Pixel Scroll 5/26/22 Do Not Meddle In The Affairs Of Pixels, For They Are Subtle And Quick To Scroll

(1) TICKET TO RIDE. NASA invites you to add your name and have it included on a flash drive that will fly aboard Artemis I. “Send Your Name to Space”.

Artemis I will be the first uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. The flight paves the way toward landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon!

(2) SHUFFLE OFF TO NASFIC. A Buffalo in 2024 NASFiC bid is launching this weekend at Balticon reports Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News.

…With the only bid for the 2024 World Science Fiction Convention being for Glasgow, Scotland, there is expected to be a 2024 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC being held only in years when Worldcon is outside North America)….

The bid has a website and social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

The members of the bid committee are not named on the website, but is said to “include individuals who have experience working on Worldcon / NASFiC events, as well as others who have organized small conventions and other events across Western New York and Southern Ontario.”

(3) REASONS TO READ. Juliette Wade pitches The Broken Trust series in an appealing thread that starts here. (The series’ fandom is so broad that this thread was retweeted by Analog!)

(4) OH NOES! “Older Kindle e-readers will lose Store Access to buy ebooks in August” warns Good E-Reader.

Amazon has just sent an email to a number of Kindle users who have older e-readers on their account. The company has stated that the Kindle (2nd Gen) International, Kindle DX International, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle (4th Gen), and Kindle (5th Gen) will no longer be able to browse, buy, or borrow books directly from these Kindle e-readers. The only way you can have books delivered to these devices to buy them from your local Amazon website and have them delivered to the Kindle. Existing books that are on these models will still be accessible.

This is the first time that Amazon has ever totally cut off store access on a series of Kindle e-readers. Amazon has not disclosed the reason why these particular models are going to lose store access. I believe this likely due to a TLS issue, since the oldest Kindle models have an older version and likely can’t be upgraded. This is partly due to them only supporting TLS 1.0 and 1.1 and due to older hardware, won’t have the necessary permissions to make store purchases. This is why they Amazon can’t simply issue a firmware update to fix the issue.

(5) INDIANA HOME. “Indiana Jones 5: Harrison Ford Teases Film at Star Wars Celebration” and The Hollywood Reporter took notes.

…“It’s a great pleasure to be here,” Ford told the enormous crowd gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center, adding that he is “really proud of the movie that we made.”

The iconic actor came out onstage after John Williams’ famous Indy theme played. The composer was on-site and conducting a full orchestra.

“It’s a special honor for me to be able to congratulate John on his 90th birthday,” Ford said, acknowledging the composer turning 90 in February. “I told John on another occasion that we had the chance to be together, and that music follows me everywhere I go. And you know what, I’m happy about it.”…

(6) REBEL GENESIS. Disney+ released the teaser trailer for its next Star Wars entry “Andor”.

The “Andor” series will explore a new perspective from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.

Variety amplifies: “Andor Trailer: Diego Luna Returns, Premiere Set for Star Wars Show”.

…“Andor,” a prequel series to “Rogue One,” will premiere on Disney+ on August 31 with a two-episode launch. It will have 12 episodes total, but 12 more episodes, making up a Part 2 to the series, will begin filming in November. The Part 2 will lead up directly to the events of “Rogue One,” it was announced at the 2022 Star Wars Celebration.

… “Andor” is set five years before the events of “Rogue One,” and it tracks how and why Cassian joined the rebellion as the Empire aggressively expands its reach across the galaxy. Forest Whitaker is reprising his performance from “Rogue One” as Clone Wars veteran and radical insurgent Saw Gerrera, and O’Reilly is returning as Mon Mothma, one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join his brunch with writer Steven R. Southard on episode 172 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steven R. Southard

This episode of Eating the Fantastic is a serendipitous one, brought to your ears because writer Stephen R. Southard happened to stop by my neck of the woods for brunch while on a drive from Maryland to Texas. That resulted in us meeting on a sunny May morning at Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery in Winchester, Virginia, which has been serving food in what was previously an Esso Station since 2012. They have excellent fried chicken, biscuits, waffles, pastries and a lot more, so I recommend you drop by if you’re ever in the area.

Steven R. Southard is particularly fascinated by alternate and secret histories, and has written more than a dozen installments in his What Man Hath Wrought story series, starting in 2010 with The Wind-Sphere Ship, and most recently with After the Martians in 2020. His short stories have also appeared in magazines such as Curiosities and Steampunk Tales, and anthologies like Avast, Ye AirshipsQuoth the Raven and Not Far From Roswell. With Kelly A. Harman, he edited the anthology 20,000 Leagues Remembered, published in 2020. He and I have frequently appeared as co-panelists discussing the craft of writing at Balticon, ChessieCon, and elsewhere.

We discussed how an early meeting with Isaac Asimov had him hoping he could be just as talented and prolific, why it took him 15 years of working on a novel before he realized he was meant to be a writer of short stories, how Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea changed his life, why alternate and secret histories attract him so (as well as the stories in that genre I never got around to writing), his “snowflake” method for plotting short stories, the secrets to coming up with good ideas for theme anthologies, what movie and TV depictions of submarines get wrong (and which ones get it right), and much more.

(8) DON’T LOSE THIS NUMBER. Jon Mann says, “I was at the LA Times Festival of Books and ran across 770 PUBLISHING. Interesting coincidence and they never heard of File 770 or the famous room party!” “770 Publishing”.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ok, I’m assuming that most of you have read the Nebula-nominated story that the film Johnny Mnemonic was based off of? It was originally published in the May 1981 issue of Omni magazine but it has been reprinted quite a few times in the forty years since then. 

The screenplay was by William Gibson so one can’t fault the script here, can one? Well the critics were divided on that. Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review said “Johnny Mnemonic is one of the great goofy gestures of recent cinema, a movie that doesn’t deserve one nanosecond of serious analysis but has a kind of idiotic grandeur that makes you almost forgive it.” 

But Owen Glieberman in his Entertainment Weekly review was far less kind: “Johnny Mnemonic, a slack and derivative future-shock thriller (it’s basically Blade Runner with tackier sets), offers the embarrassing spectacle of Keanu Reeves working overtime to convince you that he has too much on his mind. He doesn’t, and neither does the movie.” 

I’ll let have Caryn James of the New York Times have the last word: “Though the film was written by the cyberpunk master William Gibson from his own story and was directed by the artist Robert Longo, ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ looks and feels like a shabby imitation of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Total Recall.’ It is a disaster in every way. There is little tension in the story despite the ever-present threat of an exploding brain. The special effects that take us on a tour of the information superhighway — traveling inside the circuits of Johnny’s brain, or viewing his search for information while wearing virtual reality headgear — look no better than a CD-ROM. Visually, the rest of the film looks murky, as if the future were one big brown-toned mud puddle.”

Now let’s talk about numbers. It’s generally accepted that a film needs to make at least three times what it cost to produce to just break even in the Hollyworld accounting system.  Johnny Mnemonic didn’t even come close to that. It cost at least thirty million to produce (the numbers are still are in dispute even to this day) and made just double that. 

There were two versions of this film. The film had actually premiered in Japan on April 15, in a longer version, well six minutes longer, that was closer to the director’s cut that came out later (oh there was a director’s cut — there’s always a director’s cut, isn’t there?), featuring a score by Mychael Danna and different editing. I doubt any version makes it a better film.

I haven’t discussed the film or the cast, so NO SPOILERS here. It’s possible, just possible , that someone here hasn’t seen it yet. I have. Someday I’m hope for a better interpretation of a Gibson film.  

It really isn’t liked by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who give it a rating of just thirty-one percent. 

One sec… I see checking IMDb that The Peripheral is forthcoming from Amazon this year as a series, and Pattern Recognition has been announced as a forthcoming film. So there’s hope that Gibson will get treated decently yet. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 Robert W. Chambers. He’s best known for his book of short stories titled The King in Yellow, published in 1895. I see that it has been described by such luminaries as Joshi and Klein as a classic in the field of the supernatural. I have not read it, so would someone who has please tell me why they consider it such. And do tell me if I missed anything by not reading it. (Died 1933.)
  • Born May 26, 1913 Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. There’s a CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin used for his likeness in Rogue One. Having not seen Rogue One, I can’t say just how accurate it is. What’s your opinion? Come on, I know you have one. (Died 1994.)
  • Born May 26, 1921 Mordecai Roshwald. He’s best known for Level 7. (Read the expanded 2004 edition as it has his SF framing narrative which has such fascinating essays as “Preface by The Martian Institute for Archaeological Excavations in the Solar System”.) He is also the author of A Small Arrmageddon noveland his nonfiction work, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 26, 1923 Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the Thrones audiobooks. No, you don’t want my opinion on those. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 26, 1925 Howard DeVore. He was according to all sources, an expert on pulp magazines who dealt in them and collected them, an APA writer, con-runner and otherwise all-around volunteer in First Fandom. He wrote a fascinating-sounding publication with Donald Franson, A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 (which also had an updated edition). Not surprisingly, he’s in the First Fandom Hall of Fame. He also has a Neffy for the Fan the Year which I think he got just before he died. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 26, 1964 Caitlín R. Kiernan, 58. They’re an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards.  As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir which got a well-deserved Otherwise Award as being particularly worth reading. They also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Gaiman’s character, Delirium. You can find out more here on this band and their other delightful music projects. Well maybe delightful isn’t the right word…  Did I mention they’re well known in blood drenched horror circles?  Well if I didn’t I should as they’ve won an amazing three, yes three, International Horror Guild Awards as well as the two Stokers noted above. 
  • Born May 26, 1970 Alex Garland, 52. Writer of DreddEx Machina and Annihilation (which I still haven’t seen — opinions please on it — the books for the latter were excellent and usually don’t see films based on fiction I like). Ex Machina was nominated for a Hugo at MidAmeriCon II, Annihilation likewise was at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. Dredd alas wasn’t nominated. He also wrote 28 Days Later but I’m really not into Pandemic films right now.

(11) ON THE AIR IS WHERE. Octothorpe 58 is out! Listen here: “Oh No! Really? Pancakes”

John Coxon has a paper cut, Alison Scott feels seen, and Liz Batty is cheating on her homework. We discuss Chinese translation before a deep dive into the Chicon 8 programme and collecting data for conrunning. Art by Brad W Foster.

Below: Illustration by Brad W Foster. Three aliens cluster around an old-style radio microphone in turquoise with a red speaker grille and green text saying “ON AIR”. The aliens from left to right are green, pink, and blue and look suspiciously like the hosts of Octothorpe. The title of the podcast is atop the artwork in orange.

(12) A PILE OF POOH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 100 acres of abject desolation. Perhaps the best argument ever that the Public Domain leads to the Tragedy of the Commons. A horrific assault on what’s left of my soul. The public disembowelment of a fallen hero. A knife slashing through our collective heart. Pick your own analogy. “See The Winnie The Pooh Horror Movie That Is Actually Happening” at Giant Freakin Robot.

So… did you know Winnie the Pooh is now in the public domain? Yeah. It is. And someone who has apparently stayed under all of our radars for a while now has taken advantage of that and made a horror movie based on the icon. We’re not joking, we’re not lying, and we have the photos to prove it. Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, a horror film and what looks to be a slasher flick, is a real thing and it’s on the way….

(13) TOP APOCALYPSE. David Yoon’s list of the ten best apocalyptic novels includes Ray Bradbury: “The 10 Most Captivating Apocalypse Novels” at CrimeReads.

The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters

Okay, the world hasn’t quite ended yet in these books, but we know it will. Winters plays with the importance (or pointlessness) of morality here, in the form of a cop who’s trying to solve a murder just weeks before kingdom come. The hardboiled prose perfectly matches the poor officer’s struggle. Because really, what’s the point in the doing the right thing when we vanish in the end, whether by errant meteor or natural death?

(14) “TODAY MY JURISIDICTION ENDS HERE.” [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The patent system assumes that inventors are human. Inventions devised by machines require their own intellectual property law and an international treaty. “Artificial intelligence is breaking patent law”   In today’s Nature.

In 2020, a machine-learning algorithm helped researchers to develop a potent antibiotic that works against many pathogens (see Nature https://doi.org/ggm2p4; 2020). Artificial intelligence (AI) is also being used to aid vaccine development, drug design, materials discovery, space technology and ship design. Within a few years, numerous inventions could involve AI. This is creating one of the biggest threats patent systems have faced.

Patent law is based on the assumption that inventors are human; it currently struggles to deal with an inventor that is a machine. Courts around the world are wrestling with this problem now as patent applications naming an AI system as the inventor have been lodged in more than 100 countries1. Several groups are conducting public consultations on AI and intellectual property (IP) law, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.

If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge….

(15) SPACE CHOW. “Apollo Era Astronaut Meal — Meal B for Day 9 of an Apollo 7-10 Mission, Intended for the Command Module Pilot” was part of a lot offered by Nate Sanders Auction. The auction ended today without a bid. Might be past its sell date in more ways than one!

Complete meal for the Command Module Pilot for an Apollo mission. It’s unknown whether the meal was flown, but the white velcro stickers and menu indicates it was made for the Command Module Pilot on one of the Apollo 7-10 missions. Visible labels show a Corn Chowder packet as well as Coconut Cubes. Additional food is inside the vacuum packed meal, but labels aren’t visible. Label on front reads ”8027 / Day – 9 / Meal – B” with the WSD (Whirlpool Space Division) stamp of 14. Label on other side reads ”FAC185”. Entire meal measures approximately 5.25” x 3.75” x 2”. Very good condition. Rare.

(16) A VIEW OF THE FUTURE FROM 1976. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Arthur C. Clarke foresees telework and smartphones and almost foresees the World Wide Web in this interview with AT&T corporate communications from 1976. “Interview with author/futurist Arthur C. Clarke, from an AT&T-MIT Conference, 1976”.

Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author and futurist, crossed paths with the scientists of the Bell System on numerous occasions. In 1945, he concurrently, but independently, conceived of the first concept for a communications satellite at the same time as Bell Labs scientist, John Robinson Pierce. Pierce too, was a science fiction writer. To avoid any conflict with his day job at Bell Labs, Pierce published his stories under the pseudonym J.J. Coupling. In the early 1960s, Clarke visited Pierce at Bell Labs. During his visit, Clarke saw and heard the voice synthesis experiments going on at the labs by John L. Kelly and Max Mathews, including Mathews’ computer vocal version of “Bicycle Built for Two”. Clarke later incorporated this singing computer into the climactic scene in the screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the computer HAL9000 sings the same song. According to Bob Lucky, another Bell Labs scientist, on the same visit, Clarke also saw an early Picturephone, and incorporated that into 2001 as well. In 1976, AT&T and MIT held a conference on futurism and technology, attended by scientists, theorists, academics and futurists. This interview with Clarke during this conference is remarkably prescient—especially about the evolution of communications systems for the next 30+ years. The interview was conducted for an episode of a Bell System newsmagazine, but this is the raw interview footage.

(17) FEED ME. How bizarre! A Little Shop of Horrors slot machine based on the movie musical. Watch it in action on YouTube.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Moon Knight Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer is excited by the possibility of characters mooning Sir Patrick Stewart and other titled thespians.  But he’s less excited when we learn how little we see of Moon Knight and how many times the character blacks out. But he’s relieved when he learns that several characters seem to have died on the show, because “this is the MUU.  Death is only a plot point.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/10/22 No Pixels Were Harmed In The Production Of This Scroll

(1) ANALYZING SANDERSON’S KICKSTARTER SUCCESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an in-depth commentary about a seismic event in self-publishing, “Business Musings: Brandon’s Kickstarter”.

… If the past is any indication, however, these big Kickstarters increase the people who watch  the category and, to use the cliched phrase, they will become the rising tide that will lift all boats.

That’s the small picture.

The larger one? Smart traditionally published bestsellers should be looking closely at this. Smart unpublished writers should use this as a wake-up call.

Traditional publishing will never pay its writers tens of millions for unnamed projects. Traditional publishing can barely afford the million-dollar advances these days.

And please, remember, the Kickstarter numbers are only the beginning of the earnings on these books. These books will live for decades. Brandon will earn money on them for decades—without licensing any of the copyright to some gigantic corporate entity that does not have his best interest at heart.

Also, remember that this Kickstarter is advertising. It’s introducing millions of readers to Brandon Sanderson. These new readers are asking Who is this guy and why is he getting so much money? What are these new readers going to do? Why, they’re going to buy a backlist book and try to read it before the Kickstarter ends.

His published book sales are going to increase dramatically. So the tens of millions he’s earning on the Kickstarter does not count the other ways this Kickstarter is benefitting him financially. Nor is it counting the promotion value that he’s getting from projects that he felt inspired to write.

There’s a lot more to unpack—from some of the innovations he’s doing to the impact on the fantasy and science fiction field. But for the moment, I’m stopping here.

If you’re one of the sour grapes people, perhaps you should ask yourself why you’re being so very negative. Are you jealous? Or scared?

The rest of you should watch what happens next. This is a very big deal. For all of us.

(2) KDP WTF. Philip Beaufoy, author of the Lochwood Series, is another casualty of a sudden and unexplained Kindle Direct Publishing account closure.

(3) LOVE IS ALL AROUND. The SFWA Blog’s “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” series begins with Alex Chantel’s “I See Romance … Everywhere!”

… I see romance everywhere, on all levels, and it makes me love the books I read even more. There are books without romance, that don’t need romance, and readers that are perfectly happy without it. But borrowing from the romance genre can strengthen a story and the readers’ connection to the characters. 

We all want to craft memorable characters, and the strong ones can become more enduring with a partner—two are stronger than one, as the adage goes. Princess Leia and Han Solo from Star Wars—closely followed by Ben and Rey. Paul and Chani from Dune. Nahri and Ali from S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy. K and Chloe from Terry Miles’s Rabbits. Euthalia and Conrí from Jeffe Kennedy’s Forgotten Empires series. Niko and Petalia from Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing. Some of those names may strike a romantic chord within you?…

(4) DISNEY RECORD ON LGBTQIA+ SET STRAIGHT. Deadline reports a “Internal Pixar Letter Disputes Disney’s Support Of LGBTQIA+ Employees & Questions Company’s Commitment to Change”. (The full text of the letter is quoted at the end of Variety’s coverage.)

