wrote some twenty stories between 1958 and 1964, with her novels being Sibyl Sue Blue, and its sequel, The Waters of Centaurus about a female detective, plus Earthblood, co-written with Keith Laumer. Sibyl Sue Blue is now available from Kindle. (Died 1967.)
  • Born March 15, 1939 Robert Nye. He did what the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy describes as “bawdy, scatological, richly told, sometimes anachronistic reworkings of the traditional material“ with some of his works being BeowulfTaliesin (which was the name of my last SJW cred), FaustMerlin and Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. His Falstaff novel is considered the best take on that character. Some of his works are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 79. Not a director whose films are at all for the squeamish. His best films? I’d pick VideodromeThe FlyNaked Lunch and The Dead Zone. Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh, and he was in the film version of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. And he’s playing a recurring role in Star Trek: Discovery as Federation agent Kovich. 
  • Born March 15, 1967 Isa Dick Hackett, born 1967, 55. Producer and writer for Amazon who helped produce The Man in the High CastlePhilip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and The Adjustment Bureau, all of which are based on works by her father, Philip K. Dick.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows a long-time household member having a problem with a new arrival.

(14) PRIDE MONTH. Honoring Pride Month, Marvel’s Voices: Pride returns for its second annual showcase of LGBTQI+ characters and creators in June.

Marvel Comics is proud to highlight its commitment to LGBTQI+ representation with stories that spotlight existing stars AND introduce brand-new characters to the Marvel mythology. Ranging from poignant to action-packed, here are some of the tales that fans can look forward to, each one capturing the joy and promise of PRIDE MONTH!

  • In last year’s MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE, Steve Orlando and Luciano Vecchio introduced the dreamy mutant hero SOMNUS,  who now stars in the ongoing X-Men series MARAUDERS! New York Times-bestselling, multi-award-winning author Charlie Jane Anders continues this tradition with the debut of another new hero to the Marvel Universe – and it won’t be the last you see of them. Stay tuned for more info!
  • IRON MAN scribe and lauded TV showrunner Christopher Cantwell takes on Moondragon’s complex legacy for a heart-bending story across space and time.
  • Shuster and Eisner-winning writer Andrew Wheeler makes his Marvel debut with the Marvel Universe’s real god of love – Hercules! Drawn by PATSY WALKER artist Brittney Williams!
  • Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus-award winner Alyssa Wong reunites the Young Avengers fan-favorite artist Stephen Byrne in a story guaranteed to please fans new and old! Byrne will also depict the team in a vibrant variant cover that you can check out now!
  • Comedy writer Grace Freud (Rick and Morty, the Eric Andre Show) brings her talents to Marvel with a story about the power of responsibility featuring the Marvel Universe’s favorite gay ginger, D-Man! She’s joined by Eisner-nominated artist Scott B. Henderson in his first work for Marvel!
  • Television writer and podcaster Ira Madison III explores the legacy of Pride in his Marvel debut!
  • Champions scribe Danny Lore revisits the legacy of two characters long left in the closet in a tale of love and redemption! 

(15) PUTTING ON THE WRITS. NPR shows that even when you win in court, you don’t necessarily win: “Try as she might, Bram Stoker’s widow couldn’t kill ‘Nosferatu’”.

The world’s first vampire movie premiered 100 years ago. After a long copyright battle, Florence Stoker, widow of the author of Dracula, asked for all copies of Nosferatu to be destroyed. Were they?…

(16) A LARGER CANVAS. Rich Horton spotlights a first novel from a gifted short fiction writer in “Review: On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu” on Strange at Ecbatan.

…On Fragile Waves is a powerful novel on a very contemporary theme, that if anything has become more powerful, more apposite, since it appears. It is the story of an Afghan family, fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan. At one level, it is purely naturalistic fiction, and very effectively so. But there is a fantastical level as well (or “magical realistic” as many reviews would have it) expressed in two ways — the stories the parents of the main character tell, traditional stories (with variations) … and, more obviously, a dead character who returns to haunt — or inspire — the main character….

(17) HOW MANY LIVES WAS THAT? A trailer has dropped for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, the upcoming movie that stars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.

DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Salma Hayek).

(18) OWLKITTY. NPR profiles the creator of OwlKitty in “Videographer imagines what it would look like if Steven Spielberg made cat videos”.

…MARTIN: In one of Charroppin’s latest videos, Lizzy co-stars with Leonardo DiCaprio in “Titanic.”…

CHARROPPIN: The hardest of it is not adding the cat, it’s removing Kate Winslet. That process takes about three-quarters of how long it takes to do video.

MARTIN: Lizzy has 6 million social media followers, which is something Charroppin and his wife hope that animal shelters actually benefit from. They adopted Lizzy five years ago.

CHARROPPIN: If there’s one reason to do all of this, it’s to mostly raise awareness that adopting cats is way better than going to get full breed cats. Anything that we can do to help makes it all worth it.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: The Elden Ring,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, notes this new game, designed by George RR Martin, is a world where “every animal, person and plant wants to kill you” and features a dozen different killer swamps.  But the narrator thinks the scariest monsters are the crabs and lobsters. “I haven’t been this frightened by seafood since I got food poisoning at Red Lobster!”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Rich Horton, Chris Barkley, N., Martin Easterbrook, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/22 I Think There Is A World Market For About Five Pixel Scrolls

(1) DONATE FOR A CHANCE AT A TIARA. Renowned artist Sara Felix says, “I am entering people to win this week’s Tiara Tuesday if they donate to a charity.” The full announcement from her Facebook page is below. Sara explains that while her Facebook shows the event has closed, “if someone donates and lets me know I will enter them in the giveaway.” Email: sillysarasue@gmail.com. Here is the text:

Happy tiara Tuesday y’all!

A friend asked me to make a blue and yellow tiara as support for the Ukrainian people. Seeing all the gorgeous flower crowns that are a cultural tradition I thought marrying the tiara, the blue and yellow, and the flowers would be a fitting tribute.

I would like to auction the tiara and donate the money to Happy Kids Poland who supports orphaned children and kids with disabilities, I will pick a name from the donations. (Thanks Mariya for the suggestions!) Any amount is fine!

From their donation page:

“Together, we collect money for children from orphanages who have come and will be coming to Poland. The Foundation will also try to evacuate children who spent their last nights in the basement and Kiev. The evacuation of orphans from orphanages, foster families and other forms of foster care from Ukraine to Poland…To this day, the need for evacuation and safe admission of children has been declared to us by the guardians of 900 Ukrainian orphans from Lviv, Odessa, Chrust, Kherson and other cities. The numbers keep growing.”

If you don’t want to go through Facebook let me know, their website also takes paypal as well. (https://www.happykids.org.pl/aid-for-children-from…/...)  (Link on the main page: https://www.happykids.org.pl)

(2) CAROL PINCHEFSKY GETS (IN) WIRED. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Carol Pinchefsky isn’t just getting coverage for her new book, Turn Your Fandom Into Cash – A Geeky Guide to Turn Your Passion Into a Business (or at least a Side Hustle) here at File 770 (“Interview with Carol Pinchefsky”).

She’s also getting traction in WIRED, with a full-episode one-hour interview on WIRED’s weekly podcast Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, episode #504, “Carol Pinchefsky Interview”, and a WIRED.com article, “It’s Not Easy Running a Geeky Business”, summarizing and linking to the podcast.

Carol notes: “I know David Barr Kirtley and have been on his show three other times. But this was the first time I’ve had an episode dedicated to myself.”

Could a nomination for Best Related Work Hugo be, if not next, soon?

(3) FREE EDITORS PANEL PART OF SLF MEMBERSHIP DRIVE. As part of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Genesis Membership Drive they are hosting free virtual panels every week for the month of March.

This Saturday’s panel will be What do Editors Want? — March 12, 2:00–3:00 p.m. Central. RSVP here.

A panel of short fiction editors talk about what they’re looking for in stories right now — and what to avoid! What common mistakes do writers make? What makes a story stand out from the slushpile?

Panelists: Award-winning editors Lynne Marie Thomas, editor-in-chief of Uncanny Magazine, and Neil Clarke, editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld Magazine. Moderated by Mary Anne Mohanraj, SLF Director.

(4) SCANNING THE BALLOT. They were just announced six hours ago but Cora Buhlert already has her analysis of the Nebula finalists up. Quick work! “Some Comments on the 2021 Nebula Finalists”. A brief quote —

…A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine is a sequel to the 2020 Hugo winner A Memory Called Empire and probably the most obvious finalist in this category. It’s also a great book.

Finally, Plague Birds by Jason Sanford is another very pleasant surprise on this ballot, since it got less attention than the other novels, probably due to being published by a small press, Apex Books. I’m also really happy for Jason, who’s one of the hardest working people in SFF. Plague Birds is a great novel as well, which hits a lot of my personal buttons….

(5) FLA IN THE OINTMENT. On the Orlando in 2023 NASFiC Bid Facebook page, Adam Beaton works to turn the current criticism of Chengdu into a political asset.

So, we’ve been seeing the recent chatter about letters and petitions about Chengdu WorldCon 2023, and here are our thoughts:

There isn’t an actual mechanism to take away the Worldcon based on the actions of what that committee’s government chooses to do or even not do. We can say, though, that the power of boycotting has always been a way for many diverse voices to be seen and heard, from the Cogadh na Talún in Ireland to the Swadeshi Movement in India. Such actions can and should always be considered by any of the members of WSFS.

The NASFiC can never be the Worldcon, and no one can promise you that. What we can promise you, however, is our deep commitment to running for you the best alternative to the Worldcon we can–a convention that celebrates the diversity and inclusivity that empowers us all as fans and commits our spirit to “keep moving forward,” as Walt Disney once said.

It’s also vital for us to recognize that some in the community have strong feelings about our own government here in Florida and perhaps even the American South at large. It would be hypocritical to not point that out in a statement like this, and we see and hear all of your opinions and feelings regarding this topic.

The WSFS community is a culture of creativity. We’ve never been afraid to express ourselves through any medium, and in the end, it’s the best advice we can give you all regarding this topic.

Be like Walt. Keep moving forward.

(6) ON GOTHAMER WINGS. Abigail Nussbaum assesses “The Batman” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…The guiding principle was clearly “The Dark Knight, but more so”. The film is structured more as a crime story than a superhero story, with a strong presence for the Gotham police department, an emphasis on organized crime and institutional corruption, and a deranged villain—Paul Dano as the Riddler—who is obsessed with exposing the seedy underbelly of the supposedly respectable Gotham leadership. This is all well-executed as far as it goes, and to his credit, Reeves improves on the original where it was most obviously lacking. The action scenes are coherent and gripping, and the visuals—though eventually the brown and grey color palette becomes quite tedious—are rich and velvety. But where Nolan’s Batman movies were, for better and worse, putting their own stamp on the material, Reeves’s just feels like it’s turning up the dial on someone else’s work…. 

(7) BAT CAVING. In contrast, the Washington Post’s David Betancourt says that The Batman is, in his view, the best DC superhero movie since The Dark Knight because it isn’t part of the DC Extended Universe. “’The Batman’ with Robert Pattinson shows that it’s best when he works alone”.

