Pixel Scroll 7/28/23 I’m Sure Painting Pixels The Color Of Stars Was Considered A Good Idea

(1) KUANG CONSIDERS ONLINE BOOK COMMUNITIES. “I don’t choose books based on the aggregate rating as if they are skincare products, nor do I think any critical verdict is the final one,” Rebecca F. Kuang tells Guardian readers in “Goodreads is right to divide opinions, wrong to boil them down”.

…Which brings us to what has been dubbed “review-bombing” by the New York Times – that is, critical pile-ons that can derail a book before it releases. Frankly, authors have been sighing and shrugging about this for years. It’s unclear whether Goodreads can make any meaningful fixes, or whether they have any incentive to. Authors have limited options – it rarely ends well when authors barge into spaces meant for readers. So the duty is left to readers to think carefully about how we write and engage with reviews. I am certainly a naive idealist here, but I retain this faith we could wrestle with online toxicity by taking our own arguments seriously before we post them. What purpose does our outrage serve? Who benefits if this book tanks? Who is making claims about this book? What passages do they cite? Do we agree with their interpretation? Are those passages represented in good faith, or are they plucked out of context? For that matter, how many people leaving these reviews have actually read the book?…

(2) DIRDA AT READERCON. [Item by Evelyn C. Leeper.] Michael Dirda, a mainstream reviewer who is also an unabashed science fiction fan, published his Readercon Report in last Thursday’s Washington Post: “At Readercon, print is still king — and thank goodness for that”.

…As its name implies, Readercon focuses on books. Nowadays, many science fiction conventions — not just San Diego Comic-Con and its offshoots — emphasize what one might call spectacle: blockbuster films, television series, video games, cosplay. But at Readercon, print is still king. At the entrance to the booksellers’ room, a little table displayed a memorial photograph of David Hartwell, the most important science fiction book editor of the past 50 years, who died in 2016. It bore the legend “Hero of Readercon.”…

…I also caught up with Gil Roth, literary podcaster and interviewer extraordinaire (check out “The Virtual Memories Show” and his zine, “Haiku for Business Travelers”), and short-story writer Eileen Gunn, who in her earlier years was director of advertising at Microsoft — one of her best-known stories is the appropriately wry “Stable Strategies for Middle Management.” At various times, I bumped into horror writer Scott Edelman, who in his youth worked at Marvel Comics, and exchanged greetings with Paul Witcover, author of that provocative mash-up “Lincolnstein,” and Neil Clarke, editor of the magazine Clarkesworld. During a Saturday night mixer called “Meet the Pros,” I gratefully sipped a gin and tonic with the distinguished anthologist Ellen Datlow and met a dozen young writers….

…My lively Machen panel was moderated by the eminent antiquarian book dealer Henry Wessells and comprised Michael Cisco, a professor at the City College of New York and author of “Weird Fiction: A Genre Study”; the fantasy artist known as The Joey Zone; Hand and me. On the Verne panel, I sat next to Sarah Smith, a novelist and pioneer of hypertext (“King of Space”) who has spearheaded the recovery of my late friend Thomas M. Disch’s long-lost computer game “Amnesia” and brought out its full text and programming notes in the book “Total ‘Amnesia.’”…

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to bite into baklava with Charlie Jane Anders in Episode 203 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Charlie Jane Anders

My guest this time around is Charlie Jane Anders, who’s won the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Lambda Literary, Crawford and Locus Awards. The final volume of her Unstoppable trilogy, Promises Stronger Than Darkness (the first two were Victories Greater Than Death and Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak), was published just shortly before our chat. Her 2016 novel, All the Birds in the Sky, won the Nebula, Locus and Crawford awards. Other books include the Locus Award-winning short story collection Even Greater Mistakes, and the Hugo Award-winning And Never Say You Can’t Survive, about how to use creative writing to get through hard times. Her novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her short story “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.

Charlie Jane is also the co-creator of the transgender mutant hero Escapade, who was introduced in Marvel Voices: Pride 2022, and has been appearing in the long-running comic New Mutants, with Charlie Jane writing. She was a founding editor of io9.com, a blog about science fiction and futurism, and went on to become its editor-in-chief. With former guest of this podcast Annalee Newitz, Charlie Jane co-hosts a podcast about the meaning of science fiction called Our Opinions Are Correct.

We discussed how her childhood fantasy of aliens whisking her away from Earth gave birth to her Unstoppable trilogy, the way writing a YA meant she had to completely change the way she writes, the challenges of bringing a large cast of characters to life while giving them their own inner lives, why she has problems with Clarke’s Third Law but was willing to roll with it for her new trilogy, the difficulties of still being at work on the third book of a trilogy when the first was already in the hands of readers, how growing as a writer means embracing the messiness of the process, her reaction to being called “this generation’s Le Guin,” what she had to learn to be able to write comics, and so much more.

(4) IN THE PINK. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy reviews this summer’s blockbuster in “Barbie: It’s About Time”.

…America Ferrera plays the human whose disaffection for Barbie sets the story in motion, and she gets to deliver a remarkable screed about woman’s role(s) in society that I suspect will be excerpted and quoted for years to come. Ariana Greenblatt is very good as her sullen adolescent daughter.