Shortly after Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out publicly against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill today, a very pointed response began circulating internally at the studio. A letter signed by “The LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar, and their allies” took Chapek to task. It refuted, point by point, an internal memo Chapek sent to employees on Monday and also criticized the fact that the company “did not take a hard stance in support of the LGBTQIA+” at the shareholder meeting.

“Monday’s email, ‘Our Unwavering Commitment to the LGBTQ+ Community,’ rang hollow,” read the LGBTQIA+ letter. It said Chapek’s communication “began with the claim that Disney has a long history of supporting the LGBT community, but Disney Parks did not officially host Pride until 2019, in Paris alone. Disney has a history of shutting down fan-created Pride events in the parks, even removing same-sex couples for dancing together in the 1980’s.”

The letter goes on to say the corporation is “capitalizing on Pride” through merchandising, specifically The Rainbow Mickey Collection.

“It feels terrible to be a part of a company that makes money from Pride merch when it chooses to ‘step back’ in times of our greatest need, when our rights are at risk,” the letter asserts.

The “step back” bit is likely a reference to Chapek’s assertion at a shareholders’ annual meeting today that “we chose not to take a public position on [the bill] because we felt we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.” It later came out that Chapek had only reached out to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis very recently….

… Finally, the letter damningly addresses Chapek’s repeated insistence that the best way for Disney to make change is through creating “powerful content that changes hearts and minds.”

It reads [in part]:

“We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were. Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”

(5) CALL TO REMOVE A 2023 WORLDCON GOH. SF² Concatenation has tweeted the link to an editorial comment ahead of its next seasonal edition (slated for April). Read it here.

Science fiction is far more than a genre, it enthuses science and warns of possible futures, among much else. More, many of its aficionados are part of a community: a community that crosses nations. Sometimes that community needs to nail its colours to the mast. Now, at this moment in time, due to circumstances up-to-now unthought-of in the early 21st century, those colours are blue and yellow….

On Wednesday, 2nd March (2022), the UN moved to condemn Russia’s war on Ukraine. 141 nations supported that call: only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea supported Russia, while China, Cuba and Venezuela abstained. And here’s the thing, if China is abstaining then arguably the 2023 SF Worldcon should dis-invite Sergei Lukyanenko as a Guest of Honour: Lukyanenko has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed his support for his nation’s war against Ukraine…

In particular, there is one person in the west who is currently due to share the platform at the 2023 Worldcon with Lukyanenko. Is that something he really wants to do?…

(6) REVIEWING SFF. Strange Horizons hosts “The Author and the Critic I: Christopher Priest and Paul Kincaid”, featuring the two named figures discussing the present and future of sff criticism. They begin at the beginning.

Christoper Priest: Before I wrote and published my first novel I had already written several amateurish book reviews. I was young and inexperienced, unguided, learning slowly as I went along. I was writing for fanzines published by Peter Weston and Charles Platt, and others. It was a way of writing something and seeing it in print—or at least, typed out by someone else, which at the time felt almost as good because after the process of being retyped, with bits cut out or changed or just got wrong, it looked different. By looking different it made me read it again and look at it with some objectivity. Overall, it was much easier and quicker to write an opinion piece on a new book by Brian N. Ball or Ken Bulmer than write a novel of my own. None of this counted in the long run, of course, although I still think for a beginning writer it was a good way to learn.

Paul Kincaid: Personally, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read reviews. This goes back to a time when newspapers used to publish things like book reviews and film reviews. But I never thought about writing them until I started getting involved in fandom…. 

(7) MORE FROM THE WORLDCON. Morgan Hazelwood posts her notes about another DisCon III panel: “The Nuts and Bolts of Chapters”. (She also presents the material in a YouTube video.)

The panelists for the titular panel were: Ada Palmer, Aparna Verma, Elle E. Ire, Nancy Kress, and Patricia A. Jackson, with Delia Sherman as moderator.

The panel description was as follows:

Do you even need chapters? How long should they be? Should you title your chapters or just number them? Where do you break a chapter, and how do you write a good cliffhanger? How do you write chapters with multiple character points of view? So much to discuss for such a small topic!

While the panelists didn’t address all of these, they shared some valuable tips.

(8) UNMADE HITCHCOCK PROJECT. “Alfred Hitchcock once planned a sci-fi epic, which he envisaged as ‘a projection into the life of a generation ahead’” – BFI looks back at “Hitchcock’s sci-fi movie, ‘a forecast of days to come’”.

… News of Hitchcock’s sci-fi project broke in October 1926, a month after The Lodger was first shown to the press. P.L. Mannock of the Kinematograph Weekly, who had spoken to Hitchcock about his “film laid in the future”, wrote that “If we except ‘Metropolis,’ it will be the first screen forecast of days to come,” the last words being a deliberate reference to a novella by one of Lang’s inspirations, H.G. Wells. “Television will be used dramatically, and Sir Alan Cobham will probably be consultant on big episodes of the air.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 [Item by Cat Eldridge]

“My specialty is wisdom. Do you know what wisdom is?””- Dr. Lao

“No sir.” – Mike 

“Wise answer.” – Dr. Lao

Fifty-eight years ago, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao premiered. It was George Pal’s last directorial effort. As you well know, it’s based off of Charles G. Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao. (There is now a Kindle edition of The Circus of Dr. Lao though it won’t be mistaken for a Meredith Moment.) It was nominated for a Hugo at Loncon II, the year Dr. Strangelove won. 

The screenplay was by Beaumont, who wrote twenty-two Twilight Zone episodes which given he died at 38 is quite astonishing, and Ben Hecht (originally uncredited), whose most notable work was Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Notorious, though he did have a genre credit writing The Thing from Outer Space, an early Fifties film. He also did uncredited work on Casino Royale.

Tony Randall played myriad roles in the 7 Faces of Dr. Lao including of course Dr. Lao, the Mysterious Visitor. And if you look carefully, you spot Randall simply as himself sans any makeup as a silent audience member. He also voices the Serpent, a stop-motion animated snake which has the face of another actor. Quite a performance indeed. 

Pal originally wanted Peter Sellers for the role of Dr. Lao and Sellers very much wanted to do the role. However, MGM had Randall under contract who was far cheaper than Sellers would’ve been. 

Pal also saved quite a bit of money here by reusing footage from Atlantis, the Lost Continent and The Time Machine. The Woldercan spectacular that Dr. Lao does as his grand finale of his circus is drawn entirely from the former. 

Pal has stated that it’s only film that he lost money on. It made just one million and I can’t find any mention of how much the production costs were but they were obviously higher than the very small box office was.

So how was it received? The Hollywood Reporter at the time said Randall’s performance was “a dazzling display of virtuosity, in some stunning makeup created by Bill Tuttle.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a very strong rating of seventy-eight percent.

I don’t believe it’s streaming anywhere but you can rent it pretty much everywhere. Or you can buy it for little more than a Meredith Moment. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe, His first role was in Lost Horizon as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script for the latter surprisingly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydn. Actor who appeared in a number of genre undertakings including voicing the Caterpillar in the early Fifties Alice in Wonderland, Professor Summerlee in the early Sixties version of The Lost World and Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. I’d be very remiss not to note his appearance on The Twilight Zone as Bartlett Finchley in the chilling “A Thing About Machines”. And he had one offs on BewitchedShirley Temple’s Storybook and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in the “The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair” an unusual episode as it takes place almost entirely within U.N.C.L.E headquarters. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed theirs and each other’s works. A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M Miller.”  Having not read these, I’ve no idea, what this details, but I’m betting one of y’all know. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1921 Cec Linder. He’s best remembered for playing Dr. Matthew Roney in the BBC produced Quatermass and the Pit series in the later Fifties, and for his role as James Bond’s friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, in Goldfinger. He also appeared on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the Amerika series, The Ray Bradbury Theatre and The New Avengers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye. Editor of Weird Tales, he also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. His Cold Blue Light novels with Parke Godwin are quite superb. The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award. He wrote the “Marvin Kaye’s Nth Dimension” for the Space and Time website. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Ken Sobol. New to our Birthday honors list. I will single him out for having personally received Astrid Lindgren’s personal blessing to write the Pippi Longstocking series which he worked on with puppeteer Noreen Young. He also contributed scripts to Batman, Curious GeorgeG.I. JoeGeorge of the JungleHardy BoysHighlander, Superman, and Wizard of Id, and that’s hardly a complete listing.  He also wrote one of the best works done on baseball, Babe Ruth and the American Dream. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 10, 1951 Christopher Hinz, 71. His Liege Killer novel, the first in his most excellent Paratwa Saga, won the Compton Crook Award, the BSFS Award for the Best First Novel. (And yes, there is a prequel, Binary Storm, which was written much later.) He was nominated for an Astounding Award for Best New Writer. 
  • Born March 10, 1956 Robert Llewellyn, 66. He plays the mechanoid Kryten in the Red Dwarf series. His It2i2 which was a television show about AI depicting fictional events but presented as a documentary. And he played a gryphon in the oh-so-superb MirrorMask

(11) AFROFUTURISM. The Schomburg Center’s 10th Annual Black Comic Book Festival in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Afrofuturism Festival! Presents “Black Feminist Futures Series: Planting for the Future”.

The Black Feminist Futures Series features programs highlighting the powerful and long-standing relationship between Afrofuturism and Black feminism in genres ranging from literature, film, art, fashion, and community organizing. Planting for the Future, a virtual conversation on Black women’s participation in Afrofuturism through literature, film, art, fashion, and community organizing. The program features Dr. Andrea Hairston (author of Master of Poisons), Sheree Renee Thomas (author of Nine Bar Blues), Tananarive Due (author of The Between: A Novel), and Tanaya Denise Fields (founder of Black Feminist Project & Black Joy Farm, and author of “Dirty Business: The Messy Affair of Rejecting Shame” in the book You Are Your Best Thing). Moderated by Dr. Chesya Burke.

(12) GAIMAN MIRACLEMAN REPRINT. Following the herald of his return in Timeless #1 and the announcement of an all-new omnibus, Marvel Comics continues to mark the 40th anniversary of Miracleman’s modern era with a new printing of award-winning writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham’s redefining work on the character.

 Arriving in October, Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB will collect the first six issues of Gaiman and Buckingham’s groundwork to give a legendary super hero a fascinating future —a future that will now come to pass! Available for the first time in paperback, the Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB will give fans a chance to revisit this beloved era of Miracleman ahead of the exciting plans Marvel has in store for the iconic character later this year.

Atop Olympus, Miracleman presides over a brave new world forged from London’s destruction. It is a world free of war, of famine, of poverty. A world of countless wonders. A world where pilgrims scale Olympus’ peak to petition their living god, while miles below the dead return in fantastic android bodies. It is an Age of Miracles — but is humankind ready for it? Do we even want it? Is there a place for humanity in a world of gods? Gaiman and Buckingham delve into the lives of lonely idealists, rebellious schoolchildren and fracturing families, exploring the human constant in a changing world of gods and miracles.

(13) STAR WARS FAN NEWS. “’Star Wars’ fans are raising money for transgender youth”Yahoo! Life has the details. (The direct link to the GoFundMe is here: “Fundraiser by The Amidala Initiative (A Community Effort) : The Amidala Initiative for Equality Texas”. They have raised $8,292 of their $25,000 goal as of this writing.)

…Fans of the Star Wars franchise can relate to Padmé Amidala, a character from the Star Wars prequel trilogy played by Natalie Portman, for a multitude of reasons, from her troubled romance with Anakin Skywalker to her desire to do her best to protect her people.

It’s the latter that inspired the Amidala Initiative, a group of Star Wars fans and content creators who have joined … forces … to raise money for Texas advocacy organization Equality Texas after Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of trans children who have had or are seeking elective gender-affirming procedures or treatments.

“We, the undersigned, are 77 fan content creators, podcasters, YouTubers, TikTokers, artists, writers and cosplayers who have joined together to use our limited platforms to stand in solidarity with our trans siblings and their families in Texas,” a GoFundMe site for the Amidala Initiative states. “No child should fear that their teachers will report their parents to the government for allowing them to live as their true gender. No parent should fear criminal charges for supporting their transgender child and helping them seek therapeutic and medical support to treat their gender dysphoria … this is something we refuse to stand by silently for.”…

(14) DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS. Radio Times listens in as “Christopher Eccleston rules out Doctor Who multi-Doctor story return”.

…However, according to the latest comments from The A Word star, there’s seemingly no chance he would return for a 60th anniversary team-up special currently rumoured for 2023.

He told crowds at Australian convention Supanova: “I’ve never been a fan of multi-Doctor stories. When I worked on the series, I had really strong ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and I always think that multi-Doctor stories are a bit of a cash-in, and a bit of exploitation.

“Creatively, they never worked for me. I looked at the script for the 50th anniversary and I felt as soon as I said I wasn’t doing it it got better because, well, if I’m not in it, it’s better. The creation of the War Doctor introduced a whole new facet to the canon.”

Interestingly though, a later comment from Eccleston suggested he would consider returning to Doctor Who in live-action for a solo storyline following the Ninth Doctor.

He added: “The Ninth Doctor, in particular, is a one-man band. Definitely. So he doesn’t work with other Doctors. If you want me back, you’d get me on my own.”

(15) HEAR FROM EDITORS. Space Cowboy Books will host an online panel discussion “Beyond the Submission Guidelines” on March 29 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Join us for an online panel discussion with editors of SF/F magazines. Learn about the behind the scenes of running science fiction and fantasy magazines with editors: Arley Sorg (Locus & Fantasy Magazines), F.J. Bergmann (Mobius & Weird House), Rob Carroll (Dark Matter Magazine), and JW Stebner (Hexagon Magazine)

(16) PREDICTING THE PAST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Inscriptions provide an invaluable insight into the ancient world. But over the centuries, many inscriptions have been damaged and exist in fragmented or semi-legible forms, making the job of reading and interpreting them extremely difficult. In this week’s issue of Nature, “Restoring and attributing ancient texts using deep neural networks”, Yannis Assael, Thea Sommerschield and their team introduce Ithaca, a deep neural network designed to help historians restore and understand ancient Greek inscriptions. Working alone, Ithaca is able to restore damaged texts with a 62% accuracy, but when historians use Ithaca, their accuracy on the same task rises to 72%. Ithaca can also determine the original geographical location of inscriptions with 71% accuracy, and can date them to within 30 years from the date ranges proposed by historians. The researchers say that such cooperation between artificial intelligence and historians could help transform studies of the ancient world. 

(17) SOUNDTRACK OF SPACE. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory page hosts a “Sonification Collection” – maybe there is a “music of the spheres.”

…By translating the inherently digital data (in the form of ones and zeroes) captured by telescopes in space into images, astronomers create visual representations that would otherwise be invisible to us.

But what about experiencing these data with other senses like hearing? Sonification is the process that translates data into sound, and a new project brings the center of the Milky Way to listeners for the first time. The translation begins on the left side of the image and moves to the right, with the sounds representing the position and brightness of the sources. The light of objects located towards the top of the image are heard as higher pitches while the intensity of the light controls the volume. Stars and compact sources are converted to individual notes while extended clouds of gas and dust produce an evolving drone….

There’s a demonstration in this tweet:

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Arthur C. Clarke chats with Dick Cavett about 2001, life on other planets, and perpetual motion machines in this clip from a 1972 Dick Cavett Show. “Arthur C. Clarke on Why Aliens Would Be Superior To Humans”.

English science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke discusses the on-going research in astronomy into discovering new planets and how he believes there is life on other planets, although we don’t know it yet.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Phil Nichols, mlex, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 3/7/22 Head Like A Scroll, Pixeled Like Your Soul

(1) ARRIVAL. “On Coming to Ursula K. Le Guin in My Own Time” at Literary Hub, an excerpt from Amal El-Mohtar’s introduction to Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin.

… I took Le Guin for granted. When she died in 2018, I could have fit the span of my life inside hers almost three times. She had always been there, like a mountain, or the sun, and it was easy to fall into the certainty that she always would be. I was unfamiliar with her most celebrated works—The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, books by which she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel, and then, five years later, the first woman to have won it twice.

I had assumed, with all the oblivious confidence of youth, that I’d get to read them while she was still with us and talk to her about them. I imagined that I would meet her one day, under ideal conditions that would make me seem interesting enough for conversation, and ask her about poetry, about being a middle-aged woman in the 1970s, and about science fiction. Her passing hit me harder than I expected, considering my slender acquaintance with her work, but that was the thing about Le Guin: to have lost her was to have lost a world I longed to visit….

(2) ROMANTIC NOVEL AWARDS. The Romantic Novelists Association announced the winners of the 2022 Romantic Novel Awards in London on March 7. The awards celebrate excellence in romantic fiction in all its forms. The complete list is here. In the RNA category of genre interest the winner is —

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award

  • A Marvellous Light, Freya Marske, Pan Macmillan

(3) HIDDEN TREASURE. [Item by Bill Burns.] The BBC Archive started a new YouTube channel a couple of months ago, and there are some interesting SF items: BBC Archive – YouTube. As well as Star Wars, Doctor Who, and other media items, there’s these more mainstream pieces from broadcast programs:

  • “Arthur C Clarke predicts the future” (September 1964)
  • “Douglas Adams on HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY game” (1984)
  • “ISAAC ASIMOV’s 3 laws of ROBOTICS” (1965)

(4) SCREENTIME MACHINE. For the first five seconds I thought it was a Monty Python sketch. But no – these are all legit sff writers on a 1979 episode of the BBC’s Book Programme trying to answer the question “What is SCIENCE FICTION?”

Robert Robinson presents a science-fiction themed edition of The Book Programme. What constitutes science-fiction, is there room in the genre for the metaphysical or spiritual, or should writers slavishly stick to the scientific? What is to be made of the phenomenon that is the sci-fi convention – is there something unique to science fiction that inspires such devotion in its fans? And is all fiction slowly becoming science fiction? Taking part are: Douglas Adams, the author of the science-fiction comedy ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’; Harry Harrison, a prolific science fiction writer best known for his ‘Deathworld’, ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ and ‘Bill, the Galactic Hero’ novels; Peter Nicholls, the editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; and Ian Watson, whose book ‘The Jonah Kit’ won the British Science Fiction Association award for Best Novel and whose new book “God’s World” is reviewed here and forms the basis for the discussion.

