Pixel Scroll 5/12/22 We Will Always Have Pixels

(1) IS IT WASTED ON THE YOUNG? At Young People Read Old SFF James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on Joe Haldeman’s “Tricentennial”.

This month’s selection has an unusual history for a Hugo finalist, having been commissioned to accompany an already completed cover….

Generally speaking, this sort of exercise does not result in notable fiction1. Haldeman managed to deliver a story that wasn’t simply a finalist but a Hugo winner. Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that even though his career as an SF writer was still in its early days, he had by this point racked up two Hugo nominations2, a Hugo win, a Nebula win, a Ditmar win, and been a finalist for the Locus six times. 

Tricentennial stuck a chord with readers way back in the mid-1970s. Will it be as successful with the youth of today? Let’s find out!…

(2) THAT NEW LAFFERTY STORY. Meanwhile, at Galactic Journey the Traveler is reading the latest Galaxy – back in time, when the stories themselves were young! “[May 12, 1967] There and Back Again (June 1967 Galaxy)”.

Polity and Custom of the Camiroi, by R. A. Lafferty

A three-person anthropological team investigates the highly libertarian planet of Camiroi.  Society there is highly advanced, seemingly utopian, and utterly decentralized.  Sounds like a Heinleinesque paradise.  However, there are indications that the Terrans are being put on, mostly in an attempt to just get them to leave.

The result is something like what might have happened if Cordwainer Smith and Robert Sheckley had a baby.  That’d be one weird tot…but an interesting one.

Four stars.

(3) HE’LL GIVE YOU AN EARFUL. In “An Observation on Audiobooks” John Scalzi discusses his experience with the medium.

…As an author, I was not initially in love with audiobook versions of my books because it was an interpretation, and because the narration was not the way I heard the book in my own head — the narrative beats would sometime be different; a word would be given a different emphasis; a character who I heard one way in my head would sound different (and sometimes would feel like they had a different personality entirely).

Two things got me over this. The first was that audio increased my annual income from writing by about a third, which smoothed over quite a lot. The second thing was that I realized that audiobook narration is a performance and that, like one can appreciate the myriad of ways that actors have approached the “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy in Hamlet, one can equally look at the choices the narrator makes in their performance and see how they are in conversation with the text, often in ways that are a surprise to me, the author. So the necessary fact of the interpretation stopped being an annoyance and became a thing of interest….

(4) POINT OF DO RETURN. “Once more with feeling: why time loop stories keep coming back”, according to the Guardian’s Gillian McAllister.

If you die, what’s the plan for the next life?” This is the question posed in the opening scene of the recent BBC adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life, in which the protagonist, Ursula, repeatedly dies and starts over from birth. It’s a fascinating idea: what would you do differently, and what would remain the same? It is one explored in another hit TV show that has just returned for a second season, Russian Doll, the first season of which saw the main character, Nadia, return endlessly to the night of her 36th birthday party, suffering a different death each time.

Mainstream film and television have a long history of playing with time loops. But while Groundhog Day was a huge success in the early 1990s, narratives about ordinary people caught in this speculative twist have been harder to pull off in literature. Perhaps this is because there tends to be an earnestness to such stories that doesn’t translate into fiction, and a tendency towards repetition that readers may not tolerate as well as viewers. It is trickier to create a montage in fiction: part of what makes Groundhog Day so compelling is the ability to only show the differences in Bill Murray’s repeating days….

(5) ORVILLE THIRD SEASON. “Our return is imminent.” The Orville: New Horizons arrives June 2 on Hulu.

(6) THE MOON THAT SOLD ITSELF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “A Twenty-First Century Moon Race Is Kicking Off A New Era of Lunar Exploration” reports Nature. These six countries are about to go to the Moon — here’s why.

Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States aim to send missions to the Moon in the next year. But will they all make it?

NASA’s US$93-billion Artemis programme might be stealing most of the limelight with its maiden launch this year because it’s the first step towards sending astronauts to the Moon. But the United States is just one of many nations and private companies that soon plan to launch missions, heralding what scientists say could be a new golden age of lunar exploration.

Science isn’t the only driving force. The flurry of missions also signals the growing ambition of several nations and commercial players to show off their technological prowess and make their mark, particularly now that getting to the Moon is easier and cheaper than ever before….

(7) MUSK CONTRADICTED. Shannon Stirone says let the record reflect that “Mars Is a Hellhole” in The Atlantic.

There’s no place like home—unless you’re Elon Musk. A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship, which may someday send humans to Mars, is, according to Musk, likely to launch soon, possibly within the coming days. But what motivates Musk? Why bother with Mars? A video clip from an interview Musk gave in 2019 seems to sum up Musk’s vision—and everything that’s wrong with it.

In the video, Musk is seen reading a passage from Carl Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot

…Musk reads from Sagan’s book: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.”

But there Musk cuts himself off and begins to laugh. He says with incredulity, “This is not true. This is false––Mars.”

He couldn’t be more wrong. Mars? Mars is a hellhole. The central thing about Mars is that it is not Earth, not even close. In fact, the only things our planet and Mars really have in common is that both are rocky planets with some water ice and both have robots (and Mars doesn’t even have that many)…

(8) CURIOSITY SNAPS A PHOTO. Mars may be a hellhole, but it’s a hellhole with a door. “’Secret doorway built by aliens’ spotted in picture taken by rover on Mars”. Picture at the link.

Recent pictures from Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover show an intriguing feature which looks like a doorway nestled in the rocks on the Martian landscape.

It looks so convincing that it can almost tempt you to believe that it leads to a Martian hideaway – or a gateway to another Universe entirely.

While the internet seems to be having a field day with conspiracy theories about the mysterious doorway, some Reddit users aren’t buying it.

Many party poopers have pointed out the door is likely just a shear fracture — the result of some kind of strain on the rock, breaking part of it off….

(9) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe 57 is out now! Listen here! “Back Bacon is Best”.

John is a muppet bilby, Alison is actively drinking, and Liz MURDERS OWLS. We discuss Reclamation 2022 and the COVID that ensued, before talking about Horizon Forbidden West a whole bunch. Also other things.

Below, the Octothorpe cast are depicted as Australian mammals in muppet form. John is a bilby, Alison is a quokka, and Liz is an echidna. John has a glitter octothorpe on his forehead.

(10) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Gustav Hoegen.  Hoegen is Dutch, and when he was 6 he went with his father to the Tuchinski Theatre (an old-school picture palace) in Amsterdam to see Return of the Jedi, and he decided he wanted a career in the movies.  He worked his way up through British special effects shops in 2013 and now runs his own company, Biomimc Studio.  His creatures have appeared in four recent Star Wars movies, one of the Jurassic World pictures, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.  He says that Ridley Scott, J.J. Abrams and Tim Burton were the best directors to work with, and he gets work because directors realize that actors do a better job reacting with an actual object on screen rather than doing the entire film via green screen. “Maltin on Movies: Gustav Hoegen”.

(11) SOMETHING FISHY. Radio Times spoke with the showrunner: “Russell T Davies confirms he planted Doctor Who red herrings”. But he won’t tell which ones.

…”There’s been a few false stories and false tales and we placed a few posts ourselves, a couple of misleading things, and we’re very pleased that that kind of worked.”

However, Davies clarified that the rumour James Corden might be taking on the role wasn’t one of his red herrings, adding: “We didn’t plant that one, so that caught me frankly.”

While Davies did not expand on which names he’d planted in the press, a number of actors associated with the award-winning screenwriter were rumoured to be Jodie Whittaker’s replacement

(12) ANN DAVIS (1934-2022). The Guardian paid tribute to the late Ann Davies as an “actor admired for her many roles in TV drama series including Z Cars, EastEnders and in 1964 an appearance in Doctor Who.” She died April 26 at the age of 87.

…Television immortality came early on when when she joined forces with the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell, in 1964 in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. As Jenny, a determined and capable freedom fighter, Davies was a cold and efficient co-combatant with the series regular Barbara (Jacqueline Hill, in real life Davies’s friend and neighbour).

The action required them to encounter the Daleks in arresting scenes filmed at London landmarks. At one point they smashed through a patrol with a van, which required early morning shooting in the capital to avoid the crowds. Although it was just one guest role in her long career, Davies remained in demand for Doctor Who interviews and signings.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Samuel Delany’s Nova was nominated for a Best Novel Hugo at St. Louiscon fifty three years ago, the year that Stand on Zanzibar won. Two amazing novels; in this Scroll I’m here just to talk about Nova though I won’t deny that Stand on Zanzibar is an amazing novel as well. 

Nova came at a point in Delany’s career after he had just won three Nebulas, two for novels, Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection, plus one for his short story, “Aye, and Gomorrah..” The first novel was nominated for a Hugo at NYCon 3, the short story and the latter novel at BayCon. BayCon would see him get also nominated for “The Star Pit” novella, and St. Louiscon the next year would see his “Lines of Power” novella get nominated. It was a very fecund time for him. 

And then there was Nova, a fantastic novel that was first published by Doubleday in August 1968. Is it space opera? Is it really early cyberpunk? Of course it also had strong mythological underpinning and the tarot figured prominently into the story as well, so it couldn’t be nearly put into any categories, could it? All I know is that I really liked reading it. 

Reviewer Algis Budrys said in the January 1969 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction that it was “highly entertaining to read” and a later review on the Concatenation site said, “Though a novel, this runs like a string of tangled short stories fused and melted through one another, with fantastic concepts, but making its preposterous mission sound utterly credible for its extraordinary characters.” 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 12, 1937 George Carlin. Rufus in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. He also showed up in Scary Movie 3 and Tarzan II. I once met him many decades ago at a Maine summer resort. He was really personable and nice. (Died 2008.)
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best-known for the Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well (novelized by Longyear in collaboration with David Gerrold.) An expanded version of the original novella, plus two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy, make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. 
  • Born May 12, 1973 Mackenzie Astin, 49. His major genre role was in The Magicians as Richard/Reynard but he’s also appeared in I Dream in Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later (who knew?), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Outer LimitsLost and The Orville.
  • Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 72. His greatest genre role was obviously Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5. (Yes, I loved the show.) Other genre appearances being Alan T. Bradley in Tron and Tron: Legacy, and voicing that character in the Tron: Uprising series. He has a recurring role on Supergirl as President Baker.
  • Born May 12, 1953 Carolyn Haines, 69. Though best known for her Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series at twenty books and counting, she has definite genre credits having two orbs in her Pluto’s Snitch series, The Book of Beloved and The House of Memory, plus the rather excellent The Darkling and The Seeker though you might not recognize them as being hers as she wrote them as R.B. Chesterton. Her genre books are on Kindle. 
  • Born May 12, 1958 Heather Rose Jones, 64. Member of our File 770 community.  She received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for the Mother of Souls, the third novel in her Alpennia series which has now seen four novels published, quite an accomplishment. For six years now, she has presented the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast subseries of the Lesbian Talk Show.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) WALK THIS WAY. “How far did Sam and Frodo walk in Lord Of The Rings?” Yahoo! Movies found someone who thinks they know the answer.

They might have big feet, but with those little legs Hobbits Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins had their work cut out trekking from Bag End to Mount Doom in JRR Tolkien’s seminal The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One thing that has always enthralled fans when picking up Tolkien’s books is the attention to geography and the maps of Middle Earth.

Well now, thanks to one brilliantly thorough Imgur user called Mattsawizard, we can see how far those little legs had to go.

Better still he’s contextualised them with the UK….

(17) QUITE A HANDFUL. James Davis Nicoll directs us to “Five SFF Stories That Are Much Funnier Than They Sound”. First on the list:

The Night Life of the Gods by Thorne Smith (1931)

At first glance, Hunter Hawk seems to have been served the same dismal gruel as any other Thorne Smith protagonist. His home is inhabited by a swarm of grasping relatives, each one more feckless than the last. Other Smith protagonists require some external impetus to jar them out their conventional rut. Not Hunter Hawk, for long before the reader meets him, Hawk has energetically embraced mad science.

Having invented a petrification ray, Hawk’s immediate impulse is to turn it on his disappointing relatives. This leaves the inventor free for a meet-cute with Megaera, a 900-year-old fairy. It happens that Megaera has a trick that mirrors Hawk’s: she knows how to turn stone to living flesh. The couple could use this to de-petrify his relations. Instead, they transform statues of Roman gods into living deities.

The gods demand entertainment. Fortuitously, Jazz Age America is more than able to provide it.

(18) CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Chris Holm, author of a near-future sf novel where antibiotics have failed, offers eight recommendations for movies where disease is amok and creatures are covered with goo. “Eight Biological Horror Movies Guaranteed to Make Your Skin Crawl” at CrimeReads.

…Since [my novel] Child Zero seems to be scaring the bejesus out of everybody, I thought a fun way to celebrate its release would be an alphabetical roundup of my eight favorite biological horror movies.

Why biological horror rather than, say, body horror? Because even though the latter is an accepted horror subgenre, I’m not convinced everything on my list qualifies. Besides, I’m here to hype a biological thriller, not a body horror novel—so, y’know, synergy!…

(19) SAY CHEESE. What else do you say when you photograph something with a big hole in it? From the New York Times: “The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light”. (Photo at the link.)

Astronomers announced on Thursday that they had pierced the veil of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of “the gentle giant” dwelling there: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity, leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.

The image, released in six simultaneous news conferences in Washington, and around the globe, showed a lumpy doughnut of radio emission framing empty space. Oohs and aahs broke out at the National Press Club in Washington when Feryal Ozel of the University of Arizona displayed what she called “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy.” She added: “It seems that black holes like doughnuts.”…

 … Black holes were an unwelcome consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which attributed gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, much as how a mattress sags under a sleeper.

Einstein’s insight led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could quiver, bend, rip, expand, swirl and even disappear forever into the maw of a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that not even light could escape it.

Einstein disapproved of this idea, but the universe is now known to be speckled with black holes. Many are the remains of dead stars that collapsed inward on themselves and just kept going.,,,

(20) NOVA FIREBALL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover of the latest Nature is inspired by the article, “Chance discovery sheds light on exploding stars” (which is behind a paywall.) Here’s the introduction:

Nova explosions occur when a runaway thermonuclear reaction is triggered in a white dwarf that is accreting hydrogen from a companion star. The massive amount of energy released ultimately creates the bright light source that can be seen with a naked eye as a nova. But some of the energy has been predicted to be lost during the initial stages of the reaction as a flash of intense luminosity — a fireball phase — detectable as low-energy X-rays. In this week’s issue of NatureOle König and his colleagues present observations that corroborate this prediction. Using scans taken by the instrument eROSITA, the researchers identified a short, bright X-ray flash from the nova YZ Reticuli a few hours before it became visible in the optical spectrum. The cover shows an artist’s impression of the nova in the fireball phase.

(21) DEEP SUBJECT. Terry Pratchett talks to Leigh Sales of Australian Broadcasting about his Alzheimer’s and his support for right-to-die legislation in this 2011 clip: “Sir Terry Pratchett on life and death”.

(22) LEGO MUPPETS. IGN invites everyone to “Meet the LEGO Muppets Minifigures”.

On May 1, LEGO will release a series of Muppet Minifigures depicting Jim Henson’s most iconic creations: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo the Great, Animal, Janice, Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Statler, and Waldorf. LEGO sent IGN a preview set of all 12 minifigures, and we took a few photos (see below) to show off their details….

Part of what makes the Muppets lovable is their scruffiness; they’re cute, but not cloying in appearance or mannerism. And LEGO captures this quality by customizing each head distinctively–to be rounded, or conical, or exaggerated as need be.

Gonzo’s nose is huge. Beaker’s head is narrow. Honeydew’s eyes are non-existent. The Muppets are not subsumed by the LEGO aesthetic; if anything, LEGO compromised its design boundaries to ensure these figures retained that intangible ‘Muppet-ness’ they all possess….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another conversation between Lewis and Tolkien (from Eleanor Morton): “JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis realise something about dwarves”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Andrew (Not Werdna), Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 4/6/22 This Is The Hour When Moonstruck Faneds Know What Pixels Scroll In Yuggoth

(1) PRESSING ON. Apex Book Company is seeking $6,200 to publish a print compilation anthology of all the original genre short fiction that appeared in their digital publication, Apex Magazine, during the 2021 calendar year. Their Kickstarter project, “Apex Magazine 2021 Compilation Anthology by Apex Publications”, at this writing has raised $2,376. The appeal runs through April 22.

