Pixel Scroll 4/19/23 Tick, Tock, Said The Pixel, Just Keep Scrolling

(1) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May-June 2023 cover art is by Maurizio Manzieri.

(2) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE. The International Booker Prize 2023 Shortlist of 6 works was released on April 18. The one longlisted item of genre interest has survived to make the shortlist, Cheon Myeong-Kwan’s Whale. The winner will be announced May 23. Publishing Perspectives breaks down the amount of the prize.

…The focus of this Booker is translation, and its £50,000 prize (US$60,734) is to be split into £25,000 (US$30,367) for the author and £25,000 for the translator—or divided equally between multiple translators. There also is a purse of £5,000 (US$6,072) for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 (US$3,036) for the author and £2,500 for the translator or, again, divided equally between multiple translators….

(3) DIGGING OUT FROM THE MUDSLIDE. Yesterday Larry Correia posted “A Letter To Epic Fantasy Readers: I Know Rothfuss And Martin Hurt You, But It’s Time To Get Over It And Move On” [Internet Archive], a cruel rant blaming a couple of well-known fantasy writers for allegedly crushing the nascent careers of other fantasy novelists by failing to finish their series and creating reader resistance to new writers’ series. (Then, finding he had mud left over, he deposited some on a third author who has an unfinished sf series.)

Today Mark Lawrence decided a few things needed to be said in response in a blog post, “Faith and blame”, which concludes:

…In short: 

i) Authors who delay a book in a series, be it for 10 years, or 50, or forever, are not lazy sacks of shit.

ii) The high profile authors who have delayed may be cited in some cases as a reason for readers not picking up a newly published book 1 — but I feel the reasons behind that reluctance are far deeper and considerably wider than two or three writers, however well known. Some portion of the reason (I do not say blame) may reside with them, but I think this would be happening even if book 3, 4, & 6 had turned up a year or two after their predecessors.

iii) It’s easy to give the reason for this problem a face – someone to call an apathetic sack of shit. It’s human nature to want a simple answer and a person to blame. But it’s more complicated than that.

Readers – have faith in your writers, that faith will be overwhelmingly rewarded. And when it’s not – the only thing that author has done is disappointed you, not tanked the entire publishing industry.

(4) DON’T LOOK FOR THIS BOOK ON THE RIVER. “Lydia Davis refuses to sell her next book on Amazon” – the author explains why to the Guardian.

Prize-winning author Lydia Davis’ new collection of short stories will not be sold on Amazon, with the author saying she does not “believe corporations should have as much control over our lives as they do”.

Our Strangers will be published by Canongate on 5 October, and is the seventh collection of fiction from Davis, who won the Man Booker international prize in 2013, when the award chose a winner based on a body of work, rather than a single book.

Due to be published just before Bookshop Day on 7 October, Our Strangers will only be sold in physical bookshops, Bookshop.org and selected online independent retailers.

Davis said: “We value small businesses, yet we give too much of our business to the large and the powerful – and often, increasingly, we have hardly any choice.

“I am all the more pleased, now, that Canongate, with its long history of independence and its high standards, will be publishing Our Strangers and doing so in a way that puts my book on the shelves of booksellers who are so much more likely to care about it.”…

(5) GROWING PROSPECT OF WRITERS STRIKE. Leaders of the Writers Guild of America secured a strong showing of support from members. “Writers strike looms after members vote to shut down film and TV production” reports CNN Business.

…The vote announced Monday afternoon showed 97.9% of participating union members voting to approve a potential strike.

If a strike happens, it would be the first in the industry since 2007, and it would bring production on many shows and films to a halt. The 2007 strike lasted 100 days.

The Writers Guild of America, the union that represents the writers, says it needs to make substantial changes to the way that writers are compensated because of the shift to streaming services from traditional films and cable and broadcast networks….

(6) AFRICANFUTURISM. Nnedi Okorafor did her own cover reveal yesterday. Preorder here.

(7) PICARD. NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” panelists respond as “’Picard’ boldly goes into the history books”. Beware spoilers.

[ERIC] DEGGANS: Well, you know, I wrote a review before the show debuted. I love, love, love this. And the reason I love this is because I’ve always felt that Paramount Plus’ new “Trek” series have erred by being so careful about trying to blaze their own path and tone down the references to past “Trek” stuff. And I understand that, especially with “Discovery,” the very first series to step out, they wanted to blaze a new trail. But there is a reason why this franchise has survived for nearly 60 years.

To have – especially “Star Trek: Picard,” in its first two seasons, really suffered from not being willing to look back and acknowledge the reason why people love Jean-Luc Picard in the first place. So it is just so great to see this series emerge as this love letter to not just “The Next Generation” but all those Trek series that kind of debuted in that 1990s, early 2000s era. So “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” – there’s all kinds of Easter eggs and references that, if you don’t know the shows, you don’t need to worry about. But if you do know the shows, it is just so much fun and so much extra pleasure to watch this unfold.

(8) GET READY FOR “MRS. DAVIS”. “Mrs. Davis Co-Creator Tara Hernandez On Crafting Peacock’s Wild New Sci-Fi Series” at Slashfilm.

One might not imagine that one of the writers of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon” would be behind one of 2023’s most anticipated, high-concept sci-fi shows, but that’s exactly the situation we find ourselves in. Hailing from Tara Hernandez, “Mrs. Davis” debuts on Peacock later this month, with Damon Lindelof, of “Lost” and “The Leftovers” fame, serving as co-creator on the series alongside her….

I’ve not seen a ton of the show, admittedly, but this feels like the kind of thing where, especially because I know Damon got into some of this with “Lost” years ago where they just were chasing their tails, so how long would you ideally see this going? Is this a one season show? Is it a four season show? Do you have a rough idea of where you guys would like it to go?

Yeah, I think we really, and just my personal tastes, I really love a great season of television. I love a story that’s introduced. I love a nice conclusion on it. I think we had to know where we were ending up. We pitched the show, when we pitched it, it was very important to have the landing place.

That is nice to hear.

Yes. It has a landing place. We had to know what the North Star was, especially in a show that can feel like, “Is this going to go off the rails? Are they just going to be chasing their tails?” Just my personal preference about storytelling, whether that comes from really loving feature films or just loving a hero’s journey that’s a really closed-loop narrative, I think the world of “Mrs. Davis” is such that it has legs, but I think it is a great eight episodes. If that’s what it is, it’s just a really nice story. And people will be satisfied.

(9) GET YOUR RED HOT CAT BOOKS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has curated The 2023 Cattitude Bundle for StoryBundle and it’s available for the next three weeks.

My cats have gotten out of control. During the lockdown, I promoted a series of projects using my co-workers as a hook. The only co-workers I had at the time were the the cats who boss me around: The Mighty Cheeps, and his buddy Gavin, a.k.a The Boys.

I’d post a picture of them on Facebook, write a funny or wry bit about their terrible office behavior, and end with a bit of promotion.

Little did I realize that the demand for the antics of the staff at Promotion Central would become the highlight of my Facebook page. I’ve learned if I don’t include a photo of the Boys, or our new(ish) third cat, Angel, no one reads the posts. Those cats are more popular than I am.

It shouldn’t surprise me. Cats and the internet go together like chocolate and peanut butter. You can live with either one, but once someone combined them, well, there’s no separating them. Ever.

Of course, we’re going to take advantage of that. Cats and the internet becomes cats in ebooks. Since cats in books have always gone hand in glove (have you ever met a bookstore dog?), it seems only natural to put cat books into a StoryBundle.

The best thing about cat books? It’s easy to find good ones because all of the best writers live with cats…. 

Here’s the deal:

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in .epub format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Too Big to Miss by Sue Ann Jaffarian
  • Familiarity – A Winston & Ruby Collection by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • A Cat of a Different Color by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith
  • October Snow by Bonnie Elizabeth

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $20, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books for a total of 10!

  • The Captain’s Cat by Stefon Mears (StoryBundle Exclusive)
  • Haunted Witch by T. Thorn Coyle
  • The Intergalactic Veterinarian of the Year! by Ron Collins & Jeff Collins (StoryBundle Exclusive)
  • Death by Polka by Robert Jeschonek
  • Single Witch’s Survival Guide by Mindy Klasky
  • Road of No Return by Annie Reed (StoryBundle Exclusive)

(10) NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. “Oh please, no.  Just no. And you may quote me,” says Cat Eldridge. The Hollywood Reporter says “Galaxy Quest TV Series in the Works at Paramount+”. The article also chronicles several failed attempts to adapt it for TV in the previous decade.

Galaxy Quest is going from a fictional series to an actual TV series. 

Paramount+ is teaming with its studio counterpart, Paramount Television Studios, for a live-action adaptation of the 1999 cult favorite sci-fi spoof. Sources say the project is in the early development stages and a search is underway for a writer to pair with Mark Johnson, the Breaking Bad alum who exec produced the film and is returning for the scripted update. Johnson and his Gran Via Productions banner are the only execs currently attached to the project….

Ars Technica’s Jennifer Ouelette also has doubts that this is a good idea: “That Galaxy Quest TV series might finally be happening and we have mixed feelings”.

… Honestly, I have mixed feelings about a spinoff series from one of my all-time favorite movies. On the one hand, I love and cherish every character and every line of dialogue in Galaxy Quest. On the other, how do you improve on perfection? As Enrico Colantoni, who played Thermion leader Mathesar, told io9 in 2014, “To make something up, just because we love those characters, and turn it into a sequel—then it becomes the awful sequel.”…

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2015[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I’m trying to remember what the first work of Holly Black’s that I read, so I went to ISFDB and researched her work. It appears it’s Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale which I read some twenty years ago. Fascinating novel. 

 Now, without doing the no-no of spoilers, The Darkest Part of The Forest is the work of a much more mature writer. Her grasp of what makes a character worth our time to be invested in is really improved a lot as has her ability to actually write an interesting story. 

The Darkest Part of The Forest was published by Little, Brown eight years ago. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. 

The Darkest Part of The Forest is, I think, deliciously dark as you can see in The Beginning which you can read here. Beware apparently young boys with pointed ears in glass coffins… 

Down a path worn into the woods, past a stream and a hollowed-out log full of pill bugs and termites, was a glass coffin. It rested right on the ground, and in it slept a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. 

As far as Hazel Evans knew, from what her parents said to her and from what their parents said to them, he’d always been there. And no matter what anyone did, he never, ever woke up. 

He didn’t wake up during the long summers, when Hazel and her brother, Ben, stretched out on the full length of the coffin, staring down through the crystalline panes, fogging them up with their breath, and scheming glorious schemes. He didn’t wake up when tourists came to gape or debunkers came to swear he wasn’t real. He didn’t wake up on autumn weekends, when girls danced right on top of him, gyrating to the tinny sounds coming from nearby iPod speakers, didn’t notice when Leonie Wallace lifted her beer high over her head, as if she were saluting the whole haunted forest. He didn’t so much as stir when Ben’s best friend, Jack Gordon, wrote IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS in Sharpie along one side—or when Lloyd Lindblad took a sledgehammer and actually tried. No matter how many parties had been held around the horned boy—generations of parties, so that the grass sparkled with decades of broken bottles in green and amber, so that the bushes shone with crushed aluminum cans in silver and gold and rust—and no matter what happened at those parties, nothing could wake the boy inside the glass coffin. 

When they were little, Ben and Hazel made him flower crowns and told him stories about how they would rescue him. Back then, they were going to save everyone who needed saving in Fairfold. Once Hazel got older, though, she mostly visited the coffin only at night, in crowds, but she still felt something tighten in her chest when she looked down at the boy’s strange and beautiful face.

She hadn’t saved him, and she hadn’t saved Fairfold, either. “Hey, Hazel,” Leonie called, dancing to one side to make room in case Hazel wanted to join her atop the horned boy’s casket. Doris Alvaro was already up there, still in her cheerleader outfit from the game their school lost earlier that night, shining chestnut ponytail whipping through the air. They both looked flushed with alcohol and good cheer.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1907 Alan Wheatley. Best remembered for being the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Richard Greene playing Robin Hood. In 1951, he had played Sherlock Holmes in the first TV series about him, but no recordings of it are known to exist. And he was in Two First Doctor stories as Temmosus, “The Escape” and “The Ambush” where he was the person killed on screen by Daleks. (Died 1991.)
  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at The Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.) He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, not the Asimov Probe, the pilot for the sf TV series Search. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. Though I’m absolutely sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong (smile). (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 88. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler. 
  • Born April 19, 1936 Tom Purdom, 87. There’s very little on him on the web, so I’ll let Michael Swanwick speak for him in the introduction to his Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons collection: “How highly do I regard Tom’s fiction?  So highly that I wrote the introduction to the collection — and I hate writing introductions.  They’re a lot of work.  But these stories deserve enormous praise, so I was glad to do it.”  He’s written five novels and has either one or two collections of his stories. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 77. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance. He’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, a most excellent genre film, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island, in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player, Gomez Addams in Addams Family Reunion, and Trymon in TV’s Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Darkness. And others too numerous to list.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series, a most excellent affair. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 56. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine seven times. In 1995 he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. He has published the fanzine, Argentus, edited several issues of the Hugo-nominated Journey Planet. His debut novel After Hastings came out in 2020.
  • Born April 19, 1978 K. Tempest Bradford, 45. She was a non-fiction and managing editor with Fantasy Magazine for several years, and has edited fiction for Fortean BureauPeridot Books and Sybil’s Garage. She’s written a lot of short fiction and her first YA novel, Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion. She was a finalist for three Ignyte Awards, the Ember Award for unsung contributions to genre, and twice for the Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre. With Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward she shared a 2020 Locus Special Award to Writing the Other for Inclusivity and Representation Education.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

The future used to be better.

The future before.

The future now.

(14) BIG GREEN NUMBERS. Book Riot wants to discuss “The Bestselling Comics of All Time” – however, they don’t want the answer to be too easy.

But what is the bestselling comic of all time? Well, that depends on how you define comic.

Are we talking about single issues, or “floppies?” And if so, are we talking about the sales of one issue, or the series as a whole? Does that include collected editions and reprints? How do you account for changes in the retail market, from newsstands to specialty shops to digital, and the different reporting (or lack thereof) of each? How do you take into account the cultural changes since the ’40s, when over 90% of children read comics, compared to today’s globalized, media-saturated world? Should you account for the differences in population between America (331.9 million potential readers) versus Japan (125.7 million) versus, say, Finland (5.5 million)? Isn’t it apples and oranges to compare One Piece to X-Men to Peanuts, anyway?…

When it comes to the best selling single issue, the list begins at number five –

5. BATMAN: THE 10 CENT ADVENTURE BY GREG RUCKA AND RICK BURCHETT (MARCH 2002)

Most of the comics on this list are stunts of some sort, and selling a comic for literally just a dime in 2002 absolutely qualifies (most comics were $2.25 then). It’s actually a good story, kicking off the excellent Bruce Wayne: Murderer? plot line, but it was that nostalgic price point that sold 702,126 copies.

(15) BROWSING FOR DOLLARS. Untapped New York ranks the “10 Most Surprising Finds at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair”. The treasures include Billie Holiday’s bar tab, and something a bit closer to being of genre interest —

9. A 17th-Century Celestial Atlas

Along with books, maps are a popular item to find at the antiquarian book fair. The book featured above is one of the most sought-after celestial atlases in existence. Produced by Dutch cartographer Andreas Cellarius in 1661, Harmonia Macrocosmica is priced at a whopping $395,000.

Considered Cellarius’s magnum opus, this map was made to illustrate competing theories of celestial mechanics, or how the solar system worked. The universe’s heavenly bodies are depicted in vibrant colors throughout 29 extremely detailed, hand-colored, double-page engraved plates in the book. The images take theories put forth by great thinkers and scientists like Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, Nicolaus Copernicus, as well as lesser-known figures such as Aratus of Soli, and present them in an accessible way through images.