(5) RELATED WORKS. Today, Cora Buhlert turns the Non-Fiction Spotlight on “Lovecraft in the 21st Century Dead, But Still Dreaming, edited by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm”.

…If you’re just joining us, the Non-Fiction Spotlights are a project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that came out in 2021 and are eligible for the 2022 Hugo Awards….

The subject of today’s Non-Fiction Spotlight is a collection of scholarly essays about H.P. Lovecraft entitled Lovecraft in the 21st Century: Dead, But Still Dreaming, edited by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm….

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

Carl: I first became interested in Lovecraft because of references to him in popular culture. As I began to read more and more of his stories, I became fascinated by the ways his work continues to show up in everything from heavy metal music to board games to internet memes to television shows. What I didn’t know was that there were dozens of others having similar experiences. This book provides a glimpse at what others have discovered in their own journey through Lovecraft. I think anyone with an interest in Lovecraft, including SFF fans and Hugo voters, can discover just how far Lovecraft’s influence goes through a book like this. Even those who already have a firm grasp of Lovecraft should be able to find new insights and research opportunities here….

(6) NATURE CALLS. SF² Concatenation has just Tweeted an advance post of the first of its four “Best of Nature Futures” one-page short stories for this year: “Freemium: It’s no game” by Louis Evans.

When SETI detected an alien signal, they called Derek. Derek was a billionaire from designing computer games. He was bankrolling the search.

Soon – an impossibility in physics – Derek was in regular contact with the aliens. But eventually, there is a price….

(7) NEWBERY WINNER’S NEXT. In the Washington Post, Mary Quattlebaum interviews Newbery Award-winner Kelly Barnhill, whose new book The Ogress and the Orphans creates “a complex character that makes readers question the stereotype of ogres.” “In Kelly Barnhill’s new fantasy novel, no single hero can save the day”.

…A more fully formed story started to emerge in 2020. This original fairy tale explored both the conflict and the generosity she was seeing in the world around her. She noticed, for example, that throughout the pandemic, some people worked together to protect one another from the coronavirus, and others did not.

“I saw the power that one individual has to make something better for another,” she said.

A conversation with her “awesome and interesting” 10-year-old nieces also helped shape the story. The girls’ parents are philosophers. They study knowledge — how people think and reason and how they decide right from wrong. The girls thought that philosophy should also consider kindness and animals.

Barnhill listened. “The Ogress and the Orphans” probes what happens to people’s hearts and to the spirit of their communities when they give to others — or turn away. What happens when they respect and include others — or seek power over them?…

(8) WOOL GATHERING. At Bandcamp, Aidan Baker’s album “The Sheep Look Up” is intended as “a ‘soundtrack’ to John Brunner’s 1972 dystopian novel.” Baker is a Canadian musician “making experimental ambient music.”

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1968 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series has a fascinating Hugo history.

She won a Hugo the first time she was nominated, for the novella “Weyr Search” at Baycon (tied with Philip José Farmer’s “Riders of the Purple Wage”.) It was published in Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact, October 1967. It’s in A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury of the Fantastic anthology which was edited by Margaret Weis, available from the usual suspects at a very reasonable price. 

It would be the only win for the Dragonriders of Pern series but by far is not the only nomination for the series. 

Next up would be the “Dragonrider” novella which was nominated one year later at St. Louiscon. Three years later, her Dragonquest novel would get a nod at the first L.A. Con showing that Con had impeccable taste. And at Seacon ‘79, The White Dragon gets nominated. (I really love that novel.) The next L.A. Con would see another novel be nominated, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. (I’ve never heard of that one.) And the final nomination, also for a novel, was at MagiCon, for All the Weyrs of Pern.

The series did win a number of other awards including a Nebula for Dragonrider, a Ditmar and Gandalf for The White Dragon, a Balrog for Dragondrums and The Science Fiction Book Club’s Book of the Year Award for The Renegades of Pern. It is, after all, an expansive series.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1925 Richard Vernon. He is perhaps best remembered for playing the role of Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. His first genre role was Sir Edgar Hargraves in the Village of the Damned which was adapted from John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos.  He’s also in Goldfinger as Colonel Smithers. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 7, 1926 Alan Sues. Here for his outstanding performance in The Twilight Zone’s “The Masks” as Wilfred Harper, Jr., one of the most chilling scripts written for that series. He really didn’t have much of a genre history showing just otherwise on Wild Wild West and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch unless you want to include Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July where he played Scratcher the jealous Reindeer. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 7, 1942 Paul Preuss, 80. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular among the British ex-Pat community.  I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him. 
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 78. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013 at LoneStarCon 3.  He’s also an accomplished author and l know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now though I know I enjoyed what I read by him.
  • Born March 7, 1945 Elizabeth Moon, 77. I’ll let JJ have the say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them. But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly’, but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.” 
  • Born March 7, 1954 Elayne Pelz, 68. She is a member of LASFS (and officer) and of SCIFI who worked on myriad cons, mainly in art show and treasury.  She was married to famous SF fan Bruce Pelz and assumed leadership of Conagerie, the 2002 Westercon, upon Bruce’s death and the con was held successfully. She was the Chair of Loscon 20.
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 52. Best remembered  for The Mummy films which I really, really love (well the first two with her), and her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film which scores rather well – fifty-one percent — among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster. As of late, Weisz starred as Melina Vostokoff in the MCU film Black Widow.

(11) INSIDER TRADING. Gizmodo finds evidence of intergalactic smuggling: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Rare Merch Already on eBay”.

It’s only been a few days since Disney’s lavishly priced Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser attraction previewed for invited media, influencers, and guests—yet eBay listings are already being promoted for exclusive items from the experience. Some item postings even have timetables for guests who have yet to step onto the Halcyon ship but promise to bring back merch for sale.

A sign that this might be different from the usual hive of scum and villainy where merch-flippers tend to dwell is that the prices seem to reflect ways to offset the cost of the trip itself—or for those who got freebies to maybe even get on board again….

(12) 2021 WAS GOOD FOR ONE THING. Yahoo! reports “Guillermo del Toro is really not into the Oscars’ new format”.

…Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro has brought up another point of contention: The new format for the upcoming awards ceremony.

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts recently unveiled its new format, which involves pre-taping a select eight categories and announcing the winners in a pre-show. The categories moved to this lower-tier position include Best Production Design, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Sound, Documentary Short, Animated Short and Live-Action Short. After the last couple of arduous years in the film industry, del Toro thinks this change could not come at a worse time.

“The nominees that we have here, most of the ones we have here tonight, [worked] against many, many difficult odds [to get here], and we don’t do [films] alone,” del Toro said while receiving the Hollywood Critics Association’s Filmmaking Achievement Award. “We do them together, and the people that made them with us did it risking everything in a pandemic, showing up, making the day, somewhat in a miracle.

“I must say, if any year was the year to think about it, this is not the year not to hear their names live at the Oscars. This is the year to sing it, and sing it loud,” Del Toro continued. “We shouldn’t do it this year; we shouldn’t do it ever, but not this year… And we must say this… 2021 was a f**king great year for movies.”…

(13) TIME’S THREE. “Take three historical figures, throw them together in some situation, and tell us the story that ensues.” That simple description was enough make a success of Fantastic Books’ Kickstarter campaign, fully funding the anthology Three Time Travelers Walk Into…, which will appear in June. “It pulls together the adventuring of such disparate figures as Julia Child, Jesus Christ, Michael Jackson, and Vlad the Impaler (well… not all in one story).”

Edited by Michael A. Ventrella, the contributing authors are Eric Avedissian, Adam-Troy Castro, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gregory Frost, David Gerrold, Henry Herz, Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin, Heather McKinney, James A. Moore, Jody Lynn Nye, L. Penelope, Louise Piper, Hildy Silverman, S.W. Sondheimer, Allen Steele, and Lawrence Watt-Evans.

(14) YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU. Gizmodo noticed that “A Mars Rock Appears to Be Stuck in Perseverance Rover’s Wheel”. (Image at the link.)

NASA’s Perseverance rover has involuntarily adopted a traveling companion, in the form of a stone that’s lodged in one of its six aluminum wheels.

An image captured by Perseverance’s Onboard Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera, or Hazcam for short, shows the interloper sitting on the interior of a wheel. The rover must’ve kicked up the rock while exploring Jezero Crater, where it’s been operating since it landed on Mars in February 2021.

The picture was taken on February 25, 2022, but a similar image taken five days later showed the rock still firmly in place. The stone, it would appear, is now a stubborn fixture of the $2.2 billion rover…. 

(15) RETURN TO SENDER. “Dreaming of Suitcases in Space”. Hard to believe, but the New York Times, not Philip K. Dick, came up with that title. “A California start-up company believes it can one day speed delivery of important items by storing them in orbit.”

…Inversion is building earth-orbiting capsules to deliver goods anywhere in the world from outer space. To make that a reality, Inversion’s capsule will come through the earth’s atmosphere at about 25 times as fast as the speed of sound, making the parachute essential for a soft landing and undisturbed cargo.

Inversion is betting that as it becomes cheaper to fly to space, government agencies and companies will want to not only send things to orbit but also bring items back to earth….

…What Inversion is trying to do is not easy. Designing a vehicle for re-entry is a different engineering challenge than sending things up to space. When a capsule enters the atmosphere from space, it is traveling at such high speeds that there is the danger of burning up — a huge risk for human travelers and precious nonhuman cargo alike.

Seetha Raghavan, a professor in the University of Central Florida’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, said it would be even more difficult to handle the heat, vibration and deceleration of the capsule when the vehicle size shrank.

“It all becomes harder when you have a smaller item to control,” Ms. Raghavan said.

Inversion’s plan for capsules in orbit raises questions about whether it will contribute to congestion in space, already a problem with the megaconstellations of satellites. And the abundance of satellites interfering with observations of planets, stars and other celestial bodies has been a common complaint among astronomers.

But Inversion said it was using materials to make its capsules significantly less reflective to decrease visual pollution. In addition, the company said its capsule would come with systems to avoid debris and collisions in orbit….

(16) CUBISM. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece commemorating the Dungeons & Dragon‘s gelatinous cube.

According to Patreon, “I listen to ‘Not Another D&D Podcast’ while I draw these days, and they were coincidentally fighting an ooze monster during this drawing (not a Gelatinous Cube, though. It was a Juiblex).”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Ben Bird Person, Chris Barkley, Bill Burns, SF Concantenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon Dunn.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/22 In The Clearing Stands A Pixel And A Scroller By Its Trade

(1) WORLDWIDE CHANGE. Reuters Graphics explores how non-binary people identify themselves in highly-gendered languages around the world, using animated examples to explain the challenges to English-language readers. “Beyond pronouns: How languages are reshaping to include nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people”.

Not everyone identifies as a woman or a man. The movement to recognize gender identities beyond female and male is growing in places like Western Europe and the United States, and changing languages around the world.

In English, the pronouns people use — such as ‘she,’ ‘he,’ or ‘they’ — have come to the fore. In some languages, other parts of speech can also be feminine or masculine.

Modifying language to reflect a spectrum of gender identities is a fundamental change that stirs fierce debate….

(2) FIRST CHAIR. Actor Doug Jones will receive the inaugural The Chair Award from the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild (IATSE Local 706). Star Trek: Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green will present the honor during the guild’s awards ceremony on February 19 — The Hollywood Reporter has details.  

He’s known for roles such as the so-called Amphibian Man in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Waterwhich won 2017’s best picture Oscar, and Pale Man in del Toro’s Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth. He was the Silver Surfer in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the blue fish-man Abe Sapien in del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Jones is also the villainous title character in a remake of Nosferatu, currently in postproduction.

TV roles have included such series as Star Trek: Discovery, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Falling Skies….

(3) VILLENEUEVE TO MAKE RENDEZVOUS. Movieweb reports “Denis Villeneuve to Direct Rendezvous with Rama Adaptation”.

It seems as if Denis Villeneuve can’t keep his eyes from the stars. The director of 2021’s Dune has been signed on to direct another science fiction adaptation. This time the subject will be Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

The project was picked up by Alcon Entertainment, who previously worked with Villeneuve on Prisoners and Blade Runner 2049. The rights to the novel had previously been under the control of Morgan Freeman and his partner Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment. The film has been a passion project of Freeman since the early 2000s, but the project was stuck in development hell for many years.

It seems as if the film is finally going to get its wings with this new partnership at last. Alcon will be financing the project….

(4) WHEN NOT ONLY KANGAROOS HAVE POCKETS. At CrimeReads, “Juneau Black” (pen name of Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel) discusses how to write an animal fantasy where the animals have human characteristics: “How To Craft Non-Human Characters With Plenty of Personality”.

… Our problem in a nutshell: Foxes don’t own handkerchiefs. Well, that’s an obvious statement, isn’t it? Of course they don’t. They don’t have hands. Yet in the world of Shady Hollow, our civilized animal denizens do wear clothes and own accruements and if someone starts blubbering into their coffee, it would be downright rude to not offer a clean bit of cloth to soothe them.

But what to call that cloth? It has to be a word that instantly conveys the idea of handkerchief, without the human-centric assumption of hands. We could call it a pawkerchief…but that sounds too cutesy for a book with murders in it. So we looked for alternatives: Hankie? No, it’s a riff on “hand” and therefore isn’t a word that would exist in this world (and its logical equivalent “pawkie” is so twee it’s sickening). Snot rag is accurate but maybe too gross. Pocket square turned out to be our winner, since it describes the object in a way that the characters themselves would understand….

(5) THEY ASKED HIM ANYTHING. Hosted today at Reddit – “I’m Gideon Marcus, science fiction writer, publisher, space historian…and time traveler. Ask Me Anything!” In connection with Galactic Journey he said:

…Our coolest new project is watching the original Star Trek “as it comes out” on the original air dates (minus 55 years). And they’ve got the original commercial breaks in them! It’s been fascinating watching this classic in its original form, and with about a dozen young people who have never seen it before. We’ve also been reading the period trekzines and fanzines of the time, and that’s been a trip.

…Thank you! It’s been really neat. The show was designed with the traditional four act and teaser format, punctuated with little cliffhangers. The commercials give the show room to breathe and marinate. Plus, the period ads give context — you go from Kirk fighting a giant lizard to… cigarette ads.

Hey, they’re both killers!

(6) FANCAST Q&A. Cora Buhlert posted another Fancast Spotlight for GeekShock, a podcast run by several people who met while working at a Star Trek live show in Las Vegas: “Fancast Spotlight: GeekShock”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

GeekShock is a podcast about the week-in-geek. We like to think we’re a funny bunch, so we style ourselves as a comedy podcast. We approach geek topics of the day however they may strike us as humorous, but we get serious when serious subjects arise. We talk about movies and television of course, but we also cover subjects in comics, games of all types (video, board, tabletop rpg), geek accessories i.e., toys, collectables, curiosities, and genre literature.

(7) 17TH CENTURY SPACE EXPLORATION. The Huntington hosts a free Zoom lecture, “Blasting into Space: The Poetics of Faith and Astronomy in 17th-Century England”, by Wendy Wall on February 16, at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register at the link.

In this lecture, Wendy Wall, Professor of the Humanities at Northwestern University, describes how 17th-century woman Hester Pulter, while sick and confined to her bedroom after giving birth to her 15th child, sought solace in an unusual way: she wrote poems about taking off into space to explore planets in the heliocentric universe. While intellectuals of the day feared that new conceptions of astronomy undermined cherished religious beliefs, Pulter was exhilarated in incorporating cutting-edge ideas about space into a new type of devotional poem. How can this relatively newly discovered female poet enlarge our understanding of ways that writers used poetry to interconnect religion, science, and the imagination? How might Pulter’s poetry reveal previously unacknowledged ways that early modern women engaged in intellectual production and the mapping of the heavens, even from their remote estates or bedrooms?

(8) THE SCIENCE IN THIS FICTION. In “Malorie Blackman on seeing her sci-fi novel about a pig heart transplant come true”, the author tells Guardian readers that questions are the best place to start when writing a book.

What some call science fiction, I prefer to call science possible or sometimes science probable. One branch of sci-fi is based on imagined technological or scientific advances, and major social or environmental changes. It was that branch that I embraced when I wrote Pig Heart Boy. I loved the idea of exploring xenotransplantation through the eyes of Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with a bad heart who just wants to live. I found the whole notion of transplanting organs from one species into another fascinating and the perfect subject matter for a children’s book.

Now I hasten to add that I’m not a scientist or expert on xenotransplantation, nor do I claim to be. I’m a layperson with a love of science who occasionally reads science magazines. My approach was from an author’s angle, spending months on research before writing a single word…

(9) ANOTHER NAME FROM APPENDIX N. Ngo Vinh-Hoi profiles fantasy writer John Bellairs, one of the more obscure names listed in the Appendix N to the original D&D Dungeon Master’s Handbook: “Adventures in Fiction: John Bellairs” at Goodman Games.

… The modest success of The Face in the Frost was enough for Bellairs to turn to full-time writing, and his next work The House with a Clock in its Walls was also a dark fantasy. Supposedly Bellairs had difficulty selling the book until a publisher suggested rewriting it as a young adult (YA) book set in the fictionalized Michigan of Bellairs’s childhood. The House with a Clock in its Walls proved to be a huge critical and sales success, so much so that Bellairs became a full-time YA author for the rest of his career, completing a total of 15 books for young readers, most of which were illustrated by the great Edward Gorey….

(10) WILL THE REAL CONAN PLEASE STAND UP. Howard Andrew Jones explains which of the many Conan pastiche novels are worth reading: “The Best Of The Conan Pastiche Novels” at Goodman Games.

… You can fit the sum total of all the Conan that Howard wrote (including some fragments and rejected stories) into one large hardback. That’s not a lot of fiction about such a great character, and so for decades, people have been trying to create new tales of adventure starring Conan, mostly because they wanted MORE!