…Batman is a superhero who looks cool next to other heroes on screen but doesn’t need them for relevancy.  Batman doesn’t need a co-star; he’s the star.  He doesn’t need a cavalry; he is the cavalry. This Caped crusader is the one card in DC’s hand that can beat anything Marvel can throw at them….

(8) EXPANDED POSSIBILITIES. Gareth L. Powell confesses “What I Owe to Bounty Hunter Leia”.

… But one of the key things that influenced me — and I only realised this recently — was the moment at the beginning of Return of the Jedi when Boushh the mysterious bounty hunter pulls off his mask to reveal… He was Leia all the time!

As a youngster, this seemed revolutionary. I thought it was so badass. I’d consumed quite a few 1960s and 1970s sci-fi movies and TV shows by that point, and those tended to feature scantily-clad love interests with poor survival skills, who regularly needed the hero to come and bail them out of trouble. But here, the princess got tooled-up and went to rescue her man. And she even managed to stare down Jabba the Hutt with a thermo detonator!…

(9) FOWLER PROFILE. The Guardian interviews Karen Joy Fowler about her non-sff book Booth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any genre gems: “Karen Joy Fowler: ‘I’m a bossy writer; I’m not going to not tell you’”

Booth is dedicated, among others, to the science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K Le Guin.
She’s enormously important to me. I was living in Davis, California when I’d just begun to publish fiction, and the University of Davis invited her to do some events. I got a call: this lunch was being arranged, and she’d asked that I be included. I’d been reading her since college and was completely in awe – the Booker was great, but I don’t think anything matches the heady success of learning that Ursula K Le Guin wanted to meet me! We became friends and I wrote a couple of introductions to her books. One of them I wrote before she died, the other I wrote after. In the one I wrote before, I called her a genius and she made me take the word out; she said it made her feel squirmy. I did as she asked, but kind of put it back after she died, knowing she would not want me to. She’s a truly amazing voice; there cannot be another writer who has imagined more worlds in more interesting ways….

(10) GOODWIN OBIT. Laurel Goodwin, last surviving member of the first Star Trek pilot “The Cage”, has died at the age of 79 reports Deadline.

Laurel Goodwin, an actor who made her movie debut at age 19 opposite Elvis Presley in the 1962 feature Girls! Girls! Girls! and four years later played a crew member in the original, failed Star Trek pilot starring Jeffery Hunter, died February 25. She was 79.

… it was a performance in an episode that never made it to air for which she earned an enduring cult following: She played Yeoman J.M. Colt in “The Cage,” the unaired 1965 pilot for Star Trek that starred Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. The pilot was rejected by NBC, though some scenes were recycled for a 1966 two-part episode (“The Menagerie”) after William Shatner had replaced Hunter as the Enterprise captain. (“The Cage” subsequently was released in various home entertainment formats.)

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1968 [Item by Cat Eldridge] McCoy: “Fantastic machine, the M-5. No off switch.”

Fifty-four years ago this evening on NBC, Star Trek’s “The Ultimate Computer“ first aired. It was the twenty-fourth episode of the second season, and one of six Trek teleplays written by D C Fontana — the other five being “Catspaw”, “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, “Journey to Babel”, “Friday’s Child” and “By Any Other Name”. “Catspaw” was originally uncredited to her but she did the final teleplay based on what Robert Bloch wrote though it is said Roddenberry did further revisions.

The story is by Laurence N. Wolfe. This is his sole writing credit. Wolfe was a mathematician, who wrote the original story out of his fascination with computers. Later on Wolfe would give his original draft to Bradbury to pass on to Roddenberry. 

It was produced by John Meredyth Lucas who was involved with the series for its entire run in all aspects. He wrote three episodes (“The Changeling“, “Patterns of Force” and “Elaan of Troyius”). 

“The Ultimate Computer“ was also considered particularly important in the casting of an African American, William Marshall, as the inventor of the M-5 as well as the duotronic circuit which was the basis of all Star Fleet computer systems.

Reception for this episode is excellent. Michelle Erica Green said of it that, “Star Trek has never done a better ‘bottle show’ – an episode filmed entirely on standing sets, which usually means that all of the action is located on the ship itself.”  

And Jamahl Epsicokhan says “A wonderfully acerbic debate between Spock and McCoy about the role of computers is also well conceived, ending in Spock’s well-put notion to Kirk, “…but I have no desire to serve under them.” Following the M-5’s initial success, the scene where another captain calls Kirk “Captain Dunsel” is the episode’s best-played and simultaneously funny and painful moment. (In a word, ouch.)” 

Note the remastered episode recreates the entire battle between the Enterprise and the other Star Fleet ships with new ships. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 8, 1921 Alan Hale Jr. The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided was genre, and he did show up in such films as Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl and The Fifth Musketeer. Series wise, I see he was on The Wild Wild West and Fantasy Island. He was also in the cast of The Giant Spider Invasion film which is most decidedly SF if of a pulpish variety and got the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 8, 1922 John Burke. He was active in Fandom in the Thirties, with work in The FantastThe Futurian and The Satellite. He went pro by the late Thirties in a number of pulp zines.  If you read nothing else by him, I recommend his late in life series The Adventures of Dr. Caspian and Bronwen, well-crafted horror. Ash-Tree Press collected much of his superb short fiction in We’ve Been Waiting for You And Other Tales of Unease. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 8, 1931 Paddi Edwards. She’s here for two very different roles. First is for being the voice of Gozer in the Ghostbusters film. Second is having the lead role of Anya on “The Dauphin” of The Next Generation. The casting agents at Disney liked her so she had the role of Flotsam & Jetsam in The Little Mermaid franchise.
  • Born March 8, 1950 Peter McCauley, 72. I remember him best from the most excellent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World series where he played Professor George Challenger. He also showed as Mr. Spilett on Mysterious Island, another series shot in New Zealand and based off Jules Verne’s novel L’Île mystérieuse. Continuing the Verne riff, he was Admiral McCutcheon in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a Nineties TV version of the novel. 
  • Born March 8, 1970 Jed Rees, 52, Another Galaxy Quest performer, he played Teb, a Thermian. His most recent major genre outing was on Deadpool as Jared / Agent Smith / The Recruiter. He’s had one-offs in Ghost WhispererThe Crow: Stairway to HeavenThe NetX-Files,Outer Limits,The Sentinel and Sliders.
  • Born March 8, 1976 Freddie Prinze Jr., 46. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavors, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that’s a series which I highly recommend as it may well be the best Star Wars fiction ever done. 

(13) TOK SHOW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Nilanjana Roy discusses #BookTok, a branch of TikTok where readers post book reviews.

I quickly added Rebecca Roanhorse’s Between Earth And Sky fantasy series, inspired by the civilisations of pre-Columbian America, and Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library to my book-buying list. I was soon wondering if I should be reading more #enemiestolovers romance, and found myself developing an unhealthy fascination with the melodramatic thrill of ‘crying reader’ videos.  (BookTokers believe in sharing their motions, throwing books they don’t like across a room, screaming or lipsyncing to music,)…

…This brief immersion to #BookTok has inspired me to dust off my grandmother’s Mills & Boons, and allowed me to buy new romance novels without snobbish guilt.  BookTokers might be much younger than my generation, but they’ve built a place where we can all be #booknerds together.

(14) HAPPIER TIMES.  2006 KYIV EUROCON. [By SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Happier times. Opening ceremony at the 2006 Eurocon, Kyiv. Jim Walker (who has reviewed a number of Eurocons for SF2 Concatenation) behind empty seat. Front bottom left: Ian Watson and Jonathan Cowie looking on.

If memory serves, picture by Roberto Quaglia.

Ditto if memory serves Harry Harrison (western GoH — who Eurocon liaised with SF2 Concatenation to get him there) was behind Roberto on the stage.

Also, this was early on, the hall was full for the actual opening ceremony and a government minister said a few words, there was the singing of the national anthem and the GoHs were introduced.

(15) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY INVESTIGATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A former FBI agent turned crime novelist says that FBI agents could get new ideas if they read more horror novels. “What if the FBI Required Recruits to Read Paranormal Crime Thrillers?” at CrimeReads.

Over twelve intense weeks at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, I learned how to analyze crime scene evidence, elicit information from informants, and detect a liar from a hundred yards away. As a brand new intelligence analyst, however, my training curriculum (regrettably) did not include reading about immortal demons, parallel universes, or reincarnation. Because that would’ve been ridiculous. A complete waste of time. Right?

Well, maybe not.

Paranormal crime thrillers, where these fantastical concepts thrive, don’t obey the neat and tidy rules of the universe. And in my experience at the Bureau, neither do the cleverest of criminals or sneakiest of enemy spies….

(16) CLEARING THE OLD TUBES. NPR says “NASA is opening a vacuum-sealed sample it took from the moon 50 years ago”. The reason for the wait is mentioned in the article.

Fifty years ago, astronauts on one of NASA’s Apollo missions hammered a pair of tubes 14 inches long into the surface of the moon. Once the tubes were filled with rocks and soil, the astronauts — Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt — vacuum-sealed one of the tubes, while the other was put in a normal, unsealed container. Both were brought back to Earth.

Now, scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are preparing to carefully open that first tube, which has remained tightly sealed all these years since that 1972 Apollo 17 mission — the last time humans set foot on the moon….

Because the sample being opened now has been sealed, it may contain something in addition to rocks and soil: gas. The tube could contain substances known as volatiles, which evaporate at normal temperatures, such as water ice and carbon dioxide. The materials at the bottom of the tube were extremely cold at the time they were collected.

The amount of these gases in the sample is expected to be very low, so scientists are using a special device called a manifold, designed by a team at Washington University in St. Louis, to extract and collect the gas.

Another tool was developed at the European Space Agency (ESA) to pierce the sample and capture the gases as they escape. Scientists there have called that tool the “Apollo can opener.”

(17) WHEN GRAVITY FAILS. Netflix released this trailer for a new anime movie which begins streaming on April 28.

In a Tokyo where gravity has broken, a boy and a girl are drawn to each other… The story is set in Tokyo, after bubbles that broke the laws of gravity rained down upon the world. Cut off from the outside world, Tokyo has become a playground for a group of young people who have lost their families, acting as a battlefield for parkour team battles as they leap from building to building. Hibiki, a young ace known for his dangerous play style, makes a reckless move one day and plummets into the gravity-bending sea. His life is saved by Uta, a girl with mysterious powers. The pair then hear a unique sound audible only to them. Why did Uta appear before Hibiki? Their encounter leads to a revelation that will change the world.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Scream (2022),” the Screen Junkies, in a spoiler-filled episode, say that the new Scream is, like most movies these days, “A self-referential circle jerk of fan service,” and is “the best Scream since the first one, because it basically is the first one.”  But the narrator is interrupted by Scream’s terifying killer Ghostface!  Will the narrator survive?  “You can’t kill off my friends,” he says, “because I don’t have any friends!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Will R., Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/22 Have You Seen This Missing Scroll? Last Seen Pixeling In The Vicinity Of Fandom

(1) CHINA CENSORS FIX FIGHT CLUB. Remember the first rule of Fight Club? That’s okay. Just don’t remember the final scenes. BBC News reports “China changes Fight Club film ending so the authorities win”.

The ending to cult 1999 US film Fight Club has been removed for viewers in China, and replaced by a screen with a message saying the authorities won.

