2022 Hugo Awards

The winners of the 2022 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and Astounding Award for Best New Writer were announced on Sunday, September 4 at Chicon 8. (Detailed statistics for the nominating and final ballots are available in this PDF.)

The winners are:

BEST NOVEL

  • A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Tor)

BEST NOVELLA

  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Tordotcom)

BEST NOVELETTE

  • “Bots of the Lost Ark”, by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, Jun 2021)

BEST SHORT STORY

  • “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather”, by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, Mar/Apr 2021)

BEST SERIES

  • Wayward Children, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY OR COMIC

  • Far Sector, written by N.K. Jemisin, art by Jamal Campbell (DC)

BEST RELATED WORK

  • Never Say You Can’t Survive, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tordotcom)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM

  • Dune, screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth; directed by Denis Villeneuve; based on the novel Dune by Frank Herbert (Warner Bros / Legendary Entertainment)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM

  • The Expanse: Nemesis Games, written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, and Naren Shankar; directed by Breck Eisner (Amazon Studios)

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM

  • Neil Clarke

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM

  • Ruoxi Chen

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

  • Rovina Cai

BEST SEMIPROZINE

  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers and editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas; managing/poetry editor Chimedum Ohaegbu; nonfiction editor Elsa Sjunneson; podcast producers Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

BEST FANZINE

  • Small Gods, Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story)

BEST FANCAST

  • Our Opinions Are Correct, presented by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, produced by Veronica Simonetti

BEST FAN WRITER

  • Cora Buhlert

BEST FAN ARTIST

  • Lee Moyer

LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

  • The Last Graduate, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey Books)

ASTOUNDING AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER

  • Shelley Parker-Chan

VOTING STATISTICS. There were 2235 valid final ballots (2230 electronic and 5 paper) received and counted from the members of Chicon 8. More information about the 2022 Hugo Awards, including detailed voting statistics is available on the Chicon website here.

ABOUT THE HUGO AWARDS. The Hugo Awards are the premier award in the science fiction genre, honoring science fiction literature and media as well as the genre’s fans. The Hugo Awards were first presented at the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia (Philcon II), and they have continued to honor science fiction and fantasy notables for nearly 70 years.

The physical Hugo Award consists of a rocket mounted on a base that is designed specifically for that year’s awards. The base for the 2022 Hugo Award trophy was designed and created by Brian Keith Ellison, while the 2022 Lodestar Award was designed and created by Sara Felix. More information on this year’s designs can be found here.

A full list of past finalists and winners can be found on the official Hugo Awards website here.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 8/28/22 Attack Of The 10 Foot Pixels!

(1) SPSFC2 COVER CONTEST: HELP RATE THE TOP 100. The second year of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition has kicked off. While the reviewing teams are judging the books, you can help judge the covers. Vote in the SPSFC2 Cover Contest – People’s Choice at Pollunit.

The teams scored the covers of the 30 books assigned to each of them and picked their top ten, for a total of 100 covers. You will be asked to give each cover from 0 – 10 points.

Covers are displayed in batches of 10 and their order is randomized for each viewer.

The poll is open until September 9. When it’s finished, we’ll find out which SPSFC contestant’s cover people think is the best.

(2) DOUBLE PLUS GOOD? David Robson explores radical optimism – “hopepunk” – in “The sci-fi genre offering radical hope for living better” at BBC Culture.

Alexandra Rowland didn’t mean to spark a new artistic genre. In 2017, however, the fantasy author had a moment of inspiration. Rowland had been contemplating the rise of grimdark – the subgenre of fantasy fiction typified by George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (the inspiration for the TV series Game of Thrones) – which emphasises the flaws in human nature, and focuses on our capacity for cruelty.

But what could describe literature that instead focuses on our capacity for good? “The opposite of grimdark is hopepunk. Pass it on,” wrote the author in a short post on Tumblr. The post soon went viral – and by 2019 the term had entered the Collins English Dictionary, defined as “a literary and artistic movement that celebrates the pursuit of positive aims in the face of adversity”.

Various works of fiction – including the Lord of the Rings and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series – have now been labelled as examples of hopepunk, along with a slew of contemporary writers.  

“Cautionary tales are very important,” says Becky Chambers, one of the leading authors associated with the hopepunk movement, who has won a much-coveted Hugo Award for her sci-fi Wayfarer series. “But if that is all that you have, you risk nihilism.”…

(3) OOPS. The people who ran Discworld Convention 2022 apologize for leaving out something important: “A Message from the Committee – Discworld Convention 2022”.

Now that we have caught up on our sleep and have taken stock, we realise there was a major omission in both our opening and closing ceremonies. Although Terry was in all our hearts and thoughts before and during the Convention, we didn’t include our tribute to him in the ceremonies.

That shortcoming is something that we deeply regret and humbly apologise to all of you.

There is a lot that we can feel pleased about, especially given the difficulties we all faced in planning and running the Con, but they are all overshadowed by our collective oversight.

But what now? Anything we could do in the short term is far too little, far too late. But in the long term? For that, turn inwards and try to ask what Sir Terry would say if he saw what we did. And this is the answer we hope he would give:

“Do Better. BE Better. And don’t be such tossers again.”

So, that is what we plan to do. To be better. And to remember what he and Vimes taught us. A city, a community, lives and dies by the people in it. And committees are there to serve them, to put them first, and do right by them, by you.

2024 is both a long way away and no time at all, so we’re already working to prove deserving of your, and Sir Terry’s, trust. Hopefully, you’ll give us the chance.

Yours in humility, the ConCom that was and the ConCom that will be.

(4) I CAN’T BELIEVE MY EARS. “Zachary Quinto finds family Spock Connection in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’”.

While researching Zachary Quinto’s family tree for his upcoming appearance on Who Do You Think You Are?, Ancestry.com found a surprising connection in his family’s past and his character, Spock. In a newspaper record from 1899, Quinto’s great-grandfather P.J. McArdle wrote a letter to the editor that closes out with “May it live long and prosper” – almost the same words used in the iconic Vulcan greeting and farewell “live long and prosper,” first introduced by Leonard Nimoy as Spock on Star Trek: The Original Series and spoken by Quinto as Spock for the Kelvin Universe films. Quinto’s full journey will air on Who Do You Think You Are? on August 14 at 7/6c on NBC and stream on Peacock.

(5) UNCORKING A VINTAGE YEAR. First Fandom Experience traces “A Year In the Life of a Fan: Joe Kennedy in 1946”.

In our series of posts in support of the 1946 Project at Chicon 8, we’ve already explored the year in fandom. We also want to understand what it was like to spend that year as an active fan.

One of the most prolific and well-regarded fans was Joseph Charles “Joe” Kennedy. His remarkable 1946 is worthy of note, if not entirely representative of how most fans spent their year….

January

January 1 — the very dawn of 1946 — Kennedy joined a gathering at the New Jersey home of Sam Moskowitz. This was the second meeting of the self-designated “Null-A Men,” satirically named after the controversial novel by A.E. van Vogt. As Moskowitz noted in The 1946-47 Fantasy Review, “The initial idea of a loosely knit, social group was abandoned when 10 fans showed up… The idea of an organizational meeting was expanded into a full-fledged convention.” This was the origin of the “First Post-War Eastern Science Fiction Convention,” which would convene in March of that year.

(6) AUREALIS AWARDS NEWS. The “2022 Aurealis Awards are open for entry”. Full information at the link.

The Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction, are for works created by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and published for the first time between 1 January 2022 and 31 December 2022.

We strongly encourage publishers and authors to enter all works published already this year by September 30, 2022, then subsequent publications as they are released; our judges appreciate having time to consider each entry carefully.

Entries for the Aurealis Awards main categories close on December 14, 2022.

(7) TOP OF THE LIST? GameRant contends “Tolkien’s Most Obscure Story Is Actually His Best One”. (Though it’s unlikely that “Leaf By Niggle” will qualify as “obscure” among readers here.)

…The writer himself said in a letter to his friend Stanley Unwin:

‘That story was the only thing I have ever done which cost me absolutely no pains at all. Usually, I compose only with great difficulty and endless rewriting. […] It took only a few hours to get down, and then copy out.’

This is definitely unusual for Tolkien, who is famous for spending decades carefully crafting and sculpting each individual character, language, culture, and history. And the suddenness of its appearance in Tolkien’s mind isn’t the only thing that makes the narrative so different from many of his other works. The story centers around one main character’s thoughts, experience, and journey, rather than a group of companions or a fellowship like most of the long-form works that he is famous for. What’s more, it is very introspective, reflecting much of Tolkien’s own thoughts and tribulations as a creative….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

2022 [By Cat Eldridge.] Usually here we look at something that has already happened but we’re going to look at something that has not happened yet, Rob Zombie’s The Munsters. It’s due to break out almost exactly a month from now as the release date in the States is supposed to be September 27.

The Munsters as you well know started out as a television series in 1964 and was followed by The Munsters Today and the recent one-off Mockingbird Lane which was intended as a pilot. Several Munsters movies were released, three of which had original cast members.  

So how is that Rob Zombie of all individuals is releasing a Munsters film? Very good question I’d say.  Well he does have a fondness for The Munsters. Zombie a quarter of a century ago released the single “Dragula”. (I kept looking at that and seeing Dracula.) The title came from the name of Grandpa’s dragster DRAG-U-LA. (You can see the plate here.) Zombie’s music video mimics, sort of, the Munsters family getting into Grandpa’s car for a ride.

This film takes place prior to the events prior to the series, serving as an origin for the characters. It is directed and written by Zombie who also producing it. That’s either a very good thing or a very bad thing.  It is very obviously a vanity project for him. 

The cast is mostly not anyone that I recognize but here they be for your perusal: Jeff Daniel Phillips, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daniel Roebuck, Richard Brake and Sylvester McCoy. Wait, we have a Time Lord here? McCoy is playing Igor. 

And if you’ve not guessed yet, Sheri Moon Zombie who plays Lily Munster is married to Rob Zombie. You really, really don’t want to look up her filmography. 

And Jeff Daniel Phillips who plays Herman Munster has an equally unídistinguished acting career. Remember the Cavemen series? (Hopefully you don’t.) He was Maurice in it.

Casandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, played Barbara Carr who is described as the #1 real estate agent in all of Mockingbird Heights.

The premise is that is a love story taking place in Transylvania where Herman and Lily met, dated and departed for here as her father didn’t at all like Herman. They married after moving here and the prequel leads up the series we know.

Transylvania? WTF were they doing there? Frankenstein Castle located in the city of Darmstadt in Germany. It is often thought that this castle may have been the inspiration for Mary Shelley in writing her novel. Definitely not in Transylvania. 

It was filmed entirely in Hungary including the construction from scratch of 1313 Mockingbird Lane duplicating the house from the Mockingbird Lane pilot exactly according to Zombie who used the plans for it.

Now if your planning on going out to the nearest cinema to settle in with popcorn and your favorite beverage, don’t bother. The only place that you can see it is on Netflix as they financed it. Peacock originally was thought to have rights to it but that turned out to incorrect. 