What makes those stories pastiche instead of fanfic, I suppose, is that many of these writers were paid to write it and the result was distributed widely. You would assume that meant that the work was well-edited and had some kind of consistency, but a lot of people, me among them, would tell you you’re wrong….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-one years ago, City Beneath the Sea premiered on NBC. It had a tangled history as it was originally a pilot for a series that Irwin Allen had pitched to that network several years earlier. The film itself was an expansion of a much shorter idea reel that Allen had shown to the network. 

The story was by Allen, but the screenplay was by John Meredyth Lucas who had written four Trek episodes, “Elaan of Troyius”, “The Changeling”, “Patterns of Force” and “That Which Survives” in addition to direction and production duties there. 

The primary cast was Stuart Whitman, Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Colbert, Burr DeBenning, Robert Wagner, Joseph Cotten and Richard Basehart. Irwin’s suggested cast for the series was Glenn Corbett, Lloyd Bochner, Lawrence Montaigne, Francine York, Cecile Ozorio and James Brolin.

I couldn’t, for love or money, find any critical reviews of the film. Rotten Tomatoes has none which is highly unusual.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes weren’t fond of it giving it a rating of just forty percent.  Here’s the trailer for it. City Beneath the Sea (1967).

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1905 Margery Sharp. Her best remembered work is The Rescuers series which concerns a mouse by the name of Miss Bianca. They were later adapted in two Disney animated films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. I’m reasonably sure I’ve seen the first one a very long time ago. Her genre novel, The Stone of Chastity, is according to her website, based on English folklore. Other than the first volume of The Rescuer series, she’s not really available digitally though she is mostly in print in the dead tree format. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. Jack Belicec in the original and by far the best version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Thirty years later, he’d be Lunartini Husband in Nothing Lasts Forever, a SF comedy film with a contentious history. His only other genre appearance was a one-off on Night Gallery. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1920 Bruce Cassiday. Under two different pen names, Con Steffanson and Carson Bingham , he wrote three Flash Gordon novels (The Trap of Ming XIIThe Witch Queen of Mongo and The War of the Cybernauts) and he also wrote several pieces of non-fiction worth noting, The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, co-written with Dieter Wuckel, and Modern Mystery, Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. The latter done in ‘93 is rather out of date and out of print as well. Checking the usual suspects shows nothing’s available by him for this genre though some of his pulp novels are available with appropriately lurid covers. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 25, 1950 Christopher Ryan, 72. He’s played two different aliens on Doctor Who. First in the Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp”, he was Kiv where he looked akin to Clayface from the animated Batman series. Second in the era of the Tenth Doctor (“The Sontarian Experiment” and “The Poison Sky”) and the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”), he was the Sontarian General Staal Commander Stark.
  • Born January 25, 1958 Peter Watts, 64. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower-linked short stories sound intriguing. He won a Hugo for Best Novelette at Aussiecon 4 for “The Island”.
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 59. Butler’s most important work is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 49. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him is on Batman: Gotham KnightsJustice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to notehis decade long run on the Green Lantern books. He’s the writer and producer on the most excellent Stargirl now streaming on HBO Max.
  • Born January 25, 1975 Mia Kirshner, 47. She was Amanda Grayson in Star Trek: Discovery. Her first genre was in the really not great The Crow: City of Angels as Sarah Mohr. (I editorialize, it is what I do.) she had another run as Isobel Flemming in The Vampire Diaries and one-offs in The War of The WorldsDracula: The SeriesAre You Afraid of the Dark? and Wolf Lake. She had a plum role in Defiance as Kenya Rosewater. 

(13) NOT JUST ANYBODY. Here they are! Screen Rant’s choices as the “10 Most Nonsensical World Domination Plans In Movie History”. Some of them have better musical accompaniments than others.

Help! (1965)

Given that this movie stars the Beatles and that it is intended as a comedy, it makes sense that its central world domination plan would be nonsensical.

However, even by that standard, the central plot strains the ability of the audience to make sense of anything of what is happening, much of which revolves around a seemingly magical ring. The fact that the movie moves along at a frantic pace makes its plot even more difficult to follow.

(14) SWORD & SORCERY’S ANCESTRY. At DMR Books, Brian Kunde chronicles his research into the life of Clifford Ball, Weird Tales contributor and probably the most obscure of the first wave of sword and sorcery writers: “Who Was Clifford Ball?”

…In this we are in a position similar to that of Shakespearean scholars, who on the basis of surviving records have also put together a threadbare sketch of an outer life while likewise failing to illuminate the inner man. As with them, our surest guides to our subject’s inner life and interests remain those we started with—in Ball’s case, his published works, together with what he and “W. C., Jr.” set down in their letters and notes in Weird Tales. Having left no descendants, whatever else Ball might have left of a personal nature likely perished with him or his near heirs. The who we already had may have led us to a more complete picture of the life he lived, but how that life was reflected in his thoughts, hopes and dreams remains elusive….

(17) TROLL SIGHTINGS. Jim C. Hines has updated the “Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing” webpage: “Among other things, JDA had a friend take pictures of Tomlinson at ConFusion, which JDA posted for mockery.” The screencaps are here.

(18) NEWBERY AT 100. In “The centennial of the Newbery Award: what publishers should do with older winners that don’t hold up”, Slate’s Sara L. Schwebel and Jocelyn Van Tuyl challenge the award winners’ status as canonical children’s books.

…Many of us are increasingly aware that American childhoods can look very different from one another, varying with race and ethnicity, geographic location, economic status, and many other factors. This has always been true, of course, but until very recently, the imagined child reader was monolithic. So your favorite Newbery from childhood may now seem out of touch, hopelessly uncool. Worse yet, it may feature offensive viewpoints and stereotypes.

Some readers may reject older titles for their objectionable content. But some people feel that recent medal books threaten a long-cherished vision of a universal American childhood experience—a vision they still hold dear. This was the case recently when schools in Katy, Texas, retracted (then subsequently reinstated) an invitation for author Jerry Craft to speak. Craft’s 2020 medal winner, New Kid, depicts a Black boy’s first year in a predominantly white prep school, where he faces frequent microaggressions. Concerned that some readers might experience white guilt, agitators claimed the book ran afoul of Texas’ ban on teaching critical race theory….

…The Newbery makes aspirationally high art for children into news.

This is what Newbery founder Frederic Melcher had in mind: Librarians’ professional neutrality would keep prizing above the taint of commercialism, benefiting publishers’ bottom lines and also, of course, children’s minds and spirits. The prize was about building a junior American canon, books that cultivated readers and inspired the highest ideals of democratic citizenship in the nation’s youth. But the result was a canon that is overwhelmingly white and often marked by a colonialist worldview. Today, the Newbery’s mission increasingly encompasses an awareness of past failures to think about all children as future leaders….

(19) SLICE OF THE DAY. “Icelandic pizzeria nods to pagan tradition by serving sheep’s head as special topping”CBC explains it all to you. Photo at the link. (Which I plan to leave at the link.)

On a bed of arugula and carrot slices, an Icelandic pizzeria has laid out an unusual topping for their new, seasonal pizza: a sheep’s head boiled in stout beer.

The head itself is laced with a smoked chili barbecue sauce that plays up the animal’s flavour — more than when it’s traditionally been served for Thorrablot, the midwinter food festival celebrating Iceland’s pagan history.

And that’s because the sauce includes another juicy ingredient — sheep dung.

“It’s really delicious. I mean, it has to be tasted to be able to describe it,” Laufey Sif Larusdottir, the owner of Olverk Pizza and Brewery in Hveragerdi told As It Happens host Carol Off.

(20) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH SAUSAGES. The Guardian has good news:  “Stranded dog saved from rising tide after rescuers attach sausage to drone”.

As the tide rose, it began to look perilous for Millie the jack russell-whippet cross, who had defied the efforts of police, firefighters and coastguards to pluck her from treacherous mudflats.

So the rescuers had to think imaginatively, and came up with the idea of attaching a sausage to a drone and hoping the scent of the treat would tempt Millie to safety. It worked gloriously and Millie has been reunited with her grateful owner after following the dangling sausage to higher, safer ground.

Millie disappeared after slipping her lead in Havant, Hampshire, and after frantic public appeals was spotted on the mudflats, in danger of being engulfed by the tide. She resisted efforts to encourage her to a safer spot until a drone pilot suggested attaching food to one of the unmanned aerial vehicles that had been used to track the dog….

(21) MYSTERY OF EARTH’S DIFFERENT MOON POSSIBLY SOLVED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Massive Moon strike could explain why its near-side and far-side are so different. Even the minerals on the near and far side are different: why does not the far-side have the lava seas seen on the near-side?  One theory has it that a huge object smashed into the early Moon; possibly its South Pole and the Aitken Basin. Whatever the impact researchers at Macau University have modelled what a huge impact would do.  Back then the Moon would have had a thin crust and a molten interior. The impact would have punched through the crust and made the molten interior even hotter and more fluid. Gravitational influences from its orbit about the Earth – and remember, in its early days the Moon orbited closer to the Earth – would have caused a more fluid type of magma to migrate to the near side where it erupted onto the surface. Nature has the abstract: “Lunar compositional asymmetry explained by mantle overturn following the South Pole–Aitken impact”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the chamber of Secrets Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that in the second Harry Potter movie, if you’re wondering how the pipes surrounding Hogwarts could be big enough for a giant basilisk, hey, kids eat a lot!”  Also, the producer wonders why Hogwarts has the Weeping Willow, which is “a tree that bludgeons kids to death.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/5/22 By The Time You Scroll Your Pixels, I’ll Be Filing…

(1) AN UNEXPECTED ADDITION TO THE PANTHEON. [Item by rcade.] You’ll never guess who is on the cover of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2022 Calendar. Lots of fun in this thread (which starts here.)

(2) UK CONVENTION WILL SHIFT DATES. ChillerCon UK, the counterpart to StokerCon, announced today they will be moving their dates due to Omicron. The new dates are to be determined.

… However, with the current situation regarding the Omicron variant, especially with regard to the ongoing travel restrictions in many countries, it’s proving impossible to keep to the current dates of 10-13 March 2022, much as we’ve tried our best to do so. We apologise for any inconvenience, but feel it’s vital to wait until things are safer, travel is less problematic, and we can organise a fantastic weekend where you can all meet in person.

To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we are actively discussing with the two convention hotels the possibility of moving ChillerCon UK to a date later on this year. We can not guarantee a specific date yet, but hope to be able to advise a suitable, safe, date as soon as possible….

(3) MYSTICON CANCELLED. MystiCon, an event planned for February 25-27 in Roanoke, VA, will not be held the committee announced January 3.

MystiCon has always been as much of a “family” reunion as it has been a convention. Knowing that and looking at business, staffing, health and safety concerns, it has become apparent that we will not be able to have the MystiCon that we know and love in February of 2022. This was not an easy decision but one that is necessary….

(4) LIVE LONG AND PROSPER. The New York Times follows Adam Nimoy “To Boldly Explore the Jewish Roots of ‘Star Trek’” at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.

Adam Nimoy gazed across a museum gallery filled with “Star Trek” stage sets, starship replicas, space aliens, fading costumes and props (think phaser, set to stun). The sounds of a beam-me-up transporter wafted across the room. Over his shoulder, a wall was filled with an enormous photograph of his father — Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on the show — dressed in his Starfleet uniform, his fingers splayed in the familiar Vulcan “live long and prosper” greeting.

But that gesture, Adam Nimoy noted as he led a visitor through this exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center, was more than a symbol of the television series that defined his father’s long career playing the part-Vulcan, part-human Spock. It is derived from part of a Hebrew blessing that Leonard Nimoy first glimpsed at an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Boston as a boy and brought to the role.

The prominently displayed photo of that gesture linking Judaism to Star Trek culture helps account for what might seem to be a highly illogical bit of programming: the decision by the Skirball, a Jewish cultural center known mostly for its explorations of Jewish life and history, to bring in an exhibition devoted to one of television’s most celebrated sci-fi shows….

(5) ANOTHER STRIKE AGAINST ROWLING – OR NOT? Alma, a feminist Jewish culture site, was among many publications that reported the following story on January 3: “Jon Stewart Speaks Up About the Antisemitic Goblins of ‘Harry Potter’”.

…In the clip, Stewart explains the decadence of some b’nai mitzvah parties to “The Problem” writers Jay Jurden and Henrik Blix with the line, “It’s basically like saying, the Jews have arrived. And we are going to dazzle you.”

To which Jurden playfully replied, “What chapter of Harry Potter is that in? That’s when they get to Gringotts, right?”

What proceeds is Stewart thoughtfully explaining how, in his view, the goblins in Gringotts bank are a sign of how little progress has been made in eradicating antisemitism. He also goes on to speak about what it’s been like for him to have to explain to people that the Harry Potter goblins are antisemitic — and his reaction to seeing them for the first time.

“It was one of those things where I saw [the goblins] on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, holy shit! She did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the fucking underground bank. And everyone was just like, wizards!”

But Alma reported today that Jon Stewart denies the interpretation put on his words: “Jon Stewart Clarifies He Does Not Think ‘Harry Potter’ is Antisemitic”.

…In a clip Stewart posted to his Twitter account, he says, “There’s no reasonable person who could’ve watched [the clip] and not seen it as a lighthearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums, having a [laugh], enjoying themselves, about Harry Potter and my experience watching it for the first time in the theater as a Jewish guy and how some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible, even in a considered process like movie-making, right?”

Stewart also clarifies, “I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic. I do not think that the Harry Potter movies are antisemitic.”…

(6) IDEAL GOVERNMENT FOR MIDDLE-EARTH. Henry T. Edmondson, the Carl Vinson Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Georgia College, gives Tolkien a working-over in “Tolkien, the Mob, and the Demagogue” at Law & Liberty.

…It may come as a surprise that, if Lord of the Rings suggests a warning about political systems, it is not about one-man rule: after all, the novel celebrates “unconstitutional” hereditary monarchy as the ideal government for Middle Earth, hence the title of the last third of the book, “Return of the King.” In this, Tolkien follows Aristotle that monarchy is the ideal government—provided the right king or queen is available, an admittedly difficult prospect. It is not easy to find an Aragorn.

Tolkien also writes approvingly of a natural aristocracy, if indirectly, in his important chapter, “The Council of Elrond,” where the best minds of Middle Earth acknowledge the threat of Sauron and develop a strategy to destroy the One Ring. An approving view of aristocratic wisdom is evident much later in the book, if to a lesser extent, in the chapter “The Last Debate,” where, once again, a small but elite group hold a war council and plan a diversion that might give Frodo and Sam the best chance to destroy the Ring. More philosophically, they consider the nature of the evil that they confront and the need to be prepared for the next assault, in whatever form it might appear, even if Sauron, the immediate Middle Earth threat, is vanquished.

But if there is one form of government of which Tolkien seems to disapprove in the Lord of the Rings, it is democracy. He once wrote to his son Christopher, that democracy is “nearly equivalent to ‘mob-rule’” and that “Greece, the home of philosophy—did not approve of it” because it too often slipped into dictatorships….

(7) HE TAKES IT DARK. George R.R. Martin told Not A Blog readers highly approves the work being done on the latest adaptation of his work, in “Most Anticipated”.

…I am anticipating HOUSE OF THE DRAGON pretty eagerly myself, for what it’s worth.   Okay, I am hardly objective.   And I know a lot of what you will be seeing.  (I, um, wrote the book).   Also … mum’s the word now, don’t tell anyone… I’ve seen a rough cut of the first episode.   And loved it.   It’s dark, it’s powerful, it’s visceral… just the way I like my epic fantasy….

… I think the Targaryens are in very good hands. Anticipate away. I do not think you will be disappointed.…

(8) ACCESSIBILITY DIALOGUE. Teresa Nielsen Hayden engaged Mari Ness about the accessibility issues of DisCon III and Viable Paradise in a Twitter thread that starts here. Two excerpts —

(9) REVISIONS. Hear from Sheree Renée Thomas in Odyssey Writing Workshop Podcast #143.

Author and award-winning editor Sheree Renée Thomas was a guest lecturer at the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about editing, what she looks for in stories, how to work with an editor, and what she asks for in revisions.

(10) FRANK DENTON (1930-2022). Fanzine fan and author Frank Denton died January 5 his son reported on Facebook. A Seattle-area fan, he was best known for publishing the fanzines Ash-Wing, from 1968-1978 and The Rogue Raven, from 1975-1997, although he also worked on many others. Denton also participated in several amateur press associations including TAPS, The Cult, Minneapa, N’APA, Slanapa, and APANAGE.

He worked in education for 30 years as a teacher, college library director, and media director of a community college. Denton talked about working on his writing after he retired, however, ISFDB shows only one published short story, which appeared in a 1984 anthology. He enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival. Frank was a kind man who was a popular figure in West Coast fandom, He was GoH at MileHiCon 6 (1974), Westercon 30 (1977), Moscon II (1980), Intervention Gamma (1981), and Rustycon 7 (1990). Frank is survived by his wife, Anna Jo.

(11) ELIZABETH MILLER (1939-2022). Count Dracula and Bram Stoker scholar Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Professor Emerita at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, died January 2 at the age of 82. She wrote or edited Reflections on Dracula, Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow, A Dracula Handbook, Dracula: Sense & Nonsense, Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition (with Robert Eighteen-Bisang) and The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker (with Dacre Stoker).

Miller was made “Baroness of the House of Dracula” by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula in 1995. She twice won the Lord Ruthven Award for her books about the vampire (2001, 2009). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dracula Society.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago, 12 Monkeys premiered. It would be nominated for a Hugo as Twelve Monkeys at L.A Con III but Babylon 5’s “The Coming of Shadows” would win that year. It would be the fifth Hugo nomination for Terry Gilliam as he had previously gotten them for Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime BanditsBrazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. None of the previous nominations resulted in a Hugo win either, though three (Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) finished second to the eventual winner. 