When I became a father I searched for movies that would show my daughter positive role models, and it was tough going. Barbie makes up for lost time and should warm the hearts of parents and daughters alike—even if the girls don’t get every gag or reference in the script….

(5) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The One-Day Special quiz on Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels is now over: you can see the questions here. There was also a quiz on comic books, which tend to be at least genre-adjacent: Just Images Comic Book Covers.

(6) MEDIA DEATH CULT. Moid Moidelhoff interviews Tim Powers on writing, researching and being friends with Philip K. Dick.

(7) HEAR FROM RAY NAYLER. Alan Bailey and Cat Rambo interviewed Ray Nayler for the If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast.

In this episode, Alan and Cat talk with author Ray Nayler about his novel the Mountain in the Sea, Secular Buddhism, animal behavior, interconnectedness, AI, and much more.

(8) EMMY AWARDS BROADCAST BEING RESCHEDULED. “Emmy Awards Will Be Postponed Because of Actors’ and Writers’ Strikes” reports the New York Times.

The fallout from the Hollywood actors’ and writers’ strikes continues.

The 75th Emmy Awards will be postponed because of the strikes, according to a person briefed on the plans. The ceremony, originally planned for Sept. 18, does not yet have a new date but will most likely be moved to January, the person said.

Emmy organizers are hopeful that would give the Hollywood studios enough time to settle the labor disputes. A new date will be finalized in the next few weeks….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s A Gardening Life.(Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1926 T. G. L. Cockcroft. Genre bibliographer of some note such as The Tales of Clark Ashton Smith, and despite being resident in New Zealand, he was a prolific fanzine contributor and kept in contact with fandom everywhere from an early age. None of his works are currently in-print.  Mike has an excellent look at him here. (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here. (Died 2022.)
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here. I will note that he was a published author having “On Conquered Earth” in If, December 1967 as edited by Frederik Pohl. I don’t think it’s been republished since. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: “The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard”, “The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul” and “The Case of the Vanished Vampire”. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 57. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. Dixon and Lackey are the CoNZealand’s Author Guests of Honour.
  • Born July 28, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 54. For my money his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably.

(10) HOWARD THE DUCK TURNS 50. In November, Marvel will host a birthday blowout for Howard the Duck.

Howard the Duck’s 50th anniversary one-shot will be a giant-sized spectacle that will reunite writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones, the sensational creative team behind Howard’s smash hit and critically acclaimed 2015 ongoing series. …This collection of all-new tales will tackle all the different paths Howard could’ve taken during his offbeat adventures, and pose fascinating questions for this furious fowl’s future! 

 Meet Howard. He’s a hard-boiled P.I. with problems by the duckload. But a cosmic, all-seeing friend(?) known as the Peeper(!) is giving him a chance to see what his life COULD be! The joys he COULD have! All the ways his life COULD suck way less than it does now! In other words: “Whaugh If?”

 Here’s some of the craziness that readers can look forward to:

 Emmy-nominated writer and comedian Daniel Kibblesmith and acclaimed artist Annie Wu put Howard in the Oval Office! Inspired by a classic tale from Steve Gerber and Gene Colan’s 70s’ run, Howard the Duck has been sworn in as President. Find out if how gutsy he is as Commander in Chief when the Earth is invaded by aliens in this startling political satire!

Popular video game designer and writer Merritt K makes her Marvel Comics debut alongside artist Will Robson with a cosmic comedy that sees Howard the Duck leaving the chaos of Earth behind to take over as leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy! Playing Star-Lord is all fun and games for Howard until some of his most iconic classic villains band together to take him out once and for all!

For more information, visit Marvel.com.

(11) RUH-ROH! “Scooby-Doo! and Krypto, Too Release Date Announced”Comicbook.com knows when it is.

Almost a year after a data breach revealed plans for a Scooby-Doo! original movie featuring Krypto the Super-Dog, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has officially announced Scooby-Doo! and Krypto, Too!, a direct-to-home release that will be available in September on Digital, as well as on DVD at Walmart stores in the U.S. The cast list does not immediately reference the Legion of Super-Heroes, who were spotted in screenshots in the 2022 leak, but it seems likely this is the same film. That movie, reportedly titled Scooby-Doo! Meets Krypto, appeared to use character designs from the 2006-2007 Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes show.

Confirmed to appear in Scooby-Doo! and Krypto, Too! are Superman, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Mercy Graves, Joker, Harley Quinn, Solmon Grundy, and Wonder Woman. Tara Strong, who became famous for playing Harley Quinn, will return to the role for the movie.

… The movie will be available in the US to purchase Digitally at retailers everywhere, and on DVD only at Walmart on September 26, 2023 …

(12) BETTER THAN LINEN? “Energy-efficient fabric helps wearers beat heat waves and cold snaps”Physics World has the story.

A new thermoregulating textile keeps its wearers comfortable with a minimal amount of energy input thanks to a conductive polymer that can be modified to adjust how much infrared radiation it sheds. According to the textile’s developers at the University of Chicago, North Carolina State University and Duke University (all in the US), the new “wearable variable-emittance device”, or WeaVE, could be used to make next-generation smart thermal management fabrics.