The original ending saw Edward Norton’s narrator killing his imaginary alter-ego Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, before bombs destroyed buildings in the climax to a subversive plot to reorder society, dubbed Project Mayhem.

In China, before the explosions, a message now says the police foiled the plot, arrested the criminals and sent Durden to a “lunatic asylum”.

The new finale tells viewers: “Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.

“After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”

Director David Fincher’s film has recently been added to streaming platform Tencent Video, and Human Rights Watch described the changes as “dystopian”.

…The changes were flagged up on social media by outraged viewers who had previously seen pirated copies of the original.

It’s not uncommon for Chinese censor to make cuts to Western films, but it’s more rare for them to change an ending.

Some social media users made light of the new Fight Club ending.

Of course, that film’s not sff. They’re probably fine with ending to 1984 – the only problem is the whole movie that precedes it.

(2) BLEEP OF THE RINGS. Were there censors in Middle-Earth? “Billy Boyd and Dom Monaghan Talk Best LOTR Swears” in the latest episode of The Friendship Onion podcast (which you can access here.) Yahoo! Lifestyle sets up the preview:

In this clip, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan delightedly discover that The Lord of the Rings has a PG-13 rating in the United States. This means the movie could have contained a singular swear word. Of course, the movies didn’t actually make use of this ability. But Boyd and Monaghan, in true Merry and Pippin style, invite us to imagine the possibilities.

Their top choices? Gandalf saying, “F**cking fool of a Tuck.” Or Pippin say, “Oh, I’m really f**cking sorry, Gandalf.” And the best one, of course. the idea of Aragorn saying, “My friends, you f**cking bow to know one.” I admit that’s where I lost it. Nothing like the King of Gondor dropping a casual swear at the most emotional moment.

(3) PRATCHETT BIO ON THE WAY. It’s a big news day for Terry Pratchett fans. In the first of three items, the Guardian’s Alison Flood says Rob Wilkins, head of Pratchett’s literary estate, is producing an official biography of Terry Pratchett.

Rob Wilkins, Terry Pratchett’s former assistant and friend, is writing the official biography of the late Discworld author, which will move from his childhood to the “embuggerance” of the Alzheimer’s disease he was diagnosed with in 2007.

Pratchett was working on his autobiography when he died in 2015, but “following his untimely death from Alzheimer’s disease, the mantle of completing Terry Pratchett’s memoir was passed to Rob”, said publisher Transworld.

It will include “fragments” from the memoir Pratchett was working on before he died, the publisher added….

(4) VIMES BOOTS. “Terry Pratchett estate backs Jack Monroe’s idea for ‘Vimes Boots’ poverty index” in the Guardian.

Terry Pratchett’s estate has authorised Jack Monroe to use the “Vimes Boots Index” as the name of her new price index, which is intended to document the “insidiously creeping prices” of basic food products.

The author’s daughter, writer Rhianna Pratchett, said her father would have been proud to see his work used in this way by the anti-poverty campaigner. Monroe was prompted to create her index after inflation jumped to 5.4% last week, and she found herself “infuriate[d]” that the index (the consumer price index or CPI) used for this calculation “grossly underestimates the real cost of inflation as it happens to people with the least”. She laid out how the prices of “value” product ranges in supermarkets had soared over the last decade – rice in her local supermarket had increased in price from 45p for a kilogram bag last year, to £1 for 500g, a 344% increase – and how the number of value products has shrunk. She was soon working with economists, charities and analysts to compile her own index….

(5) SECOND SERVING OF OMENS. “‘Good Omens’: Cast Confirmed For Season 2 Of Neil Gaiman’s Amazon Fantasy Series”, and Deadline has their names.

Cast has been set for season two of Amazon and BBC’s Neil Gaiman fantasy series Good Omens, which remains in production in Scotland.

Reprising his role as Metatron is Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) and joining the cast for season two is his I, Claudius co-star Dame Siân Phillips (Dune).

Also returning this season in roles that span heaven, hell, and earth are the trio from The League of Gentlemen Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Steve Pemberton (Killing Eve), and Reece Shearsmith (Inside No. 9).

Niamh Walsh (The English Game) returns, while joining in new roles are Tim Downie (Outlander), Pete Firman (The Magicians), Andi Osho (I May Destroy You), and Alex Norton (Pirates of the Caribbean).

However, neither Frances McDormand (God) nor Benedict Cumberbatch (Satan) will be back for season two.

(6) BLACK TO THE FUTURE. The Hollywood Reporter interviews the actress: “Keke Palmer on How ‘Alice’ Explores Black Freedom Through Its Time Twist”.

Alice, which is due out in theaters March 18 via Roadside Attractions, is inspired by true events of Black Americans who remained enslaved after the Emancipation Proclamation. A blend of time travel, historical drama and revenge thriller, the movie is an ode to (and spin-on) Blaxpoitation films….

There’s this acknowledgment that Black people have limitations around time travel because they don’t have the same freedoms as now. But this movie doesn’t pull its main character into the past; it pulls her forward into freedom and the future. How does that make this film different than works with a similar storyline? 

Yes, it’s set in the past, but it is pulling into the future. I think that’s a big thing. Where we start and then mostly live in the 1970s space, [which] still feels like now in a sense. Ultimately, that’s what the movie is saying. Things aren’t done and over just like that. Everything doesn’t just change. But you keep going, not in spite of but because of — like Alice. You keep going because of the Franks because of the Martin Luthers because of the Malcolm Xes. Also, it’s not going to be the same fight each time. I’m excited to see how people will unpack and digest that. When I think about the time travel in this film, it doesn’t feel like we are waiting in the back. And it’s being used in a way that reflects a mirror of us today. So many of us today are Frank. But then you look at Alice, who was just in the field, and you’re like, “What the hell am I doing?”

(7) WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Word of Mouth is a sort of whimsical philosophy-of-language radio show on BBC Radio 4. Yesterday’s episode – now available for downloading for a month (and on BBC Sounds thereafter, if you have an account) – sees a discussion on alien communication following first contact. Along the way they discuss the film Arrival and the novel Project Hail Mary. Word of Mouth, “It’s language, Jim, but not as we know it”.

Could aliens ‘speak’ in chemicals? Could they converse in electricity? Would they be able to hear us? In the absence of a Star Trek-style universal translator, how would you talk to an alien newly arrived on Planet Earth?

Dr Hannah Little is a science communicator, linguist and comedian. She joins Michael Rosen for some fascinating thought experiments on extraterrestrial communication and animal interactions closer to home. What might all this tell us about how human language first appeared, and why does it matter?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1994 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-eight years ago on PTEN, the Prime Time Entertainment Network, a syndicated network organized by Warner Brothers, the Babylon 5 series premiered.  It was created by writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski and it followed the pilot film Babylon 5: The Gathering which aired a year earlier. It would run for five twenty-two episode seasons as planned plus six related films. 

It generated a spin-off series, Crusade, but that only lasted thirteen episodes. Two other series were planned, The Legend of the Rangers and The Lost Tales, but neither got past the pilot. 

Its cast was marked by tragedy with a number of the principal actors dying young including Mira Furlan, Richard Biggs, Jeff Conaway, Jerry Doyle, Andreas Katsulas and Michael O’Hare. 

It won two Hugo Awards for “The Coming of Shadows” at L.A. Con III and “Severed Dreams” at LoneStarCon II. Neil Gaiman wrote an episode, “The Day of The Dead” which is on my frequent rewatch list. Harlan Ellison is the voice of Zooty in this episode. 

Babylon 5 in revised print is streaming on HBO Max.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1918 Philip José Farmer. I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those first three are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. I’m sure someone here has read them.  I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director, Barbarbella with Jane Fonda in a leather bikini. That alone gets a Birthday Honor. But he was one of three directors of Spirits of the Dead, a horror anthology film. (Louis Malle and Federico Fellini were the others.) And not to stop there, he directed another horror film, Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir) and even was involved in The Hitchhiker horror anthology series. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1929 Jules Feiffer, 93. On the Birthday list as he’s the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well, and that he also worked on Eisner’s Spirit, starting in 1946 as an art assistant and later the primary writer til the strip ended in 1952, which helped get him into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Let’s not overlook that he wrote The Great Comic Book Heroes in the Sixties which made it the first history of the superheroes of the late Thirties and Forties and their creators.
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Editor at Ballantine Books after first starting at Galaxy Magazine. Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she won a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 73. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint likes these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well-crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide-ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1960 Stephen Cox, 62. Pop culture writer who has written a number of books on genre subjects including The Munchkins Remember: The Wizard of Oz and BeyondThe Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams FamilyDreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle and The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. I’ll admit to being puzzled by his Cooking in Oz that he did with Elaine Willingham as I don’t remember that much for food in the Oz books…
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 43. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction. His most excellent  Ninefox Gambit, his first novel, received the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel. His latest novel is Tiger Honor, the sequel to Dragon Pearl.

(10) JUPITER’S LEGACY, VOUME 5. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Volume 5 of Jupiter’s Legacy now available on Hoopla (and elsewhere). If you enjoyed the multi-generational superhero  Jupiter’s Legacy series (alas, only one season) on Netflix (I did), and/or the comic book series originally titled Jupiter’s Children) that the show is based on (ditto), written by Mark Millar and (mostly) illustrated by Frank Quitely, you’ll be happy to know that Volume 5, collecting issues 1-6 of the 12-issue “Requiem” arc, is (as I discovered last night) on Hoopla (free, to library patrons of Hoopla-participating libraries). (Also available in physical-book and electronic editions, e.g., on Kindle.)

I’m enjoying it — three issues in so far, and relieved to discover it’s slated for 12 issues, since I don’t see things wrapping up by this volume’s end.

(11) JUST LOOKING. Abigail Nussbaum lists “The Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2022” at Lawyers, Guns & Money. Though she confesses there’s not necessarily an overlap between anticipation and actual reading:

… But as the experience of the last few years has shown, the most anticipated books list isn’t a reading plan (I think I’ve read fewer than half of the books I listed last year) so much as it is a snapshot of the literary year to come. And it’s a reflection of one’s own reading history—my copy of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life has sat unread on a shelf for more than six years, so I can’t participate in the ebullience and/or disdain that has greeted the news of her new novel, To Paradise. On the other hand, when authors I’ve reviewed and championed, like Isaac Fellman or Rachel Hartman, announce new books, I feel invested in advertising that fact and widening their readership circle….

(12) KEEPING HIS STRING GOING. Movieweb is there when “Anthony Daniels Teases C-3PO Star Wars Return With Motion Capture Image”.

Giving a pretty undeniable hint of what he is up to, Daniels shared a photo of himself in a motion capture suit at Ealing Studios, London, on his Instagram account, with the caption “Finally, a new suit – that fits!.” The actor included the hashtags #c3po, #starwars and #iamc3po, leaving it in do doubt that he is clearly getting ready to bring Threepio back to the screen once again, although the use of the mo-cap technology would suggest that this could possibly be a CGI-version of the droid, which could tie into the new Disney+-bound A Droid Story.

(13) GOOD TIDINGS. NPR shares “Sea shanties written for the digital age” – which we would call filksongs if fans wrote them. For example:

“The Ballad of IT Help”

Oh, the call came in about 9:16
Is this IT? Help. I need you
It tried to log on on me machine
And there’s nothing but dark all o’er my screen

Reboot says I!
But I canna reply
Til ye filled out form A-1-5!
Tis’ on our site
But nothing works!
I canna help you connect
unless you connect
Pull down the menu and hit select!