Apex Magazine had an exceptional 2021. Seven of the zine’s stories made the Locus Magazine Suggested Reading List. The zine placed a story on the Nebula finalist list and won a Stabby Award. In October 2021, we published an issue dedicated to Indigenous authors. In December 2021, we dedicated an issue to international authors.

The anthology will include 48 stories from a diverse group of new and established writers and will feature the Apex Magazine Readers’ Choice Award-winning artwork “Entropic Garden” by Marcela Bolívar on the cover.

(2) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has released its newest StoryBundle, Magic Awakens, for a limited time only, from April 6 to April 28. This StoryBundle offers a large selection of ebooks from independent and small press fantasy writers, and can be purchased at https://storybundle.com/fantasy.

If a smooth sea never made a skilled mariner, then a tranquil world never forged a powerful hero: Meet fourteen budding sorceresses, wizards, and magic wielders of all ages and types as they face horrible threats that force them to confront their nascent abilities and to strengthen their powers and themselves. Then join each character on their own thrilling adventure once the Magic Awakens!

SFWA StoryBundles are curated collections of ebooks offered at a steeply discounted price. Readers who purchase Magic Awakens will gain a rich collection of fantasy fiction and can opt to donate part of their purchase price to support SFWA’s ongoing work to promote and support speculative fiction genres and writers.

Readers may choose what price they want to pay for the initial four books, starting at $5. Spending $20 unlocks ten more books that they can receive with their purchase. Once April 28 passes, this particular collection will never be available again! Further details about how StoryBundle operates are available at https://storybundle.com/faq

(3) CSI SPARKLE SALON. The second episode of the Science Fiction Sparkle Salon has been released by the Center for Science and the Imagination. It features sff authors Malka Older, Annalee Newitz, Arkady Martine, Amal El-Mohtar, and Karen Lord, and scientist Katie Mack, discussing a wide range of topics

(4) IN OUR OWN WORDS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s episode of Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4 discusses the lexicography of SF and SF fandom.  Being interviewed is not Jeff Prucher, of the stonkingly brilliant Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, but Jesse Sheidlower of the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. You can access the programme on BBC Sounds – “Word of Mouth – The Language of Sci-Fi”.

Jessie Sheidlower

(5) PRESENTING THE BILL. “Canada Introduces Bill Requiring Online Giants to Share Revenues With Publishers” reports the New York Times.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require companies like the parents of Google and Facebook to pay Canadian media outlets for allowing links to news content on their platforms.

Canadian publishers, many of which are struggling financially, have long pushed the government for such a measure, arguing that the advertising revenue that previously was the foundation of their businesses has overwhelmingly migrated to global online giants.

That pressure increased after Australia passed a similar measure in 2021 and Europe revised its copyright laws to compensate publishers.

“The news sector in Canada is in crisis,” Pablo Rodriguez, the minister of Canadian heritage, said at a news conference. “This contributes to the heightened public mistrust and the rise of harmful disinformation in our society.”

Mr. Rodriguez said that 450 media outlets in Canada closed between 2008 and last year….

(6) ASHCANS TO AUCTION. Heritage Auction’s Intelligent Collector give the background as “Historic DC Comics Prototypes Soar to Auction”. (Images at the link.)

Thirty-seven years ago, Gary Colabuono saw his first ashcan. “And I did not know what they were,” he says now, decades after he began collecting, preserving and promoting these cheaply made, stapled-together black-and-white mock-ups made to secure a comic book title’s trademark and meant to be tossed into the trash.

In time, Colabuono became the expert on these lost rarities from the earliest days of the comic-book industry. Now, four of his ashcans – including one of two surviving Superman Comics ashcans from 1939 – head to market for the first time during Heritage Auctions’ history-making April 7-10 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction….

(7) THE MASTER’S VOICE. Alan Moore gives an introduction to a BBC writing course which seems the British equivalent of a Masterclass course. “Introducing – Alan Moore – Storytelling – BBC Maestro”.

Step into the world of Alan Moore’s incredible imagination and learn from the mastermind behind comics like From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Swamp Thing, and novels including the modern literary classic Jerusalem. Learn about Alan Moore’s writing process and how he combines character, story, language and world-building to create the tales that have won him fans the world over. Ideal for aspiring fiction writers, this online course includes downloadable course notes to guide you on your own creative journey.

(8) AT BREAK OF DON. Eleanor Morton does hilarious impressions of the two Inklings in “JRR Tolkien tells CS Lewis about his new character”.

(9) NEHEMIAH PERSOFF (1919-2022). A prolific actor with over 200 screen and TV credits, Nehemiah Persoff died April 5 at the age of 102.

His first genre role was playing Ali Baba in an episode of Shirley Temple’s Storybook (1958). He worked constantly, with many appearances in other sff TV series: The Twilight Zone (“Judgment Night”; 1959), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Off to See the Wizard (voice), The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Land of the Giants, The Magical World of Disney, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Invisible Man, Wonder Woman, Logan’s Run, The Bionic Woman, Supertrain, Battlestar Galactica, Fantasy Island, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he voiced Papa Mousekewitz in 1986’s An American Tail and two video sequels.  

Steve Vertlieb wrote about his visit with Persoff in 2019 for File 770.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1922 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

To John Vine Milne

My dear Father,
Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective
stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So, after
all that you have done for me, the least that I can do for you
is to write you one. Here it is: with more gratitude and
affection than I can well put down here.

— A. A. Milne in his preface to The Red House Mystery

A century ago today, A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery was published by Methuen in the United Kingdom. This is his only mystery and it’s a most splendid Manor House mystery, one of the best ever written if I must so myself which I will.  Milne tells the story of the mysterious death of Robert Ablett inside the house of his brother, Mark Ablett, while there was a party taking place. It’s a whodunit that’s wonderfully told.

That was written prior to Winnie the Pooh and was an immediate success with the reading public and critics alike. Alexander Woollcott of the New Yorker at the time called it “one of the three best mystery stories of all time” though he himself would later be judged harshly by Raymond Chandler who also disliked British mysteries in general. (Ahhh feuds among critics. Lovely things they are.)  It has stood nicely the test of time and is still considered a splendid mystery.

It is now in the public domain so you can find it at the usual suspects for free though there are also copies being sold by publishers as well. Audible has four versions of the novel including a full cast production.  I really should listen to that version. 

If you interested in acquiring a first British edition, dig deep into your bank account as that will set you back, assuming that edition is on the market, at least thirteen thousand dollars currently.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the revamped and stripped-down DC Universe app. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 6, 1935 Douglas Hill. Canadian author, editor and reviewer. For a year, he was assistant editor of Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds magazine. I’m going to admit that I know more of him as a decidedly and to be admired Leftist reviewer than I do as writer, indeed he held the same post of Literary Editor at the socialist weekly Tribune as Orwell earlier did. Who here is familiar with fiction? He was quite prolific indeed. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 85. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/Net and Just/In Time which are available from the usual suspects.
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 84. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Colins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy
  • Born April 6, 1942 Anita Pallenberg. It’s not a long genre resume but she was in Barbarella as, I kid you not, Black Queen, Great Tyrant of Sogo, the chief villainess. Over forty years later, she had a minor role as Diana in a Grade B film 4:44 Last Day on Earth. Now I’m going to expand this Birthday by crediting her as the muse of the Rolling Stones which is surely genre adjacent, isn’t it? She was the lover of Brian Jones, and later, from 1967 to 1980, the partner of Keith Richards, with whom she had three children. Of course she appeared in that documentary about the Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil. (Died 2017.)
  • Born April 6, 1944 Judith McConnell, 78. Here for being in Star Trek’s “Wolf in the Fold” as Yeoman Tankris. Need I say what happened to her? Well you’d be wrong as she survived. (I looked it up to be sure as the body count was high.) She also during this time appeared on Get Smart in “The King Lives” as Princess Marta, and she’d much later be in Sliders for several episodes. 
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 45. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. The short story “Augusta Prima”, originally written in Swedish, was translated by the author into English and won a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro really should be more impressed with The Mildly Surprising Spider-Man.

(13) SHINY. Could these be “The 15 Greatest Covers In All Of Comics”? Buzzfeed thinks so.

Mainly featuring heroes and villains in colorful costumes, comic book covers have succeeded in catching readers’ attention, but these covers are truly the best of the best. These are the 15 Greatest Covers in All of Comics.

(14) SKILL TREE. The latest episode of CSI Skill Tree series on video games, storytelling, worldbuiding, and futures thinking is now live, with SF author Ken Liu and video game designer Liz Fiacco discussing the 2020 game Cloud Gardens, a 2020 game about using plants to overgrow and transform abandoned post-industrial landscapes. This episode is presented in collaboration with Orion Magazine, a quarterly publication working at the convergence of ecology, art, and social justice. All nine Skill Tree episodes are available to view at this playlist.

(15) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCES. NPR advocates for George O’Connor’s version of the Greek gods: “A graphic novel series for kids that doesn’t leave out gender fluidity”.

…Dionysos: The New God is the last of O’Connor’s Olympians, a series of graphic novels he’s been writing and illustrating for the last 12 years. Each book retells the ancient Greek myths through the lens of one of the gods or goddesses, from Athena, goddess of wisdom, to Hephaistos, god of the forge.

O’Connor’s illustrations are bursting with action, humor and lots of details. He researched the ancient myths in order to get as close as possible to the original stories. That means his gods and goddesses are fierce, but also voluptuous, mischievous and even snarky. To him, the Olympians are a family of distinct individuals. “There’s certain personality traits that come to the fore,” he said….

(16) WILSON HONORED AT BOOKFEST. Author and musician Shane Wilson won two book awards at The BookFest this past weekend for his novel, The Smoke in His Eyes. The book placed second in Contemporary Fiction and third in Coming-of-Age Literary Fiction.

The Bookfest Awards honors authors who create outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction. Books are judged in categories based on genre, theme, and aesthetics. Books published in the past five years are eligible. Entries will be vetted by an initial team, then the final places will be determined by an elite team of experts in the literary and entertainment world.

Here’s what The Smoke in His Eyes is about:

When TJ—a musical prodigy—witnesses a traumatic event as a child, his senses are overrun with intense hallucinations. Over the years, his visions increase in frequency and intensity, but he hides them from those he is closest to, including his best friend and musical partner, Lila, who challenges TJ to reject formulaic creation in order to create something beautiful and unique. But when Lila signs a record deal, TJ feels left behind and alone with his art and his visions.

That’s when TJ meets an artist named Muna. In his eyes and visions, Muna is made of smoke, and as this magical woman helps him learn how to manage his visions and how to translate what he sees and hears into music and lyrics, she begins to disappear. His journey into Muna’s past is a journey to discover where inspiration originates and what happens to an artist when that inspiration is gone.

Available at Amazon.com.

(17) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Paul Weimer praises a sequel in “Microreview [book]: Azura Ghost by Essa Hansen” at Nerds of a Feather.

….Now, ten years later, Caiden and the Azura are legends, a one man, one ship, and one young Nophek crew doing good across the multiverse, staying ahead of the forces of Unity led by Abriss Centre, and dreading what will happen if her equally dangerous brother escapes his imprisonment. It’s getting harder for Caiden to escape Abriss’ traps, especially when Abriss has a trump card up her sleeve, one guaranteed to slow down Caiden enough to capture him and his remarkable ship…his long lost sister.

Welcome to Azura Ghost, the second Graven book from Essa Hansen….

(18) NAVIGATING THE BLOAT. Meanwhile, Arturo Serrano says the sequel he read suffers from a common series-book problem: “Review: Until the Last of Me by Sylvain Neuvel” at Nerds of a Feather.

In the first novel of this series, A History of What Comes Next (which I reviewed for this blog last year), we learned that the progress of science on this planet has always been secretly guided by the Kibsu, a humanlike species of superstrong, supersmart aliens whose genetic line split at some point in antiquity, with the female line dedicated to developing mathematics and teaching it to humans, and the male line sworn to hunting down their female counterparts as punishment for some supposed treason no one remembers anymore. For centuries, these aliens have been spreading both knowledge and death as each lineage pursues their mission while hiding in plain sight among us. The title of the series is Take them to the stars, but in that first novel the full meaning is revealed as Take them to the stars before we come and kill them all.

The newly released continuation, Until the Last of Me, displays the hallmark signs of Middle Book Syndrome: the plot gets a bit repetitive in the early chapters, feels a bit directionless toward the middle, and is suddenly hijacked at the end by the need to put all the pieces in position for the upcoming final confrontation….

(19) FOCUS ON WOMEN CHARACTERS. Minnesota author J. Lynn Else told an Authority Magazine interviewer this week:

Gowing up in the 80s and 90s, while a big fan of sci fi and fantasy, there weren’t a lot of female characters to identify with. The females typically lacked depth, didn’t have a lot of agency, or simply were there as a romantic interest. As I started developing my fantasy trilogy, I wanted to create a cast of female characters who were all different. They made jokes, made mistakes, got angry, got frustrated, weren’t always the ‘bookish smart’ one. I wrote because I wanted greater depth of characters for young girls reading these genres so that they could picture themselves in these worlds without having to be ultrasmart or beautiful or aggressively assertive…

Now through Inklings Publishing, she’s authored Descendants of Avalon (2018), Lost Daughters of Avalon (2019), and Prophecy of Avalon (2021). Her short story “The Girl from the Haunted Woods,” won second place in the “Journey into the Fantastical” Anthology contest.

Here’s the précis about Lost Daughters of Avalon (Awakenings Book 2):

After not hearing anything from their knights in Avalon for weeks, the horrible Questing Beast breaks through into the world and attacks Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit. Their magic stirs to stop the monster, but Beth’s attempts fail. Help from Avalon arrives just in time to remove the curse and reveal a woman inside the beast who claims to be Genie’s biological mother.The four friends learn their knights had gone missing, along with one of Avalon’s queens, Viviane. An ancient evil runs amok in Avalon and the people blame the four friends, claiming they released Merlin to destroy their world. To clear their name and rescue their knights, the four friends must once again risk the dangers of Avalon. Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit must pull together and learn to combine their powers of air, water, earth, and fire to rebalance the world they might have thrown into chaos. If they fail, the worlds of Avalon and Earth could destabilize and end life as they know it.

Available at Amazon.com and  Amazon.ca.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]  In “Honest Game Trailers: Stranger of Paradise:  Final Fantasy Origin,” Fandom Games says that in this Final Fantasy spinoff you play Jack, “a character so edgy that he makes Jared Leto’s Joker seem like a birthday clown.”  Jack’s the sort of character who responds to a demon saying, “I am” and interrupts him to say, “I don’t care who you are,” and starts punching the creature out.  In fact, this game is so edgy that “it’s like a Monster energy drink come to life.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/19/22 Marconi Scrolls The Mamba

(1) GRIMM TIMES AHEAD. The Brothers Grimm Society of North America launched this week. “The BGSNA promotes the study of all aspects of the legacy and the spirit of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and their works. Website and membership info forthcoming.”

(2) MARCON ENDING. Marcon, the annual Columbus, Ohio convention, is calling it quits. I was Marcon’s toastmaster in 1977. At least that didn’t kill it. The con chair posted on Facebook:

Due to many challenges with which we are all familiar the current staff are stepping down. One of the panel tracks for this year will be “how to run a convention”. If you are willing to travel to Columbus in May to impart your knowledge on how to run a con there will be an entire panel track on just that topic. Please consider sharing your wisdom and experience with the folks coming next and PM me about your desire to sit a panel this May 6-8 at the final MARcon.

The Marcon.org website shut down earlier this month.

