Pixel Scroll 1/19/23 I Have Always Depended On The Chimeras Of Strangers

(1) DECREASE YOUR PILE. Matt at Runalong the Shelves has unleashed “The 2023 Booktempter’s TBR reduction challenge” with 12 sets of different monthly themes to trim that backlog of things you’ve picked to read.

After a lot of people enjoyed last year’s challenge then I am going to give you some more little monthly prompts. Some familiar and some new to help get that TBR pile reduced! I care you see!

It has three simple rules

1 – It applies to your TBR pile as per 23.59 31/12/2022 no new books post this date can be used (but of course you can subsequently add more to your TBR piles I am not cruel)

2 – If you are a book blogger no ARCs! Sorry, but this is to cut down your own self-induced TBR.

3 – You can do one challenge a month (or more if you fancy my stretch goals) but you only have to do twelve in a year and while I am applying some very loose monthly themes. You could do this in a sprint or just when you feel like it ?

For example, the “January TBR Reduction Challenge”:

January’s Challenge is fairly standard – you have my permission to read the last book you bought!

This is how TBRs form – we buy book; then place on shelf; read another book instead. This month – is no longer about delayed gratification. No book diet for us in January. Pick that tale up and allow yourself the pleasure of reading it. Who knows this could become a habit to start the rest of the year!

(2) OF ALL THE BRASS. “England’s Booker Prize Asks Public To Name Its Trophy” — and Publishing Perspectives boosts the signal. There’s a jury assigned to winnow the suggestions, so don’t expect to see “Prizey McPrizeface” on the shortlist.

… The public is being asked now to put forward ideas for the statuette’s name. And even in naming a trophy, yes, there will then be a shortlist of six names. Chosen by a jury. This must be how even the daily lunch menu is decided in the offices of our myriad publishing and book awards….

(3) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 75 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Optimus Prime But for Books”

John Coxon wants to play, Alison Scott has met lots of authors, and Liz Batty is a womble. We discuss Locus and Amazon’s decisions about Kindle Publishing for Periodicals before diving into the bewildering state of the Chengdu Worldcon. Listen here!

(4) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction readings series resumes online with guest author Jonathan Carroll. Long into host Jim Freund’s YouTube page on Sunday, January 22 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Jonathan Carroll is an American fiction writer primarily known for novels that may be labeled magic realism, slipstream or contemporary fantasy. He has lived in Austria since 1974, hence this month’s Sunday matinee in NYC, which will be 7 PM in Vienna.

Carroll’s short story, “Friend’s Best Man”, won the World Fantasy Award. His novel, Outside the Dog Museum, won the British Fantasy Award and his collection of short stories won the Bram Stoker Award. The short story “Uh-Oh City” won the French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. His short story “Home on the Rain” was chosen as one of the best stories of the year by the Pushcart Prize committee. Carroll has been a runner-up for the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo, and British Fantasy Awards.

(5) TO THE BONE. “ComiXology Gutted by Amazon Layoffs, Former Staff Worry For the Service’s Future” reports CBR.com.

Social media conversation around ComiXology erupted on Jan. 18 after major redundancies were reported at the Amazon-owned company.

According to Amazon journalist Jason Del Ray, Amazon retail CEO Doug Herrington issued a note notifying employees of the layoffs in the morning, emphasizing that it was “an important part of a wider effort to lower our cost to serve so we can continue investing in the wide selection, low prices, and fast shipping that our customers love.” While ComiXology was not specifically mentioned in the report, employees of the digital comics company clarified on Twitter that they had been affected. ComiXology founders David Steinberger and John D. Roberts chimed in, noting that they were saddened over the loss of jobs.

… Scott McGovern, who previously worked as a program manager at ComiXology for a decade, posted a Twitter thread in the aftermath of the layoffs. McGovern estimated that “at least 50% of the staff have been let go,” and added that the number might be as high as 75%. McGovern also wrote that he was “not optimistic” about the future of digital comics at Amazon despite the best efforts of ComiXology staff…

(6) UTTER CHAOS. “Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Will Introduce a New Computer Voice” warns Gizmodo.

Since Majel Barrett sadly passed in 2008Star Trek has turned to a plethora of alternatives to create new voices to match her iconic role as generations of computers across the Trek franchise. But now as Picard pulls us more and more into the 25th century timeline, it’s leaving Barrett’s legacy behind.

Speaking on Twitter recently, showrunner Terry Matalas confirmed that Picard’s final season—which will bring us the further into an early 25th-century timeline that, aside from Discovery slingshotting far into the future, none of the other contemporary Trek shows have explored yet—will introduce not one, but two new computer voices. One will be the voice of civilian systems, and another will become the de facto Starfleet computer voice across the Federation….

(7) A RARE KIND WORD ABOUT AI. “’Jung_E’ on Netflix: A Beautifully Heartrending Sci-Fi Thriller” is CNET reviewer Jennifer Bisset’s verdict.

A dash of class warfare and a heartrending parent-child connection brought a unique spin to 2016 zombie horror Train to Busan. Now South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho is turning his hand to a sci-fi thriller, setting Jung_E in a dystopian Earth marshaled by AI robots. In a similar vein to his zombie offering, Yeon is mainly focused on the human heart amid the action. This mother-daughter tale is driven by sacrifice, unanswered questions and the tragic price of survival.

That core preoccupation leads to an almost poetic — and moving — take on the creation of AI robots….

(8) LEE EMMETT (1942-2023). Lee Emmett, wife of author John Varley, died of cancer on January 13. It had spread to many parts of her body before it was discovered fairly recently – “The oncologist said she may have had cancer with no symptoms for as long as a year,” wrote Varley in an email to subscribers.

…On Thursday Mary-Beth and Lee’s son, Tom, got me into the hospital and to her room in a wheelchair. Her grand-kids had been in earlier. We talked for a while. She said she loved me, and I said I loved her back. And less than 24 hours later, she was gone…

He also said:

…I have no idea what I’m going to do now. There are a million things that need doing, and I don’t have the enthusiasm for any of them. I guess time will soften the blow, but there are no signs of it yet.

I’m not going to ask for money. I still remember how many of you came through for me after my heart surgery, and thank you, one and all. But I will point out that there is a yellow button on the home page at www.varley.net that says DONATE. It’s there because Spider Robinson said he had such a button on his page, and from time to time it had come in handy at a bad time. So it has been with me. I am retired now, and my collected works bring in little enough at this stage in my career. We have been getting by on social security and small donations here and there. Now Lee’s SS will be gone. I know I’ll make it, one way or another. Know that I am grateful to all you faithful readers, and always will be. My life has been good, and I still have a little ways to go.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1984 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume

New Orleans is featured in any number of genre novels and I’m sure that I’ll be featuring yet more quotes here from those novels here. One of my favorite culinary  quotes about this city comes from Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume, a novel first published by Bantam thirty nine years ago.

Though it takes place in multiple eras and locations, two of its memorable passages are set in New Orleans including the reason that gives the novel its title.

A stage production of Jitterbug Perfume was produced in Seattle at Cafe Nordo fourteen years ago.

Now here’s the quote I like…

The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote, funky file z’herbes, and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po’ boy with chowchow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week–yet the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don’t eat day and night, if you don’t constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, then the mystery beast will go right on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town. In fact, like any sex offender, it can leave permanent psychological scars.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1809 Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve got several sources that cite him as an early root of SF. Anyone care to figure that out? Be that as it may, he certainly wrote some damn scary horror — ones that I still remember are “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” (Died 1849.)
  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 93. Melanie Daniels in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s HarvestTales from the DarksideThe Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series
  • Born January 19, 1932 Richard Lester, 91. Director best known for his 1980s Superman films. He’s got a number of other genre films including the exceedingly silly The Mouse on the Moon, the stellar Robin and Marian which may be my favorite Robin Hood film ever, and an entire excellent series of Musketeers films. He also directed Royal Flash based on George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novel of that name which Kage was very fond of. 
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The SaintThe Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 19, 1958 Allen Steele, 65. Best, I think, at the shorter length works as reflected in his three Hugo wins: the first at LA Con III for his “The Death of Captain Future”, the second for his “…Where Angels Fear to Tread” at BucConeer and his third for “The Emperor of Mars” at Renovation. Not to say that you should overlook his novels and future history series beginning with The Jericho Iteration, which is well-worth your time. 
  • Born January 19, 1961 Paul McCrane, 62. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely a homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files
  • Born January 19, 1981 Bitsie Tulloch, 42. She’s best known for her role as Juliette Silverton on Grimm. (I saw the first three seasons I think. It’s rather good.) She played Lois Lane in the Elseworlds event which she reprised during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event a year later on Flash and the other series.
  • Born January 19 Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. Nebula winner for “O2 Arena” (2022) and Otherwise Award winner for “Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon”  (2021), Ekpeki is an African speculative fiction writer and editor in Nigeria. He has also been a finalist for multiple Hugos, and a nominee for many other awards. He edited and published the Bridging Worlds anthology, the first ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology (2022 World Fantasy Award winner), and co-edited the Africa Risen and Dominion (2021 British Fantasy Award) anthologies. He founded Jembefola Press and the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction. (OGH)

(11) ON THE SINISTER SIDE. Publishers Lunch reports the acquisition of an interesting-sounding mystery pastiche.

