Pixel Scroll 8/19/22 One Sturgeon, One Spock, One Bierce

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Bob Eggleton created the art on the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Sept/Oct 2022 issue.

(2) B&N. Barnes & Noble seems to be shifting away from hardcovers and promoting paperbacks, and Middle-Grade / YA authors are particularly worried. At Book Riot, Jenn Northington tries to explain “What Is Going On With Barnes & Noble?”

…Let’s take the newest news first: While much of this is anecdotal, it’s not likely that Barnes & Noble would go on the record about this kind of policy and there are enough supporting responses on Bethany Baptiste’s tweet on August 17th to make it clear that many authors with hardcover releases, particularly in Kids and Middle-Grade, are not being stocked even in their local B&N stores. This isn’t limited to debut authors, either; Kelly Yang, the award-winning author of the Front Desk series, posted a video in which she announced she had been specifically told that B&N would not be stocking the newest book in the series. Scroll through the responses to Baptiste’s tweet, and you’ll see many others with the same story. Independent publisher Disruption Books weighed in to note that this holds true with their own experience.

B&N is a key piece of the in-person bookselling world. Despite Amazon controlling the lion’s share of book sales in the US, everyone in publishing (including indie bookstores) seems united in agreeing that without B&N as even a small counterweight to the e-commerce behemoth, bookselling as we know it would be doomed. As Ellen Adler, publisher of New Press, told the New York Times, “It’s funny how the industry has evolved so that they are now a good guy… I would say their rehabilitation has been total.”… 

So let’s add that together for B&N: Central ordering has been down-sized, publishers can no longer pay for placement, stores have less display room, and hardcover sales are down. Add to that the anecdata about B&N buyers being even warier of bringing in newer authors, and you’ve got a recipe for panic.

Which brings us to impact. Discovery is the perennial Holy Grail of publishing: how do you get someone to see or hear about (and then hopefully buy) your new book? There’s no one right answer (and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something) but physical discovery, i.e. walking into a bookstore and seeing that book on a display table, has long been one of the key elements – which is why publishers have historically been willing to pay for those display spots….

… All of which adds up to, any shift by B&N to carry fewer hardcovers is a blow to discovery, and therefore to authors. If the only hardcovers you can find at your local branch are also the ones that are on the bestseller list, which are also the ones getting marketing dollars, which are also the ones that the algorithms are suggesting to you online, then the chances of, say, a debut author from a marginalized community getting their book in front of your face long enough for you to see it and consider buying it are lower than ever. And let’s be real here: decreases in discovery disproportionately affect authors from marginalized communities.

Laura Anne Gilman posted her response to the B&N news on Facebook.

There is panic once again rumbling through the publishing industry because Barnes & Noble has announced a new hardcover policy that basically fucks over anyone who isn’t already a number one best seller.

This is not good, on very many levels.

However, and I cannot emphasize this enough, this policy appears to apply only to hardcovers, and it’s unclear to my reading if it will apply to all imprints. It’s still not good, but it’s not going to destroy genre publishing. Not until they decide that they’re only gonna take the top book in mass market and or trade, too.

ETA: I would not be entirely surprised if the chains were to do this. They’ve tried it before, it has not worked out well for them.

(Hardcovers have become increasingly expensive, so I’ve been expecting trouble to surface, but I honestly thought it would come from publishers, not booksellers)

And even then, depending on how much autonomy they actually are giving their local stores… well, personally I’m waiting to see how this decision plays out, and how long they keep it in place. If it’s a sales disaster, they will pretend it never happened.

Meanwhile, continue supporting your local and non-local Indies

(3) THEY’RE OFF. The second Self-Published Science Fiction Competition has left the starting line. The SPSFC blog has details: “Let the Games Begin! SPSFC2 is Go!”

Books have been allocated, checked. Covers have been dispersed. The judges are prepped and ready!

WHAT’S NEW THIS YEAR?

This year we’ve made a few adjustments and wanted to highlight them for those following along.

Re-submissions

Firstly, this year we struggled to get to the cap of 300 submissions, so we decided that we would open up the competition to re-submissions for those books who didn’t make it through the slush pile last year. This really helped us hit the cap as we received 112 re-submissions!

With plenty of new judges (currently at 59, with only about 15 returning from last year) we hope to get a fresh set of eyes on these contestants.

… This year we’re going to try our hardest to keep the team progress and communication centralized. We’ll be playing with some ways to keep that going and please tag us on Twitter (@thespsfc) or in the Facebook Group with feedback.

(4) SFF COMMUNITY CALLS FOR VISA TO BE GRANTED TO NIGERIAN AUTHOR. Mimi Mondal is one of many using social media to call for justice in granting a visa so Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki can attend Chicon 8. However, they homed in on the U.S. Consul General in Lagos. Consul General Will Stevens, to make this appeal.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki says, “Apparently that’s the guy in charge. The main man. That could make it all go away with a wave of his hand.”

(5) INTERNATIONAL BARRIERS. Jason Sanford adds some big-picture comments in ”The Barriers Faced By Authors and Creatives Around the World Limit the Future of the SF/F Genre” on Patreon.

Last year I wrote about the financial barriers faced by authors and creatives around the world, barriers that limited their participation in the science fiction and fantasy genre even as the genre grows increasingly global. These barriers are frequently not seen by many people in the United States, Europe, and Australia, even as people in these countries extol the increasing world-wide reach of the SF/F genre.

Sadly, financial barriers aren’t the only walls keeping people in many parts of the world from fully taking part in the SF/F genre. The latest example of such a barrier is Nigerian author Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki being denied a visa by the U.S. government to attend the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, where he is a Hugo Award finalist in two categories.

Ekpeki describes what happened in a must-read thread….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share brunch on Eggs Benedict with Michael Jan Friedman in Episode 178 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Jan Friedman

Michael Jan Friedman [has] written more than 70 books — around half of them set in the Star Trek universe. In 1992, he wrote Reunion, the first Star Trek: The Next Generation hardcover, which introduced the crew of the Stargazer, Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s first command. Friedman has also written for the AliensPredatorWolf ManLois and Clark, DC Super Hero, Marvel Super Hero, and Wishbone licensed book universes. Eleven of his books, including Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Ghost Hunting (written with Syfy’s Ghost Hunters), have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. He’s also produced more than 200 comic book stories, including the Darkstars series from DC Comics, which he created with artist Larry Stroman, and the Outlaws limited series, which he created with artist Luke McDonnell. He also co-wrote the story for the second-season Star Trek: Voyager episode “Resistance,” which guest-starred Joel Grey.

We discussed the comic book he refused to trade for Fantastic Four #1 as a kid, how the X-Men might actually be a deconstructed Superman, whether it mattered the Marvel Universe was set in New York rather than DC’s series of fictional cities, why his two favorite superheroes are Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, the lesson he took from an early encounter with Issac Asimov, how he easily solved a stardate conflict which allowed him to keep Chekov in one of his Star Trek novels, what it was like helping Hulk Hogan write his autobiography, and much more.

(7) TOLKIEN RIGHTS SALE. [Item by David Doering.] Not sure if I should be scared or not. (The Swedes being neutral and all, maybe they are as good a custodian as any.) But it would be like Britain selling the Crown Jewels or Windsor Castle. “Swedish gaming giant buys Lord of the Rings and Hobbit rights” in the Guardian.

The company that owns the rights to JRR Tolkien’s works, including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has been bought by the Swedish gaming firm Embracer Group, which has hinted it could make spin-off films based on popular characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn and Gollum.

Embracer has acquired Middle-earth Enterprises, the holding company that controls the intellectual property rights to films, video games, board games, merchandise, theme parks and stage productions relating to Tolkien’s two most famous literary franchises.

The deal also includes “matching rights” in other Middle-earth-related literary works authorised by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins – primarily The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth – which were published after Tolkien’s death in 1973….

(8) IT’S ALL ON THE TABLE. Meanwhile, the Embracer Group shows up in another news report, about the board game market: “The Great Nerdification” at Publishers Weekly.

Once upon a time not so very long ago, any board games beyond the household staples like Monopoly and Scrabble were the exclusive property of, well, nerds. And during this not so very long time ago nerds dwelled on the sidelines, wallflower-like: by near definition they were the opposite of popular.

Today, however, we’re living in what Marc Gascoigne, publisher at Aconyte Books (the fiction imprint of the games publisher and distributor Asmodee Entertainment), calls “the great nerdification.” Thanks to hit TV shows like Stranger Things, which reintroduced the public to the seminal role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, all types of tabletop games have become more mainstream—and they’re exploding in growth, and raking in big bucks.

According to the research report “Board Games Market by Product, Distribution Channel, and Geography-Forecast and Analysis 2021–2025” by Technavio Research, the market (which spans tabletop, card and dice, and RPGs) will see a year-over-year growth of 7.1% in 2021 alone, and grow at a compound annual growth rate of roughly 13% between 2020 and 2026. Additionally, the research firm Arizton Advisory & Intelligence estimates that tabletop games will rake in more than $4 billion in incremental revenues during this time frame.

This growth spurt in the board game category is partly due to the pandemic, which forced the world indoors and impelled people to find new (or old) ways to entertain themselves and socialize at home.

“The pandemic has only strengthened people’s fun and enjoyment playing board games,” Gascoigne says. “And you can now play many of them online if you can’t play in person.”

Though the board games industry is still small (if not miniature) potatoes in comparison to the video games market, which is forecast to be $300 billion by 2025, according to the Unity Gaming Report 2022, it’s expanding enough to catch the eye of video game companies, such as Swedish gaming developer the Embracer Group…. 

(9) AND IN THIS CORNER. The Guardian wonders “Who should Predator fight next? Yoda, Children of the Corn, or Sid from Toy Story?”

…It’s perhaps no coincidence that at a time when nobody really wanted another Predator movie, the straight-to-streaming prequel Prey has reinvigorated interest in the long-running saga. Set in North America in 1719, its less-is-more strategy pays off by pitching the alien against a young Native American woman who must use guile and her understanding of the warrior code to fend off an attack from the mandible-sporting alien.

The premise is much more intriguing than the execrable Alien vs Predator movies, and of course the Twittersphere has gone into a predictable loop-the-loop with suggestions for future episodes. Top of the pile is Stephen King’s idea that the extra-terrestrial hunter take on the Children of the Corn, the murderous kids who featured in his 1977 short story (and subsequent torrent of inexplicably bad movies).

Is King joking? Who cares! It’s another sideways option that would keep the Predator franchise searingly alive. Maybe the alien comes down to Earth in search of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”, the horrible green demon worshipped by the juvenile citizens of Gatlin in King’s novel, and finds he has bitten off more than he can chew. (Can you chew with mandibles?)…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] The first film of the Blade trilogy had its premiere in New York City on this date. Based off the Blade series by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan, the screenplay was written by David S. Goyer who would also write Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Wesley Snipes who plays the very special human-vampire hybrid Blade here would be one of the three producers. And I thought the cast was interesting: Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue. 

A. Asbjørn Jøn raised the question whether Kris Kristofferson’s Whistler character was based off a character named Whistler in A Dozen Black Roses by Nancy A. Collins which came out two years earlier. Given that filming for this film started at least eighteen months before it got released and that means the screenplay was written at least a year before that, I think not. 

To save having to do SPOILERS, I will skip talking about the story which frankly is far less interesting than the sheer physical action here. It’s really watching fun Blade kill vampires in new and frankly gory manners. Snipes is fascinating to watch as he has a dancer’s physical grace as brutally stabs a vampire. Cool. Way cool.

The Blade here is not the Blade of the comics. Goyer replaced the daggers Blade used in the comics with a sword and gave him a more samurai-like aesthetic which explains the dance-like grace I saw in him. 

It cost forty million to produce and made a rather excellent one hundred and thirty million. 

Critics generally liked it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune made a good point when he noted that, “Blade is a movie that relishes high visual style.” And Peter Bradshaw writing for the Guardian said, “Blade is an entertainingly macabre and excitingly staged action horror, with a propulsive energy..” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a quite stellar seventy eight percent rating. 

