Pixel Scroll 8/6/22 Ours Is Not To Pixel Why, Ours Is But To Scroll And Die

(1) THEY COULD HAVE BEEN CONTENDERS. Rich Horton has “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1959”, which he says is the next-to-last in the series.

…I have cited Jo Walton’s excellent Informal History of the Hugos before, and in that book you can find Jo’s comments on the short lists, her choices for the winners, and comments by a variety of people (myself included) discussing the stories and often offering additional possible nominees or winners. I’ll list Jo’s choices below, along with Richard Lupoff’s short fiction selection from What If, Volume 1. And for the years from 1960 on, I’ll leave the field to Jo! (After all, my thoughts are generally recorded in her book anyway.) I’ve decided to go ahead and make one additional post for stories from 1959, for two reasons: one, to round out the decade of the 1950s by story publication year, not just Worldcon year; and, two, because I was born in 1959….

(2) SUGGESTED INFLUENCES. Phil Christman has an “Interview With Adam Roberts” in his newsletter The Tourist.

…As a British Gen X-er, you were a child during an era of televised fantastika that strikes me (if maybe only me, and a handful of bloggers who use the word “hauntology” a lot) as uniquely rich. I’m thinking of the later Nigel Kneale, or of things like The Owl Service, Sapphire and Steele, and Children of the Stones, not to mention some of the stronger seasons of “Doctor Who,” and even “The Tomorrow People” (laughable as it often is). Was this an influence on you? I’m wondering partly because these shows do “haunted suburb” scenes really well, and that’s true of some of your work—though I suppose that could all just be the influence of Ballard. 

I read Owl Service, and indeed all of Alan Garner (my Dad was at Manchester Grammar School with Garner—I mean, he wasn’t a family friend or anything, but going back to visit relatives meant wandering around Alderley Edge and so on which added a frisson to my reading of Weirdstone of Brisingamen) … although I never saw the TV version. But I did watch Sapphire and SteeleTomorrow People—maybe if I rewatched that one I’d find it laughable, but I certainly didn’t at the time—and of course Doctor Who. But also US shows like The Time Tunnel and Star Trek. TOS Trek is intensely suburban, I think: the bridge of the USS Enterprise is a comfortable suburban living room with a big comfy chair for the ‘Dad’ to sit as he watches the universe come to him via his gigantic TV screen. So much of Trek is a manifestation of the comfortable life, surrounded by labour-saving devices, demure women to attend you like suburban wives and so on.

I never watched what are, now, some of the classic shows—the Patrick Goohan Prisoner series for instance was before my time, I only saw when I was properly grown up, by which time it was basically a period piece. But two shows nobody talks about any more made a big impact upon me: Greatorex’s 1990, and Terry Nation’s Survivors. I also remember the last of the Quatermass series, with John Mills as an elderly Quatermass: I hadn’t seen, and frankly had no idea about, the earlier Quatermass shows, but that 1979 drama worked strangely and powerfully upon my teenage imagination….

(3) INTERNATIONAL SHORT FICTION. InterNova edited by Michael K. Iwoleit is an international SF zine with fiction in English. It’s an offshoot of the German SF zine Nova. The current online issue is here: July 2022 – InterNova.

InterNova is intended be a showcase of contemporary SF writing in all those countries and regions that are generally neglected by the Anglo-American centered sf markets. American and British writers will not be excluded but the main intention is to feature stories and essays by writers who are rarely published outside of their home countries. We will try to be as international as possible, advancing our editorial work into countries and areas that are rarely associated with Science Fiction.

To make InterNova available for readers in as many countries as possible this e-zine is published in English which has become the lingua franca of the international SF community. It is planned, however, to later include some stories in the original languages, especially in Spanish, but also in French and German.

(4) WRITING VIDEO GAME MUSIC. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses video game music and interviews Austin Wintory, whose music for Journey earned him a BAFTA Award.  On August 1, the BBC Proms held their first concert devoted to video game music.

Wintory’s first step is to analyse the gameplay and map out the ‘spider web of possibilities’ of player behaviour.  In his score for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, an open-world adventure game, he accommodated not only whether a player was fighting or exploring, but also which part of the Victorian London setting they were in, writing musical themes inspired by boroughs such as Whitechapel and Westminster which played as they crossed those particular rooftops.  There would be alternate versions of the score with additional instruments and vocal layers, depending on whether it was day or night on the in-game clock, whether the player had completed specific missions and even which of the game’s two protagonists they were controlling at the time.

What makes one game soundtrack rise above the rest in popularity?  It could be the nostalgia factor, or the marriage of a memorable gameplay moment with the perfect musical accompaniment.  Wintory suspects that it might be the undeniable appeal of a great melody.  “Humans are fundamentally melodic instruments,” he says. “We can’t strum a chord with our vocal cords or simulate a choir on our own.  We sing one note at the time, so it’s not a shock that the music we hold on to is the stuff we can sing back. Melody has always been the thing that united the classics.”

(5) THEY’VE GOT IT GOING ON. Episode 2 of the If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast is “Priuses of the Apocolypse with Tobias Buckell”.

If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) is a podcast about hope and resistance in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Cohosts Alan Bailey, Cat Rambo, Diane Morrison, and Graeme Barber interview a diverse breadth of writers, editors, activists, gamers, and various other members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy community.

(6) CENSORSHIP PROCEEDINGS. Publishers Weekly reports on Virginia litigation that could affect the availability in the state of Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas: “With Hearing Set, Court Urged to Dismiss Closely Watched Virginia Obscenity Lawsuits”.

A Virginia state judge has set an August 30 hearing to consider two lawsuits that, if successful, would cause two popular books to be pulled from bookshelves across the state, alleging they are “obscene” under an obscure state law.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, judge Pamela Baskervill (a retired judge hearing the case by designation after all the sitting judges in the circuit disqualified themselves) found there was “probable cause” and ordered the defendants to answer the charges.

While the two lawsuits have not been officially consolidated, the court will consider the fate of both cases at the single hearing, noting their “overlap.” According to a June 30 order, the hearing will focus on motions, which, if granted, “would result in dismissal of the suits.” Lawyers for the authors and publisher defendants as well as bookseller Barnes & Noble filed motions to dismiss the suits late last month. Reply briefs from the plaintiffs are due August 9, with final replies due from the defendants on August 16….

(7) LOCAL LIBRARY DEFUNDED. The Guardian reports Gender Queer is also under attack in a Michigan town: “US library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ authors: ‘We will not ban the books’”.

A small-town library is at risk of shutting down after residents of Jamestown, Michigan, voted to defund it rather than tolerate certain LGBTQ+-themed books.

Residents voted on Tuesday to block a renewal of funds tied to property taxes, Bridge Michigan reported.

The vote leaves the library with funds through the first quarter of next year. Once a reserve fund is used up, it would be forced to close, Larry Walton, the library board’s president, told Bridge Michigan – harming not just readers but the community at large. Beyond books, residents visit the library for its wifi, he said, and it houses the very room where the vote took place.

…The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary, dozens showed up at library board meetings, demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) Complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

(8) IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. Nina Nasseth looks at how horror movies manipulate your brain. “This is Your Brain On Horror” at CrimeReads.

…When we look at what gives any good horror movie its true horror vibe, we end up with two distinct elements: terror and horror. We often use these terms interchangeably, but they are very different. Terror is where tension lives. It’s that awful, creepy-crawly feeling, the anxiety and anticipation that builds toward a horrifying event or realization— basically, it’s the heebie-jeebies. Horror is how we react once that event actually occurs. We can thank Ann Radcliffe, mother of Gothic literature, for those definitions….

(9) UHURA FILK. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] With the sad news of Nichelle Nichols’ passing earlier this week, I kept thinking about this great filksong “Uhura” I heard decades ago by Joey Shoji, a Hawaiian-style love crooner for the Communications Officer of the Enterprise NCC-1701.  It occurred to me, belatedly, to see if the song had been uploaded to the Internet. Turns out, it has, although the quality is a little iffy. It’s the lead-in song in the following video.  I thought it might be a nice tribute.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1988 [By Cat Eldridge.] In 1988 during the American fall television season was hampered by a writers’ strike that prevented the writing of any new scripts. Producers, anxious to provide new series for viewers but with the prospect of a lengthy strike, went into the archives for previously written material. And the Powers That Be decided a new Mission Impossible series would be a good idea. 

Now the only actor from the original series that ran from 1966 to 1973 (and which is streaming on Paramount+ though this one is not, odd that) who would end being involved in his series would be Peter Graves who once again is playing Jim Phelps. That might be because the Powers That Be decided to film it in Australia and a lot of actors did decline to disrupt their live by relocating there. The first season was in Queensland before moving to Melbourne.

The only other regular cast member (of course completely unseen) to return for every episode was the voice of “The Tape” (in this series, “The Disc”) in the form of Bob Johnson. I’m assuming his bit was voiced back in the States.

The rest of the cast was of course mostly Australian. Nicholas Black, portrayed by Thaao Penghlis, was an actor, master of makeup/disguise, visual effects, voice impersonation, mimicry. He was there for all thirty episodes. Max Harte who played Tony Hamilton, an expert in strength, acting, role playing and marksmanship. 

Now we get a connection to the first series — Grant Collier, played by Phil Morris who’s the son of Greg Morris, was the computer expert here. And obviously he’s American. 

We had two women, who each did one season and were described as femme fatales in the press releases at the time. Terry Markwell played Casey Randall for the first season and Jane Badler played Shannon Reed, an ex-Secret Service agent, for the second season. She’s actually Australian-American and is best remembered for her role as Diana, the main antagonist on V.

So how were the stories? I liked them a lot. They were more sophisticated in their use of SFX than the earlier series was but that was to be expected, say in “The Devils” where they investigated a member of the English gentry, and involves various officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes: they are available to make the eyes of Phelps and one other member glow very convincingly and they leave burning cloven hoofs as they leave the room.

Some scripts are reworked ones that were done during the original series. Some like “The Banshee” were from what we could call the slush pile as they never got used. 

To my knowledge as I said, it’s not streaming anywhere, but it on DVD fir quite reasonable prices. I got mine off eBay.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned and Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series. He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see Apple Books has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle just has the latter. (Died 1947.)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.)
  • Born August 6, 1926 Janet Asimov. Wife of Isaac Asimov. Author of some half dozen novels and a fair amount of short fiction on her own, mostly as J.O. Jeppson; co-author with Isaac of the Norby Chronicles. Her memoir, Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing, came out sixteen years ago. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 6, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 66. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read? 
  • Born August 6, 1960 Leland Orser, 62. If you look closely, you’ll spot him in Escape from L.A. as Test Tube and in Independence Day in the dual roles of the Day Tech and a Medical Assistant.  He’s in Daredevil as Wesley Owen Welch, Kingpin’s right-hand man. And someone at Trek casting liked him as he was on Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. All different roles. 
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 60. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Her first meaningful genre roles was as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. A deliciously twisted role. Roles? The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… or maybe both… Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a role that Filers now are thinking about for their Hugo ballot. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld shows a proofreading machine. It works alarmingly like the File 770 comments section.

(13) POTTERING AROUND. Ranker’s Saim Cheeda presents “Things You Didn’t Know About Wizarding Professions”. First on the list:

1. Curse-Breakers Dig Up Gold And Magical Artifacts

The nature of Bill Weasley’s job isn’t too clear in the novels apart from his status as a curse-breaker for Gringotts Bank. Curse-breakers are specialized roles in which the witch or wizard needs to raid places like tombs and pyramids to find gold and magical artifacts for Gringotts to procure.

Curse-breakers make sure that the protective enchantments and curses around ancient locations are removed to ensure the safety of everyone involved. It’s a dangerous but thrilling job, and Bill Weasley’s distinguished O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. scores are the reason he managed to become a curse-breaker.

(14) A VISIT TO LA-LA-LAND. Ed Brubaker talks to CrimeReads about his graphic novel about Ethan Reckless. “Exploring a Reckless Vision of Los Angeles, with Ed Brubaker”.

…“One of my favorite things about comics, graphic novels, whatever you want to call them, is that it costs the same to do a period piece (or a sci-fi) as it does to do something that takes place in modern times. It’s just about research and trying to get it right. For the Reckless books, I’ve been trying to recreate my kind of ‘dream LA’ from my childhood,” Brubaker said. “I didn’t grow up in Los Angeles, but we visited it a lot in the 70s and 80s, and I was always Hollywood obsessed, because my uncle was a once-famous screenwriter—he wrote Crossfire, On the Beach, and The Wild One, among many others. So in making these books, I’m also trying to showcase forgotten or lost places in LA that meant something to me growing up. Like pieces of the LA punk scene, or cool old restaurants, or the way Venice used to feel—cheaper and more dangerous, but with lots more roller skaters.”…

(15) THEY STEPPED ON SUPERMAN’S CAPE. Last weekend’s box office had a leader you may not have heard about yet because it’s only been released in China so far: “Chinese sci-fi movie ‘Moon Man’ becomes biggest movie in the world after $129 million weekend”.

The Chinese sci-fi movie “Moon Man” outshined all others at the global box office over the weekend.

The film grossed $129 million over the weekend, according to Comscore, and that’s only from the Chinese market. DC’s animated movie “League of Super Pets,” which follows the adventures of Superman’s dog, lagged behind at $41 million internationally.

“Moon Man” follows the story of an astronaut stranded on the moon who believes he’s the last human alive after witnessing an asteroid crashing into Earth.

The film is directed by Zhang Chiyu (“Never Say Die”) and produced by the studio Mahua FunAge (“Hello Mrs Money”).

Before its premiere on July 29, “Moon Man” had over 1.4 million fans rating the movie as “want to see” on Chinese film tracking platforms. It has since gone on to score a 9.4 and 9.5 out of 10 on film sites Maoyan and Taopiaopiao, respectively, according to Variety.

(16) NEW EDITION OF GADALLAH FAVORITE. The Legend of Sarah by Alberta author Leslie Gadallah, a classic Canadian science fiction novel originally published as The Loremasters by Del Rey Books in 1988, is now available in a new, revised edition from Shadowpaw Press.

At fourteen, Sarah is an accomplished pickpocket who knows all the back streets and boltholes of the town of Monn. She steers clear of Brother Parker and his Church of True Faith, knows better than to enter the Inn of The Honest Keeper, and avoids the attentions of Butch, the Miller’s son, as best she can.

The one bright spot in Sarah’s day is listening to the storyteller’s tales of the magically easy lives of the Old People—and if,  as darkness falls, one of the wealthier listeners happens to be so intent on the storyteller’s voice that he becomes careless of his own purse, well, so much the better. Inspired by the storyteller’s narratives, Sarah often imagines her own life as the stuff of legend for some future troubadour.

But even such daydreams can’t prepare her for becoming embroiled with a witchy Phile—an agent of the devil, come in search of the Old People’s hidden secrets. How could Sarah have known that picking the wrong pocket would strand her in the middle of a power struggle among Brother Parker, the Governor, and the encroaching Phile spies?

Leslie Gadallah grew up in Alberta and is currently living in Lethbridge with her geriatric black cat, Spook. Educated as a chemist, she has worked in analytical, agricultural, biological, and clinical chemistry.  She has written popular science for newspapers and radio, has served as a technical editor, and is the author of four SF novels and a number of short stories.

The Legend of Sarah can be bought directly from the publisher or from most online bookstores. This handy URL provides links to multiple online sources:  https://books2read.com/thelegendofsarah

(17) THUMBS UP AND DOWN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video where Patton Oswalt discusses his picks for the five best and five worst sf films for GQ dropped Wednesday. Independence Day is on the bottom. “Patton Oswalt Critiques Sci-Fi Films (Top 5 & Bottom 5)”.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Gizmodo declares “Weird Al’s ‘Scarif Beach Party’ Is a Star Wars Summer Bop”. It’s from LEGO Star Wars: Summer Vacation which premieres August 5 on Disney+.

We knew that “Weird Al” Yankovic wouldn’t just be appearing in the Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation special, but singing an entirely new song for it. And now that the special has arrived on Disney+ today, the full song has been released as well, and frankly? It rules.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/22 Never Gonna File You Up, Never Gonna Scroll You Down

(1) THIS PRESENT CENTURY. The “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022” doesn’t include sff text writers, however, it features an array of performers and filmmakers with genre resumes like (Artists) Simu Liu, Andrew Garfield, Channing Tatum, (Innovators) Taika Waititi, (Titans) Michelle Yeoh, and (Icons) Keanu Reeves, Jon Batiste.

As usual, the list is about influence, and not all influential people are wonderful – Vladimir Putin is on it.

(2) WRITER’S (LUCITE) BLOCK. Sarah Pinsker has posted her award acceptance remarks: “’Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’ won the Nebula!” The excerpt is part of the lead-up, the remarks are at the link.

….As someone who has now accepted three Nebulas and a Hugo (the Hugos were in person, but I had an asymptomatic positive Covid test that week and stayed home) from this chair in my library, I can say there’s something weird about accepting an award live online. I’m a performer; I know how to channel energy. And yet, when they say my name, and the adrenaline hits while I’m trying to find the buttons to hit “accept promotion to speaker” and also remember to turn on my camera and mic, and also try to keep the dogs from barking as they feed off my excitement, there’s nowhere for the excitement to go. I can’t see other faces, so my excitement bounces off the computer and hits me square, telling me I should speed up instead of take a breath.…

(3) TOUR DE FORCE. An interview with Emily St. John Mandel at Bookforum Magazine: “Marquee Moon – Emily St. John Mandel talks about her postapocalyptic novel, which features a moon colony, time travel, and a book tour”.

There are all these disparate elements, but structurally and thematically it really coheres. I’m thinking of that early scene where Edwin is at home and criticizes British colonialism in India, which is somewhat the catalyst for his banishment. That has really compelling parallels to the moon colonies later in the novel. It’s not a perfect mapping, because there’s a difference between colonizing an inhabited land versus colonizing an uninhabited world, but how did it feel to raise those moral and ethical questions?