(14) BETTING ON FUSION. People with very deep pockets are “Reaching to the stars to create fusion energy” reports Bruce Gellerman in this public radio sound file.

American billionaires are funding companies to create fusion energy which uses super magnets to harness the energy of the stars and create a clean source of energy.

As WBUR’s Bruce Gellerman reports, one start-up in Massachusetts recently received an $1.8 billion infusion from Bill Gates, George Soros and others.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Eternals,” the Screen Junkies say that many scenes in the film abandon the green screen and “go beyond the farthest reaches of a nerd’s imagination:  outside” but that the film will appeal to someone whose “idea of fun is watching ten people debate the trolley problem for 2 1/2 hours.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Steven French, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/21 I Have No Idea What This Pixel Scroll Title Is Alluding To. Help!

(1) THE UPPER CRUST. Abigail Nussbaum, who read 86 books this year, says these are the best — “2021, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Under Honorable Mentions —

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson – My review of this novel was decidedly mixed and frustrated, and as I wrote there, I found the actual experience of reading it rather challenging. But as I come to close out the year, I can’t help but appreciate this effort, perhaps the first novel to not only address climate change but imagine how we might go about dealing with it, and what will be required to accomplish this. It’s not a perfect novel, but it might be a necessary one.

(2) ATOP MOUNT TO BE VIEWED. Abigail Nussbaum did a separate “Best TV of 2021” post for Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…I take two lessons from the state of the TV medium in 2021. The first is that this was the year that taught us the difference between “expensive” and “good”. So many shows came out the gate this year with stratospheric production values, huge names before and behind the camera, and stunning locations, but still felt as if little or no thought was given to creating coherent, satisfying stories. The Disney+ MCU shows are exhibit A of this phenomenon: five very different shows with unbelievable budgets and star-studded casts, none of which quite managed to stick the landing. But other streamers fell into the same trap. Apple TV+ produced an eight-episode adaptation of The Mosquito Coast that shot in the desert on the US-Mexican border and in picturesque locations in California and Mexico, but apparently no one involved considered that audiences might be put off if the central family didn’t even reach the Mosquito Coast until the season finale. Netflix poured millions upon millions of dollars into comic books adaptations like Sweet Tooth and Jupiter’s Legacy, while seeming to have skimped on the scripts. (To be fair, Jupiter’s Legacy also looked like ass; I really hope there was some serious money-laundering going on because otherwise I just can’t explain it.)

(3) CIRCLING THE SQUARE. It’ll be a big deal again in Times Square tonight. Daily Kos explains the tradition: “Why do we drop a ball on New Year’s Eve? It once saved lives, but now it’s just fun”.

… But why a giant ball?  Where did this come from?

The short answer is that it’s inspired by other giant balls whose function was to indicate time.  I say “was”, because the purpose of a “time ball” is now pragmatically obsolete, and almost all of these are gone.  But one of the very earliest time balls, atop the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, has been dropped each and every day since 1833.  It is raised halfway up its post a few minutes prior, to give notice, and then it is dropped at exactly the stroke of 1 P.M.  Bongggg!

(4) CALMING THE DISCOURSE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In an excellent, free Patreon post, Hugo-finalist fan writer Jason Sanford examines the troubling trend of targeted harassment campaigns against creators and pundits within the SFF genre, and asks how we as a community can do better. “Genre Grapevine on SF/F Abuse and Harassment Campaigns”.

…I’ve been on the receiving end of these mass harassment and abuse campaigns. When you’re subjected to harassment and abuse your world compresses to a single, painful point, like a black hole that traps you against your will. Nothing you say or do makes a difference. People can tell you the harassment and abuse is unjustified and that you did nothing wrong. But none of that matters.

Because in the end you are merely a convenient target for people who are deliberately refusing to see you as human….

(5) SAWYER Q&A. Host Mary Ito, previously with the CBC and TVOntario, interviews Robert J. Sawyer for The CRAM Podcast ~ Extraordinary Ideas Unleashed.

We all wonder about our future – post pandemic. And it’s something sci-fi writer Robert Sawyer thinks about a lot. His writing has captivated audiences with explorations of alternate worlds. Hear what one of Canada’s most fascinating big thinkers has to say about OUR world, and the transformation it’s undergoing. His audio series “The Downloaded” about a metaphorical post pandemic world will be available Fall 2022 on Audible. Robert Sawyer’s most recent book is “The Oppenheimer Alternative.”

(6) FREE TAFF BOOK. Ah! Sweet Laney! The Writings of a Great Big Man is the latest addition to TAFF’s library of free downloads. The reissue of Robert Lichtman’s and Pat Virzis’s compilation of Francis T. Laney’s other fanwriting (i.e. not Ah! Sweet Idiocy!) That will be a very familiar name if you happen to have just read about 1940s LASFS in Bixelstrasse. The collection is available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they also hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund. 

Though best remembered for his infamous 1948 memoir and polemic Ah! Sweet Idiocy! (also in the TAFF ebook library), Francis Towner Laney also published much other notable work in his own and others’ fanzines. In addition to a generous helping of Laney’s best writing other than Ah! Sweet Idiocy!, it includes a new introduction by Robert Lichtman and memoirs of “FTL” by Robert Bloch, Charles Burbee, Terry Carr and Jack Speer.

This first ebook edition is produced with the kind permission of Robert Lichtman and the welcome support of Pat Virzi, who provided the text in PDF format, now also available at Bill Burns’s eFanzines.com. The PDF download button above gives this 10Mb PDF (with all print layout, artwork, photographs etc) rather than the usual quick-and-dirty conversion from ebook format.

(7) SLF NEEDS GRANT JURORS. The Speculative Literature Foundation announced on Facebook they need jurors to read applications for the A.C. Bose Grant.

Ideally, we’re looking for people who are well read in science fiction, fantasy and horror, but we’d also like a mix of readers, writers, librarians, teachers, editors, etc. who are capable of judging literary quality in a work. The honorarium is $25.

Please note: We’d love to have South Asian and South Asian diaspora jurors for the AC Bose Grant, but it’s not a requirement.

Please contact Catherine (catherine@speculativeliterature.org) for more information.

(8) NEW ZEALAND AWARD TAKING NOMINATIONS. SFFANZ News declares “Nominations for the 2022 Sir Julius Vogel awards Open”. Guidelines at the link.

Sir Julius Vogel Award nominations for the 2021 calendar year are now open. The nomination period will close at 11:59pm on 31st March 2022. The SJV awards recognise excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2021 calendar year. Anyone can make a nomination and it is free!

(9) TANGLED WEBS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Spider-Man blooper reel dropped two days ago.  I thought what was most interesting was how much of the Spider-Man:  No Way Home sets were real and what was CGI.

(10) BETTY WHITE. Actress Betty White died today, a few weeks short of her hundredth birthday. The New York Times obituary is here: “Betty White, a TV Fixture for Seven Decades, Is Dead at 99”. Although White performed a vast number of roles in her long career, only a few were genre. She was a Woman in Window encountered by the Dynamic Duo in Return to the Batcave (2003). She did voice work in several animated Christmas movies, and also on the Hercules TV series (1999), The Simpsons (as herself, 2007), The Lorax (2012), SpongeBob SquarePants (2016), and as a toy tiger named Bitey White in Toy Story 4.

Betty White, who created two of the most memorable characters in sitcom history, the nymphomaniacal Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the sweet but dim Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls” — and who capped her long career with a comeback that included a triumphant appearance as the host of “Saturday Night Live” at the age of 88 — died on Friday. She was 99.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1931 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Ninety years ago, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a horror film directed by Rouben Mamoulian premiered. The screenplay was by Samuel Hoffenstein and Percy Heath. It starred Starring Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins and Rose Hobart. It was a box office success making on piece three million on a budget of a million dollars. Critics loved it, and March won the award for Best Actor, sharing the award with Wallace Beery for The Champ. It has a most excellent eighty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 31, 1937 Anthony Hopkins, 84. I think one of his most impressive roles was as Richard in The Lion in Winter but we can’t even call that genre adjacent, can we? Well, we can as it’s alternate history. He was, during that period, also King Claudius in Hamlet. I’ll say playing Ian McCandless in Freejack is his true genre role, and being Professor Abraham Van Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a plum of a genre role. It’s a better role that he as Odin has the MCU film franchise. What else to note? What have I missed that I should note? 
  • Born December 31, 1943 Ben Kingsley, 78. Speaking of Kipling, he voiced Bagherra in the live action adaptation that Disney did of The Jungle Book. He was also in Iron Man 3 as Trevor Slattery, a casting not well received. He’s The Hood in Thunderbirds (directed by Frakes btw), Charles Hatton in A Sound of Thunder and Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third of three great popcorn films. 
  • Born December 31, 1945 Connie Willis, 76. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses even me! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the DogDoomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there. She’s very well stocked at the usual suspects and a number of her works qualify as Meredith moments. 
  • Born December 31, 1949 Ellen Datlow, 72. Let’s start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which yes, I know it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories from them from time to time.  If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site.  Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor there, something she’s also done at Nightmare MagazineOmni, the hard copy magazine and online, Sci Fiction webzine and Subterranean Magazine. And yes, she won a number of Hugos for her editing including one this year which she richly deserved. 
  • Born December 31, 1953 Jane Badler, 68. I first encountered her on the Australian-produced Mission Impossible where she played Shannon Reed for the two seasons of that superb series. She’s apparently best known as Diana, the main antagonist on V, but I never saw any of that series being overseas at the time. She shows up in the classic Fantasy IslandSir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, Bitch, Popcorn & Blood and Virtual Revolution.
  • Born December 31, 1958 Bebe Neuwirth, 63. Ok she’s had but one television SF credit to her name which is playing a character named Lanel in the “First Contact” episode of the Next Gen series during season four, but I found a delightful genre credential for her. From April 2010 to December 2011, she was Morticia Addams in the Broadway production of The Addams Family musical! The show itself was ongoing up until the Pandemic started. 
  • Born December 31, 1959 Val Kilmer, 62. Lead role in Batman Forever where I thought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the not terribly well-conceived reboot of Knight Rider. Best role? Ahhh that’d be Doc Holliday in Tombstone. Nope, not even genre adjacent but I really, really love that film. 

(13) JOINING GENRES. Clarion West will be offering a free online discussion – “Fantastic Intersections: Speculative Fiction and Romance” — on January 29, 2022, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Pacific. The participants will be Zen Cho, S. A. (Austin) Chant, C. L. Polk, KJ Charles, and L. Penelope, moderated by Rashida J. Smith. Register at the link.

From the sublime and magical to the stirring and steamy, storylines centering BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ characters are flourishing in the romance and speculative genres. We’ll tackle the nuance of building romance into the plot vs. romance as the plot, the role of the HEA or HFN in representation, and the future of the fantastic in romance.

(14) GAME WITH A STRONG STORY. Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag broke her usual pattern by buying this game on release day and it worked out well: “Video Game Review – Ruined King: A League of Legends Story” at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog.