And yes, I like it rather a lot having seen it at the cinema and then watched it several times on video. I’m not at all fond of the two sequels though. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 19, 1921 Gene Roddenberry. Oh, you know who he is. But did you know he wrote a lot of scripts for Have Gun – Will Travel? Indeed his script for the show, “Helen of Abajinian” would win the Writer’s Guild of America award for Best Teleplay in 1958. And yes, he would share a Hugo for Star Trek’s “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode which was awarded at Baycon. (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 19, 1928 Richard N. Farmer. Author of Islandia Revisited: A Sequel By Other Hands which he claims to be a sequel to Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia. No, it wasn’t at all authorized. There are authorized sequels to Islandia, three of them, all written by Mark Saxton, the man who edited the original Islandia manuscript. They are, in this order, The Islar, Islandia Today – A Narrative of Lang IIIThe Two Kingdoms and Havoc in Islandia. Sylvia Wright, Wright’s daughter and the executrix of the estate, died shortly before the third Saxton book was completed. Mark Saxton himself died in 1988, so it’s not really likely that we will see any additional Islandia novels.(Died 1987.)
  • Born August 19, 1930 D.G. Compton, 92. SWFA Author Emeritus whose The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award. The Unsleeping EyeThe Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe in the U.K., was filmed as Death Watch which the Audience Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes actually like giving it a 60% rating. His two Alec Jordan near-future police stories are superb. He selected for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.
  • Born August 19, 1938 Diana Muldaur, 84. She appeared in the original series in two episodes, first in “Return to Tomorrow” as Dr. Ann Mulhall / Thalassa and then in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”  as Dr. Miranda Jones. She, of course, is up again in Next Gen as Dr. Katherine Pulaski.  She voiced Dr. Leslie Thompkins in that animated Batman series as well. 
  • Born August 19, 1940 Jill St. John, 82. She’s best remembered as Tiffany Case, the Bond girl in Diamonds Are Forever. She was the first American to play a Bond girl. She shows in The Batman in “Smack in the Middle” and “Hi Diddle Riddle” as Molly. And she played Jennifer Holmes in the 1960 film version of The Lost World. Even more fascinatingly she’s one of the uncredited dancers on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
  • Born August 19, 1950 Mary Doria Russell, 72. The Sparrow series, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, are awesome. The Sparrow won the Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree Awards, and it was the reason she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Though not genre, Doc and its sequel Epitaph are mysteries using the historic character of Doc Holliday. 
  • Born August 19, 1952 Jonathan Frakes, 70. Best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker in Next Gen and I’m fond of his voicing David Xanatos on the Gargoyles series which had at least five Trek actors doing voice work. Interesting bit of trivia: For a time in the Seventies, he worked for Marvel Comics at Cons as Captain America. He has directed more than seventy television episodes, including episodes of myriad Trek series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.LeverageThe Librarians and The Orville.

(12) A NICE TURN OF PHRASE. Says Icona:

(13) DEAD RECKONING. Book Riot’s K. W. Colyard spotlights “Murder Mysteries In Space: 10 Thrillers Set Where No One Can Hear You Scream”. First on the list:

THE TEA MASTER AND THE DETECTIVE BY ALIETTE DE BODARD

Aliette de Bodard’s Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella centers on The Shadow’s Child: a sentient spaceship who has settled into her new life as a wounded veteran. Her latest client is Long Chau: a researcher who needs The Shadow’s Child‘s help acquiring a dead body. But when they realize the body they’ve found is that of a murder victim, this newly acquainted dynamic duo have no choice but to investigate in The Tea Master and the Detective.

(14) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Another SFnal-ish Isaac Arthur here: “Time Wars & Alternate Timelines” on YouTube.

Temporal Paradox and Time Travel delight us in science fiction, but what would a war across time really look like?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Day Shift Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George explains the new Jamie Foxx vampire hunter movie begins with Jamie Foxx fighting a valued senior citizen, killing her, and stealing her fangs because in this world, the older the vampire, the more valuable their fangs.  We learn about the vampires because Foxx and another character “have an exposition battle where they quiz each other on how much they know.”  Also, many characters pee their pants and this is a plot point because “vampires don’t pee.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Gordon Van Gelder, Scott Edelman, Jason Sanford, David Doering, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

[Introduction: In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.]

By Michaele Jordan:

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom) is a high fantasy. You’ve probably noticed that fantasy has become such a broad field that it can be broken down into subtypes, such as urban fantasy, Tolkienesque fantasy, dragon stories or fairy tales. High fantasy, in particular, has a specific format. It’s always set in a low-tech world – often here on earth, within a particular historical era. It always focuses on the adventures of the ruling class, usually royalty. The magic is often minimal compared to other types of fantasy, as it must be woven into the political or military struggles, and the court intrigues, with which the high-born characters are preoccupied.

High fantasy tends to further subdivide into two types: costume romances (usually of the forbidden kind) overlaid with magic, or political thrillers, also overlaid with magic, but with a great deal of plotting, backstabbing, and poison. In both cases, the characters are hugely constrained by their class obligations, and a lot of attention is paid to their expensive clothing, their plush living conditions, and the loyalty (or lack thereof) of servants.

If you are a fan of high fantasy – and many of us are – then you will love Fireheart Tiger. The protagonist is a young princess, caught up in a turbulent, and possibly treasonous, affair with another princess, even as their two countries circle each other, looking for attack points. The setting is highly original –an analog of pre-Colonial Viet Nam, (around 18th century). The magic is also well handled. There are no spells or amulets. But one of the three major characters is a fire elemental – and a VERY interesting character.

Next we come to A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Tordotcom), I loved it! First and foremost: I was struck by the tale’s charm. The characters are charming. Their culture is charming. Their tea monks are charming. Even the opening, where Sibling Dex notices the absence of crickets is charming. Most of all, the voice in which the story is told charming, full of love and attention to captivating details.

The story seems to take place on earth, in a way-past-the-apocalypse future. Not that the author ever said as much! It may not even be intentional. She may only have wanted it to be earthlike enough to make us feel at home. In which case, she succeeded.

They have a lush ecology, with plants that are not just generic but species that seem familiar to us (especially herbs). The animals seem familiar, too (especially the insects, and not just crickets). There is a complex history of over-industrialization leading to collapse, followed by recovery.

But the place where all those charming things live is actually Pangan (named after one of the local gods). It’s a moon orbiting Motan (also named after a god) which appears to be a gas giant. (For me, the discovery that this is not Earth was genuinely startling. The place feels so homelike it’s almost deja vu.)

Naturally, this means that the inhabitants are not human, per se, but they, too, are so vividly evoked that it’s hard to believe. Sibling Dex does not merely seem to be someone we might know. They feel like . . . well, a sibling. Even Splendid Speckled Mosscap – who could not be mistaken for a human , no matter how quickly the reader is skimming – feels friendly and comfortable.

The story is soft and simple. (If you’re looking for epic battles, go elsewhere.) There is a quest, which involves some very hard travelling into the wilderness. Some of the creatures in the wilderness are more dangerous than charming.

While on the road, Dex and Speckled Mosscap have a lot of time to talk. Speckled Mosscap wants to know why Dex is engaging in their strange and whimsical quest. Dex wants to know where Speckled Mosscap has come from, and why nobody has seen any of their people before. Both are wondering if it is time for Speckled Mosscap and their people to re-emerge into Pangan life.

Their conversation – along with the ending – is philosophical, revolving around such eternal questions as “life, the universe and everything.” The conclusion does not offer any answers, but leaves us very content, just the same.

A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom) starts with an excellent concept. We’ve all seen tales – many, many tales – of young women entering Fairyland, by a variety of means and with a variety of motives. This time, the traveler is propelled by soul-crushing need. She was born with a genetic disorder that invariably kills its victim before the age of twenty-two, at the very latest, and usually much younger. The story opens on the protagonist’s twenty-first birthday.

All her life, Zinnia has been obsessed by the story of Sleeping Beauty. She knows that it’s a terrible story in many ways – most notably in that it makes its heroine a virtual walk-on (or should I say a sleep-on?) in her own story. She knows there are versions of the story much darker and crueler than Disney’s. But nonetheless, she identifies desperately with Sleeping Beauty, who has spent her entire short life watching and waiting for the inevitable curse to strike her down.

Zinnia’s best friend wants her twenty-first birthday to be special, and arranges a Sleeping Beauty birthday party smothered in roses, and complete with a haunted tower and an antique spinning wheel. In a moment of dark whimsy and drunken bravado, Zinnia deliberately presses her finger to the spindle.

In an ineffable moment of spinning within the multiverse, she sees a thousand cursed princesses reaching for the spindle. But only one protests, softly whispering, “Help.” So Zinnia reaches out towards her. The universe goes dark, and she wakes in a fairy tale castle, in the plush royal bed of Princess Primrose of Perceforest.

If this tale has a flaw it starts now. After a truly compelling opening, Ms. Harrow has no place left to go. She has a point that she cares about, and wants very much to make. She has already intervened in the original story before the end, which she wants to change – that being her whole purpose in writing this novella. But fairy tales are not strong on complex plot lines, and now she has no guideposts as to where to go next, or how to get there.

In this place and time, the only alternative to the spindle is a political marriage. So if there is to be any story at all, it must now decry its new ending and find a way to avert it.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that loveless political marriages are a good thing. But I do not think that was Ms. Harrow’s original point. And they are a far cry from a terrible curse. They were normal in the Middle Ages, where large households were as close as woman could get to a safe refuge in a dangerous world. The only reasonably acceptable alternative was the nunnery, (which apparently was not an option in fairy tale worlds.)

I fully acknowledge that Primrose’s position is not a happy one. But she has been dropped into a much weaker story than the one she started out in, which is disappointing to the reader. And it is still a story that can only be resolved by magic.

Lastly, I am sorry to say, I found the ending even weaker. Primrose is (magically) rescued. Zinnia emerges from her adventure with a few years added to her potential lifeline, and some personal lessons learned. But lessons learned are not the same thing as skills acquired, and she would need some serious skills when embarking on her next life choice – which mostly looks like a bid for a sequel.

Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom), is also a tale of a young girl entering Fairyland. The similarities end there. Regan is only ten. Unlike a number of her classmates, she’s still definitely pre-teen. (Allow me to interject that Ms. McGuire’s portraiture of young girls is uncanny in its accuracy.) But as long Regan’s best friend is Laurel, the class queen bee, she is sheltered from social consequences, and no matter that Laurel is a rigid, domineering bully.

That is, until Regan’s parents have to warn her that there is a genetic reason why she is not maturing as fast as her classmates. That discovery was the end of her world. The end of her friendship with Laurel—and the end of the social safety Laurel provided. She runs away from home. And in a nearby wooded plot she finds . . . a door.

It doesn’t lead to a fairyland of castles and princesses. Rather, it’s simply a place where the residents are all mythological beings, and there are no humans. She stumbles almost immediately upon a unicorn, (which is not a person, it’s a dumb beast) and shortly afterwards, the centaurs who herd the unicorns. The centaurs are all astonished and thrilled to meet a genuine human. They know the legends. Humans only show up when the serious trouble is coming and they’re needed to save the world, after which they disappear. Which may bode ill, but it’s still thrilling to meet a creature out of legend.

The centaurs offer to take Regan to see the queen, right away, since she will have to be presented to Her SunLit Majesty sooner or later anyway. But Regan would rather stay with the centaurs, at least until the Fair. She becomes best friends (true best friends!) with Chicory, a centaur child, and studies herbal medicine with Daisy, the herd’s healer. She learns centaur customs, and how to herd unicorns and, weave grass beds. She grows tall and strong, and doesn’t bother to worry about the absence of puberty. She does worry how her parents are coping, but there’s nothing she can do about that. This continues for years.

The story here is deceptively simple. Regan runs away and arrives in another world.  She learns many lessons about herself – most importantly, how to be happy insider her own skin – and in the end, she must go to the Fair to meet the queen. The Fair is not as safe and kindly a place as a centaur longhouse. And the queen is not what Regan has been told. I am struggling here to avoid spoilers while warning you that the ending is startling unique: smaller and subtler – and sharper – than you’d expect, but quite wonderful.

In Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tordotcom), Mr. Tchaikovsky applies well known trope: an abandoned colony reduced of millennia to pre-industrial barbarism, but with one lingering outpost, inhabited by one lone anthropologist named Nyrgoth, who long since abandoned hope of his people ever coming back.

The last time Nyr ventured out of his tower, he was persuaded to accompany a warrior princess named Astresse in her pursuit of a monster/sorcerer/warlord Ulmoth. Ulmoth was defeated and Nyr has filled the centuries since with long naps. Our story opens with Lynesse, the great-granddaughter of Astresse, deciding that it is time to solicit more ‘sorcerous’ assistance against an apparently magical menace.

The story shifts focus back and forth between Nyr and Lyn. I found this format a little troubling, largely because the two parties didn’t balance. The Nyr passages are a deeply intimate first-person memoir.

He cannot look at Lyn without remembering Astresse, and grieving that she is so long gone. He agonizes over the endless struggle to communicate with her, since she interprets all technical terms as magical ones. (He must have had the same problem with Astresse, but apparently never got used to it.)

He flagellates himself over his failure as an anthropologist, in that he has intervened (twice now!) in the culture he is supposed to be studying, while simultaneously denouncing the pointlessness of anthropological study. Psychologically, he is a clinically depressed mess.

But  Lynn, on the other hand, is presented in a brisk third person. She is a fairly standard heroic fantasy protagonist, an unappreciated younger heir, raised on tales of her heroic ancestress, questing in the hope of proving herself to her family, and gaining renown. Her emotions and responses are plain, and undetailed.

The monster is interesting  –  although not much attention is paid to it. No one who has not seen it believes in it, largely because it is truly weird, well beyond the normal bounds of either SF or fantasy. The pair painfully but successfully defeat it, seeming at great cost. But of course, a happy ending is tacked on, and all is joy in Mudville.

The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom), is complicated. In fact, it’s so complicated that I had a lot of trouble following it. And, therefore, I can’t really say I enjoyed it. It breaks my heart to say that. Ms. Valente is one of my favorite authors. Radiance (Tom Doherty Associates, 2015) and Deathless (Tordotcom, 2011) are two of the best books I have ever, EVER read.