I started thinking about the simulation hypothesis, which is a big part of this novel. It is what it sounds like, for anyone who’s unfamiliar—the idea that perhaps we are all living in a computer simulation. And you can find very intelligent people who strenuously argue either side of that hypothesis. I thought that maybe there’s an interesting parallel between that idea and the tragedy of colonization, in the sense that the people who colonized the so-called New World did so in the grip of a false narrative. In Canada, where I’m from, it was a narrative of empty land, the idea that this is an empty country that’s there for the taking. Of course, it wasn’t empty—people lived there. There was something about establishing a country under fundamentally false pretenses that really reminded me in a strange way of this theory that we’re all living in a simulation. For me, there was a stronger parallel between those two things than between colonizing Canada and India versus colonizing the moon. Just because, to your point, they feel like such different circumstances. Nobody lives on the moon, so it’s fine…. 

(4) THE CAUSE. Tolkien sainthood advocate Daniel Côté Davis tells readers of The European Conservative “Why Some Catholics Think J.R.R. Tolkien Could Be a Saint”. It’s a Catholic church process, and the rest of the article focuses even more strongly on those requirements than this excerpt:

… Tolkien’s discussion of the Sacraments was not limited to the Eucharist, and Catholics can also find spiritual fruit in praying on his comments on Christian marriage. The comments are particularly poignant in the context of his love of Edith his wife. This love, along with that for Christ, animated his daily life. His love for he was so deep that the story that he felt was the very centre of his legendarium is based on their love story. Though not as widely-known as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, the tale of Beren and Luthien, told both in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion and in the recently-published Beren and Luthien. The tale mythopoetically expresses a love stronger than death, and Tolkien’s children decided to adorn their parents’ shared grave with the names Beren and Luthien. Whilst maintaining this reverential romanticism, Tolkien did not, however, shirk from teaching the reality of the necessity to found love on the will, and within a lifelong purgative struggle for virtue…

(5) WISCON. In “WisCon is back, and taking a hard look at itself”, local publication Tone Madison profiles the convention.

Back for its 45th year, WisCon will return to hosting an in-person convention at the Madison Concourse Hotel this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27 to May 30). A staple of the feminist science fiction and fantasy community since 1977, the entirely volunteer-run convention has served as a crucial space for critical and invigorating thought around issues of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and more for decades….

… While the global pandemic alone brought enough change to the convention-planning landscape, the con’s governing nonprofit, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction, or SF3 for short, also experienced a complete leadership turnover in the fall of 2021….

… To ensure that anti-racist work… continues on an institutional level, the con has also allocated a budget for creating a BIPOC outreach committee to create whatever programming the committee’s members see fit. 

“One of the things that we the board have really championed is putting our money where our mouth is,” [SF3 secretary Essay] Manaktola says. “We [as in] the people who are running a con that has been racist. You know, not necessarily under our guidance, and not any more racist than the ambient culture around us, and hopefully less.” Organizers are hopeful that within its first year, the outreach committee will be able to develop a skeleton for a formal BIPOC Mentorship Program to draw in more young readers and fans of color to the con….

(6) THE NEXT ROSE. “‘I’m in awe’: trans actor Yasmin Finney on joining Doctor Who” – a Guardian profile.  

…Finney’s character is called Rose, which was also the name of the companion famously played by Billie Piper in the mid-00s. The relevance of this is currently unknown. What we do know is that Finney was recently spotted filming scenes alongside David Tennant, AKA the Tenth Doctor, and Catherine Tate, AKA the Tenth Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble. In other words, there are more than enough cryptic developments to keep Whoniverse obsessives in a tizzy until the end product finally airs in 2023.

Finney squirms at the mere mention of Doctor Who – and what little she has to say about her casting only confuses matters further. “I didn’t know for a long time,” she says over Zoom, through curtains of sleek blond hair, “but I did know. I don’t want to give too much away.” My chances of gleaning anything meaningful seem practically zero. Was it mere coincidence that Davies’ mid-00s Doctor Who collaborator Euros Lyn also directed Heartstopper? “That was a huge coincidence!” exclaims Finney, before admitting that, actually, Lyn did recommend her to producers who were “looking for a trans girl”. But she doubts Lyn knew the precise nature of the project under discussion….

(7) SHORT SFF. Gizmodo’s Linda Codega answers the question “Which Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines Deserve More Love?” basically by saying they all do.

…So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers….

(8) NEAR MISS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Pace Jetboy: “I can’t die. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Look Up’ yet!” “Asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building barreling toward Earth on May 27” at MSN.com.

An enormous asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building will make a close approach to Earth on May 27, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Fear not: the asteroid, named 7335 (1989 JA), will soundly miss our planet by about 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) — or nearly 10 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. Still, given the space rock’s enormous size (1.1. miles, or 1.8 km, in diameter) and relatively close proximity to Earth, NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” meaning it could do enormous damage to our planet if its orbit ever changes and the rock impacts Earth….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, the first and I’m going to argue only Alien film worth seeing premiered on this day. Alien was directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon which in turn was based on a story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. 

This was the first genre film by Ridley with his only previous film being The Duellists which is most excellent. (I should essay it.) Dan O’Bannon on the other hand was the writer of Dark Star, which had been directed and produced by John Carpenter and which had been co-written with him. He had also worked on Star Wars doing computer animation and graphic displays as well as miniature and optical effects unit. Shusett was the first to option Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” short story that became Total Recall.

Digression: I did see it at the theatre. It was a fascinating experience. Horrifying but fascinating. Yes it very much deserved the Hugo did it win at Noreascon Two.

It cost very little to produce, around ten million, and made at least a hundred million. Because it was so successful, it spawned it a lot of films that included three sequels, AliensAlien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (A fifth film is being talked about with Weaver coming back.) The Predator crossovers produced Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. And then there’s prequel series of Prometheus and Alien: CovenantAliens is the only one of these I’ve seen.

So what the critics think?

Well Derek Malcom of the Guardian said when it came out that “Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won’t see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.”

And the staff of the TV Guide in their retrospective look at it liked it as well: “There’s nothing terribly complex or original about the movie, but it is distinguished by its clever and innovative use of B-movie staples in a hi-tech setting. Coming into his own as a director on his second  feature, Ridley Scott wrings every possible ounce of suspense and atmosphere out of the proceedings. Swiss artist-designer H.R. Giger supplied the distinctive ‘bio-mechanical’ concepts for the film, which help make the alien one of cinema’s scariest creations: a nightmare synthesis of humanoid  form, insect-like appendages, and mechanized structure that is all the more effective for not being seen too clearly for most of the film.  The non-star cast acquits itself well, bringing an appealing quality to their characters. One of them, Weaver’s Ripley, would develop into one of the genre’s most memorable heroines through the subsequent sequels.”

It gets a ninety four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, not at all surprising to me. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1913 Carl Wessler. Animator during the Thirties working on Musical Memories and other theatrical cartoon shorts for the Fleischer Studios, and a comic book writer from the Forties though the Eighties for including Charlton Comics, DC, EC Comics, Harvey Comics and Marvel. He also worked for editor-in-chief Stan Lee at Marvel’s 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best known I’d say for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 83. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course, he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats
  • Born May 25, 1944 Frank Oz, 78. Actor, director (including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives), producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise though he no longer performing him. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 73. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh my, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. 
  • Born May 25, 1950 Kathryn Daugherty. Yes, another one who damn it died far too young. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 56. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies.  She has two Nebula nominations, one for her “The Story of Love” short story and another for her “The Duke in His Castle” novella. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows two monsters squaring off – one with an obvious weapon, and the other – it will come to you.  

(12) DOOM PATROL. “’One Of The Things They Definitely Are Is Queer’: An Interview With Rachel Pollack” in The Comics Journal.

To fast-forward, the story is that you took over writing Doom Patrol after meeting Tom Peyer at a party.

Tom and I both wrote introductions for the Omnibus volume. I wrote mine first and then I saw his and corrected mine. Because I did not remember all the details of how we met. I vaguely thought that Neil Gaiman, who I had met at a writers conference, had invited me to this event. It turned out that Neil was there, but we were both there because it was a reception for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He introduced me to Stuart Moore and I was gushing to Stuart about how much I liked Vertigo – it wasn’t even Vertigo yet – but particularly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. That it was such an incredible brilliant thing. He said, well the editor is right here, which was Tom Peyer. So I was gushing to Tom and I said – and I wasn’t trying to get a job – “I’m not looking to write a monthly comic but if I ever was interested, Doom Patrol was the only thing I could imagine writing.” He said, “Actually, Grant’s leaving in a few months, why don’t you send me a sample script?” In his introduction he wrote that he was desperate to find somebody. I’m not sure why. But that’s why he responded to me. He sent me one or two of Grant’s scripts I could look at for reference. Neil sent me one of his scripts, I recall. Maybe I looked at an Alan Moore script, or maybe that was later. But I got a sense of how people do it and what I wanted to do. And the script that I sent him was the first story. He liked it enough that he said it should be my first issue. I wrote it based on what he told me [about how] Grant was going to end it, and where I would want to go with it. Basically I just had them move to Rhinebeck. [laughs] I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to move the cast who are weird super cool wild strange superheroes to some nice little village in upstate New York. [laughs]

Pollack also discusses working with editor Lou Stathis, somebody I met when he first got in fandom but only today did it occur to me to check if he has a Wikipedia entry – he does, and it’s quite a good one.

(13) 3 FREE MONTHS OF APPLE+ TV, [Item by Daniel Dern.] Good news, you can enjoy Ted Lasso. So-so news, you can watch Foundation. “Apple Subscriptions Are Free Right Now, so Go Watch Severance, Already” urges The Inventory.

… The idea of paying for yet another streaming service is exhausting, I get it. So how about this: How about you don’t pay for it?… 

The article sends you to a Best Buy site. The fine print says, “After free trial, plan automatically renews at $4.99/month until cancelled.”

(14) VARIABLE STAR. Jesse Hudson makes an interesting observation in his “Review of The This by Adam Roberts” at Speculiction.

Adam Roberts is that maddening sportsman who has trophies on the shelf to show he is a winner but doesn’t always show up to play. With an irregular training scheme and dynamic mentality, he instead depends on innate talent to win matches. Naturally, this results in inconsistency; he’s not always a threat for the podium. For the reader, this means they never know what they are going to get with Roberts—certainly one type of appeal. With 2022’s The This we get the chance to A) test the accuracy of Google’s search algorithm, and B) answer the question: has Roberts once again channeled his innate talent to make a run for the winner’s circle, or is it just another quiet bowing out in the group stage?…

(15) MINI-REVIEW OF DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Our local SF group has been to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In case anyone has not yet seen it, here is a more-or-less-spoiler free mini-review.

Action and spectacle from start to finish, director Sam Raimi takes viewers on a relentless ride.  As Bond was once accused: ‘all this running around. It’s so exhausting.’ Best bits include the death of Picard and an appearance of the cybermen…. What’s not to like, if you have the stamina.

Also trailer here.

(16) PHONE HOME? The headline oversells the story, however, the information is of interest: “Astronomer may have detected the source of the famous extraterrestrial ‘Wow!’ signal” at MSN.com.

Astronomers may have found the source of the ‘Wow!’ signal, an enigmatic radio transmission from space that some believe could have originated from an alien world.

The signal – a 72 second-long radio burst that was 20 times stronger than its background emissions – was first detected in 1977, stopping at just over a minute because that is the longest duration that the Big Ear radio telescope was able to observe. Scientists believe it is likely that the signal would have lasted longer.

Drawing attention to the mysterious transmission on a printout, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled it and jotted down ‘Wow!’ next to it. Since then, it has become of primary interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, although it has never been heard since.

… Focusing on G- and K-type stars – which are very similar to our own Sun – Caballero identified one, known as 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which appears to be the most likely source of the signal – 1,800 light-years from Earth.

“Despite this star is located too far for sending any reply in the form of a radio or light transmission, it could be a great target to make observations searching for techno-signatures such as artificial light or satellite transits”, Caballero writes.

Out of the 66 stars identified, two other stars, with temperatures and brightness very similar to our Sun, were also highlighted as worth investigating, as well as 14 more with a potentially similar temperature but unknown brightness. Caballero suggests, though, that since all these stars are located in the same part of the sky, the entire area is an ideal source for techno-signatures and should be explored.

Caballero’s findings appeared May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology….

(17) DRAW A LINE THROUGH THEM. “The end of men: the controversial new wave of female utopias” is discussed by Sandra Newman in the Guardian.

All the men are gone. Usually this is conceived as the result of a plague. Less often, the cause is violence. Occasionally, the men don’t die and the sexes are just segregated in different geographical regions. Or men miraculously vanish without explanation.

Left to themselves, the women create a better society, without inequality or war. All goods are shared. All children are safe. The economy is sustainable and Earth is cherished. Without male biology standing in the way, utopia builds itself.

I’m describing a subgenre of science fiction, mostly written in the 1970s-90s. It was once so popular it was almost synonymous with feminist SF. In 1995, when the Otherwise Award, a literary prize for “works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender”, gave five retrospective awards, four of the works were set in such worlds: Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines and Walk to the End of the World, and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and When It Changed. The fifth was Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a world whose inhabitants are all of the same sex.

Recently there has been a revival of the genre in radically different form, with titles including Lauren Beukes’s 2020 novel Afterland, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s 2021 thriller The End of Men, and my own new release, The Men. I think the way that these contemporary novels diverge from their earlier counterparts tells us something useful about gender politics in the 21st century. Part of the story, too, is a growing opposition to the basic premise, a conflict in which my novel has been recently embroiled….

(18) YES, SEX REX EVERYTHING. “’Prehistoric Planet’ shows another side to fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus Rex: The tender lover” at MSN.com.

…Working with producer Jon Favreau and the team that created the photorealistic visual effects used in  films like “The Lion King,” the series shows the period’s now-extinct creatures as if a film crew was shooting them 66 million years ago. 

Famed British naturalist commentator David Attenborough adds to the natural history heft with his narration, illuminating the T-Rex courtship ritual. The scene begins with an older male T-Rex, injured after battling a Triceratops, meeting a female at a river bed.

The meeting could lead either to fight or fancy. But the male shows a courtship posture and  utters a low-frequency vocalization to the receptive female. This behavior, like many of the “Prehistoric Planet” dinosaur depictions, is derived from phylogenetic bracketing – studying the extinct dinosaur’s living family tree, from birds to crocodiles and alligators.

“We’ve got scientific reasons for being very confident for this behavior,” says Naish. “We discussed this behind the scenes in the most detailed way, preparing for this. So in terms of exactly what to show, we knew exactly what was happening. And it’s the first time people will see this type of behavior realistically, from a natural history background.”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] So who DOES put all the arrows back in the slots…? Ryan George considers, “The Guys Who Set Up Ancient Booby Traps”.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/5/22 Who Had The Decaffinated Pixel With Extra Space Goo?

(1) HUGO NOMINATING DEADLINE IS MARCH 15. There are ten days left to submit a Hugo nominating ballot. Those eligible to vote are the members of DisCon III and members of Chicon 8 who registered by January 31, 2022. More information at the link.

(2) CROWDFUNDING WISDOM. Tansy Rayner Roberts sums up what she’s been “Tweeting about That Sanderson Kickstarter” in a free Patreon post. Many interesting insights. Here are a few of them.

…When Kickstarter (and book Kickstarter in particular) was just starting out, those of us looking to run projects were hungry for crowdfunding advice. A lot of it didn’t even apply to publishing, because we’ve always been seen as a tiny fraction of what crowdfunding is for.

And what advice we got, we used. What we learned, we shared. Here’s a really useful bit of Kickstarter advice that I, and Twelfth Planet Press, and other publishing-crowdfunding friends have often shared: you have to have a big ticket item at the top. Something cool & exclusive.

You don’t want to rely on one person shelling out $500 or $1000 for your little publishing Kickstarter, but you want to give them the option. Having something awesome and ambitious at the top end makes everyone excited about the project, EVEN IF IT NEVER FILLS UP.

Sanderson’s top tier is $500. (Last time I had a $500 tier on a Kickstarter I hand-made a quilt) It’s an all formats extravaganza — 4 hardcovers, ebooks, audiobooks, plus the 8 swag boxes. And over 10,000 people have pledged to it.  TEN THOUSAND.

This is where Sanderson’s Kickstarter is groundbreaking — not just in the numbers it’s attracted, but in the average pledge pulled in from those fans….

… Isn’t is cool that Kickstarter is newsworthy again??? Feels like forever since there’s been a huge positive creator success story, and that it’s a BOOK project makes it even better. In the 2 hours or so since I started this tweet thread, they made another million $. FOR BOOKS.

(3) HECK OFF. But if you’d prefer to shame Sanderson for his success, in the true postmodern sff way, Slate can direct you to those resources: “Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter criticism: why writers are upset about his record-setting campaign”.

… More recently, critics of the industry have demanded that publishers invest in more titles by authors of diverse identities. Since Sanderson’s Kickstarter made headlines, there’s been, unsurprisingly, some grousing on social media about whether such an already commercially successful author needs that kind of money….

(4) BEHIND THE SCREAMS. Ellen Datlow is a guest on Episode 13 of the Let the Cat In podcast, “Herman”, hosted by Canberra-based authors Kaaron Warren, Aaron Dries and J. Ashley-Smith.