12 Monkeys was inspired by Chris Marker’s thirty-year-previous short French film La Jeté. The screenplay was written by David and Janet Peoples who would later write scripts for the 12 Monkeys series. David wrote the Blade Runner screenplay. The primary cast was Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer. 

Box office wise, it did very well as it grossed one hundred seventy million against just under thirty million in production costs. (It had been capped at that budget after Waterworld went way, way over anticipated costs for the same studio.) Critics generally liked it with Roger Ebert saying that “The film is a celebration of madness and doom, with a hero who tries to prevail against the chaos of his condition, and is inadequate.” It currently has a most stellar eighty eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

Elizabeth Hand wrote the novelization of the 12 Monkeys film. Copies are readily available pretty much everywhere.

It spawned a Syfy series which ran for four seasons and forty-seven episodes starting in 2015. Terry Gilliam was not involved in this undertaking.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty-five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long-running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1929 Russ Manning. An artist who created and drew the Gold Key comic book character Magnus: Robot Fighter; who drew the Tarzan comic book from 1965 – 1969 and the Tarzan newspaper comic strip from 1967 – 1972; and the Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979 – 1980. (Credit to Bill here at File 770 for this Birthday.)  (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorists who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a genre connection that’s will take some explain. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that tome about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones. Among the genre folk that have had a role in the band are Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 63. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out as voicing Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of my best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle 
  • Born January 5, 1966 Tananarive Due, 56. I’m particularly fond of her short fiction which you can find in her BFA-winning Ghost Summer collection which also won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award. The Good House and The Between are novels are worth reading for having strong African-American characters.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 44. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I listened to the third of her Sparrow Hill Road stories which are excellent and earlier I’d read her InCryptid series, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a physics joke – in its own way.
  • Bizarro shows aliens consulting an expert for advice — and who would know better?

(15) HULK SMASH – SALES RECORD. The Guardian stands by the register as a “Rare first edition of The Incredible Hulk comic sells for $490,000”.

A 60-year-old comic featuring the Incredible Hulk – in which the superhero is depicted in his original grey, rather than his signature green – has been sold for almost half a million dollars.

The rare copy of Incredible Hulk #1, which was published in 1962, was bought by a private collector for $490,000 (£360,000). Comic Connect, an auction site which handled the sale, said it was the most expensive copy of the first Hulk story ever sold…

(16) TWO CHAIRS. The two chairs, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss, talk about the best books they read during 2021 in a variety of categories: SF, Fantasy, Crime, Literary, Non-Fiction and so on. A great year’s reading. Episode 68 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast: “The Endless Bookshop”.

(17) THEY’RE BACK. “Stolen Lord of the Rings books returned to Worcester charity” – the BBC has the story.

…The charity said the books were taken from a locked cabinet at the store…

Dan Corns, commercial director at St Richard’s, had said the hardbacks featured first-edition text from 1954, but were all published in 1957, so while first editions, they were not first printings and were estimated to collectively be worth about £1,500.

“I had a phone call yesterday from the store manager to say that he was just going round the store tidying up and found they had been placed on shelf, which was not normally where would have been, so someone had carefully come in and put them somewhere where we would not necessarily see them but see the books at some time, and luckily we did before someone else saw [and] walked out with them,” he said.

“Obviously someone has thought about it and through their conscience has decided perhaps they didn’t do the right thing.”

St Richard’s Hospice supports more than 2,900 patients, family members and bereaved people in Worcestershire with running costs of £8.75m over the last year

(18) LOTR RAP. Utkarsh Ambudkar freestyle raps about Lord of the Rings for superfan Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. The rap segment starts 5:50 into the video.

The star of the hit CBS comedy, “Ghosts,” Utkarsh Ambudkar tells Stephen about his role on the show and then treats our host to a freestyle rap about our host’s favorite topic, the “Lord of the Rings” films.

(19) THIS IS YOUR LIFE, EGO. Here’s a curiosity – “Arthur C. Clarke on This is Your Life (the UK version of the show) from 1995.

(20) WEBB KEEPS WEAVING. Good news from Yahoo! “James Webb Space Telescope: Sun shield is fully deployed”.

… Controllers on Tuesday completed the deployment of the space observatory’s giant kite-shaped sun shield.

Only with this tennis court-sized barrier will Webb have the sensitivity to detect the signals coming from the most distant objects in the Universe.

Commissioning work will now concentrate on unpacking the telescope’s mirrors, the largest of which is 6.5m wide….

(21) CLEAN AND LIFT. “Gravity Could Solve Clean Energy’s One Major Drawback” reports WIRED.

Finding green energy when the winds are calm and the skies are cloudy has been a challenge. Storing it in giant concrete blocks could be the answer.

… The concrete blocks are slowly hoisted upwards by motors powered with electricity from the Swiss power grid. For a few seconds they hang in the warm September air, then the steel cables holding the blocks start to unspool and they begin their slow descent to join the few dozen similar blocks stacked at the foot of the tower. This is the moment that this elaborate dance of steel and concrete has been designed for. As each block descends, the motors that lift the blocks start spinning in reverse, generating electricity that courses through the thick cables running down the side of the crane and onto the power grid. In the 30 seconds during which the blocks are descending, each one generates about one megawatt of electricity: enough to power roughly 1,000 homes.

This tower is a prototype from Switzerland-based Energy Vault, one of a number of startups finding new ways to use gravity to generate electricity. A fully-sized version of the tower might contain 7,000 bricks and provide enough electricity to power several thousand homes for eight hours. Storing energy in this way could help solve the biggest problem facing the transition to renewable electricity: finding a zero-carbon way to keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. “The greatest hurdle we have is getting low-cost storage,” says Robert Piconi, CEO and cofounder of Energy Vault….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Dragon Age,” Fandom Games says that this prequel to the Dragon Age series has so much gore that you wish someone could conjure up a paper towel to wipe the characters; blood-specked faces.  And while there are many Tumblr accounts with people fantasizing about being one of the game’s many sexy characters, no one has sex with dragons, and “not being able to romance a dragon in a game called Dragon Age is like going to Pizza Hut and finding there’s no pizza.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/16/21 A Pixelness In The Scroll

(1) COLBERT’S LOTR CAST REUNION RAP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Stephen Colbert (of The Late Show) is a self-proclaimed Lord of the Rings fanatic (both the books and the movie series).His show is going on hiatus after this week for the rest of the year and Colbert bemoaned the fact that he will not be on air to celebrate Sunday’s 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of the first LOTR movie directed by Peter Jackson.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert assembled Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, pro rappers Killer Mike and Method Man, plus bandleader Jon Batiste, host Colbert, and (for reasons unknown) Anna Kendrick, to create a rap video that pounds home the dominance of the LOTR movie trilogy.

(2) LEE AND MILLER’S FREE HOLIDAY STORY. Steve Miller says he “is in a strange land far away from Worldcon” —

The plan was that our new Liaden story would hit the interwebz while we were off at Worldcon, but we dropped that plan awhile back due to the pandemic. The story came out on time, but we’re home in Maine! FWIW I had several convention dreams last night (guess I’m missing the whole crew!), but it still isn’t the same.

Yesterday some folks were having a hard time finding the new release, though, so this is a direct link to “From Every Storm A Rainbow”, our official free online Liaden Universe holiday story for 2021, which follows pretty hard on the heels of our recent “Bread Alone” chapbook, which ran a week or so as “#1 new release” under SF anthologies right at Thanksgiving. “Bread Alone’s” on sale in many venues now, but here’s the Amazon link.

Have a good holiday season, a good year, and we’re still hoping for Chicago….

Bests wishes from all of us here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory …

(3) CLARION WEST IS HIRING. The annual Clarion West Writers Workshop is looking to fill several positions – Six-Week Workshop Facilitator, Residential Workshop Administrator, and Communications Specialist. See Jobs – Clarion West for the details.

Do you believe that stories are important? Do you want to work with a diverse and passionate team to bring emerging writers to the field of speculative fiction? Do you want to support more writers of color and from traditionally underrepresented communities? Take a look at our open opportunities and see where your expertise can grow Clarion West.

(4) SITE SELECTION CONTINUES. Rich Lynch sent along this photo he took of DisCon III’s at-con Site Selection voting area.  

(5) ON YONDER SHOREHAM. Highlander tweeted a video walkthrough from the first day of DisCon III. I see John Hertz in his beanie appears around the 25-second mark.

(6) HALL COSTUMES. Ian Randal Strock tweeted a photo of cosplayers at DisCon III dressed as the TARDIS and two Doctor Who nemeses.

(7) MOFFAT TEASES WHO FANS. Radio Times plucked some juicy quotes from an hour-long conversation about Steven Moffat’s career hosted by the Oxford Union: “Steven Moffat talks Russell T Davies’ ‘fantastic’ plans for Doctor Who”.

…“I had no idea Russell was going to do that,” Moffat told Oxford Union. “He told me the night before, he sent me an email and I read it. I was just coming home from a restaurant and I thought: ‘Is that real? I’ll see if that email is still there in the morning.’

“Then I phoned him up and said, ‘Have you read [behind-the-scenes Doctor Who book] The Writer’s Tale? Have you read it? Because I think you should’,” continued Moffat. “He said, ‘I want to do it again, I’m excited, I’m thrilled.’”…

View the complete Q&A session on YouTube.

Writer of Doctor Who and Sherlock, Steven Moffat has won an Emmy award, five BAFTA Awards and four Hugo Awards. He had been a fan of Doctor Who since childhood, and is responsible for some of the most famous episodes including ‘Blink’ and ‘Silence in the Library.’ In 2015, he was appointed an Order of the British Empire for his services to drama

(8) SIGNED BY EGO. Rob Hansen has posted a real rarity at his THEN British fanhistory website – the text of a 1940s chain letter with Arthur C. Clarke as one of the participants: “FAN-MAIL (1941)”.

Here’s something I never thought I’d ever see – one of Clarke’s WW2 chain-letters. Yet, amazingly, this one has survived after 80 years. And finally seeing one has, I think, enabled me to figure out the how these chains worked, an explanation of which appears after the scans. I described them in THEN as essentially operating like APAs, but the logistics involved were a bit more complicated than that.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1987 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty four years ago, A Muppet Family Christmas first aired on ABC. It was produced not by Jim Henson (though he did executive produce it) , a rare thing indeed, but rather by Peter Harris and Eric Till from a script by Jerry Juhl who had earlier scripted the most excellent Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. For a Muppet film, it had an unusually large cast, to wit Gerry Parkes, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Caroll Spinney, Kathryn Mullen, Karen Prell and David Rudman. 

This is one of the rare Muppet productions to feature the Muppets that were associated with all four of the major Muppet franchises: Fraggle RockMuppet Babies (who are seen here as actual puppets instead of their usual animated selves), The Muppet Show and Sesame Street

If you’ve saw it on TV and then watched it later on the North American DVD and VHS release, you might’ve notice that a lot of the original film was missing. That was because the Henson company only secured broadcast rights, not subsequent rights to songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” weren’t available. 

Critics generally like it. Myles McNutt of the A.V. Club said of it that was “a love letter to the Muppets as a wide-ranging, meaningful part of viewers’ childhoods.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most cheery eighty-eight percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome.  I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there and I passed by his residence one day. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read.  I’ve read a lot of short fiction including of course Tales from The White Hart. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. (The later Lord Darcy collection has two previously uncollected stories.) Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say that saying he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. I was surprised his only Hugo win was for at The Man in The High Castle at DisCon though Blade Runner would pick up one at ConStellation. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley.  He had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of DragonsThe Ropemaker garnered a well-deserved Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His James Pibble upper-class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 64. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the BuffyverseOutlandersTime PoliceRogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1961 Jon Tenney, 60. He’s best known as Special Agent Fritz Howard on The Closer and continued in its spinoff Major Crimes, but he does have genre creds. He played Jimmy Wells in The Phantom, Martin Jordon in Green Lantern, and Lt. Ching in two episodes in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also showed up on Tales from the Crypt, Outer Limits and neXt
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 54. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. (I stopped watching after The Fellowship of The Rings.) She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an amazing cast even if the tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a five percent rating meaning the critics really didn’t like it.

(11) GUESS WHAT? This March, make way for the new Sorcerer Supreme!

With Doctor Strange dead, another sorcerer has taken the title, or should we say Sorceress? Clea, mistress of the Dark Dimension and Stephen Strange’s powerful partner, will rise to the challenge of defending earth from mystical and otherworldly danger in writer Jed MacKay’s STRANGE #1! Featuring artwork by AMAZING SPIDER-MAN artist Marcelo Ferreira, this all-new ongoing series will spin directly out of the story still unfolding in MacKay’s DEATH OF DOCTOR STRANGE. 

.. Here’s what MacKay had to say about continuing this unprecedented Doctor Strange saga:

“After the apocalyptic events of The Death of Doctor Strange, there’s a new Sorcerer Supreme in residence at 177A Bleecker Street, and a new Doctor Strange- Clea Strange. And she’s got her work cut out for her- when she’s not fighting off the magical gangsters of the Blasphemy Syndicate, or battling undead super-monsters, she’s going after what’s hers: the late Stephen Strange. Clea is of the Faltine, that race of Warlords and conquerors, and like her relatives Dormammu and Umar, she will not be thwarted in her desires, not even by the mysterious Harvestman standing in her way.”

(12) NOW PLAYING. You can listen to Connie Willis and Nalo Hopkinson’s LOA Live appearance to promote American Christmas Stories on Soundcloud or watch the program on the Library of America website.

(13) FLICK PICKS. Wired presents its list of “The Best Sci-Fi Movies of 2021”. They start with Dune, but let’s skip ahead to one you haven’t read a million words about:

… Perhaps, at this stage, you’d prefer your women on the more visible side of things. If so, consider the French film Oxygen (Netflix), whose main—nearly only—character is a scientist played by the marvelous Mélanie Laurent. She wakes up in an AI-controlled cryogenic pod and must figure out how to escape it before the titular oxygen runs out. Who put her there? Where even is there? Soon enough, she begins to remember a man. A husband. The love of her life. Who died in a horrible pandemic back on Earth. Yes, that’s it: She’s part of a mission to save the human race, predicted to die out completely in two generations….

(14) A BIG DEAL. Radio Times fills us in on the new owner’s ambitions for Bad Wolf: “Doctor Who’s Bad Wolf could be biggest drama producer in UK, says Sony”.

Sony Pictures has invested £50 million into Welsh drama producer Bad Wolf, in the hopes of helping the maker of Doctor Who and His Dark Materials reach its “zenith”.

Wayne Garvie, Sony’s president of international production, recently revealed his hopes that Bad Wolf could become “the biggest drama producer in Britain and in Europe” (via BBC News).

He said: “We have invested in a company that has not reached its zenith. We have [another] company called Left Bank Pictures who make The Crown, which you may have watched, and which is Britain’s biggest drama company. And we built that together with the founders of the company over about eight years or so.

“And we want to do the same with Bad Wolf. There is no reason why Bad Wolf should not be or could not be the biggest drama producer in Britain and in Europe. And that is our ambition.”

(15) KEEPING TRACK OF CENSORSHIP. “School Library Journal Starts a Library Censorship Tips Hotline” reports Book Riot.

…In response to this wave of censorship attempts, the School Library Journal has opened a library censorship tips hotline, which allows library professionals to report censorship attempts anonymously. Hopefully, this will give a more complete picture than the ALA numbers and shed light on censorship happening that is not getting covered on the news. The censorship tips hotline form asks for name and email (both optional); the library/school district, and state; and a comments field: “Tell us who is behind the objection—parents, school board members, or other parties—and how the district/library responded. Was challenge policy followed? Let us know anything else relevant.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang have an opinion about Spider-Man.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Steve Miller, Rob Thornton, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/21 A Pixel Upon The Deep

(1) CHENGDU MARATHON LIVESTREAM CONTINUES. The Chengdu Worldcon bid livestream was noted in yesterday’s Scroll. Alison Scott took a look at it and reported in a comment here —

The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.

The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area.

(2) TOMORROW PRIZE DEADLINE. There’s less than one week left for Los Angeles County high school students to enter their short sci-fi stories in The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award competitions. Full details at the Omega Sci-Fi Awards website. Those feeling the pressure should read “5 Things that Inspire” by Clare Hooper.

With the deadline approaching, many find it intimidating to start writing. Writer’s block is the worst. But the best cure for writer’s block is finding a good place to start, and that may mean inspiration. Here are five things that inspired previous winners and honorable mentions of The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award to write:

1: Anime

The accessibility and popularity of anime has only gotten wider in recent years. With so many shows in dozens of genres, it’s easy to find something you may want to put your own spin on. Omega Sci-Fi Awards Student Ambassador and Tomorrow Prize Finalist, Gwendolyn Lopez found inspiration through Studio Ghibli films. These films usually have a thin line between the mundane and the fantastical, thus inspiring Gwendolyn to give a more introspective feel to her story, Star Sailor. Ethan Kim, an honorable mention for The Tomorrow Prize, took inspiration from a different anime show, Dororo, which features a young man roaming the countryside fighting demons. Dororo inspired the themes of godlike figures and a battlefield setting in his story Cold Ashes….

(3) TOP GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” announced Publishers Weekly.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.

In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, her long-anticipated third memoir, Bechdel celebrates the fads and fanaticism of fitness culture—including her own obsession with physical self-improvement—using the phenomenon as a lens through which to examine both queer and American culture writ large…. 

(4) RAISING KANE. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight, featuring The Dark Crusade, a podcast focused on the works of Karl Edward Wagner: “Fancast Spotlight: The Dark Crusade”.

… Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jordan Douglas Smith of The Dark Crusade to my blog:

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Dark Crusade is dedicated to the life and work of writer/editor/publisher Karl Edward Wagner. We are systematically moving through his work, discussing it from a historical and literary lens. In addition to the podcast, we have a companion blog that covers additional facts about the stories, links to scholarship, and overviews of some of the collections Wagner has edited….

(5) TAFF VOTING OPENS TODAY. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Johan Anglemark and Geri Sullivan are now accepting ballots for the 2022 TAFF race. It will close on April 19, 2022, after Reclamation (Eastercon) in London.