But . . .  for starters, she uses a very convoluted sequence of events. She jumps around in her story line so vigorously that I spent a good half of my reading time going back to reread previous passages in a frequently unsuccessful attempt to find out where I was in the story. On top of that, she used what may have been the most unreliable ‘unreliable narrator’ I have ever encountered.

Usually I don’t mind an unreliable narrator. It adds verisimilitude. Mind you I’m quite comfortable with the impersonal third person narrator, but using one of the characters as the narrator can bring warmth into a story. In real life, a lot of people don’t know much, and usually don’t want to admit that. Why should a well-drawn character be any different?

But . . . on three separate occasions, the protagonist announced, “None of that is true. I just made it all up because I like it better than what really happened.” There was no knowing how much was covered under “that” and “it all.” Maybe everything? I’m still not sure what (if anything) happened in The Past is Red.

Maybe I was just feverish or sleep deprived. Maybe you’ll do better with it. I hope so. I do so love her.

Pixel Scroll 6/8/22 Goodness, Gracious, Great Scrolls Of Fur

(1) BIG RESPONSE. The “Send Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki to Worldcon” GoFundMe appeal passed its $7,000 goal in just over a day. A total of $7,460 has been raised from 156 donors at this writing.

(2) WHEN THE MOON HITS YOUR EYE. [By Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it wasn’t as big as the Moon (or even a pizza pie) but the “love tap” that the James Webb Space Telescope received was from an object bigger than expected. “NASA’s new powerful space telescope gets hit by larger than expected micrometeoroid” at The Verge.

NASA expected the JWST to be hit by quite a few micrometeoroids over its lifetime, but also expected them to be typically smaller than a grain of sand. One of the impacts received so far, though, was from an object bigger than that (though NASA hasn’t said just how big). It damaged one of the mirrors enough to cause a “marginally detectable effect in the data.“ Controllers are still working on it, but they feel they can make sufficient adjustments to the mirror to partially cancel the data distortion.

…Since its launch, JWST has already been hit by at least four different micrometeoroids, according to a NASA blog post, but all of those were small and about the size of what NASA expected the observatory to encounter. A micrometeoroid is typically a small fragment of an asteroid, usually smaller than a grain of sand. The one that hit JWST in May, however, was larger than what the agency had prepared for, though the agency didn’t specify its exact size. NASA admits that the strike, which occurred between May 23rd and May 25th, has caused a “marginally detectable effect in the data” and that engineers are continuing to analyze the effects of the impact….

(3) THE DECLARATION OF SWEETWEIRD. Charlie Jane Anders promulgated “The Sweetweird Manifesto” this week. The post names plenty of works she regards as examples and creates a retroactive history of the form.

…And here’s where I should admit that sweetweird isn’t actually a formal movement, and nobody except for me has been using that term. I wrote in my recent writing advice book Never Say You Can’t Survive that I’m burned out on “grimdark” storytelling that revels in nastiness and extreme violence, and instead I’m ready for “sweetweird.”… 

What is Sweetweird?

The core idea of sweetweird is: the world makes no sense, but we can be nurturing, frivolous and kind. We don’t have to respond to the ludicrous illogic of the world around us by turning mean and nasty, or by expecting everyone else to be horrible. At the very least, we can carve out friendly, supportive spaces in the midst of chaotic nonsense, and maybe help each other survive.

Instead of demanding that the universe stop being a farrago, we embrace the strangeness and make it our own. The unrealness of our consensus reality liberates us, because it undermines the fiction of “normality” and creates a space for us to be our authentic eccentric selves. Decency without conformity, joy that doesn’t depend on a false sense of stability. Affectionate silliness….. 

(4) FREE READS. Aliette de Bodard alerted fans that two of her short stories are available to read for free:

“Sword of Bone, Halls of Thorns” at The Sunday Morning Transport is a story about an exorcist, a talking sword, creepy vegetation and how the choices we make haunt us beyond death and rebirth. 

“The Scholar of the Bamboo Flute” is a reprint available in Uncanny Magazine. Basically it’s Utena-inspired sapphic shenanigans set in a 19th Century Vietnamese-esque academy. (if you don’t know the anime Utena, let’s just say it involves magical duelling, a princess and a whole hell of a lot of queerness, and it’s one of my absolute favourites–a formative watch for me). 

(5) ARTIST Q&A. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s SPECPO blog posted “An Interview with Austin Hart, Star*Line 44.3 Cover Artist, by Jean-Paul Garnier (editor)”.

What led you into the visual arts, and what inspires you to create?

I just admired people that could draw from an early age. I had a couple of uncles that were good artists, and my dad is an architect and my mom is good at drawing even though she doesn’t do it much. I remember some kids in my classes in elementary school that were good artists early on and just trying to keep up with them. Marvel and Image comics and trading cards were very popular and I liked drawing characters and weapons from RPGs. I remember finding out about Robert Crumb, and later Frank Frazetta, early on and that raised the bar in my head for what was possible, but I could never be as good as they are. I am more impressed by pros who can do quick lose expressive sketches with very few lines than people who can make a fully rendered drawing or painting. I am very envious of those types of pros.

(6) SFF’S OWN LOST CAUSE MYTH. Camestros Felapton took notes on a 95-minute YouTube chat between host Ethan Van Sciver and guest Larry Correia: “Watching You Tube so you don’t have to: Larry & Ethan edition”.

…What sustained me through what was an extraordinarily dull experience was the question on whether the elephants in the room would get mentioned. Put these guys together and there are two elephants: one quite significant and based in Switzerland and one less so and based in California.

… In short, EVS and LC had a lot in common to talk about! You won’t be surprised to discover that they didn’t talk about it either…

…After that, we get a garbled history of the Puppy campaigns. Events get shoehorned together and the absence of Vox Day from the story looms ever larger. It becomes this big mysterious thing as to why people might think of the Sad Puppy 2 campaign as being racist and misogynistic (hint: Vox Day aside from anything else). The absence of Day from the narrative enables this spin that the pushback against the Sad Puppy campaign from a diversity perspective was wholly irrational…

(7) THE WORLD NEEDS A HERO. DC dropped this trailer for Black Adam today. Only in theaters October 21.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-eight years ago on this day, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, the sequel to the Hugo-winning Raiders of the Lost Ark, premiered. It’s actually a prequel to that film. Once again it’s directed by Steven Spielberg from a story by George Lucas. The screenplay was by the husband and wife team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, best known for American Graffiti which yes involved both George Lucas and Harrison Ford. 

Harrison Ford was of course back along with Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone and Ke Huy Quan. Capshaw would marry Spielberg seven years later and yes they are still married, bless them! 

I’ll admit that Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom was nearly not as fun for me as Raiders of the Lost Ark but critics loved it, with Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review saying it was “the most cheerfully exciting, bizarre, goofy, romantic adventure movie since Raiders, and it is high praise to say that it’s not so much a sequel as an equal. It’s quite an experience.”  

And Kathleen Carroll of the New York Daily Postwas equally exuberant: “Indie, you will be happy to learn, hasn’t changed a bit. Played with gruff determination by the appealingly rugged Harrison Ford, he continues to set quite a pace for himself in Spielberg’s rip-roaring, boldly imaginative sequel to his blockbuster hit.” 

It’s worth noting that It did get banned in India which as one who spent considerable time in Sri Lanka is something I fully understand as there are truly disgusting Indian stereotypes in that film.

It was fantastically profitable as it cost just under thirty million in production and publicity costs and made ten times that at the box office in its initial run! 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are very fond of it, giving it an eighty-four percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 8, 1910 – John W. Campbell, Jr.  Author of half a dozen novels, a score of shorter stories like “Who Goes There?” and “Forgetfulness.” For 34 years he edited Astounding, renamed Analog, and a short-lived fantasy companion, Unknown (see Fred Smith’s Once There Was a Magazine). Ushered in the Golden Age of SF. Won 17 Hugos, of which nine were Retrospective, all but one for editing (the exception: Retro-Hugo for “Who Goes There?”). On the other hand, in his ASF editorials he supported many forms of crank medicine, and promoted Dianetics, and specious views about slavery, race, and segregation, all of which was well-known in sf fandom. In the Sixties he rejected Samuel R. Delany‘s Nova for serialization saying that he did not feel his readership “would be able to relate to a black main character.” Focusing on his foundational contributions, his name was put on the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, but after 46 years it was renamed the Astounding Award when a winner called him out for “setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day.” (Died 1971) [OGH]
  • Born June 8, 1915 Frank Riley. He’s best known for They’d Rather Be Right (co-written with Mark Clifton) which won a Hugo Award for Best Novel at Clevention (1955). Originally published in serialized form in Astounding unlike his eight short SF stories that were all published in If. Sadly he’s not made it into the digital realm yet except for scattered stories. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 8, 1917 George D. Wallace. He’s here for playing Commando Cody in the early Fifties Radar Men from the Moon movie serial. He would later show up as the Bosun on Forbidden Planet, and had minor roles late in his career in MultiplicityBicentennial Man and Minority Report. He also played a Star Fleet Admiral in “The Man of the People” episode of The Next Generation. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 8, 1926 Philip Levene. He wrote nineteen episodes of The Avengers including creating the Cybernauts which won him a Writer’s Guild Award, and served as script consultant for the series in 1968–69. He also has three genre acting credits, one as a Supervisor in “The Food” episode of Quatermass II; the second as a Security Guard in the X the Unknown film, and finally as Daffodil in Avenger’s “Who’s Who” episode. (Died 1973.)
  • Born June 8, 1928 Kate Wilhelm. Author of the Hugo–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She also won a Hugo for Best Related Book and a Locus Award for Best Nonfiction for Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. SFWA renamed their Solstice Award the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. She established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 8, 1946 Elizabeth A. Lynn, 76. She is well known for being one of the first genre writers to introduce gay and lesbian characters as an aspect of her stories. So in honor of her, the widely known A Different Light chain of LGBT bookstores took its name from her novel of that name. Her best known work is The Chronicles of Tornor series. Her Watchtower novel won a World Fantasy Award as did “The Woman Who Loved the Moon” story. 
  • Born June 8, 1947 Sara Paretsky, 75. Best best known for her private detective novels focused on V.I. Warshawski, she has one genre novel in Ghost Country. It too involves V.I. Warshawski and may or may not involve things of supernatural nature. I haven’t encountered it, so I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has. 
  • Born June 8, 1973 Lexa Doig, 49. Cowgirl the hacker on TekWar,the post-Trek Shatner series that he actually made sense in as opposed to Barbary Coast. She was also Andromeda Ascendant/Rommie on Andromeda and Sonya Valentine on Continuum, and the voice of Dale Arden in the animated Flash Gordon series. One-offs in Earth: Final ConflictThe 4400Stargate SG-1, Eureka, V, Smallville, Supernatural and Primeval: New World

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mannequin on the Moon has a wonderful word processing gag.
  • Crankshaft is about someone who hasn’t kept up with the times. (Which it usually is, come to think of it.)

(11) HEAD OUT ON THE HIGHWAY. This bookseller delivers – the entire store! “Rita Collins Drives a Traveling Bookstore Around the United States” at Today.

From May to October, you can find Rita Collins, 70, in the front seat of a white Sprinter van, driving across America. In this era of RVs and #vanlife Instagram photos, Collins’ ride is set apart. Rattling around, in the back of her van, is a fully functional used bookstore.

While stopping in small towns and cities around the U.S., Collins relishes in the wonder that comes across people’s faces when they realize this van is not like any other. Whether she’s parked outside of a book festival, coffee shop or farmer’s market, Collins finds herself having the same conversation, encouraging people to climb the wooden steps and take a peek inside….

Like most traditional bookstores, St. Rita’s Traveling Bookstore and Textual Apothecary has floor-to-ceiling shelves organized by genre, overhead lighting and a carpet on the floor. The main difference, of course, is that it’s on wheels. The bookstores’ 600 volumes are set at a 15 degree angle to keep them from falling as Collins drives from state to state — so far, she’s been to 30, and has traveled cross-country three times. 

(12) HERE COMES THE PITCH. “’Ms. Marvel’ directors presented a PowerPoint to Kevin Feige to convince him to include animation, inspired by ‘Into the Spider-Verse’” at MSN.com.

…With past shows like “Moon Knight,” “Hawkeye,” “Loki,” and “WandaVision” taking on a more serious tone, here comes a standout show that’s refreshingly light.

You can give some of that credit to filmmaking duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.

The Moroccan-Belgian filmmakers (known collectively as Adil and Bilall) instantly saw “Ms. Marvel” as a show that should be filled with color, life, and celebration of culture….

Adil and Billal felt animation would make the show pop. So they compiled a presentation with things that inspired them and headed to the Marvel Studios offices to pitch how they would direct the series to studio head Kevin Feige and his team.

“Kevin walked in and I have to admit, I was a little starstruck,” Bilall said. “We did this whole PowerPoint presentation and we told them that this is our influences for the show. ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ was a big one because of the animation.”

“For us, the animation was something we always wanted to put into it,” Adil added. “We wanted to portray that dream world of Kamala Khan and the comic book aspect to it. We were afraid that Kevin would say no because it’s different from the other shows of the MCU.”

(13) THEY ROCK TO THE TREES. A 2015 article at Hollywood.com involving Andy Serkis, The Imaginarium, motion capture, and animation — with a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey — tells how an “Andy Serkis meeting inspired Coldplay’s chimp video”.