…The story drove me on, because I wanted to read it all and find out what really happened. There is a central mystery to it – the opening cinematic sets it up beautifully. Why did the Blessed Isles fall? What is the Harrowing? You get some solid answers by the end. It’s like reading a novel while playing it as well. It was an experience I very much enjoyed. In addition to the main story there were the individual tales of each of our six main characters as well as bits of lore featuring dozens of other characters, some related and some not, that you just find as you explore the world….

(15) THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt and Michael Cavna rank the 12 best performances by actors in superhero movies, including nine from the MCU and three from the DCEU. “Of ‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Shang-Chi’ and ‘The Suicide Squad’: The year’s top 12 performances from superhero titles”.

… Anchoring the success of these films were the layered human performances amid all the green-screen effects. Here are a dozen actors who especially delivered depth within their superhero universes…

4. Margot Robbie (‘The Suicide Squad’)

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in 2021’s “The Suicide Squad.” (Warner Bros./Everett Collection)

Playing the relentlessly resourceful Harley Quinn,Robbie is reliably the most electric presence in DC’s sprawling team-up movies, dropping coy one-liners with as much force as her violent blows. She again steals entire scenes in James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” and with each own-the-screen DC outing, including “Birds of Prey,” she proves that her radiant Harley could carry solo movies in between the “Suicide” squadfests.

(16) WITH SHARP, POINTY TEETH. [Item by Michael Toman.] Have to wonder what, say, Dylan Thomas, (“A Bright Child From Wales!”) would have done with this Late-Breaking Holiday News Update. “Bloodthirsty, ‘Psycho’ Squirrel Attacks 18 in Small Town Christmas Rampage” reports Newsweek. Will there be a movie from some of the Folks at The Asylum, the ones who gifted us with the “Sharknado Franchise?” Or maybe this needs to become an Uncuddly, Unwarm, Unfuzzy Picture Book? “What a world, what a world!”

A Welsh town is being held in the grip of fear by a most unusual source, a grey squirrel that is attacking residents.

Wales Online reported that the serial squirrel has indiscriminately attacked pensioners, pets, and children, jumping at people taking out the garbage, and been chasing after people down streets as they flee.

(17) DIANA GALLAGHER VIDEOS. Fanac.org’s Edie Stern introduces these Eighties recordings of Diana Gallagher singing filksongs.  

Diana Gallagher is now known primarily for her science fiction media novels. However, especially early in her fannish career, she also impressed as a filk songwriter/performer, and a fan artist. She received several Pegasus Awards, as well as the 1988 Fan Artist Hugo Award. As her songs often show, Diana was also an avid supporter of the space program. She passed away in December 2021.

This recording was made in our living room in the early 1980s. At that time, she was a member of the local science fiction group, and an avid filker. She was our friend. This recording is excerpted from a longer filk recording, and features her performances of five songs (of which 4 were written by her). Many thanks to our Filk Consultant, Eli Goldberg and to our Sound Editor, Luke Bretscher for their help with this recording.

Here are links to all five videos — 1. Planetbound Lovers (0:05) 2. Following (2:52) 3. Free Fall (5:23) 4. Starsong (7:30) 5. Mary O’Meara (10:12)

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl,” Fandom Games says this Nickleodeon smash compilation is meant for gamers who ask, “Say, what would happen if Garfield fought SpongeBob?” and that Nickelodeon is basically a network for “not so nuanced sex jokes and covering kids in sludge.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/29/21 Sgt. Pixel’s Scrolling File Club Band

(1) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CAMERA. The production of Disney animated movies doesn’t look anything like I thought, judging by Andhika Muksin’s “eyewitness” accounts: “Artist Imagines What It Looks Like Behind The Scenes Of Disney Movies” at AWorkstation.

Have you ever wondered what happens in the backstage of Disney movies? Andhika Muksin is back on Bored Panda to show you just that. He creates hilarious edits of Disney movies so that we can see the behind the scenes of famous scenes and how they were “actually made.”

(2) ONCE A KNIGHT IS ENOUGH. Abigail Nussbaum analyzes The Green Knight at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…Unsurprisingly, The Green Knight‘s project is to subvert these ideas about knightliness and chivalry. But it is very interesting to examine how it goes about doing so. Most cinematic Arthuriana tries to be subversive, usually by imagining its heroes as thoroughly modern Hollywood protagonists—reckless, ironic, quippy, cool, possessed of just the right progressive politics (in a thoroughly non-threatening way, of course), and usually haunted by one of the three or four emotional traumas that heroes are allowed to experience (daddy issues, lack of confidence in their own abilities, etc.). Sometimes this works (well, once). Most of the time, it loses the flavor of these legends, which are weird and rambling and often have a disturbing, quasi-erotic, quasi-religious charge. Lowery seems determined to embrace these very qualities—as seen, first and foremost, in the film’s visuals….

(3) NO LOW-DOWN HERE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] G.W. Thomas of Dark Worlds Quarterly has an article about high vs. low fantasy. I’ve always hated the term “low fantasy” and Thomas is no fan either: “High Versus Low Fantasy or You Can’t Get There From Here!”

High Fantasy vs. Low Fantasy has always been a bit of gray area for me. I can remember submitting to Bardic Runes back in the 1990s and getting rejected as “Sword & Sorcery”. Understanding the genre history of commercial fantasy has helped me to see the difference. The term “High Fantasy” was coined by one of the first practitioners, Lloyd Alexander in 1971 in the essay, “High Fantasy and Heroic Romance”, (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians in October 1969). The unfortunate counter term for what is not “high” is “Low Fantasy” (or Sword & Sorcery).

(4) BEAUTIFUL COVER. The Rogues in the House podcast interviews Howard Andrew Jones, who has a new book out: “’The Goddess Wakes’ Release with Howard Andrew Jones”.

(5) BESTEST SELLERS. Mental Floss lists “10 of the Best-Selling Books in History (Minus Religious Texts)”. Quite a bit of genre here, beginning with Harry Potter in third place:

In 2018, it was announced that 500 million copies of the entire Harry Potter series had been sold. That’s a long way from 1997, when the series started with a reported 500-copy first print run for Philosopher’s Stone (the British title). By 1999, when Prisoner of Azkaban came out, it sold 68,000 copies in the UK and immediately garnered controversy when the Sunday Times bestseller list refused to include it due to being a children’s book. By the time the series ended, Deathly Hallows managed to move 2.6 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the United States on a single day.

(6) A VISIT AT HOME. Alastair Reynolds calls it “one of the best long-form interviews I’ve done” – “Meeting Alastair Reynolds – Sci Fi, Black Holes, UFO’s and Whisky” by Media Death Cult.

(7) KSR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kim Stanley Robinson has an article in the August 21 Financial Times.

…What does it feel like to live on the brink of a vast historical change?  It feels like now.

Of course that sounds hyperbolic, and perhaps even panicky,  Not that a science fiction writer can see the future any better than anyone else; very often worse.  But between the pandemic, the accelerating drumbeat of extreme weather events, and the accumulations of data and analysis from the scientific community, it’s become an easy call….

(8) DISABILITIES. “Writing Ability by Nick Wood and Levi Qisin” at the BSFA blog.

There is an annual writing event, which I dread every year when it rolls around.

It’s well known and is called NaNoWriMo and it is hash-tagged furiously on Twitter during the month of November, as people launch forth to write their novels in thirty days. Large daily word counts are flung about energetically – and, to anyone who has significant impediments to writing — these numbers can be both intimidating and shaming.  So, for the last NaNoWriMo (2020) I stayed well away, thinking about what helps each (different) writer, and why.

Under the title Writing Ability, I aim to unpack: (1) some of the difficulties (and resources) of writing while disabled, as well as (2) how to write ‘authentic’ fictional characters with disabilities.  And, given most stories begin with the author, I’ll start there….

(9) ED ASNER (1929-2021). Actor Ed Asner died August 29 at the age of 91. He won awards for non-genre work — three best supporting actor Emmys on Mary Tyler Moore, two best actor awards on Lou Grant, plus Emmys for his roles in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots. However, the New York Times obituary did not overlook the two main genre highlights of his career:

…He provided the voice of the lead character in the Oscar-winning animated movie “Up” (2009), about an elderly widower who flies to South America by attaching roughly a zillion colorful balloons to his house. Manohla Dargis’s review in The New York Times, which praised Mr. Asner and the supporting characters — including a portly stowaway scout and several talking dogs — called it “filmmaking at its purest.”

Mr. Asner also played a levelheaded Santa Claus in the Will Ferrell comedy “Elf” (2003), about a tall human raised by North Pole elves, which has become a Christmas-season classic. (It was Santa’s fault, really; the human baby crawled into his giant bag of gifts one busy Christmas Eve.) The Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert called the film “one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor.”…

Asner also was in episodes of many genre TV series, such as The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and The Invaders. And he voiced characters in dozens of animated works including Animaniacs, Batman: the Animated Series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series (as another editor, J. Jonah Jameson), and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – The Original Radio Drama (a TV series, despite its name, where he played Jabba the Hutt.)

Fans will get a final visit with Asner’s Up character in the series of “Dug Days” shorts coming to Disney+ this week. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1958 – Sixty three years ago on this night, the first version of The Fly premiered. (It would be made three times.) It was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann from the screenplay by James Clavell which in turn was from the short story by George Langelaan which not surprisingly was called “The Fly” and which had been published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. The primary cast was Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall. Reception was definitely not generally upbeat with critics calling it “nauseating”, sickening” and “horrific”. It has since become a classic of horror films. It was box office success earning three million dollars on a budget of less than a half million dollars. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rating of seventy-one percent. It was nominated at Detention for a Hugo but no film was chosen for a Hugo Award that year.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 29, 1928 Charles Gray. Best remembered for being Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever and Dikko Henderson In You Only Live Twice, and as Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. That’s a role he reprises in the Jeremy Brett series. He’s in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as The Criminologist – An Expert. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 29, 1939 Joel Schumacher. Director of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, both of which I like a lot, not to mention Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Ok, so those might not be the highlights of his career. However his Blood Creek vampirefilm starring Michael Fassbender is said to be very good. Oh, and his The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a very funny riff the original The Incredible Shrinking Man. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 29, 1945 Robert Weinberg. Author, editor, publisher, and collector of genre fiction. At Chicon 7, he received a Special Committee Award for his service to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. During the Seventies, he was the genius behind Pulp which featured interviews with pulp writers such as Walter B. Gibson and Frederick C. Davis.  He won the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award called the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in science fiction collecting. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 70. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction, winner of a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at the usual suspects though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not.
  • Born August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder, 68. She’s an impressive six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award including her latest for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel, Mary Shelley Presents. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain
  • Born August 29, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 67. A filker which gets major points in my book. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. Filker link: Back in Black at The Curious Mind of Michael Kube-McDowell.
  • Born August 29, 1971 Carla Gugino, 50. She’s had a number of genre roles — Ingrid Cortez in the Spy Kids franchise, Rebecca Hutman in Night At The Museum, Sally Jupiter in Watchmen, the voice of Kelex in Man of Steel / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Justice League andDr. Alex Friedman in Race to Witch Mountain. She’s been on Quantum LeapALFShe Creature and Supergirl. She was Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey on the short-lived Threshold series, and Olivia Crain, the lead character, on The Haunting of Hill House series.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MYSTERY WRITER DIES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Caroline Todd, one half of the mother and son mystery writing team Charles Todd, died August 29. Apparently, the Todds were supposed to present an Anthony Award at the virtual Bouchercon and had to pull out due to Caroline falling ill. Here are tributes by others in the field:

(14) CREATING A CLEAN INTERNET. South China Morning Post reports new, more stringent rules imposed on celebrity fan communities:“No explanation as China’s billionaire actress Zhao Wei blacklisted from Chinese internet”.