The Cat gets technical as unparalleled horror editor Ellen Datlow joins the show from NYC, bringing behind-the-scenes insights into the conceptualising, compiling, editing and introduction of her (then) latest anthology, Screams From The Dark. While Joseph gets lost in a Borgesian labyrinth of shoes, Kaaron discovers the smells of the past, and Aaron takes a drubbing for his failure to correctly identify an alpaca. Ellen endorses cannibalism (of one’s own stories) and shares anecdotes from her time in Tehachapi Prison. The heart of a story is discussed, as are stories that never quite translate to the page. Also sparks, themes, and those horrible fuck ups, the Greek gods. While the viability of various shoes (and their stories) is considered, Jack the Jerk lurks on the couch.

(5) WHAT KIDS ARE READING ANNUAL REPORT. There’s a lot in the news about politicians’ efforts to control the shelves of school libraries. So if you wonder about what kids are reading, every year, the edtech company Renaissance Learning issues a comprehensive “What Kids Are Reading” report. Frank Catalano tweeted the 5th and 10th grade graphics from their results.

Go here to download the 52-page report: What Kids Are Reading–2022. Read the news release here: “Renaissance Shares Findings of World’s Largest Annual K–12 Reading Survey” (it doesn’t highlight the science fiction/fantasy titles).

…Each year, the WKAR report lists the most popular books at every grade level, and also provides new understanding of K–12 students’ reading practice. The report is uniquely illuminating because it draws from two Renaissance programs: Accelerated Reader, which records the books students are actually reading, not just buying or checking out from libraries, and myON, which provides students with instant access to thousands of digital titles for online or offline reading.

The 2022 report uses the data of 4.5 million students in 22,749 US schools who read 128 million books, revealing insights into students’ reading comprehension and the characteristics of what they choose to read, such as word count and text difficulty….

(6) LUNAR REAL ESTATE. The Guardian’s Arwa Mahdawi says “Privatising the moon may sound like a crazy idea but the sky’s no limit for avarice”.

…The real money, of course, is not in intergalactic billboards or short space trips: it’s in plundering space for resources. Apparently, the race to privatize the moon is on. Of course, many people who are starry-eyed about space mining would balk at the idea that they’re suffering from the avariceeffect: they’d argue that it’s all for the good of mankind. Take, for example, the forward-thinking folk at the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), an influential thinktank that champions free markets. To achieve peace and prosperity on Earth, we need to sell off pieces of space, “with a particular focus on plots of moon land”, the ASI recently declared in a paper.

What’s the logic behind this? Well, they reckon that, as long as you’re not too bothered by the fact that global inequality contributes to the death of one person every four seconds, per Oxfam, untrammeled capitalism has done the world a lot of good. “Property rights play a key role in boosting living standards, innovation and human dignity here on Earth,” Daniel Pryor, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, says. “The same would be true if we applied this logic to space, which presents a unique opportunity to start afresh when designing effective rules of ownership.”

This ASI report, titled Space Invaders: Property Rights on the Moon, may seem a little out there but it is very on-brand for the UK-based thinktank….

The fact is, they’re way behind fandom. Get the lowdown from File 770’s 2008 post “Who Owns the Moon?”

…the Bay Area Elves’, Gnomes’ and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder, and Marching Society…, in 1951, filed a claim for mining rights to 2,250 sq. mi. of the Moon. Their claim was widely reported in the media – even by Time magazine….

(7) SFF AND ROMANCE. Clarion West has made available the video of their “Fantastic Intersections: Speculative Fiction and Romance” Zoom panel held January 29.

From the sublime and magical to the stirring and steamy, storylines centering BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ characters are flourishing in the romance and speculative genres. Zen Cho, S. A. (Austin) Chant, C. L. Polk, KJ Charles, and L. Penelope 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 in this panel moderated by Rashida J. Smith.

(8) UPCOMING CLARION WEST ONLINE CLASSES. There is still space for those interested in one of these classes coming up in the next two weeks. Register at the link.

Worldbuilding is not just an academic exercise separate from character development or plot; discover how your fictional world exerts pressure on your characters and creates opportunities for plot.

Like a god, you get to invent a world. Maybe several. But how do you make worlds that readers want to visit? How do you make worlds that readers never want to leave? Explore how to create unforgettable environments, creatures, and cultures.

Note: While the course is designed from a place of enjoyment of speculative fiction, the strategies discussed are also applicable across varied genres.

How to work and write with intention and purpose

 A one-hour and one-session free class teaching writers the importance of working intentionally on both their craft and career. We’ll cover what it means to work intentionally at something as nebulous as writing; how to connect with our own intentions periodically and during times of conflict; and how to work within the parameters of our intentions in a way that sustains us.

This class will be great for writers of all levels who want to connect with their writing, careers, and stories in a deeper way that aligns more with who they are, what they want, and how they wish to create.

(9) NESFA SHORT STORY CONTEST. The results of the NESFA Short Story Contest 2021-22 were announced at Boskone 59 in February.

  • Honorable Mention: Shira Hereld, of Pennsylvania for the story “What Feels Good”
  • Honorable Mention: Olga Werby of California for the story “Floaters”
  • Honorable Mention: Alex Evans, of France for the story “First Blood”
  • Honorable Mention: M.A. Florin, of Romania for the story “The Last Choice of Isabel”

NESFA’s Past Winners page explains, “based on the number and quality of contest entries, some years have no winners or no honorable mentions.” Contest administrator Steven Lee adds, “Alas, based on the Judging, this year none of the finalist stories were considered outstanding, unlike the last two years.  These four were judged ‘almost.’”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1954 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Sixty-eight years ago, Creature from the Black Lagoon first cast its horrifying visage upon us. It was produced by William Alland who had produced It Came from Outer Space the previous year and directed by Jack Arnold who had directed the same film. 

It was written by Harry Essex and Arthur Ross. Essex who (surprise) was the screenwriter for It Came from Outer Space. Ross, though, had nothing to do with it, but he did write Satan’s School for Girls which amazingly got remade twice, once as a Shannon Doherty vehicle. 

Creature has a large cast but I’m only really interested in three performers here. The first is Julia Adams who played Kay Lawrence who gets snatched by the Creature from the Black Lagoon aka GillmanAnd the other two are performers that you never saw. Ben Chapman was the Creature for all the on land scenes whereas Ricoh Browning did all the underwater scenes. Ricoh would return for the two sequels, but the Creature was played by Tom Hennesy for the on land scenes in the second film (which Clint Eastwood appears in), and played by Don Megowan for the on land scenes in the third. 

So how was the reception? The Hollywood Reporter review at the time said, “Creature From the Black Lagoon is a good piece of science-fiction of the beauty and the beast school, the beast in this case being a monstrous combination of man and fish. It makes for solid horror-thrill entertainment.”  

A review recently by Empire magazine was equally positive: “Directed by sometimes-inspired journeyman Jack Arnold (The Incredible Shrinking Man), this is one of the best-loved monster movies of the ‘50s.  Whereas many of its rivals drag until the monster shows up and turn ridiculous afterwards, this establishes an atmosphere of unease and magic in the early stretches, as the monster is glimpsed as a 3-D clutching hand accompanied by its memorable blaring theme tune.” The music was composed by Henry Mancini. 

I’ve no idea what the production costs were but the box office was one point three million, not bad for the early Fifties. 

It would spawn two sequels: the 3D Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. Each of the sequels would return just over just a million at the box office.  Neither of the sequels is considered nearly as great as the first film was. 

The Creature Walks Among Us is considered to be the last film in the Universal Classic Monsters series.

It rates a healthy seventy-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Neither of the sequels cracks thirty percent. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 5, 1907 Martti Löfberg. Finnish author who did some genre novels including Osiriksen Sormus and Viiden minuutin ikuisuu which were both time travel affairs, and his long running newspaper reporter Kid Barrow series has been favorably compared to Tintin. (Died 1969.)
  • Born March 5, 1936 Dean Stockwell. You’ll no doubt best remember him as Al the hologram on Quantum Leap. He had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleThe Night GalleryA Twist in The TaleOrson Welles’ Great Mysteries and The Twilght Zone. His first genre role was in I think The Boy with Green Hair, a 1948 film. It might be fantasy or not as there’s no explanation for the central thesis of the film. Anything I’ve overlooked? (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 5, 1942 Mike Resnick. Damn, losing him hurts. It’s worth noting that he has been nominated for thirty-seven Hugo Awards which is a record for writers and won five times. Somewhat ironically nothing I’ve really enjoyed by him has won those Hugos. The novels making my list are his John Justin Mallory detective novels, The Red Tape War (with Jack L. Chalker & George Alec Effinger, and, yes, it’s not genre, Cat on a Cold Tin Roof. True story: Kristine Kathryn Rusch tells me he’s responsible for her Spade / Paladin series. When I interview her, I intend to ask her why.  (Died 2020.)
  • Born March 5, 1952 Robin Hobb, 70. Whose full legal name is the lovely Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden hence her two pen names. (I think.)  I reasonably sure the first thing I read and enjoyed by her was Wizard of the Pigeons, but The Gypsy with Steven Brust which is now available from the usual suspects was equally enjoyable and had the added bonus of a Boiled in Lead soundtrack. Really it does and Jane Yolen financed it.
  • Born March 5, 1959 Howard V. Hendrix, 63. Empty Cities of the Full Moon is damn impressive as the Labyrinth Key duology. He’s done an amazing amount of quite excellent short fiction, the latest collection being The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes: Analog Stories for a Digital Age.
  • Born March 5, 1972 James Moran, 50. Here for his scriptwriting on Doctor Who where he wrote Tenth Doctor story, “The Fires of Pompeii”, Torchwood where he contributed two stories, “Sleeper” about a terrorist attacking on Cardiff whose filming got halted by a terrorist attack on Glasgow, and “Day Three” of  the Children of Earth series. He also wrote some of the episodes for Primeval.
  • Born March 5, 1975 Jolene Blalock, 47. Best known for playing  T’Pol on  Enterprise.  Genre wise, she’s also been in Jason and the Argonauts seriesas Medea, Stargate SG-1 as Ishta, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder as Captain Lola Beck and as the Legend of the Seeker as Sister Nicci.
  • Born March 5, 1989 Jake Lloyd, 33. He portrayed the young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. Ok, every fan site I encounter was full of bile his performance. I’ve not seen the film, so tell why these fans were so upset at this actor? Was it because it was a child actor portraying this character? 

(12) RETURN TO THE VOID. [Item by David Doering.] As we zoom past $23 million on Brandon Sanderson’s campaign (!!), there’s more good news from Utah. The Covid-shuttered VR venture “The Void” is relaunching, hurrah! You may recall that their secret sauce was having Tracy Hickman as writer, making it far more engaging than other special effects ladened VR attempts. Let’s cheer them on as well. “VR Arcade Pioneer The VOID is Making a Comeback” at Road to VR.

… As reported by MIXED, it appears pioneering out-of-home VR destination The VOID is getting ready to reopen.

Before The Void closed up shop—or was rather summarily kicked out of its dozen-or-so locations after it defaulted on loans back at the beginning of the pandemic—it was a premiere mixed reality destination that promised a real taste of immersion. Starting back in 2015, it combined warehouse-scale VR and realistic 4D effects that brought to life some of the most well-known franchises worldwide: Ghostbusters, The Avengers, Star Wars, Jumanji, and more.

Due to COVID-19 safety measures, The Void suffered immediate losses in revenue which were further outstripped by its inability to secure additional funding. The company’s last video before its website went dark featured a pop-up in Westfield San Francisco Center… back in April 2020.

Then, nearly a year and a half later, a report by Protocol broke the news that The Void’s patents and trademarks has been acquired by Hyper Reality Partners, a company headed by Adrian Steckel, a previous investor and board member of The Void. At the time, it was reported that Hyper Reality Partners has already raised $20 million to get The Void back on its feet.

Now The Void’s website is back up, with its creators saying that it will include “upgraded VR technology,” and “a flexible platform designed to evolve with the latest in innovation.”

(13) A WHALE OF A SECOND CENTURY TALE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this video, Austin McConnell explains that Lucian of Samosata invented the space opera in the second century AD.  He explains that back then Romans enjoyed reading travelogues about distant places and debates about philosophical topics, so he decided to make fun of both of them with this tale about a trip to the Moon, a battle between Moon people and Sun people with bonus fighters from the Milky Way and all sorts of creepy imaginary places, including the years Lucian purportedly spent inside a 180 mile-long whale! Of course he called his novel A True Story, and McConnell shows how truly weird this book is–but hey, it’s the first sf novel!

(14) NO, YOU BE ROBIN. Here’s something even more unbelievable. “Inside the never-made ‘Batman’ movie that nearly starred Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy as the Dynamic Duo” at Yahoo!

…But on one of the infinite earths out there in the DC Extended Universe, there’s a planet where Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy played Batman and Robin on the big screen.

Actually… that was very nearly this Earth. In the early 1980s, the late Ivan Reitman planned to cast the Saturday Night Live stars as the Dynamic Duo in a never-made Batman feature film. “I talked to Eddie Murphy about it, and Eddie wanted to play Batman,” Murray tells Yahoo Entertainment in a recent interview for the latest installment in our video series The Never-Weres. “That’s as far as that conversation went.” (Watch the video above.)

If Murphy wanted to be the Caped Crusader so badly, would Murray have willingly taken on the role of Robin? Holy negatory, Batman! “I don’t wanna be the Boy Wonder to anybody,” the Ghostbusters star says. “Maybe much earlier when I was a boy. But it was too late for that by the ’80s. Also, I couldn’t do the outfit. Eddie looks good in purple, and I look good in purple. In red and green, I look like one of Santa’s elves. There was just a lot of vanity involved in the production. It wasn’t gonna happen.”…

(15)  ADAM ROBERTS INTERVIEW. Curtis Brown Creative announces, “We are thrilled that our new six-week online course – Writing Science Fiction  is open for enrolment. The course features exclusive teaching videos, notes and tasks from Adam Roberts.” They follow up with a long Q&A. “Adam Roberts: ‘Science fiction isn’t about accurate prediction, it’s about the eloquence and wonder of our ideas, our imaginings’”

How much do real life technologies impact your fictional writing?

I feel we’ve reached a plateau in terms of the development of new technologies. Remember I’ve lived through the information revolution: I was born before computers were a thing, and now computers interpenetrate shape our lives absolutely. The changes between the 1960s and now have been immense. It’s interesting: the SF of the 1950s assumed the next big leap in human development would be space travel, colonising distant worlds: but they were wrong—the next big leap was computing. I often wonder what the next next big thing will be, and how far it will change our lives and our world. I’ll probably guess wrong: but that doesn’t matter. SF isn’t about accurate prediction, it’s about the eloquence and wonder of our ideas, our imaginings.

(16) BOOKSELLER CONVERGENCE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Waterstones, the only remaining UK bookstore chain (back when I was studying in London, there were three or four bookstore chains) has acquired Blackwell’s, the largest independent bookseller in the UK: “Waterstones acquires Blackwell’s, the UK’s biggest independent bookseller”. Blackwell’s is mainly known for its amazing selection of academic books, though they also have a good SFF section. At any rate, this is sad news, since I fear that Blackwell’s will now be selling more celebrity memoirs and fewer academic books.

…Along with Waterstones’ acquisition of the UK book chain Foyles in 2018, it marks a further contraction in the book retail market.

The acquisition will be viewed by some as a regrettable end to the family ownership of a cherished independent and academic bookseller. To others, it will be heralded as a turbo-boost for real-world bookshops in the battle for dominance with their online rival Amazon.

(17) SFF CRAFT. The Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid shares a cool craft project. Crochet the solar system. It’s a wheelchair spoke cover, but it would also make a nice pillow case or doily. “Crochet Solar System Wheelchair Spoke Cover”.

Today I’m sharing a pattern for a crochet wheelchair spoke cover I recently made!

I took a basic pattern for a doily, altered the dimensions slightly and included a sun at the centre. I didn’t want the middle of my crochet piece to be rubbing against the centre of the wheel, so I took rings from old keychains and crocheted around them.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Dying Light 2″ Fandom Games says this video game is filled with parkour to “recreate the typical commute of the average Frenchman.” But the narrator notes that if you wanted to become fitter and more athletic like the characters in this game, “You wouldn’t be playing video games all day!”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Steven Lee, Errolwi, Cora Buhlert, Frank Catalano, David Doering, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/3/21 Galaxies In My Trousers Like A Scroll In My Pixel!

(1) INTRUDER ALERT. A week ago, Canadian sff writer Candas Jane Dorsey came home and discovered a break-in in progress. The police were called. All of what happened next is in this Facebook post.

Last Thursday we had a lovely dinner out with our friend Jane B., and came home to do some more work, and just as I was getting ready for bed I heard some thumping and then the alarm went off, saying there was an issue in the basement. Timothy went outside to look through the windows and there was indeed an intruder, who turned and pointed something black at him. Was it a gun? In Canada, that’s not common, though the police have been finding more guns among the criminals in town, so… Anyway, it looked like maybe…

Police were already being called, but adding the words “he might have a gun” rather sharpened the response time–and the scale of the response. Soon we were waiting up on the second floor while SWAT tactical vehicles and people with guns (I was going to say “guys with guns” but there was no way of knowing if they were guy-guys or generic-guys so I’m going with people, or police officers) and Colt Carbines and other people in squad cars and other people in unmarked white SUVs blocked streets and surrounded our house, and the police helicopter looked down on us with infrared scopes, and it was Uncle Tom Cobbley and all around here for the next nine hours, as the intruder hunkered down and refused to come out….

(2) DIAGRAM PRIZE WINNER. The Guardian reports Is Superman Circumcised? wins oddest book title of the year award”

The Diagram prize, which is run by The Bookseller magazine and voted for by the public, pitted six titles against each other this year, from Curves for the Mathematically Curious to Hats: A Very Unnatural History. Despite competition from second-placed The Life Cycle of Russian Things: From Fish Guts to Fabergé, Is Superman Circumcised? took 51% of the public vote to win the award. More than 11,000 people cast a vote in this year’s competition.