NYT bestselling author Claudia Gray’s THE PERILS OF LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH, the first of two new mysteries set in the world of Jane Austen’s England featuring the son of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and the daughter of Catherine and Henry Tilney, who have grown up to be amateur sleuths in the vein of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, and who are summoned by the imperious Lady Catherine to investigate sinister attempts on her life.

(12) SCRAMBLED IN STONE. Gizmodo knows where to look for a Mesozoic breakfast: “Nearly 100 Titanosaur Nests, Complete With Fossilized Eggs, Found in India”.

…Besides conjuring the idea of a double-yolked titanosaur omelet (was I the only one thinking about that?), the pathological eggs indicate titanosaurs may have produced eggs sequentially, like modern birds….

(13) ALL THAT REMAINS. “Star graveyard revealed in super-clear image of the Milky Way” in Nature.

Astronomers have discovered the remains of nearly two dozen exploding stars in the Milky Way, thanks to detailed radio observations that could unveil many more such events in the Galaxy.

A star in the Milky Way is expected to explode as a supernova roughly at least once every 100 years. These violent explosions — the dramatic final throes of massive stars as they exhaust their fuel — can eject vast clouds of dust and gas to locations many light years from the star. Such ‘supernova remnants’ can persist for thousands of years before dissipating. Studying these remnants can reveal useful information about the Galaxy, because they often contain heavy elements that give rise to other stars, planets and even life itself.

Hundreds of such remnants have been found across the Milky Way, but astronomers think that they have observed only about one-fifth of the total number….

(14) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. Scream 6 will be released in theaters on March 10.

Following the latest Ghostface killings, the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter. In Scream VI, Melissa Barrera (“Sam Carpenter”), Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy Meeks-Martin”), Mason Gooding (“Chad Meeks-Martin”), Jenna Ortega (“Tara Carpenter”), Hayden Panettiere (“Kirby Reed”) and Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) return to their roles in the franchise

(15) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Here’s a trailer for The Wandering Earth 2, announced as “coming soon” to the U.S. and Canada.

​​In the near future, after learning that the sun is rapidly burning out and will obliterate Earth in the process, humans build enormous engines to propel the planet to a new solar system, far out of reach of the sun’s fiery flares. However, the journey out into the universe is perilous, and humankind’s last shot at survival will depend on a group of young people brave enough to step up and execute a dangerous, life-or-death operation to save the earth.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/25/22 Mahna Mahna! Do Scroll The Pixels The Pixels Are The One Thing That Is True

(1) PULLING RANK. Amanda S. Green puts a blip on indie author’s radar screens. There’s been a change in what rankings Amazon displays to readers: “And so it goes” at Mad Genius Club.

…And Amazon has changed the rules without much fanfare when it comes to what rankings they show. According to another author who queried Amazon about what they were seeing, Amazon has shifted to a policy where only three category rankings will show on a product page. In other words, you can be in the top 10 in four or more categories but Amazon will only show three. As if that’s not bad enough, the categories I see might not be the same one you see because their bots choose which ones to show based on our browsing histories.

As a reader, I don’t see a big problem. As a writer, this is a huge problem….

(2) KINDLE STORYTELLER AWARD. The winner of Amazon UK’s 2022 Kindle Storyteller Award is a historical fantasy novel: King of War by Peter Gibbon.

The Kindle Storyteller Award is a £20,000 literary prize recognising outstanding writing. It is open to writers publishing in English in any genre, who publish their work through Kindle Direct Publishing. Readers play a significant role in selecting the winner, helped by a panel of judges including various book industry experts.

The 2022 Kindle Storyteller Award was open for entries between 1st May and 31st August 2022.

(3) SAY IT AIN’T SO! Syfy Wire has horrible news: “Disney+ lands future seasons of ‘Doctor Who’”.

If you want to watch the next incarnation of Doctor Who, you’re going to need a Disney+ subscription.

Disney announced Tuesday morning that it will be the new home for upcoming seasons of the classic BBC science fiction series in the United States and around the world, a major streaming acquisition for a streaming service that’s already home to major franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star WarsNcuti Gatwa, who will play the Fifteenth Doctor on the series, confirmed the news during an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan this morning, according to a Disney press release…. 

(4) GATEWAY TO THE PAST. Young People Read Old SFF features a look at the Susan C. Petrey that ends her posthumous collection Gifts of Blood, which included essays by Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre, and Kate Wilhelm.  What do the panelists think of this Hugo finalist?

October 2022’s Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists offers a story unusual in several ways. Firstly, I was utterly unfamiliar with Susan C. Petrey’s Hugo finalist story ​“Spidersong1”. A glance at Petrey’s ISFDB entry offers a grim explanation: Susan Petrey died in her mid-thirties, 5 December 1980. Most of her work seems to have been published posthumously, largely in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a magazine that for no good reason I did not read. 

In addition to her Hugo nomination, in spite of having just three stories in print (1979’s ​“Spareen Among the Tartars”, 1980’s ​“Spidersong”, and 1980’s ​“Fleas”), Petrey was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer2. Petrey died before the results of the nomination were announced. In fact, Petrey was one of two authors present posthumously on the 1981 Astounding Award3; Robert Stallman died August 1, 1980. As far as I can tell, this is the only year any nominees, let alone two4, for the Astounding were nominated post-mortum. 

“Spidersong” is unusual in a third, far more positive way: it is still in print, for web-based values of in print. Spidersong can be read in Issue 54 of Light Speed Magazine….

(5) LIGHTS ON. Cora Buhlert calls this a “semi non-fiction spotlight” because it’s about an anthology that mixes fiction reprints with essays and commentary: Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women Volume 2 (1953 to 1957), edited by Gideon Marcus”.

What prompted you to write/edit this book?

By 2018, I had read dozens of great stories by women in my trek through all the period science fiction magazines. That same year, I ran across A. J. Howells, who had started up a small press to republish The Office by Fredric Brown. His experience made me realize that it’s not too hard to start a press these days. Putting two and two together, it was obvious what my first project would be: a collection of all of my favorite stories by women from the era….

(6) THE NOT AT ALL JOLLY ROGER. According to this article from the Guardian, even Booker Prize winners have to deal with book piracy: “Booker prize winner urges people not to circulate pirated copies of his novel”.

Booker prize-winning author Shehan Karunatilaka has asked people not to circulate pirated versions of his novel.

Karunatilaka won the prize…for his second novel, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. In an Instagram story and a Facebook post two days after his win, Karunatilaka said it had “come to light that an unofficial and illegal” pdf version of his book was “doing the rounds on Sri Lankan social media”.

In his post, titled “Do not steal the moon”, the author wrote: “The book took seven years to write, with countless hours of research, craft and hard work poured into it. If you wish to support and honour Sri Lankan art, please do not forward pirated versions of the book and tell those who are circulating it to refrain from doing so.”…

(7) PREMEE MOHAMED Q&A: At the Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog: “Interview with Premee Mohamed, author of the Beneath The Rising trilogy”.

UHBC Blog: …Do you think it’s possible to write near-future fiction and not include some time of climate change elements?

Premee Mohamed: Well, anything’s possible in fiction.

But suppose I wanted to write a murder mystery set in London in a fancy house in the middle of the city in 1942. In theory, I could write the entire book just about the murder mystery and these friends would have to solve it.

But in practice, if I didn’t mention World War II at any point or the Blitz or the bombs or people that they knew that had died in the war … it would feel very weird and I feel like the book would be kind of missing something enormous about the reality of London in 1942….

(8) KNOW THE TERRITORY. J. Dianne Dotson advocates for “The Ecology of World-Building“ at the SFWA Blog.

…Interactions between living organisms and their environments include abiotic and biotic factors. Abiotic factors are nonliving factors, such as the sun, wind, precipitation, slope, or substrate (whether rock or other substance). Biotic factors are those that are living, such as plants, fungi, protists, or animals. Think about how both living and nonliving elements in your world affect your characters.

Other considerations include predator–prey relationships in your worlds. An apex predator is a top predator in a food chain. If your world has creatures, assume that there are predator–prey interactions. Where does each creature in your world fit in a food chain? What happens when you take the top predator away? What sorts of population pressures do your characters face? Showcasing these factors in your fiction weaves a unique tapestry for your characters to inhabit….

(9) CALLING OUT FATPHOBIA IN SFF. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing at Tor.com, R. K. Duncan enumerates the ways in which SFF has been a space that marginalizes those who are large. “SFF’s Big Fat Problem” is an important piece for us to read and to think about, when we’re consuming and creating fiction. 

In my lifetime, SFF has become unimaginably more welcoming of my queer self than it was when I began to read. My fat self, not so much. This essay is a callout for everyone who feels they are a part of this community. Do better.

(10) FEARSOME FIVE. James Davis Nicoll counts up “Five Chilling Horror Novellas to Read This Fall” at Tor.com.

October is, as I noted in an earlier essay, a season for ghosts and ghouls.  Days are shortening, winter is coming (at least for us folks in the northern hemisphere). It’s a season for melancholy entertainment.

Of course, autumn is also a busy season—even if, like the overwhelming majority of my readers, you don’t have to worry about getting crops in. You might not have the time, or the inclination, to read something long (there will be plenty of time for that in the cold days ahead). Happily, novellas are there for you. You might want to try one or more of these five….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Picasso Summer 

Back in the Summer of love or thereabouts, Mister Bradbury wrote the script for The Picasso Summer which by the time it was in the can had involved artist Pablo Picasso, French directors Francois Truffaut and Serge Bourguignon, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond,  animators Faith and John Hubley, composer Michel Legrand and Barbra Streisand. Even Bill Cosby was in the mix as his company produced it, as was another actor, Yul Brunner.