…Zhao’s disappearance from Chinese cyberspace came amid a widespread campaign by authorities to clamp down on “misbehaving celebrities”.

The government is simultaneously trying to rein in unruly fan culture that has resulted in extreme stalking, leaking of personal information and cyberbullying.

On Friday, the Cyberspace Administration, China’s central internet watchdog, issued a detailed list of measures to rectify issues among fan communities.

The directive said local authorities should monitor celebrity culture online to maintain “political and ideological safety in the cyberspace as well as creating a clean internet”.

New rules include cancelling all forms of celebrity rankings and tightening oversight on celebrity marketing agencies. They would also require all online fan communities to be authorised by agencies associated with the celebrity.

The regulations would punish platforms that fail to quickly delete verbal attacks among fans of different idols….

Global Times has additional details about the rules: “China cyberspace administration tightens rules to cool frenzied idol worshipping, especially among minors”.

…All ranking lists of celebrities will be removed from online, and management of fan groups will be strengthened, the Chinese top internet watchdog announced on Friday in a bid to crack down on the unhealthy fan club culture in the country, banning all forms of promotional events that use a competitive scheme among the celebrities or fans. 

Since the campaign to clean up unhealthy fandom culture was launched, a number of online functions including celebrity ranking lists, hot topics, fan communities, and interactive comment sections have seen measurable improvement, the Cyberspace Administration of China said. To further weed out toxic fan culture, the administration announced the 10-point regulation, according to a notice issued by the administration. …

(15) WEBBER RETURNS TO GENRE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 20 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews Cinderella, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a book by Emerald Fennell, who wrote and directed Promising Young Woman.

The opening number sets the tone.  We find ourselves in Belleville, picturesque town and tourist trap, home to chirruping milkmaids, chaps with tones torsos and too-tight lederhosen and a baker inviting us to ‘check out my hot buns’ (lyrics from David Zippel). Girls pose and pout, guys strut and stomp and everyone misses the manly Prince Charming, who has mysteriously vanished, leaving his drippy younger brother, Sebastian, as heir…

…There is a pleasing twist at the end, but the plot does all become a bit daft and convoluted. Meanwhile, characterisation stays skin-deep, motivation flimsy and questions come and go without even being answered:  how did the prince and the pauper become best buddies? Oh,, never mind.  Wait, the fairy godmother is an evil plastic surgeon? Let’s explore that further…OK, let’s move on.

There is a website for the production: andrewlloydwebberscinderella.com.

(16) WONDER BLUNDERS. Heroes & Icons points out “12 little blunders you never noticed in ‘Wonder Woman’” (the TV series). For example:

TAKING OUT THE TRASH

“Screaming Javelins”

No Wonder Woman effect is more iconic than the hero’s transformative twirl. Diana Prince turns into Wonder Woman in a flash. You can catch some inconsistencies in those cuts. Take this one for example, from season two, when a trash can magically disappears.

(17) T MINUS 24 AND HOLDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Demand in the US for medical grade oxygen is so high due to COVID that some hospitals have less than 24 hours worth on hand and satellite launches are in danger of postponement. “Covid Surge Sends Liquid Oxygen From Launch Pads to Hospitals”Bloomberg has the story.

One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is showing up in an unlikely place: the space industry. 

A summer surge in Covid-19 patients is diverting liquid oxygen from rocket launch pads to hospitals, leading NASA to announce Friday it will delay the September launch of its next earth-surveillance satellite by a week.

Oxygen chilled to its liquid form at -300 F (-184 C) is a crucial propellant for launch firms from SpaceX to ULA to Virgin Orbit. Now the industry is anticipating launch delays as patients on ventilators take precedence in the commodity gas supply chain….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Brian Z., John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 8/15/21 The Filer Who Cried ‘Click’ At The Heart Of The Scroll

(1) KOREAN SF THRIVING. Abigail Nussbaum offers a “Quick Book Rec: Tower by Bae Myung-hoon” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…In late 2020 and early 2021, someone seems to have decided that it was Korean SF’s turn, with several major works receiving English-language editions (in particular, check out UK-based publisher Honford Star, who have put out handsome editions of several books). At the vacation house where I recently stayed with some friends, these books were available for reading, and today I’d like to talk about one them. Tower by Bae Myung-hoon was originally published in 2009 (the English translation is by Sung Ryu), and its concerns connect with conversations we’ve had on this blog about urbanism, vertical construction, and most importantly, the relationship between capital and citizens….

(2) PRIX AURORA. Aurora Awards voting is now open for members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, who have until September 4 to complete their online ballots. See the list of nominees here.

(3) DRAGON AWARDS. And, of course, Dragon Awards voting has started and will continue until September 4. To vote, fans must first register on the Dragon Awards website: Register Here. Ballots are then emailed in batches every few days through August.

Fans have until Friday, September 3 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern, to register. Voting ends 24-hours later on Saturday, Septenber. 4 at 11:59 p.m., also Eastern.

Winners will be announced on Sept. 5 at Dragon Con

(4) ANIMATION HONOR. While researching an item today I discovered the Writers Guild has a page devoted to the award they gave Craig Miller last year: “Television Writer Craig Miller Named WGAW’s 2020 AWC Animation Writing Award Honoree”.

TV animation writer and WGAW Animation Writers Caucus Chair Craig Miller (The Smurfs, Curious George, Pocket Dragon Adventures) will receive the Writers Guild of America West’s 2020 Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award at November 24’s virtual AWC awards ceremony.

Comic book writer and Miller collaborator Marv Wolfman will present the Guild’s AWC career achievement award to Miller in recognition of his distinguished career and contributions to the animation field….

(5) TRADPUB AT IT’S FINEST. Literary Hub shares “A Legendary Publishing House’s Most Infamous Rejection Letters”Animal Farm? No thanks. Lord of the Flies – came damn close to being rejected. Paddington Bear? Well, who wants to read about a poor, rudely-treated bear? (A 2019 article.)

T. S. Eliot rejects George Orwell, againAnimal Farm

T. S. Eliot to George Orwell Esq., 13 July 1944:

“I know that you wanted a quick decision about Animal Farm; but the minimum is two directors’ opinions, and that can’t be done under a week. But for the importance of speed, I should have asked the Chairman to look at it as well. But the other director is in agreement with me on the main points. We agree that it is a distinguished piece of writing; that the fable is very skilfully handled, and that the narrative keeps one’s interest on its own plane – and that is something very few authors have achieved since Gulliver.

“On the other hand, we have no conviction (and I am sure none of the other directors would have) that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time.[. . .]

“I am very sorry, because whoever publishes this, will naturally have the opportunity of publishing your future work: and I have a regard for your work, because it is good writing of fundamental integrity.”

It is that last paragraph that particularly strikes me: in turning down Animal Farm—essentially because it was being rude about our Soviet allies—Eliot was also turning down the unwritten 1984.

(6) NICHELLE NICHOLS NEWS. Although only Los Angeles Times subscribers can read the article “Nichelle Nichols: Conservatorship battle of ‘Star Trek’ star”, this excerpt encompasses the current state of affairs.

A three-way fight over Nichols’ fate involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, who is also her conservator; her former manager Gilbert Bell; and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette.

In 2018, Johnson filed a petition for conservatorship, arguing that his mother’s dementia made her susceptible to exploitation. In 2019, Bell filed a lawsuit against Johnson, alleging attempts to remove him from Nichols’ guest home, where he has lived since 2010, and “aggressive and combative behavior.”

Bell says that while living in close proximity to Nichols, he helped to restore her career and financial well-being. According to Johnson, who filed a countersuit against Bell in 2020, Nichols’ home was the place where her former manager “exerted his undue influence and took control over Ms. Nichols’ assets and personal affairs,” misappropriating the star’s income as her health deteriorated and memory faded.

Fawcette, a producer and actress who met Nichols in 2012, entered the legal fight opposing Johnson’s conservatorship petition. Fawcette pushed for visitation rights to spend time with her friend, and she argued for Nichols to stay in Woodland Hills — a scenario that has looked increasingly improbable.

At 88, Nichols no longer occupies the house. Last year, Johnson moved her to New Mexico, where he and his wife live. Johnson declined The Times’ requests to speak with Nichols directly.

Against the backdrop of the #FreeBritney movement around Britney Spears raising public consciousness about conservatorships, Nichols’ former agent and friend have launched court battles to intervene, they said in interviews. Their fear: Nichols is being denied a chance to live out her remaining years as she wants….

(7) ACE DOUBLE IS A JOKER. At Galactic Journey Cora Buhlert reviews what’s on West German newsstands in August 1966, including a book she deems truly terrible, The Star Magicians by Lin Carter.  “[August 14, 1966] So Bad It’s Hilarious (The Star Magicians by Lin Carter/The Off-Worlders by John Baxter (Ace Double G-588))”.

(8) REDEEMING FEATURES. But Cora also sent this link, saying “Because Lin Carter was actually a good editor, even if he was a terrible writer, here is Filer Fraser Sherman’s appreciation for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of the 1970s, which Carter edited” – “Lin Carter and the Ballantines Changed My Life” at Atomic Junk Shop.

…Thanks to Carter and the Ballantines, I could read George MacDonald’s allegorical Lilith. Clark Ashton Smith’s stylized dark fantasy short stories, collected in Poseidonis, Xiccarph, Hyperborea and more. James Branch Cabell’s cynical tales of less-than-noble knights, with a healthy serving of sex. New authors such as Evangeline Walton, with her retelling of the Welsh Mabinogion and Saunders Anne Laubenthal’s remarkable Alabama Grail quest, Excalibur (some of the covers are in this old post of mine).

It would be a satisfying ending if I could say reading these books shaped my own fantasy-writing style, but I don’t think they did. I did try to write some Dunsanian stories when I started out, but like most writers who imitate a distinctive stylist, the results were … not good (I’m not even going to mention my efforts at imitating Lovecraft — crap, I just did). They did, however, do a marvelous job broadening my taste beyond Conan and Frodo Baggins….

(9) ONWARD AND DURWARD. Adam Roberts analyzes how J.R.R. Tolkien was influenced by Sir Walter Scott in “Black Riders: a Note on Scott and Tolkien” at Sibilant Fricative. For example, Roberts finds significant parallels between Tolkien’s work and Scott’s Quentin Durward, such as —

…Schwarz Reiters, Black Riders. It seems to me likely that Tolkien, reading Scott’s adventure story, retained a memory of this episode and reworked it for Fellowship of the Ring: not just men riding black horses, but black men riding black horses, at the behest of a terrible malevolent master, pursuing our heroes across a spacious, late medieval landscape of field, stream and woodland. 

One of Scott’s footnotes makes plain that the Schwarz Reiters were historical; but that seems to me only to reinforce the aptitude of the Tolkienian appropriation….