The title, which follows in the footsteps of former winners including How to Avoid Huge Ships and The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, sees author Roy Schwartz explore the creation of the “Mensch of Steel” by Jewish immigrants Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Schwartz argues that Superman’s origin story is based “on Moses, his strength on Samson, his mission on the golem, and his nebbish secret identity on themselves”, and that Krypton’s society is based on Jewish culture.

(3) FIVE BEST. Adam Roberts picks “Five of the best science fiction and fantasy books of 2021” in the Guardian. First on the list:

Far from the Light of Heaven
by Tade Thompson (Orbit)
Space is vast but spaceships are by nature claustrophobic: Thompson plays cannily on that contrast. Passengers aboard the starship Ragtime are in suspended animation on their way to the distant planet Bloodroot, but 30 people have been murdered in their sleep. Thompson’s tale is cleverly plotted and tensely told as the investigating captain must work against her own crew, bio-contagion, violent robots and a demonic AI to uncover the murderer’s identity. The book does more than the description “locked-room mystery in space” suggests: not only wrong-footing the reader as its mystery unfolds, but creating a series of believable, compelling worlds with some genuinely alien aliens.

(4) BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. Elizabeth Bear posted a public “cancer stuff update” on her Livejournal.

Just wanted to check in and let you all know that things are finally moving again here. I got some good news on Monday, which is to say that my oncotype came back and there’s no indication that chemo will reduce the chances of a recurrence, so I am off the hook for that (and enormously relieved, honestly). And the Infamous Seroma has healed enough that unless there’s some kind of additional complication, I will FINALLY be having my radiation setup, CT, and simulation on Monday morning….

(5) PRIME TIME FOR KIWI SFF. The Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, happening in Wellington next February/March, has numerous items of genre interest. SFFANZ News compiled this list of links:  

(6) NFT ABUSE OVERWHELMS ARTISTS. Artists are burdened by having to generate DMCA takedown notices to keep their work from being thieved by NFT creators.

(7) ASIMOV RARITIES. Heritage Auctions has a set of the Gnome Press edition of the Foundation Trilogy on the block right now (Lot #45145). These books were published in 1951-1953. The bidding is up to $6,250.

(8) FIRST FANDOM ANNUAL 2021. Now available is the fanhistory tribute volume Remembering Erle M. Korshak (1923-2021) edited by John L. Coker III and Jon D. Swartz.

This is a tribute to legendary SF enthusiast Erle Melvin Korshak, remembered as a renowned book-seller, conventioneer, art collector and publisher. In several conversations, Erle recalls the early days of fandom, the first two worldcons, publishing articles in fanzines and the pulps, and some friends he made along the way. A new article about the history of Shasta Publishers is accompanied by Erle’s reflections on his days as a pioneering specialty press book publisher.

Other highlights include appreciations by several of Erle’s long-time friends, a gallery of First Fandom photos and an 8-page bibliography prepared by SF historian Christopher M. O’Brien.

60 pages, limited ed. (50 #’d copies) Laser printed on 28# quality paper Photographs and interior illustrations Gloss covers, 81?2 x 11, saddle-stitched. To order, send a check for $35 payable to John L. Coker III (includes packing, USPS Priority Mail, insurance, and tracking) to John at 4813 Lighthouse Road, Orlando, FL – 32808.

(9) ELIGIBILITY, YOU KNOW. Tor.com would not want you to overlook “All of Tor.com’s Original Short Fiction Published in 2021” which is linked from this post.

Since launching in 2008, Tor.com’s short fiction program has been producing touching, funny, and thought-provoking stories, and this year was no different! In 2021, we published 15 original short stories, another 15 novelettes, plus one novella. These ran the gamut from hard science fiction to epic fantasy, from horror to dystopia, from fairy tales to space opera. We’ve rounded them all up below…

(10) RETELLINGS CONSIDERED. In the Rite Gud podcast, Raquel S. Benedict contends a popular story form has some shortcomings: “#Girlboss: The Problem With ‘Feminist’ Fairytale Adaptations”.

We like folklore, and we like feminism. So why not combine them? A lot of writers do. Feminist retellings of old fairy tales are very popular. We have girlboss Cinderella starting her own business, rebellious Belle teaching girls to read in Beauty and the Beast, Snow White leading an army into battle. And why not? What’s wrong with updating folklore for a more enlightened age? We all like to see strong women kicking ass, don’t we?

But sometimes, despite our good intentions, these updates lose something in translation.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fourteen years ago, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street premiered. It was directed by Tim Burton. It is an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Tony Award-winning 1979 musical of the same name. In turn it is obviously based off of the Victorian Penny dreadful Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It starred Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Sacha Baron Cohen. Critics really like it with the Christian Science Monitor saying “A considerable achievement even if, on balance, it’s more of a Tim Burton phantasmagoria than a Sondheim fantasia.” And the Independent declared that “Relentlessly morose and courageously just, Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” is a maniacal near masterpiece.” It was a box office success making two hundred million on a budget of fifty million. And audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a superb eighty-one percent. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 3, 1918 Polly Freas. Fan and wife of SFF artist Frank Kelly Freas with whom she had three children; she was much loved in fandom. She and Kelly co-edited Wonderworks: Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Michael Whalen, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Nonfiction Book. She was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was given a Special Award by Southern Fandom. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 3, 1922 Donald H. Tuck. Engineer, Writer, Editor, and Fan from Tasmania, Australia who discovered SF very young. By the time he was 18, he had co-edited three issues of the fanzine Profan, which included author bios and bibliographies. Considering the logistical difficulties of the time in terms of communication by snail mail – especially given the added difficulty due to WWII and the distance of Australia from the U.S. – his feat in amassing a huge collection, and a file of index cards with the details of hundreds of SFF works, was impressive. In 1954, he collected those index cards into A Handbook of Science Fiction and Fantasy, a 151-page bibliography of the field; in 1959 he released a greatly-expanded and updated version, at 396 pages. He was given a Worldcon Special Award for this work. He continued to refine this over the years, and in 1974 produced the first volume of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968: Who’s Who, for surnames starting A to L, followed four years later by Volume 2, for M to Z, and was recognized for this work with a World Fantasy Special Award. The third volume, a bibliography to accompany the two-volume encyclopedia of authors, editors, and artists, won a Hugo Award. He was to be Guest of Honor at the first Australian Worldcon; when he couldn’t attend, a group of fans went to visit him at his home. In 1985, he was given Fandom’s Big Heart Award. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 3, 1937 Morgan Llywelyn, 84. Writer and Equestrian born in the U.S. who, after missing out on the Olympic dressage team by a minuscule fraction of a percentage point, turned to researching her Irish roots, and began to write historical fantasy, fiction, and nonfiction based on Celtic history and traditions. After her husband’s untimely early death, she moved to Ireland and is now a citizen residing near Dublin. Her first genre novel, Lion of Ireland, was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award. Her short genre fiction has been published in the collection The Earth Is Made of Stardust.
  • Born December 3, 1949 Malcolm Edwards, 72. Writer, Editor, and Critic from England who is considered one of the field’s great editors. Early in his career, he joined the British Science Fiction Association, and served as editor of its journal Vector. He was extremely active in British fandom in the 60s and 70s, producing several fanzines, and was one of the co-founders of the semiprozine Interzone. In the 80s, he co-wrote several SFF nonfiction reference works. His work has influenced many fans’ reading: as SF editor for Gollancz, he launched the SF Masterworks series. He was Deputy CEO of the Orion Publishing Group until 2019. Although he is best known as an editor, his short story “After-Images” won a British Science Fiction Award, and has been included in five different anthologies. He was Guest of Honor at Worldcon in London in 2014.
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 63. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year. She has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award. The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then-named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. These are available at the usual suspects at very reasonable prices. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here.
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 61. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear before being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she really that bad in it? Her last genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing, though she had a cameo as herself in this year’s Cosmic Radio.
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 53. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. (Let’s not mention the third Mummy film.) Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Doom Patrol series that now airs on HBO Max.
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 36. She play Ed Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds here playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis, a role within In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows why you don’t let psychiatrists interview your favorite cartoon characters.

(14) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present N.K. Jemisin and David Leo Rice at the KGB Bar on Wednesday, December 15 at 7:00 p.m. EDT. (Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to enter the KGB Bar. Face masks required when not seated.)

N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin is a New York Times-bestselling author of speculative fiction short stories and novels. In 2018, she became the first author to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row, for the Broken Earth trilogy, currently in film development. She has also won a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards, and is a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

David Leo Rice

David Leo Rice is an author from Northampton, MA, currently living in NYC. His books include A Room in Dodge City, A Room in Dodge City: Vol. 2, Angel House, and Drifter: Stories. His novels The New House and A Room in Dodge City: Vol. 3 are forthcoming in 2022. He currently teaches at Parsons School of Design and FIT.

(15) MIGHT NEED A SPIN DOCTOR. Fantasy Literature’s reviewer Bill Capossere finds the series all too familiar: “The Wheel of Time: The wheel spins a little too slowly”.

…The show also isn’t helped, at least early on, by its characterization or its dialogue. The younger main characters have been aged up (if I’m remembering correctly — it’s been a long time), mostly it seems so they can have (undepicted) sex, which seems an odd reason. Otherwise, they feel at this point bland, unformed, and indistinguishable beyond their stock type (roguish irresponsible one, brooding pining one, grieving simmering one, bitter angry one, etc.). Honestly, they look and feel like they could have accidentally walked off the set of any CW show and into this one while the cameras were rolling. The older characters, Moiraine and the “gleeman” Thom fare better as characters, but Moiraine is saddled with a lot of expository and/or portentous monologuing (and not in a good, fun way)….

(16) COVID FRONT LINES. “Violence Against Australian Booksellers” is Shelf Awareness’ report about an incident that occurred when employees tried to get customer compliance with local Covid rules.

In Australia, the Dymocks bookstore on Collins St. in the CBD in Melbourne has been forced to hire security guards “after employees were attacked by customers refusing to follow Victoria’s Covid-19 rules, with one worker being pushed down an escalator,” the Age reported. The store’s owners said the move would cost hundreds of dollars a day, but safety of staff was paramount. The incidents are being investigated by police.

“We, as small business owners never thought that making our staff do this Covid marshaling checking would result in this kind of violence,” co-owner Melissa Traverso said, adding that just hours before one employee was assaulted, another staff member had been slapped by a woman who refused to give her personal details. The Age noted that “later on Friday, a third worker was tackled by an angry customer who did not provide a valid proof of vaccination, but managed to steady himself and avoid falling down the escalator.”…

(17) RO-MAN. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Jacob Paik did this piece based on the 1953 movie Robot Monster:

(18) IT’S A THEORY. “Returned asteroid samples suggest missing source of Earth’s water: the solar wind”Daily Kos tells why.

One puzzle about Earth’s formation is that our planet shouldn’t have nearly as much water as it does.  Asteroids that formed closer to the Sun, such as those in the inner asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, have very little water, while those that formed farther out have much more.  So that implies that Earth, which formed even closer to the Sun than those asteroids, started out pretty dry and must have gotten its water from some far-out source.  But what could that source be?

Much of Earth’s water could very well have come from carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, flung to Earth from asteroids that formed far from the Sun, out around Jupiter/Saturn and beyond.  Those weren’t exposed to much heat when they formed, and so their volatile components like water could stay put.  Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites can contain up to 20% water. 

It would take a whole lot of hits by these kinds of meteorites to produce our oceans, but even if we grant that possibility, when you take them as a whole, their water doesn’t quite match Earth’s water in one important way: it’s too heavy.

“Heavy” water is not H2O but rather D2O.  Its hydrogen atoms are replaced by deuterium atoms.  A hydrogen atom is simply a proton and an electron, but a deuterium atom is that plus a neutron, so it’s heavier. 

On Earth we’ve got water with about 150 parts per million deuterium, but the average for those asteroids is more like 190.  So we seem to be missing a significant source of lighter water to make all of this add up.

Enter the solar wind!…

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

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 1/5/21 Guilty Pixels Got No Rhythm

(1) GO BACK AND TRI AGAIN. “HG Wells fans spot numerous errors on Royal Mint’s new £2 coin” — Adam Roberts and Stephen Baxter explained the gaffes to Guardian readers.

Observant fans of HG Wells have questioned how a new coin from the Royal Mint commemorating The War of the Worlds author could be released with multiple errors, including giving his “monstrous tripod” four legs.

The £2 coin is intended to mark 75 years since the death of Wells, and includes imagery inspired by The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man.

…Science fiction novelist and professor of 19th-century literature Adam Roberts, who is author of a biography of Wells and vice president of the HG Wells Society, also criticised the depiction of the Invisible Man, shown in a top hat; in the book he arrives at Iping under a “wide-brimmed hat”.

“It’s nice to see Wells memorialised, but it would have been nicer for them to get things right,” Roberts said. “A tripod with four legs is hard to comprehend (tri: the clue is in the name), and Wells’s (distinctly ungentlemanly) invisible man, Griffin, never wore a top hat … I’d say Wells would be annoyed by this carelessness: he took immense pains to get things right in his own work – inviting translators of his book to stay with him to help the process and minimise errors and so on.”

Stephen Baxter, vice president of the Wells Society and author of The Massacre of Mankind, an official sequel to The War of the Worlds , said he thought Wells would have been “very flattered by the coin, but infuriated by that non-tripod! It’s not just the extra leg but the stiffness of it. In the book itself, he has a sideswipe at the ‘stiff, stilted tripods’ depicted in an early ‘pamphlet’ on the war – in fact he was talking about clumsy illustrations in the newspaper serialisation of the book, its first publication. ‘They were no more like the Martians I saw than a Dutch doll is like a human being.’ Take that!”

(2) BEWARE DOCTOR WHO SPOILER. For the rest of you – “Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker quits after three years as Time Lord” reports Mirror Online (among other sources). Showrunner Chris Chibnall is to remain. (Here’s the Guardian link.)

Jodie Whittaker is quitting at the end of the next Doctor Who series, when she will regenerate into the 14th Time Lord.

The 38-year-old has told bosses she intends to stick to the traditional rule of leaving after three stints in the TARDIS, like the majority of her predecessors.

One insider said: “It’s all very hush-hush but it is known on set that Jodie is leaving and they are gearing up for a regeneration.

“Her departure is top secret but at some point over the coming months the arrival of the 14th Doctor will need to be filmed. It’s very exciting.”

Insiders claim Whittaker is keen to take on other roles.

(3) DAVID WEBER UPDATE. Posted by Regina Kirby on SouthernFandomClassic listserv and forwarded by Andrew Porter:

Here is the latest from David Weber’s Facebook on his condition:

They seem to have the temp totally under control now. BP is still a little ping-pongy, but trending MUCH lower. I think they’re still worried a bit about my heart (remembering I was scheduled for a heart cath last week before all this blew up) and about clotting. 

Still coughing up wet phlegm. Not as many blood draw sticks, thank goodness! Breathing is a lot better, at least when not moving. I’ve been limited to sort of shooting out half-dozen word bursts and then gasping for breath. I’m up to whole sentences (well, phrases) now between breaths. Soon as I move, the panting and dizziness starts in, but I think even that is better. Not sure if we’re completely through the antibiotics yet, but I do think everything they’ve pumped into me has helped a lot.

Then, tonight on David Weber the Author on Facebook:

I am now officially off the heart monitor!

Tah-DAH!

O2 absorption still too low and they’re still watching for clotting, but the situation is clearly improving.

(4) ERIC FLINT & COMPANY. Ring of Fire’s first Open House event of the new year will be held Saturday, January 9, beginning at 1:00 Central time.

 Join us for a discussion of the upcoming Colony High series with special guests Dr. David Brin and Steve Ruskin.

Use the Zoom link below to join in on the fun. We’ll see you there!

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6057032055

(5) GONE VIRTUAL. The Popular Culture Association will take its annual conference online in 2021 – the vaccine rollout won’t be completed in time to save the day: “A Message From Our President”.

Happy 2021 to all PCA members! I wish you a brighter, better year. The PCA Governing Board met today and made the difficult decision to hold a fully virtual conference in June 2021. We have been monitoring the rollout of the vaccine and have determined that not enough of our members will be vaccinated in time to meet face to face in Boston or have a hybrid conference. We also learned, via a survey last month to our area chairs, that many academic institutions have withdrawn travel support for this year and that members overwhelmingly support going forward with a remote conference if we cannot meet in person. Thus, virtual is the way to go! 

(6) SFSFC LEADERSHIP ELECTION. At the November 2020 meeting of the Board of Directors of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (SFSFC), Kevin Roche was elected President of the Board effective January 1. Says Roche, “Dave Gallaher, whose many years of hard work and service as SFSFC President are greatly appreciated, remains as a regular Director.”

Kevin Roche was Conference Chair of Worldcon 76 in San Jose.

(7) FREE READ. A Turtledove book is Arc Manor’s free ebook for January: Over The Wine-Dark Sea. A publisher’s note says “The cart will show the suggested price of $1.99. You may change it to any price including $0.00.”

The first book in the highly acclaimed ‘historicals’ by the Master of Alternate History, Harry Turtledove. 

?No one recreates historical settings like Turtledove who has that special knack for being both historically accurate and highly entertaining.

?Menedemos, the young dashing sea captain, and his helper, the scholarly Sostratos, are sea-traders from the Greek island of Rhodes. Fearless sailors, they will travel any distance to make a profit or to search for rich treasures.

?While they trade in fineries such as wine and silk (and even, to the chagrin of many, peacocks), they live in dangerous times with pirates, thieves and barbarians. As if avoiding death by the hands of these miscreants isn’t enough (particularly the barbarians from an obscure town called Rome), they are also caught between the political intrigues of Alexander’s former generals.

(8) ROBERTS OBIT. Actress Tanya Roberts died January 4 reports People.

Tanya Roberts died from a urinary tract infection, her representative tells PEOPLE. She was 65.