It’s based off his “In a Season of Calm Weather” short story which was first published in the January 1957 issue of Playboy. It was most recently, 2013, published by Bantam in his Medicine for Melancholy collection. 

SPOILERS OF A VERY PSYCHEDELIC NATURE FOLLOW. SENSITIVE MINDS SHOULD GO ELSEWHERE.

Bradbury wrote a most excellent script here. 

His story is that SF architect George Smith (as played by Albert Finney) is vacationing in France with his wife Alice (a very beautiful Yvette Mimieux) with the hopes of meeting Picasso. Why he wants to meet him is not explained. The back story is he is terminally weary of being an architect.

The young couple are turned away from the artist’s home, and a fight breaks out. George in a rather nasty mood goes off to Spain to meet Spanish bullfighting legend Luis Miguel Dominguín, who might be a friend of Picasso and might get him an introduction. He doesn’t. 

So Alice stays behind and alone in France, very miserable. Upon he returns, he apologizes for the quite bad vacation. They go for a final swim on the beach, utterly failing to notice Picasso playing in the sand with his family just a few hundred yards away as they stroll away from him into the sunset.

YOU COME BACK. WE’RE NOT DOING INTERESTING DRUGS ANYMORE. I THINK. 

I must stress that it includes some very trippy and quite lively animated sequences of Picasso’s work done up in the finest Sixties style possible. Groovy man!  It’s quite delightful and all goes superbly well for our couple in the end.

It was shot in 1969, partly re-shot and tooted into the vault in 1969, but not shown publicly until 1972. It doesn’t appear in the Warner Bros. release records because it never hit the theaters only to premiere in the States on CBS’s Late Nite Movie. Warner Bros put a clip from it up here. Please, please do not link to the many extended clips from the film including the animated sequences as they are clear violations of copyright as the film is still very much under copyright.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 25, 1902 Philip Wylie. Writer of SF snd mysteries alike. Co-author with Edwin Balme of When Worlds Collide, his most important work, which was first published as a six-part monthly serial (September 1932 through February 1933) in the Blue Book magazine with illustrations by Joseph Franké. The novel was the basis of the 1951 film  of the same name that was produced by George Pal. (Died 1971.)
  • Born October 25, 1909 Whit Bissell. You most likely know him as Station Manager Lurry on “The Trouble With Tribbles”, but his major contribution to the SFF genre was being in all thirty episodes of The Time Tunnel as Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk. He also did one-offs on The InvadersI Dream of JeannieThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaScience Fiction TheaterThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. And yes, in the Time Machine film. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 25, 1928 Marion Ross, 94. Best remembered as Marion Cunningham on Happy Days but she does have some genre roles, including an uncredited appearance in The Secret of The Incas often cited as the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Charlton Heston was adventurer Harry Steele. Anyone see it? Again uncredited, she’s in a Fifties version of Around the World in 80 Days. The Sixties are kinder to her as she starts getting credited for her work, first for being on The Outer Limits as Agnes Benjamin in “The Special One” episode followed by being Angela Fields in Colossus: The Forbin Project. To date, her last genre role was on the animated Galaxy as the voice of Doctor Minerva in “Gotta Get Outta This Place”. 
  • Born October 25, 1940 Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties.  Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also know for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its run including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 25, 1963 John Gregory Betancourt, 59. Writer known for his work in Zelazny’s Amber universe but who has written quite a bit of other franchise fiction including works in the Star TrekHerculesRobert Silverberg’s Time ToursDr. Bones and The New Adventures of Superman. Most of his original fiction was early in his career. He’s also edited in a number of magazines including Weird TalesAmazing StoriesH. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of HorrorAdventure Tales and Cat Tales. He even co-edited with Anne McCaffrey, Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey. His Wildside Press has been nominated three times for World Fantasy Awards. 
  • Born October 25, 1971 Elif Safak, 51. Turkish writer with three genre novels, one written originally in Turkish (Mahrem), The Gaze in its English translation, and two written in English, The Architect’s Apprentice (which was translated into Turkish as Ustam ve Ben)  and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
  • Born October 25, 1971 Marko Kloos, 51. Author of two MilSF series, Frontlines and The Palladium Wards. His Lines of Departure was nominated for Hugo Award for Best Novel at Sasquan on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. Five of his books have been Dragon Awards nominees in the Best Military SF or Fantasy category.

(13) SOI HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES. The Society of Illustrators’ 2022 Hall of Fame Ceremony and Awards will catch up two years’ worth of inductees.

Since 1958, the Society of Illustrators has elected to its Hall of Fame artists recognized for their distinguished achievement in the art of illustration. 

Artists are chosen based on their body of work and the impact it has made on the field of illustration. 

2021 Hall of Fame Laureates

  • Braldt Bralds
  • Craig Mullins
  • Floyd Norman
  • Margaret Brundage
  • Jean Alexandre Michel André Castaigne
  • Walter Percy Day
  • Dale Messick

2022 Hall of Fame Laureates

  • Charles Addams
  • George Booth
  • Emory Douglas
  • Wendy and Brian Froud
  • Reynold Ruffins

(14) HUGO SWAG. Cora Buhlert recently received her 2022 Hugo finalist certificate and pin. You can see a photo here: “Look What the Mailman Brought Me”.

(15) SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY POETRY ASSOCIATION MILESTONE. Adele Gardner and Greer Woodward, Editors of the 2022 Dwarf Stars Anthology made a historic announcement about the poet who took second place in the 2022 Dwarf Stars Award for his poem “Colony.”

Jamal Hodge is the first black man to win or place in the competition. Though the editors are saddened that there have not been prior accolades for black men in the Dwarf Stars Award, we are so very glad that Jamal Hodge has broken this barrier and lifted us with the quality of his work.
 
Jamal Hodge is a multi-award-winning filmmaker and writer from Queens NYC who has won over 80 awards with screenings at Tribecca Film Festival, Sundance, and the Cannes Short Film Corner. As a writer, Hodge is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and the SFPA, being nominated for a 2021 & 2022 Rhysling Award for his poems “Fermi’s Spaceship” and “Loving Venus,” while placing second in the 2022 Dwarf Stars. His poetry is featured in the anthology Chiral Mad 5 alongside such legends as Stephen King and Linda Addison. His written work was featured in the historical all-black issue of Star*Line (43.4), Space and Time Magazine, Hybrid: Misfits, Monsters & Other Phenomena, Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, Savage Planets, and many others. https://linktr.ee/directorh
 
Hodge’s 2022 Dwarf Stars poem “Colony” is a poignant observation of humanity. Although scientists have developed technology superb enough to send people to Mars and establish a colony, human nature has remained unchanged. The fact that murder is one of the things that marks our humanity is not only tragic, but may well damage prospects for a hopeful future. The editors admired the way this powerful message was expressed in only 29 words.

(16) MIGHTY DIALOG. Book Riot’s Kate Scottanoints these as “23 of the Best The Lord of the Rings Quotes”.

Choosing the best quotes from The Lord of the Rings is difficult, because there are so many amazing lines in this fantasy epic. Nevertheless, here are 23 of my favorite The Lord of the Rings quotes.

First out of the gate:

“‘Why was I chosen?’ ‘Such questions cannot be answered,’ said Gandalf. ‘You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.’”

How can it be that my own favorite isn’t even on the list!

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Rings Of Power (Season 1),” the Screen Junkies say this Lord of the RIngs prequel has so many mysterious strangers show up in the first episodes that “It’s hard to keep up with the people who aren’t mysterious. Stop making me do homework to watch TV!” the narrator complains. He shows at least five clips where the cast are trying very very hard not to say they’re making rings that characters can be lords of. Noting this is an Amazon project, the narrator asks, “do the orc slaves get free two-day shipping?”

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

Booker Prize 2022

The Booker Prize 2022 announced on October 17 went to a work of genre interest.

  • Shehan Karunatilaka, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida (Sort Of Books)

The Sri Lankan writer’s novel is a supernatural satire set amid a murderous Sri Lankan civil war.

Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet gay, has woken up dead in what seems to be a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the Beira Lake and he has no idea who killed him. At a time when scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long.

But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has ‘seven moons’ to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka. 

The £50,000 prize, for a single work of fiction published in the UK in English, also gives the other five writers on the shortlist £2,500 each.

Booker Prize 2022 Shortlist

The Booker Prize 2022 shortlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • NoViolet Bulawayo, Glory (Viking)
  • Claire Keegan, Small Things Like These (Grove Press)
  • Alan Garner, Treacle Walker (4th Estate, HarperCollins)
  • Percival Everett, The Trees (Graywolf Press)
  • Shehan Karunatilaka, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida (Sort Of Books)
  • Elizabeth Strout, Oh William! (Random House)

The winner will be announced on October 17.

Booker Prize 2022 Longlist

The Booker Prize 2022 longlist includes four books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

The list also includes the historical novel Booth by Karen Joy Fowler, a writer with a deep resume of sff works.