(3) VINTAGE PNEUMA. Christianity Today’s Louis Markos reviews The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped a Great Mind by Jason M. Baxter in “C.S. Lewis Was a Modern Man Who Breathed Medieval Air…”

The British Boethius

Like his friend Tolkien, C. S. Lewis was a man who loved all things medieval and who infused all that he wrote with a premodern ethos that hearkened back to an older, more traditional understanding of technology, books, wisdom, and morality. In his new book, The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped a Great Mind, Dante scholar Jason Baxter unpacks the full extent of Lewis’s medievalism. Just as Michael Ward demonstrated in Planet Narnia that Lewis keyed each of his seven Narnia Chronicles to one of the medieval planets, so Baxter demonstrates that the medieval worldview colored not only Lewis’s apologetics and fiction but his scholarship as well….

(4) NO STACKS OF BOOKS WITHOUT STACKS OF BUCKS. Publishers Weekly hears “Librarians ‘Disheartened’ by FY2022 Federal Budget, Preparing for Tough FY2023”.

Signed into law on March 11, the reconciled FY2022 budget (which began on October 1, 2021) contained only flat funding for the LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) at $197.4 million—despite the House last summer approving a $9 million increase that would have taken LSTA funding to $206.5 million. LSTA funding, which is administered by the IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) through grants to states, is the primary source of federal funding dedicated to America’s libraries….

…Amid rising inflation and continued economic volatility and uncertainty as the country emerges from the pandemic, flat funding is essentially a cut.

(5) MARLON JAMES. Boston Review’s Nate File interviews Marlon James, who says: “’Representation doesn’t just mean heroes. We need the villains as well.’”

Nate File: When Black Leopard, Red Wolf first came out, you joked that this trilogy was like an African Game of Thrones. That took off as the elevator pitch for the books, but they’re really very different. Do you regret making that joke?

 Marlon James: No, if for no other reason than it got people to pay attention to it. But also, I’m inspired by this idea that you don’t have to let go of the world of make-believe to tell a serious story. This idea that persists in fiction and in storytelling that realistic fiction is the grown-up genre and that fantasy is child’s play, even though fantasy, at a certain point in our evolutionary history, was considered fact. At one point, Zeus was a fact. For a lot of people, Shango is a fact. Game of Thrones supported the idea of telling a story that is decidedly adult—although I have no problem with teenagers stealing this book—but retain the fantastical and even the supernatural. It liberated how I always wanted to tell a story but never felt I could.

 NF: Why do you think things shifted? When did fantasy become inappropriate for adults?

 MJ: Christianity had a lot to do with it, and it still has a lot to do with it, because we look at fantastical things as inherently demonic. We’ve been burning women as witches for centuries. And, for better or worse, the rise of the nineteenth-century novel reproduced some of those ideas where things that go bump in the night are things that children believe in.

Margaret Atwood said once that human nature hasn’t changed in a thousand years, and the way you know this is to check the mythologies. I agree. I think that we reach for the fantastical sometimes to explain things that we can’t explain in the real world. For Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, only the fantastical could explain the type of horror that they witnessed in World War I. We still reach for allegory, we still reach for myth, we still reach for tall tales in order to understand ourselves….

(6) RANDOMIZED TBR. James Davis Nicoll recommends these “5 Extremely Unscientific Methods for Picking Your Next Book”.

Anyone can apply logic, taste, and methodical research to the problem of selecting which limited subset of the vast number of books available one is to read. Conversely, one can half-ass one’s way through Mt. Tsundoku using methods of dubious reliability. Don’t believe me? Here are five methods I have used, each more ludicrous than the one before….

(7) TAKARADA AKIRA OBIT. Actor Takarada Akira, whose resume was filled with appearances in kaiju movies, has died at the age of 87. Variety’s profile says:

…He made an impression in a major role as a Navy diver in the original 1954 “Godzilla” and thereafter was cast in series follow-ups including “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (1964), “Invasion of Astro-Monster” (1965), and “Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” (1966).

…After the collapse of Japan’s studio system in the 1970s Takarada’s appearances in films became fewer though his career revived in the 1990s with supporting roles in the films of Itami Juzo. He also appeared in new entries in the “Godzilla” series such as the 1992 “Godzilla vs. Mothra” and the 2002 “Godzilla: Final Wars.” He is credited in the 2014 Garth Edwards “Godzilla” as a Japanese immigration agent, though his scenes were cut from the film….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Now I have come to praise Farscape which debuted twenty-four years ago this evening on on Sci-Fi Channel’s SciFi Friday. I won’t claimed to be objective as regards this series as I consider it to be the finest SF series ever done bar none. 

It was produced originally for the Australian Nine Network, and was, as if you didn’t notice, produced in that country with an all Australian cast save Ben Browder as John Crichton.  It was created by Rockne S. O’Bannon who would go on to be involved in seaQuest DSV, Defiance and Alien Nation. He and Brian Henson were Executive Producers (along with a number of other individuals).

And that brings me to the Jim Henson Company which was responsible for the amazing look of this series. They produced two of the characters here, Pilot and Rigel, plus produced the appendages on Ka D’Argo’s face and the Diagnostic Repair Drones or DRDs, and of course the makeup that created the various aliens. 

The characters here make use of slang such as frell, drad and dren as a substitute for English expletives. I particularly like frell as it’s so obvious what it really is. 

So how was the reception for it? Buzz-eye.com summed it up nicely this way: “The beauty of ‘Farscape’ for the uninitiated is in how surprising the show can be; you genuinely never know what the writers are going to throw at you next, and I truly envy anyone who gets to imbibe in the series for the first time via this box set.”

It currently holds an eighty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

It would run for four stellar seasons and get a proper send-off in The Peacekeeper Wars after it got cancelled on a cliffhanger. A weird cliffhanger at that. If you’re interested in watching it again, or amazingly haven’t seen it yet, it is currently airing on Amazon Prime. 

That it got no Hugo nominations is frelling beyond the pale. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. A member of First Fandom fondly remembered by OGH and others, he began publishing genre fiction with “Eyes of the Double Moon” in Planet Stories in the May 1953 issue. He would publish some thirty tales over the next fifty years including three with Ellison (including “Rodney Parish for Hire” in Partners in Wonder). Much of it is collected in Final Tales. He was also a writer of mystery fiction, at least twenty-four novels. I’m not seeing him really at the usual suspects in either genre in any meaningful amount. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Best remembered as Number Six as the ever so weird Prisoner series which he both created and produced. He was prior to that series, John Drake in Danger Man which might connect to this series or not. Did you know that he had a long-running connection with Columbo, directing, producing, writing, and appearing in several episodes? He appeared in “By Dawn’s Early Light” and “Identify Crisis”. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1932 Gail Kobe. She has genre appearances with the more prominent being as Jessica Connelly in Twilight Zone’s “In His Image”, in another Twilight Zone episode as Leah Maitland in “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross”, and two Outer Limits episodes, first as Janet Doweling in “Specimen, Unknown” and then as Janet in “The Keeper of the Purple Twilight”. (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 86. She was Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, and Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner.  Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 67. So do any of the Die Hard franchise movies count as genre? Even setting them aside he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird sh!t), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down), Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill).
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 58. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series and on The Great War of Magellan film.
  • Born March 19, 1969 Connor Trinneer, 53. Best remembered for his roles as Charles “Trip” Tucker III on Enterprise Michael the wraith on Stargate Atlantis though he only provided the voice later on.  He also was Tycho “Ty”Johns in Star Runners, one of those good awful Sci-Fi films. How awful? It rates twelve percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld shows Guardian readers the periods of reading in the garden.

(11) ELEVATOR PITCH. SYFY Wire warns that “‘Moon Knight’ Goes Full Horror Mode In First Freaky Clip From Marvel’s New Disney+ Series”.

Here’s a pro Marvel tip: Never let a terrifying Ancient Egyptian deity corner you inside an elevator. Judging by the first official clip from the Moon Knight TV series (coming to Disney+ at the end of the month), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness won’t be the MCU’s initial foray into the world of horror. And here’s another piece of advice: if you’re ever scared witless by what may be a hallucination of an inter-dimensional being, pretend you dropped your contact lens on the floor. It doesn’t exactly work here, but it’s better than nothing….

(12) EMMA VS. J.K. “People Are Praising Emma Watson’s Alleged Jab At J.K. Rowling, Just Days After J.K. Went On An Anti-Trans Rant On Twitter”Yahoo!’s article amplifies what they’re talking about with video clips and tweets.

Earlier this week, Emma Watson graced the BAFTAs stage to present the award for Outstanding British Film.

She was introduced by Rebel Wilson, who joked, “Our next presenter is Emma Watson. She’s proud to call herself a feminist, but we all know she’s a witch.”

Once Emma reached the podium, she immediately said, “I’m here for all the witches.”

Here’s why people kind of did a double-take after that comment. Emma’s “all the witches” remark comes just a few days after J.K. Rowling did one of her infamous anti-trans rants on Twitter….

(13) CLICKS WILL ABOUND. Frankenstein or Dracula? Star Trek or Star Wars? Delta or Omicron? Time for the latest duel: “Wordle vs. Elden Ring: Which is a better game?” asks Slate.

Two massive cultural juggernauts currently stand astride the video gaming landscape. One is Wordle, a minimalist word-guessing game that combines elements of hangman and Mastermind with 3 million total players, many of whom have logged on to play each day’s new puzzle for months and counting. The other is Elden Ring, a brutal fantasy role-playing game released in February, which has received near-perfect reviews from gaming critics and players since release. So far, estimates suggest the multiplatform game has sold 10 million copies on PC alone—a big feat for a game that’s not even a month old.

As games, they couldn’t be more different. Heck, Wordle doesn’t even have any graphics, and failing to solve Elden Ring’s puzzles results in (in-game) death, not a broken win streak. But their differences aside, no two games have generated more discussion and discourse in 2022 than these. They’re early Game of the Year contenders, not soon to be forgotten or toppled. We all know, however, that only one game can be the year’s best game—and while it may be too early to tell, it doesn’t hurt to ask ourselves: Is Wordle or Elden Ring more deserving of the title?…

(14) THEY’RE DYING TO BE INVITED. “Margaret Atwood’s Dream Dinner Party Features a Crystal Ball and Hammer”  at bon appétit.

You get to host any three people, fictional or real, dead or alive. Who’s invited?
I’ll stick to dead people. If I fail to invite some living people, they’d be very annoyed. (Not to say other dead people wouldn’t be. I’d expect to hear from Samuel Johnson and Oscar Wilde, who prided themselves on their dinner conversation.) But here’s my invite list…

(15) THE TRUTH IS SEMI-OUT THERE. This week’s Isaac Arthur video is a look at covert aliens.

Clandestine conspiracies and covert alien activity are popular theories involving UFO & UAP sightings as well as in science fiction, but what would covert alien activity look like?

(16) JAMES BOND DOES IT BETTER FOR COMIC RELIEF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Comic Relief Red Nose Day is an annual BBC charity bash where comedians and others in a funny way raise money for good causes (not for comedians). By midnight last night, more than £42.7m has been raised in Comic Relief’s latest Red Nose Day broadcast, with a host of stars taking part in sketches and stunts. The total will rise as donations continue to come in. Comic Relief: Red Nose Day raises £42m in star-studded show – BBC News. Though there was much new material, we did get a dusting off of a James Bond skit first performed last year.  So, here is 007 meeting Nan (Catherine Tate)…

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day “Everyone who can’t stand ‘We Built This City’”.]

Pixel Scroll 2/11/22 They’re Creepy And They’re Scrolly, The Pixel Family

(1) EMPOWERING LIBRARIES. “Texas Book Ban Prompts School Librarians to Launch #FReadom Fighters” reports Publishers Weekly.  (The #FReadom website is here.)

In response to Texas Rep. Matt Krause’s published list of 850 books on race and sexuality that he targeted for their subject matter —many of which were pulled from school library shelves—a group of Texas school librarians has decided to push back. Last November, they orchestrated #FReadom Fighters, a social media campaign with the goal of supporting authors, teachers, librarians, and students in their pursuit of intellectual freedom. In a matter of months, the organization’s work has amassed thousands of supporters, both at the state level and across the country, and incited other likeminded groups to take action.

… On launch day, November 4, 2021, #FReadom Fighters garnered 13,000 tweets, much to the organizers’ surprise. “We had planned all this in secret, so we were amazed that this was happening even before starting a Twitter account,” Foote said. “We saw ourselves as a guerilla effort, serving as a rapid response team.” The @FReadomFighters Twitter account and website soon followed, updated with weekly and monthly action plans to support fellow librarians in their day-to-day operations. Ideas for #FReadom Fridays varied, from inviting authors to show letters they had received from readers about why their books were so powerful, to asking people to share books that had had an impact on them. A more recent prompt focuses on celebrating wins: sharing success stories of books that have been put back on shelves….

(2) THE BUZZ. Lightyear opens June 17.

“Lightyear” is the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—follows the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure. “Buzz’s world was always something I was excited about,” said director Angus MacLane. “In ‘Toy Story,’ there seemed to be this incredible backstory to him being a Space Ranger that’s only touched upon, and I always wanted to explore that world further. So my ‘Lighytear’ pitch was, ‘What was the movie that Andy saw that made him want a Buzz Lightyear toy?’ I wanted to see that movie. And now I’m lucky enough to get to make it.”

(3) BRADBURY’S SUPER BOWL CONNECTION. A newspaper pitched Ray to contribute to its Super Bowl XXXV (2001) special section. Did he do it?

(4) HORROR THEATER 3000. Ursula Vernon livetweeted her experience watching the horror movie Midsommar. Thread starts here.

(5) THE OFFICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Adela Suliman says Britain’s Science Museum has opened an exhibit called “Stephen Hawking At Work,” which features a preserved doodle-covered blackboard and the case that held his voice synthesizer. “’Stephen Hawking at Work’ exhibition in London displays his blackboard, glasses and other belongings”.

Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, said it was “wonderful to see my father’s working environment recreated.”

“It was such a unique and fascinating environment, and I am delighted his office has been recreated in order to inspire scientists of the future,” she said in a statement.

The blackboard in the exhibit illustrates Hawking’s playful sense of humor and was used during a “Superspace and Supergravity” conference in 1980. Delegates covered it in equations, cartoons and jokes about one another. Hawking had the souvenir framed and hung in his office.

Because even small vibrations could cause the blackboard to lose chalk, Juan-Andres Leon, curator of Stephen Hawking’s Office, said in an email, “the museum applied a starch-based material to stabilise the chalk dust and enclosed it in a frame.”

(6) RIGHTS AND WRONGS. Want to own the rights to The Lord of the Rings? Can you outspend Jeff Bezos? Meanwhile, other legal shenanigans are in progress reports Yahoo! “Lord Of The Rings Mod Hit With Takedown Just As Series’ Rights Are Up For Sale”.

The bigger news first: the Saul Zantz company has owned most of the rights to Tolkien’s works since the 1970s. Almost everything that has been made based on the books in the fields of “film, video games, merchandising, live events and theme parks” has had to be negotiated and paid for accordingly. Variety reported this week though that the company is moving to sell those rights, for a sum that’s expected to be around the $2 billion mark, with Amazon expected to be front of the line to make the purchase, which seems like an absolute worst-case scenario.

So it’s weird, then, that given the timing of that sale, Warner Bros.—who currently licenses the rights to Lord of the Rings video games—have chosen February 2022 to go after a prominent and highly-anticipated mod for the Total War series called Rise of Mordor.

This mod has been around for yearswe wrote about it in 2018!—and has quietly gone about its business with the assumption that, like its popular predecessor Third Age, nobody really cared. Only now somebody clearly does, because Rise of Mordor’s Mod DB page has been hit with a takedown notice (Third Age’s, however, remains)….

(7) MAIL FROM HELL. Yesterday, Brenton Dickieson celebrated “The 80th Anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

… As I discuss it in detail here, it is a shocking beginning for the unprepared. Who is Screwtape? Who is Wormwood? Why is Wormwood being commended for encouraging connections with materialists (atheists? naturalist? worldly people?)? Why is he rebuked for using argument as a foundation for action?

The original Screwtape Letters were an extreme use of in medias res with the potential to leave the reader completely befuddled. We all “get” Screwtape now because the genre of demonic epistolary fiction is something we might expect. It is part of pop culture. Back then, though, it was entirely new. While the editor’s little note may prepare regular readers to expect a Christian academic, readers not expecting a new, satirical genre may well be surprised….