(16) BOOKSTORE SLEEPOVER. Zoos and museums have hosted them – now a downtown LA bookstore: “I spent the night at the Last Bookstore. Things got spooky” in the LA Times. The owner tried to make it a bit of a paranormal experience.

…Soon enough, Powell was recalling the spookiest things he’d seen in his years at the store. He described coworkers who’d heard or glimpsed figures moving around the corners, and instances where people watched books fly off shelves for seemingly no reason.

“That corner is where books fall off sometimes, in sci-fi, for some reason,” he said.

As we passed the portal, a hidden nook where my partner and I had signed up to sleep, we realized it was both secluded in the back corner of the store with books on U.S. history and located closest to the “haunted” shelves that books fall off of. We quickly decided we wouldn’t be sleeping there….

(17) THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Deep in a disused mind in Sardinia, scientists are assembling an experiment to find out just how much nothing weighs. Using an exquisitely sensitive balance beam and interferometric techniques cribbed from gravity wave detectors, they plan to switch on and off the Casimir effect using small temperature variations and measure the resulting change in the number of virtual particles that can exist between metal plates. If all goes well, they will have established a tight constraint on the energy of the vacuum. “How Much Does ‘Nothing’ Weigh?” at Scientific American.

It does something to you when you drive in here for the first time,” Enrico Calloni says as our car bumps down into the tunnel of a mine on the Italian island of Sardinia. After the intense heat aboveground, the contrast is stark. Within seconds, damp, cool air enters the car as it makes its way into the depths. “I hope you’re not claustrophobic.” This narrow tunnel, which leads us in almost complete darkness to a depth of 110 meters underground, isn’t for everyone. But it’s the ideal site for the project we are about to see—the Archimedes experiment, named after a phenomenon first described by the ancient Greek scientist, which aims to weigh “nothing.”…

…Geologically, Sardinia is one of the quietest places in Europe. The island, along with its neighbor Corsica, is located on a particularly secure block of Earth’s crust that is among the most stable areas of the Mediterranean, with very few earthquakes in its entire recorded history and only one (offshore) event that ever reached the relatively mild category of magnitude 5. Physicists chose this geologically uneventful place because the Archimedes experiment requires extreme isolation from the outside environment. It involves a high-precision experimental setup designed to investigate the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics—the amount of energy in the empty space that fills the universe….

… Researchers can calculate the energy of the vacuum in two ways. From a cosmological perspective, they can use Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity to calculate how much energy is needed to explain the fact that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. They can also work from the bottom up, using quantum field theory to predict the value based on the masses of all the “virtual particles” that can briefly arise and then disappear in “empty” space (more on this later). These two methods produce numbers that differ by more than 120 orders of magnitude (1 followed by 120 zeros). It’s an embarrassingly absurd discrepancy that has important implications for our understanding of the expansion of the universe—and even its ultimate fate. To figure out where the error lies, scientists are hauling a two-meter-tall cylindrical vacuum chamber and other equipment down into an old Sardinian mine where they will attempt to create their own vacuum and weigh the nothing inside….

(18) NOBODY SURVIVES THE FLAME TRENCH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]On this past Monday’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Josh Groban talked about his visit to NASA, where, among other things, he received a tour of the “flame trench.”

Fellow space enthusiasts Stephen Colbert and Josh Groban geek out over the details of Groban’s trip to NASA’s Artemis mission launch pad. Check out Groban’s latest role as the lead in “Sweeney Todd,” playing now at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Gordon Van Gelder, Rich Lynch, Lise Andreasen, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/23 Faraway Pixels With Strange-Sounding Scrolls

(1) DON’T MISS IT. That’s what Frank Cifaldi of GameHistoryOrg said after he encountered Filer “Orange Mike” Lowrey working at a bookstore in the Milwaukee Airport. Lowrey told him the whole fascinating story of how the store came to exist. Thread starts here.

(2) QUANTUM OF IMAGINATION. The winner, runner-up, and People’s Choice of the Quantum Shorts Film Festival have been announced.

Missed Call has taken First Prize in the Quantum Shorts film festival! The emotive short film by director Prasanna Sellathurai tells of a physics student grappling with his father’s health crisis.

“I am thrilled and honoured to be awarded first place in this year’s Quantum Shorts Film Festival!” says Prasanna Sellathurai. “I’ve often heard that quantum physics can be considered difficult to approach. This award proves to me that passionate stories, that find creative ways to marry the most personal with the most complex, can speak to all of us.”

Missed Call was one of two winners selected by Quantum Shorts judges Ágnes Mócsy, Alex Winter, Honor Harger, Jamie Lochhead, José Ignacio Latorre and Neal Hartman from a shortlist of nine quantum-inspired films. THE observer was selected as Runner Up. A public vote on the shortlist picked The Human Game for the People’s Choice Prize, rounding out the top three films in the festival.

In addition to an engraved plaque, the winner gets $1500, the runner-up $1000, and the People’s Choice $500.

(3) CENSORSHIP PERSPECTIVE. “Judy Blume: book banning now much worse in US than in 1980s” she tells the Guardian.

…The author Judy Blume says a rise in intolerance in America has led to a “much worse” epidemic of book banning than she experienced in the 1980s.

The children’s and young adult author, whose frank depictions of adolescence and puberty have long caused controversy, said it was time to fight back against censorship.

Her 1975 novel, Forever, which deals with teenage sexuality, was one of 80 books banned in one Florida school district last month, for dealing with issues such as sex, race and gender.

In an interview on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Blume said of book banning: “I thought that was over, frankly … I came through the 80s when book banning was really at its height. And it was terrible. And then libraries and schools began to get policies in place and we saw a falling-off of the desire to censor books….

(4) IT’S A FEATURE NOT A BUG. Blue Beetle comes to theaters August 18.

From Warner Bros. Pictures comes the feature film “Blue Beetle,” marking the DC Super Hero’s first time on the big screen. The film, directed by Angel Manuel Soto, stars Xolo Maridueña in the title role as well as his alter ego, Jaime Reyes. Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero BLUE BEETLE.

(5) NCC KNACK. “Star Trek: What Does NCC Stand For?” GameRant thinks they know the answer. Or maybe several answers.

… The letters NCC should be familiar to most, from avid Star Trek fans to casual viewers. They are painted across the majority of Federation starships, or at least are present within most of the franchise’s main vessels. Most people pay attention to the actual name given to the ship, such as Voyager or, of course, Enterprise. For example, the iconic ship’s name is the USS Enterprise, followed by NCC and a number indicating which iteration of the ship this is….

(6) IN SPACE, EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU FOOL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Space.com compiled the “Best space pranks: From space apes to smuggled sandwiches”. Be sure to click through to the article and follow all the Twitter links especially on the last entry.

It turns out the sky is not the limit when it comes to a good old-fashioned practical joke.

Here we explore some of the best pranks carried out in space, from a forbidden sandwich to a gorilla at large on the International Space Station (ISS). 

These pranks show the lighter side of space exploration. …

(7) LESLIE H. SMITH (1958-2023). [Item by Ken Josenhans, her husband.] Leslie H. Smith died unexpectedly of heart disease on March 26, age 64. The family obituary is here.

A second-generation fan, she was the daughter of Beresford ‘Smitty’ Smith. 

Professionally, she was first a copyeditor, later a musician and voice teacher.  

Smith was an active fanzine fan from the 1970s through the 1990s, at first in New Jersey and Philadelphia.  With Linda Bushyager, she was a co-editor of the fanzine Duprass. With her husband, Ken Josenhans, she was co-OE of the music apa ALPS, and co-host of the fanzine fans convention Ditto 7 in Ann Arbor. 

She was slated to be the copyeditor for the 1987 revival of Weird Tales, but instead she moved away to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

She gafiated around 2000 as classical song and opera became her calling, but she remained in contact with her fannish friends.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2017[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Let me first note that Ann Leckie’s Translation State, a stand alone novel in this universe, will be out in June. The publisher is billing it as a mystery. 

Our Beginning this Scroll comes from Provenance which follows the Ancillary trilogy and like Translation State is a stand alone novel.  It was published by Orbit Books in 2017. It apparently is a mystery as near as I can tell having not read it yet. 

Without further commentary, here is the Beginning…

There were unexpected difficulties,” said the dark gray blur. That blur sat in a pale blue cushioned chair, no more than a meter away from where Ingray herself sat, facing, in an identical chair.

Or apparently so, anyway. Ingray knew that if she reached much more than a meter past her knees, she would touch smooth, solid wall. The same to her left, where apparently the Facilitator sat, bony frame draped in brown, gold, and purple silk, hair braided sleekly back, dark eyes expressionless, watching the conversation. Listening. Only the beige walls behind and to the right of Ingray were really as they appeared. The table beside Ingray’s chair with the gilded decanter of serbat and the delicate glass tray of tiny rose-petaled cakes was certainly real—the Facilitator had invited her to try them. She had been too nervous to even consider eating one.

“Unexpected difficulties,” continued the dark gray blur, “that led to unanticipated expenses. We will require a larger payment than previously agreed.

“That other anonymous party could not see Ingray where she sat—saw her as the same sort of dark gray blur she herself faced. Sat in an identical small room, somewhere else on this station. Could not see Ingray’s expression, if she let her dismay and despair show itself on her face. But the Facilitator could see them both. E wouldn’t betray having seen even Ingray’s smallest reaction, she was sure. Still. “Unexpected difficulties are not my concern,” she said, calmly and smoothly as she could manage. “The price was agreed beforehand.” The price was everything she owned, not counting the clothes she wore, or passage home—already paid.

“The unexpected expenses were considerable, and must be met somehow,” said the dark gray blur. “The package will not be delivered unless the payment is increased.”

“Then do not deliver it,” replied Ingray, trying to sound careless. Holding her hands very still in her lap. She wanted to clutch the green and blue silk of her full skirts, to have some feeling that she could hold on to something solid and safe, a childish habit she thought she’d lost years ago. “You will not receive any payment at all, as a result. Certainly your expenses must be met regardless, but that is no concern of mine.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 3, 1783 Washington Irving. Best known for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter, in particular, has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series which crossed over into the Bones series. (Died 1859.)
  • Born April 3, 1927 Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers. He co-founded Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945, Buffalo Book Company in 1946, Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards and a Balrog Award as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born April 3, 1928 Colin Kapp. He’s best remembered for his stories about the Unorthodox Engineers which originally largely appeared in the New Writings in SF anthologies. I’d also single out his Cageworld series which is set in the future when humanity lives on nested Dyson spheres. Both series are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 3, 1929 Ernest CallenbachEcotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel published later. Yes, I read both.  The Suck Fairy with her steel toed boots has not been kind to either work.  If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the regreening of Yosemite Valley, it is a much more interesting read. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 3, 1936 Reginald Hill. Now this surprised me. He’s the author of the most excellent Dalziel and Pascoe copper series centered on profane, often piggish Andrew Dalziel, and his long suffering, more by the book partner Peter Pascoe solving traditional Yorkshire crimes. Well there’s a SF mystery tucking in there set in 2010, many years after the other Dalziel and Pascoe stories, and involves them investigating the first Luna murder. I’ll need to read this one. 
  • Born April 3, 1946 Lyn McConchie, 77. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born April 3, 1968 Jo Graham, 55. Her first novel, Black Ships, re-imagines The Aeneid, and her second novel, Hand of Isis, features the reincarnated main character of the first novel. If that‘s not enough genre cred for you, she’s written Lost Things, with Melissa Scott and a whole lot of Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 novels.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit refines the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
  • The Far Side tries to lure a monster to its doom.
  • And about the April 2 Sally Forth, Daniel Dern says, “I’m not sure whether this is fourth wall or some other wall…”

(Dern footnote about Sally Forth: “Sidney The Hat” is a well-known-to-some newspaper/journalism reference. A friend who I’d the link to, knew the reference, and replied to me with “Sidney The Hat!” and, after I did a quick web search on that, I know now about it.” See “Sally Forth 40th Anniversary Special: The Sad True Story of Sidney and the Hat”. And now so do you.)

(11) MAYBE IT HELPS TO HAVE A SUPER FRIEND. Here’s one Warner Bros. project that is surprisingly not dead: “DC Cartoon My Friend Superman Will Air on Adult Swim”.

Cast your mind back to mid-2021, and you remember the announcement of a new DC Comics show called My Friend Superman. With how quiet it’s been since that initial reveal, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that it got quietly canceled, especially in light of Warner Bros. Discovery’s recent scuttling (or reshuffling) of animated series, DC or otherwise, in the last several months. And it doesn’t help that there’s been only one image of the show to go off of, as seen above.

But the show definitely still exists. Earlier in the week alongside the grand reveal of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Unicorn: Warriors Eternal (set to premiere on May 4)Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed My Friend Superman would air on Adult Swim after Unicorn completes its run during the spring and presumably summer. After hitting Cartoon Network’s more adult-focused airing block, episodes will encore during Saturday nights over on the Toonami sub-block. It’ll also hit HBO Max, but at time of writing, it’s not clear what release schedule (or method) the show will run on for the streaming service….

(12) TRIAL BALLOON. What happens if you bait a major corporation about an item of its intellectual property that goes into public domain next year? “John Oliver Tests Disney’s Lawyers Staking Claim On Mickey Mouse Ahead Of ‘Steamboat Willie’ Version Entering Public Domain” at Deadline. Will Oliver “find out” as the colorful phrase goes?

…Oliver continued, “The fact is anyone wanting to use the Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse will probably still be taking a risk but if you know anything about this show by now, we do like to take a risk every now and then.”

The late-night host then introduced “a brand new character for this show” in the form of a black and white Mickey Mouse.

Although Mickey Mouse is set to enter the public domain in 2024, Oliver added, “we are staking our claim to Mickey Mouse right now and I know Disney’s lawyers might argue that this Mickey is closely associated with their brand. Although they should know that he’s pretty associated with our brand now too.”

Oliver pointed out that the Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse had been appearing in the opening credits for Last Week Tonight throughout his latest season and he doesn’t doubt that “Disney has some other legal arguments up their sleeve.”

“We’re only likely to find out what the [arguments are] if and when they sue,” he said before introducing a costumed Mickey Mouse character…

(13) MONSOON PREDICTED FOR DOCTOR WHO. “’Doctor Who’: Jinkx Monsoon From ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Added to Cast” reports Variety.

Jinkx Monsoon, winner of the fifth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the seventh season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” has been added to the cast of the BBC’s long-running and immensely popular “Doctor Who” series.

Monsoon is set to be playing a major role in the series.

“In a galaxy of comets and supernovas, here comes the biggest star of all. Jinkx Monsoon is on a collision course with the TARDIS, and ‘Doctor Who’ will never be the same again,” showrunner Russell T Davies said.

“I’m honored, thrilled, and utterly excited to join ‘Doctor Who!’ Russell T Davies is a visionary and a brilliant writer — I can’t wait to get into the weeds with him and the crew! I hope there’s room in the TARDIS for my luggage,” Monsoon said….

(14) ARTEMIS ASTRONAUTS. “NASA Names Astronauts to Next Moon Mission, First Crew Under Artemis”.

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced the four astronauts who will venture around the Moon on Artemis II, the first crewed mission on NASA’s path to establishing a long-term presence at the Moon for science and exploration through Artemis….

The crew assignments are as follows: Commander Reid WisemanPilot Victor GloverMission Specialist 1 Christina Hammock Koch, and Mission Specialist 2 Jeremy Hansen (Canadian Space Agency). They will work as a team to execute an ambitious set of demonstrations during the flight test.

The approximately 10-day Artemis II flight test will launch on the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket, prove the Orion spacecraft’s life-support systems, and validate the capabilities and techniques needed for humans to live and work in deep space.  