The latest trailer is here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 28, 1915 Tasha Tudor. American illustrator and writer of children’s books. Her most well-known book is Corgiville Fair, published in 1971, the first of a series to feature anthropomorphic corgis. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 28, 1916 Jack Vance. Where to start? The Dying Earth series? Or perhaps the Lyonesse trilogy? I think I’ll pick the Demon Princes series. Damn he was good. Hugos? Oh yes. Discon was his first for “The Dragon Masters” short story followed by winning one for “The Last Castle” novellette at NYCon 3. His autobiography, This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”), Jack Vance, won at Aussiecon 4. Let’s not forget that he has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement as well. And a SFWA Grand Master Award, too. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 28, 1917 Jack Kirby. Responsible for a goodly part of modern comics from Captain America and the X-Men to Challengers of the Unknown and the New Gods. (Another DC film that got cancelled.) I had forgotten that he created the Black Panther. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 28, 1948 Vonda McIntyre. I’ve read a number of her works including Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun which are all phenomenal. The latter was based on a short story of hers done as a faux encyclopaedia article “The Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea”, that was illustrated by Le Guin. Way cool. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 28, 1951 Barbara Hambly, 71. Author of myriad genre works including the James Asher, Vampire NovelsThe Windrose Chronicles, and the Sun Wolf and Starhawk series. Some Trek work. Was married for some years to George Alec Effinger.
  • Born August 28, 1965 Amanda Tapping, 57. Stargate franchise of course, also lead in the rather smashing SanctuaryTravelers, the Killjoys which I still need to see, Riese, EarthseaFlash Forward and X-Files.
  • Born August 28, 1978 Rachel Kimsey, 44. She voices Wonder Woman on Justice League Action, yet another series that proves animation, not live, is the DC film strong point. Here’s a clip of her voice work from that show. She was Zoe, the old imaginary friend of Frances, on Don’t Look Under The Bed, a supposedly horror that ran on Disney. Disney, horror? And she was a zombie in the “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” music video by New Found Glory. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld

(11) GAME FACE. The video game The Stanley Parable “is about what it means to be free in a tightly constrained simulated world.” From “Exhausting All Possibilities” by Gabriel Winslow-Yost  in The New York Review of Books. (The complete article is behind a paywall.)

…The structure of the game is simple. The narrator—voiced in a ripe, pompously authoritative English accent by Kevan Brighting—tells us the story of the day that “would forever change Stanley,” when Stanley suddenly realizes that all of his coworkers have disappeared and leaves his desk to find out what’s happened. And we pilot Stanley through it: walking to the conference room to see if he’s forgotten about a meeting (he hasn’t), then upstairs to the boss’s office to see if he’s there (he is not), then stumbling upon a “terrible secret that lay buried below his feet” (a giant mind-control machine hidden in the basement) before triumphing rather easily over this subterranean evil (there’s an off switch) and heading outside for a sunlit happy ending….

(12) NUCLEAR WINTER IF RUSSIA DEPLOYS NUKES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] To cheer you up as you wend your way to Worldcon…. Nature contemplates the unthinkable. “Nuclear War Between Two Nations Could Spark Global Famine”. What if Russia deployed nukes in its war against Ukraine?

Even a small conflict in which two nations unleash nuclear weapons on each other could lead to worldwide famine, research suggests. Soot from burning cities would encircle the planet and cool it by reflecting sunlight back into space. This in turn would cause global crop failures that — in a worst-case scenario — could put five billion people on the brink of death.

“A large per cent of the people will be starving,” says Lili Xia, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who led the work. “It’s really bad.”

The research, published on 15 August (L. Xia et al. Nature Food vol. 3, p586–596; 2022), is the latest in a decades-long thought experiment about the global consequences of nuclear war. It seems especially relevant now, given that Russia’s war against Ukraine has disrupted global food supplies, underscoring the far-reaching impacts of a regional conflict.

Nature this week points to the latest research that also reminds us of research a couple of years ago on even a small nuclear war. This earlier work also suggests that even a small war would have a huge impact. They developed a scenario of a small India–Pakistan nuclear war could lead to crops failing in dozens of countries — devastating food supplies for more than one billion people. 2020 primary research here.

The latest research is chilling. 100 weapons of just 15 kilotonnes each on urban targets, while ‘only’ giving 27 million direct deaths, would result in a quarter of a billion without food by the end of year two…

(13) TURN UP THE GASLIGHT. DUST presents a short film “Who Among Us”. Which player is the machine?

Directors’ Statement: We wanted to explore how the media and groupthink can cause a person to doubt what they know to be true. Seven’s character goes through the trauma of gas-lighting, but on a public scale. Reality television specifically exploits and bends the truth in this way. We just extrapolated how that would play out in the future when bots like Siri and Alexa become nearly indistinguishable from humans. Wouldn’t there be a game show where contestants have to figure out who among them is the machine? The fascinating part is how open we are to untested technology, especially when it’s entertaining. That can be a good thing for technologists. From firsthand experience building @artieapp (check it out on Instagram) we know that sometimes a glitch can become a feature. There is a fine line though. In the film it’s not clear whether the host is following a script, or if he’s manipulating the contestants of his own volition. Are we just a glitch away from disaster? Or are we a glitch away from a great discovery? That’s the idea behind our feature script, which examines the characters lives in the aftermath of the game show.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Jeffrey Smith, Angela Smith, 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 Peer.]

Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

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

By Michaele Jordan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan: Comments on the 2022 Best Novel Hugo Finalists: Part 1

[Introduction: In Part 1 of her overview, Michaele Jordan reviews half of the Best Novel Hugo finalists: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki, and A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark.]

By Michaele Jordan: Like many of you, I’ve been immersed in my Hugo reading. (I don’t always manage to get to Worldcon – I am hugely excited about being able to vote!) Last week I was discussing my readings with a friend and they suggested I share my views here. They said, “You’ve been thinking so hard about the books you read. You really should write it all down, and post it!” And they’re right – do think hard about what I read. Why else would I read it?

You may be wondering why I am working so hard to justify writing a post about the Hugo nominees. Truth to tell, I’m a little afraid of how you’ll all take it.  

When I was a kid, everybody in my family was an addicted reader. And since we all lived together, we couldn’t afford to get angry whenever we didn’t agree on a book, i.e., all the time. Instead we debated – explaining our views, dissecting the points of opposition, and searching for common ground got to be more entertaining than TV (except on Twilight Zone or Star Trek nights).

But fandom isn’t like that. It shocked me to my soul the first time I said at a con that I didn’t care for a book and a supposedly fellow fan snarled, “Well, that’s just stupid,” and stalked off. Sometimes flame wars even erupt just because two fans disagree, not on a book, but on their favorite character in the book.

So I hereby state, firmly and unequivocally, that I know I am just one fan, that I have no authority to tell others what to read or think, and that I am merely expressing my personal opinions. I bear no ill will to, and pass no judgement on, those who disagree with me.

That said, I’ll start with The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager / Hodder & Stoughton) because that’s the first one I read.

I found this to be a high-end mid-grade novel. I admit I tend to expect award nominees to be better than mid-grade, even high-end mid-grade. But I am not saying that this was a bad book, just more formulaic than I care for.

We’ve all seen the formula many times. A group of travelers collects at some common point – a bus stop, a hotel lobby or a police station, – where for some reason they are temporarily detained. Each detainee has their own story, which includes a personal issue in need of a resolution. In the privacy of their mutual anonymity, they reveal their secrets and face—or conclusively decline to face – their demons, and they make decisions. Then they are released to go their separate ways, with most of them changed, for better or for worse.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within does not deviate from this outline by a hair. Three space travelling aliens are gathered at stopover facility between wormholes, which is owned and operated by a fourth alien. They become temporarily trapped by a technical difficulty in the transport system. They are all in a hurry (except the host, who has a terminally cute youngling) with plans that cannot withstand extended delay, not to mention uncomfortable political divisions.

One alien has a frail companion waiting for them on their ship, another is racing to a forbidden lover, and a third is in hiding from dangerous enemies. The host frets that they cannot make everybody happy, and the youngling is terribly injured in a foolish mishap resulting from misguided curiosity. But not to worry – it all comes right in the end.

The book’s greatest strength is its detailed visual depiction of its aliens, who may have perfectly comprehensible human-like emotions but are extremely peculiar to look at. The description of the youngling lumbering across a room with a tray is laugh-out-loud funny, and the giant caterpillar was so convincing it set off my insect phobia. The complete absence of humans (barring one off-stage) was a nice touch.

From there, I moved on to read Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki (Tor / St Martin’s Press). This book was more intriguing. Things happened that I had not seen coming. (Some people always want to know what’s going to happen next, may even want it so much that they’ll skip ahead and read the last chapter first. I’m not one of them.)

For starters, Light From Uncommon Stars offers an interesting blend of science fiction and fantasy. (The only time I have ever seen these two so inextricably intertwined was in Charley Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky.)There are aliens from another galaxy, and there are demons negotiating for human souls. And it all circulates around a Southern California donut shop with a giant donut mounted on the roof.

On the one hand, we have Shuzuki Satomi, a brilliant and beautiful violinist who has not performed in many years. Instead she teaches. Her last six students have gone on to the highest pinnacles of international acclaim. And unhappy ends. Very unhappy ends. Hellish, in fact. Now she is searching for a seventh student. But she is hard to please, and has turned down numerous ambitious and gifted young musicians. Instead she inexplicably takes in Katrina, a troubled transgender teen with no formal training, on the run from an abusive father.

On the other hand, we have Lan Tran and her family of refugees, who run the above-mentioned donut shop. It used to be very popular, but since Lan Tran acquired it, its customers are drifting away. It’s not that the donuts aren’t good. Just the opposite, they are just as good as they used to be. Just exactly as good. Down to the last molecule. Because she copies it, molecule by molecule in her replicator.  So it lacks that tiny sparkle of home-made originality.

The hand shake between these two scenes occurs by accident. Lan Tran’s family is secretly building a space portal inside the giant donut – but not so they can return home. Just the opposite. It’s so they can persuade the forces of the empire to stay away. And when the engines are being tested, they make beautiful music, which Shuzuki happens to overhear. Beautiful music is the only thing that really matters to Shuzuki. It is her only refuge from the demon she made a deal with, and from the memories of the six students she fed to that demon to keep it away.

Katrina does not need galactic empires or hungry demons to require a refuge from pain. Her ordinary human life has given her all the punishment this world has to offer. She pours her misery into her clunky old pawn-shop violin, playing tunes from video games, and finds more strength than she ever dreamed of possessing.

Light From Uncommon Stars is not a flawless book. There are a few little problems: Katrina’s gender issues are so overwhelming they tend to belittle the pain of a drunken, abusive father; her ability to master Bartok without any classical training, or even familiarity, whatsoever, is a bit too much of a stretch. But those are nits. It is a fine book. It shows us that, superhero fiction to the contrary, the victory of the human spirit is neither easy nor cheap, and certainly not inevitable. But it is possible. The weight of the world is overwhelming, but it can be endured – and that, in itself – is a great victory.

And then I turned to A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom / Orbit UK). Heavy sigh. This is the book that made me worry if I dared be honest with you. For me it was a DNF. I tried. Really, I did. After all, it was a Hugo nominee. Maybe I didn’t have to love it, but I certainly had to give it serious consideration. I don’t usually give a book more than thirty pages to capture my interest. I may even toss it down the basement steps after ten pages if the opening is stupid enough. But for the sake of my responsibility to the Hugos, I gave A Master of Djinn a hundred pages, before I gave up.

I can almost hear you protesting, “But it won the Nebula.” I know. It won the Nebula. And while I am trying desperately to remember that everybody is entitled to their opinion, I still can’t help but feel that’s a gross miscarriage of justice.

So what was so wrong with it? I promise to keep this civil. To give P. Djèlí Clark full credit where it’s due, the setting – modern Cairo in an alternate history world – is excellent. His choice of the turning point in the alternate history, and its consequences were intriguing. He describes a colorful combination of historic streets and architecture (which, I presume, is reasonably accurate since he went to so much trouble with it), and a modern (sometimes bizarrely so) infra-structure.

I am also confident that his presentation of the hierarchy of magical beings and the Egyptian pantheon is accurate; certainly he knows more of them than I, after only a little dabbling, do. I understand he has written a number of short stories set in this world, and he knows it well.