… I don’t know anyone who has catalogued the breadth of influence that Screwtape has had within popular culture as a whole. That Monty Python’s John Cleese narrated a Grammy-nominated audiobook of The Screwtape Letters is some indication of its impact….

(8) TWO DOZEN STORIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A free download of 24 stories is available: “Some of the Best From Tor.com 2021 Is Out Now!” Yes, you could find these one-by-one at Tor.com. This is easier.

This anthology features twenty-four of our favorite original stories published on the site in the past year.

Of course, you can always read these—and all other—Tor.com stories  for free whenever you’d like, but starting today they will be available world-wide as a single, easy-to-read, FREE ebook, available from all your favorite vendors.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1970 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  Fifty-two years ago, Hammer Films’ Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed premiered. It was the fifth Hammer film that featured Baron Frankenstein. It was directed by Terrence Fisher from the screenplay by Bert Batt as taken from the story written by Anthony Nelson and Batt. It starred Peter Cushing, Freddie Jones, Veronica Carlson and Simon Ward. 

Critics say that it is one of the better Hammer films in quite some time with Variety saying that  it had “a minimum of artless dialogue, good lensing by Arthur Grant and a solid all round cast”, and Slant Magazine holding it to be “One of the finest of the seven entries in Hammer’s Frankenstein cycle.”

It holds a sixty-eight percent rating among the nearly three thousand who rated it over at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 11, 1908 Tevis Clyde Smith, Jr. He did several short stories with Robert E. Howard — “Diogenes of today”, “ Eighttoes makes a play” and “Red Blades of Black Cathay”. Donald M. Grant would publish them together in the Red Blades of Black Cathay collection. The title story originally appeared in Oriental Stories, an offshoot of Weird Tales. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.) Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know, the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films, but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 83. Jane Yolen loves not-so-dark chocolate, so I send her some from time to time. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise, in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt which she’s signed a copy for me, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled of Lead’s Antler Dance which Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on.
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are mostly popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 70. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott).
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 69. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on Tolkien that’s been done, including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
  • Born February 11, 1982 Natalie Dormer, 40. Best known as being in Game of Thrones as Margaery Tyrell, though I’m more interested in the fact that she was in Elementary over three seasons as both Jamie Moriarty and Irene Adler. Anyone here watch this series? I’ve not but this sounds fascinating! 

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Thomas Edison was born this day in 1847. Edison’s film company produced the very first known feature adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

(12) A WEBB FIRST. “James Webb Space Telescope captures its first images of a star” and Yahoo! has a copy — see the image at the link.

The James Webb Space Telescope has finally captured its first image of a star — or rather, images. NASA has shared a mosaic of pictures (shown above) of a star taken using the primary mirror’s 18 segments. It looks like a seemingly random collection of blurry dots, but that’s precisely what the mission team was expecting. The imagery will help scientists finish the lengthy mirror alignment process using the telescope’s Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam. The first phase is nearly complete as of this writing.

(13) HEVELIN FANZINES. A couple of years ago, Atlas Obscura signal-boosted a call for help with a fanzine transcription project: “Even More Ways to Help Librarians and Archivists From Home”. What’s their status today? They say they are 100% done!

First the 2020 excerpt:

What better time to zip into a happily unfamiliar realm? The DIY History project at the University of Iowa Library, which invites people to help transcribe digitized objects from the library’s special collections and other holdings, could use your help with its massive trove of science-fiction zines. Some date back to the 1930s; all were collected by the late James L. “Rusty” Hevelin. More than 10,780 pages of the Hevelin Fanzines collection have been transcribed so far, but there are still around 500 left to go. If you need a mental break from this planet and its familiar troubles, pop into this project and spend a little time somewhere else.

David Doering was one of the volunteers, so I checked with him and this is what I learned:

We completed the transcription of Rusty’s collection about two years ago. I don’t see any new additions to that collection. (And the numbers match what this article says: There’s 11285 pages transcribed. Which is 500 more than the articles 10,780.)

Now there are other (non-SF) works to possibly transcribe. You can find the landing page here: https://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/

To be fair, there were pages that were not transcribed because the pages were (almost) unreadable due to mimeo ink fading.  I tried to noodle out the contents and made some progress, but some I just couldn’t get enough of an image to read the text. So if there’s someone out there who has great image restoration skills, there are probably a couple of hundred pages that were skipped due to readability.

Unfortunately, the software the U of Iowa used for this project would count a page as transcribed even if you wrote the obligatory note “Not transcribed due to legibility issues.” So all the zines show 100% transcribed when some were not.

(14) FYI. Behind a paywall, WIRED presents “Ada Palmer and the Weird Hand of Progress”: “The sci-fi author writes about the 25th century and teaches college students about the 15th. The past we think we know is wrong, she says—and so is the future.”

(15) ATTENTION SJW CREDENTAL OWNERS. Andrew Porter witnessed Jeopardy! contestants stumped by a science fictional item on tonight’s episode.

Category: I’m too sexy: a lyrical potpourri

Answer: …for this animal “who walks through walls” in a Robert A. Heinlein title.

No one could answer: What is a cat?

(16) FOURWARD MARCH. DC tells us about the four movies they’re bringing out this coming year: “DC – The World Needs Heroes”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trallers: Tom Clancy’s Ranbow Six Extraction,” Fandom Games notes that this series is sf, because special forces are blasting “alien goo-boys.”  And if the going gets tough, the narrator reminds us that “There may be no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but there is an i in ‘I’m departing from this field immediately.’”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cliff, Hampus Eckerman, David Doering,Bonnie Warford, Daniel Dern, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/22 Something Pixel This Way Scrolls

(1) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Somtow Sucharitkul told Facebook friends his movie The Maestro will play in L.A. in June. (See the story of the film here.) He wants help to make its appearance a hit.

To my friends in Los Angeles:

THE MAESTRO will open at one of the Laemmle theaters, probably in June, exact dates and location TBA.

Before then, I would like to mobilize the F/SF/H community, the Thai community, and the Music community to try to make the run a success and even to push it beyond one week.

So happy to be following in the footsteps of Dakota Loesch and Scott Monahan the creators of “Anchorage” which just enjoyed a run with this chain.

Any friends of mine in L.A. who would like to help me organize all our potential viewers, need all the grassroots help we can get! I will fly in for the opening for sure, and maybe some others from the team.

(2) PREGENERATION. “Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker announces pregnancy at Brit Awards 2022”Metro News has the story.

Jodie Whittaker revealed exciting news as she graced the Brit Awards 2022 red carpet, confirming she is pregnant with her second child. 

The Doctor Who actress attended the star-studded awards ceremony at London’s O2 Arena on Tuesday wearing a dress from British designer Chimone. 

(4) ARTIFICER INTELLIGENCE. “Artist uses AI to perfectly fake 70s science fiction pulp covers – artwork and titles”CDM Create Digital Music will tell you how.

The way a lot of press gets this wrong, of course, is to say things like “the AI made some sci-fi book covers.” Even as these algorithms get a lot more sophisticated than averaged pixels or a Markov chain, they are still just algorithms, lacking in agency, albeit with enormous data sets as source material. In turn, though, that makes some of the aesthetic peculiarities they generate all the more interesting, and means that it’s helpful to understand them as generative tools in the hands of artists. They’re the outcome of a lot of human effort in mathematics, code, and ultimately human choice, even if that last bit upsets those in search of general artificial intelligence.

Lewis Hackett is that artist, and cleverly selected what we’re seeing, combining a graphics technique called Clip Guided Diffusion for the imagery with familiar GPT3 techniques for the titles. And he’s done a great job selecting the results and aping the typography style by hand….

(5) SPACE ODYSSEYS – HOW LIKELY? At The Space Review Jeff Foust asks, “Are space movie studios sci-fi fantasies?”

Remember all the excitement a couple years ago when Hollywood media reported that Tom Cruise planned to film a movie in space? The NASA administrator at the time, Jim Bridenstine, confirmed that NASA was in talks with the famous actor for filming some kind of movie—no one was really sure what it would be about—on the International Space Station, but there’s been little overt progress since then. Cruise remains grounded for the foreseeable future: given the schedule of missions to the ISS, the soonest he could go is early 2023.

Those reports did apparently convince the Russians to do their own space movie, called The Challenge, with the cooperation, and maybe financial support, of Roscosmos. A director and an actress flew to the station in October to film scenes of a movie that’s supposed to come out later this year, putting The Challenge in line to become the first feature-length dramatic movie with major parts of it filmed in space (a distinction that’s required for earlier documentaries or Richard Garriott’s short spoof Apogee of Fear.) Take that, Tom Cruise!

Both Cruise’s rumored plans and the upcoming Russian film seem to have convinced people there’s a market for shooting movies in space. Last month, Axiom Space, a company adding commercial modules to the space station that will later become part of a standalone commercial space station, said it had been selected by a company called Space Entertainment Enterprise (SEE) to build an “inflatable microgravity entertainment venue” called SEE-1 that would be attached to its own commercial modules….

(6) SCIENTISTS IN SCIENCE FICTION. Dream Foundry is adding videos of Flights of Foundry 2021’s programming to their YouTube channel.  Some highlights include “The Unhelpful Legacy of Mad Scientists: Writing Scientists as Positive Role Models” with Octavia Cade, Benjamin C. Kinney, and Arula Ratnakar, moderated by Sid Jain. View on YouTube.

(7) MARTIAN HOP. You can still enjoy the online portion of the “Mars. The Red Mirror” exhibit at the Centre de CulturaContemporània de Barcelona: “Inside the red mirror”.

This is a virtual space where you can imagine your own view of Mars: god, symbol and planet in its different metamorphoses. You may have visited the exhibition or simply clicked on to this page skipping between links and other everyday internet browsings. It depends on how much time you want to spend, how much concentration is required and how curious you are….

The voice of the meteorite

I am a rare stone. Call me KSAR Ghilane 002 or whatever name your imagination conjures up. I come from Mars. I have travelled through space for thousands of years until I reached my unexpected destination in the desert you call the Sahara. I was discovered as a result of the insatiable curiosity for exploring that is inherent to your species. Now you can see one of my fragments. I come from the deepest strata on the Red Planet. I have a story to tell you. Because I am also a meteor, like the storms, typhoons and hurricanes you can’t control.

(8) DOUGLAS TRUMBULL (1942-2022). Director and special effects creator Douglas Trumbull died February 7 at the age of 79. He directed Silent Running. Trumbull got three Academy Award nominations for visual effects (for Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and, in 1992, a special scientific and engineering award for his work helping to design the CP-65 Showscan Camera System for motion picture photography. In 2012, he received the Academy’s Gordon E. Sawyer Award, a special technical Oscar for his contributions to the industry. The Associated Press has an extensive tribute: “’2001,’ ‘Blade Runner’ effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull dies”.

(9) ROBERT BLALACK (1948-2022). Oscar-winning Star Wars visual effects artist Robert Blalack died February 2. Deadline highlights his career.

… At the age of 29, he designed and supervised the Star Wars VistaVision Composite Optical production pipeline, which allowed all the groundbreaking 365 VistaVision VFX shots in Star Wars. Much of what he created for the film was built on a (relative) shoestring. With a VFX budget of just $1.6 million for the film, Blalack made use of obsolete VistaVision optical composite equipment from Hollywood’s Golden Years that could be had for a song.

“My task was to scavenge the Hollywood junkyards for any VistaVision Composite Optical mechanics,” he wrote, “figure out how to upgrade those relics with custom state-of-the-art optics, design a photographic process to mass-produce the movie’s 365 VistaVision composites, and then train and supervise the Star Wars Composite Optical crew.”

The result was what he called, “This Rube Goldberg assemblage of ancient composite printer hardware, state-of-the-art optics and the mass-production blue screen color-difference composite techniques were the backbone of the celluloid system…subsequently used on all ILM VistaVision VFX Composite Opticals.”

Blalack was part of the team that founded Industrial Light and Magic, and again the effort was driven by necessity….

In 1983, Blalack added an Emmy to his trophy case for his work on ABC’s The Day After, a TV movie about a nuclear holocaust which captured the public imagination due in no small part to his visual effects. It was seen by 100 million people in the U.S.

His other credits would comprise a career to be proud of unto themselves. They include effects on Carl Sagan’s landmark PBS series Cosmos; transformational visions in Altered StatesWolfenCat People and RoboCop; and FX in service of comedic classics such as Airplane and The Blues Brothers.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifteen years ago on this evening, the short-lived Flash Gordon series that debuted on Sci-Fi on August 10, 2007 ended. The series was developed by Peter Hume who served as executive producer and the showrunner. He wrote the first and last episodes of the series which lasted twenty one episodes as well as many others. He would later be the Executive Producer of Primeval: New World and was involved in Charmed and Fantasy Island as well. 

The primary cast which was all Canadian was Eric Johnson was Flash Gordon, Gina Holden as Dale Arden, Jody Racicot as Dr. Hans Zarkov and John Ralston as Ming the Merciless. Anna Van Hooft had a recurring role as Princess Aura. 

So how was it received? Not at all well as the New York Post stated in a frankly hostile review that it was “a disgrace to the name of the enduring comic-strip-character-turned-movie-and-TV space hero.” And U.K. TV Zone stated that it might  “have worked if the early episodes hadn’t been so dire that no-one but reviewers are still watching.” Ouch. It probably mercifully has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

I have not seen it and would like to know how it was. So, who here has seen it?

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 8, 1828 Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally, I’m on first-hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaJourney to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some sixty works and a lot were genre. And of course, his fiction has become the source of many other fictions in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
  • Born February 8, 1905 Truman Bradley. He was the host of syndicated Science Fiction Theatre series which ran from 1955 to 1957. It aired its last episode on this day in 1957.  On Borrowed Time, a fantasy film, is his only other SFF work. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 8, 1918 Michael Strong. He was Dr. Roger Korby in the most excellent Trek episode of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”. He also showed up in Green HornetMission ImpossibleI-Spy (ok I consider it genre even if you don’t), Galactica 1980Man from AtlantisThe Six Million Dollar ManPlanet of The ApesKolchak: The Night Stalker and The Immortal. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 8, 1938 Ned Brooks. A Southern fan involved for six decades in fandom, and he attended his first  Worldcon in 1963. He wrote two associational works, Hannes Bok Illustration Index and Revised Hannes Bok Checklist back in the days when print reigned surpreme. ISFDB shows that he was quite the letter writer. Mike has an appreciation of him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 8, 1944 Rogert Lloyd Pack. He was John Lumic in the “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”, both Tenth Doctor stories. (He was the voice of the Cyber-Controller in these episodes as well.) He was also Barty Crouch, Sr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And he played Quentin Sykes in the Archer’s Goons series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 8, 1953 Mary Steenburgen, 67. She first acted in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre though I’ll bet some you will dispute that. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was also in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman. 
  • Born February 8, 1962 Malorie Blackman, 60. Her excellent Noughts and Crosses series explores racism in a dystopian setting. (They’re published as Black & White in the States.) She also wrote a Seventh Doctor short story, “The Ripple Effect” which was published as one of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-Shorts. She’s readily available on all digital platforms. 
  • Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 53. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. Chair of the last Worldcon. I’m going to select out Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be more stellar.  She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly amazed by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words on her: “I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my new favorite.”
  • Born February 8, 1979 Josh Keaton, 43. He voiced the Hal Jordan / Green Lantern character in the most excellent Green Lantern: The Animated series which is getting a fresh series of episodes on the DC Universe streaming service. Yea! I’m also very impressed with his Spider-Man that he did for The Spectacular Spider-Man series. 

(12) COMICS AS A CASE STUDY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Who knew? I did not: “Not Even a Superhero Could Fix Global Supply Chains” in The American Prospect.

World War II and 9/11 couldn’t halt comic book production; COVID did. In 2020, as the world flipped on its head, even comics couldn’t evade a concentrated economy’s bursting fault lines. Diamond Comic Distributors—the industry titan that distributed Marvel and DC Comics for a quarter-century—shut down operations in April 2020 for nearly two months.