…The flight, set to build upon the successful uncrewed Artemis I mission completed in December, will set the stage for the first woman and first person of color on the Moon through the Artemis program, paving the way for future for long-term human exploration missions to the Moon, and eventually Mars. This is the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rich Lynch, Ken Josenhans, Daniel Dern, Paul Weimer, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/23 Who Knows What Lurks In The Heart Of A Pixel? Only The Scroll Knows

(1) HELL(P) WANTED. Brian Keene is bringing back “Jobs In Hell”, the 2001 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction-winning monthly industry newsletter for writers, artists, editors, and other professionals specializing in horror and other speculative and weird fiction genres.  Paid subscriptions are being taken at the link.

Jobs In Hell will cost $5 per month to subscribe to. You can sign up for it here. The first issue will go out later this month.

To begin, it will run on a monthly schedule, rather than the weekly schedule of the old Jobs In Hell. I will revisit that schedule regularly, however, and I’m almost certain that at some point we’ll increase frequency.

If you are looking for submissions for your magazine, website, publishing company, etc. please email the details to [email protected]. Your email should contain the following information: Name of publication, name of editor overseeing submissions, guidelines as to what you are looking for, details on how to submit, deadline (if any), and payment (if any).

(2) ONLINE SFF COURSE IN NOVEMBER. Aliette de Bodard and Alastair Reynolds will be teaching an online course in writing SF & Fantasy at the end of the year: ”Teaching SF and F with Aliette” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

This course, “Sci-Fi & Fantasy”, offered through the Canolfan Ysgrifennu Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, will be held over four online sessions on the following dates: Tuesday 14 November, Tuesday 21 November, Tuesday 28 November & Tuesday 12 December 2023 from 7.00 – 8.30 pm. Register here.

Over four online sessions, Aliette and Alastair will address the peculiar challenges and opportunities open to anyone wishing to write science fiction, fantasy or their related sub-genres. Drawing on their own experiences across a range of literary styles and formats, from short stories to novels and extended series, they’ll cover the mechanics of crafting a story, from planning and plotting, to the use of voice and viewpoint, setting and mood. They’ll address the unique challenges of worldbuilding within the literatures of the fantastic, from the use of language to evoke a time and a place to the invention of social systems and far-future technologies, and how to make those creations seem real to the reader. They’ll talk about the different stages of writing; from initial drafts to polishing, how to prepare work for submission and how to make the most of the literary marketplace, from traditional venues to the online world and self-publishing. They’ll bring invaluable experience in problem-solving: how to come up with ideas, how to work around creative blocks, how to make a good story better – and, always, how to find fun and fulfilment in your craft, wherever it takes you. The future is wide open!

(3) ZELAZNY AND MORE. Today at Galactic Journey Cora Buhlert reviews the 1968 Hugo winner Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny and the 1968 heist novel Easy Go by John Lange a.k.a. Michael Crichton amongst other reviews. According to Cora, the largely forgotten heist novel got a better review than the Hugo winner: “[March 16, 1968] In Distant Lands (March Galactoscope)”.

Buddha is a Spaceman: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny, of Polish origin himself, is one of the most exciting young authors in our genre and has already won two Nebulas and one Hugo Award, which is remarkable, considering he has only been writing professionally for not quite six years.

My own response to Zelazny’s works has been mixed. I enjoyed some of them very much (the Dilvish the Damned stories from Fantastic or last year’s novella “Damnation Alley” from Galaxy) and could not connect to others at all (the highly lauded “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”). So I opened Zelazny’s latest novel Lord of Light with trepidation, for what would I find within, the Zelazny who wrote the Dilvish the Damned stories or the one who wrote “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”?

The answer is “a little bit of both” and “neither”….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 79 of Octothorpe, “You Get To Be A Little Cat”

John Coxon wants new gloves, Alison Scott is foreshadowing, and Liz Batty scrolls past spiders. We discuss a plethora of awards – Hugo Awards, Nebula Awards, BSFA Awards – while also chatting about hot dog finger gloves and Adrian “Spiders” Tchaikovsky. Listen here! 

(5) ONE OF OUR CAPTAINS IS MISSING. [Item by Dann.] Chris Gore of Film Threat magazine recently pointed out that the new Paramount graphic being used to promote all of Star Trek has omitted one of the key characters in Star Trek history; the original and one-and-only James Tiberius Kirk (ignore that inconvenient headstone).

The TrekNews Twitter feed was one of the first to note the omission.

William Shatner noted that he didn’t find it surprising.

Various users responded with reimagined graphics that place a greater emphasis on Captain Kirk.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

2001[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning this Scroll isn’t the start of this series. That would be Revelation Space, published a year prior to Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City, which came out on Gollancz twenty-two years ago. 

Reynolds uniquely wrote Chasm City as a stand-alone novel so you needn’t be familiar with any of the five Revelation Space Universe that precede it, including the two (and soon to be three) most fascinating Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies. (There’s a seventh novel, Inhibitor Phase, which came out several years back.)

Chasm City appeals to me because to it is the rare SF novel set within a larger universe that, as I said, is intended to allow the reader who hasn’t encountered this series to be introduced to it.

It won the British Science Fiction Association Award.

It’s got great characters, an awesome setting and multiple stories that weave into each other most satisfactorily. It is certainly one of the best SF novels that I’ve ever read. 

I’m sure I spotted one character here who shows up in the Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies series which I think was a very impressive piece of writing by him some years on.

And now its Beginning…

Dear Newcomer, 

Welcome to the Epsilon Eridani system. 

Despite all that has happened, we hope your stay here will be a pleasant one. For your information we have compiled this document to explain some of the key events in our recent history. It is intended that this information will ease your transition into a culture which may be markedly different from the one you were expecting to find when you embarked at your point of origin. It is important that you realise that others have come before you. Their experiences have helped us shape this document in a manner designed to minimise the shock of cultural adjustment. We have found that attempts to gloss over or understate the truth of what happened—of what continues to happen—are ultimately harmful; that the best approach—based on a statistical study of cases such as yours—is to present the facts in as open and honest manner as possible. 

We are fully aware that your initial response is likely disbelief, quickly followed by anger and then a state of protracted denial. 

It is important to grasp that these are normal reactions.

It is equally important to grasp—even at this early stage—that there will come a time when you will adjust to and accept the truth. It might be days from now; it might even be weeks or months, but in all but a minority of cases it will happen. You might even look back upon this time and wish that you could have willed yourself to make the transition to acceptance quicker than you did. You will know that it is only when that process is accomplished that anything resembling happiness becomes possible. 

Let us therefore begin the process of adjustment. 

Due to the fundamental lightspeed limit for communication within the sphere of colonised space, news from other solar systems is inevitably out of date; often by decades or more. Your perceptions of our system’s main world, Yellowstone, are almost certainly based on outdated information. 

It is certainly the case that for more than two centuries—until, in fact, the very recent past—Yellowstone was in thrall to what most contemporary observers chose to term the Belle Epoque. It was an unprecedented social and technological golden age; our ideological template seen by all to be an almost perfect system of governance.

Numerous successful ventures were launched from Yellowstone, including daughter colonies in other solar systems, as well as ambitious scientific expeditions to the edge of human space. Visionary social experiments were conducted within Yellowstone and its Glitter Band, including the controversial but pioneering work of Calvin Sylveste and his disciples. Great artists, philosophers and scientists flourished in Yellowstone’s atmosphere of hothouse innovation. Techniques of neural augmentation were pursued fearlessly. Other human cultures chose to treat the Conjoiners with suspicion, but we Demarchists—unafraid of the positive aspects of mind enhancement methods—established lines of rapport with the Conjoiners which enabled us to exploit their technologies to the full. Their starship drives allowed us to settle many more systems than cultures subscribing to inferior social models. 

In truth, it was a glorious time. It was also the likely state of affairs which you were expecting upon your arrival. 

This is unfortunately not the case. 

Seven years ago something happened to our system. The exact transmission vector remains unclear even now, but it is almost certain that the plague arrived aboard a ship, perhaps in dormant form and unknown to the crew who carried it. It might even have arrived years earlier. It seems unlikely now that the truth will ever be known; too much has been destroyed or forgotten. Vast swathes of our digitally stored planetary history were erased or corrupted by the plague. In many cases only human memory remains intact… and human memory is not without its fallibilities. 

The Melding Plague attacked our society at the core.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1883 Sonia Greene. Pulp writer and amateur press publisher who underwrote several fanzines in the early twentieth century. She was a president of the United Amateur Press Association. And she was married to H.P. Lovecraft, though often living apart, until eventually they agreed to divorce. (Died 1972.)
  • Born March 16, 1900 Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine credits from 1924 to 1966 including The Wife of the Centaur (a lost film which has but has but a few scraps left), Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan the Ape Man, The Invisible Boy and Forbidden Planet. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, was followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard, telling an interviewer that Haggard’s novel She impressed her at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 A. K. Ramanujan. I’m going to recommend his Folktales from India, Oral Tales from Twenty Indian Languages as essential reading if you’re interested in the rich tradition of the Indian subcontinent. Two of his stories show up in genre anthologies, “The Magician and His Disciple” in Jack Zipes’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Anthology of Magical Tales and “Sukhu and Dukhu“ in Heidi Stemple and Jane Yolen’s Mirror, Mirror. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 72. Her best known work is the God Stalker Chronicles series with Deathless Gods being the current novel. She dabbled in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague”, first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. All of the God Stalker Chronicles series are available from the usual suspects
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 71 . Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. The Rules of Magic was nominated for Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award. 
  • Born March 16, 1966 David Liss, 57. Writer of Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, novelization of Marvel’s Spider-Man whichis a 2018 action-adventure game. Comics writer, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear and Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives series. Not at all genre but his trilogy of novels starting with A Conspiracy of Paper and featuring Benjamin Weaver, a retired bare-knuckle boxer, now a thief-taker, a cross between a PI and bounty hunter, are highly recommended by me. 

(8) SPIDER-REX. Marvel brings us “The All-New Spider-Killer Curses the Spider-Verse in Josemaria Casanovas’ ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover”.

On May 3, the hit comic book series EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE returns for another wild trip through the Spider-Verse, complete with revolutionary new Spider-heroes and further adventures for the series’ biggest breakout stars, all brought to you from an all-star lineup of talent!

 …EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #1 will also feature the roaring return of SPIDER-REX and the daring debut of VENOMSAURUS in a story by writer Karla Pacheco and Pere Pérez. 

(9) SCIENTIST FICTION. Several sff books are part of Martin MacInnes’ list of “Top 10 visionary books about scientists: searching for an answer” in the Guardian.

Science, as much as art, is an act of imagination, the pursuit of something new. While novels about scientists often play with this likeness, there are also scientists who write with the ambition and empathy of novelists. Scientists in literature appear in all sorts of guises: as megalomaniacs, heroes, obsessives. It is this last figure – the obsessive – the character who will not stop – that interests me most….

First on the list is Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihlation.

The four women who enter Area X are named only by their profession: biologist; anthropologist; psychologist; surveyor. It is the biologist who is closest to VanderMeer’s heart, clear in the gorgeous accounts of the living world they walk through and in the novel’s concern with ecstatic dissolution and eroded borders, an awful commonality linking all things. The novel is suffused in beauty and grief, as the biologist goes on, determined to find out what it all means.

(10) WATNEYCRETE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]They tried urine. They tried blood. But it turned out that potato starch worked better.

The University of Manchester has come up with a extraterrestrial concrete mix that uses Mars (or Moon) dust, potato starch, and a pinch of salt (magnesium chloride). Plus, the “StarCrete” is said to have at least twice the compressive strength of standard concrete. “Engineers Built a New Kind of Concrete 2x Stronger Than the Real Thing” at Popular Mechanics.

The University of Manchester’s new “StarCrete” is twice as strong as traditional concrete, making it a potential solution as a building material for Mars. Add in some extraterrestrial dust and potato starch, and you have a potentially revolutionary new material.

In an article published in the journal Open Engineering, the research team showed that potato starch can act as a binder when mixed with simulated Mars dust to produce a concrete-like material reaching a compressive strength of 72 megapascals (MPa), over twice as strong as the 32 MPa seen in ordinary concrete. Of course, mix in moon dust instead and you can get StarCrete to 91 MPa.

This strength makes it a possible solution, according to the researchers, for a building solution on Mars as astronauts mix Martian soil with potato starch—and a pinch of salt, no joke—to give extra-terrestrial-suited concrete.

Earlier recipes from the team didn’t use potato starch, instead offering blood and urine as a binding agent to reach 40 MPa. Not every astronaut would be excited about continually draining their blood to build in space, though….

(11) DRESSED FOR SUCCESS. “Spacesuit for return to the Moon unveiled” at BBC News.

A new generation of spacesuit for humanity’s return trip to the Moon has been unveiled by Nasa.

The novel design comes with specialist features to support astronauts as they conduct scientific experiments on the lunar surface.

The prototype is said to be a better fit for female space travellers.

Nasa hopes to have the updated suit ready for the Artemis III mission to the Moon in 2025….

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

Pixel Scroll 3/9/23 Pixels, All Reconstituted With Extra Iron And Calcium

(1) EKPEKI WILL TACKLE NEW VISA. A GoFundMe aims to raise $17,000 for “Oghenechovwe Ekpeki visa processing & legal fees”.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki recently experienced visa complications that left him unable to attend the NAACP Image award ceremony, where he was a nominee for his work co-editing the anthology Africa Risen. These visa issues will also prevent him from attending the 44th Afrofuturism-themed International Conference For The Fantastic In the Arts as a guest of honour or be a visiting fellow at Arizona State University.

Because of these issues, Ekpeki is crowdfunding for a new visa that allows him the range of activities his burgeoning literary career demands.

Specifically, this crowdfunding is for a new visa and the associated legal and application fees. Ekpeki has already connected with a lawyer experienced in this legal area who will assist with the application.

The fundraiser will cover the following expenses:

  • Legal fees, $12,000
  • Filing fees, $2,000
  • Processing fees, $3,000
  • Visa fees, $500

(2) HWA’S WOMEN IN HORROR. In March the Horror Writers Association is doing a series on “Women in Horror.” Here’s the latest: “Women in Horror: Interview with Rachel Harrison”

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

It’s taught me to be more hopeful about the world. It’s changed my relationship with fear. I put my characters in really bleak situations, and they choose to fight on. That must come from me, right? From somewhere inside me. I always joke about how I’m not resilient, how I’d be the first to die in a real-life horror scenario, but maybe that’s a lie I tell myself and the truth is in my fiction.

(3) DON’T THROW THE READER OUT OF THE STORY. Karen Myers spotlights “Words that don’t belong” at Mad Genius Club.

…Let’s start with the most obvious — Character names. In a fantasy not set in the real world or some explicit alt-variant of it, you probably shouldn’t call your characters Tom, Dick, Harry, and Mary Sue. Not even Imogene. Or Ishiro. The naming conventions of the society are their own thing, just like the rest of the language, and while you represent the language as “English” so the reader can, you know, read it, actual real world names have all sorts of connotations, and you don’t want that shadow to follow your characters around and interfere with the illusion of the world they occupy. I’m using a naming convention of mostly single name and more-syllables-implies-higher-class (gods at the top with six), with a practice that allows one-or-two-syllable nicknames for informal or pejorative usage….

(4) BARE-KNUCKLE ANTIQUARIANS. The New York Times reassures us, “For Rare Book Librarians, It’s Gloves Off. Seriously.”

Last month, The New York Times reported on an ultrarare medieval Hebrew Bible that was headed to auction with a record-smashing estimate of up to $50 million.

The reaction was swift.

“Why are they handling this without cotton gloves? Shame on them,” one reader wrote in the comments section, referring to photographs showing someone touching the worn pages.

“This photo is disturbing,” wrote another. “Why is this person touching such an old book with ungloved hands?”

The alarmed tweets and emails kept rolling in. At the same time, a silent scream of exasperation arose at rare book libraries around the world.

People who handle rare books for a living are used to doing battle with a range of dastardly scourges, including red rot, beetles and thieves. But there is one foe that drives many of them particularly crazy: the general public’s unshakable — and often vehemently expressed — belief that old books should be handled with Mickey Mouse-style white cotton gloves.