The story is a magical mystery which, I regret to say, I found pedestrian. In the opening scene, the original murder was impressive and mysterious, but he revealed the magical methodology – by far the most interesting element of the crime – very early on, leaving the reader to slog through all the usual whodunit clues. But this, in and of itself, would not have caused me to give up on the book. After all, there might be a last-minute clever twist.

An author friend of mine once told me, “If you just give one character a limp, another character an accent, and make the third use a lot of big words, everybody will say you’re a genius at characterization.” That appears to be Mr. Clark’s approach. Characters are portrayed primarily by the outfits they wear. One woman is strident and mannishly but stylishly dressed. Another is very feminine, and gushes and blushes. I cared nothing for either of them. But this did not cause me to give up either. Perhaps they would develop later.

In the end, it was Mr. Clark’s inadequate English skills that did me in. There were awkward phrasings on every page. Actual grammatical errors were almost as frequent. He mixed up ‘who’ and ‘which’. Occasionally his syntax and vocabulary were so tortured that I simply could not figure out what he meant. His attempt to describe a hexagon, without calling it a hexagon, was mind boggling. (At least I think he meant a hexagon.)

But in the end, that didn’t matter. Reading is (or should be) a pleasure, a matter of surrendering to the rhythm of the words. But if you have to stop every couple of paragraphs to reconstruct incomprehensible phraseology, reading becomes a chore, even a burden. So I gave up. My apologies if you loved it.

This post has gone on longer than I expected, so I’ll draw to a close. I’ll be back soon, if you’ll have me, with my thoughts on the rest of the nominees for Best Novel. So please keep an eye out for Part 2!

Pixel Scroll 5/16/22 I’ve Scrolled Pixels You People Wouldn’t Believe

(1) DISCON III SOUVENIR BOOK NOW AVAILABLE IN CHINESE. The 2021 Worldcon committee has had the Souvenir Book translated into Chinese.

It is digitally available in either English or Chinese on their website to anyone who wishes a copy. The English edition is here. The Chinese copy is here.

(2) STOKERCON PHOTOS. Ellen Datlow has shared her Flickr album of photos taken at Stokercon 2022 Denver. No captions yet, however.

(3) MORE HUGO FINALIST SAMPLERS. Alasdair Stuart has anticipated the Hugo Voter Packet by making available his selections from 2021’s The Full Lid, a Best Fanzine finalist, as either a PDF or a zip file containing PDF, mobi, and epub formats. He adds, “With many thanks to Nick Eden for the assembly!”

You can also find voter materials for two Best Semiprozine finalists, Escape Pod as well as PodCastle, at their sites.

(4) SPACE HOSPITALITY. In “Hugo Novel 2022: The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers”, Camestros Felapton reacts to another finalist.

…The story very much fits the expectations of a Chambers novel. The stakes are galactically-low and focused on the personal. There is conflict but it is either resolved or accommodated by people finding ways to get along. If anything, the focus on this aspect is greater than in previous stories and oddly, I found it better for that. It is a novel that is far more confident in staying within this personal space that is nonetheless shaped by political and cultural events….

(5) CODE NAME: DUDLEY. James Davis Nicoll begins “Five SF Works About Fighting Crime in Space” by explaining a bit of Canadian news to Tor.com readers, what might hypothetically follow, then names some books that might provide models:

…Presumably some sort of jet-pack-wearing analog of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will be along to enforce this. Its officers might well wonder “how would a space-based police force work? How does one even set fire to a barn in space?” Happily, while a space patrol may be new to Canada, SF authors have already explored how such an organization might operate, as these five vintage works prove.

Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein (1948)

While hardly the first space patrol novel, Heinlein’s coming-of-age tale may be one of the best known. Space Cadet follows the education and early career of would-be Interplanetary Patrolman Matt Dodson, from his enrollment to his first major assignment on Venus. Along the way, he is transformed from a naïve teen into a responsible young man.

While the Patrol reserves the option to simply nuke problems from orbit, it prefers more subtle approaches. The Venus affair is a case in point. In the 19th or 20th century, a dispute between natives and traders might have been resolved through violent retribution against the natives. The Patrol, with its more ethical and enlightened outlook, does its best to respect the Venusians and deliver actual justice. Hard news for the trader in question, who is very much in the wrong.…

(6) THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN. Amazon dropped this trailer for season 3 of The Boys today.

(7) A QECHJEM’A’ GROWS IN BROOKLYN. “Star Trek’s Klingon Helps NYC Teachers Understand Student Struggles Learning English” reports NBC New York.

Teachers at a Brooklyn school are finding inspiration from an unlikely source: Star Trek.

They’re boldly going where no educators have gone before (probably), learning “Klingon” as a way to connect to students in their classroom — as the fictional language invented for aliens serves as a reminder of everyone’s humanity.

Teachers at Saint Mark Catholic Academy in Sheepshead Bay are hoping that changing their language will help change their way of thinking. They are learning a language that until fairly recently was all Greek to them.

“Unless you’re a real Star Trek fan, you’re not well versed in Klingon,” said principal Mark Wilson.

It’s spoken by the fictional Klingon warriors on Star Trek. But learning this foreign fictional language is helping the teachers better understand real students learning English as a second language.

Over the last few years the school has seen an influx of eastern European students — children who don’t speak English at home. That includes Denys Shorodok, who came from Ukraine and for whom English is a third language.

“The teachers were coming to me (saying) I want to help my students but I don’t know how, and I wanted to help my teachers and I didn’t know how. So That’s when I reached out to ACES,” said Wilson.

… “One of the key parts of empathy is to think about what would it feel like for you if you were in the same situation,” said Rania El-Badry, the assistant director of the program.

“They now are familiar with the psychology and emotions of students in the classroom,” says program director Erica David, “and that’s something that will influence the way that they teach going forward.”…

(8) REVOVLVERS.  Dwayne Day discusses his five favorite moons in “All the myriad worlds” at The Space Review.

The other day I was having dinner with a prominent planetary scientist when I mentioned that I had a list of my five favorite moons. You do? He asked, surprised. Sure. Don’t you? He studies Venus, and Venus, like Vulcan, has no moon, so he didn’t have his own list of favorite moons but asked me to name mine. As I explained, most of my choices are not based strictly on scientific merit, but on the stories they tell—and the history of how we have discovered, studied, and explored them. Here they are, and why they’re on my list.

First up – Triton.

…Triton is one of Neptune’s moons, the largest, and it is an oddball. It circles the planet backwards, retrograde, in the opposite direction of Neptune’s other moons. This indicates that it did not form with them, and was likely captured when it wandered in from the Kuiper Belt. Triton was discovered shortly after the discovery of Neptune in 1846. Triton is cold, with estimated temperatures of 38 K (−235 °C). That, and its origins, combine to make it very interesting, and intriguing….

(9) KARL LEMBKE (1960-2022). Long-time LASFSian Karl Lembke died May 15 after a three-year battle with cancer. Karl was first elected Chair of the Board of Directors in 2002 (which I know because I took the minutes of the meeting!) and served continuously for 20 years.  

He joined LASFS in September 1985. He received the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the club in 2010. His financial donations to the club were acknowledged by making him a Patron Saint of the 38th meeting of the year. At times he also served as Scribe of the Thursday night meetings.

Past LASFS President Eylat Poliner adds, “Karl was a gentle soul. He was a devoted and loved member of the LASFS. He ran hospitality for Loscon for many years. He loved to play mahjong. He liked to cook/bake and was loyal to his family, He loved science fiction. He brewed mead and beer. He loved his co-workers and boss.”

As a conrunner, Karl often worked the green room or staff lounge at Loscon, Gallifrey, and even Corflu the last time it was in LA. He chaired Loscon 32 in 2005.

Heinlein would have been impressed to know that in Karl’s lifetime he made 997 apheresis (plasma and platelet) donations to the Red Cross.

Karl identified himself with the Sad Puppies – even reblogging installments of Chris Chan’s 2017 article series this year when it was reposted by John C. Wright. His Twitter @KarlLembke actively reflected comparable political interests. 

Karl Lembke in 2004.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2013 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just nine years ago, the sequel to rebooted Star Trek came out, Star Trek Into The Darkness. The twelfth film in the Trek franchise (really it was), it would be Leonard Nimoy‘s last film appearance before his death two years later. The Trek cast from the first film were back and the guest cast of Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, and Peter Weller would be here as well.

Naturally it was directed by J.J. Abrams off a script written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman  and Damon Lindelof. Abrams and Orci created Fringe, Kurtzman wrote the first film in this series plus he directed and co-wrote The Mummy which I essayed here not long ago, and Lindelof is one of the prime movers behind Lost.

In case someone here has managed not to see it yet, I’m not going to discuss it. See NO SPOILERS. 

It was costly. Best estimates say it was close to two hundred million by the time they were all done but it made nearly a half billion according to industry sources. That said, calculating in all of the expenses, Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film made a profit of only thirty million. Oh ouch.

So what did critics think of it at the time? Well most liked it though some I will admit detested it with all their hearts. Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone said: “Spoilers would cause me more trouble than an army of Klingons. One hint: If you rewatch any Star Trek movie before seeing this one, make it 1982’s iconic The Wrath of Khan. Kudos to Abrams for going bigger without going stupid. His set pieces, from an erupting volcano to the hell unleashed over London and Frisco Bay, are doozies. So’s the movie. It’s crazy good.” 

And SF Crownest said: “Snappy dialogue, spry action sequences, vibrant special effects, solid characterizations and galaxy-induced intrigue paints ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ as one the first summertime hits of 2013 to register its big box office promise with genuine thrills at a time where aimless sequels usually spell redundancy and disaster. Alas, it is quite acceptable to feel around in the ‘Darkness’ for Abrams’s stimulating spectacle that beams up some sharp and boisterous fun-filled momentum as routinely as it does an exasperated Scotty looking to return on board the ship.”

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic has an interesting point in his review I think and so we’ll leave our review notes with it: “For all its chasing and falling and fighting–and the movie supplies a great deal of each–Star Trek Into Darkness is at its best when the Enterprise crew are merely bickering and bantering among themselves: less space opera than soap opera.”

It currently has a most excellent ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 Barry Atwater. Surak in “The Savage Curtain” episode where several reliable sources say he had serious trouble making Vulcan hand gesture. He did a lot of other genre work from Night Stalker where he played the vampire Janos Skorzeny to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Alfred Hitchcock HourVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaNight Gallery, The Wild Wild West and The Outer Limits. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green-skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy” on Trek. She also one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild West, Voyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 16, 1950 Bruce Coville, 72. He’s won three Golden Duck Awards for Excellence in Children’s Science Fiction. He won first for his My Teacher Glows in the Dark, the second for his I Was a 6th Grade Alien, and the third for producing an audio adaptation of Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones. And NESFA also presented him with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. He was twice nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. 
  • Born May 16, 1953 Pierce Brosnan, 69. Louis XIV in The Moon and the Sun adaptation of Vonda McIntyre’s novel, shot in 2014 then not released til this year. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of such films. Seriously, what do you remember about his Bond films? Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man, and he was lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones.
  • Born May 16, 1955 Debra Winger, 67. Not I grant you an extensive genre resume but interesting one nonetheless. Her first genre appearance is in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in uncredited turn as, and I kid you, a Halloween Zombie Nurse with a poodle. Really I’m not kidding. And she appeared in three episodes of the Seventies Wonder Woman as Drusilla / Wonder Girl. If you want to stretch it, she was Rebecca in The Red Tent film.
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 54. Voiced Bigwig, Silverweed and Shale in the 1999 Watership Down series, Green Javelins in the Hyperdrive SF comedy series, and Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot. Last year, he was the lead in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic. 
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 53. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. He’s currently Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Jason Hayes on SEAL Team which has migrated to Paramount + which means that the adult language barrier has been shattered so it’s quite amusing to hear a very foul mouthed Boreanaz. 
  • Born May 16, 1977 Lynn Collins, 45. She was an excellent Dejah Thoris in the much underrated John Carter. Her first genre role was Assistant D.A. Jessica Manning on the very short lived horror UPN drama Hauntings, and she showed up in True Blood as Dawn Green. She survived longer on The Walking Dead as Leah Shaw.  Back to films, she was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine as Kayla Silverfox, Rim of The World as Major Collins and Blood Creek as Barb. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) GEORGE PÉREZ APPRECIATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt has an appreciation for George Pérez.  He notes that Perez was proud of his Puerto Rican heritage and was proud of creating with Bill Mantlo the first Puerto Rican superhero, the White Tiger, whose first appearance was in The Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu #19 in 1975. “George Pérez was the master of the big comic-book moment”.