Many animals are good at manipulating infrared (IR) radiation to heat themselves up and cool themselves down. Saharan silver ants, for example, dissipate excess heat thanks to triangular hairs on their bodies that reflect differing amounts of near-IR rays depending on the position of the Sun. Human bodies, in contrast, absorb and lose heat mainly through IR radiation with a wavelength of 10 microns, and our skin is not capable of controlling this wavelength range in real time to help us regulate body temperature. Researchers  are therefore developing textiles that can do this for us….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Daniel Dern spotted this parody, “Harry Potter But A Barbie Trailer (Barbie Potter)” from SynthCinemaX.

Our new trailer “Harry Potter But A Barbie” (Barbie Potter)! In this amazing fantasy video, you’ll get to see familiar wizards from the world of Harry Potter in unexpected roles. Imagine Robert Downey Jr. as Albus Dumbledore, Ryan Gosling as Ron Weasley, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, and, of course, Daniel Radcliffe returning as Harry Potter!

And also “Star Wars directed by Guy Ritchie”, put together with an assist from Midjourney.

(14) VIDEO OF OTHER DAYS. Somtow Sucharitkul reminded readers today they can see a video of his appearance on SF Vortex in the Nineties discussing Dracula with Dr J Gordon Melton and Norine Dresser.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Evelyn Leeper, David Goldfarb, Daniel Dern, Steven French, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 10/16/21 Escape From Pixel Scroll

(1) SUPERMAN MOTTO CHANGED.  The motto associated with Forties radio Superman, and the George Reeves TV show, and sporadically used since then, has been swapped for something else. The Daily Beast has the story: “DC Comics Changes Superman Motto, Swaps ‘American Way’ With ‘Better Tomorrow’”. Normally one would say “something new”, except this sounds like it was lifted from old GE advertising.

After more than 50 years of upholding “truth, justice, and the American way,” Superman is changing his motto.

The superhero will now stand for “truth, justice, and a better tomorrow,” DC Comics announced during its DC FanDome event Saturday. In a press release, the company said the motto will “better reflect the global storylines that we are telling across DC.”

“Superman has long been a symbol of hope who inspires people from around the world, and it is that optimism and hope that powers him forward with this new mission statement,” Jim Lee, the company’s publisher and chief creative officer, said….

Hard as it is to believe, alt-right Bounding Into Comics does not yet have a post up about the change.

(2) HOLLYWOOD AGREEMENT AVERTS STRIKE. AP reports “Strike dodged with deal between film and TV crews, studios”. Details of the new contracts were not immediately revealed.

An 11th-hour deal was reached Saturday, averting a strike of film and television crews that would have seen some 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers walk off their jobs and would have frozen productions in Hollywood and across the U.S.

After days of marathon negotiations, representatives from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and from the studios and entertainment companies who employ them reached the three-year contract agreement before a Monday strike deadline, avoiding a serious setback for an industry that had just gotten back to work after long pandemic shutdowns.

Jarryd Gonzales, spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and other entertainment companies in negotiations, confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press.

The union’s members still must vote to approve the tentative agreement….

(3) THE JURY IS IN. In the “2021 Hugo Short Story Panel of Awesomeness”, Hugos There podcaster Seth Heasley is joined by Cora Buhlert, Ivor Watkins, Alan Bailey, Lise Andreasen, Sarah Elkins, JW Wartick, Lori Anderson, Haley Zapal, and Amy Salley to discuss the 2021 nominees for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. (The podcast version is here.)

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join the marvelous Sam Maggs for drinks on episode 156 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sam Maggs

This time around, you’ll get to eavesdrop on my chat with Sam Maggs, a writer with whom I share an artistic bond, even though we’re from entirely different generations of comic book creators.

That’s because Sam wrote the adventures of the she/her Captain Marvel in 2019 — 42 years after I wrote about he/him Captain Marvel in 1977. She’s also written comics about Jem and the HologramsRick & MortyMy Little PonyTransformers, and Invader Zim. She’s published pure prose as well, including her first book The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the young adult novel The Unstoppable Wasp: Built on Hope. Her games writing includes Spider-Man: The City that Never Sleeps, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and many others.

We discussed the Stargate SG-1 convention that was her gateway drug for fandom, why her debut comic book story turned out to be a Star Trek tale, the way the arcs of our careers ran in completely opposite directions, what it was like releasing six books during a pandemic, how The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy was born though complete serendipity, the audition that got her the gig to write an Unstoppable Wasp novel, how she dreamed up her pitch for Captain Marvel, and much more.

(5) OFFICE IN THE OBSERVATORY. Brother Guy Consolmagno appears this week in Nature’s “Where I work” feature, including a photo of him peering through an antique telescope.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sent the link, proud to remember Brother Guy is someone with whom he’d in the past (years ago) appeared with on a Worldcon panel:

Paul McAuley, Jonathan Cowie, Br. Guy Consolmagno

(6) RUN THE NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA says “We Need You! SFWA is Hiring a Nebula Conference Manager!”. Full guidelines at the link.

The SFWA Nebula CPM would be responsible for all project management activities associated with the annual SFWA Nebula Conference. In 2022, the organization will be offering a hybrid model of the conference, with both an online component and in-person event. The CPM would be leading the entire 2022 Conference, supervising and working closely with the online conference project manager. 