“The glove thing,” Maria Fredericks, the director of conservation at the Morgan Library and Museum said when contacted about the matter, sounding slightly weary. “It just won’t die.”

“Every time it comes up, I sigh deeply,” said Eric Holzenberg, the director of the Grolier Club, the nation’s oldest private society of book collectors. “And then I give my three-sentence explanation of why it’s” — to use a milder term than he did — bunk.

To (politely) sum up the current consensus: Gloves reduce your sense of touch, increasing the likelihood that you might accidentally tear a page, smear pigments, dislodge loose fragments — or worse, drop the book.

(5) THE VACUUM IS ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC. “Star Trek Is Getting A Musical And It Looks Hilarious” according to MSN.com.

…The Star Trek musical was co-written, including lyrics, and composed by musician Brent Black who says that The Original Series inspired him, but it was The Next Generation that enlightened the breakthrough for the story. The musical takes place in 2366, and Data the Android is presenting the musical through a holographic image. Black claims that seeing how Data learns things through trial and error in The Next Generation is what inspired him to have the android present the musical through a simulation that occurs inside the Star Trek universe. 

In the Star Trek musical, an older Captain Kirk is going through a mid-life crisis when his nemesis Khan escapes from exile, coming after Kirk for his revenge. The plot of the musical follows Kirk and Khan as they go through constant adventures of pursuits and near captures, with the story occasionally being interrupted by songs, Vulcans tap dancing, the discovery of Kirk’s long-lost son (who is apparently a William Shatner impersonator?), and mutant space chickens….

(6) TOPOL (1935-2023). Israeli actor Topol died March 9 at the age of 87. While best known for his role in Fiddler on the Roof, the New York Times notes he also had a couple of genre credits, “’Flash Gordon’ (1980), in which he portrayed the scientist Hans Zarkov; and the James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981), starring Roger Moore, in which he played the Greek smuggler Milos Columbo.” He also appeared in one episode each of SeaQuest 2032 and Tales of the Unexpected.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1986[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I usually pick the first novel in a series as my Beginning for these matters but this Beginning was way too good to pass on. It’s from Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat is Born

I suspect most of you know about this series but in keeping with our policy of not doing spoilers about both the books and the series here, I’ll say nothing beyond the fact that first novel, The Stainless Steel Rat, rather obviously led to more novels, this being the sixth of twelve in the series. The Stainless Steel Rat is Born was published by Bantam in 1986.

Look, it’s comic SF at its very best (or worst depending on your viewpoint), it’s got a protagonist that you will never take seriously and the stories are designed to tread the edge of believability without falling over the edge. Mostly I think. 

And so to our comical Beginning…

I approached the front door of The First Bank of Bit O’ Heaven, it sensed my presence and swung open with an automatic welcome. I stepped briskly through—and stopped. But I was just far enough inside so that the door was unable to close behind me. While it was sliding shut I took the arc pen from my bag—then spun about just as it had closed completely. I had stop-watched its mechanical reflex time on other trips to the bank, so I knew that I had just 1.67 seconds to do the necessary. Time enough. 

The arc buzzed and flared and welded the door securely to its frame. After this all the door could do was buzz helplessly, immobile, until something in the mechanism shorted out and it produced some crackling sparks, then died.

 “Destruction of bank property is a crime. You are under arrest.” As it was speaking, the robot bank guard reached out its large padded hands to seize and hold me until the police arrived.

“Not this time, you jangling junkpile,” I snarled, and pushed it in the chest with the porcuswine prod. The two metal points produced 300 volts and plenty of amps. Enough to draw the attention of a one-tonne porcuswine. Enough to short the robot completely. Smoke spurted from all its joints and it hit the floor with a very satisfactory crash. 

Behind me. For I had already leapt forward, shouldering aside the old lady who stood at the teller’s window. I pulled the large handgun from my bag and pointed it at the teller and growled out my command.

 “Your money or your life, sister. Fill this bag with bucks.” 

Very impressive, though my voice did break a bit so the last words came out in a squeak. The teller smiled at this and tried to brazen it out. 

“Go home, sonny. This is not…” 

I pulled the trigger and the .75 recoilless boomed next to her ear; the cloud of smoke blinded her. She wasn’t hit but she might just as well have been. Her eyes rolled up in her head and she slid slowly from sight behind the till. 

You don’t foil Jimmy diGriz that easily! With a single bound I was over the counter and waving the gun at the rest of the wide-eyed employees.

“Step back—all of you! Quick! I want no little pinkies pressing the silent alarm buttons. That’s it. You, butterball—” I waved over the fat teller who had always ignored me in the past. He was all attention now. “Fill this bag with bucks, large denominations, and do it now.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 9, 1918 Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Batman, Captain America, Captain Marvel and Superman. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman” (co-written with Howard Browne), “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins).  Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 9, 1930 Howard L. Myers. Clute over at EofS positively gushes over him as does here of Cloud Chamber: “attractively combines Cosmology, Antimatter invaders of our Universe, Sex and effortless rebirth of all sentient beings in a wide-ranging Space Opera“.  I see he had but two novels and a handful of short stories. They’re available, the novels at least, from the usual digital sources. (Died 1971.)
  • Born March 9, 1939 Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael here was his first genre role. Yeah I’m stretching it. OK, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 9, 1945 Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock.  He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
  • Born March 9, 1952 James Shull, 71. Artist that was mostly active in the Seventies. His recognizable artwork was in most of the major fanzines. He published the Crifanac fanzine and was co-editor of The Essence fanzine along with Jay Zaremba. He was nominated for a number of Best Fan Hugos. He did beautiful covers for fanzines —  here is an example from Mike’s 1973 genzine Prehensile #8.
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy, 68. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. I’d be remiss not to note her second novel, The Falling Woman won a Nebula Award did as her “Rachel in Love” novelette (which also won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award). The Points of Departure collection garnered a Philip K. Dick Award, and her “Bones” novella the World Fantasy Award. 
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 45. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. 

(9) SENSITIVE TO WHAT? Zoe Dubno in a Guardian opinion piece asserts “Publishers are cynically using ‘sensitivity readers’ to protect their bottom lines”.

…The publishing industry’s willingness to safeguard Dahl’s longevity is particularly perplexing in an age when they have begun to silence living authors whose personal lives they deem unacceptable. In 2021, when Philip Roth’s biographer, Blake Bailey, was accused of sexual assault, WW Norton pulled his biography. Similarly, Hachette refused to publish Woody Allen’s autobiography the year before.

But it was the personal conduct of those authors, not the content of their work, that the industry took issue with. If we are told to separate the art from the artist, why does Dahl – whose art and life both fail the social acceptability test – get a pass?

Though the current furore is about reprints, sensitivity reading has become popular with new books as well. When I first reported on sensitivity readers, in 2021, the phenomenon was still relatively unknown. Since then coverage has exploded. Most of the discussion revolves around the sensationalist prospect of woke censorship stripping art of nuance, but far less attention has been paid to the readers who vet these books….

(10) TINY CAMEO. From the Guardian: “Mark Everett of Eels: ‘It’s weird being a father when you’re older than your father ever was’”.

Mark Everett of Eels: ‘ I actually make a cameo appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as a nod to my dad. The director’s a fan of his and thought it would be fun.’

(His dad being Hugh Everett of Many Worlds fame!)

(11) BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, AND THAT, AND THAT. “Disney Being “Very Careful” With Star Wars Movie Development, CEO Bob Iger Says” in Deadline. Quoting Bob Iger —

…With Marvel, he said, “there are 7,000 characters, there are a lot more stories to tell. What we have to look at at Marvel is not necessarily the volume of Marvel stories we’re telling, but how many times we go back to the well on certain characters. Sequels typically work well for us. Do you need a third and a fourth, for instance, or is it time to turn to other characters?”

Iger didn’t get specific, but his comments came less than three weeks after the release of Marvel Cinematic Universe entry Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the third Ant-Man film. It has grossed more than $600 million globally, but drew tepid response from critics and posted a 69% second-weekend drop in the U.S., the steepest by any MCU title to date.

“There’s nothing in any way inherently off in terms of the Marvel brand,” Iger stressed. “I think we just have to look at what characters and stories we’re mining. If you look at the trajectory of Marvel in the next five years, there will be a lot of newness. We’re going to turn back to the Avengers franchise with a whole new set of Avengers, for example.”…

(12) PRESCRIPTION FOR FASHION. “David Tennant shows off Doctor Who costume for Red Nose Day” reports Radio Times. Photos at the link.

Doctor Who star David Tennant has given fans another look at his Fourteenth Doctor costume in new photos for Red Nose Day — and it looks absolutely glorious.

The actor, who played the Tenth Doctor, has returned to the show to star in the 60th anniversary specials alongside co-star Catherine Tate (Donna Noble).

Now, ahead of his return to host Red Nose Day, Tennant has posed alongside Comic Relief co-founder Lenny Henry in a whole host of epic snaps….

(13) THERE WERE TWO FLAGS ON THE PLAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Unexpected damage at both ends of the recent uncrewed Artemis mission around the Moon are raising yellow flags.

At launch, there was an unexpected amount of damage to the mobile launch tower. Some of those items have already been repaired and work on others is in progress.

On reentry, which was faster & hotter than any previous space mission, more damage was seen to the heat shield than expected. Further, the damage went beyond the expected ablation, with small chunks of the shield flaked off.

Mashable has the story: “NASA reveals its moon spacecraft was damaged as it plummeted to Earth”.

… The primary objectives of the inaugural flight were getting the spacecraft to orbit and recovering it. But another major purpose was to see how Orion’s heat shield stood up to the punishing temperatures as the spacecraft plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere. Orion came home faster and hotter than any spacecraft prior, traveling at 24,500 mph in 5,000 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

The heat shield was supposed to get a little barbecued, but not charred to the extent that the team has observed in its post-flight analysis, said Howard Hu, manager of Orion, at the press conference.

“We’re seeing larger, like, more little pieces that are coming off versus being ablated,” he said, referring to a type of heat-driven evaporation engineers expected. The team has not determined yet whether the material needs to be redesigned, he said….

(14) SPACE NEEDLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Elementary school students teamed with the University of Ottawa for a first-of-its-kind test. In a finding that could be of major significance for space medicine, they’ve discovered that epi-pens not only lose their potency when taken to space, but actually become poisonous.

I imagine quite a few adult scientists are now queuing up to test out other medicines that they assumed would be OK for space use. “Useless in space? uOttawa helps elementary students make startling discovery about EpiPens” at uOttawa.

… The John Holmes Mass Spectrometry Core Facility in the uOttawa’s Faculty of Science analyzed the returned samples to find the epinephrine sent into space returned only 87% pure, with the remaining 13% transformed into extremely poisonous benzoic acid derivatives, making the EpiPen unusable…

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

Artemis I: A Hugo Contender?

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft launches on the Artemis I flight test, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

By Mark Roth-Whitworth: I expect a lot of File 770’s readers watched, as we did, as the Orion capsule returned to Terra. I’m older than some of you, and it’s been decades since I watched a capsule re-entry and landing in the ocean. What had me in tears is that finally, after fifty years, we’re planning to go back… and stay. This time, it’s not a stupid race, but, oh, ok, I’ll say it, the final frontier, and we’re going where no one has gone before.

Hugo nominations are coming, soon enough. Mike reminded me that the Apollo 11 news coverage won the Hugo for “Best Dramatic Presentation”. This capsule wasn’t crewed — that’ll be the next. But if the Artemis I mission doesn’t beat anything else this year deserving of the Best Related Work Hugo, nothing does.

I plan to nominate it. Join me?

NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:40 p.m. EST, Dec. 11, 2022, after a 25.5 day mission to the Moon.

Pixel Scroll 11/27/22 A Long Time Ago, When Pixels Scrolled The Earth, A Filer Was Climbing Mount Tsundoku

(1) BROADCAST MUSIC. Rolling Stone assures us these are the 100 “Best TV Theme Songs of All Time”.

WE APOLOGIZE IN advance for all the TV theme songs we are about to lodge back into your heads. Or maybe we should preemptively accept your thanks?

Despite periodic attempts to contract or outright eliminate them, theme songs are a crucial part of the TV-watching experience. The best ones put you in the right mindset to watch each episode of your favorite, and can be just as entertaining in their own right as any great joke, monologue, or action sequence. So we’ve decided to pick the 100 best theme songs of all time — technically 101, since there are two as inextricably linked as peanut butter and jelly — and attempted to rank them in order of greatness….

John King Tarpinian has scouted ahead and says these numbers are genre: 77, 75, 65, 54, 42, 39, 33, 29, 24, 18, 17, 11, 06.

The highest sf TV show theme is from The Twilight Zone. It lodges at number six between the themes from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Speaking of number six – I’m shocked to learn that the theme from The Prisoner is not on the list at all.)

P.S. I’m sure John would want me to mention that the theme from Rachel Bloom’s TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is even higher, at number four.

(2) BEYOND GOOSEBUMPS. LA Review of Books hosts ”Stine Still Scares: A Conversation with R. L. Stine”.

DANIELLE HAYDEN: So, could you please tell me a little more about the upcoming comic series, Stuff of Nightmares? And I know some of your earliest work was comics. So how does that feel?

R. L. STINE: Well, yeah, when I was nine, I did comics.

Well, yes, I just mean, like, kind of, full circle now.

You know, I’m having a lot of fun. I’m working with BOOM! Studios in Los Angeles. And I did a series of comic books for them called Just Beyond, which was sort of Twilight Zone for kids. And it became a Disney+ series. We had eight episodes. That was fun. Now I’m doing this for adults; I’m actually writing something for grown-ups. And it’s really gruesome stuff. It’s like my version of Frankenstein. And so, I’m having fun with it. Comic books are fun to write. Forces me to be more visual, you know?…

(3) CSSF VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB. The next title in the Gunn Center for the Study of SF’s (CSSF) monthly virtual book club is Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria. This debut novel about a merchant’s journey to the distant land of Olondria where he finds himself haunted by a mysterious force is the 2014 winner of the World Fantasy Award. 

…We hope it’ll be a wonderful read for folks who have ever been “the new person,” or experience homesickness or wanderlust.

Join them on December 16 at noon (Central Time) for our virtual meeting. Register here. Also, this programming is running all year, click here to see what’s in the Book Club’s future.

(4) THE WORDS THAT MAKE THE WHOLE WORLD SING. Today I learned that Chris Weber published Sentient Chili and Stranger Filk: Lyrics to 107 Songs of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Fandom this summer. Good work!

“Filk” is the term applied to the fan music of science fiction and fantasy. Readers and viewers of the genre will find familiar faces and tales. These lyrics cover topics from movies and television to books and original stories. Much of the collection leans towards humor, while touching other emotional chords as well. The stanzas have the feel of ’80s nostalgia but are not exclusively from that era.

The collection is like the contents of the proverbial box of chocolates, bite-sized and filled with surprises.

(5) IGLESIAS INTERVIEW. “Three Questions for Gabino Iglesias Regarding His Novel ‘The Devil Takes You Home’” at LA Review of Books.

DANIEL A. OLIVAS: The hero (or antihero, if you will) of The Devil Takes You Home is a man who has suffered unspeakable personal loss, not to mention a self-inflicted rupture in his marriage. He feels deep remorse and guilt, yet he is hopeful that one big score will restore some of what he’s lost. Could you talk about how you created Mario and what you wanted to explore through his journey?

GABINO IGLESIAS: One of the things I love the most about horror and crime fiction is that both genres share a heart: at their core are good people who are thrown into bad situations. Mario is all of us — far from perfect but not bad. He’s desperate and the system doesn’t offer him many options. Most people know what that feels like. I wrote about 45,000 words of The Devil Takes You Home while writing for various venues, teaching high school full-time, and teaching an MFA course at SNHU at night. Then I lost the high school teaching gig and my health insurance along with it, and this happened in June 2020, just as the pandemic was raging. I would read about people getting sick and then receiving astronomical medical bills. I was angry and worried, and I injected all of that into Mario. Hopefully that will make him resonate with people, especially with those who understand that good people sometimes do awful things for all the right reasons.