Roberts was first erroneously reported dead on Monday morning before her publicist corrected the news. She later died Monday night.

Her genre roles included the Bond movie A View To A Kill, films The Beastmaster, and Sheena.

(9) SMITH OBIT. Horror writer (among other things) Guy N. Smith died on Christmas Eve aged 81. Here is a touching tribute by Thomas McNulty: “Remembering Guy N. Smith”.

…While GNS is best known as a “horror writer,” his oeuvre includes much more; stories for young readers, thrillers and police procedurals, and several years writing for The Countryman’s Weekly. In fact, his output of countryside living articles and books is exemplary. Of this work I include Gamekeeping and Shooting for Amateurs (1976), Midland Gun Company: A Short History (2016), and Managing and Shooting Under Ten Acres (2017) as ideal representations. Guy Smith is much more than a horror writer, and yet the spooky tales have made him famous. Guy’s solitary Western, The Pony Riders, published in 1997 by Pinnacle, is widely considered a Western classic and among Guy’s best novels. 

GNS is to my way of thinking the embodiment of what a writer should be. His various interests, devotion to the countryside lifestyle, dedication to his craft, friendliness and generosity with his fans have distinguished him from all others. Of his novels, I offer five as the scariest books written, and I list them for readers to examine at their own risk: The Slime Beast (1975), The Sucking Pit (1975), Doomflight (1981) The Wood (1985) and The Island (1988)….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • January 5, 1974Starlost came to an end. It came on the the air on the air on September 22 of the previous year and was executive produced by William Davidson, Gerry Rochon, Douglas Trumbull and Jerome M. Zeitman. It was, as you know, written in part by Harlan Ellison (as Cordwainer Bird) though there were other writers as well — George Ghent, Norman Klenman and Martin Lager. Of Canadian production, it would last but one season of sixteen episodes. Though Ellison received a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for the original script, this is not what was filmed, nor representative of the experience science advisor Ben Bova had with the series. It is generally considered one of the worst genre series of all time.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one log running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. (Died 1959.) (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1926 – Bob Abbett.  Fifty covers for us, thirty others.  Here is The Third “Galaxy” Reader.  Here is Dolphin Boy.  Here is A Fighting Man of Mars.  Later known for paintings of wildlife, fishing, dogs; see A Season for Painting.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1928 – Raylyn Moore.  Newspaper reporter, teacher, poet, motorcyclist.  Co-founded Monterey Peninsula (California) Dickens Fellowship.  First woman to publish a story in Esquire.  A novel and thirty short stories for us, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, also EdgesOrbitShadows.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1940 – Tom Digby, age 81.  It seems incongruous to consider the birth or death of this consummately yet mildly strange being.  Larry Niven put the best known theory in “What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”  While TD lived in Los Angeles he had a clock that ran backwards, a machine you could set to sound rhythms you invented, a sign that said in big letters Important not ice (as you’ll see in a moment, I can’t reproduce it properly) and when you went much closer you could read text beginning It’s important that you understand this sign is not ice.  Worked hard enough for LASFS to earn its Evans-Freehafer Award.  Later moved to San Francisco Bay.  For his songs, see here.  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 15, MileHiCon 13, and ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, for which you can see his Guest of Honor book here (revised 2014).  Here is his analemma page.  [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a genre connection that will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that tome about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones. Among the genre folk that have had a role in the band are Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1941 – Miyazaki Hayao, age 80.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Author, animator, director, producer, manga artist, screenwriter.  Co-founded Studio Ghibli.  My Neighbor Totoro, the first Princess Mononoke story, the Nausicaä in the Valley of the Winds and Kiki’s Delivery Service picture books are available in English.  Academy Award for Spirited Away.  Nebula for Howl’s Moving Castle. Academy Honorary Award for contributions to animation and cinema.  Chesley and World Fantasy awards for life achievement.  SF Hall of Fame.  Person of Cultural Merit.  [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1943 – Awa Naoko.  (Personal name last.)  The Fox’s Window collects thirty of her stories in English.  Twoscore more.  Seven collections in Japanese.  Fantasy in a folktale style; later works sometimes said to be conscious of the world after her death.  Five Japanese awards.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 62. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out  as voicing as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of my best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle (CE)
  • Born January 5, 1966 Tananarive Due, 55. I’m particularly fond of her short fiction which you can find in her BFA winning Ghost Summer collection which also won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award. The Good House and The Between are novels are worth reading for having strong African-American characters. (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 46. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact he is here just for that role. Mind you he’ll have voiced him five time by that Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 3 comes out, so I’d say he’s got him spot perfect. (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 43. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished re-listening to her Sparrow Hill Road storieswhich was are excellent and earlier I’d read her InCryptid series, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. (CE)
  • Born January 5, 1989 – Heather Fawcett, age 32.  Four novels; The Language of Ghosts just published.  “Before becoming a writer I worked … as an archaeologist, a technical writer, and a backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theatre [she’s Canadian] company….  I have a Master’s degree in English Literature and briefly considered becoming a professor, before I realized it involved more than reading books, drinking excessive amounts of tea, and wearing colourful elbow patches.”  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Versions of this have been floating around for over six months, I saw it for the first time today.

(13) BEYOND CLAY. Available at BBC Sounds, In The Studio’s episode“The Big Fix Up: A new, digital venture for Wallace and Gromit”

Wallace and Gromit – the eccentric inventor and his loyal dog – are one of Britain’s best-loved comedy duos. Created in plasticine clay by Nick Park of Aardman Animations, their stop motion adventures have won three Academy Awards and a BAFTA.

Now, Wallace and his faithful hound are heading into exciting new territory. The pair’s new business venture, Spick & Spanners, needs employees to help them ‘Fix Up’ the British city of Bristol. This interactive story, which takes place on smart phones and uses augmented and mixed reality, is a daring departure from their traditional claymation films. For the first time ever, fans can step directly into the world of Wallace and Gromit.

In The Studio goes behind-the-scenes of the production’s final stage, as the technical team grapple with bugs and the directors shoot final takes with their first ever real human character.

Eliza Lomas talks to Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park about his own childhood dreams of being an inventor, and he opens up his sketchbooks to reveal some very recent, very silly Wallace and Gromit doodles.

(14) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! where the contestants whiffed on a pop culture landmark. (Porter adds this was one of the last episodes presided over by Alex Trebeck – three more to come.)

Category: Possession is 9/10

Answer: There is no Sigourney Weaver, only Zuul, & what a lovely singing voice Zuul must have in this 1984 movie.

Wrong question: What is Aliens?

No one got, What is Ghostbusters?

Incidentally, Ryan Reynolds appeared virtually on January 4’s Jeopardy!‘ for a clue related to his movie Free Guy, which will feature Alex Trebek’s last film cameo: “Ryan Reynolds says working with Alex Trebek ‘one last time’ for Jeopardy! clue was ‘heartbreaking’”.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Matrix — Never-Before-Seen Cold Open”. A Peacock extra on YouTube.

Watch an exclusive, never-before-seen cold open from The Office’s ninth season to celebrate The Office US coming to Peacock! In loving memory of Hugh Dane, Hank the security guard.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/23/20 Scrolling In The Pixel Rain

(1) COLUMBUS 2020 NASFIC. The latest North American Science Fiction Convention ended today. NASFiC Newsletter is a place where you’ll find preserved such vital information as —

NASFiC by the Numbers

As of 11:30 pm on Saturday there were 1092 people registered through the convention website and 716 people on Discord.

Souvenir Book

We all know no one reads the souvenir book until they’re home, long after the con has ended. But since you’re ALREADY home, you can read it now! Read about our awesome Guests of Honor! Check out the convenient lists of artists and dealers, in case you want to follow up on something you saw at the con. Click to download your copy!

Out of context quotes

“Our asses are full of miracles”

“The attendees… or my minions. Whichever is more convenient”

“I just want to give all of you a big hug with my sand snork”

I can also recommend the NASFiC History section because some of it is written by yours truly. It begins with the site selection vote held in 1973 for the original NASFiC of 1975:

…Each bid was led by a co-chair of L.A.Con I, the just-completed Worldcon, Charles Crayne or Bruce Pelz.

…Crayne and Pelz reacted to TorCon 2’s [decision] simply by running their own site selection process at the con. I got my first bidding experience while helping Bruce Pelz and Milt Stevens haul cases of beer from a package store to their bid party in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. “Strong backs, weak minds,” I think Bruce said. When the ballots were counted, we (Bruce and Milt may be thinking, “What do you mean, we?”) lost to Chuck Crayne’s bid.

(2) OKORAFOR Q&A. NPR’s Weekend Edition spoke with Nnedi Okorafor about her new book: “A Boy Avenges His Murdered Father, With The Help Of A Magical ‘Ikenga'”.

On whether the themes in the book were inspired by present-day corruption

I started writing this in 2009. … What we’re dealing with now in the United States, it’s not something that just happened. It’s been been going, and going, and going, and if we’re talking about Nigeria, Nigeria has been battling corruption for a very long time as well. … I couldn’t say that it was inspired by current events, but its connection to current events is certainly no accident.

On having a more global perspective

It was like I grew up hybrid — this hybrid culture where … I’m learning about two different histories and blending them together. And so when I sat down to write, that’s what naturally came forth. … When it comes to looking at things historically, I look at it in a very broad, global way. Everything that happens, you know, I’m making connections not just from one country, but from two countries.

(3) CLARION WEST. The Clarion West Write-a-Thon reached new heights:

…We set a new record as 542 individual writers participated, with nearly 250 active regulars bonding and sharing writing on our Slack channel. We are so proud and grateful!

In all, we raised over $26,000, surpassing our goal and ensuring we can continue to bring the Clarion West resources and experience to the world. Going online with so many classes, most of them free, was a huge investment. We can say without doubt that this investment has paid off!

(4) BUG NIGHT. Clarion West will be hosting a free online event with Seanan McGuire and an entomologist. Register at the link.

Saturday, Sept 12, 6:00 PM Pacific

Insects, Arachnids, and Fellow Travelers, a.k.a “Bug Night”

Join us for a conversation with award-winning author Seanan McGuire and entomologist Kristie Reddick to discuss how science fiction and fantasy use bugs as proxies for aliens, societies, fears, and hopes. From Alien to Ant Man, Starship Troopers to James and the Giant Peach, what do all these stories have to tell us about being human?

Register here. This event is free to view online. Purchase a ticket to join the live Q&A after the event. Limited higher-tier tickets also get you books and other goodies for supporting Clarion West!

(5) RECONVENE AFTER ACTION REPORT. Mlex tells what it was like to virtually attend “reCONvene 2020”, and has quotes from some of the panels.

…reCONvene has now assembled and accomplished a hybrid version of the other cons I attended. And they did it really well!

The format of reCONvene was to set up a series of simultaneous program items, so that you could only attend one out of several that were happening during any given hour. This is the typical parallel programming style of most cons, so it had a natural feel to it. Since the con was a one-day event, this meant that between the hours of 11am to 5pm, you could attend six full panels sessions, at most. Or, if you are the sort to go in and out of rooms during a con, you could pop around and get a flavor for the multiple things going on.

Glimpsing Climate Recovery

Vincent Dougherty (moderator)
Vandhana Singh

Vandhana Singh started off the session by noting that the looming threat of climate change is not being met with the serious measures it requires. On the contrary, the collective juggernaut of humankind is colliding with it head on.

VandhanaIt’s a so called ‘normal’ way of behavior that brought us here. People are so invested in what feels normal for them, their denial kicks in, and they want to do the same things they have always done in the same way. I really didn’t realize the depth to which the current paradigm has a hold on our imaginations. And you can also see the predicted rise of right-wing groups actually taking place before our very eyes.

VinceIn any complex system you not only get the linear effect, but you get all sorts of unexpected outcomes that radiate out in different directions. There’s an established body of climate fiction that deals with these actually. There were archetypes of them even before the 20th century. And each of these stories attempts to deal with the inexplicable change that suddenly occurs. These could be brought on by wars, pandemics, or even the use of agriculture. Historically all of these, and many other factors, have been proven to be causes of total systemic changes. So, what do you think you are going to change in your fiction writing due to this situation that we find ourselves in?

(6) JUDGE EAST OF THE PECOS. Adam Roberts tells The Guardian’s readers about a book that pleased him: “Mordew by Alex Pheby review – an extravagant, unnerving fantasy”.

…I’m one of the judges for the 2020 World Fantasy award and over the last few months I’ve read literally hundreds of fantasy titles, some good, some bad, most mediocre. I might easily have groaned at yet another entry into this overcrowded mode. But Mordew is a darkly brilliant novel, extraordinary, absorbing and dream-haunting. That it succeeds as well as it does speaks to Pheby’s determination not to passively inhabit his Gormenghastly idiom but instead to lead it to its most extreme iteration, to force inventiveness and grotesqueness into every crevice of his work. It seems that one way to take an apparently exhausted idiom and make it new is just to push through, with enough imaginative energy to refresh the tired old tropes. Mordew is so crammed with grotesque inventiveness that it overwhelms the reader’s resistance.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 23, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks starring Peter Cushing premiered in the U.K. Note that  it was not Who canon as, though it used The Daleks serial script by Terry Nation from the series as its basis, The Doctor here is not part of the regenerations accepted by the BBC. Roberta Tovey as Susan and Jennie Linden as Barbara are the other principal cast. It was directed by Gordon Flemyng, and produced by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg from a screenplay by Subotsky. Neither Clute nor anyone else who’s reviewed cared for it or its sequel. A Guardian reviewer several years back said that, “people don’t talk about Dr Who and the Daleks any more.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have the film at a 41% rating. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 23, 1863 – Amélie Rives, Princess Troubetzkoy.  A score of novels (we may claim The Ghost Garden), shorter stories, paintings, plays; three poems in Fantasy & Terror 13 (ed. J.A. Salmonson; published posthumously).  Introduced to Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy (1864-1936) by Oscar Wilde.  Matter by and about her and the Prince in U. Virginia Lib’y Special Collections.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1898 – George Papashvily.  Author, sculptor, inventor.  Fought in Georgian Menshevik Army against Soviet Russians, immigrated here.  Memoir Anything Can Happen (with wife Helen) sold 1.5 million copies, made a motion picture (G. Seaton dir. 1952); five more books.  We may claim “Davit” and “The Khevsouri and the Eshmakie”.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1924 – Lloyd Birmingham.  A score of covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Nov 61 Fantastic.  Here is the Feb 62 Analog.  Here is the Apr 62 Amazing and here is the Oct 63.  Here is Great SF 9.  Also comics, freelance illustration.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not one who was a lead actor in any genre series save Department S where he was Jason King but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avengers pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth CenturyFantasy IslandThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsI Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (CE)
  • Born August 23, 1931 Barbara Eden, 89. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors, though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring role as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander. Author of Time after Time which when filmed was directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. (A thirteen-episode series would happen in 2017.) His sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known, nor is his Time-Crossed Lovers novel. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1947 – Marva Dasef, 73.  Technical writer who turned to fiction.  Three novels, twenty shorter stories for us; various others.  Ranked The Martian above Dhalgren.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1961 Alexandre Desplat, 59. French film composer who won an Academy Award for The Shape of Water. He also composed the music for genre films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Golden CompassFantastic Mr. FoxHarry Potter and the Deathly HallowsRise of the Guardians, and Isle of Dogs. (CE)
  • Born August 23, 1969 – Benjamin Rosenbaum, 51.  One novel, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu.  Software developer for Nat’l Science Foundation, for Washington, D.C., city government; built on-line game Sanctum.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1983 – Winston Blake Wheeler Ward, 37.  Founded Infinite Worlds magazine with a Kickstarter raising $3,500 from a hundred people (target $1,500) in Apr 19; five issues so far.  Founder & curator of on-line monthly flash-fiction challenge the Five Hundred.  Loves woodworking and dogs.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1990 Jessica Lee Keller, 30. Lauren, Elise’s Best Friend, in The Adjustment Bureau from Philip K. Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. She also shows up in LuciferTerror Birds and 12-24 where IMDB describes her as the One Tit Zombie. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NOW AT BAT. Warner Bros. dropped a trailer during the DC Fandome for The Batman with Robert Pattinson.

(11) FANTASTICON ONLINE IN SEPTEMBER. Denmark’s “Fantasticon 2020 becomes virtual”.

This year’s Fantasticon will not be “The Weird Fantasticon” at our usual venue, but will be a virtual convention, like most other conventions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The dates will be 5-6 September 2020.

This post has more specifics: “The virtual Fantasticon 2020 – update”

Our plans for Fantasticon 2020 now include the following:

A virtual onetrack program on Zoom Saturday and Sunday 5-6 September from 10 Am to 4 PM.

A Discord server where you can meet the other fans and get information about the convention. Opens 9:30 AM on September 5th and closes 4:30 PM on September 6th.

Please sign up by buying a (free) ticket on Billetfix, https://billetfix.dk/da/e/virtual-fantasticon-2020/ You will get links to Zoom and the Discord server via the email you give us there.

The theme of Fantasticon will be disasters, but not a word about the covid-19 pandemic (we get plenty of info on that particular disaster from other sources). But as usual, not everthing will be about the theme.

Some of the program will be in English, some of it in Danish.

(12) FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE. Texas Monthly caught up with the founder of Romance Writers of America: “Vivian Stephens Helped Turn Romance Writing Into a Billion-Dollar Industry. Then She Got Pushed Out.”

…Stephens is 87 now, under self-imposed lockdown in one of those amenity-rich mid-rise apartment complexes that have sprouted all over Houston, this one just north of Hermann Park, in the Binz area. Her one-bedroom unit is cluttered with papers and stacks of books on nearly every surface. There are many romance novels, yes, as well as more-cerebral tomes such as A Nervous Splendor, a history of Vienna in the late 1880s. Family photographs, some dating back almost to that time, populate a small table in a living room corner….