A chance meeting between British rocker Chris Martin and actor Andy Serkis inspired the band to embrace motion-capture technology for a new music video.

The musicians were transformed into chimps in the promo for their new single Adventure Of A Lifetime using techniques pioneered in Hollywood movies such as Avatar and The Lord of The Rings.

It has now been revealed the idea came about after frontman Chris bumped into Andy on a plane, and the pair discussed the actor’s experiences with motion-capture on films such as King Kong and the Planet of the Apes series.

The rockers spent six months making the short clip, and used “full motion performance capture rigs” to transform themselves….

Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime (Making Of Video)

Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime (Official Video) – YouTube

(14) HERMAN, LILY, & GRANDPA, OH MY. ScreenRant invites us to watch “’The Munsters’ Return in First Trailer for Rob Zombie Movie”. The Munsters will premiere this fall on Universal All Access.

…Today, Universal released the first teaser for the film, which is practically a shot-for-shot remake of the original Munsters opening credits, complete with the classic Munsters theme song. It makes it pretty clear that if you were expecting Zombie to turn The Munsters into a stereotypical Rob Zombie movie full of blood and guts, you were mistaken. (Zombie has already said, this is not an R-rated reimagining; it’s a PG-rated tribute.)…

(15) X MINUS TWO. Paramount Plus promises this is “the dumbest science fiction movie ever made!” Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, streaming on June 23,

In perhaps the dumbest space movie ever made, Beavis and Butt-head are sentenced to Space Camp by a “creative” judge in 1998, leading to a trip on the Space Shuttle, with predictably disastrous results. After going through a black hole, they reemerge in our time, where they look for love, misuse iPhones, and are hunted by the Deep State. Spoiler: They don’t score.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King asks, “What happens if you merged King of the Hill and Lord of the Rings?” in “Return of the King of the Hill of the Rings”.

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

2021 BSFA Awards

The British Science Fiction Association today announced the winners of the 2021 BSFA Awards.

The awards are voted on by members of the British Science Fiction Association and by the members of the year’s Eastercon, the national science fiction convention, held since 1955.

The BSFA Awards have been presented annually since 1970. This year marks the launch of a new category, the Best Book for Younger Readers.

 BEST BOOK FOR YOUNGER READERS

  • Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao, Rock the Boat

BEST NOVEL

  • Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor

BEST SHORTER FICTION

  • ‘Fireheart Tiger’ by Aliette de Bodard, Tor.com

BEST NON-FICTION

  • Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Francesca T. Barbini, Luna Publishing

BEST ARTWORK

  • Glasgow Green Woman by Iain Clark, Glasgow2024
Aliette de Bodard with BSFA Award

Uncanny Magazine 2021 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll Results

The Uncanny Magazine 2021 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll results were announced February 14.

Tied for the top story are:

The rest of the Top Five are:

2. (Tie)

3. “Proof by Induction” by José Pablo Iriarte

4. “Colors of the Immortal Palette” by Caroline M. Yoachim

5. “Mulberry and Owl” by Aliette de Bodard

Pixel Scroll 5/7/21 Anything You Can Grok, I Can Grok Better

(1) DOING MINISTRY WORK. Crooked Timber  is having an extended forum on Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry For The Future: Below are the posts that have been made so far as part of “The Ministry for the Future seminar”.

Over the next ten days, we’re running a seminar on Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent novel about climate change and how our political and economic system might have to change to stop it, The Ministry for the Future. We’re happy to be able to do this – it’s an important book. Since it came out, it’s had an enormously enthusiastic reception (see e.g. Barack Obama and Ezra Klein). What we want to do in this seminar is not to celebrate it further (although it certainly deserves celebration) but to help it do its work in the world. So we’ve asked a number of people to respond to the book, by arguing it through and, as needs be, arguing with it. Soon after the seminar finishes, we will publish a reply piece by Stan, and then make the seminar generally available under a Creative Commons license. As the pieces are published, I will update this post to provide hyperlinks, to make it easier for people to keep track.

And Adam Roberts didn’t want to be left out – in comments he linked to his review of the book at Sibilant Fricative: “Kim Stanley Robinson, ‘The Ministry for the Future’”.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dine with award-winning writer Aliette de Bodard in episode 144 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast. Edelman adds, ”And unless my anxiety overwhelms me, next week, I’ll record the first face to face episode in 14 months … with a fully vaccinated guest over takeout at a picnic table in a public park.”

Aliette de Bodard

It’s time to head off for a Vietnamese meal with the amazing Aliette de Bodard, who’s currently both a Hugo Award and Ignyte Award finalist for her story “The Inaccessibility of Heaven,” published last year in Uncanny.

She’s the author of the Hugo-Award-nominated series The Universe of Xuya, set in a galactic empire born out of Vietnamese history and culture. She’s also written the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in an alternate Paris devastated by a magical war, which includes The House of Shattered WingsThe House of Binding Thorns, and the The House of Sundering Flames.

Her short fiction has appeared in UncannyBeneath Ceaseless SkiesLightspeedSubterraneanTor.com, and other magazines. She’s won three Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, a European Science Fiction Association Achievement Award, and four British Science Fiction Association Awards, in addition to being a finalist for the Hugo and Sturgeon Award. She was a double Hugo finalist in 2019 for Best Series and Best Novella, and was also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2009.

We discussed how best to deal with imposter syndrome, the way the pandemic contributed to her completing a long-unfinished story, the phone call which sparked her to focus on more personal stories, when she realized she was building universes rather than single stories, how anger over Revenge of the Sith gave her insight into the kinds of universes she did and didn’t want to build, why the Shadow and Bone TV adaptation wasn’t the escapist entertainment she hoped it would be, how writers can fight back against the cliches popular culture puts in our heads, whether writers can control the effects of their stories when they have no idea what individual readers might bring to them, how best to use anger appropriately, the importance of a story’s final line, what she wishes she’d known about writing rules when she began, and much more.

(3) A MODEL FAN. Part 2 of Fanac.org’s Zoom session interview with Erle and Steve Korshak is now online. Erle is nearly 98. (Part 1 is here,)

Erle Korshak, founder of the legendary Shasta Publishers, instrumental in the second Worldcon in 1940 (Chicon I), very likely the first SF bookseller, and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon), sat with his son, Stephen, and fan historian Joe Siclari for a dive into his 80+ year SF fan career (April 2021). Part 2 of his interview is replete with entertaining anecdotes of well known fans and pros in the field such as Aldous Huxley, Charlie Hornig, and Bob Tucker. Erle recounts a sweet tale of Frank R. Paul drawing on stencil, and a charming story of how he himself came to be the model for the Hubert Rogers cover for Heinlein’s “Revolt in 2100”. You’ll also hear convention stories, art stories and more. Best of all, Erle paints a clear picture of what science fiction fandom was like in the early, early days.

(4) COSTUMERS’ IDEAS ABOUT BEST PRACTICES. Another of Fanac.org’s many recent additions is the Kennedy Masquerade Compendium – even in 1981, they thought it was time to stop reinventing the wheel every year.

…It occurred to me, among others, that more input by costumers would be a GOOD THING. Further, that assembling a consensus of opinion on various aspects of costuming and of Masquerade operation could be a help to future Masquerade Committees. With this in mind, I composed a few tentative rules and sent them out to those costumers whose addresses were in my book, asking for comments, criticisms, and suggestions. Some of the rules were deliberately provocative; and they did indeed provoke the production of enough material for another letter, and then another another. From the answers received, and from some personal discussions, I arrived at this present set of Guidelines. Not everything here is agreed to by every person who contributed, but I have tried to make sure that each suggestion is supported by enough experienced costumers to represent a respectable body of opinion….

(5) HAND-TO-BUTTON COMBAT. ScreenRant presents “The 10 Most Bizarre Weapons In Sci-Fi Movies, Ranked”.

…Science-fiction and technology go hand in hand, with one influencing the other over the years. This had led to both fantastical imaginings and real-world applications. Sci-fi movies usually showcase this relationship using advanced spaceships, robots, and of course, weapons….

8. L.O.O.K.E.R. GUN

Michael Crichton’s Looker was an attempt at holding a mirror up to society’s obsession with media and beauty, while also presenting a mystery about a series of murders of recent plastic surgery patients. Looker was one of the first films to use computer-generated images to create a realistic human character.

The film also featured a truly odd weapon of choice for the killer, which was a gun that emitted pulses of light to hypnotize/blind its victims/give the bearer the illusion of invisibility. The gun was named the Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive Responses, or L.O.O.K.E.R Gun, which means its vague purpose may be secondary to making the acronym work with the title of the film.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • May 7, 1933 — On this day in 1933, King Kong premiered. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose from an idea by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an astonishing ninety eighty percent approval rating. It has been ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as the fourth greatest horror film of all time.  You can watch it here as it’s very much in the public domain. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 7, 1861 – Rabindranath Tagore.  Five stories, two poems for us available in English.  Composer, painter, philosopher, playwright, poet, social reformer.  First lyricist to win the Nobel Prize.  Two thousand songs; two chosen as national anthems.  Still largely unknown outside Bengal; try this.  (Died 1941) [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories.  His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of they would publish was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. He’s won two Retro Hugos, the first at Worldcon 76 for “The Twonky” short story, the second at Dublin 2019 for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. (Died 1958.) (CE) 
  • Born May 7, 1918 – Walt Liebscher.  Fanziner best known for Chanticleer.  Harry Warner applauded “the incredible things Liebscher did with typewriter art.  He specialized in little faces with subtle expressions….  The contents page was frequently a dazzling display of inventive borders and separating lines.  Variety was imparted to some pages simply by running down one margin a repeated motif created from various characters”; here is C7 (PDF).  A score of short stories, half a dozen poems.  Correspondent of The Alien CriticAstounding, Fantasy AdvertiserVoice of the Imagi-NationLe Zombie.  Fan Guest of Honor  at Ambercon 2, Archon 6.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then she had the extended recurring role of Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born May 7, 1931 – Gene Wolfe.  Thirty novels, two hundred thirty stories, forty poems.  Correspondent of AlgolThe Alien CriticFantasy NewsletterNY Rev of SFSF ChronicleSF CommentarySF Review, Speculation.  Interviewed in ClarkesworldGalaxy’s EdgeInterzoneScheherazadeSolarisStarShipSofaThrustUnivers (so spelled, it’s French), Vector.  Two Nebulas, five World Fantasy Awards including Lifetime Achievement, Campbell Memorial Award, Skylark, Rhysling, British SF Ass’n and British Fantasy Awards, SF Hall of Fame, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master. Guest of Honor at AutoClave 1, Baycon ’82, DucKon VIII, Balticon 40, Chambanacon 45-47, Aussiecon Two the 43rd Worldcon.  I can’t omit “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories”, “The Death of Doctor Island”, “The Doctor of Death Island”, “Death of the Island Doctor”.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 82. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a redhead who was seriously into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of his include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that I’m betting almost no one here has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2. (CE)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant, if unsettling look at the theatre world. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born May 7, 1943 – Ned Dameron, age 78.  Fifty covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is Trumpet 12.  Here is Showboat World.  Here (and here) is Sailing to Byzantium.  Here is the Nolacon II Hugo trophy (46th Worldcon).  Here are facing interior pages from Charlie the Choo-Choo.  [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 70. SF reviewer for the LA Times,  the unfortunately defunct Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films. (CE)
  • Born May 7, 1966 – Rachel Ann Nunes, age 55.  A dozen novels for us (some under another name), half a dozen shorter stories, three dozen books all told.  She says she’s “married, mostly grown up, and has seven kids, so life at her house can be very interesting (and loud)….  Her only rule about writing is never to eat chocolate at the computer.”  [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1982 – Bec McMaster, age 39.  Two dozen novels.  She says, “raised on myth and legend … offered her younger siblings to the goblin king many a time.  Unfortunately, he did not accept.”  Has read Jane Eyre, five-sixths of the Lymond ChroniclesPride and PrejudiceRomeo and JulietThe Count of Monte Cristo.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

The Far Side has a clever Star Trek joke.

(9) BLACK CARTOONISTS. Never-before-collected comics from Chicago’s Black press: It’s Life as I See It curated by Dan Nadel and published by the New York Review Comics.

Between the 1940s and 1980s, Chicago’s Black press—from The Chicago Defender to the Negro Digest to self-published pamphlets—was home to some of the best cartoonists in America. Kept out of the pages of white-owned newspapers, Black cartoonists found space to address the joys, the horrors, and the everyday realities of Black life in America. From Jay Jackson’s anti-racist time travel adventure serial Bungleton Green, to Morrie Turner’s radical mixed-race strip Dinky Fellas, to the Afrofuturist comics of Yaoundé Olu and Turtel Onli, to National Book Award–winning novelist Charles Johnson’s blistering and deeply funny gag cartoons, this is work that has for far too long been excluded and overlooked. Also featuring the work of Tom Floyd, Seitu Hayden, Jackie Ormes, and Grass Green, this anthology accompanies the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s exhibition Chicago Comics: 1960 to Now, and is an essential addition to the history of American comics.