(6) BOOGIEPOP. The second episode of the Animation Explorations Podcast is “Boogiepop & Others (2019) – Breaking it all Down”.

This month, David, Tora, and Alexander Case look at the 2019 adaptation of the successful adaptation of some of the Boogiepop light novels

(7) GOING BACK TO WAKANDA. “Ryan Coogler talks Black Panther sequel ‘Wakanda Forever’” at NPR.

…The film has clearly touched a chord with audiences. It’s already earned more than $300 million in the U.S. and is expected to top the Thanksgiving weekend box office. So we wanted to talk with director and co-writer Ryan Coogler. He says the film, although about grief, shows the sort of rebirth that occurs in the face of insurmountable loss. And he began by telling me what it was like to reimagine the film’s story, which had already been written before Boseman died.

RYAN COOGLER: It was really complicated. It was difficult technically, because Joe and I had a lot of work to do to figure out what this new movie would be without him and without the character. But it was also complicated because me and everybody involved were navigating our own emotional journey, how to deal with losing our friend. So it was admittedly like the most difficult professional thing I’ve ever done and probably the most difficult personally as well….

(8) MAGNIFYING SMALL PRESS PUBLISHING. Cora Buhlert posted “Small Press – Big Stories: Some of Cora’s Favourite Small Press SFF Books of 2022”, an overview done as part of Matt Cavanaugh’s project to highlight small press SFF. First on Cora’s list:

Mage of Fools by Eugen Bacon

African-Australian writer Eugen Bacon is clearly a rising star in our genre. Yet the first time I heard of her was, when I was asked to feature her novel Claiming T-Mo, published by Meerkat Press, at the Speculative Fiction Showcase back in 2019.

Eugen Bacon’s latest release is Mage of Fools, also published by the good folks of Meerkat Press. Mage of Fools is a unique science fantasy tale set in the dystopian world of Mafinga, a polluted hellhole where books, reading and imagination are forbidden by law. Protagonist Jasmin is a widowed mother of two young children as well as the owner of a forbidden story machine. Possessing such a machine is punishable by death and when Jasmin’s story machine is discovered, she faces execution. However, she gets a temporary reprieve… for a terrible price. Because the queen of Mafinga, who cannot have children of her own, wants Jasmin’s children…

Mage of Fools is a great SFF novel, that manages to be both grim and hopeful at the same time. And since Eugen Bacon is also a poet, the novel is beautifully written as well.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Emma Bull’s Finder: A Novel of The Borderland

I sliced strawberries with all my attention. They were particularly fine ones, large and white clear through without a hint of pink. (Wild Borderland strawberries are one of the Border’s little jokes. They form bright red, and fade as they ripen. No strawberry has ever been so sweet.) — Orient in Emma Bull’s Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands

One of my frequently re-read novels is this one. It’s a comfort read in every meaning of that word. And yes, I do have a personally signed as I do of Bone Dance as well. Of course they’re on the chocolate gifting list.

Emma released this novel on Tor twenty-eight years ago. It’s one of three novels done on the shared world created by Terri Windling, a ruined city sharing a Border with the Fey. Most of the fiction here is short stories, novellas and poetry. This novel and two done by her husband, Will Shetterly, Elsewhere and Nevernever, are the only novels done. His are also excellent.

So why do I like her novel so much that I’ve read it at least a dozen times?

MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW. REALLY THEY DO. GO GET A DRINK IN THE DANCING FERRET.

First, it has a first-person narrator in Orient, a young male, who has the psychic ability to find anything if the right question is asked. So when his elf friend, Tick Tock, asks him to find her missing wrench in exchange for supper, little does he know that his life will become the whim of others. There are plenty of characters, all well-fleshed out, and all moving the story along.

Second, it has a compelling story weaving two apparently disparate plots that are here into a single thread that makes perfect sense. And Emma pulls no punches; bad things will happen to folks no matter how central they are to the story including what happens TO Tick Tock which made me cry. A lot of story get packed into its just over three hundred pages and it moves smartly along.

Third, Emma does the best job in this long running series of making the central setting (naturally called Bordertown) feel as if it were an actual place, a neat trick as too many such places feel not quite real. The short stories quite frankly fail at doing this as they focus more on making the characters be Really Cool.

Everything here really does feel as if you could walk down Mock Avenue, have a drink in the Dancing Ferret, and hear the Horn Dance perform as they came down the street on their magic fuelled wheeled motorcycles.

COME BACK NOW, THE HORN DANCE HAS LEFT FOR NOW.

If you like this, I suggest the newest anthology, Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands, which Holly Black and Ellen Kushner edited a decade or so back, is well worth your time as are the older anthologies. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 27, 1907 L. Sprague de CampThe Tales from Gavagan’s Bar he wrote with Fletcher Pratt are my favorite works by him. Best novel by him? I’d say that’s Lest Darkness Fall. His only Hugo was awarded at LoneStarCon 2 for Time & Chance: An Autobiography. He got voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, and he got World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. His very first Award was an IFA for Lands Beyond that he wrote with Willy Ley. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 27, 1935 Verity Lambert. Founding Producer of Doctor Who. (When she was appointed to Who in 1963, she was BBC Television’s only female drama producer, as well as the youngest.) After leaving BBC, she’d oversee the Quatermass series at Thames. She’d return to BBC to Executive Produce three seasons of So Haunt Me, a supernatural series.  Wiki has her script editing and appearing in a fan-made episode of Doctor Who called “A Happy Ending” in 2006, which is notable for the presence of Susan, played by Carole Ann Ford, the granddaughter of the First Doctor. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 27, 1940 Bruce Lee. His only genre role was as Kato in The Green Hornet which to my utter surprise only lasted for twenty-six episodes between 1966 and 1967. He also appeared on Batman in three episodes, “The Spell of Tut”, “Batman’s Satisfaction”, and “A Piece of The Action”. Despite the various weird rumors, including Triad induced curses about his death, it was quite mundane. Donald Teare, an experienced forensic scientist who had been recommended by Scotland Yard was assigned to the Lee case. His conclusion was “death by misadventure” caused by cerebral edema due to a reaction to compounds present in the combination Equagesic medication. (Died 1973.)
  • Born November 27, 1951 Melinda M. Snodgrass, 71. She wrote several episodes of Next Generation while serving as the story editor during its second and third seasons. She also wrote scripts for SlidersStrange LuckBeyond RealityOdyssey 5, Outer Limits and SeaQuest DSV. She’s a co-editor of and frequent story contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series.
  • Born November 27, 1957 Michael A. Stackpole, 65. Best known for his myriad Star Wars and BattleTech books, but I’m going to single him out for the excellent Once a Hero which was nominated for a Nebula, his Conan the Barbarian novel, and the two Crown Colonies novels.
  • Born November 27, 1961 Samantha Bond, 61. Best known for playing Miss Moneypenny in four James Bond films during the series’ Pierce Brosnan years. She was also Mrs Wormwood in three episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the spin-off of Doctor Who, and played Helga in Erik the Viking which written and directed by Terry Jones. 
  • Born November 27, 1974 Jennifer O’Dell, 48. Her only meaningful role to date, genre or otherwise, has been that of Veronica on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. She’s had some minor roles such on Charmed and Bones, and appearances on films such as Alien Battlefield but nothing major.

(11) BOOP BOOP A DOOP. ScreenRant knows this question has been on your mind: “How Does Luke Skywalker Understand What R2-D2 Says In Star Wars?”

In the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 have several interactions together, but it’s not entirely clear how the Jedi learned to understand what the astromech droid is saying. Droids have always been a key component of the Star Wars franchise, with some of them being so intelligent they can speak multiple languages, such as R2’s companion, protocol droid C-3PO. Artoo, however, has only ever spoken in the default droid language known as “Binary,” which contains a mixture of whistles, chirps, and beeps, both loud and quiet…. 

(12) KSR DROPPING. A little credit gets directed at Kim Stanley Robinson in the New York Times’ article “Douglas Brinkley Would Like to Invite Thoreau to Dinner”.

The historian, whose new book is “Silent Spring Revolution,” would also invite E.O. Wilson and Rachel Carson: “We could talk about the 11,000 bird species the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is helping to conserve in the face of climate change.”

What’s the last great book you read?

During the pandemic I was transfixed by George R. Stewart’s “Earth Abides,” perhaps the most frightening doomsday thriller of all time. Most of American civilization collapses because of a strange disease, but a Berkeley ecologist is one of the rare survivors of the epidemic. Stewart wrote the book about 75 years ago, but his description of empty cities and the power of nature unleashed seem very contemporary in a world of Covid and climate change. It holds up well, and Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a fine introduction for the 2020 edition.

(13) BANG BANG. “San Francisco police consider letting robots use ‘deadly force’” reports The Verge.

…As reported by Mission Local, members of the city’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee have been reviewing the new equipment policy for several weeks. The original version of the draft didn’t include any language surrounding robots’ use of deadly force until Aaron Peskin, the Dean of the city’s Board of Supervisors, initially added that “robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person.”

However, the SFPD returned the draft with a red line crossing out Peskin’s addition, replacing it with the line that gives robots the authority to kill suspects. According to Mission Local, Peskin eventually decided to accept the change because “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option.” San Francisco’s rules committee unanimously approved a version of the draft last week, which will face the Board of Supervisors on November 29th….

(14) INSTANT MUSIC VIDEO. Boing Boing told readers that “Gifaanisqatsi generates Koyaanisqatsi-style montages with random GIFs and sets them to Philip Glass’s looming score” – and what they’d like to see next.

Gifaanisqatsi is outstanding. Click it and off it goes, grabbing random GIFs and setting them, with a little treatment (such as time-lapse and slow-mo) to Philip Glass’s score to Koyaanisqatsi. The result is comically nihilistic, confirming both the trivial universality of the movie’s sentiments and that the sense of the awe commanded by the filmic tone poem format is now available at zero marginal cost.

Suggestion: a “Qataaniskoysi” option that restricts the GIFs in use to cats.

(15) FEEL FREE TO LOOK OUT THE WINDOW. “See the Far Side of the Moon: Incredibly Detailed Pictures From Artemis I Orion Close Lunar Flyby” at SciTech Daily.

…On the sixth day of the Artemis I mission, Orion made a close flyby of the Moonpassing about 81 miles (130 km) above the surface. During the close flyby, Orion’s optical navigation camera captured black-and-white images of craters on the Moon below. Orion uses the optical navigation camera to capture imagery of the Earth and the Moon at different phases and distances, providing an enhanced body of data to certify its effectiveness under different lighting conditions as a way to help orient the spacecraft on future missions with crew….

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, 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 Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/22 The Emergency Holo-Scrollo

(1) GREG BEAR APPRECIATIONS. GeekWire’s Alan Boyle has a tribute to the famed sff writer who died yesterday: “Greg Bear, 1951-2022: Writer influenced the science fiction world”.

…Bear, who moved to the Seattle area in 1987, also had an impact on his adopted home. He was a member of the team that created and organized the Washington State Centennial Time Capsule. And GeekWire contributor Frank Catalano recalls introducing Bear to the late software billionaire Paul Allen — a contact that helped lead to the creation of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, now part of Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture.

The accolades streaming in from friends and admirers stressed the personal as well as the public contributions made by Bear over the decades. “Greg the man was a friend,” fellow science-fiction icon Harry Turtledove tweeted. “Greg the writer was quite remarkable.”…

Boyle draws on Frank Catalano’s 2017 interview with Greg Bear, also at GeekWire, where it is available as a podcast with an accompanying article, “Science fiction has won the war: Best-selling author Greg Bear on the genre’s new ‘golden age’”.

…As a “hard” science fiction writer who does extensive research, Bear has dived into everything from nanotechnology (his 1983 novel Blood Music is credited by some as being its first use in science fiction) to planetary science. A current fascination, in part because it’s a key setting in the War Dogs trilogy, is Titan. “It’s got a hazy orange layer,” he explained. “It’s full of plastics, and waxes, and organic chemistry. Then, it turns out, it’s actually got a water ocean underneath.”

But the hard science fiction reputation can mask the fact that Bear has also written — successfully — novels that are fantasy, horror, and near-future techno thrillers. “I find the idea, and then I try to find the story that fits it,” he said. “Some of these ideas are coming up so fast that you can’t write about them as far-future ideas.”…

The SFWA Blog’s“In Memoriam – Greg Bear” notes he was a past President, and quotes from a selection of several other Presidents.

…Current SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy remarked, “When I took over as a newbie President of SFWA, Past-President Greg Bear was unfailingly gracious to and supportive of me. I loved his work and admired him as an author, so to discover what a truly kind person he was meant so much. He will be greatly missed by SFWA and the larger community.”

Former SFWA Presidents also wished to pay their respects to their colleague and friend as such:

“There are few people in my life from whom I learned so much, and was so fortunate to have known, than Greg Bear.” – Paul Levinson

“Whether or not he was one of the greatest novelists of speculative fiction may be questionable for the ages to argue but a Prince of SF he surely was. From the beginning to the end, he was a sincere literary artist, scientifically learned, a speculative visionary, if not the king of that which has no king, surely a prince seated at the SF table.” – Norman Spinrad

“Greg Bear and I were friends for thirty years. What I loved about his work was that it freely embraced the entire scope science fiction has to offer: from the far future (Anvil of Stars), through the present day (Quantico), to cavorting with creatures we know only from the distant past (Dinosaur Summer), he took us on a grand tour of his boundless imagination.” – Robert Sawyer

“Greg was my vice president, unflappable, always supportive, funny, endearing, and smart. Heart-breaking he is leaving us so soon.” – Jane Yolen

(2) GREG BEAR PHOTOS. From throughout his career, taken by and © Andrew Porter.

(3) BUTLER’S PRESCIENCE. The New York Times explains how “Octavia Butler’s Science Fiction Predicted the World We Live In”.

Sixteen years after her death, the writer Octavia Butler is experiencing a renaissance.

Butler, seen here on a mural at a middle school that bears her name, is celebrated for novels that grappled with extremism, racial justice and the climate crisis.

The future she wrote about is now our present moment. What follows is a tour of the worlds that made her — and the worlds that she made.

She wrote 12 novels and won each of science fiction’s highest honors. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to be awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant. The MacArthur Foundation said of Octavia E. Butler, “Her imaginative stories are transcendent fables, which have as much to do with the future as with the present and the past.”

Part of what has made Butler so beloved is the work that preceded these honors: the way she envisioned her own future and encouraged herself to keep going despite the very real obstacles in her path. She recorded her goals and aspirations in her personal journals in terms that have since resonated across the decades:

I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood.

I will help poor Black youngsters broaden their horizons.

I will travel whenever and wherever in the world that I choose.

My books will be read by millions of people!

So be it! See to it!…

(4) RAY NELSON UPDATE. From Ray Faraday Nelson’s Facebook page:

Deteriorating health has made it necessary to move Ray to a nursing home. Ray loves to receive letters and if you would like to let him know how much you enjoyed his work, now would be a good time (and soon). Send to Ray Nelson, c/o Walter Nelson, PO Box 370904 Reseda CA 91337

In his cartoons Nelson popularized the association fans with propeller beanies, and he was honored with the Rotsler Award in 2003.

(5) PITTSBURGH FANDOM BACK IN THE DAY. Fanac.org’s next FanHistory Project Zoom Session is “Fannish Life in 1970s Pittsburgh, with Ginjer Buchanan, Linda Bushyager, Suzanne Tompkins, and Laurie Mann”.  It will take place Saturday December 10, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Pittsburgh in the late 60s/70s saw an explosion of fannish activity, with the founding of the Western Pennsylvania SF Association (WPSFA), the creation of PghLANGE and the publication of many fanzines, including Granfalloon (Linda Bushyager and Suzanne Tompkins). What made Pittsburgh special? Why the resurgence of fannish activity? Who were the driving forces? In this session, Ginjer Buchanan, Linda Bushyager and Suzanne Tompkins, three of the movers and shakers of 1970s Pittsburgh fandom, talk about that era. Our Moderator Laurie Mann is a current Pittsburgh fan as well as a fan historian.