  • Audrey Magee, The Colony (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Selby Wynn Schwartz, After Sappho (Liveright)
  • NoViolet Bulawayo, Glory (Viking)
  • Claire Keegan, Small Things Like These (Grove Press)
  • Leila Mottley, Nightcrawling (Knopf)
  • Maddie Mortimer, Maps of our Spectacular Bodies (Scribner)
  • Graeme Macrae Burnet, Case Study (Biblioasis)
  • Alan Garner, Treacle Walker (4th Estate, HarperCollins)
  • Percival Everett, The Trees (Graywolf Press)
  • Hernan Diaz, Trust (Riverhead Books)
  • Shehan Karunatilaka, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida (Sort Of Books)
  • Elizabeth Strout, Oh William! (Random House)
  • Karen Joy Fowler, Booth (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

The shortlist will be unveiled on September 6, and the winner will be announced on October 17.

Pixel Scroll 1/15/22 Pixelpunk Scrollcore

(1) SEND ME IN, COACH. Continuing yesterday’s “squeecore” discussion — John Scalzi is happy to be in the conversation anytime, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with the point he’s being used to illustrate. “Portrait of the Author As a Component of a ‘Punk-Or-Core’ Formulation” at Whatever. (Running the tweet, too, because I love the graphic.)

… My canal, as it turns out, runs across a lot of thematic ground, and does a fair amount of intersecting. Some of that is by design, since I am easily bored, as a human and a writer, and like to splash around in new places. Some of that is just following the lay of the land. At the end of the day, however, it means that depending one’s inclinations and rhetorical needs, and contingent on examples, I can be grouped in with the gun-humping dudes who write military science fiction, or the woke SJW scolds who are currently ruining the Hugos, or pretty much wherever else you need me to go to make your point.

And at least superficially you won’t be wrong. I mean, I did write that story that you’re pointing to, and it does exist in that sphere, and I’m not sorry I wrote that thing, and may write a thing like it again, if I have a mind to. But I suspect on a deeper level — the level that actually makes your point something more than a facile, half-baked thesis to burble out onto a blog post or podcast because content content content — using me as an example is not hugely useful….

(2) HER MILEAGE VARIED. Cora Buhlert also shared her thoughts about Rite Gud’s “squeecore” podcast and Camestros Felapton’s post in response: “Science Fiction Is Never Evenly Distributed”.

… The podcasters are not wrong, cause all of these trends definitely exist in current SFF, though they’re not one unifying trend, but several different trends. Uplifting and upbeat SFF is certainly a trend and it already has a name that is much less derogatory than “squeecore”, namely hopepunk. Reader-insert characters and a video-game/RPG feel is a trend as well and there is a term or rather two for it, namely LitRPG and gamelit.

I agree that there is a strong influence of YA fiction and a tendency to show younger characters gaining skills rather than being already fully developed in contemporary SFF, but that’s the result of the YA SFF boom of the past twenty-five years, which served as a gateway to the genre for countless readers….

As I explained in this postGalactic Journey is very good at showing how different trends as well as older and newer forms of SFF coexist in the same period, because we try to cover everything and not just the cherry-picked examples that later eras choose to remember.

Also, quite often works are shoehorned into a trend, because they vaguely match some characteristics thereof and came out around the same time, even though they don’t really fit. The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey are a good example. They are often shoehorned into the 2010s space opera revival, even though The Expanse has nothing in common with the likes of the Imperial Radch trilogy, the Paradox trilogy, the Hexarchate series or A Memory Called Empire beyond being set in space. Meanwhile, The Expanse draws heavily on mundane science fiction (a movement that never really got beyond its manifesto), Cyberpunk, golden age science fiction and the 1990s “cast of thousands/everybody and the dog gets a POV” style of SFF epics that never got a name, even though it was very much a thing and still lingers on….

(3) STILL WRESTLING WITH AMAZON. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki told Facebook followers that he heard from Amazon KDP again. And he posted more screencaps of his correspondence with them.

Some more updates on the Amazon KDP fiasco, they called me again yesterday, to explain why I can’t edit my banking details. Must have seen my tweet on it. They said it’s a security issue. And offered some more assistance in replacing it and ensuring I can get the royalties.

On another note, though related, I’m trying to use the account of a friend that was in the US because well, they don’t accept Nigerian bank accounts. I was using Payoneer, a service that mimics US bank accounts and essentially reads as if you are in the US. It’s legit btw, and accepted by Amazon. I’m pointing this out because a number of people latched on to this when I mentioned it, amongst the methods I use to get past through these restrictions. They said oh yes see, it’s your fault. One of those methods you use must have broken the rules.

This is how people enable racism even when they don’t cause it. They look for anything to justify and deny your marginalization. It either doesn’t exist, it didn’t happen, or it’s your own fault. A number of players were on every platform that carried this, saying this. You don’t even know what those methods are. But it must be one of them & this must all be my fault & deserved. The world tries to lock you out, then punishes you viciously for trying to not be locked out. Then people blame you for even trying at all to circumvent those lockouts. Every publishing-payment platform I’ve tried to use to do anything has either banned, blocked me or doesn’t work here or allow payment systems. From Draft2Digital to Smash words to Kickstarter to Paypal to Amazon KDP, to even Gofundme. But it must all be my fault. I must have violated all their rules somehow. Even GoFundMe that’s supposed to be for people in need of help. I wasn’t even qualified to beg for money. I needed an American to beg for me. If I had even tried to insert myself at any point into the arrangement, it’d have crashed….

(4) EXPANDING ON THE EXPANSE? Den of Geek contemplates what could happen to keep the series from really being over: “The Expanse: The Possibility of a Season 7 or Sequel Series”. (Beware spoilers.)

The Possibility of an Expanse Movie

While The Expanse team went into Season 6 knowing it would almost certainly be the show’s last, they chose to tell the story that included a Laconia-set subplot adapted from Expanse novella Strange Dogs. Unlike basically every other the story in Season 6, the Laconia subplot about a girl named Cara and her efforts to save brother Xan with the help some alien creatures was very forward-focused. It also properly introduced Admiral Duarte, a character who becomes incredibly important in the remaining books in the series. The decision to give so much of Season 6’s precious narrative time could have been made as a way to expand the scope of this world, and to pay homage to these future book plots, and/or it could hint that the Expanse production team have not completely ruled out the possibility of a future for this adaptation…

(5) INSIDE THE SHELL. Den of Geek points out “The Expanse Series Finale Easter Eggs: The Sci-Fi Heroes Who Helped” (Beware spoilers.)

As the coalition forces prepare to storm the ring station in The Expanse series finale, the Rocinante crew is running through its systems check, and voices are heard in the background signaling their readiness. “Thrace ready!” we hear, and our ears perk up. How unusual to share the name of one of the most badass space dogfighters ever, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace of Battlestar Galactica. When that’s followed by “Ripley ready!” all doubt is removed. Naming yet another famous spacefarer, Ellen Ripley of Alien, can’t be a coincidence.

Fortunately, fans of Easter eggs like this are provided with a quick glimpse of the roster on Naomi’s screen, and it’s filled with the great heroes of space science fiction in movies and television. It’s fitting that, as The Expanse makes its final bow, the “Great Hunt” of sci-fi culture appears to assist in the battle to end all battles. It’s easy, in fact, to spot the rest of Ripley’s team from Aliens: Hudson, Hicks, and Vasquez. So who else is among the assault team?…

(6) EXPANSIVE ACTING. Forbes’ Rob Salkowitz poses the questions: “Shohreh Aghdashloo On ‘The Expanse’ Series Finale And The Show’s Stellar Legacy”. (Beware spoilers.)

RS: Were there times when you and the cast watched the finished shows where you were surprised by how certain scenes came out, or by the work of your castmates?

SA: Absolutely. Every season, the producers would screen the first two shows for the cast all together in a theatre. There was one moment, maybe from season four or five, where Amos [Wes Chatham] was talking about his mother, and it was so powerful that I just lost it. I had to leave the theatre crying, I couldn’t help myself. The other cast members, my friends, came up to me and asked me what happened and I said I was just overcome seeing that scene. But you know, there were so many scenes and moments that felt so real like that, which made me feel like we did a good job bringing this saga to life.

(7) SPLASH-A-BOOM. An underwater volcano eruption this morning near Tonga caused a small tsunami which hit the west coast of Central, North and South America, and the east coast of Hawai’i. Hawaiian fan Dave Rowe says, “Here it was only one foot high (three feet was expected).” And he passed along a link to an impressive 2-second video compiled from real-time satellite photos of the eruption: “Shockwave By Near-Tonga Eruption Captured From Himawari Satellite” at Space Weather Gallery.

(8) THE BIG TIME. M. John Harrison is one of the 2022 Booker Prize judges.

…He sold his first story in 1965, and in 1969 joined the staff of the UK speculative fiction magazine New Worlds, where he edited the books pages until 1978.

His novels include Climbers, which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature in 1989; Nova Swing, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2007; and The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, which won the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize for innovation in fiction…. 

(9) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. Jordan D. Smith, who runs The Dark Crusade, a Karl Edward Wagner podcast, lists three examples of Karl Edward Wagner showing up as a character in other people’s fiction: “Three for the Road: Karl Edward Wagner in Fiction”.

… Below are three stories from the past ten years that have contained characters loosely based on, or inspired by, Karl Edward Wagner….