(10) WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS. For-profit conrunner Creation Entertainment is revving up an anniversary celebration: “Creation Entertainment’s 55-Year Mission Convention in Las Vegas”. It will take place August 11-15.

The year 2021 marks the 50th Anniversary of Creation Entertainment, the 55th Anniversary of Star Trek, the 20th Anniversary of our convention in Las Vegas, Gene Roddenberry’s 100th birthday year and William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy’s 90th birthday years. It’s the perfect time to celebrate and no city is better than Las Vegas to do just that!

With over 100 celebrity guests, we’ll have multiple tracks of non-stop programming, contests, music, cosplay and surprises, plus partying galore. We’ll immerse our attendees into the positive and loving atmosphere with thousands of other fans, as we all celebrate Gene Roddenberry’s legacy.

(11) PRIVATE ASTRONAUTS. “NASA, Axiom Space to Host Media Briefing on Private Astronaut Mission” says a NASA press release.

NASA and Axiom Space have signed a mission order for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station and will host a teleconference with media at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 10, to discuss more details about the mission.

NASA has opened up the space station for commercial activities, including private astronaut missions, as part of its plan to develop a robust and competitive economy in low-Earth orbit. NASA’s needs in low-Earth orbit – such as human research, technology development, and in-flight crew testing – will continue after the retirement of the International Space Station. Commercial industry will help meet these needs by providing destinations and transportation capabilities to continue these services as part of a broader low-Earth orbit economy. Enabling private astronaut missions to the station is an important step to stimulate demand for commercial human spaceflight services so that NASA can be one of many customers in low-Earth orbit.

The spaceflight, named Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), is scheduled to launch no earlier than January 2022 for an eight-day mission aboard the orbiting complex. The Axiom Space crew will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida…

(12) A FULLY-OPERATIONAL PLAYTHING. Eric Diaz, in “Kick Off Summer with a Giant Inflatable Death Star Beach Ball” at Nerdist, says that Star Wars fans will want to take this Giant Inflatable beach ball and kick it around the pool, pretending that Stormtroopers inside are flailing because of the powers of the Force!l

…Just think of all the fun you’ll have, imagining the stormtroopers inside. Each rolling around and hitting their dumb helmets on the walls. And all while kicking this Death Star across the park. Or better yet, throw it in your backyard pool. It’s just like when Death Star II crashes on the planet Kef Bir, the ocean moon of Endor. However you decide to play with it, or even just display that big sucker, it sure feels like the past year owes us all a giant inflatable battle station of our own….

(13) UP ALL NIGHT. Netflix dropped a trailer for Awake, a future where people can’t sleep. Airs June 9.

Chaos ensues after a global event wipes out all electronics and takes away humankind’s ability to sleep. But Jill (Gina Rodriguez), an ex-soldier with a troubled past, may hold the key to a cure in the form of her own daughter.

(14) RESCUED ROMERO FILM.  Another trailer dropped for The Amusement Park, a film George Romero directed in 1973 which has been suppressed until now, that has been released on Shudder.

An elderly gentleman goes for what he assumes will be an ordinary day at the amusement park, only to find himself in the middle of a hellish nightmare instead. Shot by George A. Romero between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, The Amusement Park is a bleak, haunting allegory where the attractions and distractions of an amusement park stand in for the many abuses that the elderly face in society. 4K digital restoration commissioned by the George A. Romero Foundation and carried out by IndieCollect.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/21 All Unshielded Surfaces

(1) 2021 FAAN VOTING DEADLINE. FAAn Awards Administrator Nic Farey reminds everyone that today is the last day of voting – it closes tonight — March 12 — at midnight Pacific time. Guidelines and the ballot are available in The Incompleat Register 2020 [PDF file]

(2) SOLVING FOR PIE. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Grab a slice of pie with Gil Roth” on Episode 140 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Gil Roth

I’ve been wanting to bring Gil to you for awhile, and had been hoping we’d be able to sneak away for a meal during either Readercon or the Small Press Expo, but neither occurred last year, at least not outside of a virtual space, and both will be virtual again this year. So as you listen, I’d like you to think of yourself as being with us at one of those cons, and tagging along as we head off to chat and chew.

We discussed his surprising (and my unsurprising ) guest with the greatest number of downloads, the advice John Crowley gave him about his potential writing career, how a guy who used to memorize X-Men comics got turned on to Love & Rockets, the way we process the deaths of former guests, the song he wants played at his memorial service, how to get often-interviewed guests not to regurgitate their favorite soundbites, why no comic book movie beats the first Superman, how he became the publisher of every letter Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984, why during his days reviewing for The Comics Journal readers thought he was the secret identity of another writer, the Italo Calvino quote which has kept him going through the pandemic, and much more.

(3) YOUR IMAGINARY FRIENDS WHO WANT A PERCENTAGE. Victoria Strauss posted another Scam Alert at Writer Beware: “Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions and its Stable of Imaginary Agents”.

…To go with its brand-new name, Paper Bytes has initiated a brand new scam: a stable of imaginary literary agents. It’s an unusually detailed endeavor, with actual websites for each agent (albeit not very good ones) that include photos–some stock, some stolen–as well as made-up bios and false claims about who/what they represent. All share the email address @bookliteraryagent.com, which no doubt is convenient for the interchangeable roster of Paper Bytes marketers who inhabit these agent personas, but also makes them easier to track and expose.

I’ll list them all below. But first, How It All Works!…

…How to protect yourself?

1. Know how things work in the publishing world. Real literary agents don’t sell services to potential clients, or refer them to companies that do. Real agents don’t commonly contact writers out of the blue. The warnings at the Writer Beware website can help you recognize non-standard or predatory practices.

(4) ZIGGY STARDUST’S BROTHER BIGGY? Mental Floss recalls when “David Bowie Tried to Turn George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Into a Musical”.

The track list for David Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs offers a couple obvious clues about one source of inspiration: song titles include both “1984” and “Big Brother.” But Bowie didn’t just want to use themes from George Orwell’s 1984 on the record. As Open Culture reports, he initially hoped to turn the 1949 dystopian classic into a full-fledged musical of its own.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/x2xfpMMQIJ8 What form that musical was ultimately meant to take isn’t totally clear. According to Christopher Sandford’s biography Bowie: Loving the Alien, the adaptation would’ve been “a West End musical, with an accompanying album and film.” But in a Rolling Stone interview with William S. Burroughs from February 1974—just months before the release of Diamond Dogs—Bowie himself mentioned he was “doing Orwell’s 1984 on television.” It’s possible the project went through several iterations when the “Space Oddity” singer was still brainstorming it. But thanks to Orwell’s widow, Sonia (believed to be the basis for 1984‘s Julia), the musical never progressed past the incubation stage.

“My office approached Mrs. Orwell, because I said, ‘Office, I want to do 1984 as a musical, go get me the rights,’” Bowie explained in 1993, according to David Buckley’s Strange Fascination: David Bowie, the Definitive Story. “And they duly trooped off to see Mrs. Orwell, who in so many words said, ‘You’ve got to be out of your gourd, do you think I’m turning this over to that as a musical?’ So, they came back and said, ‘Sorry, David, you can’t write it.’” Since Bowie had already started “putting bits of it down” in the studio, the surprise rejection forced him to pivot quickly. His ill-fated musical became a concept album with Orwellian overtones.

(5) IT’S NEWS TO SOMEBODY. The publication of Matthew Yglesias’ article “Oh, the intellectual property rights you’ll extend” at Slow Boring has caught up with the already-played-out week-old Twitterstorm. Nevertheless, at the link you can read him make a case about copyright law, triggered by the Dr. Seuss controversy. 

…Regardless, under U.S. law, the copyrights last for the duration of their creator’s life plus 70 years — i.e., until 2061.

That’s a big change from how we did things in the Founders’ era, when copyrights lasted 14 years with an option to renew the copyright for an additional 14 years.

Since then, not only has Congress repeatedly extended the duration of copyright terms, they’ve even extended them retroactively, basically preventing Mickey Mouse (created in 1928) or Superman (created in 1938) from ever entering the public domain the way that 19th century characters like Frankenstein1 or Sherlock Holmes have.

I bring this all up because I think it’s relevant policy context for the recent controversy over Seuss Enterprises withdrawing six books from publication that were deemed problematic. Right-wing agitators have responded to this as if it’s the government censoring Dr. Seuss, and so out of solidarity with Dr. Seuss, they are buying non-canceled classics like “Green Eggs and Ham” in droves. But this is just not factual. Dr. Seuss has been dead for nearly 30 years. His heirs — likely these two stepdaughters, though that’s not entirely clear — canceled the books, and now are the ones reaping the financial rewards from the backlash to their own actions….

(6) BEHIND WANDAVISION. Marvel Entertainment dropped a trailer for “Marvel Studios’ Assembled: The Making of WandaVision”, a behind the scenes look at the series.

(7) MORE BINDING. The Verge reports on a trend toward “Making fanfiction beautiful enough for a bookshelf”.

… Lesure spends hours making sure each book looks unique and regal, but she has to be careful not to use any specific imagery that could land her in trouble.

That’s because the books Lesure crafts contain works of fanfiction, and she’s found an entire community of avid readers looking to turn their unauthorized digital favorites into physical treats.

Nothing about the process is simple. There are “literally hundreds of moments where I could do something wrong and everything falls to shambles,” Lesure, a student who started bookbinding during a gap year in 2019, told The Verge. Her process includes typesetting, redoing the typesetting, doing that again and again until it’s right, printing, folding, sewing, making the cover, and finally putting it all together.

Fanfiction has traditionally been confined to online sites like Archive of Our Own (AO3) and FanFiction.Net, but some of the most prolific artists within the space have found a way to help people enjoy their favorite titles in new ways: binding the stories into physical novels designed to read better and stand out on bookshelves. The crafts have helped bring some of the most popular unofficial stories set in Harry PotterStar Wars, and other universes onto shelves where they can sit right alongside their authorized counterparts.

(8) OUR BRIGHT FUTURE. The New York Times takes stock of the city’s inescapable barrage of LED sign advertising: “Am I in Manhattan? Or Another Sequel to ‘Blade Runner’?”

…Adrian Benepe, the former New York City Parks Commissioner and current head of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, sees “creeping Blade Runner syndrome” everywhere, from the clogged skies over Manhattan to the subways, which he rides to work every day from his home on the Upper West Side.

“They’re empty,” Mr. Benepe said. “I’ve been alone many times at rush hour. It’s eerie as hell.” He also finds the movie prescient in its depiction of a world saturated by intrusive, omnipresent advertising.

“Places in New York that used to not have advertising now have ads,” he said. “You can’t get away from it. It’s in the subways, it’s on the streets, it’s on barges. You never stop being assailed.”

Giant screens are nothing new, of course. But New York’s streetscape had been permeated as never before with twitchy, adhesively catchy LEDs, a trend that has only accelerated during the pandemic, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announcing last summer the addition of 9,000 screens broadcasting “Covid-relevant safety information.”

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 12, 1927 –On this day in 1927, Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It  stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough for years I studied it to see how much of work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.) (CE) 
  • March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. Though he’s best known for his work with Disney for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not least for Fantasia and The Little Mermaid be it thirty years after his death, I’d be remiss not to note his early work illustrating such works as East of the Sun and West of the MoonHansel and Gretel and Andersen’s Fairy Tales. (Died 1957.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1911 – Edmund North.  Major in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II.  Served a term as President of the screen branch of the Writers Guild of America.  A score of movies; co-winner of the Best Screenplay Oscar for Patton; for us, screenplay for The Day the Earth Stood Still – which, despite its staggering difference from Bates’ “Farewell to the Master”, I think a classic.  Coined Klaatu barada nikto.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty year period starting in the Fifties: The Great BeastThe Magic of Aleister CrowleyThe King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats  with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1916 – Richard Dorson, Ph.D.  Pioneering and possibly great folklorist – thus our neighbor; pioneering because, in his day, commercial and even arguably artistic success of retellings like Davy Crockett and inventions like Paul Bunyan were clouding the mind.  Coined urban legend and fakelore.  General editor, Folktales of the World.  Two dozen books, including a 1939 one on Crockett; Folk Legends of JapanAfrican Folklore.  “Suspicious of attempts by other disciplines –anthropology, sociology, and psychology, among others – to co-opt folk culture for their own … purposes…. emphasized the necessity for the accurate collection and documentation of folk materials” (quoted from this).  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? See OGH’s post on the Alex Cox animated version of Bill, the Galactic Hero here. (Died 2012.) (CE)  
  • March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 88. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series, Get Smart, done twenty years later. She didn’t have that much of an acting career though she did show up in the pilot of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1936 – Virginia Hamilton.  National Book Award, Newbery Medal (first black to win it), Hans Andersen Award, Wilder Award.  Amer. Lib’y Ass’n King-Hamilton Award named for her (and Coretta Scott King).  Eight novels (including Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed), thirty shorter stories, four collections for us; twoscore books all told.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. – oh, but what a role it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1955 – Jim Mann, F.N., age 66.  Living in Pittsburgh, hard-working member of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) for whose NESFA Press he has edited a dozen books including The Compleat Boucher and The Rediscovery of Man (Cordwainer Smith).  Chaired Boskone 25 (with wife Laurie Mann) and 47.  Fan Guest of Honor (with LM), ArmadilloCon 27.  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born March 12, 1963 – David B. Coe, Ph.D., age 58.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories (some under another name). Crawford Award for LobTyn Chronicle (trilogy).  Reviews and Robots called Time’s Children Best Fantasy Novel of 2018.  Interviewed in Strange HorizonsTeleport.  “We … construct our worlds twice…. for ourselves [and] again … digestible and entertaining and unobtrusive, not to mention elegant, poetic, even exciting….  all the necessary material – and not an ounce more….  [after we] have unraveled their mysteries … decided which elements … are most important to our stories.”  [JH]
  • Born March 12, 1971 – Rob St. Martin, age 50.  Six novels, one novelette, anthology Ages of Wonder (with Julie Cznerneda).   Has read Pride and PrejudiceThe Phantom TollboothA Tale of Two CitiesMoby-DickRomeo and JulietCurious George.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GUARDIAN ANGLE. Lisa Tuttle has a new installment of “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup” at The Guardian in which she reviews Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley; Birds of Paradise by Oliver K Langmead; The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey; A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel; and A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine.