(6) SOME PREFER PIRACY. “The FBI closed the book on Z-Library, and readers and authors clashed” reports the Washington Post.

The FBI’s takedown of Z-Library, one of the world’s largest repositories of pirated books and academic papers, this month set ablaze the subset of TikTok devoted to discussing books and authors, said Lexi Hardesty, a BookTok content creator.

“I have never seen authors and readers go head-to-head the way they did that week,” said Hardesty, a student at the University of Kentucky.

Readers were mourning that their ability to download free textbooks, novels and academic papers had disappeared overnight. Some BookTokers compared the shutdown of the website to the mythical burning of the library of Alexandria in 48 B.C., Hardesty said. “Some even said that shutting it down was an extension of slavery.”

Yet authors across BookTok were relieved. “Piracy costs us our sales, specifically for marginalized authors; it adversely impacts public libraries; and it hurts the publishing industry,” said Nisha Sharma, an author and BookToker. “Essentially when you mourn Z-Library, you are mourning the end of theft.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Deep Space Nine‘s “The Sword Of Kahless”

“Did you see the look on the face of that Klingon that I killed? It was as if he understood the honor bestowed upon him. The first man in a thousand years to be killed by the Sword of Kahless.” — Kor

“I’m sure he was very proud.”  – Dax

On this evening twenty-seven years ago in syndication, Deep Space Nine‘s “The Sword Of Kahless” was brought to us for our enjoyment. 

The story was created by Richard Danus and was turned into a script by Hans Beimler. 

The episode was directed by LeVar Burton. It features the return of John Colicos as Kor. Colicos had first appeared as Kor, the very first Klingon in all of Trek, in Trek’s “Errand of Mercy” and had previously appeared in this series in the episode “Blood Oath”. 

GO GET YOURSELF A CUP OF WARM KLINGON BLOODWINE AS SPOILERS LIKE BLOOD OFF A BATLEFF FOLLOW NOW.

Kor has returned to the Deep Space Nine to get the help of Worf and  Dax to help to find the ancient Sword of Kahless. It was the very first bat’leth forged by the founder of the Klingon Empire, Kahless the Unforgettable. After they find the sword, they are forced to evade the forces of Toral, son of Duras, and Worf and Kor starting fighting to the death.

Worf and Kor realize that the Sword is partially sentient and has turned them against each other, and will lead to the end of the Empire. 

Worf ponders if they really were meant to find it; Kor firmly asserts that they were, but notes that they were also not meant to keep it. So they teleport the sword into space where hopefully it will stay forever. 

IF YOU HAVE DRANK ENOUGH OF THAT WINE, COME ON BACK BY THE WARMING FIRE. 

The sword itself was created specifically for the episode, and was made to seem more elaborate than the bat’leths previously seen in Trek, including hand etchings to make it appear similar to Damascus steel. 

This episode was somewhat unpopular with many viewers when it first aired, something which disappointed writer Hans Beimler and producer René Echevarria. What particularly disappointed them was the fact that many viewers were unable to accept the notion that the bat’leth itself had no actual power. According to Echevarria, “A lot of fan reaction was that there must be a tech explanation, that the sword must be emitting something. I was astonished.” — Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — The Office Poster Magazin

Michelle Erica Green, who watched the episode in April 2013 for TrekNation, thought that it was not a typical Deep Space Nine episode and that it required that the viewer had knowledge of Worf’s history from the Next Generation. It rated slightly off the “Little Green Men” episode that preceded it and the “Our Man Bashir” that followed it.

It of course is streaming at Paramount +. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 20, 1923 Nadine Gordimer. South African writer and political activist. Her one genre novel was July’s People which was banned in her native country under both governments. Her three stories are collected in Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black and Other Stories. She received the Nobel Prize in Literature, recognized as a writer “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity”.  (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 20, 1923 Len Moffatt. He was a member of First Fandom. Len and his second wife June helped organize many of the early Bouchercons for which they received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bouchercon staff. He was a member of LASFS. He wrote far too many zines to list here. Mike has an excellent look at his memorial here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin. Actor famous for his character roles, whom genre fans know as the informant Deep Throat in The X-Files, or perhaps as Samuel Clemens in the Star Trek: The Next Generation double episode “Times’s Arrow”. Other TV series guest appearances include Star Trek: Voyager, Sliders, Brimstone, Time Trax, Lois & Clark, Quantum Leap, Dark Justice, Starman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The (new) Twilight Zone, and The Incredible Hulk, and he had roles in Big Trouble in Little China and Doomsday Virus (aka Pandora’s Clock). (Died 1993.)
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Edmund Gardner. No, not the one that wrote that Grendel novel, but the who was actually an English spy and a novelist who is remembered for his James Bond novels of which he wrote, according to critics, way too many as they though they were silly, but also for his Boysie Oakes spy novels and three novels containing featuring Professor Moriarty that are most tasty. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure making this list. Twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voice Long John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 78.  What a lovely name she has! Her novel Wild Life won the 2000 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She has two more SF novels, The Dazzle of Day and Outside the Gates. Her “Lambing season” short story was nominated for a Hugo at Torcon 3, and “The Grinnell Method” won a Sturgeon. 
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 66. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as well as the two Sharknado films she did. A friend of Ray Bradbury, she was the presenter when Kirk Douglas received the 2012 Ray Bradbury Creativity Award.
  • Born November 20, 1963 Ming-Na Wen, 59. Actor born in Macau who appeared as Agent Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She was raised near Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University. She has also had main roles in the series Stargate Universe and the short-lived Vanished, and a recurring role in Eureka. Her breakthrough genre role was providing the voice for Disney’s Mulan, for which she won an Annie Award (awards which recognize voice actors in animated productions). This led to a lengthy career providing voices for animated features and series, including Spawn, The Batman, Adventure Time with Finn & Jake, Phineas and Ferb, Robot Chicken, and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as a plethora of Mulan spinoffs, offshoots, tie-ins, and video games. Other genre appearances include the films The Darkness, Starquest (aka Terminal Voyage), Tempting Fate, and Rain Without Thunder.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows a space probe confirming what you already suspected.  

(10) UNDENIABLE TREND. In July Price Charting did a scientific analysis and confirmed there’s been a “300% Increase in Boob Size on Comic Book Cover Art” since 1940. [Via Carol Pinchefsky on Facebook.]

…Comparing modern day (2010+) to the early comics (1940-60), we observe from the green trendlines:

  • Busts occupy more than triple the cover space today
  • The amount of cleavage shown has more than doubled (cleavage of greater than 50% was not observed until the 1970s at which point it became relatively common)
  • Women actually did “fill out” in the waist over time (hip:waist ratio declined by ~15%)
  • Breast:Waist ratio has remained the same – as breasts have grown, so have waists

(11) THE COLD NOSE EQUATIONS. Space.com observes “Spacesuited Snoopy doll floats in zero-g on moon-bound Artemis 1 mission”. Photo at the link.

… The white-spotted dog, who became “the first beagle on the moon” in a series of Peanuts comic strips in 1969, is now on his way back to the moon aboard NASA’s Artemis 1 mission(opens in new tab). Snoopy, in the form of a small doll dressed in a one-of-a-kind replica of NASA’s pressure suit for Artemis astronauts, is the “zero-g indicator,” or ZGI, on board the space agency’s now lunar-orbit-bound Orion spacecraft.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Snoopy. They had to put you on a leash because you’re hanging in the Orion capsule right now,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during an August photo op with the beagle (in this case, a costume character(opens in new tab), also wearing the bright orange spacesuit). “Snoopy was the last person to be put in Orion when they closed the hatch.”

Snoopy’s leash, or tether, was to keep the doll in view of a camera inside Orion’s cabin. Traditionally, zero-g indicators have been flown on crewed spacecraft as a visual sign for the astronauts that they have reached orbit. The Artemis 1 Orion is flying without a crew — other than Snoopy, four LEGO minifigures(opens in new tab), Shaun the Sheep(opens in new tab) and three instrumented manikins(opens in new tab) — so the doll was flown for the benefit of the public watching the launch on NASA’s television channel or website….

(12) TO CLICK OR NOT TO CLICK. “Ancient Apocalypse on Netflix: Is Graham Hancock’s theory true?” asks Slate.

… Graham Hancock, the journalist who hosts the series, returns again and again to his anger at this state of affairs and his status as an outsider to “mainstream archaeology,” his assessment of how terrible “mainstream archaeology” is about accepting new theories, and his insistence that there’s all this evidence out there but “mainstream archaeologists” just won’t look for it. His bitter disposition, I’m sure, accounts for some of the interest in this show. Hancock, a fascinating figure with an interesting past as a left-leaning foreign correspondent, has for decades been elaborating variations on this thinking: Humans, as he says in the docuseries, have “amnesia” about our past. An “advanced” society that existed around 12,000 years ago was extinguished when the climate changed drastically in a period scientists call the Younger Dryas. Before dying out completely, this civilization sent out emissaries to the corners of the world, spreading knowledge, including building techniques that can be found in use at many ancient sites, and sparking the creation of mythologies that are oddly similar the world over. It’s important for us to think about this history, Hancock adds, because we also face impending cataclysm. It is a warning….

However, the last half of Slate’s article is devoted to an interview with archaeologist John Hoopes about why no credence should be placed in Hancock’s theories.

(13) ALL WASHED UP. “Why did the Redshirts always die on ‘Star Trek’? It had to do with doing laundry”, or so claims MeTV.

…So a fast decision was made to change the shrinking fabric. Since the velour was causing so much grief, they had to do something with all those extra shirts. Waste was not going to happen on such a tight budget….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/29/22 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls Into Mine

(1) THE SECOND TIME AROUND? Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki tweeted that he went to a new visa appointment today. He had not posted about the outcome as of this writing.

(2) OFFICIAL SOCIAL MEDIA FOR CHICON 8 – ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES. The Worldcon committee warns that some people are now trying to spoof their social media accounts. Please remember the only official Chicon 8 social media links are @chicagoworldcon — for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you spot any others, please feel free to tell them at either [email protected] or [email protected] so they can follow up.

(3) STAR CHART: THE OFFICIAL CHICON 8 NEWSLETTER. The 2022 Worldcon newsletter is primarily online and is now starting to publish things. Find it here: https://chicon.org/star-chart/

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The August 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, published this past Saturday, is “The Only Innocent Man,” by Julian K. Jarboe (author of the Lambda Award–winning collection Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel), a story about digital communities, privacy, and the ghosts of our online pasts.

It was published along with a response essay, “The plight of the former fanfiction author” by Casey Fiesler, a professor of information science who specializes in ethics, law, and privacy online.

 I commonly start a lecture about online privacy by giving a room full of college students a task: In five minutes, who can find the most interesting thing about me on the internet?

Typically this exercise yields precisely what I intend—showcasing the variety of sources of information about all of us online. Someone once found the movie reviews I wrote for my college newspaper; a close family member’s obituary; my recipe for snickerdoodles that apparently once resulted in marriage proposals on Instagram. If it’s been a while since I’ve scrubbed it, my home address might appear on a public data website.

And one year, a student raised his hand and confidently announced, “Dr. Fiesler, I found your fanfiction!”…

(5) MIND TRICK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This “banned book list” fooled Mark Hamill: “Viral list of ‘banned’ books in Florida is satire” explains Politifact.

…Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted “books we have taught for generations,” alongside the list. She later said she should have “double-checked” before sharing. 

“Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill also shared a screenshot of the list on Twitter — amassing more than 100,000 likes and 24,000 retweets. 

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment. However, the governor’s office called the list “completely fictitious.”

“The image is fake,” said Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary. “There is no banned book list at the state level. The state sets guidelines regarding content, and the local school districts are responsible for enforcing them.”

Griffin also noted that the state’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking, or B.E.S.T., standards recommend several of the books included in the “anti-woke” list. 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” and Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” are recommended to eighth graders in Florida. George Orwell’s “1984” is a suggested book for ninth graders, while John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” is recommended for 10th graders….

(6) SLEAZY PUBLISHER NEWS. A YA fantasy novelist chronicles her encounters with a sleazy publisher for Literary Hub: “What Five Years with a Predatory Vanity Press Taught Me About Art and Success”.

…In truth, I did nothing so wrong, over a decade ago, when I signed the contract with the Oklahoma-based press that promised to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a published author. It wasn’t my fault that the company went bankrupt after the CEO was discovered embezzling funds from the writers who paid to have their books poorly edited, cheaply bound, and narrowly distributed. It was probably my fault that I hadn’t done thorough research into the industry, but I was seventeen and couldn’t detect a scam tastefully disguised under a pretty contract and alleged Christian values….

(7) WHAT FILERS THRIVE ON. The Millions knows you will be looking for their mistakes after you read “How Many Errorrs Are in This Essay?”, an article about typos.

…A 1562 printing of the sternly doctrinaire translation the Geneva Bible prints Matthew 5:9 as “Blessed are the placemakers” rather than “peacemakers;” an 1823 version of the King James replaced “damsels” in Genesis 24:61 with “camels,” and as late as 1944 a printing of that same translation rendered the “holy women, who trusted God… being in subjection to their own husbands” in 1 Peter 3:5 as referring to those pious ladies listening to their “owl husbands.”…

(8) NECRONOMICON. The New York Times probably doesn’t run a con report very often, I bet. “A Festival That Conjures the Magic of H.P. Lovecraft and Beyond”.

There’s bacon and eggs, and then there’s bacon and eggs at the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. Named after the cosmically malevolent and abundantly tentacled entity dreamed up by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the event, among the most popular at NecronomiCon Providence 2022, filled a vast hotel ballroom at 8 a.m. on a recent Sunday.

To the delighted worshipers, Cody Goodfellow, here a Most Exalted Hierophant, delivered a sermon that started with growled mentions of “doom-engines, black and red,” “great hammers of the scouring” and so on.

Then the speech took a left turn.

“​​I must confess myself among those who always trusted that a coven of sexless black-robed liches would change the world for the better,” said Goodfellow, who had flown in from the netherworld known as San Diego, Calif. “But the malignant forces of misplaced morality have regrouped from the backlash that stopped them in the ’80s, and the re-lash is in full swing.”…

(9) HUCK HUCKENPOHLER (1941-2022). [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] J.G. “Huck” Huckenpohler died on August 26 in Washington, D.C. He was born in 1941.  He was a major figure in Edgar Rice Burroughs fandom, had a substantial collection of Burroughs material and attended many Burroughs conventions, as well as staffing tables promoting Burroughs fandom at Balticon and Capclave.  He was an active member of the Panthans, the Burroughs Bibliophiles chapter in Washington, and the Silver Spring Science Fiction Society.

(10) JOSEPH DELANEY (1945-2022). Author Joseph Delaney died August 16 at the age of 77. The English writer was known for the dark fantasy series Spook’s, which included several arcs, The Wardstone Chronicles, The Starblade Chronicles, and The Spook’s Apprentice: Brother Wolf. And he wrote many other works.

(11) MEMORY LANE.  

1947 [By Cat Eldridge.] All good things must come to an end and thus it was with the Thin Man film series that concluded with its sixth installment, Song of the Thin Man, which premiered this weekend in 1947.  

There was of course no Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name as Hammett never wrote a sequel, so everything here was up of made up of whole cloth. Steve Fisher and Noel Perrin were the scriptwriters who based it off a story by Stanley Roberts who had done, to put it mildly, a lot of westerns before this. 

William Powell is Nick Charles and Myrna Loy is Nora Charles. The chemistry between the two is quite charming and is befitting what Hammett created in the original novel.