(10) TWO CATS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE. Mark Evanier eulogized voice actor “Leo DeLyon, R.I.P.” at News From ME. DeLyon died September 21 at the age of 96.

…We are especially interested in him because he occasionally did voices for cartoons. In the original Top Cat series in 1961, he did the voices of the characters Spook and Brain. That’s them above with Leo between them. He did other voices now and then for Hanna-Barbera…on The Smurfs and Paw Paws, and on a few specials when they needed voice actors who could sing. He was also the voice of Flunkey the baboon in the Disney version of The Jungle Book

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago on this evening, the very short lived sequel to the Sixties Get Smart series aired on Fox. It too was called Get Smart. And it had Don Adams and Barbara Feldon still playing Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. Edward Platt who played The Chief had died some twenty years earlier. 

The relative success of the reunion movie Get Smart, Again! six years earlier prompted the development of a weekly revival of Get Smart but the ratings were absolutely abysmal, so it was canned after seven episodes. Thirteen years later, the Get Smart film despite critics not particularly liking it was a great success. 

The Variety review was typical of what critics thought of it: “Would you believe there is very little to laugh about in this return of Get Smart, a decidedly unfunny undertaking that could have clearly benefited from some input from Buck Henry or at the very least a phone call from Mel Brooks.” 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed that it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulan Commander Spock get involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 87. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. He has three Hugos with the first at NyCon II for Most Promising New Author, the other two being for his novella “Gilgamesh in the Outback” at Conspiracy ’87, and novella “Nightwings” at St. Louiscon. His “Hawksbill Station” novella was nominated at Baycon, and his Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg was nominated at Worldcon 75. He picked up a Retro Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for Best Fan Writer.
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if I find sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read his Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 77. A fan who was one of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 57. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by  Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.

(13) SIGNAL BOOST. Since Hulu’s bad at promoting their films of this type, N. sent along a tweet he saw for I’m Your Man:

(14) MAKING LEMONADE WITHOUT LEMONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Dear Mr. Watterson, a 2013 documentary by Joel Allen Schroeder on YouTube, which you can watch for free, as long as you are willing to have your film interrupted with ads,  Of course Bill Watterson refuses to be interviewed or even photographed, and has refused to license his characters. How do you make a film about him?

Well, in the first half-hour Schroeder blows it with all sorts of talking heads, many of them comic strip creators, telling how special Calvin and Hobbes was as a strip.  Schroeder even goes back to his boyhood home in Appleton, Wisconsin to see his bedroom where he posted Sunday strips on the wall when he was a kid.  Who cares?

Things pick up when Schroeder goes to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where Watterson grew up, and goes to the local library to see early illustrations Watterson drew for the local paper and hold an original strip about overdue books that is in the head librarian’s office. He then goes to the Billy Ireland Library at Ohio State, where Watterson’s archive is stored, and I thought that was interesting.  I bet a good documentary could be made about that library.

Then in the final third we get to the real subject of the film which is whether Watterson’s decision to forego all licensing deals was a good idea.  Here Berkeley Breathed, Stephen Pastis, and Jean Schultz had intelligent things to say.  As Pastis notes, there is a difference between licensing a Snoopy stuffed animal a four-year old could hold and having Snoopy sell life insurance through Met Life.  Seth Green also makes an appearance to note that he made bootleg Calvin t-shirts.

But one result of only having Calvin and Hobbes available in books is that these books are in school libraries and six- and seven-year-old kids love reading them.  That might not have happened if their first exposure to Watterson’s characters was through animated cartoons.

Dear Mr. Watterson is worth watching but you might want to fast forward through the first half hour.

(15) TWENTY THOUSAND PENNIES UNTO THE FEE. If you’re in the market for an online course about Jules Verne, The Rosenbach would like to sign you up: “Jules Verne’s Scientific Imagination with Anastasia Klimchynskaya”. Four sessions. Tuition for this course is $200, $180 Delancey Society and Members.

Verne is often cited as one of the fathers of science fiction and a lover of both literature and technology. Verne combined the earlier genres of the extraordinary voyage, travel narrative, and adventure story with unprecedented scientific rigor, creating the scientific romance genre, or roman de la science. This course will explore Verne’s unique mix of science and imagination and how it helped solidify the genre.

(16) UNDERGROUND ECONOMY. Here’s an interesting piece by DM David about just why dungeons full of monsters and treasures are a thing in Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs: “The Movies and Stories than Inspired Dave Arneson to Invent the Dungeon Crawl”.

Around 1971 Dave Arneson and his circle of Minneapolis gamers invented games where players controlled individual characters who grew with experience and who could try anything because dice and a referee determined the outcomes. The group tried this style of play in various settings, but Dave invented one that proved irresistible: the dungeon.

Dave’s Blackmoor game—the campaign that spawned Dungeons & Dragons—began with a gaming group playing fictional versions of themselves in a fantasy world. The characters became champions in a series of miniature battles featuring armies clashing above ground. Without dungeons, the Blackmoor game might have stayed miniature wargaming rather than becoming D&D and a game nearly as well known as Monopoly. But by creating the dungeon crawl, Dave invented a new activity that transformed the campaign and ultimately made a lasting addition to popular culture…

(17) SHINY. The Daily Beast has a rundown on “The Laser SETI Projects That Might Find Intelligent Alien Civilizations”.

For 62 years, scientists have pointed instruments toward outer space in hopes of finding some sign that we’re not alone in the universe. But those instruments always scanned just a tiny swath of sky for a short span of time, limited mainly to listening for stray radio waves and leaving us largely blind to any visual evidence of extraterrestrials in the darkness of space.

Until now.

As the space age enters its seventh decade, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is getting a lot wider and more deliberate. And that could significantly boost our chances of actually finding something for the first time.

In mid-December, scientists with the SETI Institute in California finished installing a new laser instrument: an expensive lens-camera-computer combo at Haleakala Observatory, situated on a mountaintop on Maui, Hawaii, 10,000 feet above sea level.

The east-facing instrument, when combined with an identical west-facing system at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma, California, scans a 150-degree arc of the night sky more than a thousand times a second, filtering the light and looking for the telltale signature of laser light—a possible sign of intelligent life. “We’re trying to cover all the sky all the time,” Eliot Gillum, the principal investigator for the LaserSETI project, told The Daily Beast.

(18) HIBERNATING ALIENS. Why can’t we find them? Isaac Arthur says it might be because they’re taking a kip… (Just like the Norwegian blue.)

One explanation for the Fermi Paradox is that aliens may be undetected because they slumber, quietly hidden away in the galaxy. But how and why might such Extraterrestrial Empires hibernate?

(19) QUITE A STRETCH. Nature says a “Giant hydrogen filament is one of the longest features of its type in the Galaxy and it could give birth to stars” in “A cloud named Maggie”.

A long filament-like cloud of hydrogen atoms lurking on the far side of the Milky Way is among the largest such structures in the Galaxy — and offers a rare glimpse into one of the earliest stages of star formation.

Scientists first reported evidence of the filament, which they nicknamed Maggie, in 2020. Now, some of those scientists, including Jonas Syed at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, along with more astronomers, have conducted a detailed follow-up investigation. It shows that the filament stretches some 1,200 parsecs, roughly 1,000 times the distance from the Sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

Theory predicts that, over time, the neutral hydrogen atoms in the filament will pair up, forming dense clouds of hydrogen molecules. Such clouds ultimately give birth to stars.

(20) COMING CATTRACTIONS. Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet may be hated by astronomers, but credentials love it: Gizmodo explains: “If I Fits, I Sits: Starlink’s Self-Heating Internet Satellite Dishes Are Attracting Cats”.

SpaceX’s Starlink has been making steady gains with its fledgling satellite internet service, surpassing 100,000 terminals shipped in 2021 and showing promising improvements in performance after initial speed tests produced lackluster results. However, the company’s run into an unforeseen hiccup with its dishes: Cats love them….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Matrix Resurrections,” the Screen Junkies say that the fourth film asks, “Do you take the blue pill and reboot this with Tom Holland as Neo or do you take the red pill and see how far up its own ass the story will go?” Also, since the film has musical theatre greats Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff (who was King George in Hamilton, and has also been in Frozen, Frozen II, and “Glee’) when is The Matrix musical coming?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Dave Rowe, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 9/14/21 I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Scroll That

(1) HWA CELEBRATES LATINX HERITAGE MONTH. From September 15 through October 15 the HWA will be celebrating Latinx Heritage month in a series of interviews conducted by social media manager Sumiko Saulson.

The series will begin with an introductory piece from Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo. An excerpt: “Following this month is a celebration of our Latinx horror writers. I want to thank the Horror Writers Association for hosting this celebration of our Latinx horror writers. This is an exciting time to be a horror writer and to be a Latinx horror writer. Our stories are important and I’m happy to see the wonderful support our works are receiving.”
 
Go to Horror.org on September 15 to read the rest.

(2) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Almost 5,000 items – mainly comics — were stolen from Florida State University’s Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection between March 17, 2020 and February 10, 2021. The list of what was taken is here.

The Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection consists of comic books, serials, and containing and related to superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Publications include those by Marvel Comics, DC Comics, underground comix publishers, foreign language titles, pulp magazines, and Big Little Books. Over 1200 serial titles are represented, predominantly from the 1950s through the 1970s. Other works include monographs and serials related to comic book collecting, history, and criticism as well as posters and prints featuring comic book characters and art.