(13) GEARING UP. I’m always ready to read more about the Antikythera mechanism: “Scientists may have solved ancient mystery of ‘first computer’” in The Guardian.

…The battered fragments of corroded brass were barely noticed at first, but decades of scholarly work have revealed the object to be a masterpiece of mechanical engineering. Originally encased in a wooden box one foot tall, the mechanism was covered in inscriptions – a built-in user’s manual – and contained more than 30 bronze gearwheels connected to dials and pointers. Turn the handle and the heavens, as known to the Greeks, swung into motion.

Michael Wright, a former curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum in London, pieced together much of how the mechanism operated and built a working replica, but researchers have never had a complete understanding of how the device functioned. Their efforts have not been helped by the remnants surviving in 82 separate fragments, making the task of rebuilding it equivalent to solving a battered 3D puzzle that has most of its pieces missing.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the UCL team describe how they drew on the work of Wright and others, and used inscriptions on the mechanism and a mathematical method described by the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides, to work out new gear arrangements that would move the planets and other bodies in the correct way. The solution allows nearly all of the mechanism’s gearwheels to fit within a space only 25mm deep….

(14) ROCKET’S RED GLARE. “Green Run Update: NASA Targets March 18 for SLS Hot Fire Test – Artemis”.

NASA is targeting Thursday, March 18 for the second hot fire of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

After performing tests to demonstrate that a recently repaired liquid oxygen pre-valve was working, the team has continued to prepare the core stage, its four RS-25 engines, and the B-2 test stand for the second hot fire at Stennis. Later this week, the team will power up the core stage again and do a final check of all its systems. Then, on March 16, two days before the test, they will power up the stage, starting the clock for the second hot fire….

(15) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Paul Weimer meets the challenge of reviewing the sixth book in a series: “Microreview [book]: Out Past the Stars by KB Wagers” at Nerds of a Feather.

… This is in many ways a very different book than the previous book, Down Among the Dead. Reading it in quick succession after the second book might give some emotional whiplash, it certainly is a gear shift. It’s much more like the first book of the Farian War trilogy, There Before the Chaos, in the sense that it builds up to a big set piece finale of a conflict. Unlike that first book, though, this book is much more about the action beats. 

This shows the range and power of the author across the three books, and sets them apart from the first trilogy as well, which is more adrenaline filled….

(16) TIGER TIGER. Elsewhere at Nerds of a Feather, Sean D assesses a novella by Aliette de Bodard: “Microreview [Book]: Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard”.

…This novella constantly shifts from plot point to plot point, that kept me on my toes without unmooring me into confusion. The craft involved with implementing poetic language that benefits the atmosphere, pacey scenes that never lose focus, and characters that I felt like I knew inside out by the story’s conclusion, deserves kudos. Mostly because the novella juggles a small, insulated cast of characters with subterfuges and violence that impact other kingdoms. Fireheart Tiger is like an expansive web that leaves the reader in the center of it, while also skillfully and pithily letting them know of all its disparate parts.

(17) ELDRITCH SCIENCE. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert couples an alarming report with a Cthulhu reference. “Quarantinewhile… Please Stop Reviving Ancient Pathogens From The Sea Floor”.

Quarantinewhile… In “Hey, maybe don’t do that” news, Japanese scientists are experimenting on 100-million-year-old bacteria that wake up from their slumber when brought to the surface and provided with food.

(18) PIPING AT THE GATES OF DAWN. And speaking of Lovecraft –

[Thanks To John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Nic Farey, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michel Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/26/21 Got My Mjolnir Working

(1) IF YOU LOVED THEM IN GOOD OMENS… A finalist for RadioTimes.com Awards 2021– TV Moment of the Year is Judi Dench slamming David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, a British comedy series set during the COVID-19 pandemic and primarily made using video-conferencing technology.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing exaggerated versions of themselves (actors) in 2020 trying to get work is already hilarious, but add in Dame Judi Dench and you’ve got a work of art. Tennant and Sheen aren’t exactly enthusiastic about their new role in a play, and Dench is on hand to remind them they have said yes to a job so they should “stop f**king about” and “do the bloody job”. That’s them (and us) told.

The series premiered on BBC One last summer, and another eight-episode series was released January 4. The first series synopsis is —

David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End. The pandemic has put paid to that, but their director (Simon Evans – also playing himself) is determined not to let the opportunity pass him by. He knows how big a chance this is for him and turns his attention to cajoling his stars into rehearsing over the internet. All they need to do is read the first scene, but throughout the series they come up against a multitude of oppositional forces: distraction, boredom, home-schooling and their own egos.

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Don Blyly is interviewed by Carz Nelson in “Down But Not Out: The Future of Uncle Hugo’s” at The Alley Newspaper.

…Deciding whether to reopen the stores won’t be easy. At 70 years young, many assumed owner Don Blyly would retire from retail business after the fire. Such assumptions are premature, however. It takes a lot of drive to start over from nothing, but Blyly seems to be equal to whatever tasks he sets himself.

…He admits that he has a knack for bouncing back from adversity, “I’ve noticed that I seem to have more resilience than most other people and I’ve wondered why. Partly it is stubbornness. Partly it is because the more of a track record you have at overcoming previous difficulties, the more confidence you have of overcoming the latest difficulty.”

Blyly says the city has a lot to answer for when it comes to the uprising, “Back in 2015 the Department of Justice made recommendations for reforming the Minneapolis Police, but the City Council has done nothing to implement those recommendations. The judge in the trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Damond raised issues about problems with the Minneapolis Police that have never been addressed.” 

Since the uprising and subsequent looting, he’s concerned that many people think the area is too dangerous to visit, “About half of my sales were to people outside the I-495/ I-694 loop, and they are now scared to come to Minneapolis to spend their money. Customers in South Minneapolis told me that they would be scared to return to the Uncles if I rebuilt in the old location. The city is going to have to actually work on fixing the problems with the Minneapolis Police instead making ‘defunding’ speeches before people will feel comfortable about spending their money in Minneapolis again.”

(3) IT PAYS TO BE POSTHUMOUS. Julie Phillips, in “Born to Be Posthumous” at 4Columns, reviews Mark Dery’s Born To Be Posthumous:  The Eccentric Life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

By his mid-twenties, the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey had already settled on his signature look: long fur coat, jeans, canvas high-tops, rings on all his fingers, and the full beard of a Victorian intellectual. His enigmatic illustrations of equally fur-coated and Firbankian men in parlors, long-skirted women, and hollow-eyed, doomed children (in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, among other works) share his own gothic camp aesthetic. Among the obvious questions for a reader of Gorey’s biography are: Where in his psyche, or in the culture, did all those fey fainting ladies and ironic dead tots come from? And, not unrelatedly: Was Gorey gay?

…Gorey described himself as “undersexed” in a 1980 interview, and equivocated: “I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.” Did he reject a gay sexuality, or was his particular sexuality, perhaps asexuality, not yet on the menu? Dery isn’t out to judge, and encourages us instead to look at how Gorey’s arch imagery, flamboyant self-presentation, and “pantheon of canonically gay tastes” (ballet, Marlene Dietrich records, silent film) allow him to be read in the context of gay culture and history, whatever his praxis in bed…. 

(4) TOO MANY NOTES. Vox’s Aja Romano investigates a kerfuffle at Archive Of Our Own (AO3) about the issues of a million-word fanfic with 1,700 tags. “Sexy Times with Wangxian: The internet’s most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning”.

… Since it first appeared in October 2019, “Sexy Times With Wangxian,” or STWW, has become notorious across AO3. That in itself is unusual, because most AO3 users stick to their own fandoms and don’t pay much attention to what’s happening in others. STWW belongs to the fandom for the wildly popular Chinese TV series The Untamed, and the “Wangxian” in the title refers to the ship name for the show’s beloved main romantic pairing. It’s a very long fanfic, over a million words, and contains more than 200 chapters of porn featuring The Untamed’s large cast in endless permutations and sexual scenarios.

All that, by itself, isn’t enough to make STWW remarkable — not on a website as wild and unpredictable as AO3. Yet the fic has become impossible for many AO3 users to ignore thanks to a unique quirk: Its author has linked it to more than 1,700 site tags (and counting).

A quick note about AO3’s tagging system: It is designed to let users tag creatively and freely. So you can add useful tags, like pairing labels and character names, but you can also toss in personalized tags for fun and creative expression, from “no beta readers we die like men” to “I wrote this at 4am on three bottles of Monster Energy and zero sleep don’t judge.”

The tagging system is in service of the site’s total permissiveness — you can write anything you want in tags. But for the site to function, tags still need to be useful for navigation. So AO3 has hordes of volunteers known as “tag wranglers” whose sole job is to sort through the massive number of fic tags on the site and decide which ones will actually help users find what they’re looking for.

Those tags are then made “canonical,” which means they’ll become universal tags that every user can sort through. They’ll also appear within a list of suggested tags as you type. If I start to type “hospital” while tagging a fic, AO3 will return canonical tag suggestions like “Alternate Universe — Hospital,” “Hospital Sex,” and “Hogwarts Hospital Wing.” That makes it easy to determine whether your fic fits tags the community is already using.

AO3’s tagging system is so organized and thorough that it has won widespread acclaim from fields like library science and internet infrastructure. But it still has its limits — and with more than 1,700 tags, “Sexy Times With Wangxian” has revealed what some of those limits look like — in some cases quite literally….

The tags are so numerous, they can’t fit into a single screenshot on a large monitor. Here’s a quick scroll through the entire thing…

(5) THEY’RE FEELING BETTER. Jen Chaney, in “No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time” at Vulture, has an oral history of the last episode of Lost, which reveals that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had the ambiguous ending in mind the whole time and that the show was so important that the State of the Union in 2010 was moved because it conflicted with the final season opening episode.

…When the finale aired, it sparked divided responses (understatement) from fans. Some loved the emotional way in which Jack’s journey and that of his fellow survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 came to a close. Others were extremely vocally angry about not getting more direct answers to the show’s many questions. Still others came away from it all convinced that the castaways had been dead the whole time. (They were not dead. They really weren’t.)

What was semi-clear at the time and is even clearer now is that the broadcast of the Lost finale would mark the end of something else: the truly communal broadcast television experience. Subsequent finales would be major events (see HBO’s Game of Thrones) and even draw larger audiences (2019’s final Big Bang Theory attracted 18 million viewers, compared to the 13.5 million who tuned in for the Lost farewell). But nothing else since has felt so massively anticipated and so widely consumed in real time the way that the end of Lost, the Smoke Monster Super Bowl, did in 2010.

Vulture did extensive interviews with writers, cast, and crew members, who reflected on the development of “The End,” the making of the still hotly debated episode, and the cultural conversation it continues to generate. Because, yes, of course, we had to go back.

(6) AT HOME WITH SFF. Aidan Moher conducts a lively and revealing Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, Brian Staveley, Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard in “Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House” at Uncanny Magazine.

…An appreciation for speculative fiction isn’t always handed down from within a family. Sometimes it grows on its own, or is introduced by a friend or a teacher. Or a child is uninterested, despite their parents’ best efforts to sway them to the side of elves and proton cannons. I recently reached out to several writers to ask them about their experience growing up, their parents’ relationship to speculative fiction, and the impact that parenthood has had on them as writers….

…There are also emotional sacrifices that come along with parenthood. After the birth of her first child, de Bodard’s tolerance for stories featuring child abuse or endangerment “went from weak to zero” immediately. “I had to put off reading a book I was much looking forward to because I couldn’t get past the violence against a child.” As the father of a daughter, I’ve had a similar experience to de Bodard, and have also become even more aware of and angered by the pervasive sexism that continues to plague speculative fiction and fandom.

Personal writing of any sort reveals layers to a person that even their close friends and loved ones might not recognize. My wife often finds it odd to read my writing—not because of the subject matter, but because it’s told in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar to her ear.