… And on the page, the storytelling power of Pérez’s pencils was fueled by the undeniable joy that came through in every panelhe ever illustrated. To flip through the pages of his decades of work with Marvel and DC Comics as well as independent projects was to know this man was born to draw superheroes.

As comics changed over the years, his art style remained classic — subtle and sophisticated. He never bowed to the pressure to draw oversexualized heroines in suggestive positions or heroes who looked as if they took superhero performance enhancers, which were the norms for many publishers in the very extreme 1990s….

(14) A MASTER’S VOICE. Frank Frazetta was an Illustrators of the Future Contest judge from its inception until he passed away in 2010. The contest recently made available a short video featuring him: “Advice from a Master: Frank Frazetta”.

(15) IF YOU CAN’T MAKE IT HERE. The New Yorker’s critic Richard Brody scoffs, “’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Is a Formulaic Corporate Slog”.

The first “Doctor Strange” film introduced an idiosyncratic character by means of an apt cinematic peculiarity, but its sequel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” squeezes the character into the Marvel franchise by trimming away all the whimsy. The strength of the first “Doctor Strange” is the embrace of its protagonist’s weirdness, which enshrines him among the franchise’s fictional personalities. The sequel is conservative: the weirdness is reined in, and the narrative’s symbolic loose ends are replaced by chains that bind it to other characters and story lines from the Marvel stable.….

(16) AUNTIE EM! AUNTIE EM! The Smithonian’s video series STEM in 30 tracks “The Science of the Wizard of Oz”.

How can monkeys, houses, and witches fly?

L.Frank Baum’s book “”The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”” was first published in 1900 and was a hit from the get-go. While the story was first adapted for Broadway in 1903 and for film in 1910, it is probably the 1939 film starring Judy Garland that most people think of when one mentions The Wizard of Oz. In this episode we’ll explore some of the more fanciful parts of the story and dive deep into tornadoes, flying witches, hot air balloons and – what about those flying monkeys?

(17) OLD SPARKY. HuffPost Entertainment tells how “John Oliver Killed By ‘Murderous Hell-Demon’ In Surprise Show-Stopper”.

…Oliver said he’d normally bring out a mascot to show how “terrible and horrifying” utilities are.

But he didn’t have to in this case.

“They already made a murderous hell-demon almost 100 years ago,” he said, referring to an extremely creepy long-ago mascot for power companies called Reddy Kilowatt.

He regretted it almost instantly.

“I could kill you right now and there’s nothing anyone could do about it,” Reddy Kilowatt declared.

Then, he did exactly that….

(18) UPON A STAR. Tella is an animated film, directed by Zachary Conlu, about a little girl and her unusual new pet.

A lost girl gets a surprise visit from a fallen star that seems to give no notice of her…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Eddie Izzard sketch of what happened when Darth Vader showed up in the Death Star cafeteria may have 28 million views, but it’s never appeared in File 770! (From 2008.)

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

Pixel Scroll 4/11/22 This Is My Quest, To Pixel That Scroll

Going a bit light today so I can finish my tax returns!

(1) NIMONA SAVED. “Netflix Picks Up LGBTQ Animated Film ‘Nimona’ Dropped by Disney” reports The Wrap.

Netflix announced on Monday morning that it would be picking up “Nimona,” the LGBTQ animated project based on ND Stevenson’s graphic novel that was one of the projects scrapped following the Disney/Fox merger in 2019. The film is already in production and will be released in 2023.

“Nimona” will star Chloë Grace Moretz as the antihero Nimona, a shapeshifter bent on destroying a powerful organization known as the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics by any means necessary — even if it means killing people. To this end, she teams up with with Lord Ballister Blackheart (Riz Ahmed), who also seeks to bring down the Institution but will not break his own code of ethics to do so…

(2) TUNNELS IN THE SKY. James Davis Nicoll inspected the apple of the universe to find “Five SF Novels Featuring Different Kinds of Wormholes” at Tor.com. Second on the list is —

Starrigger by John DeChancie (1983)

The Skyway that connects the known worlds is unusually user-friendly. The sufficiently advanced aliens who created the Skyway planted their Kerr-Tipler objects on the surfaces of habitable worlds, allowing truckers like Jake to travel from world to world (provided only that their sufficiently robust vehicles follow a precise path past the rapidly spinning, hyperdense towers). At present, human knowledge of the Skyway is rudimentary. However, if someone were to come into possession of the fabled (and quite possibly mythical) Roadmap, a multitude of routes would be open: routes through space and even time. Which is why when whispers begin circulating that Jake has the Roadmap, his life gets very complicated indeed.

(3) SHALL WE DANCE? John Scalzi kicks off Reader Request Week with a thought experiment involving a point of view he ordinarily disdains. The reader asks: “For the sake of argument and fun, please defend your man-cred, and demonstrate your good standing in the white male dominated patriarchy.” The payoff is we get to hear about his high school dance class.  “Reader Request Week 2022 #1: My ‘Man-Cred’”.

…Third, it really effectively short-circuited my concern about the judgment of other dudes. A lot of straight men, especially young men, don’t dance, because they think they will look foolish doing so, and when they’re concerned about looking foolish, the people they’re most concerned about looking foolish to are other men — who they often imagine will see them on the dance floor and cast judgment on them, not for their moves, but for being on the dance floor at all. Learning to dance got me over that, by actually teaching me how to dance and by teaching me to enjoy dancing for itself, and by giving my dancing proper focus — not on the other dudes, most not on the dance floor, who may or my not be judging me, but either on my dance partner, who legitimately deserved my attention, or on myself, enjoying the pleasure of the dance itself….

(4) TENSION, APPREHENSION, AND DISSENSION. Max Florschutz does a good job reminding everyone that dramatic conflict is not confined to physical conflict: “Being a Better Writer: Embracing Conflict in All its Forms” at Unusual Things.

…And again, there’s nothing wrong with writing fun fight scenes and life-threatening peril. I do it all the time.

But that’s not the only way we can have conflict in our story. Not all forms of conflict are violent, action-packed, or perilous.

Instead, they can be subtle, insidious, tense, or even comedic, all without resorting to direct, physical violence.

This concept is best, I feel, illustrated through examples, so let’s go over a few. Say you have a protagonist that is a chief diplomat for a fantasy kingdom. Their aim, as ordered by their ruler, is to keep the peace with another nation that they serve as a diplomat to. Unfortunately, things are tense. This other nation is undergoing a resource shortage, which has driven tensions to high levels, and while the kingdom our protagonist represents has a lot of that resource, they’re using it. They’d also likely win a war if it came to that, but not without the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, one of which is a close relative of the protagonist. Worse still, the ruler of the other kingdom is aggressively pushing for a conflict, since they feel it will cement their power, even if they lose.

Now, imagine writing out a scene or a chapter in which this diplomat has a meeting with a representative of this other ruler. Can you imagine how the tension might pile up as these two representatives, each with very different goals, do “battle” with one another using words and faint promises or assurances, each trying to secure their own “victory” over the other? The scene may not have blades, guns, and immediate peril like a collapsing building … but each and every word spoken by the pair could carry such weight that the sense of peril would still be very present. A single wrong word, stepping too far or not stepping far enough, could plunge the kingdom into a war that would kill tens of thousands….

(5) FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM WITH THE HALDEMANS. Joe Siclari announces: “We are doing another FANAC Fan History Zoom, This is an interview of Joe and Gay Haldeman titled ‘Science Fiction Fandom from Both Sides’.” It will be live on April 23, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. EDT (11:00 a.m. PDT, 7:00 p.m. London). To access the event please RSVP by sending a note to [email protected]

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2001 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

Twenty-one years on this evening ago over at that network the no one remembers (UPN), Special Unit 2 started out its two-year life. It was about Chicago police unit known as Special Unit 2who dealt with the city’s  population of mythological beings who were known as Links. Consider it an updated Night Stalker which also was set in Chicago. 

It was created by Evan Katz who was also over at Fox being the Executive Producer of a slightly more successful series, to wit 24.

Though set in Chicago, it, like so many other genre series, was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia. I know I watched enough it that I should’ve noticed that it wasn’t filmed in Chicago but honestly all those blend together after awhile. 

It had a small primary cast including Michael Landes who played Jimmy Olsen in the first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Alexandra Lee. She appeared as one of five corpses recounting the tales of their death on a most excellent CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode entitled “Toe Tags”. It’s well worth seeing.

It got cancelled after just nineteen episodes due to a change in UPN’s management as reported in all the trade papers.

Not that it was well-received at the time. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said of it that, “It’s true that ‘Special Unit 2’ is not bad compared to the rest of the shows on UPN. That is, if you take ‘not bad’ to mean dull and derivative. This low-budget cross between ‘The X-Files’ and ‘Men in Black’ wants to yuk it up one minute and incite fear the next. It fails on both counts.” 

And Variety said in its review, “As ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ approaches its final episode, UPN is trying to keep its sci-fi audience happy with ‘Special Unit 2,’ a tepid hour-long series about a secretive Chicago police unit that hunts, of all things, half-man/half-beasts. Positioned at 8 p.m. Wednesday, skein reps good counterprogramming opposite sitcoms and the femme-skewing ‘Ed’ and ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ and the debut’s ratings were decent — in a fledgling-network kind of way. But this ‘Men in Black’ wannabe must come up with sharper storylines if it wants to stay strong; otherwise, it’ll be yet another short-lived project on a network in dire need of a hit.”