(7) NO HOLDING BACK. Tim Kirk shared Harlan Ellison’s special coffee recipe in a public post on the Harlan Ellison Facebook Fan Club page.

Back in the 1970s I made numerous trips up to Ellison Wonderland. Harlan had asked me to illustrate “The Last Dangerous Visions,” and I spent many Saturdays reading manuscripts in his living room; and I drank many cups of a delicious coffee mixture Harlan had concocted himself: “Cafe’ Ellison Diabolique.” This recipe was published in Anne McCaffrey’s very entertaining collection of recipes by SF and fantasy authors, “Cooking Out of This World” (Ballantine Books 1973). Harlan left out one Mystery Ingredient, which he later revealed to me: Ovaltine. Pictured here is the official Little Orphan Annie Ovaltine Mug that Harlan gave me….

(8) SPEAKEASY. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that AI has advanced to the point that instantaneous translation of films is possible leading to a future without dubbing and subtitles. “Every movie and TV show could soon be dubbed into any language you want”.

… Traditional dubbing often works like this. A studio or local distributor, having decided it wants a local-language release, pays to translate a script, hire a set of voice actors to play the characters, rent out engineering equipment, put the actors through numerous voice takes, record them and then splice their readings back into the original video — a mighty grapple to achieve a smooth final product. The whole process can take months.

Auto-dubbing can work like this. The original actor records five minutes of random text in their own language. Then the machines take over: A neural network learns the actor’s voice, a program digests that vocal information and applies it to a digital translation of the script, then the AI spits out perfectly timed lines from the film in the foreign language and drops them into the action. The whole process could take weeks…

(9) RECLASSIFIED? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The first argument I’ve seen that Dhalgren is a horror novel. Andy Marino in “Under Your Skin: The Horror of the Inexplicable” on CrimeReads.

Consider the moment you wake from a nap into disorientation so pure, the first thing you see when you open your eyes—a lamp, a windowsill—is distorted and unfamiliar. You glitch. Draw a blank.

Imagine a distillation of this perception as an elusive high. I’d argue that the kind of fiction that bottles up this feeling and pours it down your throat is more terrifying than any haunted house, vengeful ghost, or Little Kid Who Sees Things.

That’s not to say that the time-honored elements of horror can’t be used to great and satisfying effect, or reconfigured into something wholly fresh. I’m not one to mess with the staples that make up so much of the horror I love. But it’s the off-kilter portrayal of the mundane, where reality comes unstitched in a vaguely sickening way, that really gets under your fingernails and lays its quivering eggs….

(10) MOUDRY OBIT. Southern fan Joe Moudry died October 15 reports Guy H. Lillian III. Moudry was a member of many amateur press associations (apas) over the years – the Southern Fandom Press Alliance (SFPA, where he once served as Official Editor), PAAPA, the Hyborian Legion, PEAPS, and was a member of the Esoteric Order of Dagon and its Official Editor in 1981.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years on this day, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was  first published in the United Kingdom by Geoffrey Bles who would publish the first five of this series.  It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia. Among all the author’s books, it is also the most widely held in American and British libraries. It would be illustrated by Pauline Baynes who would later do the artwork for some of Tolkien’s work.  It was extremely popular, despite the fears of the publisher that it wouldn’t be, from the moment it was published, and has remained so to this day. The movie of sixteen years vintage also enjoys an equally popular reception with a box office just behind Revenge of the Sith, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently giving it an eighty percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 16, 1854 Oscar Wilde. Writer, Journalist, Playwright, and Poet from Ireland whose only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, has been translated into more than a dozen languages, made into countless radio plays, musicals, TV films and movies — the 1945 version of which was awarded a Retro Hugo at CoNZealand — and had enduring influence on modern popular culture as an examination of morality. His long list of short fiction credits includes some fairy tales and genre stories, of which the best known is “The Canterville Ghost”, which has likewise undergone a copious number of translations and adaptations into various media. (Died 1900.)
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 96. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the  BSFA Award for Best Film and it’s based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. And I’ll toss in the stage production of The King and I where she was Anna Leonowens as that was at least genre adjacent.
  • Born October 16, 1940 Barry Corbin, 81. Actor whose face will be familiar from his many character roles — frequently as gruff military officers or crusty eccentrics — including those in genre movies WarGamesMy Science ProjectGhost DadRace to SpaceDawn of the Crescent Moon, Curdled, Critters 2, and Timequest, which appears to be an uncredited version of Greg Benford’s Timescape (which provided the name for the Pocket Books line of science fiction novels helmed by David G. Hartwell in the early 1980s). He narrated Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon, based on the book by Mercury Seven astronaut Alan Shepard.
  • Born October 16, 1956 Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, 65. Aside from appearing on Xena: Warrior PrincessStar Trek: Voyager, and Quantum Leap, she’s lent her voice acting to The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest HeroesGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone ComplexNarutoX-Men, and Bleach to name but a few of her roles. She was a Guest of Honor at Anime Expo 2007, Long Beach.
  • Born October 16, 1963 Glenn Glazer, 58. Conrunner and Fan who has been on the concoms for many Worldcons and regional conventions, chaired a Smofcon and a Westercon, and was one of three vice-chairs for Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. He has been involved in a number of APAs, including SWAPA, Mutations, The Calling, LASFAPA, APA-69, and APA-FNORD.
  • Born October 16, 1971 Lawrence Schimel, 50. Writer, Editor, Poet, and Translator. He is a founding member of The Publishing Triangle, an organization promoting fiction by LGBTQ authors and/or with LGBTQ themes, which inform many of his short fiction works. He has edited, mostly in collaboration with Martin H. Greenberg, at least 10 anthologies. His solo anthology, Things Invisible to See, and one of his short fiction collections were both recognized with Lambda Award nominations, and his speculative poetry has garnered a Rhysling Award nomination and a win. 
  • Born October 16, 1917 Claire Necker. This might be going a little astray from genre birthdays but I think not, given most of us have SJW creds. A librarian by trade, she wrote a number of feline related academic works including The Natural History of CatsSupernatural Cats: An Anthology which includes writers such as Fritz Lieber and H.P. Lovecraft , Four Centuries of Cat Books and Cat’s Got Our Tongue which is are feline cantered proverbs. She unfortunately has not made into the digital realm. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 48. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Äkta människor  (Real Humans) upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a famous monster with a terrible problem.