You can download the fill-in form ballot here (US Letter; A4 will follow shortly). It has the candidates’ platforms, the names of their nominators, and the voting instructions. Voting is open to anyone active in fandom before April 2020 who donates at least £3 (GBP), €3 (EUR), or $4 (USD) to TAFF. Voting is also possible online here.

Competing for the honor are these four great fans: Anders Holmström (Sweden), Fia Karlsson (Sweden), Mikolaj Kowalewski (Poland), and Julie Faith McMurray (UK). One of them will make a TAFF trip to Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention in September, 2022.

(6) CAST A WIDE NET. [Item by Cora Buhlert] The Pulp Net has an article about Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Don Herron: “Three sought adventure”. What struck me about this is that Herron not only knew Leiber, but also met Harry Otto Fisher, on whom Mouser was based and the resemblance was apparently uncanny.

… “Two Sought Adventure” saw print that August in the pulp Unknown — the first professional sale for Fritz Leiber Jr., who would go on to become one of the most-awarded writers in 20th-century imaginative literature.

The characters introduced, the barbarian Fafhrd and the wily Gray Mouser — the two best thieves in Lankhmar, and the two best swordsmen — would have many more adventures with the author till the end of his life….

(7) I’VE HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. It appears to be Fritz Leiber month, because Grimdark Magazine also has an article about him by Ryan Howse: “The works of Fritz Leiber”.

… During their adventures, they battled men, magicians, and monsters, were in the power of two bizarre wizards who obviously did not have their best interests at heart, faced down the incarnation of death, survived the poverty of lean times in Lankhmar, climbed the world’s largest mountain on a whim, and plenty more. Their quests were often them following a rumour for fun or profit, with no grander schemes in mind….

(8) RAMA LAMA. “Dune Director Denis Villeneuve to Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama”Tor.com has the story.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is heading from Arrakis to Rama. After he finishes up Dune: Part Two (which was greenlit after Dune: Part One’s commercial success), the director will take on a feature adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama….

(9) OFF THE BEAM. Camestros Felapton has his own cat-themed series – Timothy the Talking Cat in the spirit of Zelig: “Missing Moments from Movie History: The Carbonite Manoeuvre”. Picture at the link.

An infamous cat-related accident on the set of the Empire Strikes Back resulted in this unfortunate outcome….

(10) ON THE DIAL. At BBC Sounds, The Exploding Library series begins with “Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut”.

In this new literature series, a trio of comedians explode and unravel their most cherished cult books, paying homage to the tone and style of the original text – and blurring and warping the lines between fact and fiction.

“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

So reads the warning at the beginning of the novel Mother Night, in an author’s introduction written by Kurt Vonnegut himself. Yet in this world of unreliable narrators, editor’s “corrections” and weirdly omniscient first-person testimony, nothing is really what it seems.

Purportedly the “confessions of Howard J. Campbell Jr”, an American expat-turned Nazi propagandist-turned Allied spy (allegedly), Vonnegut’s warped collection of bizarre characters and slippery narratives invite us to cast aside our black and white notions of morals and guilt and survey the gazillions of greys in between.

Comedian Daliso Chaponda considers the strange world of people playing versions of themselves in public – comedians, spies, politicians and, to an extent, all of us. How do you deal with people perceiving you differently to your “real” self? And, for that matter, how do you know who you “really” are?

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder who plays the lead role. The rest of the cast was Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Madeline Kahn. 

The film was shot in black and white with the lab equipment there originally used as props for the 1931 film Frankenstein as created by Kenneth Strickfaden.

Brooks has often said that he considers it by far his finest although not his funniest film as a writer-director. Reception for it was generally very good with Roger Ebert saying it was his “most disciplined and visually inventive film (it also happens to be very funny).”  It won a Hugo at Aussiecon. It was a fantastic box office success earning eighty-six million on a budget of just three million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it near perfect rating of ninety-two percent. 

Mel Brooks would later adapt this into a musical that would run both off Broadway and on Broadway.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.)
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing, as is Tik-Tok, which won a BSFA, and Bugs is as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. He is generously stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story. He also wrote the Next Gen story “First Contact” (with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.) And he continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1952 Marta DuBoi. Her first genre role is on the Starman series as Dr. Ellen Dukowin the “Fever” episode though you’ll likely better recognize her as Ardra on the “Devil’s Due” episode of the Next Generation. She also had roles on The Land of The LostThe Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Tales of the Golden Monkey. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1953 Robert Charles Wilson, 68. He’s got a Hugo Award for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the “The Cartesian Theater” novelette and Prix Aurora Awards for the Blind Lake and Darwinia novels. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. Very, very mpressive indeed. 
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 67. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. As you know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
  • Born December 15, 1963 Helen Slater, 58. She was Supergirl in the film of that name, and returned to the 2015 Supergirl TV series as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the  Supergirl series..   Her other genre appearences include being on SupernaturalEleventh HourToothlessDrop Dead Diva and the very short-lived Agent X
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 51. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer LimitsEscape from MarsAndromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), SwarmedMega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow! 

(13) TIME TO CROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Death’s Door, a game he feels is strongly influenced by Legend Of Zelda, Dark Souls, and Hollow Knight.

Coming from tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital, I should have known better than to judge the game harshly.  Its mechanics are familiar but the plot is original and compelling, told with an economy that threads through every element of the game’s design.  You play a fledgling crow who is a new employee at a supernatural bureau of avatar grim reapers.  Your job is to collect the souls of those who have passed on.  Yet when a soul you have collected is stolen, your immortality (a handsome job perk) is compromised, meaning you will age and ultimately die if you cannot recover it….

Death’s Door is a game about being a small, fragile thing in a mysterious, dangerous world.  This is deftly constructed with certain characters and safe spaces scattered across the map which are colourful and memorable: the interminable bureaucracy of the celestial reaper’s office; your companion Pothead, whose skull has been replaced with a vat of soup; the gravedigger who gives touching elegies for those enemies you slay. The spare lines of dialogue tinkle with humour and specificity, helping you empathise with the mute reaper crow on his lonely journey to understand the meaning of death.

(14) BUHLERT AT VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert has posted her virtual DisCon III schedule: “Cora goes virtually to DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon”. Her first panel is Thursday.

(15) COMING DOWN A CHIMNEY NEAR YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda rescues last-minute shoppers with his list of “Gift books 2021: Mysteries, ghost stories and other treats”.

‘The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume 5,’ edited by Christopher Philippo (Valancourt)

This latest in an annual series again demonstrates that chills and frights still linger in the browning pages of old magazines and Christmas albums. Philippo reprints two fine tales I’ve read elsewhere — Amelia B. Edwards’s “My Brother’s Ghost Story” and Barry Pain’s “The Undying Thing” — but all his other choices were unfamiliar to me. Since James Skipp Borlase is represented by two stories, I decided to read them first….

(16) YA BOOK SUGGESTIONS. Tara Goetjen on YA horror, paranormal, and ghost story novels crime fiction fans might like. “Genre-Bending YA Novels Perfect For Crime Fans” at CrimeReads.

… To me, this is the great intrigue of a genre-bending thriller. There should always be, without fail, a human face behind the mystery or the bloodshed, just like there is in No Beauties or Monsters [her new book]. But whether or not there is a shadowy, inexplicable, perhaps unbelievable force also wielding terror… well, that’s why we read on till the very end. Here are some other genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements that kept me reading till the very end too….

(17) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS HOBBITS. GameRant’s Alice Rose Dodds delves into the books to help fans of the LOTR movies answer the question  “What Exactly Is Shire Reckoning?” — “What exactly is this measurement of time, and how does It differ from others in Middle Earth?”

…It is little known that there was a vast long period of time before which any hobbits ever came to rest in The Shire. Hobbits, being of a homely nature and loving their beautiful holes beyond all else, dislike to remember this fact, for they see those days as terrible days, before the comfort of a simple life was discovered… 

(18) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK AT LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. But don’t be fooled.  “Christmas Movies Show How Fake Snow Evolved, From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ To Harry Potter” at LAist.

Watching classic holiday movies is a journey through the technology used to create yuletide joy in different generations. We once used asbestos as movie snow — now the technology ranges from computer graphics to a special type of paper.

In the early days of film, Hollywood “snowmen” would take anything that could be seen as white and flaky and put it to use, author and Atlas Obscura editor April White told LAist. Those sources of flaky whiteness included bleached cornflakes, gypsum, salt, concrete dust, asbestos, and even chicken feathers….

(19) THE LATEST STRANDS. Richard Lawson sorts the cycles of Spider-Man movies for Vanity Fair readers and comments on the new trailer in “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Very Tangled Web”.

…Well, to be fair, Spider-Man was always a Marvel property; he just lives at Sony because of deals that long predate Kevin Feige’s Disney-backed conquest of the content cosmos. In that sense, No Way Home is mostly just a triumph of studio executives agreeing on things and actors making their schedules work. A feat unto itself, I suppose…

(20) WEB CASTER VS. SPELL CASTER. Doctor Strange and Spider-man battle it out in the mirror dimension in this clip of the Spider-Man vs Doctor Strange fight scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Jeffrey Smith, Johan Anglemark, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 11/9/21 She Walks These Files In A Long, Black Scroll

(1) THE INSIDE STORY. Slashfilm boasts an exclusive preview: “The History Of Science Fiction Traces The Genre In Comic Book Form”.

“The History of Science Fiction,” a forthcoming illustrated book written by author/historian Xavier Dollo (“Under the Shadow of the Stars”) with illustrations by Djibril Morissette-Phan (“All-New Wolverine”), aims to be a comprehensive look at the origins of the now-beloved genre, and we have a few preview pages to exclusively debut for you. Here’s a glimpse at what you’ll see in the new book when it hits stores later this month.

… Here’s the eleventh page of the book, which touches on the massive influence Arthur C. Clarke had on the genre – and subsequently, the real world.

Got to love that exchange – did you know as a young fan Arthur C. Clarke’s nickname was “Ego”?

(2) A STROKE OF (DRAGON) GENIUS. [Item by Soon Lee.] Painting dragons in one stroke? Impossible you say? Okay, how about painting the body of a dragon in one stroke?

Ippitsu Ryu or Hitofude Ryu is the Japanese technique of painting dragons in one-stroke. It’s mesmerizing to watch. And the paintings are supposed to bring good luck too. “The Traditional Japanese Art ‘Hitofude-Ryu’” at Cool Japan Videos.

(3) SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE. Omar El Akkad has won the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his non-genre novel What Strange Paradise. The win is noted here because El Akkad’s first novel was sff, American War.

He’ll receive $100,000 for the win. Four other shortlisted writers will receive $10,000, including Angélique Lalonde, whose story collection Glorious Frazzled Beings is of genre interest.

(4) SLF RECEIVES GRANT. The Speculative Literature Foundation has received a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. SLF’s press release explained:

IACA General Operating Support Grants are offered to established not-for-profit organizations that make a significant local, regional, or statewide impact on the quality of life in Illinois. Grants recognize arts programming of high quality that is appropriate to and reflective of the communities served and that broaden opportunities for the public to participate in the arts. The $2,500 grant will allow the SLF to revitalize and expand to meet the needs of the speculative literature field in 2022.

The main objective of the SLF is to continue to grow newly established programs while maintaining our previous resources. We launched the Portolan Project in 2020, an online educational resource for writers that offers free, accessible content for people all over the world. Its first iteration includes interviews with authors at various points in their careers, discussing the art and business of craft as well as making connections within the speculative literature community

(5) THEY BROKE IT. SFF author Nick Mamatas also has “An Appreciation of Genre-Breaking Mysteries” which he shares at CrimeReads. There’s even a Philip K. Dick novel lurking on his list.

… Crime fiction is far more capacious than people who don’t read the genre give it credit for. The field of play is so wide that it is difficult to transcend the genre, but it is possible to break it. A relative handful of exciting books are mysteries, are entirely in sync with the protocols of the genre and, and then at some point all of it falls away and the book is something else. Of course, the book doesn’t become something other than a mystery or crime novel—the third act of any book exists before the reader gets to it—it is that the writer broke the tropes of mystery, and created something that feels very familiar until a page turns and then it isn’t.  Here are just a few examples….

(6) A VIEW OF SF IN CHINA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 6 Financial Times behind a paywall, Madhamita Murgia has an interview with Chen Qiufan.

Chen, who has worked in the marketing teams of Chinese search giant Baidu and Google, says the Chinese government has started promoting science fiction as a tool to popularise science and technology among youth, an idea borrowed from the former Soviet Union.

‘In recent years, China is undergoing a transition; we used to be a country with a lot of low-cost labour, old-fashioned manufacturing, but (now) the government is trying to catch up on chips and AI and material science and quantum computing,’ Chen says.  Science fiction has become a way to ‘educate the younger generation and ignite their passion’ for these fields.

(7) GRANDMASTER’S LATEST BOOK. Just named as the 2021 SFWA Grandmaster, Mercedes Lackey has a new fantasy novel out – Briarheart – “a fresh feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty about one girl destined for greatness—and the powerful sister ready to protect her by any means necessary.”

Miriam may be the daughter of Queen Alethia of Tirendell, but she’s not a princess. She’s the child of Alethia and her previous husband, the King’s Champion, who died fighting for the king, and she has no ambitions to rule. When her new baby sister Aurora, heir to the throne, is born, she’s ecstatic. She adores the baby, who seems perfect in every way. But on the day of Aurora’s christening, an uninvited Dark Fae arrives, prepared to curse her, and Miriam discovers she possesses impossible power.

Soon, Miriam is charged with being trained in both magic and combat to act as chief protector to her sister. But shadowy threats are moving closer and closer to their kingdom, and Miriam’s dark power may not be enough to save everyone she loves, let alone herself.

Available on Kindle from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

(8) DEAN STOCKWELL OBIT. Actor Dean Stockwell, whose over 200 career credits include a couple dozen sff roles, died November 7 at the age of 85 reports Variety.

He was Quantum Leap’s, Admiral ‘Al’ Calavicci, the “womanizing, larger than life character [who] was the foil for Scott Bakula’s role as Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who engaged in space time experiments.” The show debuted in 1989 and ran five seasons. Stockwell’s performance earned four Primetime Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe win (1990).

Dean Stockwell started as a child actor, in films including the Rudyard Kipling adaptation Kim (1950). As an adult he had a dual role in a 1961 episode of Twilight Zone, “A Quality of Mercy,” in which he “starred an American officer ordered to lead a charge against the Japanese but is then transported back in time and transformed into a Japanese officer in an analogous situation, ultimately gaining a perspective he hadn’t had before.”

He starred in the Roger Corman-produced Lovecraftian horror film The Dunwich Horror (and also appeared in the 2009 TV remake). In David Lynch’s Dune (1984) he played the treacherous Dr. Yueh. In the new Battlestar Galactica (2006-09) he was the Cylon known as Number One or John Cavil.

He was an Oscar nominee for a non-genre supporting role in the 1988 comedy Married to the Mob. Stockwell was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1992.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966 — Fifty-five years ago, Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs premiered. It was considered a sequel for reasons I can’t figure out to two unrelated films, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and Two Mafiosi Against Goldginger. It was actually paid for and produced with both Italian and American backing so it also has the charming name of Le spie vengono dal semifreddo, lit (The spies who came in from the cool).  It is getting a write-up here because it starred Vincent Price in the dual roles of Dr. Goldfoot and General Willis. And he’s oh-so-genre. 

The production itself was somewhat difficult as the filming had to satisfy both the American and Italian backers, so scenes had to shot in both countries, and it was required they emphasize brunettes in the Italian version of the film and blondes in the American version. Price had but a minor role In the Italian version, but was the star in the American version. He later said that the film was “the most dreadful movie I’ve ever been in. Just about everything that could go wrong, did.” 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1924 Larry T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited Nebula, Infinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. His award at L.A. Con II cited him as “One of the early unsung editors in the field”. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1938 Carol Carr. Fan and writer of note. Her participation in the so-called secret APA Lilapa and articles in the InnuendoLighthouse and Trap Door fanzines is notable. She wrote a handful of genre fiction, collected in Carol Carr: The Collected Writings. Mike has an obit here (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 9, 1947 Robert David Hall, 74. Best known as coroner Dr. Albert Robbins M.D. on CSI, but he has quite as few genre credits. He voiced Dinky Little in the animated Here Come the Littles, both the film and the series, the cyborg Recruiting Sargent in Starship Troopers,  voice of Colonel Sharp in the G.I. Joe series, Abraham in The Gene Generation, a biopunk film, and numerous voice roles in myriad DCU animated series. He was the voice of Colonel Sharp in the G.I. Joe series, Abraham in The Gene Generation, a biopunk film, and numerous voice roles in myriad DCU animated series. Interesting note: in Starship Troopers he has no right arm, but in real life he lost both of his legs at age thirty-one when they had to be amputated as a result of an accident in which an 18-wheeler truck crushed his car.  
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 67. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. He was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, last updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1971 Jamie Bishop. The son of Michael Bishop, he was among those killed in the Virginia Tech shooting. He did the cover illustrations for a number of genre undertakings including Subterranean Online, Winter 2008 and Aberrant Dreams, #9 Autumn 2006. The annual “Jamie Bishop Memorial Award for an Essay Not in English” was established as a memorial by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 9, 1974 Ian Hallard, 47. He lives with his husband, the actor and screenwriter Mark Gatiss, in London. He appeared as Alan-a-Dale in Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”, and in Sherlock as Mr Crayhill in “The Reichenbach Fall”.  He played Richard Martin, one of the original directors of Doctor Who in An Adventure in Space and Time. Genre adjacent, he co-wrote “The Big Four” with his husband for Agatha Christie: Poirot
  • Born November 9, 1988 Tahereh Mafi, 33. Iranian-American whose Furthermore is a YA novel about a pale girl living in a world of both color and magic of which she has neither; I highly recommend it. Whichwood is a companion novel to this work. She also has a young adult dystopian thriller series. 
  • Born November 9, 1989 Alix E Harrow, 32. May I note that her short story with one of the coolest titles ever, “Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, won a Hugo at Dublin 2019. Well I will. And of course her latest novel, The Once and Future Witches, has a equally cool title. It won the BFA Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio knows one product this particular home owner definitely doesn’t want.