(10) SCHLUESSEL Q&A. Tanya Tynjala launches a new interview series at Amazing Stories: “Meet Edmund Schluessel (Scriptor in Fabula Program)”. See the video at the link.

Months ago I decided to make a program about foreign writers living in Finland, and finally here it is. The name is Scriptor in Fabula and is a different kind of interview.

Three of the writers included are science fiction and fantasy ones, so I decided is a good idea to present them also here, at Amazing Stories.

The first one is Edmund Schluessel a PhD physicist with PGCE teaching qualification that also writes good science fiction. But there is more: An avid socialist activist, he helped organize Finland’s largest demonstration against Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in  Helsinki, Finland.

(11) UNA STUBBS (1937-2021). British actress Una Stubbs died August 12 at the age of 84. US viewers will mainly know her as Mrs. Hudson in Sherlock, but she had several genre roles as well. Here’s an obituary from The Guardian as well as a photo overview of her memorable roles.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1986 – Thirty-five years ago, the second version of The Fly premiered. This version was directed and co-written by David Cronenberg along with Charles Edward Pogue. It was based on “The Fly” by George Langelaan which first ran in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. The principal cast was Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz. Reception was universally positive for the film with the performance by Goldblum being singled out as the highlight of the film. It grossed over sixty million dollars at the box office against its nine million dollar budget becoming the largest commercial success of Cronenberg’s career. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather excellent rating of eighty-three percent. It was nominated for a Hugo at Conspiracy ’87, the year Aliens won.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 15, 1917 John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for TexansHunter PatrolCrisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read and really liked. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 15, 1933 Bjo Trimble, 88. Her intro to fandom was TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon. She would be active in LASFS in the late 1950s onward and has been involved in more fanzines than I can comfortably list here. Of course, many of us know her from Trek especially the successful campaign for a third season. She’s responsible for the Star Trek Concordance, an amazing work even by today’s standards. And yes, I read it and loved it. She’s shows up (uncredited) as a crew member in the Recreation Deck scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bjo and her husband John Trimble were the Fan Guests of Honor at the 60th Worldcon, ConJose. She was nominated at Seacon for Best Fanzine for Shangri L’Affaires, and two years later at DisCon 1 for the same under the Best Amateur Magazine category. 
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 78. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in  A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent as it’s alternate history, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 15, 1952 Louise Marley, 69. Winner of two Endeavour Awards for The Glass Harmonica and The Child Goddess. Before becoming a writer, she was an opera singer with the Seattle Opera, and so her works often feature musical themes.
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 49. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best known role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness where he was the lead sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. If you’ve been watching The Mandalorian, he was Bib Fortuna in “The Rescue” episode. 
  • Born August 15, 1972 Ben Affleck, 49. Did you know his first genre role is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? He’s a basketball player in it.  He’s Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. IMDB claims he shows up in a uncredited spot in Suicide Squad as well. He’s reprising his role as Batman in forthcoming Flash.  He’s Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil which I have seen. He’s actually in Field of Dreams too as a fan on the stands in Fenway though he’s not credited. Can I nominate Shakespeare in Love as genre? If so, he’s Ned Alleyn in it.

(14) BURTON’S BATMAN IS BACK. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt discusses Batman 89, a six-issue miniseries designed to recreate the world of the 1989 Tim Burton movie, written by Sam Hamm (who wrote Burton’s film) and designed to include storylines that weren’t in Burton’s movie (such as having a Black Robin, because Robin wasn’t in the Burton film). “Tim Burton never got to make more Batman movies. ‘Batman 89’ is the next best thing”.

…[Artist Joe] Quinones ended up suggesting something that now seems obvious: Why not just ask the person who wrote those Batman movies?Veteran Hollywood writer Sam Hamm is that person.And the result is “Batman 89,” a newsix-issue monthly miniseries featuring a Batman inspired by the performance of Michael Keaton — and a nostalgic joyride for the many hardcore fans of Burton’s two iconic trips to Gotham City.

Quinones sent Hamm a direct message on Twitter and was surprised not only to get a response but to find out Hamm is a fan of his artwork.

Hamm was hesitant about returning to super-heroic tales.He’d written two Batman films (the first with Warren Skaaren, and he was replac

ed on the second by Daniel Waters) along with the first movie script for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s legendary “Watchmen” comic. He’d even worked with Chris Columbus on a Fantastic Four movie that was never made.

“I had a long stretch where I just didn’t want to do comic book [stories]. I had been very much typed as the comic book guy,” Hamm said. Still, he added, “I thought about it for like a day, and I said, I think I can have some fun with this.”

Part of the fun for Hamm and Quinones would be exploring potential plotlines that were ripe for the taking but never used in the first two Batman films. Both agreed that classic Batman villain Two-Face should be this series’ main antagonist. Hamm had included Harvey Dent — played by Billy Dee Williams — in his “Batman” script with the intent of the character eventually transitioning into Two-Face. But Williams never returned to the role, and when Two-Face debuted in Schumacher’s “Batman Forever,” the character was played by Tommy Lee Jones….

(15) RECORD ATTEMPT. A few costumes shy of the Jurassic mark… “Mount Clemens event fails world record attempt for gathering of people dressed as dinosaurs” – see the news video at Flipboard.

A downtown Mount Clemens event Saturday sought to break the world record for the number of dinosaur costumes in one place. The record, which stands at 252, was too large to overcome. But that didn’t mean attendees didn’t have fun.

(16) CLIPPING SERVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from a humor piece by Hallie Cantor in the July 30, 2018 New Yorker in which Elon Musk is dealing wiith public relations executives.

MUSK:  “Guys, guys, guys, c’mon.  I’m a socialist in the manner of Iain Banks.”

P.R. EXECUTIVE 2:  “But Iain Banks was pro-union!”

(A large hole opens in the floor beneath Executive 2’s seat, and he disappears into a Hyperloop tube headed for O’Hare International Airport.”

(17) EAR CANDY. Cora Buhlert has a story called “We need to talk…” in episode 42 of the Simultaneous Times podcast presented by Space Cowboy Books.

(18) ON DC’S SHELF. GameSpot spins out the alternate Hollywood History that might have been: “9 Unmade DC Superhero Movies That We Never Got To See”.

…Unsurprisingly, there’s also a huge number of potential DC movies that have been announced or put into development that never made it to the screen. Some of these were new spins of the company’s biggest heroes, developed by big names like JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, and Tim Burton. Others were attempts to make movies based on lesser-known figures that for various reasons never got as far as production. Some were literally a few weeks away from shooting, while others never made it past the script stage.

We’ve picked some of the highest-profile and most interesting examples of these. It’s fascinating to think of how the course of DC’s cinematic journey would’ve been affected had they made it to the screen–Nicolas Cage might have forever been associated with the role of Superman, while we might never have seen Christian Bale and Chris Nolan’s take on Batman. So here’s 9 big DC films that we’ll never see….

9. Justice League Dark

In terms of DC movies that seem like a perfect match of subject and director, it’s hard to think of a better one than Gullermo Del Toro’s Justice League Dark. The Pacific Rim and Shape of Water director was attached to a movie version of the supernatural superhero team for several years and recently confirmed that he wrote a full screenplay for the potential movie. But he left the project in 2015, and although Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) was also briefly attached, it remains unmade.

However, while a full Justice League Dark movie doesn’t seem likely any time soon, that doesn’t mean we won’t see some of the characters. Last year it was reported that JJ Abrams is developing several Justice League Dark projects, with a John Constantine series and Zatanna movie both in the works.

(19) PETRI DISHES. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says if Tucker Carlson enjoyed his trip to Hungary, he’s really looking forward to going to Mordor!” “Forget Hungary. Tucker Carlson is all about Mordor now”.

… I am honored to announce I will be speaking next week at the Mordor Summit in Barad-dur at the invitation of Dark Lord Sauron! This is the future of conservatism, and I’m excited to throw open the Overton Window and let in the nazguls.

It was wonderful to spend time in Hungary, a country Freedom House describes as “sliding into authoritarian rule” — but why stop there when I could be in a land Freedom House describes as “under authoritarian rule for two-and-a-half thousand years”? That’s two-and-a-half thousand times more aspirational! That’s 10 times longer than the United States has been a country at all, and hundreds of times longer than we’ve been deliberately sliding away from at least theoretically embracing representative democracy….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Alan Baumler, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/12/21 Your Pixel Will Be Transferred To The Next Available Scroll

(1) CADIGAN’S GOOD NEWS. Pat Cadigan put out two health updates in May. The first discussed her apprehension about her forthcoming usual blood test: “Guess What? You’re Scared!”

Life in Cancerland: no matter how well-adjusted you may think you are, you’re not. Pro tip: that’s okay. It’s not your job to be well-adjusted. Your job is to stay alive. Trust me; I‘m experienced.

The second was about the good report: “Okay. Okay. Okay, Yes, Okay!”

If you heard something you thought was a crazy banshee on party drugs, that was me.

The Macmillan Cancer Centre told me they were going to call me this afternoon. Instead, they called this morning and it’s taken me a while to calm down enough to type.

The level of cancer in my body has dropped a whole bunch of points. Everything else is okay, except I have to stop taking calcium supplements because I’ve got a little too much.

So I’m off calcium supplements and I don’t get another oncology appointment for another six months. Just as well. I need a couple of days to pull myself together after this one.

So now I know. Cancer is afraid of me. It should be.

(2) SCREEN TIME. James Davis Nicoll recommends “Five SF Stories About Raising the Children of the Future” at Tor.com. And his footnotes are not to be missed.

In the years following World War II, Americans celebrated the end of a global war and a recovery from a previous decade of economic crisis by producing an astounding number of children, with consequences that are still unrolling to this day. It was a veritable explosion in birthrates—someone should invent a snappy term for it. Maybe the Big Bang Theory?

This focus on children was reflected in the American science fiction of the day….

“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury (1950)

Unlike Merril’s vision of the future, the America that Bradbury’s Hadley family calls home is a peaceful, prosperous nation. The parents use their impressive incomes to provide their children with the best of all possible childhoods in a fully automated Happylife Home.

Primitive Americans might have settled for plunking their kids down in front of ten-inch black-and-white TV sets showing Howdy Doody. Happylife Houses offer what we would probably call virtual reality suites. Every setting the children could possibly desire is available. The realism of the settings is astounding. Mr. and Mrs. Hadley are duly astounded…albeit very briefly….

(3) RECOVERY WORK. Erin Underwood says, “I finally wrote a blog post that should have been written 10 years ago about what it is like to be a new fan who is marginalized at a convention.” — “The Overpowering Power of Men at Conventions”.

…I was invisible. I was an obstacle that he pushed aside in order to have his more important conversation with Jack. I think about this now and I know that I am not the only person who has had something like this happen at a convention. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it is an example of how women have been treated in society for far too long, including convention society. The fact that it has taken me 10 years to publicly post about this also speaks to social issues of embarrassment and fear of condemnation by some members of our society….