(14) GACHAPON. “A Tiny Gas Meter? The More Mundane the Better for Japan’s Capsule Toys” says the New York Times.

… Isolated in their plastic spheres, the tiny reproductions feel like a metaphor for Covid-era life. On social media, users — as gachapon designers insist on calling their customers — arrange their purchases in wistful tableaus of life outside the bubble, Zen rock gardens for the 21st century. Some have faithfully recreated drab offices, outfitted with whiteboards and paper shredders, others business hotel rooms complete with a pants press.

For Mr. Yamanishi, whose company, Toys Cabin, is based in Shizuoka, not far from Tokyo, success is “not about whether it sells or not.”

“You want people to ask themselves, ‘Who in the world would buy this?’” he said.

It’s a rhetorical question, but in recent years, the answer is young women. They make up more than 70 percent of the market, and have been especially active in promoting the toys on social media, said Katsuhiko Onoo, head of the Japan Gachagacha Association. (Gachagacha is an alternative term for the toys.)…

The products are not particularly profitable for most makers, but they offer designers a creative outlet and find a ready customer base in a country that has always had a taste for whimsy, said Hiroaki Omatsu, who writes a weekly column about the toys for a website run by the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper.

“Creating gachapon for adults is all about devoting yourself to making something that’s worthless,” he said. “‘This is ridiculous’ is the highest form of praise.”

(15) TODAY’S TIME TRAVEL FAQ. Courtesy of Keaton Patti.

I was going to have to revoke the previous joke til I confirmed he wasn’t talking about Gene Wolfe in this tweet —

(16) ZERO SUM GAME. Eater reports on how a “Robot Cafe Considers Itself Pro-Worker by Not Hiring Any Workers”.

Despite fully automated luxury communism sounding pretty sweet, Western workers have mostly felt haunted the specter of our jobs being taken by robots. Take RC Coffee, Canada’s first “robotic cafe,” aka an “unattended espresso machine,” which is basically a glorified version of whatever spat sludge and foam into a cup for five quarters in your college dorm’s lounge. But it is probably aware of that association, and the fear that kiosks like it could actually replace a barista, so it’s trying a new tactic; robots as pro-worker….

(17) FESS UP. They’d still like to get it back. “Rock. Paper. Pranksters.” At University of Oregon’s “Around the O.”

OK, mystery pranksters. It’s been 43 years since the Great Halloween Meteorite Caper of ’78. Your identities have never become widely known. Time to come forward.

Halloween night that year, a group calling itself the Meteorite Cleaning Service staged a distraction at Prince Lucien Campbell Hall. “A strangling man appeared to be hanging from a window of PLC. Campus security went to investigate only to discover the man was in fact a balloon, a shirt, and some pants,” student reporter Jock Hatfield wrote in the Oregon Daily Emerald.

While campus security responded to PLC, the pranksters headed to the Museum of Natural History, then located in what is now Pacific Hall. Their target was on display out front: a life-size, plaster-and-chicken-wire replica of the sixth-largest meteorite found on Earth, the Willamette Meteorite or “Tomanowos,” as named by the Clackamas people.

The next day, “it was immediately evident the meteorite replica was gone,” remembers Alice Parman, then the museum director. Eight hundred pounds of mock rock, 12 feet wide and 6 feet tall, gone, leaving nothing but questions: Why? How? And who?…

(18) CHINA SENDS CREW TO THEIR SPACE STATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “China launches 6-month crewed mission as it cements position as global space power” reports CNN. Crew includes Wang Yaping, first female taikonaut on the station and first scheduled to do a spacewalk.

China launched a three-person crew into space in the early hours of Saturday — a major step for the country’s young space program, which is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most advanced.

The three astronauts lifted off on the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft just past midnight local time, launched by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, located in Inner Mongolia.

They will dock at China’s new space station, Tiangong (which means Heavenly Palace), six and a half hours after launch. They will live and work at the station for 183 days, or just about six months — the country’s longest mission yet….