While distribution eventually restarted, the industry has continued to suffer lags. Entering the third year of the pandemic, frustrations run deep among comic book enthusiasts. Paloma Deerfield has worked for more than five years at Vault of Midnight, a comic book shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her favorites include X-Men, Saga, Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, and the indie comic publisher Boom! Studios. It’s disappointing, says Deerfield, “not being able to stock the shelves the way we want to.”

Buyers and sellers alike are feeling the impact not only from comic book distribution delays, but also from a shortage of bags and boards—the materials used to preserve collections in mint condition.

At BCW Supplies, an Indiana-based company that provides over 900 hobby accessories for collectors and retailers, backing boards are processed in their Indiana facility, while plastic bags are produced in their China factories, according to marketing manager Ted Litvan.

The paper industry’s significant price increases, explained Litvan, are due to higher demand outside of the collectibles industry. In early 2021, Amazon and other e-commerce giants snatched up the majority of the world’s cardboard supply. The cost of producing corrugated cardboard tripled last year too. For imported goods, meanwhile, “the ports are a mess,” and BCW can no longer predict when a shipment will be available for final delivery….

(13) FREUD AND C.S. LEWIS DRAMATIZED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews Freud’s Last Session, a 2010 play by Mark St Germain about an imaginary encounter between Sigmund Freud and C S Lewis in 1939, that is on stage at the Kings Head Theatre (kingsheadtheatre.com) through February 12.  It stars Sean Browne as Lewis and Julian Bird as Freud.

Lewis, who finds himself repeatedly drawn to the couch as if by a magnet, talks about his childhood.  For Freud, in physical agony and contemplating his end, arguments about the finality of death feel far from theoretical.

For both men the imminent conflict (of World War II) weighs heavy.  Lewis still bears the scars of his First World War experience; Freud has recently fled Austria.  The conversation is interrupted by a couple of moments of mortal terror–an air road siren; the throes of aircraft overhead–well realised in Darney’s staging. Browne and Bird bring the two adversaries springing to life.

(14) NO MIRACLE ON 35TH STREET. Bob Byrne wrote a series showing members of The Wolfe Pack how Nero and Archie are riding out the pandemic in the Spring of 2020. Black Gate has been reprinting them, and the latest installment is: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 34 and 35”.

…He eyed me levelly. “You know very well that you took that laundry to Lee’s as an infantile response to my insistence that the laundry go out that day. I highly doubt that Swann’s was closed.”

I was nonplussed. He continued. “No doubt, you instructed Mister Lee to put extra starch in my collars. And you added the cuffs out of spite.”

I gave him hurt expression number three. “I did no such thing.” I stared at the wall, thoughtfully. “Although, I did practice my Chinese with him. I might have said, ‘extra’ when I meant ‘less.’ My Chinese is a little rusty.”

He snorted. “Ridiculous. You don’t even speak Chinese.”

“Can’t get more rusty than that.”…

(15) AS YOU WISH. Kotaku explains now a “Sly NYT Crossword Puzzle Tricks Star Wars, Star Trek Fans”.

…The clever puzzle simply asks: “The better of two sci-fi franchises.” Depending on your preference, the answer is either Star Wars or Star Trek. The double entendre was highlighted in Wordplay, the Times’ crossword column along with a note about the choice from puzzle constructor Stephen McCarthy.

“I am a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, so it’s nice to be able to highlight both (not to mention the friendly rivalry between the two fandoms) in one puzzle,” McCarthy says in the column….

(16) SCIENCE IN A VACUUM. “Science and the Sublime” is an exhibit The Huntington in San Marino, CA has assembled around a famous painting temporarily on loan.

Feb. 12, 2022–May 30, 2022

Huntington Art Gallery

One of the great masterpieces from the Age of Enlightenment, Joseph Wright of Derby’s monumental An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) depicts a small group of people gathered around a candlelit table on which a lecturer in natural history is performing a scientific experiment, namely the creation of a vacuum, as described by chemist Robert Boyle in the 17th century. As air is slowly removed from a glass jar, the fate of a cockatiel inside the jar hangs in the balance. The observers’ reactions range from fascination to dismay. In Wright’s hands, the tableau is an exercise in the sublime, a moment of extreme tension recast as a dramatic meditation on the fragility of life. At the same time, the experiment being performed relates to advances in the fields of science and medicine, making the scene a celebration of human achievement.

“Science and the Sublime: A Masterpiece by Joseph Wright of Derby” presents the powerful 6-by-8-foot painting on loan from the National Gallery in London, where it is one of that institution’s most popular paintings, along with 15 works from The Huntington’s own collections, including two smaller paintings by Wright and 13 rare objects from the Library’s holdings. The exhibition’s theme highlights two major strengths of The Huntington’s collections—British art and the history of science—providing a unique opportunity to juxtapose materials that are not normally displayed together. Alongside Bird in the Air Pump, are rare books and ephemera that reveal the real science behind the elements that Wright depicts on canvas, as well as the contemporary moral and aesthetic debates with which he engages.

The loan of Bird in the Air Pump is part of a reciprocal exchange with the National Gallery, where The Huntington’s most famous work, Thomas Gainsborough’s iconic painting of The Blue Boy (ca. 1770), will be on display for London museumgoers for the first time in a century, from Jan. 25 through May 15, 2022.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Tom Becker, Darrah Chavey, Jennifer Hawthorne, John A Arkansawyer, Will R., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

2022 Prometheus Hall Of Fame Award Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected four finalists for the 2022 Hall of Fame Award.

  • Citizen of the Galaxy, a 1957 novel by Robert Heinlein, and arguably the best of his “juveniles,” that strongly dramatizes an anti-slavery theme while exploring the meaning of freedom and defending the right to use force in self-defense. The epic, wide-ranging, planet-hopping saga revolves about a young man’s coming of age amid repeated displacement into new societies and situations (including one intriguing libertarian group of Free Traders) in a rich and complex interstellar future.
  • That Hideous Strength, a 1945 novel by C.S. Lewis (Book 3 of his Space Trilogy), revolves around a sociologist and his wife who discover a totalitarian conspiracy and diabolical powers scheming to take control of humanity, in the guise of a progressive-left, Nazi-like organization working for a centrally planned pseudo-scientific society literally hell-bent to control all human life.
  • Circus World, a 1981 collection of linked stories by Barry B. Longyear that imagines how Earth’s circus troupes have evolved on a far-distant planet into a circus- and magic-defined culture without a government but with strongly individualistic, voluntary and cooperative social norms and only One Law, designed to make it nearly impossible to impose government regulations or other legislation, that helps the planet’s citizens peacefully cooperate in resistance against coercive human invasion and statist tyranny.
  • “The Trees,” a 1978 fantasy-themed song with pointed lyrics by Rush (released on the Canadian rock group’s album Hemispheres), concisely and poetically presents a fable of envy, revolution, and coercive egalitarianism that threatens the survival and individuality of different kinds of trees that make up a forest with a “noble law” that keeps the trees “equal by hatchet, axe and saw.”

In addition to these nominees, the Prometheus Hall of Fame Finalist Judging Committee considered four other works: The Winter of the World, a 1975 novel by Poul Anderson; “It’s a Good Life,” a 1953 story by Jerome Bixby; Exiles, Volume 1: The Ruins of Ambrai, a 1994 novel by Melanie Rawn; and “The Measure of a Man,” the Feb. 13, 1989 TV episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, with screenplay by Melinda Snodgress.

The final vote will take place in mid-2022. All Libertarian Futurist Society members are eligible to vote. The award will be presented at a major science fiction convention.

First presented in 1979 (for Best Novel) and presented annually since 1982, the Prometheus Awards have recognized “outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor private social cooperation over legalized coercion, expose abuses and excesses of obtrusive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, civility, and civilization itself.” 

The awards include gold coins and plaques for the winners for Best Novel, Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame), and occasional Special Awards. 

More information about the LFS is available at www.lfs.org, and the Prometheus blog (lfs.org/blog/).

Pixel Scroll 10/6/21 Magical Mystery Scroll

A lot of catching up to do. Let’s get started!

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll turns his panel loose on a story that was heavy, deep, and real in 1971 and won Theodore Sturgeon his first Hugo late in his career.

Theodore Sturgeon was a widely beloved author whose work, I regret to say, never particularly appealed to me. Thus, aside from More Than Human, I am not widely read in his fiction. In particular, I have not read this specific story. Still, I do know something about ?“Slow Sculpture”, specifically that it won both a Hugo and a Nebula in a year when many observers might have expected some work from either Orbit 6 or Orbit 7 to win. Orbits 6 and 7 were remarkable anthologies, dominating award nominations in their years. For a story to edge out the Orbit stories, it must surely have been of remarkable quality. Right? And no doubt my Young People will as pleased to read ?“Slow Sculpture” now as reader were half a century ago. 

(2) SWECON GOING AHEAD. Fantastika, Swecon this year, has announced the con will run in Stockholm as planned November 19-21. No further postponement due to Covid restrictions is anticipated. (Fantastika was not held last year.) The con’s program is available.

(3) ASTRONOMICON CANCELS. On the other hand, the Astronomicon 13 (Rochester, NY) committee has decided to postpone until 2022 – due to Covid, and the loss of Canadian program participants.

With great sadness we must announce that due to the rise in Covid across the country and the border to Canada not being open yet, we must postpone Astronomicon this year.

Our tentative date for the con is November 4-6, 2022.

Most of our Guests of Honor and a good number of our program participants have signed on for 2022.

We want to bring you the Astronomicon that you deserve, and with the border being closed it causes us to lose between 10-15 program participants. That is unacceptable to us.

Join us next November for a great convention!!

(4) A TRAILER PARK IN WESTEROS. The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage frames the trailer for the forthcoming series: “Game of Thrones prequel: why we’ll all be hooked to House of the Dragon”.

…Set two centuries before Game of Thrones, it promises to chronicle the history of the fearsome House Targaryen. Until now, very little has been revealed about the series.

…But now things have changed. A first-look trailer has just been released and, although it is only 70 seconds long, the message couldn’t be clearer. If you liked Game of Thrones, you will like House of the Dragon. And if you didn’t like Game of Thrones, you will probably still watch House of the Dragon so that you can keep up with what everyone else is talking about.

(5) COUNTDOWN. The Horror Writers Association blog kicks off its “Halloween Haunts” series with “The Season Begins by Michael J. Moore”.

…In April, networks air “Halfway-to-Halloween” marathons, and time ceases to usher us away, as we begin to drift toward October.

Toward that shrieking, adolescent laughter. The sound of plastic wrappers, rustling as you walk. The smell of chocolate and caramel, and the feel of wooden doors against your bony knuckles. The shadows of monsters and superheroes, cast by the headlights of idling cars. Orange and black, yellow and green. The satisfaction of picking through your plunder at the end of the night.

This is the start of the holiday season. Not the 31st, but the first of the month. The morning the countdown begins. When slashers take over cable, and costumes go on display. Even non-horror-types catch the bug. Nostalgia beckons our inner children, inviting us to slip on a costume and knock on doors.

In October of 2019, I wasn’t ready for it to end, so I started writing a book centered around my favorite holiday. Then the pandemic struck, and lockdowns provided plenty of time to finish. My publisher, HellBound Books, has prepared it for release around that magical month this year….

(6) BREUER REMEMBERED. There will be a two-hour exhibition about “Amazing Breuer – Miles J. Breuer Czech Surgeon at the Birth of American Scientifiction” at the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles on October 14 starting at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. If you are interested in taking part, send an email to czechconsulatela@gmail.com.

The exhibition is organized to commemorate the 76th anniversary of a passing of the Czech-American writer Miles (Miloslav) J. Breuer, who died in Los Angeles on 14 October 1945.

This early Czech-American science fiction writer was the author of the novel “Paradise and Iron” (1930), one of the first modern science fiction tales to warn of the dangers of a technologically oriented civilization, depicting a humanity threatened by what we today call artificial intelligence, and the co-author (with Jack Williamson) of The Girl from Mars, a thin 24 page work that became the first book in the world to be formally titled as science fiction.

At the turn of the 1920s and 30s, Breuer’s readers viewed this author as a major star of the science fiction genre. Discovered by Hugo Gernsbeck, Breuer contributed to “The Amazing Stories” and other pulp magazines.

He was born in Chicago to the Czech parents. Writing as “Miloslav” – the Czech version of his name – Breuer had published numerous stories also in Czech language (which were subsequently published in English in early science fiction magazines). 

(7) WAR’S IMPACT ON TOLKIEN. Renowned mythopeoic scholar Janet Brennan Croft will discuss Tolkien’s war experience and how war is handled in his writing: “Date with History: J.R.R. Tolkien (Virtual)” for the First Division Museum.  Thursday, October 7 at 7:00 Central. Free. Register at the link.

One of the reasons J.R.R. Tolkien is such a popular author is that he can be read at many levels. For the reader willing to look deeper than the adventure-story surface, there are many important themes in his works. War is one of the themes that runs through all of Tolkien’s books, especially The Lord of the Rings. Particular motifs appear over and over again: the effects of war on individuals, families, and society, whether war can ever be justified, and if so, the proper conduct of war; close friendships among groups of men; the glory and horror of battle. The depiction of war and its effects were drawn from his own life; he served in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme, and two of his sons fought in the Second World War. Like all artists, he absorbed the materials of his own life into his art. This talk will explore his personal experience of war and how it manifested in his legendarium.

(8) NO ONE CAN TALK TO A HORSE, OF COURSE. In a guest post at A Pilgrim in Narnia, Daniel Whyte IV expects Netflix will court controversy by producing a series about one of the books it holds rights to: “There Are No Cruel Narnians: What The Horse and His Boy Can Tell Us About Racism, Cultural Superiority, Beauty Standards, and Inclusiveness”.

Any potential adaptation of The Horse and His Boy will be fraught with minefields. Houston Chronicle editor Kyrie O’Connor claims it isn’t far-fetched to see the fantasy as “anti-Arab, or anti-Eastern, or anti-Ottoman” and suggests a desire to “stuff this story back into its closet.” While Lewis’ Narniad is emotionally stimulating and spiritually moving, it can be overshadowed by issues that led another popular fantasy writer and academic—Philip Pullman of His Dark Materials fame—to call it “one of the most ugly and poisonous things I have ever read.” He wrote that in a 1998 Guardian article titled “The Dark Side of Narnia.” Imagine what will be said about Narnia over twenty-five years later if Netflix dares to adapt The Horse and His Boy. (And I say to Netflix, as Aslan says to Bree, “Do not dare not to dare.”)

Indeed, as author, editor, and (somewhat) defender of C.S. Lewis, Gregg Easterbrook, wrote in The Atlantic two decades ago (partially in response to Pullman’s criticisms):

“Although Narnia has survived countless perils, the Chronicles themselves are now endangered… What’s in progress is a struggle of sorts for the soul of children’s fantasy literature.”

If the struggle is as eschatological as Easterbrook posits—and if Lewis’ reputation is indeed growing “beyond the reach of ordinary criticism” as Pullman argued in his ’98 hit piece—then it’s worth taking the time to look seriously at what the Narnia chronicles tell us about Lewis’ personal views and about the messaging (if any) encoded in the books….