“My children have all read at least some of my writing,” said Elliott. “I often consult them about plot, character, and world–building because I like to hear their feedback, because they know me so well, and because they have fascinating and deep imaginations. They are probably my most valuable writing resource, with my cherished writer and reader friends a close second.”…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the opportunity to “Savor Stan Lee’s favorite sandwich with comics writer Jo Duffy” in episode 139 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Duffy

My old Marvel Bullpen pal Jo Duffy had a lengthy, celebrated run back then on Power Man and Iron Fist, where she also wrote Conan the BarbarianFallen AngelsStar Wars, and Wolverine. She also wrote Catwoman for DC and Glory for Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios imprint of Image Comics. Additionally, she worked on the screenplays for the horror films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5.

We discussed why she knows what Superman will look like when he’s 100, the many reasons our kid selves both thought Marvel had D.C. beat, the genius of Marie Severin, how I may have inadvertently been responsible for her getting a job as an Assistant Editor in the Marvel Bullpen, what it was like to work with Steve Ditko, the firing she still feels guilty about 40 years later, how she approached the challenge of writing Power Man and Iron Fist, the letter she wrote to Stan Lee after the death of Jack Kirby, the two-year-long Star Wars story arc she was forced to squeeze into a few issues, the best writing advice she ever got, and much more.

(8) FIRST THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS. Sarah Gailey, in “Building Beyond: Move Mountains” at Stone Soup, gets an assist from Alex Acks and nonwriter Kacie Winterberg to illustrate how easy a particular facet of sff creation can be:

Building Beyond is an ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.

How do you go about communicating with a mountain to prevent it from pursuing its ambition of becoming a volcano?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 26, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, considered the most popular of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not-so-accidental take off of Fu Manchu. Cat Eldridge reviewed the episode at A Green Man Review. You can watch the first part online here with links to the rest of the story there as well. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 26, 1874 – Katherine Cameron.  Member, Glasgow Society of Lady Artists (Women Artists after 1975).  A dozen illustrated books for us.  This is in Stories from the Ballads (M. Macgregor, 1906).  Here are Snowdrop and the Seven Dwarfs.  Here is Celtic Tales.  Here is Undine.  This is in The Enchanted Land.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1916 – Clifford Geary.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us; many others.  Noteworthy in particular for illustrating Heinlein’s “juveniles”.  Here is a frontispiece for Starman Jones.  Here is an interior for Between Planets.  This is in Space Cadet.  Here is one from outside our field.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 76. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 – Alex Eisenstein, age 76; 1946 – Phyllis Eisenstein (Died 2020).  Active fannish couple; P also an active pro, a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories with A collaborating on half a dozen; so far as I know The City in Stone, completed, remains unpublished.  AE co-edited Trumpet.  Here is his cover for More Issues at Hand.  PE was Guest of Honor at Windycon XXX, Capricon 26, ConQuesT 38; a soft-sculpture of her was part of the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  AE, a noted SF art collector, has organized many displays including that Chicon.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 73. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1952 – Bob Devney, F.N., age 69.  Eight-time finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lover of SF movies – some of them, anyway.  When I remarked to him I hadn’t seen The Devniad in a while, he muttered something about Twitter; but quite possibly he still hasn’t recovered from Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, where he worked very hard, as I saw and maybe you did too.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1957 – John Jude Palencar, age 64.  A hundred ninety covers, five dozen  interiors.  Artbook Origins.  Here is Rhinegold.  Here is Kushiel’s Avatar.  Here is The Dark Line.  Here is Mind of My Mind.  This picture led to The Palencar Project – David Hartwell did such things.  Five Chesleys.  American Water Color Society Gold Medal.  Hamilton King Award.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Also National GeographicSmithsonianTime.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on  Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had any lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current carnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series there features here as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material including photos of her puts it. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 56. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1968 – Lynne Hansen, age 53.  Half a dozen novels, ten dozen covers.  Here is Strangewood.  Here is Things That Never Happened (hello, Scott Edelman).  Here is A Complex Accident of Life.  Here is The High Strangeness of Lorelei Jones.  [JH]

(11) COATES TO SCRIPT SUPERMAN MOVIE. Trey Mangum, in “Ta-Nehisi Coates To Write Upcoming Superman Film From DC And Warner Bros.” on Shadow and Act, says Coates will write a script for a Superman movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, but with no director or stars attached at this time.

…We’re hearing that no director is attached as of yet and plot details remain under wraps. Additionally, the search for an actor to play Kal-El / Superman hasn’t started yet.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” said Coates in a statement received only by Shadow and Act. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

“There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity,” said J.J. Abrams in the statement to S&A.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” added Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

(12) SANS RIDES ET SANS REPROCHE. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara finds this is a rhetorical question: “Is Disney California Adventure, with no rides, worth $75?”

…If you think Disney’s recent announcement that it will soon be charging $75 a head for the thrill of wandering around California Adventure to buy and eat things while admiring the entrances to still-closed rides is nuts, I am here to tell you that it is not.

At least not if my recent visit to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is any indication.

…It was absolutely clear right away. Desperate for even the faintest tang of the Disney experience, thousands of us apparently are quite willing to settle for the elements of the Disney experience we normally complain about the most: waiting in line, overpriced food and the siren call of way too much Disney merch.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was a 45-minute wait simply to enter the Downtown Disney area, 50 if you count the five-minute walk from the car, which cost 10 bucks to park.

To be fair, the line that snaked through an entire parking lot could be construed, at least in these coronavirus-plagued times, as a Disney experience in and of itself. The now-ubiquitous six-feet-apart marks created a socially distant conga line that involved far more walking than standing: “Well, we’re getting our steps in,” one of my daughters remarked.

…As the sun set over the Simba parking lot and our group advanced through the temperature-taking station and the bag-check station, then past a police presence prominent enough to make any mask-shirker think twice, one could at least imagine a world returning to something approaching normal.

Listen to the piped-in music! Yes, once upon a time it did indeed drive some of us insane. But now, after a yearlong lifetime of home-office work — concentration broken on an hourly basis by the maddening syncopated roar of leaf blowers and brain-drilling hum of the neighbors’ home improvement project — all those Disney tunes fell around us like the singing of a heavenly host….

(13) MARTINE’S SEQUEL. In a review at Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere makes the book sound irresistible: “A Desolation Called Peace: Wonderfully rich and nuanced”,

…Beyond the plot reasons, I loved that it was more a cultural conflict because that concept is at the heart of this duology: the way the Empire doesn’t simply conquer via its military but swamps others with its pervasive, relentless, invasive cultural tentacles (hmm, sound familiar?), the way the question of “who counts as human” (or more broadly, who can be considered a person) runs throughout the Empire on a macro level, and throughout the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass on a micro level.

… It’s impossible to read these moments and not relate them to everyday existence for those forced to swim in the sea of a majority culture. This fraught tension is made all the richer for how Martine portrays (realistically) how seductive such cultural power is even for those it threatens to swamp, like falling in love with the waves that are trying to drown you. And then it gets under the skin and into the brain so it becomes almost second nature: “Mahit laughed, a raw sound … She couldn’t do it all. She thought in Teixcalaanli, in imperial-style metaphor and overdetermination. She’d had this whole conversation in their language.”

(14) HARD TIME. Will it be at least seven more years before Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has something good to say about the monthly issue of Analog? “[February 26, 1966] Such promise (March 1966 Analog)”.

… It all came down to this month’s Analog.  If it were superb, as it was last month, then we’d have a clean sweep across eight periodicals.  If it flopped, as it often does, the streak would be broken.

As it turns out, neither eventuality quite came to pass.  Indeed, the March 1966 Analog is sort of a microcosm of the month itself — starting out with a bang and faltering before the finish….

(15) FROM BROADWAY TO BROADBAND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 19 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews “online interactive theatre shows” which try to capture some of the spontaneity of live theatre.

Collaboration is key to success with all these show: the quicker an audience learns to share tasks, the better.  In Sherlock In Homes:  Murder At The Circus (from the Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre), this turns out to be a group of small girls from Wales with a formidable line in questioning,  (The same companies have also created Sherlock In Homes 2:  Murder On Ice.)

Another Sherlock-inspired show, Murder At The Circus is a droll, family-friendly affair, low on tech high in audience-actor interaction. Sherlock is missing (again), leaving behind a rum case involving a dead circus clown and a plate of potted meat.  We, the impromptu detectives, must quiz a line-up of dubious suspects with names like Glenda Flex (acrobat) and Rory McPride (lion tamer), all of whom are adept at juggling the truth.

After several rounds of unfocused interrogation from our team, the Welsh 10-year-olds spring into action. “Where were you location-wise when you were kissing?’ demands one, sternly, of a particularly evasive character,  It would take a hardened criminal not to crack.”

The websites for this are sharpteeththeatre.orgthewardrobetheatre.com, and sherlockimmersive.com.

(16) MALZBERG ON PKD. A year ago on the DickHeads Podcast: “Interview #12 – Barry Malzberg – Malzberg Spectacular Part 1”.

David must have done something right because author Barry Malzberg was willing to sit down for a lengthy phone conversation with him. In this interview, Barry leads David through his experiences with multiple authors including PKD, the in’s and out’s of the publishing industry of the 60s and 70s, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out part 2 of our Barry Malzberg Spectacular where author James Reich joins David in an in-depth look at the award-winning novel Beyond Apollo, which garnered the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

(17) POTATO HEAD, THE MORNING AFTER. The London Economic has an entertaining collection of tweets about yesterday’s kerfuffle: “Best reactions as usual mouthpieces are foaming over a genderless Potato Head”. Here are a few —

When it was all over but the shouting, Reason’s Robby Soave announced:  “Mr. Potato Head will remain the strong, masculine figure he always was.”

(18) IN MELODY YET GREEN. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman reviews Lady Gaga Oreos. They’re pink! (With green filling!) “Lady Gaga Oreos are an extra-sweet mystery wrapped in an enigmatic pink wafer”.

…One of the promotions tied to Gaga’s cookies is a Sing It with Oreo feature. You can make personal recordings, transform them into “musical messages of kindness” and send them to folks you love and support. The pink foil packaging for Gaga Oreos features a QR code, which provides instant access to the recording function. You probably have to give up countless pieces of personal information in the process, but go ahead, “Just sing from the heart, and make someone’s day a little brighter.”

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

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 10/16/20 Hey! HAL! I’m Not Just Sitting Here On The Dock Of The Pod Door Bay For My Health! Open The $^%&$! Door, HAL!

(1) A TAIL OF SPACE. A new Star Trek: Discovery trailer. Complete with a certain feline. 

(2) PARIS CALLING. Halfway through the Constelación Magazine Kickstarter, they are announcing their second special event – “Translation Station” with Aliette de Bodard and Cristina Jurado. Takes place October 23 at 7 p.m. Paris time (10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern)  Register here.

Our very own Cristina Jurado is hosting a chat with multi-award-winning author Aliette de Bodard. They’ll have a fascinating conversation about translations and languages, and whever else happens to come up.

To date the Kickstarter has raised $10,048 of their $18,000 goal.

(3) ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH. In “Barnes & Noble Cyberattack” Locus Online signal boosts a warning to B&N customers:

Barnes & Noble CEO Darren Guccione warned customers to be “on high alert” following an October 10 data breach. The company notified customers via email.

While we do not know if any personal information was exposed as a result of the attack, we do retain in the impacted systems your billing and shipping addresses, your email address and your telephone number if you have supplied these… It is possible that your email address was exposed and, as a result, you may receive unsolicited emails… We currently have no evidence of the exposure of any of this data, but we cannot at this stage rule out the possibility….

(4) TOP 100 FANTASY LIST. TIME Magazine has anointed “The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time”

… To develop our list, we began in 2019 by recruiting a panel of leading fantasy authors—Tomi Adeyemi, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Marlon James, N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin and Sabaa Tahir—to join TIME staff in nominating the top books of the genre (panelists did not nominate their own works). The group then rated 250 nominees on a scale, and using their responses, TIME created a ranking. Finally, TIME editors considered each finalist based on key factors, including originality, ambition, artistry, critical and popular reception, and influence on the fantasy genre and literature more broadly.

The result is a list that underscores the imaginative breadth of fantasy fiction—from early roots in the oral storytelling tradition that brought about works like The Arabian Nights, to modern classics like A Wrinkle in Time and groundbreaking recent novels like Black Leopard, Red WolfThe Poppy War and Elatsoe. Together, these titles help us trace our history and understand our reality….

I’ve read 24 of these, which is a disgraceful score – fortunately a few more of them are on my TBR pile.

Rich Horton regaled Facebook readers about the list’s deficiencies:

… Chew on that for a bit. This list doesn’t include Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It doesn’t include Little, Big. I could make a case that those are the two BEST fantasies of the past half-century. But they don’t make this list?…

He also noted that a third of the listed books came out in the past 6 years. Is this a Golden Age of fantasy, or is that another problem?

TIME also ran an article by N.K. Jemisin about the “Timeless Power of Fantasy”

… These are fraught times—but there have always been fraught times for someone in the world, somewhere. And there have always been those whose mastery of the art of storytelling has helped us understand how powerfully stories shape the world. C.S. Lewis sought to comfort children with faith. Philip Pullman disturbed them with warnings of encroaching fascism. There is a preponderance of stories aimed at children on this list, possibly because we’re still openly hungry for stories in the years of our childhood, and thus the stories we absorb then have a lasting effect. Our hunger for stories doesn’t really change when we grow up, however; the need is still there, acknowledged or not—especially if the stories we’ve been given up to that point don’t accurately encapsulate reality. Thus it’s fitting that some of the most powerful storytellers on this list, such as Victor LaValle, engage with adult concerns like parenthood instead of myth.