Unfortunately, most missing items are not marked in any way that distinguishes them from other copies of the same magazines. Some may have mailing labels for Tallahassee, Florida addresses. Missing items may have appeared on the secondary market as early as March 2020.

If you have any information about these materials, please contact FSU Special Collections & Archives: Katie McCormick, Associate Dean of FSU Special Collections & Archives: [email protected]

(3) THE BOOKER PRIZE. One book of genre interest has survived to join the half dozen on The Booker Prize shortlist. Its title is shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)

The winner will be announced on November 3.

(4) CORNERING THE MARKET. Horror Writers Association’s monthly Quick Bites tells that British horror author Graham Masterton has been honored for his work in Poland by the unveiling of a bronze dwarf on Kielbasnicza Street in the centre of Wroclaw.

It depicts him holding up a copy of his bestselling horror novel The Manitou, which told the story of a Native American shaman who was reincarnated after 400 years in the body of a white woman to take his revenge on the colonists who decimated his tribe. The Manitou was filmed with Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens and Burgess Meredith.
 
The Manitou was the first Western horror novel published in Poland after the fall of Communism, and was a huge bestseller.  Graham Masterton visits Poland regularly and supports several Polish charities, including an orphanage in Strzelin.
 
Wroclaw boasts nearly 600 dwarves on its streets and they are a huge tourist attraction. 

(5) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. “Lost, stolen, eaten or burned, these are the words that the world will never read,” promises the Lost Manuscripts website, whose research includes a page from “The Eye of Argon” and a David Langford reference: “In which Page 49 goes missing for 34 years”.

.. What made this piece of fiction such a perennial hit? What made the exploits of Grignr, a barbarian, so relentlessly popular? Was it the wooden characters, the hackneyed plot? No. People generally agreed that it was the prose: the prose was spectacularly appalling. The special events at the science-fiction conventions were competitions: who could read the story aloud for the longest before beginning to laugh uncontrollably and thus be unable to continue?…

(6) HWA ONLINE READINGS. The Horror Writers Association “Galactic Terrors” online reading series for September 2021 features readings by Carol Gyzander, Sarah Read, and John Edward Lawson

CAROL GYZANDER writes and edits horror, dark fiction, and sci-fi. She’s Co-Coordinator of the HWA NY Chapter and one of the usual co-hosts of Galactic Terrors. …JOHN EDWARD LAWSON’s novels, short fiction, and poetry have garnered nominations for many awards, including the Stoker and Wonderland Awards. In addition to being a founder of Raw Dog Screaming Press and former editor-in-chief of The Dream People he currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. SARAH READ is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in various places, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year vols 10 and 12. …Her debut novel THE BONE WEAVER’S ORCHARD, [was] nominated for the Bram Stoker, This is Horror, and Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards. Guest host MEGHAN ARCURI writes fiction. Her short stories can be found in various anthologies, including Borderlands 7 (Borderlands Press), Madhouse (Dark Regions Press), Chiral Mad, and Chiral Mad 3 (Written Backwards). She is currently the Vice President of the Horror Writers Association.

(7) SHOULD HAVE STAYED AT HOME. James Davis Nicoll picks out “Five Doomed Attempts at Planetary Colonization” for Tor.com readers.

Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein (1958)

Products of an implausibly successful eugenics project, the long-lived Howard families become the focus of the mayfly masses’ paranoia that the Howards’ lifespan is not thanks to inherent genetic gifts but some secret they will not share. Life on Earth swiftly becomes untenable for the Howards. Those who can flee commandeer a sublight starship and flee to the stars, hoping to find a new world they can call home.

Earthlike worlds prove to be surprisingly common. There is however a small catch: the planet the Howards first encounter is already occupied. The alien Jockaira appear roughly comparable to humans. They are in fact property. The planet’s true masters are godlike, and they have no place for humans. An act of functionally divine will sends the Howards on their way… to a world whose gentle natives prove just as advanced in their way as the gods and even more disquieting to mortal humans.

(8) ROAD LESS TAKEN. Connie Willis told her Facebook followers they have a new book to look forward to. She describes the plot at the link.

Random House has bought my new novel and it will be coming out….well, I don’t actually know when it will be coming out. There’s still the rewrite to do with my editor and then the galleys and stuff, but hopefully soon.

The novel is called THE ROAD TO ROSWELL, and it’s a comedy about UFOs and alien abduction (I mean, what else could it be but a comedy when aliens are involved?)

(9) NORM MACDONALD (1959-2021). A comic best known for his work on Saturday Night Live, Norm Macdonald died September 14 of cancer. McDonald did a lot of voice work for genre animated (and some non-animated) films/TV as well as having a recurring role in the first two seasons of The Orville voicing the blob Yaphit, a Gelatin Lieutenant and Engineer.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1964 – Fifty seven years ago this evening on ABC, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea premiered. It’s based on the 1961 film of the same name. Both were created by Irwin Allen, which enabled the film’s sets, costumes, props, special effects models, and even sometimes the footage of the film to be used in the television series. It was the first of Irwin Allen’s four SF series (the latter series being Lost in SpaceThe Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants.) It starred as Richard Basehart as Admiral Harriman Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Lee Crane Robert. It would last for four seasons of one hundred and ten episodes. A 39-inch Seaview Moebius Model Kit was sold during the series. You can purchase it on eBay.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 14, 1927 — Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one in the Buck Rogers one as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels as well. Marooned was nominated for a Hugo at Heicon ’70 but TV coverage of Apollo XI won that year. he Six Million Dollar Man film was a finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 14, 1936 — Walter Koenig, 85. Best known for his roles as Pavel Chekov on the original Trek franchise and Alfred Bester (named in homage of that author and a certain novel) on Babylon 5Moontrap, a SF film with him and Bruce Campbell, would garner a twenty-eight percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Alienable which he executive produced, wrote and acts in has no rating there. 
  • Born September 14, 1941 — Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them as Dr. Jeff Brenner on Dr. Kildare.  He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 14, 1944 — Rowena Morrill. Well-known  for her genre illustration, she is one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable works include The Fantastic Art of Rowena, Imagine (French publication only), Imagination (German publication only), and The Art of Rowena.  Though nominated for the Hugo four times, she never won, but garnered the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. OGH’s obituary for her is here.  (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 14, 1947 — Sam Neill, 74. Best known for role of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, which he reprised in Jurassic Park III, and will play again in the forthcoming Jurassic World: Dominion. He was also in Omen III: The Final Conflict, Possession, Memoirs of an Invisible ManSnow White: A Tale of Terror, Bicentennial ManLegend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’HooleThe Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas BoxThor: Ragnarok and Peter Rabbit. Busy performer, genre wise. 
  • Born September 14, 1961 — Justin Richards, 60. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certain say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. There’s another nineteen novels written there.  And he has other series going as well including being one of the main scriptwriters for the Jago & Litefoot Big Finish series, the characters being spin-offs from the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Wang Chiang”.  And then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works. Prolific, isn’t he? 
  • Born September 14, 1972 — Jenny T. Colgan, 49. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date, several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City.
  • Born September 14, 1989 — Jessica Brown Findlay, 32. She appeared as Beverly Penn in the film version of Mark Helprin‘s Winter’s Tale novel. She’s Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein, a modern take on that novel, and plays Lenina Crowne in the current Brave New World series on Peacock. Finally I’ll note she was Abi Khan on Black Mirrior’s “Fifteen Million Merits“ episode. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • [email protected] confirms nothing needs doing more than reading.
  • FoxTrot finds another way students are annoyed with their parents.
  • Tom Gauld’s scientists’ attack of conscience is too late to help.

(13) HORROR COOK BOOK COMING. The HWA Cook Book edited by Marge Simon, Robert Payne Cabeen, and Kate Jonez will be available in 2022. The cover art is by Robert Payne Cabeen.

(14) FREE OR YOU NAME IT. Charles Sheffield’s The Cyborg from Earth is the latest ebook in the Publisher’s Pick program, which you may set your own price for. The cart will show the suggested price of $1.99. You may change it to any price including $0.00. (Mobi and Epub editions.)

(15) HARVEST OF SF NEWS. SF² Concatenation has just posted its autumnal edition of news (books, film, TV and science), articles and stand-alone book reviews.

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Autumn2021

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(16) THICKER THAN WATER. Here’s a ghoulish discovery: “Martian Colonists Could Use Their Own Blood to Produce Concrete” says Gizmodo.

Provocative new research suggests the blood of astronauts, when mixed with Martian soil, can produce a durable concrete-like substance. Incredibly, other human bodily fluids were shown to make this biocomposite even stronger.

The first colonists to arrive on Mars will need to build shelters and spaces for work, but the Red Planet isn’t exactly bustling with hardware stores and material suppliers.

Ideally, the colonists could use some of the stuff that’s right there on Mars, such as regolith (soil), rocks, and water, the latter of which is sparse and hard to reach. Trouble is, these on-site resources don’t magically combine to produce viable construction materials….

(17) KEY INGREDIENTS. Locke & Key Season 2 teaser. The show comes Netflix on October 22, 2021.

Locke & Key follows 3 siblings who, after the murder of their father, move to their ancestral home only to find the house has magical keys that give them a vast array of powers and abilities.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day John M. Cowan.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Jake, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Atwood, Evaristo Share
2019 Booker Prize

Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, 2019 Booker Prize winners.