…  It has long been an open secret—certainly among women of color—that romance publishing has a race problem. A 2014 survey of four thousand romance writers conducted by Larson revealed that authors of color earned about 60 percent less than white writers. In 2019, research conducted by the Ripped Bodice, in Los Angeles, one of the few bookstores in America to sell romance exclusively, revealed that only 8 percent of leading romance publishers had released novels by women of color. And, not incidentally or coincidentally, the membership of the RWA is 86 percent white, according to the latest data. No Black writer had won a RITA—formerly the RWA’s highest honor—until 2019, and not for want of trying….

(13) SAFETY FIRST. Ron Fein delivers the “Arkham Board Of Health Feedback On Miskatonic University’s Draft Plan For A Safe Campus Reopening” at McSweeneys.

Food services

We agree that students need not wear masks during meals. However, please revise the final plan to say “while eating,” rather than “while slobbering and ravening with delight.”

(14) ANOTHER PSA. Even CNN’s headline writer is exasperated: “Oh, great: NASA says an asteroid is headed our way right before Election Day”.

Well, 2020 keeps getting better all the time.

Amid a pandemiccivil unrest and a divisive US election season, we now have an asteroid zooming toward us.

On the day before the presidential vote, no less.

Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.

“Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth. If it were to enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and reports on asteroids of any size.”

(15) SHOOTS AND LEAVES. CNN issues an invitation to “Meet the ‘SlothBot,’ the robot taking its sweet time to monitor our climate”.

…”I could not understand how these slow, tasty animals that are just sitting there waiting to be eaten by a jaguar could survive,” Egerstedt said. “So I started reading about sloths and I got really excited about embracing slowness in robotics. And when you’re measuring things that are evolving over weeks and months, you don’t have to be fast — it’s OK to be slow, as long as you’re out there and getting the job done.”

With this in mind, Egerstedt and several students in his lab came up with the idea to design a robot that could do just that — reach places that humans and most high-powered robots can’t, like a tree canopy, and stay there to monitor environmental changes over time.

To do this, the SlothBot needed to be extremely energy efficient — sloth-like, if you will — to conserve power and continue sampling the air, without having to be lowered down from the trees and recharged….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2016, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum made it possible to “Explore the Museum in Klingon”. Here’s a video based on the outtakes.

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the galaxy’s most popular tourist destinations, and celebrates infinite diversity in infinite combinations among its visitors. Although we are fairly certain there are no longer undercover Klingon agents on staff, we welcome citizens of the planet Kronos to explore the history of flight on Earth alongside our terrestrial visitors.

To help increase Klingon visitorship, we turned to Earth’s premier extraterrestrial linguist and former Smithsonian post-doctoral fellow, Marc Okrand. Okrand developed the Klingon and Vulcan languages for the Star Trek franchise, and was kind enough to translate and record a highlights tour of the Museum, discussing your favorite artifacts in Klingon.

The tour, which can be enjoyed from anywhere on or off the planet, includes six of the Museum’s most iconic artifacts, some of which required creative interpretation for our interstellar audiences. The Spirit of St. Louis became St. Louis toDuj (Mettle of St. Louis), while John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 became “Mercury jup ghom Soch” (“Group of Friends 7”), because there is no Klingonese word for “friendship.”… 

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title cedit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 8/14/20 An Unexpected Afternoon Nap

(1) BIG MONEY IS WATCHING. NPR shows how “Fortnite Uses Apple’s Own ‘1984’ Ad Against It In Dispute Over Payments” — includes both videos for comparison.

Epic Games, the video game developer behind the mega popular online game Fortnite, just posted a video criticizing Apple for removing the game from its App Store. Using imagery directly referencing Apple’s own iconic “1984” ad, Epic Games’s video (titled “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite”) positions Apple as a soulless corporate entity, shouting from a screen and demanding obedience from a black and white crowd. That is, until a woman in color shows up, and throws a Fortnite axe at the screen and shatters it. The following copy reads, “Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984.’”

Epic Games (also being a corporate entity themselves) is making this charge over money. The company introduced a direct payment option within Fortnite to bypass Apple’s 30% fee on in-app purchases. In retaliation, Apple pulled the popular game from its app store. Epic Games responded with both this video, as well as an antitrust lawsuit, alleging that Apple takes anti-competitive actions in order to “unlawfully maintain its monopoly.”

In a statement to The Verge, Apple said that Epic had benefited from the App Store’s ecosystem for years.

“The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users.”

It’s unclear, really, what George Orwell has to do with any of this.

(2) SFF LIMERICKS SOUGHT. Fantasy Literature has opened their “Ninth Annual Speculative Fiction Limerick Contest”.

Your task is to create an original limerick that has something to do with speculative fiction. It could be about a character, a series, an author, or whatever fits the theme. Here are the rules for creating a good limerick (quoting from this source). 

…The author of the limerick we like best wins a book from our stacks or a FanLit T-shirt (sizes avail are S – XL). If you live outside the US, we’ll send a $7 Amazon gift card.

(3) FANS IN THE NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Abha Bhattarai has an article on the online Washington Post titled “Grocery workers say morale is at an all-time low: ‘They don’t even treat us like humans anymore’” in which the title quote comes from Fox Wingate, a 24-year-old who works at Safeway.

I have known Fox since he was a baby.  His parents, Charles Wingate and Melissa Williamson, are long-time members of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society and hosted meetings three times a year until the pandemic.

“At the beginning they valorized what was deemed a dead-end job, but four months later they don’t even treat us like humans anymore,” said Fox Wingate, 24, who works at a Safeway in Maryland.

(4) NEW ZEALAND PUMPS THE BRAKES. Variety explores “What New Zealand’s COVID-19 Curveball Means For Its Booming Hollywood Productions”.

…“Everyone was very gung-ho,” adds the film’s production designer Grant Major of his first day back on set. “We all loved the film, actors and director, so were pumped to get going and do the best job we could.”

That can-do attitude is what will likely tide the industry over despite Tuesday’s late-night announcement that the country will enter a three-day lockdown, which went into effect at midday Wednesday local time. The measures came after Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern confirmed four members of an Auckland family tested positive for COVID-19, acquiring the virus from an unknown source. The cases ended the nation’s 102-day streak of having no new community infections (cases have been limited to the strictly-quarantined border).

While New Zealand dropped to level one — the lowest of a four-level alert system — on June 8, the Auckland region is now on level three restrictions until Friday, meaning residents are asked to work from home, only interact with people in their household “bubble,” and practice social distancing and mask-wearing in public. Filming can continue if strict health and safety protocols are followed.

Several international productions were in pre-production in Auckland at the time of the announcement, including “LOTR,” Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sweet Tooth,” anime adaptation “Cowboy Bebop” and “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” directed by Peter Farrelly. The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) tells Variety that the Auckland projects are now continuing with pre-production, but working from home.

The remainder of the country — including Wellington, where the “Avatar” sequels are filming — has been placed in level two, which encourages mask-wearing and social distancing and allows social gatherings of up to 100 people. Large-scale productions such as “Avatar” can continue under level two screen production rules, such as physical distancing among crew and following recommendations for scenes involving intimacy or fighting….

(5) CHANGES ON THE WAY. “Avatar 2 Will Change Movies Forever” on YouTube is a video from ScreenRant that explains one reason why Avatar 2 is taking so long is that James Cameron is working on a way of shooting motion-capture scenes underwater and may also be coming up with a way to see 3D effects without special glasses.

(6) DEFINING SF. Adam Roberts, in “How I Define Science Fiction” on Neotext says that he defines science fiction by showing the bone and a spaceship from 2001 and that much of the sense of wonder from sf can’t be rationally explained in a definition. However, he also supplies the thousand words that a picture is reputed to be worth. Because, as someone said, “This f***ing job is not that f***ing easy!”   

In those occasions when people ask me to define science fiction, I reference the above. Probably the most famous jump-cut in cinema. You already know the context, so I don’t need to spell it out for you: millions of years BC, an apeman throws a bone into the sky. It flies upward. The camera pans with it, following it a little shakily into the blue sky. The bone reaches its apogee and, just as it starts to fall back down, Kubrick cuts to a shot of a spaceship in orbit in AD 2001.

Now, this seems to me an extremely beautiful and affecting thing, a moment both powerful and eloquent even though I’m not sure I could lay out, in consecutive and rational prose, precisely why I find it so powerful or precisely what it loquates. It is, I suppose, something ‘about’ technology, about the way humans use tools, our habit of intrusively (indeed, violently) interacting with our environments, about the splendor but also the limitation of such tools, the way even a spaceship is, at its core, a primitive sort of human prosthesis. But when you start explaining the cut in those terms you become conscious that you are losing something, missing some key aspect to what makes it work so well.

It works, in other words, not by a process of rational extrapolation, but rather metaphorically. I mean something particular when I say that, and I explain what I mean in detail below; but for now, and to be clear—I’m suggesting this moment actualizes the vertical ‘leap’ from the known to the unexpected that is the structure of metaphor, rather than the horizontal connection from element to logically extrapolated element that is the structure of metonymy. Kubrick’s cut is more like a poetic image than a scientific proposition;——and there you have it, in a nutshell, my definition of science fiction. This genre I love is more like a poetic image than it is a scientific proposition.

Now, if my interlocutor needs more, and if the picture doesn’t make my point, I might add something Samuel Delany-ish: about how science fiction is a fundamentally metaphorical literature because it sets out to represent the world without reproducing it….

(7) RICHARD POWERS SET TO MUSIC. Tomorrow night: “Scott Robinson with Richard Powers: Sat 8/15 at Me, Myself & Eye”.

This Saturday August 15 at 8 PM, multi-instrumentalist phenomenon Scott Robinson will be improvising music to the work of one of his heroes, Richard Powers, whose work graces the covers of all of Scott’s ScienSonic Laboratories releases (which can be seen at www.sciensonic.net). Scott will be sharing from his personal collection of Powers’ work, along with other pieces — some unpublished. These paintings are shown with the kind permission of the artist’s estate. In a nod to the series’ name, for this performance Scott has chosen only works containing an eye!

(8) GOOD THING OR BAD? It’ll be inexpensive, anyway: “AMC to offer 15-cent tickets on first day of reopening”AP News has the story.

AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, will reopen in the U.S. on Aug. 20 with retro ticket prices of 15 cents per movie.

AMC Entertainment, which owns the chain, said Thursday that it expects to open the doors to more than 100 cinemas — or about a sixth of its nationwide locations — on Aug. 20 with throwback pricing for a day.

AMC theaters have reopened in numerous international countries but have remained shuttered in the U.S. since March. The chain touted the reopening as “Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices.”

After several false starts due to a summer rise in coronavirus cases throughout much of the U.S., widespread moviegoing is currently set to resume in late August. Regal Cinemas, the second largest chain, is to reopen some U.S. locations on Aug. 21.

During its opening-day promotion, AMC will show catalog films, including “Ghostbusters,” “Black Panther,” “Back to the Future” and “Grease.” Those older films will continue to play afterward for $5.

AMC confirmed that Disney’s much-delayed “New Mutants” will debut in theaters Aug. 28, with Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” to follow Sept. 3. Warner Bros. is planning to release “Tenet” a week earlier internationally, including in Canada. A handful of smaller new releases are also planned for late August, including “Unhinged,” a thriller from Solstice Studios with Russell Crowe; and Armando Iannucci’s “Personal History of David Copperfield,” from Disney’s Fox Searchlight.

AMC said Thursday is expects about two thirds of its theaters will be open in time for “Tenet.” Several states, including California and New York, are yet to allow movie theaters to reopen.

(9) A SHORT HISTORY WITHOUT TIME. Elisa Gabbert, author of The Unreality of Memory and Other Essays, interrogates “The Unreality of Time” in The Paris Review.

…[John] McTaggart does not use “unreality” in the same way I do, to describe a quality of seeming unrealness in some­thing I assume to be real. Instead, his paper sets out to prove that time literally does not exist. “I believe that time is unreal,” he writes. The paper is interesting (“Time only belongs to the existent” … “The only way in which time can be real is by existing”) but not convincing.

McTaggart’s argument hinges in part on his claim that perception is “qualitatively different” from either memory or anticipation—this is the difference between past, pres­ent, and future, the way we apprehend events in time. Direct perceptions are those that fall within the “specious present,” a term coined by E.?R. Clay and further devel­oped by William James (a fan of Bergson’s). “Everything is observed in a specious present,” McTaggart writes, “but nothing, not even the observations themselves, can ever be in a specious present.” It’s illusory—the events are fixed, and there is nothing magically different about “the pres­ent” as a point on a timeline. This leads to an irresolvable contradiction, to his mind.

Bergson, for his part, believed that memory and percep­tion were the same, that they occur simultaneously: “The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devour­ing the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.” He thought this explained the phenomenon of déjà vu—when you feel something is happening that you’ve experi­enced before, it’s because a glitch has allowed you to notice the memory forming in real time. The memory—le souvenir du présent—is attached not to a particular moment in the past but to the past in general. It has a past-­like feeling; with that comes an impression one knows the future.

(10) LET THE RECORD REFLECT. This typo is from the Loncon 3 (2014 Worldcon) Souvenir Book.

Nobody’s copyediting (outside of File 770’s own) has ever challenged the record left by the ConDiego NASFiC of 1990. Neither a fine speech by pro GoH Samuel Delany, an excellent Masquerade, a well-stocked Dealer’s Room, a top-quality Press Relations department, nor a successful Regency Dance, could divert the avalanche of sentiment which quickly made ConDiego a byword for haphazard convention-running. Not after fans were handed a typo-riddled Program Book which misspelled the hotel’s name, the guests of honors’ names and even the con’s own name – that in headline type: ConDigeo.

(11) BOOK ANNIVERSARY.

  • August 1998 — Delia Sherman and Terri Windling released The Essential Bordertown anthology. (The first one, Elsewhere, would garner a World Fantasy Award.)  A follow-up on the three earlier Borderlands anthologies, it featured such writers as Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Terri Windling doing a Rough Guide of sorts to Bordertown along stories from the likes of Patrica McKillip, Micole Sudbeg, Ellen Steiber , Felicity Savage and Charles de Lint. It would be successful enough that Welcome to Bordertown would come a decade later though the publisher would shift from Tor to Random House. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 14, 1929 Richard Carpenter. Responsible for the simply superb Robin of Sherwood series. He also created Catweazle, the children’s series about an unfortunate wizard from the 11th century who is accidentally transported to the present day. And he was an actor who appeared in such shows as the Sixties Sherlock Holmes series, The Terrornauts film and the Out of the Unknown series as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 80. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis. (CE) 
  • Born August 14, 1932 – Lee Hoffman.  Among our finest fanwriters, and a fanartist who showed with her “lil peepul” that in fandom too – although I never asked her about Buckminster Fuller – one can do more with less.  Had she only done her fanzine Quandry (note spelling; she was also responsible for the famous typo poctsarcd) it would, as the saying goes, have been enough for us.  She also brought forth Science Fiction Five-Yearly, published on time for sixty years, in whose last issue I was proud to be, and on the back cover, even.  Also four novels for us, a dozen shorter stories; among much else a superb Western The Valdez Horses, winning a Spur Award.  At first she appeared only by mail; after we eventually learned she was not male, she was sometimes known as Lee Hoffwoman.  Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1940 – Meade Frierson III.  President, Southern Fandom Confederation 1970-1983.  SF on Radio.  Active in Myriad and SFPA (Southern Fandom Press Alliance).  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon IV, Balticon 11, Coastcon 1978 (with wife Penny).  Rebel Award.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1949 – Pat York.  A dozen short stories.  “Moonfuture Incorporated” in the teachers’ guide Explorer (J. Czerneda ed. 2005); “You Wandered Off Like a Foolish Child to Break Your Heart and Mine” in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2002.  Poem “A Faerie’s Tale” in the 1998 Rhysling Anthology.  Cory Doctorow’s appreciation here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1950 Gary Larson, 70. Ok, setting aside long and delightful career in creating the weird for us, ISFDB notes a SF link  that deserve noting. In the March 1991 Warp as published by the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, he had a cartoon “The crew of the Starship Enterprise encounters the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor”. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1962 – Tim Earls, 58.  Set and concept designer, visual effects art director, for Babylon 5 and Crusade; then VoyagerMission Impossible IIISerenity.  An Earth Alliance Olympus Class Corvette (B5here.  Design for the Borg Central Plexus in “Unimatrix Zero” (Voyagerhere.  Some Serenity sketches here.  IMDb (Internet Movie Database) bio here.  [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga, 55. Writer, producer and creator for the Next GenVoyagerEnterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes than anyone else with one hundred and nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Hugo Award at Intersection for excellence in SF writing, along with Ronald D. Moore. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 54. Her first genre role was not as I thought Miss Stone in The Flintstones but a minor role in a forgotten SF series called They Came from Outer Space. This was followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchiseand Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as the lead in Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1973 Jamie Sives, 47. First, he played Captain Reynolds in a Tenth Doctor story, “Tooth and Claw” where the Doctor encounters Queen Victoria and saves her from a werewolf. Great tale! Second, he had a recurring role as Jory Cassel on A Games of Thrones. His fate like so many there is tragic. And third, he was was Valhalla Rising which is a decidedly oddDanish financed Viking magic realism film. (CE) 
  • Born August 14, 1974 – Raphael Lacoste, 46.  A score of covers, half a dozen interiors; games, films.  Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed for Ubisoft.  Here is The Windup Girl.  Here is Shadow Run.  Here is “Nanthis City”.  Here is “Wind Towers”.  Artbooks WorldsLignes.  Two VES (Visual Effects Society) Awards.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1981 – Karen Healey, 39.  Five novels, as many shorter stories; ten essays in Strange Horizons.  “I wanted to be an astronaut, or possibly a dinosaur-hunting cowgirl…. I was a bit vague on the concept of extinction….  we moved to Oamaru, where my mother’s family has lived for five generations … good for white people in New Zealand … ridiculous in comparison to one’s family being there for a thousand years….  I had this vague idea of becoming a lawyer…. it turned out being a lawyer is not a lot of fun arguing with people and shouting OBJECTION but a lot of boring and distressing paperwork….  applied to the JET [Japan Exchange & Teaching] Programme (even though I had failed second-year Japanese) and went to Japan to teach English for two years…. currently training to be a high school teacher… and, of course, being a novelist.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) MAYBE THE MAP IS THE TERRITORY AFTER ALL.  In The Paris Review, Ivan Brunetti considers “Comics as Place”.