(19) WOOF, WOOF, BANG, BANG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] While they look like cousins, don’t confuse this robodog with Boston Dynamics’ Spot. The much-less-aptly-named canid-like bot Vision 60 is made by Ghost Robotics out of Philly. A version of Vision has been demonstrated carrying a sniper rifle, albeit one that is aimed and fired by a remote operator. Unarmed versions of Vision 60 have been used in military exercises. The article doesn’t address whether Ghost Robotics has any customers for the armed version. “Welp, Now We Have Robo-Dogs With Sniper Rifles” at Popular Mechanics.

Science fiction has seeped into science reality this week, as a robotics company showed off its sniper rifle-equipped robo-dog at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

Sure, the quadruped robot might resemble a good boy, but it’s packing a built-in sniper rifle capable of engaging targets from three-quarters of a mile away. The service could operate this robotic weapon system remotely. Importantly, it would only engage targets with permission from a human being….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Extent” is an sff short film distributed by DUST.

Time stands still as two old friends attempt to grapple with a question that defines their very existence. If you could live forever, would you?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jeffrey Smith, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 3/9/20 And There’s Hamburger All Over the Information Superhighway

(1) HOPE IS ON THE WAY. There’s a brand new podcast, If This Goes On (Don’t Panic), themed around hopepunk. The first episode is hosted by Cat Rambo and Alan Bailey, interviewing Alexandra Rowland, who coined the term “hopepunk.”

In this episode, Cat and Alan discuss the concept of Hopepunk with Alexandra Rowland, coiner of the term. Other topics include the hopeful nature of Lord of the Rings, why there has to be a protagonist in fiction, and why sometimes you have to sell out.

Alan also reviews the second season of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold published by Serialbox

(2) FREE DOWNLOAD. Elizabeth Bonesteel just released a free ebook of her short fiction Survival Tactics:

(3) ARROWVERSE EXPANDS. CBR.com thinks “Stargirl: The CW’s Newest Series Could Be Its Best Yet”.

The next TV series based on a DC Comics property is Stargirl, which is receiving a dual release on both The CW and the DC Universe streaming app. While this might be a drawback for DC Universe, which could benefit from the show’s exclusivity, it could be a boon for The CW.

The network’s lineup of Arrowverse shows continues to grow, something that will only continue now that the groundbreaking “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover has come and gone. Despite their seeming popularity, the shows have their fair share of detractors and common criticisms. Since it’s technically a DC Universe show, however, Stargirl may just be able to avoid those pitfalls, and thus become the best superhero series on The CW yet.

(4) CAPTIONS CASE CLOSED. Publishers Lunch tells readers “The Audible Settlement Is Finally Public”.

The case brought by seven publishers against Audible over their planned Captions feature is now formally concluded, with Judge Valerie Caproni’s signature in place on the permanent injunction barring the audiobook company from displaying text from e-books without the permission of copyright holders. Audible will pay each litigating publisher an undisclosed sum, after which both parties will file final documentation to the court.

(5) DOES THIS MEAN GETTING FOUND IN SPACE? ComicBook.com brings the shocking news that “Lost in Space Cancelled After Season 3 on Netflix”.

[Showrunner Zack] Estrin revealed that the plan for Lost in Space was always meant to be told in three parts, so this ending really is a conclusion of the story rather than a cancellation by Netflix.

“From the beginning, we’ve always viewed this particular story of The Robinsons as a trilogy,” Estrin said. “A three part epic family adventure with a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s also worth noting that, with what these characters go through just trying to survive each episode — if anyone deserves to catch their breath before their next mission — it’s Will, Penny, Judy, Maureen, John, Don West, Dr. Smith… and The Robot. And, of course, Debbie the Chicken. So while this chapter of Lost In Space is coming to a rousing conclusion, I’m excited about continuing to explore new stories with my friends at Netflix, and for all of the incredible possibilities that lie ahead.”

(6) SHERYL LERNER. Condolences to Lofgeornost’s faned Fred Lerner, who sent out this message today:

I am sorry to report that my wife Sheryl died last night. Many of you will have met her at various conventions, or read about her in my Lofgeornost trip reports. Although she did not read much science fiction, she enjoyed convention programming and the conversations we had with Lofgeornost readers.

(7) VON SYDOW OBIT. Actor Max Von Sydow died March 9. He was the only male Swedish actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. The New York Times tribute is here: “Max von Sydow, Star of ‘Seventh Seal’ and ‘Exorcist,’ Dies at 90”.

Mr. von Sydow, widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, became an elder pop culture star in his later years, appearing in a “Star Wars” movie in 2015 as well as in the sixth season of the HBO fantasy-adventure series “Game of Thrones.” He even lent his deep, rich voice to “The Simpsons.”

By then he had become a familiarly austere presence in popular movies like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and, more recently, Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

But to film lovers the world over he was most enduringly associated with Bergman.

If ever an actor was born to inhabit the World According to Bergman, it was Mr. von Sydow. Angular and lanky at 6-foot-3, possessing a gaunt face and hooded, icy blue eyes, he not only radiated power but also registered a deep sense of Nordic angst, helping to give flesh to Bergman’s often bleak but hopeful and sometimes comic vision of the human condition in classics like “The Seventh Seal” and “The Virgin Spring.”