(9) MEMORY LANE

1995 – Twenty-six years ago at Intersection, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part series finale, “All Good Things…“.  (Other nominated works were The MaskInterview with the VampireStargate and Star Trek: Generations.) It was directed by Winrich Kolbe from a script written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga. The title is derived from the expression “All good things must come to an end”, a phrase used by Q during the story itself. It generally considered one of the series’ best episodes with the card scene singled out as one of the series’s best ever.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 6, 1942 Britt Ekland, 79. She starred in The Wicker Man* as Willow MacGregor, and appeared as a Bond girl, Goodnight, in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also Queen Nyleptha in King Solomon’s Treasure based off the H. Rider Haggard novels. *There is only one Wicker Man film as far as I’m concerned. Whatever that thing was, it wasn’t Wicker Man. Shudder.
  • Born October 6, 1946 John C. Tibbetts, 75. A film critic, historian, author. He’s written such articles as “The Illustrating Man: The Screenplays of Ray Bradbury” and “Time on His Hands: The Fantasy Fiction of Jack Finney”. One of his two books is The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media, the other being The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub.
  • Born October 6, 1950 David Brin, 71. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel, and the Uplift series which began with Startide Rising, a most excellent book and a Hugo-winner at L.A. Con II.  I’ll admit that the book he could-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me if only for its title. So who’s read his newest novel, Castaways of New Mohave, that he wrote with Jeff Carlson?
  • Born October 6, 1952 Lorna Toolis. Librarian, editor, and fan Lorna was the long-time head of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library and a significant influence on the Canadian SF community. She founded the SF collection with a donation from Judith Merril. She was a founding member of SFCanada, and won an Aurora Award for co-editing Tesseracts 4 with Michael Skeet. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 6, 1955 Donna White, 66. Academic who has written several works worth you knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. LeGuin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. She’s also the author of the densely-written but worth reading A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature
  • Born October 6, 1955 Ellen Kushner, 66. If you’ve not read it, do so now, as her sprawling Riverside seriesis stellar. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read all of it. And during the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful. As it’s Autumn and this being when I read it, I’d be remiss not to recommend her Thomas the Rhymer novel which won both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award. 
  • Born October 6, 1963 Elisabeth Shue, 58. Best known as Jennifer, Marty McFly’s girlfriend, in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, she also had roles in Hollow Man and Piranha 3D.
  • Born October 6, 1986 Olivia Jo Thirlby, 35. She is best known for her roles as Natalie in Russian SF film The Darkest Hour and as Judge Cassandra Anderson in the oh-so-excellent Dredd. And she was Holly in the supernatural thriller Above the Shadows.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) NATIONAL BOOK AWARD. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] The National Book Award Finalists were announced October 5. Finalists of genre interest include:

Fiction

  • Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land

Young Readers

  • Kyle Lukoff, Too Bright To See
  • Amber McBride, Me (Moth)

Translated Literature

  • Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World, translated by Adrian Nathan West

Winners will be announced November 17. Winners will receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.

(13) THE MISSION. WisCon’s parent organization SF3 has posted a draft revision of its mission statement that emphasizes its opposition to white supremacy and racism generally: “SF3: Interim Mission, Vision, and Values”.

As noted in our Anti-Racism Statement, the SF3 Board is undertaking work to reexamine our organizational mission with the intent to eliminate white supremacy and build an organization and convention where all members can thrive and contribute. In connection to this work, we are sharing interim versions of a mission statement, organizational vision, and a clear statement of our community values which center inclusivity and explicitly reject racism and white supremacy.

These interim statements will guide our work over the next year, including community-wide conversations and strategic planning to develop a permanent and inclusive set of foundational documents for SF3 and its projects, including WisCon.

(14) CONNIE WILLIS’ CHRISTMAS STORY ANTHOLOGY. Steve Rasnic Tem posted a photo of the physical cover on Facebook. The book will be released October 26.

Library of America and Connie Willis present 150 years of diverse, ingenious, and uniquely American Christmas stories

Christmas took on its modern cast in America, and over the last 150 years the most magical time of the year has inspired scores of astonishingly diverse and ingenious stories. Library of America joins with acclaimed author Connie Willis to present a unparalleled collection of American stories about Christmas, literary gems that showcase how the holiday became one of the signature aspects of our culture.

Spanning from the origins of the American tradition of holiday storytelling in the wake of the Civil War to today, this is the biggest and best anthology of American Christmas stories ever assembled. From ghost stories to the genres of crime, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, humor, and horror, stories of Christmas morning, gifts, wise men, nativities, family, commercialism, and dinners from New York to Texas to outer space, this anthology reveals the evolution of Christmas in America–as well as the surprising ways in which it has remained the same.

(15) SHAT TALKS SPACEFLIGHT. Anderson Cooper went one-on-one with William Shatner about his upcoming flight on New Shepard Blue Origin.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Darrah Chavey, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10/21 It Was A Pixel Scroll Of Rare Device

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners a chance to feast on Indian food with Veronica Schanoes in episode 153 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Veronica Schanoes

Award-winning writer Veronica Schanoes and I shared Indian food though there were hundreds of miles between us — hers from Brooklyn, New York’s Masala Grill, me from Hagerstown, Maryland’s Sitar of India.

Veronica Schanoes has published fiction in the magazines Lady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletSybil’s Garage, and Fantasy; the anthologies The Doll CollectionQueen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp FantasyThe Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction; and online at Strange Horizons and Tor.com. Her novella “Burning Girls” was nominated for the Nebula Award and the World Fantasy Award, and won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novella in 2013. Her first scholarly monograph, Fairy Tales, Myth, and Psychoanalytic Theory: Feminism and Re-telling the Tale, was published by Ashgate in 2014. Her collection Burning Girls and Other Stories was published earlier this year.

We discussed what it’s been like trying to write her first novel during a pandemic, why she can only read Jane Yolen’s intro to her new collection half a page at a time, how she makes sure her fairy tale-inspired fiction works even for those who don’t catch the allusions, the joy which comes from putting the right words in the right order, how Kelly Link convinced her she should take herself seriously as a writer, whether research inspires stories or stories inspire research (and how writers make sure they don’t force readers to suffer for that research), the way fairy tales take place “outside of historical space-time,” the importance of Joe Strummer and the Clash, and much more.

(2) MODERN THOUGHT. S.E. Lindberg interviews pulp scholar and sword-and-sorcery author and editor Jason Ray Carney at Black Gate. “Sublime, Cruel Beauty: An Interview with Jason Ray Carney”.

What is this concept of Modernity, and why did it haunt/inspire you to write a thesis on it?

Modernity is one of those concepts with a rich intellectual history, and people spill a lot of ink over it, but it is not very complicated (in my opinion): sometimes around the 1780s, the world changed. Feudalism gave way to democracy. New technologies upset how human economies and cities were organized. Religious belief waned and changed. We stopped believing (for the most part) in the supernatural. Let me cite Max Weber again: with modernity, the world became “disenchanted.” This, of course, is only part of the story. Though this story is myopic in its Eurocentrism, it is not less valid for its narrow purview. The story of modernization outside of Europe can be told, but it will be different, with maze-like branching conversations that posit multiple “modernities.” Anyway, modernity really intrigues me.

(3) VINDICATION. In “confirmation”, former Hugo Awards administrator David Bratman tells how he once found himself at loggerheads with Locus’ Charles N. Brown.  

When I was administrator for the Hugo Awards in 1996, one of the Best Novel finalists* was Remake by Connie Willis. By that time, SF novels were tending very long, but Remake was short. Though published as a standalone volume, it made a small one.

Charles Brown of Locus,** the newsletter of the SF field, insisted to me that Remake was under 40 thousand words and thus, by Hugo rules (which were shared in this respect by most other awards in the field), it fell in the Novella category, not Novel. And indeed, in the Locus awards it was put in the Novella category, which it won (not surprisingly, being one of the longest in the category as well as being by Connie Willis)….

The rest of the analysis is at the link.

(4) FICTION IN TRANSLATION. Jennifer Croft argues “Why translators should be named on book covers” in The Guardian.

“Translators are like ninjas. If you notice them, they’re no good.” This quote, attributed to Israeli author Etgar Keret, proliferates in memes, and who doesn’t love a pithy quote involving ninjas? Yet this idea – that a literary translator might make, at any moment, a surprise attack, and that at every moment we are deceiving the reader as part of an elaborate mercenary plot – is among the most toxic in world literature.

The reality of the international circulation of texts is that in their new contexts, it is up to their translators to choose every word they will contain. When you read Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights in English, the words are all mine. Translators aren’t like ninjas, but words are human, which means that they’re unique and have no direct equivalents. You can see this in English: “cool” is not identical to “chilly”, although it’s similar. “Frosty” has other connotations, other usages; so does “frigid”. Selecting one of these options on its own doesn’t make sense; it must be weighed in the balance of the sentence, the paragraph, the whole, and it is the translator who is responsible, from start to finish, for building a flourishing lexical community that is both self-contained and in profound relation with its model….

(5) MARTIN ON MALTIN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2018 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Floyd Norman, a pioneering Black animator and cartoonist (Maltin on Movies: Floyd Norman).

Norman started working for Walt Disney in the mid-1950s, and remembers being at Disneyland during its opening week (but not opening day, a legendary disaster). He recalls what it was like producing feature-length animation before computers and how everyone involved in animated film “worked like Marines” until the job was done, although Walt Disney insisted everyone leave the studio at 9 to spend some time with their families. People who remember the “string of pearls” sequence in Mary Poppins should realize that was a sequence that stressed out the animators.

Norman talked about how he was hired and quit Disney several times, and was involved in developing the stories for PIxar’s Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc.  He also self-published his own books of cartoons, including one entirely devoted to making fun of Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who Norman thinks a major egotist.  Norman says Eisner didn’t mind the criticism, “as long as the book was about him.”

This may be too DIsney-centric for some but I enjoyed this episode.

(6) CHECK IT OUT. The New Yorker’s Daniel A. Gross analyzes “The Surprisingly Big Business of Library E-books”.

The sudden shift to e-books had enormous practical and financial implications, not only for OverDrive but for public libraries across the country. Libraries can buy print books in bulk from any seller that they choose, and, thanks to a legal principle called the first-sale doctrine, they have the right to lend those books to any number of readers free of charge. But the first-sale doctrine does not apply to digital content. For the most part, publishers do not sell their e-books or audiobooks to libraries—they sell digital distribution rights to third-party venders, such as OverDrive, and people like Steve Potash sell lending rights to libraries. These rights often have an expiration date, and they make library e-books “a lot more expensive, in general, than print books,” Michelle Jeske, who oversees Denver’s public-library system, told me. Digital content gives publishers more power over prices, because it allows them to treat libraries differently than they treat other kinds of buyers. Last year, the Denver Public Library increased its digital checkouts by more than sixty per cent, to 2.3 million, and spent about a third of its collections budget on digital content, up from twenty per cent the year before….

(7) UP ALL NIGHT. It so happens the only time I ever watched Adult Swim was sitting in a hospital waiting room after driving someone to ER — but that’s not a knock, what I saw was pretty amusing. The New York Times celebrated the program block’s 20th anniversary with an oral history: “Adult Swim: How an Animation Experiment Conquered Late-Night TV”.

By all accounts, it was a minor miracle that Adult Swim ever made it off the drawing board 20 years ago. Money was next to nonexistent. The editor of Cartoon Network’s first original series worked from a closet. A celebrity guest on that series, unaware of the weirdness he had signed up for, walked out mid-taping.

In retrospect, it seems right that one of modern TV’s most consistent generators of bizarro humor — and cult followings — had origins that were, themselves, pretty freewheeling.

WILLIS The idea for “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” started with a [expletive] fast food restaurant that tried to use all the scraps of meat they weren’t allowed by the F.D.A. to put into a hamburger, wadded together. We saw Meatwad as this poor, neglected creature — I think his line in his first script was like [in Meatwad voice], “Please, God, kill me.” I did the voice, and I can’t tell you how many times people said, “I don’t understand what he’s saying; you need to recast him.” But we stuck to our guns. I always thought of it like Willie Nelson, who sings real quietly, and so everyone is on the edge of their seat trying to listen to what he’s saying. As a result, you’re more into it. At least, that was my excuse! [Laughs.]

(8) LIFE OF LEWIS. A trailer dropped for the C.S. Lewis biopic titled The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story Of C.S. Lewis that arrives in theaters November 3.

(9) TIME HAS BEEN BROKEN. So they tell us. The new season of Star Trek: Picard premieres February 2022 on Paramount+.

(10) BUCKS AND BUCK ROGERS. Think of it as the military-industrial-entertainment complex: “The making of an Enterprise: How NASA, the Smithsonian and the aerospace industry helped create Star Trek” in The Space Review.

…At the end of WWII, 60–70% of the American aerospace industry was based in Southern California. The good climate and open land that helped draw aviation to the region also helped lure the motion picture industry. When Roddenberry began developing Star Trek, 15 of the 25 largest aerospace companies were located in the greater Los Angeles area. Many were situated close to Paramount’s Desilu Studios where the series was made.

Roddenberry drew upon the most current spaceflight technology then available to incorporate into Star Trek. He read, wrote, phoned and even dumpster-dived to get material for his new series.

A direct example of how the aerospace industry influenced Star Trek appears in the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” In this episode furry little creatures that “coo” and have a tremendous desire for eating and breeding overrun the Federation’s K-7 space station.

The principal elements of the K-7 as it is shown in the episode first appeared in a report done by Douglas Aircraft. The 1959 study outlined the operational requirements of an extendable orbiting space station. Constructed on Earth then launched atop a “Saturn-type missile,” the station was designed to automatically unfold in space into a donut-shape with a conical reentry vehicle at its center.[3]

Richard Datin, a model maker who helped build the original production model Enterprise, described how the K-7 design materialized. “I was told upon viewing the original model, and maybe by Roddenberry, that he obtained it [the Douglas space station model] from Douglas Aircraft whose main office was in nearby Santa Monica. Apparently, Gene had a following from people in the space industry, particularly Caltech in Pasadena.”

(11) MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS (1966-2021). Actor Michael K. Williams died September 6 at the age of 54 reports the New York Times.  While famous for his work in cop and crime series including The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, sff fans knew him as the lead in Lovecraft Country, and saw him in the 2014 RoboCop remake, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), and Ghostbusters (2016).

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1977 – Forty-four years ago this evening on CBS, Space Academy, a Filmation children’s series, first aired. (Jason of Star Command would come out of it.) It was created by Allen Ducovny who previously only done such animated shows as The New Adventures of Superman and Aquaman. The program starred Jonathan Harris in the lead role; co-starring were Pamelyn Ferdin, Ric Carrott, Maggie Cooper, Brian Tochi, Ty Henderson, and Eric Greene. There was a cute robot as well named Peepo. Would I kid you?  It would last for just fifteen half-hour episodes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10, 1914 — Robert Wise. Film director, producer, and editor. Among his accomplishments are directing The Curse of The Cat PeopleThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe HauntingThe Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though not at all genre, he also directed West Side Story and edited Citizen Kane,  two exemplary accomplishments indeed. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 10, 1937 — Spencer Milligan, 84. He’s best known for playing Rick Marshall, the father of Will and Holly Marshall, on the first two seasons of Land of the Lost. (He left because he didn’t get a cut of the merch sales.) Genre wise, he’d previously been in Woody Allen’s Sleeper as Jeb Hrmthmg, and later appeared in an episode of The Bionic Woman. That’s it.
  • Born September 10, 1952 — Gerry Conway, 69. He’s  known for co-creating  the Punisher (with artists John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru) as well as the first Ms. Marvel and scripting the death of the character Gwen Stacy during his run on The Amazing Spider-Man. He shares the story credit for Conan the Destroyer with Roy Thomas. At DC, he created a number of characters including Firestorm, Count Vertigo and Killer Croc. Not genre at all, but he wrote a lot of scripts for Law and Order: Criminal Intent, one of my favorite series.
  • Born September 10, 1953 — Stuart Milligan, 68. He first shows up as Walters on the Sean Connery-led Outland and a few years later we see him as a Police Sergeant on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He’ll play Richard Nixon in Doctor Who for two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Impossible Astronuat” and “Day of The Moon”. His latest genre role is in Wonder Woman 1984 as the U.S. President.
  • Born September 10, 1953 — Pat Cadigan, 68. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she has co-written with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. Her only Hugo win was at LoneStarCon 3 for the “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” novelette.  Her latest work is the novelization of the first-draft Alien 3 screenplay by William Gibson. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born September 10, 1955 — Victoria Strauss, 66. Author of the Burning Land two novel series, and she should be praised unto high for being founder along with AC Crispin of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. 
  • Born September 10, 1959 — Nancy A. Collins, 62. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues 110 to 138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote  Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile. 
  • Born September 10, 1968 — Guy Ritchie, 53. Director of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both of each I rather liked, and the live-action Aladdin. He did also directed / wrote / produced the rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which got rather nice reviews to my surprise as well as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which apparently is quite excellent as audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy percent rating. 

(14) FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD RECORD-SETTER. The Hollywood Reporter knows it’s worth a headline when “First Spider-Man Comic Book Sets Record for Biggest Sale Ever”.