Special Unit 2 (front) Danny Woodburn, (l-r) Alexondra Lee, Michael Landes, Richard Gant

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1867 William Wallace Cook. Newspaper reporter and pulp writer who wrote four novels (The Fiction FactoryA Round Trip to the Year 2000, or A Flight Through Time, Cast Away at the Pole and Adrift in the Unknown, or Adventures in a Queer Realm) which were serialized in Argosy in the early part of the last century. Clute in his usual blunt manner said at EoSF he was “was a crude writer, but is of interest for his attempts to combine adventure plots and Satire.” (Died 1933.)
  • Born April 11, 1892 William M. Timlin. Author of The Ship that Sailed to Mars, a remarkable work that has 48 pages of text and 48 color plates. It has become a classic of fantasy literature. You can view the book here. (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. Best remembered as the creator of Modesty Blaise of whom EoSF says her “agility and supple strength are sufficiently exceptional for her to be understood as a Superhero.” O’Donnell also wrote the screenplay of The Vengeance of She based on H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She novel. It rates eleven percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And let’s just say the critics were less kind. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1941 Gene Szafran. He did the cover art for genre  books published by Bantam and Ballantine from the Sixties to the Eighties, including a series of Signet paperbacks of Robert A. Heinlein’s work including Farnham’s Freehold, The Green Hills of Earth, and Methusaleh’s Children. His art would garner him four Locus Awards. (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 11, 1949 Melanie Tem. She was the wife of genre author Steve Rasnic Tem. A prolific writer of both novels and short stories, she considered herself a dark fantasy writer, not a horror writer. Bryant, King and Simmonds all praised her writing. If I had to make recommendations, I’d say start with Blood MoonWitch-Light (co-written with Nancy Holder) and Daughters done with her husband. ”The Man on the Ceiling” won her a World Fantasy Award and got her a Shirley Jackson Award nomination.  She died of cancer which recurred after she’d been in remission. Damn cancer. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 11, 1952 James Patrick Kelly, 71. One of his best stories, “Solstice” is in Sterling’s Mirrorshades anthology. The Mariska Volochkova series is the one I would definitely recommend if you’ve not read it yet. Hugo nominations? Why yes, he does starting at Conspiracy ‘87 for his “Rat” story, proceeding from there to his “Think Like a Dinosaur“ novelette win at L.A. Con III, with another at BucConeer for his “Itsy Bitsy Spider” short story nomination to his “1016 to 1? novelette win at Chicon 2000. Then he had another novelette nominated at ConJose for “Undone” and “Bernardo’s House” picked him up another at Noreascon 4. At Interaction, “The Best Christmas Ever” was a short story finalist, as his “Burn” novella was a L.A. Con IV, His last Hugo nomination was for the novelette “Plus of Minus” at Renovation. 
  • Born April 11, 1955 Julie E. Czerneda, 67. Canadian author whose In the Company of Others which won an Aurora Award is stellar as A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow which also deservedly won that Award. Need I say she won yet more of those Awards? Impressive writer indeed as she also won two Golden Ducks as well. Her latest novel Spectrum, just last year. She is extremely well stocked at the usual suspects, bless them. 
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 59. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He has done a lot, and I do mean a lot, of other media tie-in fiction including Babylon 5 where he did a Psi Corps trilogy of novels, Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Star Wars, Planet of The Apes, Independence Day and Pacific Rim.

(8) STAR CHAMBERS. SFF Book Reviews’ Dina says, “A Want All The Alien Hugs: Becky Chambers – The Galaxy And the Ground Within”.

… Strangers forced into proximity is a great trope but Becky Chambers makes something truly special out of it. Most of her characters are respectful of each other, some even become friends easily, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an underlying tension between others. Again, there are no big battles of fisticuffs but opinions clash on occasion and, honestly, that was enough tension for me.

At first, it’s just fun getting to know these characters, finding out their backstories, where they were headed when they got stuck on Gora, and what their lives are like. Then it became lovely to watch them grow into a sort of force-upon-each-other found family, at least for alittle while….

(9) THESE CREDENTIALS WILL BE NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT. “Hypoallergenic Cats Could Be Possible With CRISPR Gene Editing” promises Gizmodo.

…Researchers at the Virginia-based biotech company InBio (previously called Indoor Biotechnologies) have been working on their own approach. They’re hoping to use CRISPR, the Nobel Prize-winning gene editing tech, to produce cats that simply make little to no Fel d 1 [a suspected allergy-causing protein]. In their latest research, published Monday in The CRISPR Journal, they say they’ve collected evidence that this can be done effectively and safely….

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video of Tom Scott meeting his robot double dropped today: “My robot double sells out (so I don’t have to)”.

I haven’t been able to do VPN advertising for a long time. Well, this one time, I don’t have to: because the robot double’s going to do it for me. With many thanks to all the team at Engineered Arts who worked on this. To be clear, this is not sponsored by them, I paid money (technically, NordVPN’s money) for the Mesmer robot — or at least, for the silicone mask and 3D printed skull that were put together for just one day!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/11/21 The Pixel Went Down To Georgia, He Was Looking For A Scroll To Steal, He Was Way Behind, He Was Fifth

(1) INDIGENOUS HERITAGE IN HORROR. The Horror Writers Association blog features Owl Goingback, a three-time Bram Stoker Award Winner, receiving the award for Lifetime Achievement, Novel, and First Novel. “Interview with Owl Goingback”.

Do you make a conscious effort to include indigenous characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Yes. I’ve used indigenous characters in most of my books and stories, because I wanted to share a culture rich in history, folklore, and ceremony, and often very misunderstood. I also wanted to show that native people of this country have a different way of looking at things than people whose ancestors came from other parts of the world. Like the traditional oral storytellers of my people, I wanted to create stories that were enjoyable while weaving a bit of teaching into the narrative. That way I’m educating in addition to entertaining.

I guess I’ve done a good job of weaving teaching elements into my stories, because my books are being used in an eight-week educational program for youthful offenders at the Orange County Corrections Facility in Orlando, Florida. The young inmates get to read a novel featuring monsters and mayhem, and scenes of bloody carnage, while subconsciously being reminded to listen to their elders and respect Mother Earth.

(2) BECKY CHAMBERS Q&A. Vox’s Emily VanDerWerff hears from “Becky Chambers on why the best aliens are just a little bit human”.

You’re really good at designing non-human species. They’re just recognizable enough for us to be like, “Oh, I understand the emotions and the intellect going on here,” but also just alien enough for us to be like, “That’s really different.”

One of my favorite things to do on any project is invent aliens. I always start with the caveat of: We have to have a point of entry. We have to be able to relate to them on some human level. Do the aliens in Wayfarers resemble anything like what I think actual extraterrestrial life is like? No, of course not. But you have to be able to emotionally connect with them. And I don’t know that we could [immediately do that] with other species out there in the universe that exists.But from there, we’re gonna get weird. I start with biology first. I look at the physicality. I look at how they are different from us. I always start with a particular trait. For example, the Aeluons, one of the big alien species in Wayfarers, communicate through the chromatophore patches on their cheeks. That starts with a real-world inspiration — squid and octopus.

I take that and blow it up to a civilization level. If color is your primary mode of communication, how does that affect your art? How does that affect your architecture, the way you dress, the sorts of technology you have? And how do you relate to other species, especially if they have different ideas about what color means or just use it as a decoration? There’s a million questions you can ask with just that one element. Everything else comes from there….

(3) F&SF COVER. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Nov/Dec 2021 cover art by Maurizio Manzieri illustrates “Broad Dutty Water” by Nalo Hopkinson. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder says, “The issue has just been printed and will be distributed soon.”

(4) ORDER IN THE COURT. Every so often someone sends me a link to a stfnal t-shirt, and if I like it well enough I run it in the Scroll. Which is always promptly greeted by fan-lawyering comments to the effect “I hope they have the rights to that art” or “I looked that up and its copyright hasn’t expired OMG!” Well, there’s no stopping that, however, after yesterday’s response to Out of Print’s Foundation unisex book t-shirt I contacted the company to inquire if they had the rights. Here’s their reply:

Thank you for your interest in Out of Print. We work with the Estate of Isaac Asimov (Asimov Holding LLC) and the Estate of both respective artists for each book cover. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions. 

So please step it back down to Defcon 770.

(5) T-PARTY. Boskone 59 will be returning to an in-person convention with a hybrid option. The Boston con will run from February 18-20, 2022. This weekend they announced their current Covid-related attendance requirements.

The following policies were just approved at today’s Boskone and NESFA meetings:

  1. [Boskone] Attendees must be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination or have tested negative with a PCR test taken February 15, 12:01 am or later and before the convention. There are no exceptions.
  2. All humans 2 years old or older [attending Boskone] must wear a mask in convention spaces (including open parties) at all times, except when eating or drinking in designated food and drink spaces. There are no exceptions.

(6) MORRISON Q&A. At Altered Instinct, Stephen Hunt invites fans to “Meet Diane Morrison, author of A Few Good Elves”.

Without spoilers, what was one of your favourite moments of the story to write? What was it that made you enjoy that section so much? 

The Aces High obstacle course, hands-down, was the most fun in this book! The protagonist must successfully navigate an obstacle course in an asteroid field like a slalom race to qualify for entry into an advanced Star-Pilot’s school. It’s full of raw action, but unlike many action scenes in the story, there’s no violence involved. It’s a chance for the reader to see starfaring through a Pilot’s eyes, with excitement and joy. Describing the different challenges, and how Shaundar deals with them, not only let me really buckle down into how the universe works, but it let me show you a lot of important things about Shaundar as a character. It was a glorious moment.

(7) BRIANNA WU ENGAGED IN DEVELOPING TV SERIES. Deadline reports, “Fictional Gamergate Series In The Works From Mind Riot Entertainment & Video Games Developer Brianna Wu”.

Mind Riot Entertainment will work with journalist, game developer and computer programmer Brianna Wu for Gamergate, a series about her experience as a critic and target of the notorious 2014 online harassment campaign, for which the studio has optioned life rights.

The 2014 Gamergate online campaign ignited a firestorm for its targeting of women in the gaming industry which laid the foundation for current issues of disinformation and hate. Before QAnon, Covid-19 conspiracists and the January 6th insurrection, there was Gamergate. Wu was among the targeted women, which also included Zoë Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

… The series will explore the origins of the widespread intimidation campaign from the perspective of multiple, fictional people in the game industry – from executives to journalists and indie developers.

Gamergate is co-created and co-written by Wu and J. Brad Wilke (Camel Spiders), and will be produced by Mind Riot Entertainment’s Jonathan Keasey (Parallel) and Jeremy J. Dodd (One Nation Under Earl).

… [Wu said:] “We’re not going to retread the same story told in thousands of news stories from outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post, plus multiple documentaries like GTFO. Our series will focus on new, fictional people within the industry reacting to a horrific situation. By explaining how they were unable to stop the video game industry from being hijacked by the lunatic fringe – we can show how the tactics of Gamergate were the same ones that led to tragedies like Christchurch and January 6th”…

Keasey added: “Working with Brianna is a huge score for us. Based in Seattle, one of the country’s meccas for gaming, we’ve been wanting to shed light on this subject matter for a while and are honored that Brianna will be co-writing the series alongside Brad.”

(8) 007 PLUS 007 EQUALS THREE HOURS. Leonard Maltin finds that in Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007, there’s “Plenty Of Time To Die: The New James Bond Movie”.

The caretakers of the Intellectual Property known as James Bond, knowing that their newest effort would be the last one to star Daniel Craig, decided to spare no expense—or footage—to make this an “epic” entry in the long-running series. The result is a lavish piece of entertainment that ought to please any 007 fan. My only complaint is that there’s just too much of it. Any film that asks its audience to sit still and pay attention for nearly 3 hours had better have a damn good reason. This one doesn’t….

(9) NO PLACE LIKE HOME. Discovery’s lead actress gets profiled by her home state news site: “Alabama’s Sonequa Martin-Green rules Season 4 trailer for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’” at AL.com.

…In the trailer for Season 4, Martin-Green’s character and her crew are faced with a mysterious and deadly space anomaly.

“Today, we seek to understand a threat like none our galaxy has faced before,” Martin-Green says in the trailer. “With so much at stake, countless lives, futures … Once we enter the anomaly, we are going where no one has gone before.”