The National Review reminded readers about a few of his other popular roles:

Sydow was 44 when portraying the wizened old priest [in The Exorcist] whose stalwart faith combats the film’s antagonistic demonic presence; he reportedly required more makeup to appear old than Linda Blair required to appear possessed in the role of Regan MacNeil.

King Osric in the underappreciated Conan the Barbarian. Sydow, along with James Earl Jones (as the villain Thulsa Doom) was brought onto the production of the 1982 John Millius film in the hope that their stately presence would inspire the mostly novice crew of actors (including Arnold Schwarzenagger, in one of his first major productions) to greater heights.

He also played emperor Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980), and Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983).

(8) TUCCI OBIT. Actor Nicholas Tucci died March 3 — The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Nicholas Tucci, ‘You’re Next’ and ‘Channel Zero’ Actor, Dies at 38”.

Nicholas Tucci, an actor who appeared in the horror film You’re Next and SyFy’s Channel Zero, died Tuesday after battling an unspecified illness, according to his father, who shared the news on Facebook. Tucci was 38.

(9) NEELY OBIT. Mystery author Barbara Neely, named Mystery Writers of America’s 2020 Grand Master just last December, has passed away. USA Today profiles her career: “Barbara Neely, author of first black female series sleuth Blanche White, dies at 78”.

Award-winning mystery writer Barbara Neely, who created the first black female series sleuth in mainstream American publishing, died last week after a brief illness, according to her publisher, Brash Books. She was 78.

Neely is perhaps best known for her four-book Blanche White series, which had at its center a nomadic amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her job as an advantage in pursuit of the truth.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 1933 –This month was when the first Doc Savage novel was published. The Man of Bronze was by Lester Dent writing under the house name Kenneth Robeson. It would publisher in the March issue of the Doc Savage magazine. It was the basis of the Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze film that starred Ron Ely. You can see the film hereThe Man of Bronze is available at the usual digital publishers. 

March 9, 2011 — Dynamite Entertainment published the  first issue of Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris. It was set on the world of Barsoom 400 years before John Carter went there, with her being of the focus of the story.Arthur Adams and Joe Jusko were the writers, with Paul Renaud, and Alé Garza being the artists. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 9, 1918 Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman“ (co-written with Howard Browne),  “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins).  Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 9, 1930 Howard L. Myers. Clute over at EofS positively gushes over him as does here of Cloud Chamber:“ attractively combines Cosmology, Antimatter invaders of our Universe, Sex and effortless rebirth of all sentient beings in a wide-ranging Space Opera“.  I see he had but two novels and a handful of short stories. They’re available, the novels at least, from the usual digital sources. (Died 1971.)
  • Born March 9, 1939 Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it. Ok, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 9, 1945 Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock.  He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy, 65. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating.
  • Born March 9, 1959 Mark Carwardine, 61. In 2009, he penned Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams. This is the sequel to Last Chance to See, the 1989 BBC radio documentary series and book which he did with Douglas Adams. In 2009, he also worked with Stephen Fry on a follow-up to the original Last Chance to See. This also was called Last Chance to See
  • Born March 9, 1965 Brom, 55. Artist and writer whose best work I think is Krampus: The Yule Lord and The Child Thief. The Art of Brom is a very good look at his art. He’s listed as having provided some of the art design used on Galaxy Quest
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 42. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo creates a clever image for what sff fans think of as the multiverse.
  • Free Range points out a challenge of producing the 1960s Batman TV show that’s obvious if you think about it…
  • Off The Mark has a very amusing library gag.  
  • Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics:

(13) MONSTER ART COLLECTION. Lonely Planet shows where “Metallica fans can visit Kirk Hammett’s traveling sci-fi and horror art collection”.

… Organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, its final stop is at the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) in Columbia, South Carolina, where it runs from 15 February to 17 May, 2020 and includes an interactive guitar experience and programming schedule with appearances by Hammett himself.

…On display are 135 works from twentieth century cinema including posters, rare art by master artists and related memorabilia such as electric guitars, lobby cards, film props and costumes. As described by his biographer Stefan Chirazi, Hammett was a self-described shy kid obsessed with monsters, ghouls, toys, movies and guitars; he first connected with Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein followed by Godzilla, the Mummy and other terrifying creatures that tap into our psychological response to fear. He admits it’s his collection that has primarily sparked his creativity over the years. “The stuff of horror has a mojo that always works on me,” he says. “I start producing ideas…they just flow like liquid.”

(14) PRESCRIPTION ROBOT. “Former MythBuster’s adorable Baby Yoda robot will cheer up sick kids”CNET has a Q&A with the designer.

Baby Yoda captured hearts everywhere when it debuted on Disney Plus Star Wars live action series The Mandalorian. Count former MythBusters cast member Grant Imahara among the fans. He thinks the character’s so cute he built his own life-like animatronic Baby Yoda to cheer up sick kids. 

Imahara currently works as a consultant for Disney Research and a mechanical designer at Spectral Motion. He helped build Disney’s animatronic Spider-Man that will be flying over the upcoming Marvel Campus in Disney’s California Adventure.