The sale of Amazing Fantasy no. 15, featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man, has set the record for the most expensive comic ever sold.

The comic sold Thursday for $3.6 million as part of Heritage Auction’s Signature Comics & Comic Art auction being held Sept. 8 to 12.

The senses-shattering sale beat out the previous record, Action Comics no. 1, published in 1938 and featuring the first appearance of Superman, which sold privately for $3.25 million earlier this year.

(15) A SLEIGHLOAD TO ADD TO YOUR MT. TBR. SF² Concatenation has posted its list of “Forthcoming SF books in the run-up to Christmas UK SF book releases September – 31st December 2021” from the major UK imprints (available/or on order elsewhere from specialist bookshops). This is an advance posting (6th September) of the ‘forthcoming books’ sections’ of SF² Concatenation’s autumnal news page whose full edition will be posted September 15. 

With just 90, or thereabouts, shopping days to Christmas, time to see what SF will be published. The SF² Concatenation seasonal news page’s forthcoming books listings are an amalgamation of the titles in the catalogues sent by major UK publishers. 

As they these titles already in the catalogues, they can be ordered, or advance-ordered, now either from the publisher directly or – if you are outside the UK – from specialist SF bookshops and their related retail websites.

The books are listed alphabetically by author.

(16) SPEAKER FOR THE READ. The next episode of Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron is “You’re Not Ender Wiggins, and That’s Okay – A Show on Strategy, Leadership, and Modern Conflict by Way of Scifi.” Streams Saturday, September 11 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern via YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitch.

Steven Leonard, Max Brooks, Major General Mick Ryan, and Jon Klug, join us to discuss strategy, leadership, and modern conflict from the perspective of science fiction.

One of the chapters in the book is called “You’re Not Ender Wiggins, and That’s Okay” (by Will Meddings). Be still, my heart.

(17) HUGE NEWS. A T-Rex might have made a nice snack for one of these: “Researchers Identify Dinosaur Species 5 Times Larger Than the T-Rex: ‘This Is Very Exciting’”Yahoo! News has the story.

Researchers have discovered a new species of dinosaur that loomed over Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The Calgary Herald reports that University of Calgary scientists helped identify the massive new species named Ulughbegasaurus, which roamed the earth as an apex predator 90 million years ago.

Researchers were able to identify the new species — which was five times bigger than the fearsome T-Rex — through the dinosaur’s fossilized jaw, which was likely first found by a Russian paleontologist during a dig in the 1980s.

…The researchers found that the dinosaur was between 7.5 to eight meters (24 to 26 feet) in length and likely weighed over 1,000 kilograms (2,204 lbs). At the time Ulughbegasaurus roamed the earth, the T-Rex wasn’t fully evolved and was much smaller in comparison, weighing less than 200 kilograms (440 lbs).

Comparing the two species, Zelenitsky said Ulughbegasaurus “was like a grizzly bear” if T-Rex had been a coyote….

(18) CUBE ROOTS. The New York Times shares scientists’ curiosity about a relic that lends itself to alternate history: “Did Nazis Produce These Uranium Cubes? Researchers Look for an Answer.”

The failure of Nazi Germany’s nuclear program is well established in the historical record. What is less documented is how a handful of uranium cubes, possibly produced by the Nazis, ended up at laboratories in the United States.

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland are working to determine whether three uranium cubes they have in their possession were produced by Germany’s failed nuclear program during World War II.

The answer could lead to more questions, such as whether the Nazis might have had enough uranium to create a critical reaction. And, if the Nazis had been successful in building an atomic bomb, what would that have meant for the war?

Researchers at the laboratory believe they may know the origins of the cubes by the end of October. For the moment, the main evidence is anecdotal, in the form of stories passed down from other scientists, according to Jon Schwantes, the project’s principal investigator.

The lab does not have scientific evidence or documentation that would confirm that Nazi Germany produced the black cubes, which measure about two inches on each side. The Nazis produced 1,000 to 1,200 cubes, about half of which were confiscated by the Allied forces, he said.

“The whereabouts of most all of those cubes is unknown today,” Dr. Schwantes said, adding that “most likely those cubes were folded into our weapons stockpile.”…

(19) THE TRUTH MAY BE OUT THERE, IT’S NOT HERE. Samantha Bee of Full Frontal shares“Sam Bee’s Not-Solved Mysteriez: UFOs” on YouTube.

Sam once again dons her trench coat to take one small step for man and one giant leap for a late night television host with an “Unsolved Mysteries” obsession. That’s right…she’s trying to figure out WTF is up with UFOs!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/4/21 I Have Become Pixel, Scroller Of Worlds

(1) A HARD ROAD. Sue Burke, author of The Immunity Index, and whose Semiosis made the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist and was a John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalist, summarizes the SF novel’s journey from manuscript to print, through editorial and beyond to ‘earn out’ in “Getting a book published” at SF2 Concatenation.

…Here comes the first mistake. I got to work on 20th March 2018, reviewing a folder of notes I have for ideas for stories, and I found one that I liked. Many writers have praised the creative freedom of pantsing (writing by the seat of one’s pants or making it up as you go along) a work, so although I’d previously worked with more or less complex outlines and plotting, I decided to give pantsing a go. It didn’t work. The initial draft was limp and only half as long as it needed to be.

Chastened, I reviewed ideas for ways to improve and expand the failure. This time I made notes and, eventually, crafted a plan. I added another character, rearranged some chapters, and complicated the conflict…

(2) CHARACTER WITH A LONG CAREER. Dark Worlds Quarterly contributor G.W. Thomas shares his appreciation for “The Cappen Varra Stories of Poul Anderson”.

…Shared Worlds of the 1970s

And that should have been the end of our wandering bard, but an unusual thing happened at the end of the 1970s. Robert Aspirin and Lynn Abbey cooked up the idea of the “Shared World“. With Poul’s encouragement the concept of a collection of stories where characters, setting and events coalesce between the authors to create a larger experience exploded as Thieves’ World. (There were others: Ithkar and Liavek being two of the more successful competitors.) The series ran for twelve volumes as well as a dozen novels. Poul saw it as a chance to bring Cappen Varra back! “The Gate of Flying Knives” (Thieves’ World, 1979) was the third story in the first collection. It would be Anderson’s only contribution….

(3) AN APPENDIX YOU CAN’T DO WITHOUT. Howard Andrew Jones pops up again, this time profiling historical adventure fiction author Harold Lamb for Goodman Games, where he explains why Lamb’s work is relevant for SFF fans: “Appendix N Archaeology: Harold Lamb”.

Much as I’d like to hope that Gary Gygax read Harold Lamb, he’s unlikely to have found his way to any of Lamb’s most influential work. It’s not that Lamb wasn’t in print. From the 1940s on, his histories and biographies were a mainstay on library shelves, and many modern libraries retain his books to this day. But as fine as they are – and some of them are very fine indeed – Lamb’s histories and biographies weren’t the texts that were important to Appendix N….

(4) CRIME FICTION CAREER LAUNCH. Astronaut Chris Hadfield has written a murder mystery. According to this review from Shots Mag, it is quite good: “The Apollo Murders”.

When the author has flown two Space Shuttle missions and was the commander of the International Space Station, you know that the technical details in the story are going to be accurate, integral to the story and lend the reader a real sense of being ‘there’….

(5) SHANG-CHI NEWS. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Shang-Chi star Simu Liu, who explains how Liu’s six-year campaign to get Marvel to cast him as a superhero finally paid off. “Simu Liu of ‘Shang-Chi’ finally gets the role he always wanted”.

Long before he became Shang-Chi, Simu Liu was convinced that the only way he’d be an Asian superhero on an American movie screen was to craft the story himself.

So he did. Twice.

At the age of 22, Liu crafted a wholestory bible for the Japanesemutant X-Men member Sunfire, certain it was his best bet to land a Marvel role.Years later, while a member of the Young Emerging Actors Assembly in Toronto, Liu spent $2,000 to direct, write and star in the 2015 short film called “Crimson Defender vs. The Slightly Racist Family,” about an Asian superhero who rescues a family that doesn’t believe he is a superhero because he is Asian.

Neither of those moments resulted in Liu being fitted for capes. But when Marvel Studios announced “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” would be itsfirst movie with an Asian superhero in the lead role, the 32-year-old star of the TV series“Kim’s Convenience” was convinced he was ready before he ever got a phone call. He even tweeted “are we gonna talk or what” at the Marvel Entertainment account….

Kat Moon explains how she as an Asian American feels better represented by Shang-Chi than by any other Hollywood blockbuster: “Shang-Chi Made Me Feel Seen Like No Other Hollywood Film Has” in TIME.

It wasn’t a profound scene in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that made me feel instantly connected to the film—not the Mandarin narration that opened the movie or even the early references to customs specific to Chinese culture like eating zhou, or congee, for breakfast and tomb-sweeping on the annual Qingming Festival. Of course, those storytelling choices told me that the latest Marvel superhero movie was crafted with viewers like me in mind. But it was a moment around 30 minutes in that let me know for certain I was watching my life experiences reflected on the big screen in a way Hollywood has rarely done: when Ronny Chieng’s character, Jon Jon, exclaims, “Wakao!”…

(6) DUNE EARLY RETURNS. The New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan says “Venice Film Festival: ‘Dune’ Leaves Us With 3 Big Questions”. The second is —

Will ‘Dune’ be a major Oscar player?

Part of what’s so striking about “Dune” is that Villeneuve has a sense of texture that’s rare among big-budget filmmakers. When a character falls in battle, Villeneuve is besotted with the way the man’s eyelashes flutter as he dies. And during the assault on a character’s compound, the camera drifts from the action to show us magnificent palm trees that have been set aflame, their leafy crowns now a starburst of destruction.

Though sci-fi movies can sometimes be a hard sell with Oscar voters, I suspect that Villeneuve’s distinctive eye will distinguish “Dune,” as the movie looks undeniably ravishing. A ton of below-the-line nominations are guaranteed, including Greig Fraser’s cinematography and the production design by Patrice Vermette. The score (by Hans Zimmer), sound and editing are all more daring than this genre usually allows: The aural soundscape and artsy crosscutting feel almost designed to draw you into a spice-induced trance.

And I haven’t even gotten to the fashion! The costume design (by Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan) is a stunner, and especially during the first hour of the film — with Rebecca Ferguson wearing outrageous space-nun sheaths and a veiled Charlotte Rampling dressed like the Green Knight in Gaultier — “Dune” can seem like a moody high-fashion shoot that occasionally includes spaceships. (I mean this as a good thing.)

Villeneuve’s last film, “Blade Runner 2049,” scored five Oscar nominations and won its cinematographer Roger Deakins a long-overdue Academy Award. Still, the movie couldn’t break into the two top Oscar categories, best picture and best director. Does “Dune” stand a better chance?

I’m taking the wait-and-see approach here….

(7) C.S. LEWIS CONFERENCE IN ROMANIA. The 5th International Interdisciplinary Conference devoted to the life and work of C. S. Lewis, “Of This and Other Worlds,” will be held November 18-20 in Iasi, Romania. Register here. Registration deadline: November 1. An excerpt from the call for papers follows:

The fifth C. S. Lewis conference focuses on C. S. Lewis and his literary and academic kin as creators of worlds. His entire work testifies to his fascination with alternative universes, from his scholarly exploration of Medieval literature, with its haunting myths and arcane symbolism, through his fiction, to his apologetics, where Christianity is seen as a parallel kingdom seeking to be reinstated in “an enemy-occupied territory”. From pain to love, through faith and imagination, he opened a spectrum of realities inviting exploration and reflection. The collection of essays by Lewis alluded to in the title of this year’s conference spans both this and other worlds: “this” realm, which we inhabit, is the necessary, unavoidable starting point for any explorers, conquerors, pilgrims, even refugees into the “others”.

Those willing to venture into the exploration of the worlds of imagination created by C. S. Lewis and kindred spirits are invited to contribute papers in the areas of semiotics, narratology, literary studies (with a special focus on fantasy, on possible worlds in language structures, at the crossroads between referential semantics and fiction studies), translation studies (the challenge of translating fantasy for readerships of various ages and its effect on reception), philosophy, logic, theology, cultural and arts studies, including any interdisciplinary permutation or cross-pollination.

Interested participants are invited to send a 200-250-word abstract for peer-review to the Conference Committee via the organizers: Dr. Rodica Albu (rodica.albu@gmail.com), Dr. Denise Vasiliu (denise_vasiliu@yahoo.com), Dr. Teodora Ghivirig? (teoghivi@Yahoo.com)

Deadline for proposal submission: 25 September 2021…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1975 – Forty-six years ago this night, Space: 1999 premiered on such stations as Los Angeles KHJ-TV. It was distributed by ITV and produced by Group Three Productions (the first season) and Gerry Anderson Productions (the second and final season). It starred as its headliners Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, previously of Mission: Impossible fame. It was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson who before this had done only such SF marionette puppetry series as ThunderbirdsStingray and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. It would last but forty eight episodes of around fifty minutes. Setting John Clute aside who thought it had “mediocre acting” and “rotten scripts”, most critics at the time actually liked it and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a very splendid eighty six percent rating. You can stream it on Amazon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 4, 1916 — Robert A. W. Lowndes. He was known best as the editor of Future Science FictionScience Fiction, and Science Fiction Quarterly (mostly published in the late Thirties and early Forties) for Columbia Publications. He was a principal member of the Futurians, and a horror writer with a bent towards all things Lovecraftian ever since as a young fan, he received two letters of encouragement from H. P. Lovecraft. And yes, he’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 4, 1924 — Ray Russell. His most famous story is considered by most to be “Sardonicus” which was published first in Playboy magazine, and was then adapted by him into a screenplay for William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus. He wrote three novels, The Case Against SatanIncubus and Absolute Power. He’s got World Fantasy and Stoker Awards for Lifetime Achievement. “Sardonicus” is included in Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories which is available from the usual suspects. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 4,1924 — Joan Aiken. I’d unreservedly say her Wolves Chronicles were her best works. Of the many, many in that series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase featuring the characters of Bonnie Green, Sylvia Green and Simon is I think the essential work to read even though The Whispering Mountain is supposed to a prequel to the series — I don’t think it’s essential reading. (Or very interesting.) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is certainly the one in the series I saw stocked regularly in my local bookstores before the Pandemic. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 4, 1938 — Dick York. He is best remembered as the first Darrin Stephens on Bewitched. He was a teen in the police station in Them!, an early SF film which is considered the very first giant bug film. He’d showed up in myriad Alfred Hitchcock Presents, several episodes of Twilight Zone and has a one-off on the original Fantasy Island. (There’s now been three series.) He voiced his character Darrin Stephens in the “Samantha” episode of The Flintstones. (Died 1992.)
  • Born September 4, 1957 — Patricia Tallman, 64. Best known as telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5, a series I hold that was magnificent but ended somewhat annoyingly. She was in two episodes of Next Generation, three of Deep Space Nine and two of Voyager. She did uncredited stunt work on Deep Space Nine as she did on Voyager. Oh, and she shows up in Army of Darkness as a possessed witch. Oh, and she was the former CEO and executive producer of Studio JMS. Yeah she ran everything for J. Michael Straczynski. Very impressive indeed. 
  • Born September 4, 1962 — Karl Schroeder, 59. I first encountered him in his “Deodand” story in the METAtropolis: Cascadia audio work, so I went out and found out what else he’d done. If you’ve not read him, his Aurora Award winning Permanence is superb as all of the Vigra series. He was one of those nominated for a Long Form Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo for the first METAtropolis at Anticipation. 
  • Born September 4, 1972 — Françoise Yip, 49. She was a remarkably extensive career in genre productions including, but not limited to, Earth: Final Conflict, Andromeda, Caprica, Fringe, Predator, Robocop: Prime Directives, Seven DaysFlash Gordon, Smallville, Millennium, Shadowhunters, Arrow and Sanctuary.  Genre casting directors obviously really, really like her. Her longest running genre role was as Elizabeth Kepler in The Order, a horror series on one of those streaming services you’ve likely never heard of.
  • Born September 4, 1999 — Ellie Darcey-Alden, 22. Though she’s  best known for playing young Lily Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, she’s here for being  Francesca “Franny” Latimer in the Doctor Who  Christmas special “The Snowmen”, an Eleventh Doctor story. She also played Mary in the “Total Eclipse“ episode of Robin Hood, and was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the New Theatre Oxford. And she appears, as do so many others, in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows how if Worf had known about this, that whole business with the pain sticks could’ve been avoided. 
  • Close to Home shows Spock’s version of “I’m not a doctor, I’m a —“

(11) TBR INCOMING. Fansided’s “Winter Is Coming” contributor Daniel Roman lists “15 highly anticipated fantasy and science fiction books coming this fall”. Due in October —

6. Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson (10/26)

Leaving the heavy bounds of the Earth, our next book sees us blasting into space aboard the colony ship Ragtime. Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author Tade Thompson, author of The Wormwood Trilogy, has a new standalone science fiction novel coming out that promises to be filled with deep moral quandaries and spiritual reckonings. Far From the Light of Heaven is billed as a mystery meets sci-fi political thriller in space. The acting captain of the Ragtime has to team up with an investigator and several other intriguing characters to unravel a bloody mystery that is taking place aboard her ship.