That’s a direct pull, of course, from the voice-over introduction to the original “Star Trek” series, an iconic TV program that first aired in the 1960s and spawned an entire universe of sci-fi content. As Burnham, Martin-Green is the first Black woman to have the lead role in a “Star Trek” series….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1999 – Twenty-two years this Autumn, the Baen Free Library, which was founded by writer Eric Flint and Baen Books publisher Jim Baen. opened for business. (Accounts differ on the actual date. And really it doesn’t matter that much, does it?) Jim Baen considered it an experiment in the field of intellectual property and copyright whereby the giving away of free books would increase the sale of other books sold by that publisher. Currently Baen Ebooks, as it’s now called, sells individual e-books, a subscription-based e-book program and access to galleys of forthcoming publications. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.)
  • Born October 11, 1944 Patrick Parrinder, 77. I’ve a soft spot for academics who plow our fields. This one settled upon H. G. Wells starting with H. G. Wells and H. G. Wells: The Critical Heritage nearly forty years ago all the way to H. G. Wells’s Perennial Time Machine that he recently wrote with Danièle Chatelain and George E. Slusser. 
  • Born October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 61. Well known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. Like so many, many genre performers, she shows up in the video Trek fan fiction playing Lana in Star Trek Continues.
  • Born October 11, 1964 Michael J. Nelson, 57. Best known for his work on Mystery Science Theater. He was the head writer of the series for most of the show’s original eleven-year run, and spent half of that time as the on-air host. Bad genre films were a favorite target of his and his companions. 
  • Born October 11, 1965 Sean Patrick Flanery, 56. I really do think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. It certainly wasn’t as Bobby Dagen in Saw: The Final Chapter, a film best forgotten. (It gets a forty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, much better than I expected.) He appeared as Jake Greyman in Demon Hunter, another low budget horror film, and as John in The Evil Within. I see a pattern…
  • Born October 11, 1972 Claudia Black, 49. Best remembered for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in the Containment series. 
  • Born October 11, 1972 Nir Yaniv, 49. Author, editor, musician, and filmmaker.  He founded a webzine for the Israeli Society for Science Fiction & Fantasy.  Currently, he’s the chief editor of Chalomot Be’aspamia, Israel’s only professionally printed genre magazine. His short fiction has appeared in Weird TalesApex Magazine and The Best of World SF. He co-wrote The Tel Aviv Dossier with Lavie Tidhar. 
  • Born October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 45. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. Actually the forensic science on Bones is genre, isn’t it? 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows why astronauts should have been alerted by the fiddle playing cat.
  • Dork Tower, in “Foundation’s Edgy,” is skeptical that fans really want to watch an absolutely faithful adaptation of Asimov’s trilogy. (“I do not agree with the views expressed in this comic,” says Lise Andreasen.)

(13) PHOTOS FROM NY COMIC CON. Gizmodo has a slide show of the “Best Cosplay NYCC 2021”. Daniel Dern says his favorite is “Bicycleb Loki Variant”.

(14) AUTOGRAPHED FANZINE RARITY. Bidding ends October 14 on The Gary Munson Collection of Horror and Fantasy Rare Books Auction at Heritage Auctions. One fascinating item is Ray Palmer’s personal, bound copy of Cosmos – The Serial Novel, produced in the early Thirties with seventeen chapters by seventeen different authors. Installments ran in the fanzine Science Fiction Digest between July, 1933 and January, 1935. It was a round-robin novel with each chapter by a different author (one a Palmer pseudonym). Palmer got sixteen “Masters of Science Fiction” to write successive chapters of the story, “using each other’s unique characters, worlds, and conflicts to build an adventure that spans galaxies.” Each author has autographed a page in the volume.

  • Chapter 1 – Faster Than Light by Ralph Milne Farley – July, 1933
  • Chapter 2 – The Emigrants by David H. Keller, M.D. – August, 1933
  • Chapter 3 – Callisto’s Children by Arthur J. Burks – September, 1933
  • Chapter 4 – The Murderer From Mars by Bob Olsen – September, 1933
  • Chapter 5 – Tyrants of Saturn by Francis Flagg – October, 1933
  • Chapter 6 – Interference on Luna by John W. Campbell – November, 1933
  • Chapter 7 – Son of the Trident by Rae Winters [Pseudonym of Raymond A. Palmer] – December, 1933
  • Chapter 8 – Volunteers From Venus by Otis Adelbert Kline and E. Hoffman Price – January, 1934
  • Chapter 9 – Menace of the Automaton by Abner J. Gelula – February, 1934
  • Chapter 10 – Conference at Copernicus by Raymond A. Palmer – March, 1934
  • Chapter 11 – The Last Poet and the Robots by A. Merritt – April, 1934
  • Chapter 12 – At the Crater’s Core by J. Harvey Haggard – May-June 1934
  • Chapter 13 – What a Course! by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D. – July, 1934
  • Chapter 14 – The Fate of the Neptunians by P. Schuyler Miller – August, 1934
  • Chapter 15 – The Horde of Elo Hava by L. A. Eshbach – September, 1934
  • Chapter 16 – Lost in Alien Dimensions by Eando Binder – October-November, 1934
  • Chapter 17 – Armageddon in Space by Edmond Hamilton – December, 1934-January, 1935

(15) ASK THE PANEL. QI is a BBC comedy panel show with Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies, where panelists get points for being interesting. Here’s a recently posted excerpt from a show a couple years old, BUT, there’s an equation! “When Is The Best Time For Interstellar Travel?”

(16) SWORN-IN. Paul Weimer discusses his latest read: “Microreview: When the Goddess Wakes by Howard Andrew Jones” at Nerds of a Feather.

Howard Andrew Jones Ring-Sworn Trilogy has been a recent highlight and hallmark of positivist heroic epic fantasy. In strong contrast to grimdark, morally grey epic fantasy that has long been a dominant note, the Ring-Sworn Trilogy has opted for the path of less ambiguous protagonists and antagonists, and highlighting and emphasizing the importance, and effectiveness of positive action and standing up for one’s beliefs, family, and country.  All of this takes place in a richly created multiverse….

(17) VICIOUS CYCLE. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Martha Womersley did this piece based on a vinyl toy for the 1963 movie Matango or Attack of the Mushroom People

(18) ALLEY OOPS. Once again I came across an ad for the Wizard AlleyWorld Bookshelf Insert Box, which I think is a clever little thing (although the ad’s choice to put it on a shelf full of thriller novels seems tone-deaf.)

(19) AMBITIOUS HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS. Laughing Squid draws our attention to this “Halloween Light Show Featuring the Final Scene of ‘The Matrix’ and Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Wake Up’” in Tracy, CA that runs a couple hours a night during October. The schedule is available on Facebook. Or if that’s too far to drive, here’s a video of the display:

VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Death and Return of Superman/Long Live Superman on YouTube is a 2019 documentary, written by Scott McCulloch and directed by Alexander Gray, which is connected with the publication of the thousandth issue of Action Comics.  As DC publisher Dan DiDio notes, if “Batman comes into a bar, everyone wants to run and hide.  If Superman comes into a bar, you want to buy him a drink.”

This documentary is worth seeing if you want to see great comics creators such as Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, and Louise Simonson talk about what Superman means to them.  This works for me, but it might not work for you.  The existence of Zack Snyder’s evil Superman is thankfully ignored.

Best bit of trivia: superheroes in 1940 were known as “long johns characters.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Gordon Van Gelder, Daniel Dern, Lise Andreasen, Brown Robin, 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 Miles Carter.]

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Fall 2021

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this Fall.

AFTERMATH

  • by LeVar Burton | Read by LeVar Burton
  • [Hachette Audio | 10 hrs.]

Levar Burton’s sonorous and soothing narration makes his 1997 novel, with a recent update, engaging because many of his predictions have come true. Burton is best known for playing Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and for hosting the PBS program “Reading Rainbow.” His sincere and forthright voice has just a bit more bass now as he ages. The story predicts a technological breakthrough that gives users extraordinary healing power, along with telepathic abilities. Burton portrays his characters with earnestness, and uses his acting and hosting experience to relate directly to listeners. This audiobook is both entertaining and uplifting.

THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD

  • by Katherine Addison | Read by Liam Gerrard
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.25 hrs.]

Liam Gerrard narrates a fantasy-mystery set in the world of THE GOBLIN EMPEROR. Thara Celehar, a former member of court, goes about his business as a Witness for the Dead in a far-flung province. A series of seemingly unconnected deaths causes Celehar to once again use his skills to uncover the truth. As the puzzle of the deaths slowly resolves, Gerrard tightens his narrative pace, heightening the sense of urgency as the solution is revealed. While this story is related to a previous volume, it also stands fully on its own.

VAGRANT QUEEN I: The Bezoar of Kings

  • by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith | Read by Nanette Savard and a Full Cast
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [GraphicAudio | 2 hrs.]

Narrator Nanette Savard and an ensemble of voice actors skillfully create a universe in which a queen flees from villains who fear she will try to reclaim her throne. Thanks to the wonderful narration, it’s easy to get lost in the adventure. No-nonsense Queen Elida teams up with Isaac, a cocky rebel from the Han Solo School of Rogues, to steal a mind-control device from a bad guy. The full cast and generous sound effects bring the Vagrant Queen saga to life.

THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN

  • by Becky Chambers | Read by Rachel Dulude
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Harper Audio | 10 hrs.]

The fourth installment in the Wayfarers series brings listeners on a quiet space adventure. Narrator Rachel Dulude voices the mismatched entirely nonhuman crews of several spaceships who are stranded by a telecommunications accident on a remote planet. These widely varying species of sapients learn to relate to each other in bold new ways through their shared needs. Dulude moves between the robotic tones of a mechanical talk box, the bubbly excitement of a fluffy preteen quadruped, the clipped speech of an insectoid, and more.

THE CONJURING OF ZOTH-AVAREX

  • by K.R.R. Lockhaven | Read by Jay Spaulding
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [K.R.R. Lockhaven | 7.5 hrs.]

Narrator Jay Spaulding gives a hilarious performance of this fantasy in which a dragon attempts to reign over Seattle. The Site is a magic location hidden away and overseen by the U.S. Government. On Harris Reed’s first day at his new job there, his first project—the summoning of a dragon—goes awry. Spaulding nails the delivery of every joke and pun. Comical allusions, wisecracks, and well-crafted jokes abound in Spaulding’s masterful performance. 

SPACE: 1999

  • by Andrew Smith, Anthony Terpiloff, Elizabeth Barrows| Read by Mark Bonnar, Maria Teresa Creasey
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Big Finish | 3.75 hrs. Only Available here: https://www.bigfinish.com/hubs/v/space-1999]

A full cast narrates a trio of adventures featuring the Moon Base Alpha crew as they attempt to survive after being transported across space. First, the Alphans investigate a signal from a nearby planet, then a distant winter planet calls to the crew, and, finally, a perfect paradise offers a temporary respite. Dramatic scenes are filled with sound effects and music. Fans of the original Star Trek series will be pulled in by the engaging personalities and stellar writing.

SOULSTAR

  • by C.L. Polk | Read by Robin Miles
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Recorded Books | 12.25 hrs.]

Narrator Robin Miles delivers the profound conclusion to The Kingston Cycle. Miles portrays Robin Thorpe, who has always been aware of the injustice and inequality that surround her and the other citizens of Aeland. As Thorpe takes on a new role, Miles’s narration becomes more powerful and commanding, perfectly illustrating Thorpe’s path to leadership. Miles’s compelling narration will resonate long after the story ends, offering both hope and inspiration.

RULE OF COOL

  • by Matthew Siege| Read by Felicia Day
  • Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Podium Audio | 12.5 hrs.]

Felicia Day narrates a sidesplitting literary RPG told from the perspective of the story’s monsters. Raze is a gearblin—a mix of goblin and gremlin—in a game in which the players carry out quests. Using a special code, Raze casts aside her chains and gathers other monsters to face down the game’s so-called heroes. Day is perfection as the strong-willed, vivacious Raze. The story balances the game mechanics of the genre with a compelling narrative that is brimming with heart.


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Fall 2021” was curated by AudioFile. AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks.

Pixel Scroll 9/16/21 50 Shades Of Scrollcraftian Slashfic

(1) A HEART, HAS CHAMBERS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In their latest edition, WIRED magazine profiles Becky Chambers and talks about both the philosophical underpinning of her writing, and the context in which she’s publishing. The article may be too much of a hagiography for some, but it does provide some insights into what makes her work appealing. “Is Becky Chambers the Ultimate Hope for Science Fiction?”