Most comics focus on the actions of a figure, and the narrative develops by following that figure as it moves through its environment, or as it is commonly referred to by cartoonists, who have the often tedious, time-consuming task of actually drawing it, the background. One widely used cartoonist’s trick is to draw/establish the setting clearly and then assiduously avoid having to redraw it in subsequent panels, or at least diminish the number of background details as the sequence progresses. After all, once this setting/background has seeped into the reader’s brain, the reader can and will fill in the gaps. Moreover, sometimes drawing the background would only clutter the composition and distract the reader from the emotional core of the narrative, and so the background might judiciously disappear altogether, having outlived its graphic usefulness, until the next shift in scene.

Robert Crumb’s 1979 “A Short History of America” upends all of the above. It is a small miracle of concision and grace, consisting of a mere twelve panels that span across four pages (of three horizontal panels each) and roughly a hundred and fifty years of history….

(15) FIGHTING FOR WHO YOU LOVE. In the Washington Post, Helena Andrews-Dyer interviews Lovecraft Country star Jonathan Majors, who explains how he interpreted the series’ heroic lead and discusses his other work in The Last Black Man In San Francisco and Da 5 Bloods. “Jonathan Majors is your new American hero”.

The hero’s journey is a circuitous one. After setting out into the great unknown, battling monsters and men, our protagonist inevitably winds up at Point A again, ready to slay whatever Big Bad sent them packing in the first place.

That’s a familiar road for Jonathan Majors, the 30-year-old actor who’s quickly becoming that guy — the one you can’t stop seeing in .?.?. well, everything.He started acting because of a fight in middle school; he had a bunch of big emotions and a blocked vent. Now, a decade and a half later, in his first leading role, Majors is playing the kind of hero his younger self (and the boys he used to “cut up with”) could’ve used. Someone who’s learned how to harness his hard-earned rage for good.

(16) ON FIYAH. Stephanie Alford’s “REVIEW: FIYAH LIT MAGAZINE #13 – OZZIE M. GARTRELL” is short, but more than enough to mak you want to read the story.

In 7,900 words Ozzie M. Gartrell’s The Transition of  OSOOSI  gives us a cyberpunk story of an audacious idea to eradicate bigotry.

(17) HEADS WILL ROLL. Camestros Felapton makes it to the finish line — “I finished the Wolf Hall trilogy” – and shares an insightful review.

…The Tudor period looms large in English national mythology of greatness and Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I are two of the most fictionalised and dramatised British monarchs (Queen Victoria being the third but Elizabeth II is getting higher in the charts I’d imagine). Although I often read Booker prize winners, when Wolf Hall won I was originally uninterested. Another book about Henry and Anne Boleyn? Is there seriously anything new to say about all that? Turns out there was a lot of new things to say about it, and by employing a story people know at least in sketch form, Mantel could focus on an aspect that makes the Tudor period fascinating.

(18) SUPERVERSIVE WAKES. The Superversive SF blog will become active again, led by columnists L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright and John C. Wright.

It has been some time since we have had regular posts on this site, but, God willing, that is all about to change!

In the coming months, we hope to have more posts about Superversive Matters, but we also hope to unveil two new regular columns. I will announce the second column separately, but, before we can begin, the first column needs a name!

The column is to be stories, observations, and insights about the meeting of life and our genres—writing with children; writing with cats (a whole subject in itself!); sharing your favorite books, shows, and movies with offspring, parents, friends; and other stories of the intersection of reality and fantasy (or science fiction.)

The purpose is to share light and fun stories, as well as poignant or bittersweet ones, about our life and experience as readers and writers of science fiction and fantasy—stories that remind us of our shared experience as human beings as well as our joy in the wonder of our wonderful genre.

The Superversive Press shut down in January (item 13). Since then the blog has mainly been signal boosting authors’ buy-my-book posts.

(19) PALS WHO BITE. NPR learned “Everyone Needs A Buddy. Even Sharks”.

Sharks are often maligned as Hollywood monsters, the lone wolves lurking in the deep, hunting for prey. (Cue Jaws theme song).

But that caricature of sharks is increasingly out of step with what scientists are learning about the animals. Instead, they say, some species of sharks are social creatures who return day after day to a group of the same fellow sharks.

“They form these spatially structured social groups where they hang out with the same individuals over multiple years,” says Yannis Papastamatiou, who runs the Predator Ecology and Conservation Lab at Florida International University.

Papastamatiou’s team studied gray reef sharks populating the waters off Palmyra Atoll, a sunken island ringed by coral reefs, in the central Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian Islands and Fiji. They attached small location transmitters to 41 sharks, which allowed them to track the animals’ movements around the reef. They also outfitted two sharks with small video cameras on their fins, to get what Papastamatiou calls a shark’s-eye view of their daily lives.

After tracking the sharks for four years, the researchers found that the same groupings of sharks — ranging from a couple up to as many as 20 — frequently returned to the same parts of the reef over and over again. They also found that some of the groups stuck together for the duration of the study — longer than previous studies have observed.

(20) HEY, THAT’S A FALSE COLOR! NASA believes the Red Planet is really quite green when considered in the proper light: “NASA’s MAVEN Observes Martian Night Sky Pulsing in Ultraviolet Light”.

Mars’ nightside atmosphere glows and pulsates in this data animation from MAVEN spacecraft observations. Green-to-white false color shows the enhanced brightenings on Mars’ ultraviolet “nightglow” measured by MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph at about 70 kilometers (approximately 40 miles) altitude. A simulated view of the Mars globe is added digitally for context, with ice caps visible at the poles. Three nightglow brightenings occur over one Mars rotation, the first much brighter than the other two. All three brightenings occur shortly after sunset, appearing on the left of this view of the night side of the planet. The pulsations are caused by downwards winds which enhance the chemical reaction creating nitric oxide which causes the glow. Months of data were averaged to identify these patterns, indicating they repeat nightly.

(21) IT’S NOT JUST THE PANDEMIC. The Critic sadly anticipates “The demise of the second-hand bookshop” for several reasons.

In 1973, Graham Greene wrote an introduction to a bookselling friend’s memoir. As Greene was one of the most respected writers of his day, this was no small gesture, but the author was also a committed bibliophile. The book dealer and biographer John Baxter’s memoir A Pound of Paper contains treasurable glimpses of Greene deliberately signing obscure copies of his works in far-off locations, in the certain knowledge that these items would become hugely sought-after rarities, and he remains one of the few serious literary figures who also understood the glamour and romance of the bookselling trade. In his introduction, he openly acknowledged this, writing ‘Secondhand booksellers are the most friendly and most eccentric of all the characters I have known. If I had not been a writer, theirs would have been the profession I would most happily have chosen.’

If Greene was alive today, he would look at his beloved second-hand and antiquarian bookshops with an air of sorrow, leavened with a touch of bewilderment. The recent news that one of Charing Cross’s most famous booksellers, Francis Edwards, was to close after 150 years, maintaining only a presence in Hay-on-Wye, was greeted without the anguish that it might have been otherwise….

(22) MOTHRA CHOW. “First-Ever Godzilla Museum Now Open In Japan”ScreenRant checked out everything, including the thematic food.

The first museum dedicated to Godzilla is open in Japan for a limited time. TOHO launched its official English Godzilla website back in May 2019, complete with a “Monsterpedia” for the kaiju’s friends and foes. One can never overstate the pop culture impact of the Godzilla series. Although the King of the Monsters wasn’t the first giant monster on the big screen, he would headline a long-running franchise, the longest of any movie series to date.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is how the character changed over time. He went from being a grim allegory for the nuclear bomb to a Japan-saving hero, not unlike Ultraman. As a franchise, Godzilla has ventured into multimedia. He has battled the Avengers in a Marvel comic and even received his own version of Jenga. For a limited time, fans can enjoy the franchise in a museum format.

(23) MEET THE PARENTS OF THE YEAR.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Points for sneaking Newton’s third law in there.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cliff, John Hertz, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credt goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/20 Look Around You… Can You Fashion Some Sort Of Rudimentary Lathe Of Heaven?

(1) IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME. Steven James “op-ed from the future” for the New York Times, “Criminals Should Serve Their Sentences Psychologically”, explains how that would work. (It’s part of a series in which sff authors and others write Op-Eds that “they imagine we might read five, 10, 50 or even 200 years from now.”)

…It’s time that we stop allowing our justice system to hand out sentences that we know a person cannot possibly serve. Imagine spending two thousand years in solitary confinement. That’s what we’re currently sentencing people to — we just don’t expect the prisoner to be alive to serve it. It has been argued that we should sentence someone for each crime committed (hence the 50-year sentences for every murder) to ensure that all victims’ families receive justice. I agree. The victims and their families deserve to see justice carried out. But these meaninglessly long sentences aren’t justice — they’re a mockery of it.

Yes, those who commit such abhorrent crimes deserve to be punished. And yes, they deserve to serve the entire sentences that they’re given. Otherwise, our criminal justice system would either be giving perpetrators prison terms that no one intends them to serve or sentences that could only be completed if they lived for thousands of years — neither of which is a rational pursuit of justice. We know that a person cannot live for dozens or hundreds of lifetimes, but what if they could perceive themselves to have lived that long? What if they could have the perception that thousands of years have passed?

(2) DONALDSON REDISCOVERED. What Adam Roberts thinks about “Stephen Donaldson, “The War Within” (2019)”, at Sibilant Fricative (found via Ansible Links.)

…The selling point of Lord Foul’s Bane, back in the day, was the way it elaborated a charming, hippyish Tolkienian fantasy realm (called ‘The Land’) only to flag-up horriblenesses of a kind Tolkien would never countenance—for example, Thomas Covenant, leperous visitor from our world and the series protagonist, starts his sojourn in The Land by raping someone. It was the first intimation of what was to become Grimdark, I suppose, although it would presumably read as thin stuff to today’s more committed and Sadean Grimdarkster.

The other notable thing about Donaldson was his prose, what David Langford somewhere calls his ‘knurred and argute vocabulary’, an attempt to elevate the idiom of Fantasy that crashes precipitously into the ceiling of the Ludicrous: ‘they were featureless and telic, like lambent gangrene. They looked horribly like children’ [White Gold Wielder] and the like.

…Now, though, Donaldson has stepped back from such gaudier excesses of style. Both volumes of his new Fantasy series, The Great God’s War [Seventh Decimate (2017) and The War Within (2019)] are written in a markedly plainer prose, a gambit in which the advantage of not being actively fucking ridiculous must be balanced against the disadvantage of positive dullness. Swings, we might say, and roundabouts, although in this instance there are rather more roundabouts than swings.

(3) TWO TO TWAIN UP. I linked to Lionel’s Star Trek train in January, but courtesy of Andrew Porter here’s a much better set of images to show what makes them entertaining.

This year, Lionel wanted to Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before” and offer an out-of-this-world line of iconic Star Trek offerings! Whether you are a lifetime Star Trek fan, or new to the fandom, our Star Trek LionChief Set and add on cars are sure to be some of the most classic pieces on your layout. Let your true Star Trek heart “Live Long and Prosper,” and don’t miss out on these amazing offerings.

(4) RECAP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Magicians S5E12: “Fillory’s Extraordinary Playlist” aired March 25 on Syfy.

(Actual title, “The Balls”) Not the final-final episode quite yet – this is the penultimate, with the season and series finale scheduled for April 1, 2020 — but this is the last musical episode. In this episode, as an unintended/unexpected side-effect of a group communications spell to aid in planning a heist, the gang periodically “goes full Glee,” with (unlike in Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist) all the under-the-influencers aware of what’s going on.

I’m only partway (and one musical number) into the episode so far, FWIW.

(5) ONE FIRST AFTER ANOTHER. Here’s video of Joe Siclari’s conversation with legendary First Fandom Hall of Famer Bob Madle at Philcon in 2013, via Fanac.org.

A science fiction reader and fan since the early 1930s, Bob Madle has been a part of the SF field for almost 90 years. He has done it all – he’s pubbed his ish, worked on conventions, been a TAFF fan fund winner, a worldcon Fan Guest of Honor, and one of the best known book dealers in science fiction. His encyclopedic command of the field is legendary. Bob is the one that named the Hugos (and he talks here about how the awards came to be). In this 2013 interview by fan historian Joe Siclari, Bob talks about it all, from his first entry into fandom to his experiences across the years.

(6) PENDERECKI OBIT. Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, whose original instrumental music was used in such genre films as The Exorcist and The Shining, has died at the age of 86. The Syfy WIRE tribute promises, “Even if his name doesn’t sound all that familiar, you’ve almost certainly heard his work in a famous movie before.”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 29, 1968 Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history. It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series but that never happened. Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Vetri, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 29, 1930 John Astin, 90. He is best-known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. 
  • Born March 29, 1938 Barry Jackson. I’ve been good, with not a Doctor Who performer in several days, so now you’ll  get one. Or maybe several if I’m feeling generous. He appeared in the series during the time of the First Doctor, in “The Romans” and in “Mission to the Unknown” which served as a prelude to “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. He would also played Drax, a school pal of the Doctor, in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor.“ (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 77. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel.
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased the movie rights to her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 29, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 70. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in  GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film.
  • Born March 29, 1955 Marina Sirtis, 65. Counselor Deanna Troi in the Trekverse. Waxwork II: Lost in Time as Gloria is her true genre film role followed shortly by a one-off on the The Return of Sherlock Holmes series as Lucrezia. And then there’s her mid Nineties voice acting as Demona on Gargoyles, possibly her best role to date. Skipping some one-offs on various genre series, her most recent appearance was on Picard where she and Riker are happily married.
  • Born March 29, 1956 Mary Gentle, 64. Her trilogy of Rats and GargoylesThe Architecture of Desire and Left to His Own Devices is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. I also highly recommend her Grunts! novel. Gamers particularly will love it. She has a cyberpunk novel, Left To His Own Devices, but I’ve not read it. Who here has read it? 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 63. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love. We did do an entire edition at Green Man on her and I need to update it to the present site. It’s got a neat conversation with her on what her favorite foods are. 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Yolande Palfrey. Yes, another Doctor Who performer. She was Janet in “Terror of the Vervoids”, a Sixth Doctor story. She was also in Dragonslayer as one of its victims, She was Veton in the “Pressure Point” episode of Blake’s 7 and she shows as Ellie on The Ghosts of Motley Hall series. She died far too young of a brain tumor. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 52. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. Let’s just say that her acting may not have been why folks watched those latter series to see her. 

(9) THINKING ABOUT OUR FRIEND, MICHAEL J. WALSH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A character in the episode of The Frankie Drake Mysteries I saw yesterday was named “Michael Walsh.”  In the episode, first broadcast in Canada in 2018. Walsh was an authenticator at the Field Museum who was sent to Toronto to verify a rare piece of Incan pottery, except he was killed and someone pretending to be Walsh was going to show up and replace the real piece of pottery with a fake.

Such lines as “Michael Walsh is running the con” reminded me that renowned Baltimore fan Michael Walsh has chaired Worldcons and World Fantasy Cons.  My favorite line was “I want you to know that Michael Walsh is tucked away at the Bethany Funeral Home.”

(10) FROM NANO TO STAYHO. “StayHomeWriMo Rallies Writers”Poets & Writers has the link.

Writers around the globe are gathering—virtually—to raise their spirits and keep creating through an initiative called StayHomeWriMo. Sponsored by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the organizers of the annual November write-a-thon in which authors pen a novel draft in a month, StayHomeWriMo invites writers to find comfort in their creativity and stay inside while the battle with COVID-19 continues.

The initiative launched on March 23 and will run “as long as it’s relevant,” says National Novel Writing Month’s executive director, Grant Faulkner. Each day writers can participate by visiting the StayHomeWriMo website or its social media channels for a daily checklist of four activities.

(11) STAY IN TOUCH. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron has a mission: “In these times of Covid-19 isolation we create online live sessions to explore interesting topics with interesting people.” Read descriptions and participant lists of planned offerings here.

(12) FREE MONTH-OF-STREAMING ACCESSES UPDATE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A growing number of channels/streaming sites are offering free shows or months. Here’s key info from The Boston Globe’s TV Critic Corner, “Free trials give you access to TV’s best, updated March 25, 2020)” (March 26, 2020 in the paper edition)

Some of this info and offers may not necessarily be new. (It’s a paywalled site, so I’m conveying the essential info)

Note: Probably they all require you to create and account and provide a credit card number. Based on pre-C experiences, I suggest that if you don’t plan to continue a subscription, do the cancellation by the end of Week 3, to allow the site’s processing time to digest your “thanks but don’t start charging me.”

Consider doing the cancel like a day after you sign up (but read the rules first). For example, according to The Verge, “CBS also allows you to cancel the plan immediately and still use the entire month…To do that, head over to the CBS All Access account page, scroll down to the ‘Subscription’ line of the ‘Subscription & Billing’ section, and hit ‘Cancel Subscription.'”

I’m including some of my own what-to-watch suggestions. (My apologies if I mis-remember what’s where.)