The judges of the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction overturned the rules and awarded the prize jointly to two authors: Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other.

The Booker Prize has been jointly awarded twice before, to Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992. In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. This is the first time since then that two authors have been announced as joint-winners. The 2019 winners will share the £50,000 prize money.

It is the second time that Atwood has won the Booker Prize, having won in 2000 with The Blind Assassin. She has been shortlisted for four further books: The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), Cat’s Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003). 

Bernardine Evaristo is the first black woman to be awarded the Booker Prize. She wins with Girl, Woman, Other, her eighth book of fiction, which she has written alongside essays, drama and writing for BBC radio. Evaristo drew on aspects of the African diaspora, be it past, present, real of imagined, to inform Girl, Woman, Other.

The New Statesman said of Evaristo that “if you want to understand modern day Britain, this is the writer to read”, and called Girl, Woman, Other “a story for our times.” 

Writing on the story behind her book for The Guardian, Evaristo said:

Fiction excavates and reimagines our histories; investigates, disrupts, validates and contextualises our societies and subjectivities; exercises our imaginations through flights of fancy, takes the reader on transformational adventures, and probes and presents our motivations, problems and dramas. What, then, does it mean to not see yourself reflected in your nation’s stories? This has been the ongoing debate of my professional career as a writer stretching back nearly forty years, and we black British women know, that if we don’t write ourselves into literature, no one else will.

The five judges on the Booker Prize panel were: founder and director of Hay Festival Peter Florence (Chair); former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder; novelist, essayist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; writer, broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch; and concert pianist, conductor and composer Joanna MacGregor.  

Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said:

Over an agonising five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist, and found it impossible to single out one winner. They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two, and asked if they might split the prize between them. On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.

The Booker Prize for Fiction is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

The Booker award winner typically enjoys a big sales boost immediately after the announcement. In the week after Milkman by Anna Burns won the prize, book purchases increased by 880% from 963 in the week prior to the announcement to 9,446 in the week following the announcement, then a further 99% (9,446 to 18,786) the following week. The total number of copies of Milkman sold, across all formats, is currently 546,500.

Atwood reads:

Evaristo reads:

Pixel Scroll 9/6/19 The Soylent Green Hills of Earth

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on chowder with the award-winning Jack Dann in episode 104 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jack’s an old friend I see far too infrequently ever since he moved to Australia. I was privileged to publish a story of his in Science Fiction Age back in the ’90s, but that’s the least of his accomplishments. His first novel, The Man Who Melted, was nominated for a 1984 Nebula Award, and since then he’s gone on to win a Nebula Award, two World Fantasy Awards, three Ditmar Awards, and the Peter McNamara Award for Excellence. His short story collections include Timetipping, Jubilee: the Essential Jack Dann, and Visitations. His 1998 anthology Dreaming Down-Under (co-edited with his wife Janeen Webb) is a groundbreaking work in Australian science fiction.

He’s also created some amazing stories in collaboration with the likes of Michael Swanwick, Gardner Dozois, Barry Malzberg, and others, and since you know from listening to Eating the Fantastic that collaboration completely baffles me, we dove into a discussion of that as well.

We stepped out to The Chowder House, which has been in operation since 1985, but has a history which goes all the way back to 1920, when Darcy’s Irish Pub opened — and over the decades expanded into a row of family-owned restaurants. It was a comfortable spot, with good food, and the perfect place for us to catch up after far too long apart.

We discussed the novel he and Gardner Dozois always planned to write but never did, how a botched appendectomy at age 20 which left him with only a 5% chance of survival inspired one of his most famous stories, why he quit law school the day after he sold a story to Damon Knight’s Orbit series, the bad writing advice he gave Joe Haldeman early on we’re glad got ignored, the secrets to successful collaborations, the time Ellen Datlow acted as referee on a story he wrote with Michael Swanwick, how it felt thanks to his novel The Man Who Melted to be a meme before we began living in a world of memes, why he’s drawn to writing historical novels which require such a tremendous amount of research, the time he was asked to channel the erotica of Anaïs Nin, the gift he got from his father that taught him to take joy in every moment — and much more.

Jack Dann

(2) RSR LAUNCHES IMPROVEMENT. Rocket Stack Rank announces “New Filtering and Simplified Highlighting” in an article that analyzes the most awards won, award nominations earned, and inclusion in year’s best TOC for short fiction from 2015-2018 by using the new filtering features added to RSR.

You can now filter stories in a table to show only the ones recognized with SF/F awards, year’s best anthologies, or prolific reviewers. Click the “Show:” drop-down list in the table header and choose one of the options (see image on the right). This is an easy way to dis-aggregate scores to see which stories received the most recognition by each type of recommendation for readers who favor one type over a combined score of all three.

(3) THE DELTA QUADRANT PRIMARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Senator Cory Booker is trying to acquire the votes of undecided Trekkies by showing off his nerd cred. The 50-year-old challenger for the Democratic nomination spoke to the New York Times today about his love for all things Star Trek, and how the show has influenced his politics: “How ‘Star Trek’ Pushed Cory Booker to Make It So”.

What did your father see in Trek?

It was hope.

“Star Trek” was more than just an escape. It was a portal to say the future is going to be different. It’s incredibly hopeful and a belief that we’re going to get beyond a lot of these lines. We’re going to unite as humanity. It’ll be a place where your virtue guides you, the highest of human aspirations. I think there’s something about that he found really powerful.

Do you think you took it in differently as a person of color?

I took it in through that lens because I really believe that was the lens that compelled my father. My dad loved UFOs. When that television series “Project Blue Book” came out, that was another thing. He was fascinated by the universe and excited about it.

This idea that we as humans, where we are right now, are literally just not even at the foothills yet of the mountains of discovery that are out there. He was a man of infinite hope. “Star Trek” gave him that. It showed him that we are going to overcome so much of the stuff that rips at humanity now.

(4) SNEAK PREVIEW. Unusual drama and security accompanied The Testaments’ submission to Booker Prize judges the New York Times reports: “Judging Margaret Atwood’s Top Secret New Novel”.

In July, the author Xiaolu Guo was expecting the delivery of a book that would not be published until September: Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments,” the highly anticipated follow-up to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Guo was getting her copy so early because she is a judge for this year’s Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award. There was just one problem, Guo said in an interview on Tuesday: When the courier turned up, she was late getting home from the airport. The courier refused to give the book to her brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from China.

Guo missed the courier’s visit the next day, too, as she was out running errands. By the time she finally got the book, she was furious, she said.

“For me, it was quite over the top, the whole security issue,” Guo added, laughing.

The secrecy around Atwood’s new novel, which is on the Booker Prize shortlist that was announced this week, has complicated the judging process this year. The prize’s organizer had to sign a nondisclosure agreement on behalf of all the judges, said Peter Florence, the chairman of the judging panel.

Secrecy agreements were not required for the 150 other novels that judges read to create an initial list of books in the running that was announced at the end of July. They then reread and argued over those thirteen titles to choose the final six.

At the shortlist announcement on Tuesday, all six books were piled on a table in front of the judges, among them Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte” and Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport.” But the copy of “The Testaments” was actually a dummy.

“That’s not the real Atwood, by the way, in case anyone’s thinking of stealing it,” Gaby Wood, the prize’s literary director, told reporters.

(5) GAY KISS GETS COMIC BANNED IN RIO. “‘Avengers’ Comic Featuring Gay Kiss Banned by Rio de Janeiro Authorities”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The collected edition of ‘Avengers: The Children’s Crusade’ has come under fire for featuring a kiss between two male characters.

In an unexpected move, Rio de Janeiro mayor Marcelo Crivella has announced that the translated edition of the Marvel comic book series Avengers: The Children’s Crusade would be removed from the literary festival Riocentro Bienal do Livro so as to protect the city’s children from what he described as “sexual content for minors.”

The so-called sexual content in question is an on-panel kiss between two male characters, Wiccan and Hulkling, who are in committed relationship. Both characters are clothed in the scene.

(6) STAR WARS SOUVENIR OKAYED TO FLY. A press release on the TSA.gov web site called “UPDATED: Statement on Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge themed soda bottles” says the TSA has relented on the “thermal detonator” soda bottles at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and is now treating the bottles like “oversized liquids” —

 “The issue concerning Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge-themed soda bottles has recently been brought to our attention by the general public, as these items could reasonably be seen by some as replica hand grenades. We appreciate the concerns being raised, because replica explosives are not permitted in either carry-on or checked bags. We have completed our review, and instructed our officers to treat these as an oversized liquid. Because these bottles contain liquids larger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters), they should be put in checked baggage or emptied to be brought on as carry-on item. TSA officers will maintain the discretion to prohibit any item through the screening checkpoint if they believe it poses a security threat.”

(7) DUFF FUNDRAISER. Paul Weimer says, “I am auctioning a print of one of my photos to raise money for DUFF” – the Down Under Fan Fund. See it at eBay: 10″x13″ matboarded metallic print of Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand.

(8) GRAPHIC DETAILS. Joshua Corin begins Big Thrill’s “Getting Graphic: Sequential Crime” with “An Introduction to Crime-Inspired Graphic Novels and Comics.”

It’s 1962 in Milan and a former fashion model, Angela Guissana, is looking for material for a small publishing house she and her sister Luciana have opened.  She studies the reading tastes of the local commuters and concludes that thrillers—such as those featuring criminal mastermind Fantomas—are in.

