Pixel Scroll 2/28/22 The Long and Winding Scroll

(1) SCHOOL NAMED FOR BUTLER. They were thinking about renaming the school library – in the end, they decided to rename the whole school for her: “Pasadena Unified Renames Washington Middle School As Octavia E. Butler Magnet”ColoradoBoulevard.net has the story.

…Dr Shannon Malone stated that “Octavia’s love of science research combined with her love of writing is exactly what STEAM integration is about at our school. We don’t teach things in isolation we show that all things can come together such as a love of Science Fiction and a love of writing.” The school will be hosting the 2nd Octavia Butler Writing and Art Contest with novels and poetry. The Pasadena Library will feature a virtual tour about Octavia Butler and proudly showcase the school’s mural….

The district announced the decision with this statement:

In appreciation of Octavia E. Butler for her outstanding achievements in literary science-fiction and for representing the qualities of a PUSD graduate that will inspire our youth and greater community, Washington Middle School shall be known henceforth as the Octavia E. Butler Magnet. Board President Elizabeth Pomeroy declared “let’s all pledge to read a book by Octavia Butler!” The motion was passed, approved, and adopted on February 24, 2022, at a special meeting of the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education.

(2) PRAISE FOR BARKLEY. At the Hugo Book Club Blog: “So Glad We Asked: an appreciation of Chris M. Barkley”.

… In retrospect, Barkley has shown a remarkable amount of foresight. He warned in 2004 (a full decade before it happened) that there was the possibility that a slate of politically motivated malcontents might attempt to disrupt the Hugos. This was followed by his urging in 2013 that “The only way traditions like the Worldcon and Hugos will have any future is if the people who are interested and feel frozen out of the process continue to provide civil and constructive criticism and stay involved in fandom … What we need is MORE dissent, MORE thinking outside the box and MORE diversity in fandom, not less.”

The first time the editors of this blog encountered Chris M. Barkley, we were volunteering as photographers for the 2015 Hugo Awards ceremony. For years after, we assumed that he had received a Hugo Award nomination for his blogging, and this seemed like a reasonable assumption to make: his work is consistently good, he writes about fannish activities, and he’s well known in the community.

It was to our great surprise when we learned that he has never been on the Hugo Award ballot as a fan writer. It’s time to rectify that oversight, and 2022 should be his year….

(3) WHEN EUROCON WAS IN KYIV. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie reports, “Currently thoughts elsewhere. Just heard that one of our team members, Boris Sidyuk, is alive. (A little scared — I think suffers from British understatement —  but alive.) Some might know him from the 2006 Eurocon on which he was a senior committee member organising the international dimension.”

Jonathan attended the Eurocon held in Ukraine in 2006. Read his account of making fannish connections there in “The 2006 Eurocon, Ukraine”.

…The need for an outlet for Ukrainian SF is not a trivial point. Though the Ukraine is the latest country to break close ties with Russia (meaning that up to recently Russia dominated most activities including publishing), it is effectively a bilingual nation with nearly all the population speaking both Ukrainian and Russian. So getting SF professionally published actually in the Ukrainian language within the Ukraine has in the past been difficult, though matters are now slowly getting a little better. Prior to 1990 and the fall of the Berlin wall, if you wanted to write professionally you had to belong to the Writers Association of the Ukraine. However the Association did not consider SF as a serious genre, furthermore the Association was closely tied to the communist party. So potential writers had to be inventive, such as trying to get published in popular science/propaganda magazines. Needless to say SF conventions also were few prior to 1990 and that did not help. Today Ukrainian writers still have problems. For example, the Ukranian writer Sergey Slyusarenko has had several short stories published but only recently his first novel [Tactile Senesations]. However this was through a Russian publishing house that distributed his book in Russia in Russian. No bulk copies were sent to the Ukraine. Fortunately though, this year Slyusarenko was one of those to receive a Eurocon Encouragement Award and it is hoped that this will prompt an Ukrainian publishing house to produce an Ukrainian edition….

(4) WHERE TO READ UKRANIAN SFF WRITERS IN ENGLISH. Alex Shvartsman has compiled “A List of Ukrainian-born SF/F Authors Whose Fiction is Available in English” and posted it at Future Science Fiction Digest. He will continue to update it as he finds more qualifying works.

Are you curious about science fiction and fantasy works written by authors who either currently reside or were born in Ukraine? There are a number of such works available in English. Interestingly. the authors I was able to come up with for this list lean heavily toward fantasy over science fiction. And they tend to write excellent stuff–I’m a long-time fan of many of these authors, though I did find several short story writers in the course of researching this post who are new to me as well.

(5) LESSER CONSEQUENCES OF INVASION. “Disney to Pause Theatrical Releases in Russia, Including ‘Turning Red’” reports Variety.

The Walt Disney Company announced on Monday that it will be pausing all theatrical releases in Russia, including that of “Turning Red,” which was previously set to premiere in the country March 10.

“Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming ‘Turning Red’ from Pixar,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.”

Disney is the first of the major film distributors to pause its theatrical releases in the region, which will likely cause others to follow suit. However, it seems that Warner Bros.’ “The Batman” will still have a Russia release for now, with the film set for a worldwide premiere on March 3.

(6) CHERNOBYL IN THE NEWS AGAIN. The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage discusses “Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes – stunning TV that is suddenly unmissable” with filmmaker James Jones.

Had it been released at any point in the past few years, Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes would have been an important documentary; a feature-length blend of audio interviews and largely unseen archive footage that puts the 1986 disaster into horrifying new perspective. That it comes out now – just days after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, including an attack on the Chernobyl site itself – makes it as unmissable as it is harrowing.