  • Netflix: Lost In Space.
  • Amazon: Bosch (from Michael Connolly’s books). The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Glow. The Boys. The Expanse.
  • CBS All Access (Free access through April 23, if I understand correctly, use “GIFT”, see https://t.co/i2IfFQN3I8 for more.) Star Trek: Picard. Star Trek: Discovery. The Good Fight (all 3 seasons) and more.
  • ACORN TV (Code FREE30): Murdoch Mysteries. Miss Fisher Mysteries (including the just-released Miss F movie.)
  • AMC’s Shudder (Code “SHUTIN” — scary and horror stuff, apparently.

(13) BEWARE PICARD SPOILERS. Interesting posts abound analyzing the conclusion of Picard’s first season. It’s possible that even quoting their headlines is too much – so YOU ARE WARNED!

(14) STAR TREK REVIVAL. This video should be safer – surely you’ve seen all these movies by now. (Or if you haven’t, won’t give a hoot.) “The Story of Star Trek’s Miraculous Resurrection – Movies with Mikey.”

Stardate 47634.44- Mikey discusses the resurrection of Star Trek after the cancellation of TOS, and examines all 6 of the original films.

(15) ‘BOY BRADBURY. Those who didn’t read Playboy for the articles may have missed these:

(16) AUCTION BLOCKAGE? Will the epidemic dampen interest in Profiles in History’s “The Alex Raymond Flash Gordon Auction”? The Hollywood Reporter questioned Profiles CEO Joe Maddalena, who says they’re moving into “uncharted territory.” “‘Flash Gordon’ Comic Strip Auction to Test Collectors Interest During Coronavirus Crisis”.

The pencil and ink art by Alex Raymond, the creator of the strip, is expected to sell in the range of $400,000 to $600,000 but its historical significance could push it higher.

Or at least it could have. With America now in the throes of the pandemic, auction houses don’t know how collectors are feeling.

“I could have seen this go for a million but now I don’ t know,” says Profiles CEO Joe Maddalena. “In the last 30 days the world has changed. We’re truly in uncharted territory.”

There is some sign for optimism. Last week, Heritage Auctions saw a rare 1933 poster for Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man sell for $182,000, with spirited bidding that exceeded the initial estimates of $125,000.

(17) A LONG, LONG, TIME AGO RIGHT NOW. If you’re still looking for something to help you fill the idle hours… In the Washington Post, David Betancourt gives a definitive chronology of all the Star Wars movies, animations, comics, and TV shows, including what you should watch between episodes two and three and where the Star Wars comics fit in the grand scheme. “The ultimate guide to your Star Wars binge”.

…Now, when a lot of us are spending more hours indoors than ever, we have the entirety of the Star Wars entertainment catalogue at our fingertips. And with a new season of “The Mandalorian” not coming until this fall, revisiting the finer moments of this far away galaxy with a good stream or two doesn’t seem like the worst idea. Especially if your viewing of “The Rise of Skywalker” felt like a disturbance in The Force….

(18) GOODNIGHT FILE. Tuck yourself in and listen to “’Goodnight Moon’ as read by LeVar Burton to Neil deGrasse Tyson.” Arranged by @Audible,

(19) FUTURE READS. And there are other pleasures in store for followers of LeVar Burton Reads. “Neil Gaiman Gives LeVar Burton ‘Blanket Permission’ to Read His Stories Online”CBR.com has the story.

When Star Trek actor LeVar Burton took to Twitter to explain his fruitless efforts in trying to find public domain short stories to read to audiences at home, superstar scribe Neil Gaiman answered the call.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/7/20 Code 7-7-0 PSF: Pixel, Scroll, File

(1) READ THESE. BBC’s Culture assembled a list of “The most overlooked recent novels” – “Eight acclaimed authors reveal their favourite hidden gems outside the literary canon.” There are several sff writers among the respondents, and sff books among their recommendations.

Helen DeWitt writes: “In the summer of 1994 I was in despair. It seemed to me that books were predictable and unexciting compared with the astonishing variety and inventiveness of art – why bother with a novel? Mooching glumly around a museum bookshop, I came across a book plastered with raves by the likes of Anthony Burgess. I opened to the first page and read: ‘On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs…’ It was like nothing I’d ever seen. Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker is set on a post-apocalyptic post-British landmass thousands of years after a nuclear holocaust. All scientific knowledge has been lost, but its traces linger on in a loss-marked language which repurposes the mangled terms to mythology. The book had come out in 1980 to acclaim; I’d never heard of it. And yet this extraordinary book seemed to me to be the equal of The Waste Land; it was embarrassing to have to recommend it to people, as if one were to go about saying ‘I’ve just discovered this amazing poem by someone called TS Eliot.’”

Hoban was an American who lived in Britain. He wrote across genres: fiction, the fantastic, poetry, children’s literature. Anthony Burgess said of Riddley Walker: “This is what literature was meant to be.” Max Porter (see below) has called it a “stone-cold classic”.

(2) MAGIC INSIDE. Below, Paste TV Editor Allison Keene and Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson offer “An Appreciation of The Magicians”. (A show in its last season, it was announced very recently.)

Naturally, there are friends and enemies and Big Bads along the way, and plenty of fast-moving plot points, but one of the things that has made the show so unique and worthy is that it addresses mental health issues in thoughtful, compelling ways, and how that colors the experiences of the cast (which includes Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, and Summer Bishil). And that—even in a world with magic—magic doesn’t necessarily solve everything.

(3) TICKETS TO RIDE. Take that extra weight out of your wallet and you might get off the ground: “There Are 2 Seats Left for This Trip to the International Space Station” reports the New York Times.

If you have tens of millions of dollars to spare, you could as soon as next year be one of three passengers setting off aboard a spaceship to the International Space Station for a 10-day stay.

On Thursday, Axiom Space, a company run by a former manager of NASA’s part of the space station, announced that it had signed a contract with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, for what might be the first fully private human spaceflight to orbit.

“I think you’ll see a lot more energy in the market as people come to realize it’s real, and it’s happening,” said Michael T. Suffredini, the president and chief executive of Axiom.

The spaceflight, Axiom officials said, could take off as soon as the second half of 2021.

SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon capsule for taking NASA astronauts to and from the space station. But just as the company’s development of its Falcon 9 rocket for taking cargo to the space station led to a vibrant business of launching commercial satellites, SpaceX is also looking to expand Crew Dragon passengers beyond just NASA astronauts.

(4) IT’S A THEORY. Everybody who ever wrote a plague story seems to be getting a feature article this month. Adam Roberts wrote this one for The Guardian: “Fever dreams: did author Dean Koontz really predict coronavirus?” Koontz is just one of many sff writers he references.

According to an online conspiracy theory, the American author Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus outbreak in 1981. His novel The Eyes of Darkness made reference to a killer virus called “Wuhan-400” – eerily predicting the Chinese city where Covid-19 would emerge. But the similarities end there: Wuhan-400 is described as having a “kill?rate” of 100%, developed in labs outside the city as the “perfect” biological weapon. An account with more similarities, also credited by some as predicting coronavirus, is found in the 2011 film Contagion, about a global pandemic that jumps from animals to humans and spreads arbitrarily around the globe.

But when it comes to our suffering, we want something more than arbitrariness. We want it to mean something. This is evident in our stories about illness and disease, from contemporary science fiction all the way back to Homer’s Iliad. Even malign actors are more reassuring than blind happenstance. Angry gods are better than no gods at all….

(5) ANTEBELLUM. Coming to theaters April 24, 2020: “‘Antebellum’ Trailer Turns Back the Clock to Tease Future Horror”The Hollywood Reporter frames the visuals.

To the surprise of no one paying attention to her for the past few years, Janelle Monáe is the future — but the question at the heart of the first trailer for upcoming horror movie Antebellum is, what if she was also the past, as well …?

Monáe plays author Veronica Henley, a figure who finds herself seemingly trapped in the past, or a terrifying recreation of it, and forced to discover the truth behind her experience before it’s too late.

(6) SCOOB TRAILER. The final trailer dropped – movie arrives in theaters May 14.

The first full-length animated Scooby-Doo adventure for the big screen is the never-before told stories of Scooby-Doo’s origins and the greatest mystery in the career of Mystery Inc. “SCOOB!” reveals how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures shared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this global “dogpocalypse,” the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

(7) HATCHER OBIT. Kate Hatcher, Chair of SpikeCon (2019 NASFiC/Westercon 72) died March 5, reportedly of complications of pneumonia. Her conrunning experience also included Westercon 67, LTUE, Westercon 70, 71 (tech), and as staff on Worldcon 76 and LTUE 2018. David Doering, who worked with her on several of these conventions, says: “She always gave 110% to Fandom and will be sorely missed.”

Kate Hatcher and Kevin Roche on stage at Worldcon 76.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 7, 1980 — The Brave New World film premiered on NBC. (It would show on BBC as well.) It was adapted from the novel by Aldous Huxley by Robert E. Thompson and Doran William Cannon, and was directed by Burt Brinckerhoff. It starred Kristoffer Tabori, Julie Cobb and Budd Cort. You can see it here. Strangely it has no ratings at Rotten Tomatoes, not very much of a web presence. You can watch it here.
  • March 7, 1988 — The Probe series premiered. It was created by Michael I. Wagner and  Isaac Asimov as a sort of live action version of Jonny Quest. Wagner wrote the two-hour pilot, and became Executive Producer for the series. Parker Stevenson had the lead in the series and Ashley Crow was his secretary. It was a mid-season replacement that wasn’t renewed and thus lasted but six episodes. You can see the first half of the pilot here. There’s a link to the second half on that YouTube page.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1873 J. D. Beresford. Now remembered for his early horrors and SF stories including The Riddle of The Tower which was co-written with Esme Wynne-Tyson. He was a keen admirer of Wells, and wrote the first critical study of him in 1915, coincidentally called H. G. Wells: A Critical Study. The latter is free at the usual digital suspects and his fiction ranges from free to reasonably priced there.  (Died 1947.)
  • Born March 7, 1905 Beatrice Roberts. Her most notable role was that of Queen Azura in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, a 1938 serial which you can see the beginning of here. She also shows up in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man as Varja the Barmaid, and she’s a Nurse in The Invisible Man’s Revenge. (Died 1970.)
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 76. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013.  He’s also an accomplished author with more than a dozen to his name. I know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now. 
  • Born March 7, 1945 Elizabeth Moon, 75. Since I’m not deeply read in her, I’ll let JJ have her say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them.   But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly,’ but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.”
  • Born March 7, 1949 Pat Mills, 71. He is best remembered for creating the 2000 AD zine and playing a major role in the development of Judge Dredd. He has also written two Eighth Doctor audio plays, “Dead London” and “The Scapegoat” for Big Finish Productions. 
  • Born March 7, 1954 Elayne Pelz, 66. She is a member of LASFS (and officer) and SCIFI who worked on myriad cons, mainly in art show and treasury.  She was married to famous SF fan Bruce Pelz and assumed leadership of Conagerie, the 2002 Westercon, upon Bruce’s death and the con was held successfully. She was the Chair of Loscon 20.
  • Born March 7, 1965 E. E. Knight, 55. I’d swear I should know this author but he’s not ringing even a faint bell. He’s written two series, Vampire Earth and Age of Fire. What do y’all know about him? 
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 50. Though better known for The Mummy films which I really, really love, and her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • When a sff movie literally delivers what its title promises, you get something like this installment of Lio.

(11) SHAT’S PROPERTY SETTLEMENT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Juli Gugliemi, in the People story “William Shatner Will Get ‘Horse Semen’ For Animal Breeding in Divorce Settlement”, says that while his ex-wife, Elizabeth Shatner, gets most of the horses in the divorce, Shatner gets two horses and all the horse semen the horses have produced for breeding new horses.

I confess, having “horse semen” in a headline about Shat is the greatest Shat story since the time he dropped trousers while going through airport security and “the captain’s log was clearly visible.”

As for their shared property, William will keep their Studio City home and Three Rivers ranch in California. However, they’ve agreed to let Elizabeth visit the ranch to “occasionally harvest fruit” and visit the graves of her first husband and several horses.

Elizabeth also gets their homes in Malibu Cove and Versailles, Kentucky.

(12) EFFECTIVE FX. The Maltin on Movies podcast interviews “John Dykstra”.

Three-time Oscar winner John Dykstra may go down in history as the man who devised the Light Saber for Star Wars, but that’s just one achievement in a lengthy career in visual effects. In fact, he helped usher in the modern era of fx and has adapted to digital sleight-of-hand…but he misses the scrappy days when he built actual models and then blew them up! His credits range from Spider-man and Stuart Little to Quentin Tarantino’s last four films. Best of all, from Leonard and Jessie’s point of view, he has retained his youthful enthusiasm and is exceptionally articulate about his work. 

(13) MEMORY, ALL ALONE IN THE MOONLIGHT. CBR.com lists its candidates for the “10 Most Memorable Anime Cats”.

For some reason, cats are major staples of the anime world. It is “neko” this and “neko” that. The answer may be the same reason that the internet itself is obsessed with cats. They are cute, have strong personalities, and can go from mysterious to totally goofy in an instant….

8 Artemis And Luna From Sailor Moon

Technically Luna and Artemis are not cats. They are aliens from a planet called Mau. Luna even has a human form in the anime. However, they will always be truly remembered as cats. They are pretty cute cats too and really played a part in the trope that magical girls have animal companions/mentors.

Luna and Artemis eventually get romantically involved, which is proved by having a kitten together. However, there is one part of the anime where Luna fell in love with a human man.

(14) HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Rich Horton shares his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2020” with Strange at Ecbatan readers. His section on Best Fan Writer begins —

I’ll reiterate my admiration for John Boston and John O’Neill. John Boston’s most publicly available recent stuff is at Galactic Journey, where he reviews issues of Amazing from 55 years ago, month by month. (It will be noted, perhaps, that I also review issues of Amazing from the same period, at Black Gate.) John’s work there is linked by this tag: http://galacticjourney.org/tag/john-boston/.

As for John O’Neill, of course his central contribution is as editor of Black Gate, for which he writes a great deal of the content, often about, “vintage” books he’s found on Ebay or at conventions, and also about upcoming fantasy books.

Another Black Gate writer, and fan writer in general, who did great work last year was Steven Silver, particularly his “Golden Age Reviews”.

Rich adds some kind words for File 770, much appreciated, but remember I have withdrawn myself and the zine from further Hugo consideration.

(15) AROUND THE BLOCH.  Cora Buhlert calls our attention to another Retro-Hugo eligible story in “Retro Review: ‘Iron Mask’ by Robert Bloch”. BEWARE SPOILERS. It was the cover story in an issue of Weird Tales, for which Margaret Brundage did the artwork.

“Iron Mask” is a novelette by Robert Bloch, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Weird Tales and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found online here.

(16) THE BOY WONDER TURNS 80. The New York Times looks at “Batman and His Many Robins”:

Robin, a.k.a. the Boy Wonder, celebrates his birthday this week: He made his debut in Detective Comics No. 38 on March 6, 1940, and he and Batman became nearly inseparable in the war on crime. But while Bruce Wayne has nearly always worn Batman’s cowl, there have been many different characters behind Robin’s mask. Here is a look at some of the men and women who have called themselves Robin.

 1940

Dick Grayson

First and foremost is Dick Grayson. Like Batman, Dick lost his family to crime. His parents, circus acrobats, were casualties in a mob-protection racket. Batman (Bruce Wayne) trained Dick to help bring the culprit to justice. The two orphans were a positive influence on each other.

(17) WHO SEASON 12 VERDICT. Whatever others may say, RadioTimes Huw Fullerton thinks fans should be pleased: “Doctor Who series 12 review: ‘A big step up’”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Doctor Who’s 12th modern series brought a darker, more personal storyline for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, more characterisation for her companions (even if the show still wasn’t entirely successful on this front), interesting new takes on old-school series elements and delved more deeply into Doctor Who lore than would have been thought possible in 2018.

Really, looking at the bare facts of the latest series, Chris Chibnall almost couldn’t have done more to address fans’ basic wishes after series 11.

When we consulted Whovians in 2019 about what changes they’d like to see in series 12, they asked for “more two-parters, long episodes and cliffhangers,” a proper series arc, the return of old monsters, more cold opens, a comeback for John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness, a darker side to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and more background for her companions Graham, Ryan and Yaz (played by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill).

(18) A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION. FastCompany tells “How Wikipedia’s volunteers became the web’s best weapon against misinformation”. “My ass,” responds Cat Eldridge, who submitted the link.  

Amid the chaos of partisan battles, epistemic crises, and state-sponsored propaganda, it’s nice to think that good-hearted people who care about a shared reality could defeat all the b.s. out there. And there’s so much of it. If 2016 was the debut of a new kind of information war, this year is promising to be something like the darker, more expensive sequel. Yet while places like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter struggle to fend off a barrage of false content, with their scattershot mix of policies, fact-checkers, and algorithms, one of the web’s most robust weapons against misinformation is an archaic-looking website written by anyone with an internet connection, and moderated by a largely anonymous crew of volunteers.

(19) AND A HEARTY HI-YO SILVER. “Betelgeuse: Astronomers determine the reason for strange dimming of far-away star”Inverse has the story.

…The red giant star is on its way to recovery, regaining its brightness and crushing the hopes of astronomers everywhere who wanted to witness a supernova unfold in our skies.

But while astronomers are no longer wishing upon the star to explode, Betelgeuse’s dimming has left them wondering what may have caused this odd behavior in the first place.

The findings suggest Betelgeuse’s signature bright light was temporarily blocked from our view by material shed by the star, in the form of a cloud of dust.

The study is based on observations of Betelgeuse taken on February 14, 2020, at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. There, astronomer Philip Massey, an astronomer with Lowell Observatory, and co-author of the new study, and his colleagues had their instruments trained on Betelgeuse to get a reading on the star’s average surface temperature. The reason? If Betelgeuse was truly dimming, its surface would be cooler than usual.

(20) CAT WIDE AWAKE ON SFF.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Mlex, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]