Rather than hire someone else to forge ahead with their new thriller, she and her sister write the book themselves. To increase its appeal, they present the book as a fumetto, an Italian variation on the comic book format that has recently proven so popular in Europe with Tintin and Tex Willer—also thrillers. They make sure that each volume can fit inside a businessman’s coat pocket.

Thus, the Guissana sisters create Diabolik, which has in the 60 years since its inception, sold more than 150 million copies.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 6, 1953  — Hugo awards first presented at Philcon II (the second Philadelphia Worldcon).
  • September 6, 1956  — Fire Maidens from Outer Space premiered. A group of astronauts lands on a moon of Jupiter only to find it inhabited with sexy maidens. Well, and a hideous monster of course.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 Groff Conklin. He edited some forty anthologies of genre fiction starting The Best of Science Fiction from Crown Publishers in 1946 to Seven Trips Through Time and Space on Fawcett Gold in 1968. The contents are fairly a mix of the obscure and well known as Heinlein, Niven, Simak, Dahl, Sturgeon, Lovecraft and Bradbury show up here. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 76. Ok, I’m stretching it. Is Pink Floyd genre? The Wall maybe. Or The Division Bell with its themes of communication. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger!
  • Born September 6, 1946 Hal Haag. Baltimore-area fan who found fandom in the early Eighties and who chaired Balticon 25 and Balticon 35 and worked on Balticon and quite a number of regionals.  He Co-founded BWSMOF (Baltimore/Washington SMOFs) along with Inge Heyer from Shore Leave, a regional organization whose purpose it is to discuss running regional conventions of all types. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society put together a very touching memorial site which you can see here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 66. Best-known for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consult a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but made for a nice coda on her story. 
  • Born September 6, 1958 Michael Winslow, 61. Though he might bear as the comically voiced Radar Technicianin Space Balls, I’m more interested that his first genre role of significance was giving voice to Mogwai and the other gremlins in Gremlins, a role he didn’t reprise for the second Gremlins film. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 47. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City is the one I’ve re-read the most, followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that the New Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 Idris Elba, 47. Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 43. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later shows up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episode of Angel. Ditto for Repo Men as well. He does get as the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
  • Born September 6, 1976 –Naomie Harris, 43. She’s Eve Moneypenny in Skyfall, Spectre and the forthcoming No Time to Die. This was the first time Moneypenny had a first name. She also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Tia Dalma. And lastly I’ll note she played Elizabeth Lavenza in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Molly Ostertag drew a K&S comic strip for Sam and Frodo. Hampus Eckerman says, “I think a lot of filers might enjoy this little comic.” Thread starts here.
  • A new Tales From The Slushpile at Publishers Weekly.

(12) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED SCIENCE. Really?

(13) NOT DISNEY. BBC tells how “Team plans colour film of black hole at galaxy’s center”.

The team that took the first ever image of a black hole has announced plans to capture “razor sharp” full colour video of the one at the centre of our galaxy.

Satellites would be launched to supplement the existing network of eight telescopes to make this movie.

The researchers say the upgraded network will be able to see the supermassive black hole consuming the material around it.

The team has been awarded the Breakthrough Award for Physics.

Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the idea of the so-called Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), told BBC News that the next step was to see a black hole in action.

“Just like planets, a black hole rotates. And because of its incredibly strong gravity, it distorts space and time around it. And so seeing this very weird effect of space itself being rotated is one of the holy grails of astrophysics.”

(14) A LITTLE LIST. At CrimeReads, John Marks points out “Seven Techno-Thrillers to Read as Our World Crumbles”.

Tristan Da Cunha is the most remote yet inhabited island in the world. With just 297 people living on the volcanic enclave, it’s more than 1,750 miles away from its nearest coast of South Africa. There are no airports, hotels, or bars and it is only reachable following a six-day boat ride. Yet for all it lacks, the island still has access to the internet. There is virtually nowhere on earth where you can truly escape from technology.

Authors, like me, who write speculatively about tech, are only limited by our imaginations. And that’s why we are fascinated by it, because it offers limitless potential.

Often it is far more of a challenge to create characters and worlds that are overshadowed by tech that goes askew than tech that gets it right.

(15) 20/20 HINDSIGHT. I was soon won around to the name changes, but feel a bit jaded to read such confident reassurances from people who a month ago had no more idea than anyone else that this was coming:

Nancy Jane Moore in “Against Nostalgia” at Book View Café.

…Given the list of winners at the Hugos — which are fan awards and therefore a good marker of what the people who love their SF/F think is important — times have changed dramatically. I see no reason why Ng or anyone else needs to pay homage to Campbell, who is clearly going to be a marginal person in the genre if he’s mentioned at all fifty years from now.

…Many of the stories published in the 1950s gave us those possibilities, but they did so in the trappings of their times. Confusing those trappings with science fiction makes us misunderstand what the genre is truly about. And being nostalgic about the trappings is silly.

The world that gave us those stories has changed, and stories set in outdated realities, even good ones, often don’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t live in that period. There are a lot of times when you need context, which doesn’t mean saying someone is a “product of their times” and skipping over what they did, but looking at other layers in the story (assuming it’s a story that’s worth spending that much time on).

These days the audience for science fiction is much broader than the mythical 13-year-old (white) boys the Golden Age fiction was supposedly aimed at. We have a strong need for science fiction that breaks us out of the misogyny and racism and colonialism on which so much of western culture has been built. And the audience is worldwide, drawing from their own cultures and experiences.

If you believe storytelling is a vital part of being human – and I do – you have to realize that there are a lot of ways to tell a story and a lot of different ideas of who might be the hero.

John Scalzi in “The Gunn Center Makes a Change, and Further Thoughts on the Reassessment of John W. Campbell” at Whatever.

…This will no doubt start another round of anguished wailing from certain quarters about the erasure of John W. Campbell from the annals of science fiction history. The answer to this is he’s not being erased, he’s merely being reassessed. And the reassessment is: His extensive paper trail of bigotry, reactionary thought and pseudo-scientific nonsense wasn’t a great look at the time — a fact amply detailed by a number of his contemporaries in the field — and it’s even less of a great look now. As a result, his name is being taken off some things it was on before, because it staying on them means those things (and the people administering those things) would then have to carry the freight of, and answer for, his bigotry, reactionary thought and pseudo-scientific nonsense. And they would rather not.

…People aren’t perfect and you take the good and the bad together — but every generation, and every person, gets to decide how to weigh the good and the bad, and to make judgments accordingly. In the early seventies, in the wake of Campbell’s passing, such was Campbell’s reputation in the field of science fiction that he could be memorialized by two separate awards in his name, and apparently nobody batted an eye (or if they did, they didn’t count). Nearly fifty years later and at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, such is Campbell’s reputation in the field of science fiction that Campbell’s name is off one award, and may be off the other soon enough. In another 50 years, Campbell’s reputation in the field may be different again, or may simply be what so many things are after a century, which is, a historical footnote.

(16) SCAVENGER’S FEAST. Meanwhile, Richard Paolinelli is hastening to fill the sudden vacuum of Campbell-named awards by adding one to his personal collection of honors: “New Category Added To The Helicons in 2020” [Now links to toxic original blog].

“The Helicon Society is proud to announce that the 2020 Helicon Awards will also feature the inaugural John W. Campbell Diversity In SF/F Award.

The Society looks forward to honoring the award’s first-ever recipient next spring.”

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m pretty interested in finding out who this will be. Aren’t you?

These antics apparently help Paolinelli sell books. When he inaugurated his Helicon Awards earlier this year, Paolinelli also announced a pair of awards whose namesakes had recently been removed from awards by the American Library Association: the Melvil Dewey Innovation Award and Laura Ingalls Wilder Best New Author Award.

(17) BATTLE OF THE BULGE. In this week’s Science (the US version of Nature), Rosemary Wyse discusses “Galactic archaeology with Gaia”.

The past and present merger activity of the Milky Way galaxy has recently been put into sharp focus through the analysis of data from the Gaia astrometric satellite.

The emerging picture created is one of persistent disequilibrium, with high merger activity some 10 billion years ago that plausibly created the stellar halo and thick disk (see the figure), followed by a lull during which only lower-mass satellite galaxies were accreted. The Milky Way is now acquiring the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, which is likely sculpting the galaxy’s thin disk….

…The first data release (DR1) from Gaia provided the position on the sky and apparent brightness for over a billion stars. One result stands out from Gaia DR1: the discovery by Belokurov et al. (3) of a population of stars with distinctive motions, which were identified as debris from a massive satellite that merged into the Galaxy a long time ago. These stars are moving on unexpectedly radially biased orbits and they dominate the stellar halo, particularly close to the peak of its chemical abundance distribution. 

(18) MEET YOUR WATERLOO. James Davis Nicoll wants you to know about “SFF Works Linked by One Canadian University”.

You might not immediately identify Ontario’s University of Waterloo as a hotbed of speculative fiction writing. The establishment is far better known for its STEM programs, baffled-looking first-year students, the horrifying things in the tunnels, and vast flocks of velociraptor-like geese. So you may be surprised to learn that the University has produced a number of science fiction and fantasy authors over the years

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Eric Wong, Hampus Eckerman, Chip Hitchcock, SF Cocatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]