(12) HISTORY OF BEANO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Arwa Haider discusses an exhibit at Somerset House in London on The Beano, a comic book which has been published weekly in Britain since 1938.

The Beano was never pitched as explicitly political, though exceptions were made during the second world war, when strips would feature fascists being outwitted by kid characters including Pansy Potter, the Strongman’s Daughter. Pansy, introduced in issue 21, also heralded The Beano‘s strong and increasingly diverse tradition of female rebels, any of whom are now likely to be cover stars:  Minnie the Minx, created by Leo Baxendale in 1951 and currently drawn by the comic’s first regular female artist, Laura Howell, and relative newcomers such as sporty JJ, tech whizz and wheelchair user Rubi, and prank supremo Harsha Chandra.

As the exhibition highlights, The Beano has always made subversive digs at social inequalities.  The characters ‘ traditional reward of a ‘slap-up feed’ reflected the postwar scarcity of food (sweets were rationed in Britain until 1953).  Nowadays, the Bash Street Kids’ rival group is Posh Street (which includes one snorting, mop-haired character called Boris) and Dennis’s longtime adversary, Walter, is no longer a ‘softie’ but the bullish son of Beanotown’s rich mayor.  The ‘good guys’ are everyday kids rather than superheroes.

(13) GOING GREEN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In addition to being available as a physical book to buy (or request/borrow from one’s public library), N.K.Jemisin’s 12-issue Far Sector Green Lantern series is e-available (e-vailable?), in particular, on Hoopla (includes a dozen or so pages at the end of variant covers, art sketches, etc.) [See James Bacon’s interview of N.K. Jemisin about her work on the comic, posted today.]

Hoopla is free — you just need to have a library card from a library that offers Hoopla as (one of its) digital services. (If your library doesn’t, you may be able to also get a card at one that does.)

Far Sector is also nearly-all available via DC’s streaming subscription service (1-11 are up now, so #12 hopefully Real Soon Now.)

Note, Jemisin’s Sojourner “Jo” Mullein also appears in DC’s new Green Lantern series, also including Teen Lantern Keli Quintela (first seen in Brian Bendis’ Young Justice run over the past year or so.

(14) BLAME JULIE SCHWARTZ? “DC Comics Used To Add Gorillas To Their Covers To Increase Sales”. We’re not kidding  – ScreenRant has the details.

… If there was an editor who became prolific for gimmicks, it was Julius Schwartz, and the gimmick of Strange Adventures #8 from May 1951 would prove to be one of the most successful and often used gimmicks in comic history. Strange Adventures (which was rebooted for DC’s Black Label in 2020) was originally edited by Schwartz, and the eighth issue featured a cover by Win Mortimer for the story “Evolution Plus: The Incredible Story of an Ape with a Human Brain!” which featured an ape in a cage holding a note claiming to be the victim of a “terrible scientific experiment.” This issue quickly became one of the highest selling issues of Strange Adventures to date….

(15) EARWORMS AND OTHERS. “Re-Ragging in Red: Murder Ballads and Dirty Cops” is Candas Jane Dorsey’s exploration of song lyrics at CrimeReads.

…[This] happened when a folklorist friend asked online what our favorite murder ballads were, and I realized that I knew SO MANY MURDER BALLADS REALLY SO MANY!

…But for some reason “King Brady” infested, earworm-style, for a whole week. One day when I should have been writing, I upped-fluffy-tail and dived down the Internet rabbit hole—and am still chasing phantasms down little twisty corridors.

*

I started with the lyrics. Everyone who has researched song lyrics online knows that they are full of errors. People write them down as they imperfectly heard them, then other people cut and paste, and suddenly the “canon” version of a ballad has a great big malapropism right in the middle of it, creating a cascading generation error that upsets purists and detail freaks, but also means that all over the world, people are singing the wrong lyrics to a lot of folk songs. Which is pretty hard to do when the prevailing wisdom of folklorists is that there are no wrong lyrics, there are just variations, but thanks to the magic of the Internet, it’s now possible.

But never mind that now. We’re at “Brady, Brady, Brady don’t you know you done wrong…”, which is how I learned the song, almost 60 years ago when I was a kid….

(16) RINGS MORE THAN A BELL. [Item by Rob Thornton.] I found a Black Metal band named VORGA and that name sounded very familiar, of course. So I looked at the track list and found a song named “Stars My Destination.” It’s from their album Striving Toward Oblivion which will be released in January.

(17) TWO CHAIRS TALKING. In the latest episode of their Two Chairs Talking podcast, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss a number of recent award winners and take the Hugo Time Machine zooming back to the year of 1967, the year Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress won the Best Novel Award.

(18) SOLD! In case you want to know, Screen Rant says “Captain Kirk’s Phaser Rifle Used In One Episode Sells For $615k” through Heritage Auctions.

The Phaser Rifle was used in the second pilot episode, entitled “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which effectively launched the show as fans know it. And, because the episode was the first to replace Christopher Pike with James T. Kirk, the prop accompanied Shatner as he made his Star Trek debut.

(19) DON’T WANT TO RUN INTO ONE OF THOSE. “Rolls-Royce Gets Funding To Develop Mini Nuclear Reactors”Slashdot has the story.

Rolls-Royce has been backed by a consortium of private investors and the UK government to develop small nuclear reactors to generate cleaner energy. The creation of the Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) business was announced following a [195 million pound] cash injection from private firms and a [210 million pound] grant from the government. It is hoped the new company could create up to 40,000 jobs by 2050. However, critics say the focus should be on renewable power, not new nuclear.

(20) BUILD YOUR OWN. Probably don’t want to collide with one of these, either. Not even the LEGO Star Wars AT-AT Model — it has 6,785 pieces!

…Extensive is certainly the best way to describe this set, as this intricate replica is made up of 6,785 pieces, falling about 800 bricks short of LEGO’s similarly complex Millennium Falcon. Nevertheless, that is an exhausting amount, all of which come together to construct a painstakingly detailed display that fans will inherently admire. As expected, the four-legged tank from the films boasts authenticity in every which way, featuring rotating cannons, a pair of speeder bikes, and a strikingly large interior that’s capable of housing up to 40 other LEGO minifigures you want to take along for the ride….

Damn, for a moment I thought they were going for a “few bricks shy of a load” reference.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Hackers” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on this 1995 film which was Angelina Jolie’s first.  The film shows such antique skills as getting calls from a pay phone for free. And half the characters are so clueless about computers that when someone mentions “an uncorrupted hard drive” they’re told, “speak In English.”  But being a hacker means you rollerblade everywhere and get to scream “hack the planet!” when you’re hacking!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/15/21 You Load Fifteen Pixels, What Do You Get?

(1) NEW FIRST DOCTOR ANIMATION PLANNED. The next classic Doctor Who adventure to be animated using archival fragments is the opening story of the third season, “Galaxy Four”, reports the BBC.

Galaxy 4 (alternatively spelled Galaxy Four) is the mostly-missing first serial of the third season of Doctor Who, which originally aired in four weekly episodes from 11th September to 2nd October 1965.

Audio-only recordings of all four episodes have survived from this classic story, and have been used to create a brand new, fully animated story, filling the gaps alongside the original surviving Episode 3 and over five minutes of original footage from the otherwise lost Episode 4.

The Doctor and his travel companions, Vicki and Steven land the TARDIS on a planet which is on the verge of total annihilation, as it drifts too close to the three suns it orbits. Trapped on the planet with them are the Drahvins, a race of warrior women, and the Reptillian Rills.

The Drahvins want to steal the Rills spacehip to escape the planet’s death throes, and enlist the Doctor’s help, which he is forced to give when Maaga, the cunning Drahvin leader, keeps Vicki and Steven as hostage. Even though the Doctor is determined to broker a peace deal between the two sides, Maaga doesn’t trust him, or the Rills…

This two disc release gives fans the opportunity to enjoy the four new animated episodes of Galaxy Four in either colour or black and white.

(2) FIYAHCON PUBLISHES CONTENT RELEASE FORM. On the eve of FIYAHCON 2021, which begins tomorrow, the convention leadership has addressed a Twitter kerfuffle.

Kim Yoon Mi evidently was dissatisfied with some terms of the release that FIYAHCON is asking panelists to sign and aired some criticisms on Twitter. Initially, the release’s language was not being quoted, but L. D. Lewis subsequently made it available for public review. (See below.)

Here are screencaps of several of Kim Yoon Mi’s points.

Here are excerpts from L.D. Lewis’ replies on Twitter.

This preface precedes the copy of the consent form:

This is the agreement copy for the Consent Release Form sent to all panelists so they may optionally have their programming item included in FIYAHCON’s Archives. As of this writing, it has been signed without complaint by 302 panelists across both of FIYAHCON’s events, and all caveats have been respected. The document was crafted with the assistance of Marguerite Kenner, a legal expert and active participant in the SFF Community. Questions, concerns, and requests for clarity are welcome and encouraged at director@theconvention.fiyahlitmag.com.

(3) 2001 MINUS 71. Fanac.org’s latest additions include a scan of Futurian v3n1 (1940) which contains Arthur C. Clarke’s article, “How To Build A Spaceship.” Clarke thought his rocket would only cost £250,000 to build – a rather surprising bargain when compared with the cost to construct the first Queen Mary passenger ship, £3.5 million in 1934 (says the Wikipedia).

As far as I can remember, no Science Fiction author has ever had the nerve to describe a rocket propelled spaceship as it really must be. Writers such as Manning (“The Wreck of the Asteroid”) and the painstaking German authors have spoken glibly of step rockets, but they have all fallen short of reality. This article will therefore consist largely of a systematic debunking of rocketships. The amount of energy needed for any interplanetary voyage can be accurately calculated, so we know what a spaceship has to be capable of if it is to do its job. We also know the energy content of our best fuels and a simple calculation gives us the quantity of, say, hydrogen and oxygen we need for any particular journey. The result is depressing: so depressing” in fact that Science Fiction has ignored it with the same verve that enabled E.T. Snooks, D.T.G. to repeal the equally inviolable law of inverse squares. To take one ton of matter to the Moon and back requires several hundred tons of the best fuels we possess. Faced with this situation we can do one of two things. We can sit twiddling our thumbs until a better fuel comes along, or we can try and do the job with the materials we have. Course one is not likely to get us very far…

(4) NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS LONGLISTS. The National Book Awards Young People’s Literature longlist includes these titles of genre interest.

  • Home Is Not a Country, Safia Elhillo (Make Me A World)
  • A Snake Falls to Earth, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • Too Bright to See, Kyle Lukoff (Dial)
  • The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel and Friends)

The judges are Pablo Cartaya (presenter), Traci Chee, Leslie Connor, Cathryn Mercier (chair), and Ibi Aanu Zoboi.

The National Book Awards 2021 Longlist for Translated Literature includes one book of genre interest:

  • On the Origin of Species and Other Stories by Bo-Young Kim. Translated by Joungmin Lee Comfort and Sora Kim-Russell

The complete longlists are at the link. Five finalists in each category will be announced October 5. The winners will be revealed on November 17. Finalists receive a $1,000 prize, a medal, and a judge’s citation. The winners will receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.

(5) YA RATINGS SITE DOA. The YAbookratings.com site has been taken down since Foz Meadows unloaded on it the other day. Meadows’ thread, which includes some screencaps of what she reacted to, starts here.

(6) WORRIED ABOUT LIFE ON EARTH. The New York Times profiles the Tennessee author whose novel is on the Booker Prize shortlist: “Richard Powers Speaks For the Trees”. (No relation to the sff artist of the same name.)

…He was hiking in the woods nearby one day when he had the idea for his new novel, “Bewilderment,” which W.W. Norton will release on Sept. 21. Set in the near future, “Bewilderment” is narrated by Theo Byrne, an astrobiologist whose search for life on other planets feels increasingly futile in the face of the coming collapse of life on Earth. As he struggles with the disasters unfolding around him, Theo fears for his 9-year-old son, Robin, who is consumed by grief over the death of his mother and the fate of the planet.

The novel is shaping up to be a literary prize contender and was named to the Booker Prize shortlist on Tuesday. “Bewilderment” marks Powers’s latest and perhaps furthest foray into science fiction, but it has ominous echoes of contemporary America — catastrophic weather, political unrest, a Trump-like president who tweets erratically and spouts conspiracy theories about election fraud, a deadly virus that jumps from cows to humans and spreads rapidly before it gets detected….

(7) ELLISON’S ICONIC HOME. Tim Kirk posted photos of Harlan Ellison and a visitor admiring the “Aztec Martian” facade of Harlan’s home which was designed and sculpted by Tim’s brother Steve Kirk. Also at the link, a shot of Steve and Tim inside Harlan’s study; Steve sculpted the “Robot Deco” totems visible in the foreground.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1965 – On this evening fifty six years ago on CBS, Lost in Space first aired. It was created and produced by Irwin Allen whose previous SF show was Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea. Its main cast was Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright and  Jonathan Harris. Oh, and The Robot was played by Bob May and voiced by Dick Tufeld. It was designed by Robert Kinoshita who did the Robot for Forbidden Planet. It would last three seasons of eighty three episodes. A Lost in Space film with a new cast would later happen, as well as a rebooted series. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1890 — Agatha Christie, or to give her full name of Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller). ISDB lists her Harley Quin tales as being genre as they think the lead character is supernatural though no reviewers I can find think that he is. Anyone here who has read them? They also list one Hercule Poirot story, “The Big Four”, as genre as it involved apparently the use of atomic explosives in a 1927 story.  I’ll admit that I love her Murder on the Orient Express in all its film incarnations no matter who plays the lead role. (Died 1976.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 — Norman Spinrad, 81. The only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. It was nominated for a Hugo at Baycon. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? He did get nominated for quite a few Hugos, the “Riding the Torch” novella at Aussiecon One, Staying Alive: A Writer’s Guide  at L.A. Con II, Journals of the Plague Years at Noreascon 3 and  Science Fiction in the Real World at Chicon V. 
  • Born September 15, 1942 — Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 79. Best known for her series of historical horror novels about the vampire Count Saint-Germain. She has been honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, a Living Legend Award from the International Horror Guild Award and a Bram Stoker Award for Life Time Achievement. Very impressive indeed.
  • Born September 15, 1946 — Oliver Stone, 75. Jeopardy! answer: Oliver Stone. Jeopardy question: Who was the scriptwriter for the Conan the Barbarian? Yeah, isn’t that a kick? He has several genre credits one being the executive producers of the Wild Palms series, and the same for The Hand, a horror film about a comic book artist gone horribly wrong.
  • Born September 15, 1946 — Howard Waldrop, 75. I think that The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him, but I’ve not read Them Bones. His short fiction such as “The Ugly Chickens” which won the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards is most excellent. He just won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. A generous selection of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born September 15, 1952 — Loren D. Estleman, 69. You’ll have noticed that I’ve an expansive definition of genre and so I’m including a trilogy of  novels by this writer who’s better known for his mainstream mysteries featuring Amos Walker which are set in the  Sherlock Holmes Metaverse, Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. I think it was Titan Book that maybe a decade ago republished a lot of these Holmesian pastiches of which there are more than I want to think about. ISFDB lists two other novels by him as genre, Journey of the Dead and The Eagle and the Viper.
  • Born September 15, 1946 — Tommy Lee Jones, 75. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s has done other genre, the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s also Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. He most recently appeared as Cliff McBride in Ad Astra.  Oh, and he’s in A Prairie Home Companion as Axeman. 
  • Born September 15, 1962 — Jane Lindskold, 59. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished,  Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much it’s Zelazny is open to debate which we did the last time I posted her Birthday. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows a distant world where the movie theaters are open.

(11) GENESIS STORIES. The Salt Lake Tribune profiles four comics sellers in “How Utah’s independent comic book stores champion fandom, literacy and fantastic storytelling”.

Charles Prows was a Utah State University student in May 2013 when he decided to open a comic book store.

The almost lifelong Utah resident was on a road trip with his brother one weekend, complaining to his brother about the long path ahead: finishing his undergraduate degree and veterinary school, starting his own practice and — eventually — making enough money to retire and open a comic book store.

“That’s a really roundabout, weird way to open a comic book store,” his brother said.

His brother “ended up convincing [him]” that he should drop out of school and chase his real dream, Prows said. And he did just that — jumping in with only a few hundred dollars to his name….

(12) FINAL EXAM. James Gunn’s last book was released this summer: The Reading Protocols of Science Fiction: Discourses on Reading SF.

“The invitation came online, probably an e-mail. I was aware of the existence of SFF.net, a website that specialized in discussions of science fiction issues, often by authors who were too impatient to get their opinions published in the SFWA Bulletin, which got published every two months and was the battleground for some classic debates and sometimes name-calling… The invitation was to join a discussion–in midstream–about the protocols for reading science fiction. One of the exchanges online included a reference to the fact that I had written about the protocols in a recent article… I didn’t read the website regularly, mostly because I didn’t have time; these were busy days for me, both teaching and publishing, and my days as president of SFWA and then of SFRA were long over, and the debates were still raging about mostly the same issues. But the debates about the protocols of reading science fiction were still fresh and the discussion about them, if they existed, was still fresh. And the discussion was brisk and sharp, particularly from Damon Knight, with whom I had an interesting relationship since I had read his fiction and his critical opinions… We had met in a bar at the World Science Fiction Convention…”

And so begins James Gunn’s definitive and fascinating study of the reading protocols of science fiction — the way readers read science fiction differently than other kinds of fiction. (Or, do they?) The journey may seem academically dry, but is anything but, as it involves all sorts of beloved personalities and brawling debates about reading, writing, the very definition of science fiction itself, and what sets it apart from other fiction, and, ultimately, what makes us what we are as humans.

The lively debate involves Damon Knight and many other professional science fiction writers and critcs. The book includes Samuel R. Delany’s key essay on the subject, and several by James Gunn, to thoroughly explore the subject.

This is James Gunn’s last book, finished just before his death, and a most fitting capstone to his incredible career, all carefully put together with his friend and associate, Michael R. Page.