“Pleased to present my newest creation: a fully animatronic Baby Yoda,” Imahara posted on his Facebook on Friday. “It’s been three months of hard work and countless revisions. I did all the mechanical design, programming, and 3D printed the molds. He’s currently running a continuous sequence, but soon I’ll be able to trigger specific moods and reactions, as well as incorporate sound.”

To find out more about how this adorable moving animatronic Baby Yoda was created, I chatted with Imahara about what went into building it. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. 

Q: How did the idea come about to build an animatronic Baby Yoda?
After the third episode of The Mandalorian, I knew I had to make my own Baby Yoda. I was an animatronics engineer in the ILM model shop before MythBusters, and worked on the Star Wars prequels as well as the Energizer Bunny, so I had the required skill set. And it could be a character I could bring to children’s hospitals for charity work, which is something I’ve been committed to doing.

(15) GIBSON BOOK REVIEWED. Thomas J. Millay explains “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Superintelligent AI: On Wiliam Gibson’s ‘Agency’” at LA Review of Books.

NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO, Mona Lisa Overdrive; Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties; Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History: William Gibson works in threes. Agency is the second novel of what is almost certainly going to be a trilogy. The first novel, titled The Peripheral, was a New York Times best seller notable for its heady mixture of drone manipulation, time travel, apocalypse, and alternate history, all these devices being combined in a narrative prose precise in its physical and technological descriptions. Given the novel’s formal innovations and literary qualities, it is the pace of The Peripheral that is most remarkable, with Gibson moving readers rapidly toward the novel’s utopian conclusion, in thriller-like fashion….

(16) ZONING OUT. When you live near a radio telescope, it turns out you have to give up certain things. The New York Times takes you there: “No Cell Signal, No Wi-Fi, No Problem. Growing Up Inside America’s ‘Quiet Zone’”.

…Welcome to Green Bank, population 143, where Wi-Fi is both unavailable and banned and where cellphone signals are nonexistent.

The near radio silence is a requirement for those living close to the town’s most prominent and demanding resident, the Green Bank Observatory, home to the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. To protect the sensitive equipment from interference, the federal government in 1958 established the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area near the state’s border with Virginia.

The observatory’s telescope “could detect your phone on Saturn in airplane mode,” states a sign outside its science center building, but is rendered much weaker if anyone uses electronics that emit radio waves. For those who live within 10 miles of the observatory, the limitations also include a ban on Bluetooth devices and microwaves, unless they are contained in a metal box, known as a Faraday cage, which blocks electromagnetic fields.

Nearly 15 million Americans live in sparsely populated communities where there is no broadband internet service at all, a stark digital divide across America between those with access to uber-fast connections and those with none.

(17) COUNTRIES REJECT ‘ONWARD’ OVER GAY CHARACTER. BBC reports “Pixar’s Onward ‘banned by four Middle East countries’ over gay reference”.

Pixar’s latest animation Onward has been banned by several Middle Eastern countries because of a reference to lesbian parents, according to reports.

The family film will not be shown in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hollywood media have reported.

Police officer Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, has been heralded as Disney-Pixar’s first openly gay character.

Her lines include: “It’s not easy being a parent… my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, OK?”

Other Middle East countries like Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt are showing the film.

And according to Deadline, Russia censored the scene in question by changing the word “girlfriend” to “partner” and avoiding mentioning the gender of Specter, who is a supporting character.

Speaking to Variety, Waithe explained that the line about “my girlfriend” was her idea.

And Variety’s story about it is here.

(18) MMM-MMM-BAD? BBC inquires “Why plastic is a deadly attraction for sea turtles”.

Scientists have new evidence to explain why plastic is dangerous to sea turtles: the animals mistake the scent of plastic for food.

Thus, a plastic bag floating in the sea not only looks like a jellyfish snack, but it gives off a similar odour.

This “olfactory trap” might help explain why sea turtles are prone to eating and getting entangled in plastic, say US researchers.

…Garbage patches

Once plastic has been released into the ocean, microbes, algae, plants and tiny animals start to colonise it and make it their home. This creates food-like odours, which have been shown to be a magnet for fish and possibly sea birds. The new research suggests sea turtles are attracted to plastic for the same reason.

(19) LOOK UP AND SAY CHEESE. “Space radar movies track motion on Earth’s surface” – the BBC coverage features several short sample clips.

Satellite operator Iceye is now making videos that can show the Earth’s surface through cloud and at night.

The short, 20-second movies are an extension of the standard still radar images it already produces.

In the examples released by the Finnish company on Monday, planes are seen taxiing across Britain’s Heathrow airport and heavy plant vehicles are observed working in a Utah mine.

The videos are said to be a first for a commercial space operator.

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology is already appreciated for its ability to “see” the ground irrespective of the weather or lighting conditions. Retrieving motion in a scene literally now gives Iceye’s products another dimension, says CEO Rafal Modrzewski.

(20) WHO NEEDS GOOGLE? Patrick Stewart answers the web’s most searched questions for WIRED.

“Star Trek: Picard” star Patrick Stewart takes the WIRED Autocomplete Interview and answers the internet’s most searched questions about himself. How did Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen meet? Was Patrick in Harry Potter? How many awards has he won? Does he own a vineyard? Sir Patrick answers all these questions and much, much more.

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