(4) HOURGLASS. Abigail Nussbaum breaks down Black Widow at Asking the Wrong Questions. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… But the thing is, Natasha Romanoff is not James Bond. Her emotional reserve isn’t counteracted by the outsized place she takes in the world, and by the attention and obsequiousness of everyone she encounters. On the contrary, the character has always been defined by her ability to disappear into the crowd, to be whatever people need her to be without them ever stopping to wonder why that is. Her signature move—which is repeated in Black Widow, in the climactic showdown between Natasha and Dreykov—is to get overconfident men to spill the beans about their secret plans by pretending to be weaker and more vulnerable than she actually is. Scarlett Johansson’s genius in interpreting the role was in nevertheless finding hints of personality and humor in this reserved, centerless person. But Black Widow was an opportunity to peer beneath that façade, to let the person Natasha is when she isn’t performing for anyone take center stage (or, conversely, to grapple with what it means that that person doesn’t exist). Instead, it chooses to double down on its heroine’s chameleon quality, even in the presence of the people she considers family. The result is that Natasha might be her own film’s chief mover, but not its protagonist….

(5) THE SUSPENSE BEHIND THE CAMERA. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna, in a piece with a spoiler warning, interviews Black Widow director Cate Shortland and star David Harbour about the “family dinner” scene that has revelations about the family Natasha Romanoff grew up in. BEWARE SPOILERS. “How ‘Black Widow’ nailed its moving family dinner scene — where no action was involved”.

There are no pyrotechnic effects. The dramatic tension does not revolve around swooping aircraft or lethal hand-to-hand combat. Yet it is the most enlightening “Black Widow” scene — one that screenwriter Eric Pearson “had the most panic about.”…

 “That was our biggest scene — a megillah,” Pearson says by phone. In a Marvel movie packed with action, the dialogue-rich Family Dinner ran nine pages. Every exchange, every emotional beat had to deepen the film while explaining the personal stakes for each of these psychologically warped characters….

(6) SOUNDS FAMILIAR. Enjoy this short parody video on “How Women Are Written In Sci-Fi Movies”.

(7) FULL CIRCLE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Not genre but worth noting. Well, they did occasionally delve into Thing Supernatural.“Bryant & May author Christopher Fowler: ‘Writing the end was really emotional’” in The Guardian.

… This month London Bridge Is Falling Down, Fowler’s 20th Bryant & May crime novel, will be published, bringing to a close a much-loved series that started in 2003 with Full Dark House. The books feature the unconventional detective duo Arthur Bryant and John May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit, who solve arcane murders whose occult significance baffles more traditional detectives. Crime fiction aficionados can amuse themselves by spotting references to classics of the golden age, whose plots and twists Fowler ingeniously projects on to the era of computers and mobile phones. Everyone else can enjoy the endlessly bantering and discursive dialogue between the pair as they break all procedural rules, and the uniquely droll narrative voice with its sharp-eyed slant on modern life.

…Of course London has moved on inexorably since Fowler began his writing career, and co-founded his film marketing company the Creative Partnership at the age of 26. Soho is not the international film hub it once was, in the heady days when the company was working on 15 films a month, including marketing campaigns for Reservoir Dogs and Trainspotting. One of Fowler’s claims to fame from the time is mentioned in Film Freak. “Asked to provide poster straplines for Alien, I wrote several pages of them, including ‘In space no one can hear you scream’. I assume I wasn’t the only person to think of this – it’s an obvious line,” he writes.

“Someone else laid claim to it this month, I noticed,” he says now. “I love it! But we worked on it first, because it was shooting in the UK. Ridley Scott came to see us and gave us a drawing of an egg and said: ‘That’s really all I can tell you – and it’s going to be very frightening.’ We used to get paid £20 per page of copylines and that was the one they went with.”

(8) SEASON’S READINGS. Former President Obama continues his tradition of sharing his summer reading list, which includes some genre works:

(9) ROCHA OBIT. DC Comics artist Robson Rocha has died. The announcement came two weeks after a colleague tweeted an appeal for blood donors because the artist was hospitalized with COVID-19.

CBR.com listed the highlights of Rocha’s career:

Rocha is known for his work on titles such as Birds of PreyBatman/SupermanBatman: Arkham KnightSuperboy and more. He has also provided cover art for Aquaman (in addition to being the series’ main artist), Supergirl and Teen Titans, among other major DC books. Rocha became a breakout star following DC Rebirth in 2016, though he had worked with the publisher before that on other projects.

SYFY Wire rounded up tributes from Rocha’s colleagues in social media: “Robson Rocha: Comics world mourns passing of DC Comics artist”.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 12, 1969 — Fifty-two years ago on this date, BBC 1 aired  the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” episode of Star Trek. It was the third episode of the first season and the second pilot shown. It was directed by James Goldstone and written by Samuel A. Peeples whose only other Trek script was for the pilot episode of the animated series, “Beyond the Farthest Star”.  (He would later write the scripts for the first six episodes for Jason of Star Command which was when James Doohan was involved.)  The primary guests were Gary Lockwood  as Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell and Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. It is notable for the absence of the series regulars of McCoy, Uhura , and Chekov.  Reception, now and then, was universally superb for the episode with it being considered one of the finest ones across all of the series.  The episode would be adapted into a short story by James Blish for his Star Trek 8 anthology, and it also became the second in Bantam’s Fotonovels series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 — Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is sort of genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 — James Gunn. Writer, editor, scholar, anthologist. Hugo winner at ConStellation for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. He won another Hugo at MidAmeriCon for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. Not surprisingly, he won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He’s extremely well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1933 — Donald E. Westlake. Though he specialized in crime fiction, he did dip into the genre on occasion such as with Transylvania Station which you could think of as a Clue-style novel he wrote with his wife Abby. On the horror end of things was Anarchaos. And he wrote a lot of genre short fiction, some fifty pieces by my count. Meteor Strike: Science Fiction Triple Feature which has three of his SF stories is available from the usual suspects for ninety-nine cents. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1947 — Carl Lundgren, 74. He co-founded ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America), and won 4 Chesleys, including Artistic Achievement. At the tender age of eighteen, he was co-chairman of the first media SF convention, The Detroit Triple Fan Fair which featured comics, movies and various things of a SF nature. At Chicon IV, he was nominated for Best Professional Artist but lost out to Michael Whelan.
  • Born July 12, 1961 — Scott Nimerfro. He had an impressive production list of genre films and series he did, to wit Tales From The CryptTrekkiesX-MenPerversions Of ScienceThe GatesPushing Daisies, and the Once Upon A Time series which he produced three seasons of. He has one genre acting credit in “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” story of Tales From The Crypt in which he was Fouser. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 12, 1968 — Sara Griffiths, 53. She appeared as Ray in the Seventh Doctor story “Delta and the Bannermen”.  She was being considered as a companion to the Doctor, a role however taken by Sophie Aldred as Ace.
  • Born July 12, 1975 — Phil Lord, 46. Shared a Hugo for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at Dublin 2019. With co-director Christopher Miller, he’ll be doing the sequel to it. They also co-produced The Last Man on Earth series, and he executive produced Solo: A Star War Story.
  • Born July 12, 1976– Gwenda Bond, 45. Writer, critic, editor. She’s written a prequel to the Stranger Things series, Suspicious Mind, and I’m very fond of the two novels (The Lost Legacy and The Sphinx’s Secret) so far in her Supernormal Sleuthing Service which she wrote with her husband Christopher Rowe.  And she penned the Dear Aunt Gwenda section of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that Small Beer Press published in the early part of this millennium. 

(12) BRANDING. The Conversation details how “China is using mythology and sci-fi to sell its space programme to the world”.

…China’s construction of its own space station stems from the nation’s exclusion from the International Space Station, a result of US concerns over technology transfers that could enhance China’s military capabilities. Undeterred by this, China has forged ahead with its own space programmes and alliances. Since, the country has demonstrated that the Chinese “brand” of space technology is reputable and can hold its own in the international arena.

An impressive track record of remarkable space endeavours is not the only thing that distinguishes China’s space brand from other national players. The government and related organisations have made concerted efforts to establish a unique “Chinese space culture” alongside the country’s advances in space technology. While the target audience for many of these cultural creations remains domestic, China’s space ambitions are directed at global audiences in a variety of ways.

Legendary beginnings

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the naming of these programmes after China’s traditional roots.

The name Tiangong translates as “Heavenly Palace”. This was the residence of the deity who holds supreme authority over the universe in Chinese mythology, the Celestial Ruler. The name is particularly fitting for a Chinese space station, which acts as a home in the heavens for the country’s taikonauts. The meaning of Shenzhou, the missions that take taikonauts to space, is “Divine Vessel”, which is also a homophone for an ancient name for China, “Divine Land”.

China’s lunar exploration missions, meanwhile, are named after the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e. The tale goes that Chang’e flew from Earth to the Moon after stealing the elixir of immortality from her husband, Hou Yi….

(13) ENCANTO. A trailer dropped for Disney’s Encanto. The movie will be out in November.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto,” is the tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. The all-new original film features the voice of Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel, an ordinary 15-year-old who’s struggling to find her place in her family.

(14) HELLO, DOLLIES. “It’s Hollywood Barbie’s Moment (and She’s Bringing Her Friends)” reports the New York Times.

[In addition to BARBIE, in which Margot (Harley Quinn) Robbie was recently announced as starring in,] The dozen other films in Mattel’s pipeline include a live-action Hot Wheels spectacle; a horror film based on the fortunetelling Magic 8 Ball; a wide-audience Thomas the Tank Engine movie that combines animation and live action; and, in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, a big-screen Masters of the Universe adventure about the cosmos that includes He-Man and his superheroic sister, She-Ra.

Mattel, Universal and Vin Diesel are collaborating on a live-action movie based on Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, a tabletop game introduced in 1966. Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls”) is directing and writing a live-action family comedy based on Mattel’s Polly Pocket line of micro-dolls. Lily Collins (“Emily in Paris”) will play the title role and produce; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is the distribution and financing partner.

Mattel has also announced movies based on View-Master, American Girl and Uno, the ubiquitous card game. (If you think an Uno movie sounds like a satirical headline from The Onion, consider this: There are non-Mattel movies in development in Hollywood that are based on Play-Doh and Peeps, the Easter candy.)

(15) IT’S A MYSTERY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled ‘Black Widow Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant Ryan George reminds us the reason Black Widow came out now instead of several years ago was a comment (made before Wonder Woman) by deposed Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter that “superhero movies starring women don’t make money.”  But who is the mysterious character who shows up at the end credits and tells everyone to subscribe to Disney Plus?

(16) QUOTES AND SOCIAL MEDIA. This version of Groucho Marx’s quote is the best known:

I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on, I go into the other room and read a book.

Somebody sent it to File 770 today and lest any commenter prove it really originated with Abraham Lincoln, Voltaire, or some other TV watcher, I ran a Google search. Quote Investigator assures us Groucho said it first – phrased as follows:

I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go into the library and read a good book.

That’s a pretty cynical attitude for “the leer”—that’s me, Groucho—and now that I’m a part of television, or “TV” as we say out here on the Coast, I don’t mean a word of it.

It was in a short article he wrote to promote his own soon-to-debut TV show.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video, written by Ryan George, features Brandon Calder as Donald McDonald, Professional Audio Movie Consultant, who explains that he used to capture sounds in movies by actually duplicating scenes in movies but after breaking his ankles to provide the sound for that scene in Misery he found it safer to create sound effects! “THE Sound Effects Tutorial — Pro Tips By Pitch Meeting”.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, StephenfromOttawa, Jennifer Hawthorne, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]