This story is set in the world of nightclub musicians, so naturally we see such performers as Jayne Meadows, Gloria Grahame and Phillip Reed. 

Nick and Nora’s son shows up twice in the series. The first time has Richard Hall being credited as Nick Jr.; here an eleven year old Dean Stockwell is Nick Charles Jr.  Surprisingly (to me at least) he had done eight films already. 

The film cost cost $1,670,000 to make and grossed only $2,305,000.  It lost $128,000. Those figures by the way came from Eddie Mannix who had a ledger in which he maintained detailed lists of the costs and revenues of every MGM film produced between 1924 and 1962, an important reference for film historians. Fascinating as a certain Trek officer would’ve said. 

(In the next decade, The Thin Man television series aired on NBC from 1957–59, and starred Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk. It ran for seventy episodes.)

The Song of the Thin Man gets a rather stellar seventy one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 29, 1854 Joseph Jacobs. Australian folklorist, translator, literary critic and historian who became a notable collector and publisher of English folklore. Many of our genre writers have use of his material. “Jack the Giant Killer” became Charles de Lint’s Jack Of Kinrowan series, Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon, to give an example. (Lecture mode off.) Excellent books by the way. (Died 1916.)
  • Born August 29, 1904 Leslyn M. Heinlein Mocabee. She was born Leslyn MacDonald. She was married to Robert A. Heinlein between 1932 and 1947. Her only genre writing on ISFDB is “Rocket’s Red Glare“ which was published in The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I.  There’s an interesting article on her and Heinlein here. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best-known as General Arkady Orumov in GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Dian Crayne. A member of LASFS, when she and Bruce Pelz divorced the party they threw inspired Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?” She published mystery novels under the name J.D. Crayne. A full remembrance post is here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 71. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not.
  • Born August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder, 69. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain.
  • Born August 29, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 68. A filker, which gets major points in my book.  And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well which was most excellent. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him. I’m getting old. 
  • Born August 29, 1959 Rebecca de Mornay, 63. May I note she made a deliciously evil Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers (1993)? She’s Clair Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Wendy Torrance in The Shining miniseries (no, I never heard of it) and Penelope Decker in several episodes of Lucifer. Oh, and she was Dorothy Walker in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series

(13) ROBOSECURITY. [Item by Francis Hamit.] Any resemblance to a certain Dr. Who character is unintended. You note it does not have arms.  I’ve owned shares in this company since 2017 and will security jobs going begging I think the company has a great future.  Knightscope is listed on the NASDAQ as KSCP.  Right now the shares are at an all-time low.  They won’t be for long. Full disclosure:  Finding new accounts is my side hustle. “Robot helps Northeast Portland hotel cut down on vandalism” reports KATU.

…General Manager Mike Daley says they got him because they were having a lot of issues with vandalism from homeless encampments in the area.

They tried hiring human security but had a lot of staffing issues, so they explored the robot as an option and say it’s work out really well.

Daley says that while the robot isn’t cheap, he provides a lot of security 24 hours a day for less money than it would cost to pay a human to do the same job.

“He patrols a lot, constantly, as you’ve seen,” he said. “He’s got 360-degree cameras, scans license plates. He’s got thermal imaging, so if he sees a guest or somebody that’s at a car, he will gravitate over to that person to check them out. He’s got a noise factor, so people know where he is and know he’s coming.”

Anytime he encounters someone, he immediately alerts the front desk. That person can then see what the robot sees, talk through the robot to anyone in the parking lot and can determine if further action is needed, such as calling 911.

He’s also popular among hotel guests. Daley says people like to get their picture taken with him.

(14) PIGS IN SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport explains why the politics of funding NASA ensured that Artemis was incredibly difficult to build, with “SLS” standing for “Senate Launching System” because NASA projects have to have pork for every district. “NASA SLS moon rocket readied for first launch as Artemis program begins”.

The rocket was late, again. The initial launch date, the end of 2016, was long gone. And in the spring of 2019, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator at the time, was told it’d be another year or more before NASA’s Space Launch System would be ready.

He was furious and threatened to replace the rocket with one built by the fast-growing private space sector, such as SpaceX. But Bridenstine’s attempt to bench NASA’s rocketwas quickly rebuffed by the powerful interests, including Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the appropriations committee. Those interests had shepherded the SLS through thickets of controversy since its inception more than a decade ago.

Now, after years of cost overruns and delays, damning reports by government watchdogs and criticisms from space enthusiasts and even parts of NASA’s own leadership, the SLS endures, as only a rocket built by Congress could….

(15) ONE HELL OF A PICTURE. “An AI Was Asked To Draw What Hell Looks Like — The Results Are Naturally Disturbing” warns MSN.com

Come on, folks, what do you expect when you ask an artificial intelligence to draw what hell looks like?

That’s right, you get some seriously disturbing stuff to look at. In fact, one of the images riffs on classic paintings of Satan that somehow look even scarier now.

This is the link to the video: “AI generated image of hell” on TikTok.

(16) PLAYING IN THE SANDBOX. This trailer for a new Dune game dropped last week at gamescom: Dune: Awakening.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/27/22 We Will All Scroll Together When We Scroll, All Suffused With A Pixelicious Glow

(1) HOARDED GOLD. Amazon’s Rings of Power will cost $1B to make? That nice round number is bringing out skeptics.

Behind a paywall at Business Insider is an extensive analysis of “What Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Means for Its Streaming Future”.

…With “Rings of Power,” Amazon has given Hollywood something to talk about. No single season of television has ever cost as much. On top of the $250 million deal to secure the rights from J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate in 2017 — Amazon outbid rival big spenders HBO and Netflix — it’s been widely reported that the studio spent north of $460 million on production in New Zealand. Add tens of millions of dollars in marketing, promotions, and global red-carpet events and you arrive at the $1 billion total estimated by industry observers — with four more seasons planned.

The show is expected to be a hit, but if it somehow misses the mark, several sources told Insider the studio may face an existential crisis.

“The reason why it’s going to succeed is because the executives at Amazon need it to succeed. If it doesn’t succeed, there’s going to be a big question from Andy Jassy and the board,” said one former senior Amazon Studios exec. “If we can’t take this piece of IP and make it successful, why is Amazon Studios even here?”

“It has to succeed,” this person added. “There’s no option.”…

(2) ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER. Gizmodo points the way to a clip about one of the peoples in the forthcoming series: “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Meet the Harfoots”.

…Since Rings of Power’s ensemble is rather enormous, Prime Video has released this video focusing on just the Harfoots—according to Dylan Smith, who plays Largo Brandyfoot, they’re “arguably the biggest secret of the show,” since J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t write too much about them—to give viewers a sense of who they’ll be meeting when the series arrives….

(3) A LOOK AT VAN VOGT. The Middletown (PA) Public Library’s Science Fiction Book Club has added another to its online archive of Science Fiction Author Interviews. The new one is an interview with Charles Platt about A.E. van Vogt.

John Grayshaw: What makes van Vogt interesting from a critical perspective? What first drew you to his work?

CP: I first read his work when I was reading literally every science-fiction novel that was published. About one book per day. He wasn’t my favorite author, but I did respond to his flood of strange ideas and his unique way of building a narrative. It was utterly impossible to guess what would happen next. I loved that unexpectedness, and still do. (I re-read World of Null-A just recently. Its plot is so convoluted, I felt as if I should be taking notes. But instead I just enjoyed the roller-coaster ride.)…

(4) ERIC HOFFMAN (1944-2022). LA-area fan Eric Hoffman died August 27 after being badly burned in a home electrical fire. Hoffman, born in Brooklyn, came to California, and in 1965 joined LASFS. His deep interest in monster/horror films and sff TV history were reflected in the innumerable programs he assembled about those topics for local conventions, becoming a frequent panelist at Loscon, Westercon and the San Diego Comic-Con. The latter recognized Hoffman’s work as a film historian with the Inkpot Award in 1974. Also a Doctor Who fan, he did presentations at the local Gallifrey One event for thirty years.

Hoffman assisted in providing archival posters and images for movie documentaries, and provided history commentary for several monster and horror videos. He got in front of the camera twice, according to IMDB, first in Don Glut’s short Rocketman Flies Again (1966), and then as a bartender in Sorority House Massacre II (1990).  

(5) MEMORY LANE.  

1955 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-seven years ago, “Hyde and Hare”, a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon, was released in theaters as part of a reel with other such Looney Tunes cartoons. One reel would have six to ten minutes of these cartoons.  This cartoon was particularly long at seven minutes. 

SPOILER ALERT. REALLY, DO WE NEED ONE THIS LONG ON? 

Bugs is looking for a warm, comfortable home instead of his hole in the Park, and he meets a Doctor who takes him home. That Doctor turns out to be Doctor Jekyll. Soon Hyde is trying to kill our rabbit. He fails repeatedly. Quite amazingly he fails.

It ends when Bugs leaves after drinking all of the potions. (Yes, there are two potions shown.) Nice take at the end on the Hyde like Bugs. 

Yes, I rewatched it just now. Research you know. Not on HBO+ where it’s streaming but off iTunes where I downloaded a copy.

YOU CAN COME BACK NOW. REALLY YOU CAN.

It was directed by I. Freleng who was an animator, cartoonist, composer, director and producer (a man of many talents, wasn’t he?), mostly working at Warner Bros on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. He’s responsible for over three hundred cartoons. 

The story was by Warren Foster, a writer, cartoonist and composer for the animation division of Warner Brothers and later on with Hanna-Barbera. Of special note I think, he was the composer of Tweety’s theme song, “I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat.” It was sung by Mel Blanc. Yes, I’m weird. 

Mel Blanc of course did all the voices. Who else would? 

Animation was by Gerry Chiniquy, Arthur Davis, Virgil Ross and Ted Ike . I’ll be honest and note that I don’t recognize any of them by name but the style here certainly is recognizable. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 27, 1922 Frank Kelly Freas. I’ve no idea where I first encountered his unique style on a cover of a SF book, but I quickly spotted it everywhere. He had a fifty-year run on Astounding Science Fiction from the early Fifties and through its change to the Analog name — amazing! Yes, he won ten Pro Artist Hugos plus one Retro-Hugo, an impressive feat by anyone. There doesn’t appear to a decent portfolio of his work. (Died 2005.)
  • Born August 27, 1945 Edward Bryant. His only novel was Phoenix Without Ashes which was co-authored with Harlan Ellison and was an adaptation of Ellison’s pilot script for The Starlost. He won two Nebulas for his short stories “Stone” (1979) and “giANTS” (1980), which also were nominated for the Hugo, as was his novelette “The Thermals of August” (1982). I’m personally familiar his short fiction in the Wild Cards anthologies. Phoenix Without Ashes and all of his short stories are available in digital form. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 27, 1947 Barbara Bach, Lady Starkey, 75. She’s best known for her role as the Bond girl Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.  One of her other genre appearances is in Caveman which her husband Ringo Starr is also cast.
  • Born August 27, 1952 Darrell Schweitzer, 70. Writer, editor, and critic. For his writing, I’d recommend Awaiting Strange Gods: Weird and Lovecraftian Fictions and Tom O’Bedlam’s Night Out and Other Strange ExcursionsThe Robert E. Howard Reader he did is quite excellent as is The Thomas Ligotti Reader.
  • Born August 27, 1957 Richard Kadrey, born 1957, aged sixty five years. I’m admittedly way behind on the Sandman Slim series having only read the first five books. I also enjoyed Metrophage: A Romance of the Future and I’ve still several years later got The Grand Dark on my interested to be read list.
  • Born August 27, 1962 Dean Devlin, 60. His first produced screenplay was Universal Soldier. He was a writer/producer working on Emmerich’s Moon 44. Together they co-wrote and produced Stargate, the first movie to have a web site. The team then produced Independence Day, Godzilla and Independence Day: Resurgence. They’re also credited for creating The Visitor series which lasted 13 episodes, and The Triangle, a miniseries which I’ll bet you can guess the premise.
  • Born August 27, 1965 Kevin Standlee, 57. He attended his first con in 1984, L.A. Con II. Later he co-chaired the 2002 Worldcon, ConJosé, in San José. One source says he made and participated in amateur Doctor Who films in the late 1980s. I wonder if he played Doctor Who? And I wonder if we can see these films? 
  • Born August 27, 1978 Suranne Jones, 44. Not a long genre performance history but she shows up on the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures as Mona Lisa. Yes, that Mona Lisa. She’ll be back on Doctor Who in “The Doctor’s Wife”, an Eleventh Doctor story as written by Neil Gaiman. She is Idris, a woman hosting the Matrix of the TARDIS. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

Peanuts / Endless mashup.

(8) THE NEXT EXORCIST. In the midst of a Q&A primarily about her history with Actors Studio and Lee Strasberg, “Ellen Burstyn Reveals Why She Said Yes to an ‘Exorcist’ Sequel” in The Hollywood Reporter.

I just got a scoop. Thank you.

You’re welcome. And I’ve shot most of the picture. The writer-director, David Gordon Green, I like very much. I met with him and we talked about the script and so forth, and I promised him four more days if he needed them. And he’s edited the film and he wants the four days, so I’m going back in November to shoot four more days. And it’ll come out in 2024, on the 50th anniversary of The Exorcist, the original.

(9) GETTING OFF THE GROUND. Francis Hamit urges everyone to contribute to “The All American film organizing fund” at Indiegogo. “I have to raise money to raise more money for this great epic World War Two film.  Not just a war film but also a musical.  That might not be science fiction or fantasy, but it sure feels like it.” 

That image is of a real event that happened on February 1, 1943.  A B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber named The All American was returning from a bombing raid when it was struck by a German fighter and almost cut in half.  It lost part of its tail and suffered a 16 foot long, four foot wide gash on its left side.  Ten men were aboard, all young men who a year before had been civilians and who had volunteered for the most dangerous duty of the war, aerial combat.  They were part of the 414th Bomb Squard, 97th Bombardment Group, United States Army Air Force.   Originally they were based at Grafton Underwood, England.  It was there that Margaret Bourke-White   joined the 97th.  She was a beautiful, world famous photojournalist for LIFE magazine and determined to tell  their story.  Part of that meant flying with them on a bombing mission….  

To actually make the film will take millions of dollars.  I don’t expect to raise that here, but would like your help getting to the next phase.  I need help paying for legal, publicity and staff.  The next phase is raising the money,

(10) THROWING SAND IN THE GEARS. Variety took notes: “Neil Gaiman Says He Sabotaged Jon Peters’ ‘Sandman’ Movie by Leaking ‘Really Stupid’ Script”.

This year, Neil Gaiman’s comic book series “The Sandman” was finally adapted on screen in Netflix’s popular television series. But this is far from the first time that Hollywood tried to put the sprawling fantasy world to film.

In fact, Gaiman declined several movie offers for “The Sandman” throughout the last three decades, but the author recently revealed that he went as far as to sabotage an idea from “Wild Wild West” and “A Star Is Born” producer Jon Peters by leaking the script to the press.

“It was the worst script that I’ve ever read by anybody,” Gaiman said in an interview with Rolling Stone.

“A guy in Jon Peters’ office phoned me up and he said, ‘So Neil, have you had a chance to read the script we sent you?’ And I said, ‘Well, yes. Yes, I did. I haven’t read all of it, but I’ve read enough.’ He says, ‘So, pretty good. Huh?’ And I said, ‘Well, no. It really isn’t.’ He said, ‘Oh, come on. There must have been stuff in there you loved.’ I said, ‘There was nothing in there I loved. There was nothing in there I liked. It was the worst script that I’ve ever read by anybody. It’s not just the worst Sandman script. That was the worst script I’ve ever been sent.’”…

(11) BACK TO THE MOON. While we’ve done a lot of Artemis Program stories, have we ever linked to the NASA: Artemis I website where all kinds of information and educational resources are gathered?