(13) DOROTHY DISAPPEARS. If they only had a heart. Litigation forces a DC-area brewer to rename its best-known beer. The Washington Post tells the story: “Oz forces 7 Locks Brewing beer name change”.

There’s something poignant about the new name for an old beer made by Rockville’s 7 Locks Brewing. What was originally known as “Surrender Dorothy” is now simply called “Surrender.” The Wicked Witch won and 7 Locks had to throw in the bar towel.

In this case, it was Turner Entertainment that was no friend of Surrender Dorothy. Its lawyers dropped a house on 7 Locks Brewing’s effort to trademark the name of their signature beer. (I think I may have mixed metaphors there.) “Basically, Turner owns the rights to ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” said Keith Beutel, co-founder of 7 Locks. “They claimed that we were using the term ‘Surrender Dorothy’ and they didn’t want any confusion with their branding.”…

(14) UNOFFICIAL COMPANION. A Kickstarter appeal has been launched to fund publication of Across Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Companion by Unbound.

Across Time and Space is a beautifully designed, 800-page paperback containing reviews of every televised Doctor Who story up to the present day. It is based on a blog called The Patient Centurion started by the writer Tony Cross in 2011, which now runs to over 200,000 words. The book includes an introduction from Doctor Who podcast host, Sunday Times bestselling author and all-round good guy Daniel Hardcastle

It is an unofficial book not in any way associated with the BBC – this is a project by a fan for the fan community . We hope it will encourage some fans to follow Tony’s journey and start watching all 852 episodes in order . . .

Everyone that pledges at the standard level will receive a copy of the book and other perks. At this writing they’ve raised $4,815 of the $32,557 goal.

(15) GIVE YOUR ANSWER IN THE FORM OF A HAT. “Helen Mirren to Host ‘Harry Potter’ Quiz Show for WarnerMedia”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The Oscar-winning actress has been tapped to host four-part competition series Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses for WarnerMedia. The previously announced series, which marks the 20th anniversary of the first film in the Harry Potter franchise, will air first on Cartoon Network and TBS before making its debut on HBO Max at a date to be determined.

“I knew someday I’d get a Harry Potter role, and I’m so pleased to take part in the 20-year film celebration,” Mirren said. “The films inspired such enchantment and wonder for so many of us, and it will be such a treat to reignite that magic for the countless fans who continue to revel in this spellbinding world.”

(16) DRAGON, PARTY OF FOUR. The Associated Press says it will happen tonight: “4 will circle Earth on 1st SpaceX private flight”.

SpaceX’s first private flight will be led by a 38-year-old entrepreneur who’s bankrolling the entire trip. He’s taking two sweepstakes winners with him on the three-day, round-the-world trip, along with a health care worker who survived childhood cancer.

They’ll ride alone in a fully automated Dragon capsule, the same kind that SpaceX uses to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. But the chartered flight won’t be going there.

Set to launch Wednesday night from Kennedy Space Center, the two men and two women will soar 100 miles (160 kilometers) higher than the space station, aiming for an altitude of 357 miles (575 kilometers), just above the current position of the Hubble Space Telescope….

(17) THE PAST THROUGH YESTERDAY. DUST presents “Atropa” Episode 1.

When Off-World Officer Cole Freeman finds the missing research vessel ATROPA, he discovers an inconsistency in the ship logs. He wakes the crew from hypersleep, and they soon find themselves caught up in a much bigger mystery. Series Description: A troubled Off-World cop, running from his past, finds himself slammed directly into it when he boards the mysterious spaceship ATROPA.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Netflix Executive Tutorial” on Screen Rant, Ryan George plays Netflix executive Perry LaCroix, who explains all the advantages of being an executive at Netflix. Your deltoids get a good workout from all the bags of cash you’re carrying around. Everyone is your friend as you throw hundreds at them, “You get very familiar with the anguished cries of former CEOs” who leave pleading voice mails.  But is it possible you could be replaced by an ATM that says “yes” on the front?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, rcade, N., Michael J. Walsh, Rich Lynch, SG Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 8/20/21 Curse You, Pixel Scroll, For Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal

(1) HOW DRAGON CON IS HANDLING COVID. Atlanta’s Dragon Con, being held September 2-6, devotes an entire webpage to the COVID-related attendance rules at “Updates – Dragon Con”.

Today they also sent members an informational email which says they’re considering offering onside testing (for a fee, see below) to facilitate compliance with their entry requirements.

All 2021 attendees will need to provide proof of full vaccination – OR – a negative Covid-19 test that has been administered within 72 hours of badge pickup. 

Please see our updates page at https://www.dragoncon.org/updates/ for additional details on all health and safety guidelines including the indoor mask mandate.

We are currently working with an outside vendor to potentially offer onsite testing to attendees for a fee of $25 – $40 collected directly by the provider…. 

(2) SHATNER Q&A. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a chat with Shat, because William Shatner is going to be a guest at Awesome Con (the Washington, D.C. media con) this weekend. Shatner shares news on his latest projects, including his new album Bill and spending five days with StoryFile “for interactive conversational-video technology” so fans can ask questions of the William Shatner hologram! “William Shatner, at 90, keeps seeking that next personal frontier”.

…Shatner, a veteran performer of spoken-word tunes, has an album due out next month simply called “Bill.” Some of the songs are inspired by events in his life, and his collaborators included They Might Be Giants songwriter-musician Dan Miller.

He also enjoyed teaming with the L.A.-based company StoryFile to spend five days recording answers for interactive conversational-video technology. He was filmed with 3-D cameras so his words can be delivered via hologram.

The idea, he says, is that people will be able to push a button and ask questions of a virtual celebrity — like “asking Grandpa questions at his gravestone,” but with technologically advanced replies.

(3) JOB APPLICANT. “Babylon 5 boss has ‘contacted’ BBC over Doctor Who showrunner job” reports Radio Times.

Last month, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski threw his hat into the ring to become the new Doctor Who showrunner, tweeting his interest in replacing Chris Chibnall when the latter steps down in 2022.

And now Straczynski has issued an update on the situation, revealing that contact has been made with the BBC about the soon-to-be vacancy for Doctor Who showrunner.

Replying to a fan who asked what the situation was on Twitter, he wrote, “Contact with the BBC has been made. They’re going through their own process, which began before my tweet, and that has to run its course, but if those don’t pan out and there’s a discussion to be had, they will reach out.”…

(4) OUT OF JEOPARDY! Meanwhile, Jeopardy! jettisoned Mike Richards as the replacement host after some troubling quotes from his old podcast were publicized. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Mike Richards Out as ‘Jeopardy!’ Host After Podcast Comments”. Whether this reopens LeVar Burton’s candidacy remains to be seen.

…Sony released the following statement which confirmed that Richards will continue on as the show’s executive producer, if not as Alex Trebek’s successor: “We support Mike’s decision to step down as host. We were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past. We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward. Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the Jeopardy! team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect.”

Sony also confirmed the episodes Richards shot on Thursday will still air during the upcoming season as scheduled, followed by a rotation of guest hosts until a new permanent host is selected….

(5) MAGAZINE DEBUTS. The first issue of Witch House, a new magazine of cosmic and gothic horror, is now available.

Witch House Issue 1 is now available. You can download it here. This issue includes several great stories and poems. Thanks to Chase Folmar (Associate Editor), Luke E. Dodd (Associate Editor), and all our great contributors for helping us release this issue. We hope you enjoy it!

(6) SCHASCARYZADE. Netflix dropped a trailer for Nightbooks, with Krysten Ritter.

Scary story fan Alex must tell a spine-tingling tale every night — or stay trapped with his new friend in a wicked witch’s magical apartment forever.

(7) BUTLER BIO. “Octavia E. Butler Biography Reveal: Star Child by Ibi Zoboi”Gizmodo previews the cover at the link. The book will be released January 25; it’s available for preorder now.

An author as distinctive as Science Fiction Hall of Fame member Octavia E. Butler (KindredThe Parable of the Sowerdeserves an equally distinctive biography—which is exactly why Ibi Zoboi’s Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler is so exciting. Described as “a poignant biography in verse and prose,” the book, which is aimed at middle-grade readers but is truly universal, explores Butler’s childhood and how it informed her award-winning, influential literary career.

Zoboi—a National Book Award finalist for her YA novel American Street—actually studied with Butler at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop before Butler passed away in 2006. Star Child showcases Butler’s “own words and photos of documents from her childhood,” bolstered by Zoboi’s research on Butler’s papers at Los Angeles’ Huntington Library. 

(8) LISTEN IN. Stephen Graham Jones, who’s already won several awards this year, will do an author talk about his book My Heart is a Chainsaw on August 31 at 7:00 p.m. Mountain time. Free livestream, register here.

(9) MURPHY OBIT. Jill Murphy, author of the Worst Witch series of children’s books, died August 18. The Guardian has a profile: “Jill Murphy, children’s author and illustrator, dies aged 72”.

… Murphy started writing The Worst Witch while still at school, completing her first manuscript at the age of 18. Her mother once commented that Murphy and her two friends looked like witches in their dark school uniforms, which gave the author the idea for her first book.

Murphy initially struggled to publish her first novel, as many publishers at the time worried that children would find the book about witches too frightening. But the tale of clumsy young witch Mildred Hubble and her adventures at Miss Cackle’s Academy stole the hearts of generations of children, selling more than 3m copies and becoming one of the most successful Young Puffin titles.

Murphy’s books went on to win many major awards, including the Smarties prize for The Last Noo-Noo. Peace at Last and All in One Piece were both commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal. She was also an honorary fellow of Falmouth University….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1974 – Forty seven years ago at Discon II where andrew j. offutt was Toastmaster, Arthur C. Clarke won the Hugo for Best Novel for Rendezvous with Rama. Other nominated works that year were Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, Larry Niven’s Protector, Poul Anderson‘s The People of the Wind and David Gerrold‘s The Man Who Folded Himself. It was a popular choice as it would also win a BSFA, John W. Campbell Memorial Award, a Locus Best Novel Award and a Nebula Award. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text yet more; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. Is there a full, unedited version? (Died 1931.)
  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 78. The Seventh Doctor and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won a Nebula Award, and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II in its original novelette form is a amazing read. His novels Moving Mars and Darwin’s Radio are also Nebula winners, and he has other short fiction award winners. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 60. Australian writer who does exist though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent  Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. And he’s won a lot of Ditmar Awards.
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 59. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 58. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well-crafted. She shows up in other genre undertakings such as Super ForceConanJourney to The Center of The EarthThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-FilesCarnosaur 3: Primal SpeciesConan and Highlander: The Series

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Onion is dead on about the intersection between climate change and space travel! But didn’t someone already write Garbage Planet?
  • The Oatmeal did this comic to commemorate Gene Roddenberry’s 100th birthday yesterday.

(13) TURNING THE CAMERA AROUND. After reading The Oatmeal linked above, you realize there’s a lot more material to work with than just his career in TV: “Gene Roddenberry Biopic In Works With ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ Scribe Adam Mazer” – details at Deadline.

Roddenberry Entertainment has been working quietly on a feature biopic of the sci-fi TV icon, and there is a script by Adam Mazer, whose credits include the Emmy-winning script for the 2010 HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack which starred Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Producers include Star Trek caretakers Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth, who executive produce all current franchise series including Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. Next up the development will be finding a director and actors.

… There’s no shortage of subject matter surrounding Roddenberry, the fighter pilot-turned-LAPD cop-turned-TV writer who survived two plane crashes and the rough waters of Hollywood to create Star Trek, one of the world’s most enduring sci-fi franchises, with the original 1966-69 TV series eventually spawning spinoffs, movies, books and a legion of hard-core fans.

(14) THE THREE BLAHS OF ROBOTICS. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] Not satisfied with developing cars that can drive themselves (HINT: not there yet), Elon Musk is now saying he intends to develop humanoid robots to do dangerous and boring tasks. So far he seems to have this mission statement, a slide deck, plus someone dressed in a skintight suit and wearing a helmet. “Tesla Bot: Elon Musk Unveils Humanoid Robot to do ‘Boring’ work” at Bloomberg.

… The Tesla Bot, a prototype of which should be available next year, is designed to eliminate “dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks,” like bending over to pick something up, or go to the store for groceries, Musk said. “Essentially, in the future, physical work will be a choice.”…

(15) THE CLOCK IS RUNNING. Filers might find today’s New Yorker “Name Drop” puzzle of interest.

(16) INSIDE A PERRIN GAME. James Davis Nicoll tells how “Steve Perrin’s Worlds of Wonder Changed the Game for RPGs” at Tor.com.

Emmet Asher-Perrin’s worthy obit for Steve Perrin mentions such Perrin-related projects as StormbringerCall of CthulhuThieves’ WorldElfquestRobot Warriors, and (of course!) Superworld. One fascinating Perrin work that often goes unmentioned, probably due to the fact that it has become a comparatively obscure work, is 1982’s groundbreaking Worlds of Wonder. You may not have encountered it, but odds are that you’ve seen and played later games that it inspired or influenced.

The 9½ x 12 x 1 inch box for this game contained four 16-page booklets: Basic Role-PlayingMagic WorldSuperworld, and Future World.  Assisting Steve Perrin were Steve Henderson, Gordon Monson, Greg Stafford, Lynn Willis and others. Roleplaying game design tends to be a team effort….

(17) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. This week’s PBS Space Time looks at the end of everything, including beyond File 770… The universe is going to end. But of all the possible ends of the universe vacuum decay would have to be the most thorough – because it could totally rewrite the laws of physics. How terrified should you be….? 

(18) MOONING PEOPLE. The Old Farmer’s Almanac encourages us to look: “Full Moon August Appears to Shine All Weekend”.

On all three nights, the Moon will be tangled together with the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Very close to Saturn on Friday night, right amidst both brilliant Jupiter and less-bright Saturn on Saturday, and forming a line with them when it’s full on Sunday. Read about super-bright Jupiter which is at its best right now….

And there are more reasons at the link.

(19) A PERTINENT PEW POLL. Pew on belief in space aliens. Graphs at the link. “Religious Americans less likely to believe intelligent life exists beyond Earth” at Pew Research Center.

….This is evidenced by a variety of measures of religious engagement. For example, U.S. Christians are far less likely than religiously unaffiliated Americans to say that their “best guess” is that intelligent life exists on other planets (57% vs. 80%). And U.S. adults who attend religious services on at least a weekly basis are considerably less likely than those who seldom or never attend services to say that intelligent life exists elsewhere (44% vs. 75%).

Similarly, around half of Americans who say religion is very important to them (49%) say their best guess is that intelligent life exists on other planets. By comparison, roughly three-quarters of those who say that religion is less important in their lives (76%) say that intelligent life exists elsewhere. …

(20) HOW DOGS THINK. So far, it appears that no dog has learned how to cheat at their version of the Kobayashi Maru test. ”How dogs think, learn, communicate and problem-solve” in the Washington Post.

…By way of example, he talked about dogs he has worked with for the U.S. Marine Corps, compared with dogs he has worked with for Canine Companions for Independence in California. The Marines needed dogs in places like Afghanistan to help sniff out incendiary devices, while the companions agency needed dogs that were good at helping people with disabilities.

Just looking at both types of purpose-bred dogs, most people would think they’re the same — to the naked eye, they all look like Labrador retrievers, and on paper, they would all be considered Labrador retrievers. But behaviorally and cognitively, because of their breeding for specific program purposes, Hare said, they were different in many ways.

Hare devised a test that could tell them apart in two or three minutes. It’s a test that’s intentionally impossible for the dog to solve — what Star Trek fans would recognize as the Kobayashi Maru. In Hare’s version, the dog was at first able to get a reward from inside a container whose lid was loosely secured and easy to dislodge; then, the reward was placed inside the same container with the lid locked and unable to be opened. Just as Starfleet was trying to figure out what a captain’s character would lead him to do in a no-win situation, Hare’s team was watching whether the dog kept trying to solve the test indefinitely, or looked to a human for help.

“What we found is that the dogs that ask for help are fantastic at the assistance-dog training, and the dogs that persevere and try to solve the problem no matter what are ideal for the detector training,” Hare said. “It’s not testing to see which dog is smart or dumb. What we’ve been able to show is that some of these measures tell you what jobs these dogs would be good at.”…

(21) SMASHING DISCOVERY. Nature reports “Exotic Four-Quark Particle Spotted At Large Hadron Collider”.

Rare tetraquark could help physicists to test theories about strong nuclear force.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is also a big hadron discoverer. The atom smasher near Geneva, Switzerland, is famous for demonstrating the existence of the Higgs boson in 2012, a discovery that slotted into place the final keystone of the current classification of elementary particles. But the LHC has also netted dozens of the non-elementary particles called hadrons — those that, like protons and neutrons, are made of quarks.

The latest hadron made its debut at the virtual meeting of the European Physical Society on 29 July, when particle physicist Ivan Polyakov at Syracuse University in New York unveiled a previously unknown exotic hadron made of four quarks. This brought the LHC’s hadron bounty up to 62, according to a tally kept by Patrick Koppenburg, a particle physicist. Tetraquarks are extremely unusual: most known hadrons are made up of either two or three quarks. The first tetraquark was spotted at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan, in 2003, and LHCb has seen several more. But the new one is an oddity. Previous tetraquarks were likely to be pairs of ordinary quark doublets attached to each other like atoms in a molecule, but theoretical physicist Marek Karliner thinks that the latest one could be a genuine, tightly bound quadruplet. “It’s the first of its kind,” says Karliner, who is at Tel Aviv University in Israel and helped to predict the existence of a particle with the same properties as Tcc in 2017.

(22) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. Today’s Scroll title was inspired by this Firefly clip. Which doesn’t mean we’re going to start explaining the titles, it is just a good excuse to include a moment from the series.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Honest Trailers: The Suicide Squad” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the one thing that every character in the film has “traumatic parent issues,” that director James Gunn replaced the overlong character introductions in Suicide Squad with no introductions at all, and Viola Davis has “way too much talent and elegance to be in a film with Pete Davidson in it.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, John A Arkansawyer, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day JJ.]