(12) ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY. From NASA: Astronomy Picture of the Day. Description follows.

Image Credit & CopyrightDennis Huff

Explanation: Not the Hubble Space Telescope’s latest view of a distant galactic nebula, this illuminated cloud of gas and dust dazzled early morning spacecoast skygazers on August 29. The snapshot was taken at 3:17am from Space View Park in Titusville, Florida. That’s about 3 minutes after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the CRS-23 mission to resupply the International Space Station. It captures drifting plumes and exhaust from the separated first and second stage of the rocket rising through still dark skies. The lower bright dot is the second stage continuing on to low Earth orbit. The upper one is the rocket’s first stage performing a boostback burn. Of course the first stage booster returned to make the first landing on the latest autonomous drone ship to arrive in the Atlantic, A Short Fall of Gravitas.

(13) EARLY ARRIVAL. Slash Film says these are “20 Movies About Aliens That You Definitely Need To Watch”. One of them is not what you might expect at first glance.

The Arrival

Not to be confused with a later entry on this list, 1996’s “The Arrival” stars a Charlie Sheen still at the height of his health and talent, and pits him against the terrifyingly competent Ron Silver. Sheen plays a radio astronomer who intercepts an unusual transmission from a nearby star and is blackballed from his industry for revealing its extraterrestrial origins. From there, a tangled conspiracy drives him towards the truth: the aliens are already here, and the rapid shift in our planet’s climate is meant to kill off humanity and create comfortable new digs for our new guests.

Directed by Peter Twohy, who would go on to create the Riddick franchise with Vin Diesel, “The Arrival” is surprisingly prescient with how it illustrates today’s climate change fears. A niche topic of conversation at the time, relegated to Al Gore jokes and nervous but unheard scientists, these digitigrade alien mimics are almost comforting now. They suggest that our inevitable future can be controlled — and, in a way that’s all too relatable, imply that someone else will have a good time on this planet at our expense….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian,  Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/20 Who’s Going To Sing If You Don’t Have Emperors?

(1) PRESCIENT PANDEMIC PROSE PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In a thoughtful and in-depth piece about plague-related fiction, Joelle Renstrom (@couldthishappen) of Slate Magazine explores how Connie Willis’ 1992 Hugo Winner Doomsday Book seems particularly relevant in 2020. “Doomsday Book, the 1992 time-travel novel that sheds light on today’s pandemic”.

Doomsday Book—whose name is a nod to the Domesday Book, a 1086 survey commissioned by William the Conqueror—features two protagonists who try to stop the spread of deadly contagions 700 years apart. In the 2054 timeline of Doomsday Book, there are no cellphones, but thanks to a complex machine called the “net,” time travel exists. The net prevents time travelers from altering history, so its main use is for historians conducting research. In Oxford, England, history professor Dunworthy sends an undergraduate researcher back in time to what he thinks is 1320. Afterward, the time travel device technician who helped send the student back in time falls seriously ill with an unknown virus. The very night he is hospitalized, public health workers begin tracking down his primary and secondary contacts and researchers begin sequencing the virus. In this future, there are governmental and scientific systems in place to respond rapidly to a new contagion. Indeed, that’s the easier part. Willis underscores a poignant truth, particularly for contemporary readers:  A pandemic’s true toll is determined not by doctors and politicians, but by everyone else.

(2) IMAGINING LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS. Alien Worlds Season 1 is streaming on Netflix.

Applying the laws of life on Earth to the rest of the galaxy, this series blends science fact and fiction to imagine alien life on other planets.

(3) VOTER FAVORITE. Congratulations to Mikki Kendall whose Hood Feminism placed second in the Best Nonfiction category of the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards.

(4) FANS SKEPTICAL ABOUT FUNDRAISING FOR TOLKIEN HOUSE. The UK’s Tolkien Society says they don’t support the Project Northmoor charity which is raising money to buy J.R.R. Tolkien’s Oxford house. The Society’s “Statement on Project Northmoor” lists concerns —

…As a leading Tolkien organisation, the Trustees considered whether Project Northmoor would help achieve the Society’s objective to educate the public in, and promote research into, the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Trustees unanimously concluded that it did not.

The Trustees’ specific concerns include that:

  • Project Northmoor’s two-page plan lacked sufficient detail;
  • No prominent members of the Tolkien community – be they writers, academics, artists etc – are directors of the company, or are named as running the project;
  • This would not be a museum and would not be open to the public;
  • Project Northmoor’s primary intention appears to be to run creative workshops, rather than educational programmes about Tolkien;
  • Project Northmoor’s plan includes spiritual retreats, which falls outside the scope of the Society’s objective;
  • Their business model includes running a bed and breakfast, with a full-time resident warden;
  • The property itself is a listed building in a conservation area – with a blue plaque proudly showing its connection to Tolkien – meaning the property is well protected under the law and not in need of rescue;
  • The relationship between the US and UK organisations appeared unclear; and
  • As a new organisation – Project Northmoor having only existed for a month – it is difficult to assess their ability, capability, and capacity to deliver the project successfully.

The Trustees wanted to provide this transparency of their conversation for the benefit of the Tolkien community. The Trustees – as is their legal duty under the law in England and Wales – were considering the best interests of the charity and whether it achieved the charity’s objective. For the above reasons they felt it did not.

(5) 55 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK. Mx. Kris Vyas-Myall helps Galactic Journey readers navigate the New Wave: [DECEMBER 4, 1965] A SIGN OF THE TIMES (MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S BOOKS OF 1965).

Across Britain, there has been a recent explosion of road signage. These are designed to establish safer traffic rules and to give people direction on how to use the area who would otherwise be unfamiliar. The one flaw with this is most people are confused as to what they mean….

Pedestrians do not fare much better. Only a small fraction knew that a white bar on a red circle means no entry, with many believing it meant something different, such as a pedestrian crossing.

This responses to the signage is similar to the relationship between science fiction readers and the new wave. For some they are stories full of meaningless symbols that go nowhere, for others it is an essential step in moving science fiction forward. And right at the centre of the new wave is Michael Moorcock.

In spite of being only 25 years old, Moorcock is one of the core figures in British science fiction. He previously edited both Tarzan Adventures and The Sexton Blake Library before taking over New Worlds magazine last year. For the last 5 years he has been a regular contributor to Carnell’s trio of magazines and has published books before such as The Stealer of Souls.

(6) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “For the Love of litRPG” is the theme of this week’s Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron. Scheduled for Saturday, December 12 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

For an episode celebrating litRPG, a hugely successful genre ruled by indie authors, joining Gadi and Karen will be Shemer Kuznits, Avi Freedman, John Dodd, Avril Sabine, and Storm Petersen.

From what makes litRPG tick and our favorite authors, to the weird tropes hidden within, we fully intend to geek out.

(7) #DISNEYMUSTPAY. YouTuber Daniel Greene interviewed Alan Dean Foster and Mary Robinette Kowal about the #DisneyMustPay issue. Some interesting updates, including SFWA President Kowal confirming that Alan Dean Foster is not the only author affected. 

(8) YEAGER OBIT. Aviator Chuck Yeager (1923-2020) died December 7. The LA Times profiled the first man to break the sound barrier.

Chuck Yeager

After test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier, he confessed to the highly un-Yeager-like emotion of fear.

“I was scared,” he wrote in a memoir, “knowing that many of my colleagues thought I was doomed to be blasted to pieces by an invisible brick wall in the sky. But I noticed that the faster I got, the smoother the ride. Suddenly, the Mach needle began to fluctuate, then tipped right off the scale.”

For 18 seconds on Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager was supersonic — a feeling he later likened to “a poke through Jell-O.” The achievement made Yeager an aeronautic legend — “the foremost in the Olympus,” according to author Tom Wolfe, “the most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff.”…

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement that concludes: “His path blazed a trail for anyone who wanted to push the limits of human potential, and his achievements will guide us for generations to come.”

(9) WALTER HOOPER OBIT. Walter Hooper (1931-2020). a literary advisor of the estate of C.S. Lewis, died December 7 of COVID-19. He served briefly in 1963 as C.S. Lewis’s private secretary prior to Lewis’s death, and became a custodian of Lewis papers and editor of his works. Joseph Loconte profiled him for National Review: “Remembering Walter Hooper: C.S. Lewis Expert Brought Author’s Work to World”.

…Hooper never tired of drawing attention to Lewis’s talent for making Christian thought persuasive to the layman. In his encyclopedic book C.S. Lewis: Companion and Guide, Hooper relates how Lewis gained national attention for his BBC broadcasts defending Christianity during World War II, receiving many speaking invitations. He engaged with fellow dons, members of the Royal Air Force, factory workers, and university students. “It was partly due to this varied experience,” Hooper writes, “that he came to see why the professional theologians could not make Christianity understandable to most people.” In the Protestant tradition to which he belonged (the Anglican Church), Lewis combined reason and imagination to translate the gospel into terms everyone could grasp.

“At times it embarrassed me, when Lewis was talking about God, that I hardly believed in the same way that he did,” Hooper told me. In this case, admiration generated a lifelong calling: What Christopher Tolkien achieved in excavating the work of his famous father, Walter Hooper accomplished for C.S. Lewis. At a recent conference in Slovakia, Hooper was asked to explain why he invested so much of his life quietly serving someone else’s legacy. He did not hesitate in answering: “I said, ‘It’s been wonderful. I wish to God I could do it all again.’”

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • In 1982, Shadows of Sanctuary, the third Thieves’ World as edited by Robert Lynn Asprin, and published by Ace Books, wins the Balrog Award. It was not the first nominated as both Thieves’ World, the first anthology, and Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, the second anthology, were also nominated. The Balrogs which were given out from 1979 to 1985  were created by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and first presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.) (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber.  The 13 ClocksThe Wonderful OThe White Deer are fantasy, supposedly but not necessarily for children.  The Last Flower seems to be science fiction.  What are we to make of his seventy-five “Fables for Our Time” – are they fantasy?  “The Rabbits Who Caused All the Trouble”?  “The Owl Who Was God”?  In “The Unicorn in the Garden” there really is a unicorn but denying it is wiser.  “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” is a spoof of alternative history.  What of his cartoons?   In any event, his particular subtle, almost sour humor excels. (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1894 E. C Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of. (Died 1938.)  (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1917 – James Taurasi.  A founder of fandom.  Attended the 1938 Philadelphia Conference.  One of the “triumvirate” (with Moskowitz and Sykora) who produced Nycon I the first Worldcon.  Ran “Fandom’s Corner” in Super Science Stories.  His Fantasy Times, later Science Fiction Times, won the 1955 & 1957 Best-Fanzine Hugo.  Big Heart (our highest service award). (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1930 – John Morressy.  A score of novels, eighty shorter stories, some dark, some light-hearted.  In fantasy, Kedrigern is a reluctant wizard first shown as an adult, then prequels of his youth.  In science fiction, Nail Down the Stars and two more paint the same interstellar intrigue from three viewpoints while none sees the whole.  Professor of English at Franklin Pierce College.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1939 Jennie Linden, 81. She’s here for being Barbara in Dr. Who and the Daleks, the 1965 non-canon film. Her next genre forays were both horror comedies, she was in A Severed Head as Georgie Hands, and she’d later be in Vampira as Angela. She’d show up in Sherlock Holmes and The Saint as well. (CE)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker, 70. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London.  So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The ExorcistStar WarsThe Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version. (CE)
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 69. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1954 Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind,  plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Genevieve Graham, age 56.  First studied to be an oboe player; began writing after age 40.  Now devoted to Canadian historical fiction.  Two novels for us, four others.  Has read Charlotte’s WebHuckleberry FinnNineteen Eighty-Four.  [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1966 – Anthony Lewis, age 54.  Illustrator.  Three hundred children’s books; also advertising, design & editorial.  Here are the cover and two interiors for The Owl Tree.  Here are the cover and two interiors for Why Do Stars Come Out at Night?  Here is an interior for Why I Can’t See the Wind.  Here is his image for Follow the Reader posters, bags, bookmarks.  [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1982 – Elizabeth Miles, age 38.  Three novels, six covers.  Here is one, Moon Window.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MONOLITHS PROLIFERATING. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even men with stainless steel do it: “California Men Declare Themselves Makers of Pine Mountain Monolith” says the New York Times. And there are two other new ones.

For the first time, someone has taken credit for erecting one of the monoliths that have popped up in the last few weeks, riveting the world.

A group of four artists and fabricators unveiled themselves on Saturday as the creators of the stainless-steel curiosity that was placed atop Pine Mountain in Atascadero, Calif., on Tuesday — and shared a YouTube video of a newly made replacement going up after some young men unceremoniously toppled the original and put a cross in its spot, livestreaming themselves in the process.

“We intended for it to be a piece of guerrilla art. But when it was taken down in such a malicious manner, we decided we needed to replace it,” Wade McKenzie, one of the California monolith’s creators, said in an interview Sunday evening.

The news of the origins of the monolith was first reported by the website YourTango.

McKenzie said he built the three-sided steel structure with the help of his friend Travis Kenney, Kenney’s father, Randall, and Jared Riddle, a cousin of Travis Kenney.

Early Friday morning, another shiny steel tower was discovered in downtown Las Vegas under the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block entertainment district in the city’s casino corridor.

And yet another was found Saturday morning in Los Padres National Forest by campers at a site about 100 miles southeast of the one in Atascadero, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported. According to the Tribune, the Los Padres monolith has “Caution” written in red letters at the top and features an image of a U.F.O. The creators of the Atascadero monolith told the news outlet on Sunday that they had not placed the monolith there.

(14) THE ROCKETS OF ‘65. In Episode 42 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss the fine art of tsundoku and then fire up the Hugo Time Machine yet again to return to the year of 1965, when Fritz Leiber’s “The Wanderer” won Best Novel Hugo. “Life, the Universe, and Everything”.

(15) FROM THE ARCHIVES. See a unique 1997 television production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella on YouTube.

Cinderella (Brandy) chafes under the cruelty of her wicked stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her evil stepsisters, Calliope (Veanne Cox) and Minerva (Natalie Desselle), until her Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) steps in to change her life for one unforgettable night. At the ball, she falls for handsome Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalban), whose parents, King Maximillian (Victor Garber) and Queen Constantina (Whoopi Goldberg), are anxious for him to find a suitable paramour.

(16) WRITING WITH AI. “What’s it like to write a book with an A.I.?” at Slate is an interview with K Allado McDowell.

What is it like to write with GPT-3, the latest language model neural network artificial intelligence system created by Open AI? Clarke Center Assistant Director Patrick Coleman interviewed K Allado McDowell, writer, researcher, and co-author of Pharmako-AI, the first book co-written with GPT-3, for Slate’s Future Tense series. For anyone interested in the nature of artificial intelligence as a model for human intelligence (and imagination) or the use of AI to create art and provoke new lines of thinking, Allado-McDowell’s provocative insights point to new approaches.

(17) SPEAKING OF ROBOTS. Calling Ursula K. Le Guin!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Epic Rap Battles of History has updated. This time, it’s “Harry Potter vs Luke Skywalker”, done entirely in Lego.

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