Is it comforting to see how many of the stories on this list wrestle with the need to reform institutions and change the leadership of society? It could be. Yet the newer storytellers on the list, many of whom hail from colonized cultures and thus have vastly different background stories from those of “classic” fantasy authors, also warn us of the realities of societal strife. The good guys don’t always win, the bad guys don’t always lose, and either way, the ones who suffer most will be the people who were already struggling to get by….

(5) FORGOTTEN DOCTORS. Artist Paul Hanley posted his conceptions for the Doctor Who TARDIS console rooms of “forgotten doctors” or those seen briefly in the Fourth Doctor serial “The Brain of Morbius”. Thread starts here. The first two:

(6) POPULAR FEAR. “Little Bursts of Fright: The Horror Anthology Is Having a Heyday” reports the New York Times.

When Mary Laws set out to create “Monsterland,” her new socially conscious horror anthology series on Hulu, she drew inspiration from the concise, unnerving fables of the British playwright Caryl Churchill.

“She knows how to tell a scary story,” said Laws, who has a playwriting background. “She refuses to give the audience a break.”

But Laws also looked within.

“As a woman, part of why I’m interested in horror is that I’ve been put in horrific situations and have experienced something like real terror,” she said. “My womanness has led me into those action-packed two minutes of tense terror that you feel when you’re facing some kind of dreaded situation. That’s the way that I think horror has to work.”

Accelerated terror in a fleeting time frame: that’s the revved-up engine that drives “Monsterland” and other new horror anthologies out this spooky season. Hulu’s “Books of Blood” assembles three tales inspired by Clive Barker’s short stories. “The Mortuary Collection,” on Shudder, is a compilation of darkly antic narratives. Quibi’s blood-and-guts series “50 States of Fright” recently released several new episodes, each set in a different state.

Sam Raimi, an executive producer of “50 States of Fright,” said the best short-form horror is “designed like a great campfire tale.”

“It’s something you can really get goose bumps from in a brief amount of time,” said Raimi, known to horror fans as the director of the “Evil Dead” movies. “I like the precision that it takes for a filmmaker to hold the audience in its grip.”

(7) IMAGINARY PAPERS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the 4th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. The new issue features writing from SF critic Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Katherine Buse, a scholar of digital media and the environmental humanities.

Buse’s Forgotten Futures segment discusses —

SimEarth (1990)

I like to say that my favorite video game is SimEarth (1990). But this is a joke: as far as I know, SimEarth has never been anyone’s favorite. Attempting to embody the paradox of “fun climate model,” it’s borderline unplayable: it’s baffling, slow, and lacking in what McKenzie Wark calls “satisfying win conditions.” It was created by Will Wright in consultation with James Lovelock as a software implementation of the Gaia Hypothesis, a theory of life at the planetary scale which Lovelock began to develop while working at NASA on astrobiology….

(8) NEUKOM WINNERS PANEL. Neukom Institute Director Dan Rockmore invites you to an “Online Event with 2020 Speculative Fiction Literary Arts Awards Winners” on Wednesday, October 21 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

The panel discussion includes Neukom Award winners for Speculative Fiction (Debut) Cadwell Turnbull, author of The Lesson, Speculative Fiction (Open Category) Ted Chiang, whose stories are collected in Exhalation, and award judge Sam J. Miller.

Use the link below to join the online event:
https://dartmouth.zoom.u/j/93780993554?pwd=am5xQU0xTURIYmVHenhhNm0zdUZYZz09

Passcode: 789407

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1990 — Thirty years ago at ConFiction, the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, would go to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Released the previous year by  Lucasfilm, it was, of course, directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Jeffrey Boam which in turn was based off the story by George Lucas and Menno Meyjes. Need we note that George Lucas created the characters? Runners-up were The Adventures of Baron MunchausenBatmanField of Dreams and The Abyss. It holds a rather spectacular ninety-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 16, 1924 David Armstrong. He never had a major role but he was in myriad gene shows. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. alone he appeared in twenty-two episodes in twenty-two different minor roles, he was a henchman twice on Batman and had two uncredited appearances on Trek as well. He showed up on Mission ImpossibleGet Smart!The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and even The Invaders. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 95. 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 is based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1947 Guy Siner, 73. Apparently he’s one of only ten actors to appear in both the Trek and Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”.  And that might place him in very select acting company indeed. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1958 Tim Robbins, 62. I think his finest role was as Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, but his first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in the truly awful War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in the even worse Green Lantern. (CE)
  • Born October 16, 1965 Joseph Mallozzi, 55. He is most noted for his work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three Stargate series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series. (CE)
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 47. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish 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. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1827 – Arnold Böcklin.  Symbolist painter.  Here is Self Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle.  Here is Silence of the Forest.  Here is St. Anthony Preaching to the Fish.  Here is Faun Whistling to a Blackbird.  Most famous for five versions of The Isle of the Dead – here is one – which inspired Mahler, Rachmaninoff, and Zelazny: this Dean Ellis cover is an homage.  (Died 1901) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1891 – Frances Comstock.  Illustrator, painter, sculptor.  Here is her cover for Dewey’s Star People.  Here is her frontispiece and an interior for Fairy Frolics.  Here is her cover for La Mothe – Fouqué’s Undine and here is an interior.  Here is an illustration for Crothers’ Ignominy of Being Grown-Up.  (Died 1922) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1926 – Ed Valigursky.  Two hundred covers, six dozen interiors.  Here is the Nov 51 Fantastic.  Here is The Stars Are Ours!, hello Publius – note the really wonderful foreground faces.  Here is The Pawns of Null-A.  Here is City.  Here is The Currents of Space.  Here is an interior illustrating “The Black Tide”.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1947 – Laura Brodian Kelly-Freas Beraha, D.M.E., 73.  Doctorate in Music Education (I heard her play piano two-hands with Somtow Sucharitkul), then San Francisco Bay area fandom.  Moved to L.A., exchanged coats by mistake with Kelly Freas at a party, married him, won a Chesley with him, survived him, married a local teacher whose name means blessed.  No one else outranks me as a Kelly Freas fan.  [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1951 – Patrice Kindl, 69.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, Children’s Fiction, for Owl in Love.  Six more novels.  She and husband (son works in Manhattan) have 1 dog, 1 parrot, 1 cat; have raised monkeys, have housed hawks.  “All my characters are made up….  This isn’t an easy profession….  Read a lot and write a lot.”  Do I have to wait until I’m grown up? “No.  You should be reading and writing now.”  Does spelling matter? “Yes.  Yes, yes, yes!”  Grammar isn’t important, is it? “YES!  YES!  YES!”  Hmmmm.  This sounds like work.  “Yes.”  [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1973 – Christian Cantrell, 47.  Three novels, half a dozen shorter stories, despite or because of being Director of Design Prototyping at Adobe.  Hulu, TriStar, Fox 21, Random House projects in the works. “You can,” he says, “plant paphiopedilums [Venus’ slippers] in lava rock”, and he shows us.  [JH]

(11) END OF THE LINE. If you have the stomach for it, you can learn a lot about “The Last Days of Stan Lee” on the AARP site. Tagline: “A heartbreaking tragedy about the (alleged) abuse of the Marvel Comics creator by those who swear they loved him.”

…As we approach the second anniversary of Lee’s death, a half-dozen civil suits are pending and a criminal elder-abuse prosecution by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office remains mired in pretrial maneuverings. The courts have yet to shed light on many of the details and the veracity of the elder-abuse charges against several people. Elder-abuse cases are difficult to bring to trial, tough to litigate and hard to win. Was Stan Lee, like 1 in 10 Americans over age 60, a true victim of elder abuse, which can include physical violence, emotional torment, financial exploitation and willful deprivation? Plenty of evidence and testimony suggests that may be true.

But uncomfortable questions will arise along the way: Is it possible that our real-life hero, like many others in his situation, was complicit in his own abuse? And who will be the villain in this story? There will be plenty of suspects to choose from, but in the end, you will be shocked but not surprised.

(12) CAMEO COLLECTION. Last night’s Jeopardy hearkened back to Stan’s brighter days – unknown to the contestants, evidently. Andrew Porter took notes:

Final Jeopardy: Movie Appearances

Not an actor, this man who died in 2018 appeared briefly in some 40 mainly action films with a combined $30 billion worldwide gross,

Wrong question: Who is ?

Correct question: Who is Stan Lee?

(13) THE TWENTIES ARE NOT ROARING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here are a few news stories about the pandemic woes of the British and global cinema industry, mostly from the Guardian

Months after the initial Covid-19 restrictions closed all cinemas, Australian moviegoers are beginning to return for socially distanced screenings across most of the country.

But with most major international releases delayed, the large chains that rely on blockbusters face an uncertain future. And for independent operators, more accustomed to showing reruns of classics and local titles, the outlook is not much clearer….

…But the immediate future for Bollywood in the UK now looks particularly bleak, given that Cineworld venues host more than half of all Bollywood screenings in the UK, presenting between 40 and 50 different films a year. The prospect of reduced takings in the UK is being felt in Mumbai, where the industry relies on the territory for a sizeable chunk of its overseas revenue.

…“But for me the really big success is the BFI restoration of La Haine,” said Wood. “We’ve played it now for four weeks and it’s sold out every single performance.” Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder has also been hugely popular.

“Many of the successes have been foreign language, a number are directed by women, some directed by people of colour,” Wood said.

UK cinema admissions are set to hit their lowest level since records began almost a century ago, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic wiping almost £1bn from box office sales.

…Do you need the same number of cinemas if they’re only showing blockbusters? For some time, many of them have been artificially sustained anyway, the real estate empty for much of the day. There’s also the problem that this is a sector that’s historically been very conservative and reluctant to innovate. I remember when there was a great controversy about the introduction of cup-holders.

…I love the cinema – it truly brings me joy. “Escapism” sells the experience short; I feel alive and engaged when lost in a narrative that is not my own. I used to see about three films a week, but I think I’ve seen about three films since March because watching them at home just doesn’t come close and I haven’t been back since the cinemas reopened as it doesn’t feel like the responsible thing to do. Covid is meant to spread best in an enclosed environment and I’d feel proper shit if I caught it and ended up giving it to my parents and they then died because I just had to see Tenet.

…One of my routes on my morning runs each week takes me past a small independent high-end movie theater, privately owned. It has a full restaurant, a beautiful bar, a space that can be rented for civic events, and six small theaters with extremely comfortable chairs.

In the Before times, as one reporter likes to call everything pre-Covid, the theater had a wait-staff that would take your orders while you sank into those seats to watch your favorite blockbuster. Every Democratic Presidential candidate held an event in that theater in the run-up to February’s caucus. Not a week went by when I didn’t see or get an invitation to a special event held there.

In March, when quarantine set in, the theater’s owners put up huge sheets of plywood over the display windows on all three stories of the building and made the lovely balcony inaccessible should someone get the bright idea to climb up there.

No one has painted the plywood, unlike so many other plywood coverings in the Arts District here. So the high-end theater now looks like an abandoned building. A group of homeless men slept against the plywood until someone moved them out. Occasionally, one of the totally stoned people from the high-end marijuana dispensary across the street will sit on a bench near the plywood, swaying to music only they can hear….

(14) BUTLER DID IT. Having seen the trailer, JJ calls Greenland “like a bad mashup of Deep Impact, Armagedddon, and 2012: We Were Warned.

A family fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary. Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.

(15) DRAMATIC TRACKS. “Prehistoric footprints of woman carrying toddler while dodging sabre-toothed cats unearthed” – let Yahoo! News tell you the story.

Prehistoric footprints of a woman carrying a toddler while dodging sabre-toothed cats and giant sloths are the longest set of fossilised human prints ever found, scientists have said.  

The prints, which stretch for almost a mile and were discovered in the White Sands National Park in New Mexico, USA, date back 13,000 years.

…Locally known as “ghost tracks” because they can only be seen under certain weather conditions, the adult tracks were first discovered in 2017, followed by the child’s.

The prints tell the remarkable story of a woman and a small child as they made their way across the mudflats with large predators crossing their path.

An analysis found the woman was moving at a rapid pace, intermittently carrying and putting down the child.

On the outward journey, her prints show that she was slipping, suggesting conditions were wet and treacherous. But on her return, following the same path almost exactly, she was alone and no slipping marks were detected.

During the trips, other tracks show a giant sloth, mammoths and sabre-tooth cats crossed their path, and the sloth was startled by their scent.

“As the animal approached the trackway, it appears to have reared up on its hind legs to catch the scent, pausing by turning and trampling the human tracks before dropping to all fours and making off,” Prof Bennett said….

(16) HOT ON THE TRAILER. Amazon Prime introduces Invincible. The series will be online in 2021.

INVINCIBLE is an adult animated superhero series that revolves around 17-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), who’s just like every other guy his age — except his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Joey Eschrich, Ben Bird Person, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “I Can Improve On The Classics” Dern.]