In a world numbed by cynicisms and divisions, Chambers’ stories are intended to repair—to warm up our insides and restore feeling. So you might say that Chambers is, herself, the tea of our times, a soothing soothsayer whose well-meaning characters act out a fragrant, curative optimism.

(2) THAT’S SHAT. In “William Shatner Reviews Impressions of WIlliam Shatner” on YouTube, Shat reviews impressions of him for Vanity Fair, including a teenager, Jim Carrey, and Bill Nye before he became The Science Guy.

(3) LATINX. Horror Writers Association Blog kicks off its “Latinx Horror” theme in an “Interview with E. Reyes”.

How do you feel the Latinx community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

I feel like the Latinx community has finally knocked down that door and we are now being seen. I see more Latinx voices in horror emerging and I will be right there with them.

Who are some of our favorite Latinx characters in horror?

I need to expand more on my Latinx horror reading and viewing, but I’ll say that Robert Rodriguez directed one of my favorite horror movies ever: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), and it has very awesome Latinx characters in it.

(4) RETURNING TO A FAVORITE. At The Endless Bookshelf, Henry Wessells rereads “Little, Big by John Crowley”.

John Crowley’s Little, Big is a book which I have read more times than I can count. It is also in that rare category of books which I give away (sometimes even the copy in my hand). Readers of the Endless Bookshelf will have seen allusions to my readings over the years (Appraisal at Edgewood, the summer of 2007, or Chapter XIV in A Conversation larger than the Universe or  “Strange Enough to Be Remembered Forever”). Everything which Hazlitt enumerates applies to re-readings of Little, Big. This year, when I picked up the novel, I paid attention to recurrences of words and parallels. I don’t say repetitions or doublings because the words often function — that is to say, carry meaning — in a new way when they return to the surface later in the book….

(5) JEOPARDY! Variety says that with Mike Richards out, the Jeopardy! hosting gig will be divided between Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings.

…Bialik will take over hosting duties for the first couple weeks, starting Sept. 20 and running through Nov. 5. She and Jennings will then trade off as their schedules allow. The two of them will tape enough episodes to get “Jeopardy!” through the end of the year….

(6) QED. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com hors d’ouerve is “I Sing the Body Electric: 5 SF Works About Sex and Technology”.

Unsurprisingly for a species that once dispatched to the stars at great expense a nude selfie with directions to its home, addressed “To Whom It May Concern”, a large fraction of humans (although not all) has an intense, abiding interest in sex. Consequently, any technology that can assist in the quest for or enhancement of sex enjoys a tremendous advantage over technologies lacking such applications.…

Five books later, Nicoll points out –

(It may seem like there’s a pattern here and there is. Anyone who wants to deny conscious partners autonomy provides a demonstration of why autonomy is needed.)

(7) CLASSIC FRANK HERBERT INTERVIEW. [Item by Soon Lee.] I know all the current interest is in the Denis Villeneuve version of Dune, but as I was noodling around, I stumbled across this 1969 Frank Herbert interview where he talks to Willis E. McNelly about the origins of Dune.  Interviewer Willis E. McNelly later wrote the Dune Encyclopedia. It’s a whopping 80 minutes long but fascinating for anyone who is a fan as it is a wide-ranging conversation exploring ecology, sustainability, religion, politics and powers among others. I haven’t finished listening to me but Beverly Herbert also appears in the recording.

(8) BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, TWO OF MY BEST FRIENDS. Joe Lansdale talks about his Hap and Leonard series and pays tribute to Michael K. Williams who played Leonard Pine in the television adaptation of the series.  A new collection of Hap and Leonard stories is coming from Tachyon in 2022. “Joe R. Lansdale Remembers The Genesis of Hap and Leonard and Pays Tribute to Michael K. Williams” at CrimeReads.

… My subconscious may have created them, but I felt as if Hap and Leonard were friends of mine. I was more like Hap than Leonard, but my inner voice, Leonard, was willing to contest my common viewpoints, and from time to time, teach me something.

When I first wrote about Hap and Leonard, black and white friends existed in fiction and film, but their friendship, I truly believe, was unique for the times. The racism Leonard met head on was real. Folks I knew said, oh, it’s not like that anymore.

That wasn’t what I was seeing….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1963 – Fifty eight years ago this evening on ABC, The Outer Limits series premiered. Created and executive produced by Leslie Stevens, who had done nothing of a genre nature before, and directed by far too many to note here. Two episodes, “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier”, were written by Harlan Ellison, Clifford Simak wrote “The Duplicate Man” episode, and David Duncan penned “The Human Factor”. Eando Binder gets credit for the “I, Robot” episode. Though The Outer Limits achieved cult status it was not long lived, lasting but two seasons and forty-nine episodes. It had a loyal audience but it was programmed against the far more popular Jackie Gleason program and it was cancelled part way through its second season. Thirty-three years later, the rebooted series would run for one hundred and fifty-two episodes. There is rumor of yet another rebooted series in development now. 

There is nothing wrong with your DVD player. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling your DVD player. We already control the horizontal and the vertical. We now control the digital. We can change the focus from a soft blur to crystal clarity. Sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits. — opening narration which was by Vic Perrin

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 16, 1898 — Hans Augusto Rey. German-born American illustrator and author best remembered for the beloved Curious George children’s book series that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. An Eighties series of five-minute short cartoons starring him was produced by Alan Shalleck, along with Rey — Ken Sobol, scriptwriter of Fantastic Voyage, was the scriptwriter here. A later TV series (2006-2009) had many writers, including Craig Miller. Rey’s interest in astronomy led to him drawing star maps which are still use in such publications as Donald H. Menzel’s A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. A simpler version for children called Find the Constellations, is still in print as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis. You’ll remember her best as Altaira “Alta” Morbius on Forbidden Planet. She also appeared twice in The Twilight Zone (“The After Hours” and “Jess-Belle”). She also appeared in multiple episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She’d even appear twice in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and played several roles on Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 16, 1932 — Karen Anderson. She co-wrote two series with her husband, Poul Anderson, King of Ys and The Last Viking, and created the delightful The Unicorn Trade collection with him. Fancyclopedia has her extensive fannish history thisaway, and Mike has her obituary here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born September 16, 1927 — Peter Falk. His best remembered genre role is in The Princess Bride as the Grandfather who narrates the story. (The person who replaced the late Falk in the full cast reading of The Princess Bride for the Wisconsin Democratic fundraiser, Director Rob Reiner, wasn’t nearly as good as he was in that role.) He also plays Ramos Clemente in “The Mirror,” an episode of The Twilight Zone. And he’s Reverend Theo Kerr in the 2001 version of The Lost World. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 16, 1952 — Lisa Tuttle, 69. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute,” which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include CatwitchThe Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection. Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross.
  • Born September 16, 1960 — Mike Mignola, 61. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early on ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing What If story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories  are quite excellent too.  I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, and detest the reboot now that I’ve seen it, while the animated films are excellent.
  • Born September 16, 1960 — Kurt Busiek, 61. Writer whose work includes The Marvels limited series, his own outstanding Astro City series, and a very long run on The Avengers. He also worked at Dark Horse where he did Conan #1–28 and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles #1–8. 
  • Born September 16, 1970 — Nick Sagan, 51. Son of Carl Sagan. He’s written scripts for Next Generation and Voyager. Not to mention Space Precinct. He is the author of the three novels, Edenborn, Everfree and Idlewild. 

(11) OCTOTHORPE. Octothorpe episode 40 is “Very Exuberant and Very Dangerous”. John Coxon is listening to podcasts, Alison Scott is reading stories, and Liz Batty is watching TV.

We are pleased to see that Corflu now has something about COVID on their webpage and we discuss the NHS COVID Pass. We also do Picks, in which we (wait for it) talk about science fiction we quite like for a bit.

Also, Octothorpe sent along this nifty art of Woomera by Alison Scott.

(12) WIDESPREAD HARASSMENT OF VIDEO GAME PLAYERS. Deseret News covers the statistics of a new report: “Gamers face online harassment when playing video games, ADL says”.

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League has found that most U.S. teens experience harassment when playing video games online.

The study said 60% of children 13 to 17 years old experience harassment when playing games online.

  • And it doesn’t seem to be catching on with parents. Less than 40% of parents or guardians said they implemented safety controls for online games.
  • And less than 50% of teen gamers said they talk to their parents about their online games.

Overall, gamers experience massive harassment online. The survey found 71% of adults from 18 to 45 years old “experienced severe abuse, including physical threats, stalking and sustained harassment within the first six months of 2021.”…

(13) HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT. At CrimeReads, Olivia Rutligliano pays tribute to Pushing Daisies and why it was such a memorable, if weird, show. “Looking Back on the Magical Mystery Series Pushing Daisies”.

Pushing Daisies might be most memorable for its bright, uncanny visuals—a merry, surreal palette of greens, reds, and yellows that don’t veritably exist in nature. The candy-colors of Pushing Daisies reflect its deep thematic investment in artificiality—on a tonal level, the show concerns simulacra of life, rather than life itself. Its characters cannot truly live the lives they want, and this is rather literal. Ned (Lee Pace) is a gentle, bashful entrepreneur (the proprietor and chef of a pie bakery called “The Pie Hole”) guarding a disquieting secret—he has the ability to bring dead things back to life with only a touch. But if he lets these newly animated entities live for longer than a minute or so, another entity of equal mass must die in its place, to restore the balance of the universe. Touching them a second time will return them to death, permanently—which means that if he wants to reconnect with anyone after they have passed, he only has a solitary minute to do so….

(14) BE SEATED. In episode 61 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, “The joining of three tides”,  David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss their fannish projects outside the podcast: in Perry’s case his sercon genzine The Alien Review; and in David’s case his new fortnightly email newsletter Through the Biblioscope.

They also discuss two of the nominees for Best Novel in this year’s Hugo Awards: The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal, and Network Effect by Martha Wells. 

(15) NOW AWAITING COLLECTION. In the latest Nature, “Success! Mars Rover Finally Collects Its First Rock Core”.

…When the rover first attempted the manoeuvre, on 6 August, the rock it was trying to sample crumbled into powder before making it into a sample tube. The second attempt, on 1 September at a different location several hundred metres away, went smoothly: the drill bit pulled a slim cylinder out of a 70-centimetre long rock named Rochette. Engineers then paused the process so that they could photograph the core in its sample tube, to ensure it was intact, before sealing the specimen inside days later….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Snake Eyes–G.I. Joe–Origins” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say, “Don’t care about the G.I. Joe movies?” No one else does,” and adds that the film comes from Paramount, “the studio who came in last at the box office for seven years straight.”  The film features some great martial artists, but is under the direction of R.I.P.D. director Robert Schwentke, who loves his shaky cam, even though shaking a camera to make a film exciting “is like shaking a book to make it exciting.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/5/21 You’ve Got To Know When To Hodor’em, Know When To Scroll’em, Know When To White Walker Away

(1) BURTON OUT OF JEOPARDY, UNFORTUNATELY. LeVar Burton won’t succeed the late Alex Trebek as host of the game show Jeopardy! According to Deadline, the show’s executive producer Mike Richards will be taking the job.  

LeVar Burton tweeted today:

I have said many times over these past weeks that no matter the outcome, I’ve won. The outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and fans alike has been incredible! If love is the ultimate blessing and I believe that it is, I am truly blessed beyond measure.

Here’s a look-back at a recent show when LeVar Burton presided over “The Science Fiction Category”.

(2) WHO’S ON FIRST. “Doctor Who’s next showrunner is more important than its next Doctor” insists Radio Times.

…But the showrunner is responsible for literally everything – from the tone of the show to its look, its casting, its music… even, to a lesser degree, its format and structure. Yes, making Doctor Who – and indeed, any show like it – is a massive team effort, but the showrunner picks (or is at least involved in the hiring of) their writers, the composer, the production designer, the make-up artists, the casting director… all those talented folk whose hard work goes into putting the show together.