And here’s an update: “Our Artemis I Flight Test is “Go for Launch” on This Week @NASA – August 26, 2022”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, 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 John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/25/22 Eats, Scrolls And Athelas

(1) RHYSLING REVAMP SURVEY REPORT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) surveyed members about potential changes to their Rhysling Award. See their feedback here: “Rhysling Revamp” at the SPECPO blog. From the introduction:

The Rhysling Awards are in their 45th year of recognizing excellent speculative poetry, presented by The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Leaders have been monitoring the Rhysling Anthology as it grew along with membership numbers. The anthology has ballooned from 42 poems in 2002 to 180 poems in 2022. Continued growth would result in an anthology that is not feasible to print or read.

Here’s an excerpt from the survey results.

CATEGORIES

A continual discussion point among members is the question of “double dipping” on awards. Most respondents support that Elgin-length poems not be considered for the Rhysling (64%). A slight majority agree at setting a maximum line length for the Rhysling (53%), which would be consistent with considering extra-long poems being only eligible for the Elgins. On the other side of the spectrum, there is generally support (49%) for Dwarf Stars to be the only award that can catch the 1-10 line poems. Only 25% of respondents disagreed about keeping Dwarf-Stars-eligible poems out of the Rhyslings.

There was very little support for adjusting the length definitions, but lots of ambivalence showing in the swell of neutral responses (44%).

(2) CHICON 8 POCKET PROGRAM. In a manner of speaking. The 392-page Pocket Program is now available on the Chicon 8 website. There are two versions, (1) a single page version best viewed on phones and tablets, and (2) a two-page version which is best for printing.

(3) ALERT: FAUX CHICON 8 MERCHANDISE. The Worldcon committee issued a heads up that some t-shirt sites are selling Chicon 8 branded merchandise and saying they are official. They are not.

“Our only official site for Chicon 8 merchandise at this time is Redbubble. If you buy from anywhere else, it does not benefit the convention. Please shop wisely!”

(4) THE OTHER WORLD. This World Fantasy Award winner’s new book isn’t genre, but when speaking about her research she says things like this — “So I went on this fantastic two-week trip into a time and place that doesn’t really exist now.” “Sofia Samatar Brings a Second Coming” at Publishers Weekly.

Sofia Samatar has a way with a sentence. No matter what she’s writing—whether it’s short stories, like her quietly devastating Nebula- and Hugo-nominated “Selkie Stories Are for Losers,” or novels, like her World Fantasy Award–winning debut, A Stranger in Olondria—her work has a way of pairing the mundane and sublime with casual aplomb.

Her latest, The White Mosque (Catapult, Oct.), is a mosaic memoir that juxtaposes history, culture, religion and regionalism, tracing the journey of a group of German-speaking Mennonites into the heart of Khiva in Central Asia—now modern-day Uzbekistan—on a quest that promised no less than the second coming of Christ.

Samatar’s own journey to the site where the group’s church once stood started in 2016, when her father-in-law gave her a book titled The Great Trek of the Russian Mennonites, by Frank Belk. “This guy, who’s sort of a cult leader, predicts Christ is returning, and these people just uproot their lives to follow him,” she says, speaking via Zoom from her office at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she’s an associate professor of English. “Of course, nothing happens. But they stayed for 50 years, until they were deported by the Bolsheviks.”

Samatar, the child of a Black Somali Muslim and a white Mennonite, became obsessed with the story…. 

(5) CON OR BUST. Dream Foundry, which previously announced that Con or Bust is “folding into our (dragon) wing,” shared the program’s new logo designed by Dream Foundry contest winner Yue Feng.

Applications for grants are open, and they’ve already begun reviewing and issuing grants. If you want to help creatives and fans of color have access to conventions and other opportunities, donate here. To stay in the loop on Con or Bust news, sign up for the program’s quarterly newsletter.     

(6) BACK TO THE MOON. This NASA promo about the Artemis mission dropped yesterday. “Artemis I: We Are Ready”.

The journey of half a million miles – the first flight of the Artemis Generation – is about to begin. The uncrewed Artemis I mission will jump-start humanity’s return to the Moon with the thunderous liftoff of NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This critical flight test will send Orion farther than any human-rated spacecraft has ever flown, putting new systems and processes to the test and lighting the way for the crew missions to come. Artemis I is ready for departure – and, together with our partners around the world, we are ready to return to the Moon, with our sights on Mars and beyond.

(7) WHERE’S THE LOOT? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber looks at the problems game designers have giving users rewards.

Most games interface short, mid- and long-term rewards that trigger at different times.  the short-term rewards often take the form of sensory feedback; the bright ‘ding’ when you get a coin in Super Mario, an enemy’s head exploding in a shower of gore in Grand Theft Auto.  These get boring after a while–behavioural psychologists learned that repeating the same rewards generates diminishing returns.  So developers offer midterm rewards:  new levels, items, skills, characters, locations or narrative beats.  The longterm rewards are often related to social competition and prestige, such as difficult high-level team challenges or rare cosmetic items which players can show off to their friends.

Loot boxes lean into several of these techniques.  They have been employed in all manner of games ranging from FIFA to Star Wars, and they’re very profitable.  Yet they have also faced a backlash:  a recent report from consumer bodies in 18 European countries called them ‘exploitative.’  Although they have been banned in Belgium since 2018, most governments have been wary of legislation–the UK recently decided not to ban loot boxes after a 22-month consultation.  Still, some developers have heard gamers are unhappy–loot boxes were removed from Star Wars Battlefront 2 after an outcry and Blizzard recently announced they won’t feature in upcoming shooter Overwatch  2.”

(8) AGAINST ALL ODDS. The New York Times drills deep into one writer’s experience in “How to Get Published: A Book’s Journey From ‘Very Messy’ Draft to Best Seller”. The author’s novel The School for Good Mothers is set in the near future.

…“I’d like people to know that it’s possible for a debut author in her 40s, a woman of color, a mom, who led a quiet life offline with no brand building whatsoever to have this experience,” said Jessamine Chan.

And yet Chan’s “The School for Good Mothers” was published in January 2022 — and soared to the best-seller list, catapulting her to literary stardom. Last month, former President Barack Obama featured it on his summer reading list.

How does a debut novel go from a “very messy” draft on a writer’s desk to a published book, on display in bookstores around the country?

Here, we take you behind the scenes to see how a book is born — the winding path it takes, the many hands that touch it, the near-misses and the lucky breaks that help determine its fate.

(9) WHEATON SIGNING SCHEDULED. “Wil Wheaton presents and signs Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA on August 31 at 7:00 p.m.

From starring in Stand by Me to playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation to playing himself, in his second (third?) iconic role of Evil Wil Wheaton in The Big Bang Theory, to becoming a social media supernova, Wil Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most popular and well respected names in science fiction, fantasy and pop culture.

Back in 2001, Wil began blogging on wilwheaton.net. Believing himself to have fallen victim to the curse of the child actor, Wil felt relegated to the convention circuit, and didn’t expect many would want to read about his random experiences and personal philosophies.

Yet, much to his surprise, people were reading. He still blogs, and now has an enormous following on social media with well over 3 million followers.

In Still Just a Geek, Wil revisits his 2004 collection of blog posts, Just a Geek, filled with insightful and often laugh-out-loud annotated comments, additional later writings, and all new material written for this publication. The result is an incredibly raw and honest memoir, in which Wil opens up about his life, about falling in love, about coming to grips with his past work, choices, and family, and finding fulfillment in the new phases of his career. From his times on the Enterprise to his struggles with depression to his starting a family and finding his passion–writing–Wil Wheaton is someone whose life is both a cautionary tale and a story of finding one’s true purpose that should resonate with fans and aspiring artists alike. (William Morrow & Company)

(10) VIKING FUNERAL FOR BATGIRL? The Guardian hears “‘Secret’ screenings of cancelled Batgirl movie being held by studio – reports”.

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed with multiple sources that a select few who worked on the film, including cast, crew and studio executives, would be attending the screenings this week on the Warner Bros lot in California. One source described them as “funeral screenings”, as it is likely the footage will be stored forever and never shown to the public.

…The Hollywood Reporter reported there was a chance Warner Bros would make “the drastic move of actually destroying its Batgirl footage as a way to demonstrate to the IRS that there will never be any revenue from the project, and thus it should be entitled to the full write-down immediately.”

On Tuesday, in an interview with French outlet Skript, Batgirl directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah said they no longer had any copy of the film, recalling the moment they found they could not longer access the servers that held the footage.

…El Arbi said it was unlikely they’d have the studio’s support to release it in the future or that there could be an equivalent of “the Snyder cut” – Zack Snyder’s four-hour director’s cut of the DC film Justice League, which added an extra $70m to a $300m budget film.

“It cannot be released in its current state,” said El Arbi. “There’s no VFX … we still had some scenes to shoot. So if one day they want us to release the Batgirl movie, they’d have to give us the means to do it. To finish it properly with our vision.”

(11) TRANSFORMATIVE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Seekingferret posted a “Panel Report” from Fanworks where the topic was “Ethical Norms in Fanworks Fandom”.

… I presented three models for fandom’s approach to copyright- the It’s All Transformative model, the It’s Illegal but I Do It Anyway model, and the It’s Not Illegal Because the Copyright Holders’ Inaction is an Implicit License model, and then the audience argued with me for a while about whether the second two models are essentially the same, which was a good, clarifying argument to have….

Also of interest is the panel’s accompanying slideshow.

(12) WARNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Since, fan-wise, many cons use Discord… “Roblox and Discord Become Virus Vectors for New PyPI Malware” at The New Stack.

If you can communicate on it, you can abuse it. This was proven again recently when a hacker using the name “scarycoder” uploaded a dozen malicious Python packages to PyPI, the popular Python code repository. These bits of code pretended to provide useful functions for Roblox gaming community developers, but all they really did was steal users’ information. So far, so typical. Where it got interesting is it used the Discord messaging app to download malicious executable files.

(13) BOOK PORN. [Item by Bill.] Whenever I see a photograph on the web that has a bookshelf in the background, I spend way too much time trying to figure out what the books are.  For example: 

Blogger Lawrence Person has posted photos of his SF book shelves, and there are a lot of titles I’d love to have in my own collection.  A few years old, but perhaps worth a look ….  “Overview of Lawrence Person’s Library: 2017 Edition”. He provides regular updates to the collection (see the “books” tag).  

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1989 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, the first installment of the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure premiered.

Starring William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, portrayed by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as, and not giving a frell about spoilers here, time travelling slacker high schoolers assembling the ultimate history report. And let’s not forget Rufus as portrayed by George Carlin. I met him some forty years ago — a really neat gentleman. 

Stephen Herek directed here. He had previously written and directed the horror/SF Critters film. Nasty film it was. Chris Matheson who wrote all three of the franchise films co-wrote this with Ed Solomon who co-wrote the third with him and, more importantly, was the Men in Black writer.

By late Eighties standards, it was cheap to produce costing only ten million and making forty in return. Critics for the most part were hostile —- the Washington Post said “if Stephen Herek has any talent for comedy, it’s not visible here.” And the Los Angeles Times added, “it’s unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake.” 

It spawned not one but two television series named – oh, guess what they were named. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, an animated series that started out on CBS and ended on Fox, lasted twenty-one episodes over two seasons, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the live version, lasted but seven episodes on Fox. Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy played Bill and Ted.

DC did the comic for the first film, Marvel for the second. It did well enough that it led to the Marvel series Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book which lasted for just twelve issues. And there was a sort of adaptation of the animated series that lasted for a year by Britain’s now gone Look-In Magazine.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on one of The Lost World films as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1972.)
  • Born August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released the complete Pogo in twelve stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1973. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? Well he did. (Died 1973.)
  • Born August 25, 1930 Sean Connery. Worst film? Zardoz. Best film? From Russia with Love very, very definitely. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want to go for silly. Now remember these are my personal choices. I almost guarantee that you will have different ones. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 82. She was a Boston-area fan who now lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • Born August 25, 1947 Michael Kaluta, 75. He’s best known for his 1970s take on The Shadow with writer Dennis O’Neil for DC in 1973–1974. He’d reprise his work on The Shadow for Dark Horse a generation later. And Kaluta and O’Neil reunited on The Shadow: 1941 – Hitler’s Astrologer graphic novel published in 1988. If you can find them, the M. W. Kaluta: Sketchbook Series are well worth having.
  • Born August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 67. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written except that damn Robin Hood novel that made a NYT Best Seller. Favorite series? The NightsideHawk & Fisher and Secret History were my favorite ones until the Ismael Jones series came along and I must say it’s a hell of a lot of fun as well.  Drinking Midnight Wine and Shadows Fall are the novels I’ve re-read the most. 
  • Born August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 64. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman was, errr, interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was which I think is a far better look at the source material, and Sleepy Hollow is just too damn weird for my pedestrian tastes. (Snarf.)
  • Born August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 52. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He won two Sidewise Awards, first for his “O One” story and later for The Dragon’s Nine Sons novel. He’s had five Sidewise nominations. 

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) HORROR WRITERS HAVE OPINIONS. Midnight Pals did a sendup of John Scalzi and his purchase of a church building. And his burritos. Can’t overlook those. Thread starts here.

(18) SPACE OPERA. “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky”, a review by Camestros Felapton.

… I found myself in the mood for a big space opera the other day and with the novel also being a Dragon Award finalist, it seemed like a natural choice. I wasn’t wrong in my initial assessment. It is in many ways a more conventional space opera than the books I’d read. Humanity is a spacefaring species with its own factions, in a galactic society with a range of aliens. There’s hyperspace (or rather “unspace”), a cosmic threat, mysteriously vanished advanced civilisations, space spies, space gangsters, badass warriors and epic space battles. This is all good but if you are hoping for the millennia-long deep dive into the evolution of a sapient spider civilisation this book doesn’t have anything like that. Which is fine because that gives Tchaikovsky more space and time to attend to a cast of characters….

(19) A CITY ON A HILL. Paul Weimer reviews Stephen Fry’s Troy at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Troy, by Stephen Fry”. There may be surprises in store for some readers – at least there were for Paul.

…In any event, Fry is here to help you. He starts at the beginning, as to how Troy was founded, and why, and brings its history up to date as it were. The delight in the depth of research and scholarship he brings is tha there is a fair chunk here I didn’t know about. Fun fact, the Trojan War is not the first time that Troy gets attacked in its mythological history, and you will never guess who did it before the Greeks got it into their heads to take back Helen, nor why…. 

(20) GOING PUBLIC. “Tom Lehrer: The Public Domain Tango”, a Plagiarism Today post from 2020.

…However, it seems likely that Lehrer may be set for yet another major revival as news spread yesterday that Lehrer, now 92, had released his lyrics and much of his music into the public domain. This has already sparked a great deal of interest in possible covers and recreations of his most famous songs.

Note: It’s worth stating that the declaration deals with his compositions and his lyrics, not the recordings. Those are most likely not owned by Lehrer.

However, the statement isn’t wholly true. Tom Lehrer didn’t actually release his songs into the public domain. While it may be pedantry given that there is no practical difference, the lengths Lehrer had to go to release what he did in the way that he did only further highlights Lehrer’s genius and is well worth exploring.

If this is truly to be Lehrer’s final musical act, it makes sense to see it for both the effort it took and the intellect required to conceive of it….

(21) AI GIVES ASSIST TO MUSIC VIDEO. [Item by Dann.] Someone recently made a video using the lyrics to “Renegade” by Styx.  The lyrics were fed, line by line, into AI art software to create the images used in the video.

While the lyrics aren’t explicitly genre centered, the AI created several images that evoked sci-fi/fantasy themes.  The rhetorical progeny of Edgar Allen Poe shows up a few times as well. “Renegade – Styx – But the lyrics are Ai generated images”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer in the seventh Harry Potter film mourns when several beloved minor characters die.  He is bored by the very long camping scenes (where the characters camp and camp and camp some more” but gets excited when Harry Potter gets to duke it out with Voldemort only to discover that this is the end of Part I and we have to wait for Part II.

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