Think how distinct the Russell T Davies era is from the Steven Moffat era, and how different both are to Chibnall’s show. Bar a few cosmetic changes, Doctor Who starring Christopher Eccleston and Doctor Who starring David Tennant are broadly the same series. But there’d be no mistaking Moffat’s Who for Davies’ – yes, they’re ostensibly the same programme, but the visuals are different, the humour is different, certain of the tropes are different… everything has regenerated, far more dramatically than when the show switches out one lead actor for the next. (That lead actor, of course, is also picked by the showrunner – pending BBC approval.)…

(3) HUGO HISTORY UPDATE. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Ben Yalow located a copy of the 1993 Hugo Awards Nominating & Final Ballot Details report and I have updated the 1993 Hugo Awards entry at the official Hugo Awards site with a copy of it.

Note that the rules in 1993 were different than they are today, and this report included what was required under the rules as they existed at that time.

[Editor’s egoscanning note: I see File 770 came in second, as it was wont to do in the Nineties.]

(4) ON YOUR MARK. Tenth Letter of the Alphabet has combed through the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office and assembled a vast collection of “Pulp Fiction Trademarks” like these —

(5) ANOTHER CONLANG. “What Language Does Leeloo Speak In The Fifth Element?” – let Looper tell you.

…A lot of time and effort, including the formation of a special language, went into crafting “The Fifth Element,” with Besson working on the project for around 15 years. What some might not know is that the unique language Leeloo speaks in the film is called the Divine Language, and it’s actually a personal creation of Besson’s, made solely for the movie. 

The Divine Language that was developed for “The Fifth Element” only has around 400 words in total, but that’s certainly enough to carry a conversation. According to an interview with i-D, Jovovich gives Besson complete credit for the language’s creation, stating that “He brought me a dictionary of words. We would write each other letters in the language, so I was getting used to communication and speaking it.”… 

(6) UNDERSTANDING SILKPUNK. BookRiot’s Lyndsie Manusos has some definite opinions about “Silkpunk: What It Is And What It Definitely Is Not”. “Silkpunk does NOT apply to every speculative, science fiction, or fantasy book inspired by Asian history or culture. Here’s what it is.”

…In the long history of speculative and SFF genres, silkpunk is pretty new. It was invented by Ken Liu to describe his 2015 novel The Grace of Kings. Liu coined the term, and wrote a post on his website to delve into its definition. Liu’s post begins with: “No, [silkpunk is] not “Asian-flavored steampunk.” No, it’s not “Asian-influenced fantasy.” No, it’s not…

(7) A PAIR OF ACES. Molly Templeton pointed out to Tor.com readers where they can “Watch Martha Wells and Becky Chambers in Conversation”.

… The two discuss outlining (or not); television watching (Wells, like all wise viewers, enjoys Elementary); how much time Chambers thought about tea while writing Psalm; writing with compassion for your characters; and how excellent it is that more voices are telling their stories in SFF….

(8) TOP 10. ScreenRant shared the list of “The American Film Institute’s 10 Best Sci Fi Movies”. Guess what is only number six!!

6. Blade Runner

A cerebral film with lofty existential themes, Blade Runner is a duly highly regarded sci-fi film and often noted as one of the best of the sci-fi genre. Another Ridley Scott film – one of his best science fiction films – Blade Runner follows an officer and blade runner named Deckard that is tasked with tracking down and destroying four replicants, which are sentient robots that were deemed illegal after a replicant uprising on a faraway planet.

On Deckard’s journey to destroy, or retire, the replicants, he is faced with questions of what it means to be human and the accuracy or inaccuracy of perception of reality. Further, the film paints a bleak portrait of a potential future with animals being extinct and a highly polluted atmosphere, connecting to concerns that modern audiences have for the environment.

(9) STONE SOUP. At “Building Beyond: Leaf Me Alone”, Sarah Gailey is joined by Stephen Rider and Amal El-Mohtar to play with this writing prompt:

The global forest community has decided to cut off all economic and trading ties with the outside world. From now on, forest-based resources are for the forest alone.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1970 – Fifty one years at Heicon ’70 where John Brunner was the Toastmaster, Ursula Le Guin wins the Hugo for Best Novel for The Left Hand of Darkness. It was first published in 1969 as Ace SF Special, Series 1.  Other nominated works that year were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony‘s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad‘s Bug Jack Barron. It would also win a Nebula Award and be nominated for a Ditmar Award as well. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 5, 1906 John Huston. Yes, the Huston who directed  and wrote The Maltese Falcon graced our community. He was M in Casino Royale, and The Lawgiver in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. He was in Sherlock Holmes in New York as Professor Moriarty, and voiced Gandalf in The Return of The King. (Died 1987.)
  • Born August 5, 1929 Don Matheson. Best remembered for being Mark Wilson in Land of the Giants. He also had roles in Lost in Space (where he played in an alien in one episode and an android in another episode), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an Alice in Wonderland film and Dragonflight. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 5, 1935 Wanda Ventham, 86. Mother of Benedict Cumberbatch. She’s been on Who three times, in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story, in “Image of the Fendahl”, a Fourth Doctor story and finally in “Time and the Rani”, a Seventh Doctor story. She also had roles in The Blood Beast TerrorProject U.F.O and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. She was often on British TV series including Danger ManThe SaintThe Avengers and The Prisoner. And yes, she was on his Sherlock series where she played…his mother.
  • Born August 5, 1940 Natalie Trundy, 81. First, she was one of the Underdwellers, named Albina, in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Next, she played Dr. Stephanie Branton, a specialist studying apes from the future who came into our present day in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.  Then in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, she played the chimp Lisa.  As far as I can tell, she’s the only performer to play three different roles in the Apes films. 
  • Born August 5, 1947 Élisabeth Vonarburg, 74. Parisian born, she’s been a Quebec resident for four decades. She was the literary director of the French-Canadian SF magazine Solaris. Her first novel, Le Silence de la Cité, was published in 1981. Since then she’s been a prolific writer of novels and short fiction. I’m pleased to say that the usual suspects is deeply stocked in her works. Her website, in French of course, is here. She’s won ten Prix Aurora Awards for the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy works and activities in English and French. Très, très impressionnant! 
  • Born August 5, 1961 Tawny Kitaen. I first remember her in Hercules and the Circle of Fire as Deianeira, a role remarkable only for the minimalist costume she wore. She repeated the role throughout the series. Her first genre acting was actually in low budget horror flick Witchboard. And other than an appearance in a SF comedy series They Came from Outer Space, that’s it for her. (Died 2021.)
  • Born August 5, 1980 JoSelle Vanderhooft, 41. Former Green Man reviewer with a single novel so far, Ebenezer, and several collections, Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories and Steam-Powered II: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories which the former were nominated for a Lambda Award. She also co-edited with Steve Berman, Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction.

(12) COMICS HISTORY. “Let Otto Binder show you how the mid-’60s comic book sausage was made” at Scott Edelman’s blog.

Two more treasures found in my late sister-in-law Ellen Vartanoff’s collection — mid-’60s scripts by the extremely prolific comics writer Otto Binder. Wikipedia claims he wrote 4,400 stories under his own name — and 160 more under the pen-name Eando Binder…

…His [Otto Binder’s] story in Creepy adapted of one of the 10 stories he wrote for Amazing Stories with his brother Earl Binder (under the pen name Eando Binder) about the intelligent robot Adam Link.

Someday I’ll scan and share the entirety of both scripts, but for now, here’s a comparison of the first page of the Mighty Samson one, as well as the published page, with art by Frank Thorne — who’s perhaps best-known for his work on Marvel’s Red Sonja….

(13) DRAWN THAT WAY. Studio co-founder Alvy Ray Smith tells IEEE Spectrum readers “The Real Story of Pixar” – “How a bad hardware company turned itself into a great movie studio.”

…The story… goes back to a time when I and other researchers in computer graphics scattered around the United States began to see the technology as allowing a new art form: the creation of digitally animated movies. A handful of us began talking about when somebody would make the first one—”The Movie,” we called it—and the massive computing power it would take to pull it off. That kind of computing power was not affordable in the mid-1970s. But with Moore’s Law cranking along at a steady pace, there was every reason to think that the cost of computing power would come down sufficiently within a decade or so. In the meantime, we focused on developing the software that would make The Movie possible.

By definition, The Movie could incorporate no hand drawing. The tools to build it emerged piecemeal. First came the software that enabled computers to create two-dimensional images and, later, virtual 3D objects. Then we figured out how to move those objects, shade them, and light them before rendering them as frames of a movie….

…We kept the possibility of The Movie alive during the next five years with a series of short films, including Luxo Jr. (1986), nominated for an Academy Award; Tin Toy (1988) winner of an Academy Award; Red’s Dream (1987); and Knick Knack (1989). These were four of the sparkling jewels that sustained us during these otherwise tough years.

Each one of these pieces represented continued improvements in the underlying in-house technologies. Luxo Jr., for example, incorporated the first articulated objects that self-shadowed themselves from multiple light sources. Red’s Dream showed off our Pixar Image Computer: the principal background for the piece, a bicycle shop, was the most complex computer graphics scene ever rendered at the time….

(14) THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY. “R2-D2 is now a Tamagotchi you’ll forget about” predicts Engadget. (See demos at the company’s own interactive info page: Star Wars R2-D2 Tamagotchi.)

Disney and Bandai have teamed up to bring Artoo to the pockets of fans who don’t mind training, cleaning and looking after a needy, digital version of the droid wherever they are. …As you might expect from a Tamagotchi, you’ll interact with the toy using three physical buttons.

There are 19 skills for Artoo to learn. You’ll need to keep him charged and clean. Unlike with other Tamagotchis, you won’t have to clear up any poop from R2-D2 (he’s a droid, after all). A Lucasfilm spokesperson told Engadget that if R2-D2 sits for too long, he’ll accumulate dust. You can clean that away with the press of a button.

There are nine mini-games you can play with him, including firefighting and Star Wars staple Dejarik (or holochess). If you don’t keep the droid happy, some Jawas might arrive to take him away….

(15) FROM OUTSIDE OF TIME. Episode 37 of Octothorpe 37, a podcast about science fiction and SF fandom from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty, is available here.

 We didn’t record this week so this is the fabled EPISODE X, part of the SUMMER OF FUN (summer of fun). We discuss the Retro Hugo Awards and reading old books from a time when Graham Linehan was still on Twitter. Crazy.

(16) MINUS MEN. Y: The Last Man premieres September 13 — on FX on Hulu.

Based on DC Comics’ acclaimed series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man traverses a post-apocalyptic world in which a cataclysmic event decimates every mammal with a Y chromosome but for one cisgender man and his pet monkey. The series follows the survivors in this new world as they struggle with their efforts to restore what was lost and the opportunity to build something better.

(17) THE STARS BYE DESTINATION. Gizmodo knows why “This Blasted Star Is Getting the Hell Out of the Milky Way”.

Careening through the Milky Way at nearly 2 million miles per hour, the star LP 40–365 shows no signs of stopping. A team of astronomers recently figured out that the star was propelled into its current speedrun by a supernova explosion millions of years ago.

LP 40–365 is unusual. It’s a white dwarf, a small, compact star at the end of its life, and it’s very rich in metals. LP 40–365 also has own atmosphere, which is mostly composed of oxygen and neon. But most important to this story is that the star is a runaway from a huge stellar explosion, which set in motion its dash out of the galaxy….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Mario Golf”,  Fandom Games says this Mario Bros. line extension “turns the fusty game of golf into the PGA version of Death Race.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, N., John Coxon, Daniel Dern, Scott Edelman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]