…One contained a footnote that caught his eye. “It referenced footage that was shot in Pripyat [in northern Ukraine] the weekend after the accident,” he says. Despite the fact that the worst nuclear disaster in history had happened down the road hours earlier, releasing 400 times more radioactive material into the atmosphere than the Hiroshima bomb, the footage showed residents milling about as if nothing had happened.

“You can see mothers pushing babies around and kids playing football in the sand,” says Jones. “Then you start to see these white flashes on the film because of the insanely high level of radiation. It was so chilling.” Nevertheless, the existence of this footage spurred him to seek out more. Via a wealth of sources – national archives, propaganda films, collapsed Soviet documentary studios, western news reports, children and soldiers who happened to have video cameras at the time – he began to piece together a blistering documentary that draws a straight line from the USSR’s attempts to play down the disaster to the fall of the Soviet Union itself.

Although Chernobyl is one of those historical punctuation points on which everyone thinks they have a decent overview, not least due to Sky’s recent drama series, The Lost Tapes is studded with moments of footage so extraordinary that you are unlikely to forget them. A clean-up helicopter crashing to the ground over the explosion site. Searing footage of injuries and mutations to humans and animals. Wooden grave markers in an irradiated forest.

(7) AT THE TOP OF HER GAME. Congratulations to Cat Rambo for being named a guest at Origins Game Fair.

(8) FREE TAFF BOOK. The Harrison Saga: The Extraordinary Exploits of Sir William Makepeace Harrison by  “Harry Hurstmonceaux and Cyril Faversham”, ripping yarns written from 1957 to 1975 by the UK fans John Owen and Stanley Nuttall, is the latest addition to TAFF’s library of free downloads. The collection is available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they also hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund. 

In these ripping yarns written from 1957 to 1975 by the UK fans John Owen and Stanley Nuttall (writing as Hurstmonceaux and Faversham), the awesome figure of Sir William Makepeace Harrison bestrides the world like a Roman-nosed colossus. The British Empire’s last unflinching bulwark against Nazis, Commies and duplicitous foreigners in general, Harrison upheld the banner of Civilization – or at least the Union Jack – o’er palm and pine. His magnificently silly adventures are threaded with tongue-in-cheek echoes of Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan, “Sapper” of Bulldog Drummond fame, Dornford Yates, Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler, Frank Hampson and a million Victorian/Edwardian boys’ adventure stories. It would be wrong to giggle at such unstinting heroism, swordsmanship, gunplay, gourmandizing, fine-wine-bibbing and deus ex machina escapes, but nevertheless one does.

For The Harrison Saga, Rob Hansen has assembled all Owen’s and Nuttall’s tales of Sir William Makepeace Harrison with an explanatory Foreword, an Afterword and (assisted by David Langford) some learned notes on literary references and in-jokes. For readers who crave something “a little stronger”, there is also a bibliography.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty years ago, Altered Carbon was published in the UK. Written by Richard Morgan, it would be followed by two sequels, Broken Angels and Woken Furies. It’s a series that I really, really liked and I thought was wrapped well. 

It would win the Philip K. Dick Award. Other nominated works for the Award that year were Mark Buds’ Clade, M.M. Buckner’s Hyperthought, Chris Moriarty‘s Spin State and Ann Tonsor Zeddies‘ Steel Helix

The novels would become the basis of the Netflix Altered Carbon series which ran for eighteen episodes over two seasons before being canceled plus an anime prequel film. Originally the first novel was going to be a film and those rights were sold for a million dollars which allowed Morgan to become a full-time writer but it never went anywhere which is how Netflix ended up with it. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs. An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations.  He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth which became the basis of the film of the same name starring David Bowie. There’s apparently a Showtime series planned off it. He also wrote two other SF novels, The Steps of The Sun and Mockingbird. All off his work is available from the usual digital sources. Though far from being genre, The Queen’s Gambit is most excellent. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1947 Stephen Goldin, 75. Author of the Family d’Alembert series which is based on a novella by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I think the novella is “Imperial Stars” but that’s unclear from the way the series is referred to. Has anyone read this series? How does it match up to the source material?
  • Born February 28, 1948 Bernadette Peters, 74. Performer, stage, film and television, so this is selected look at her. She was A Witch in Into the Woods on Broadway and reprised the role in a tv film. It is a Stephen Sondheim musical based on the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. She’s in The Martian Chronicles as Genevieve Seltzer. She does a lot of voice acting, to wit in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted ChristmasWakko’s WishLegends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Rita, a recurring role on the Animaniacs and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The most recent genre role I see her doing is Circe on The Odyssey series several back. 
  • Born February 28, 1966 Philip Reeve, 56. He is primarily known for the Mortal Engines and its sequels. I read the first three novels before deciding that was enough of that series. Not that it’s not a fine series, it just wasn’t developing interestingly enough to warrant me reading any more of it. 
  • Born February 28, 1958 John Barnes, 64. I read and really liked all of the novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. (My take on it. Yours may well differ.) What else by him do y’all like? I see he’s not put out a novel in a decade now, a pity that. Some of his fiction is available at the usual suspects though not the Thousand Cultures series.
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 45. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exists and does a damn fine job of doing so. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Blondie finds the key to selling books.  

(12) STONED. Atlas Obscura knows where to find the “Pop Culture Gargoyles Hidden in Gothic Architecture” (published in 2018).

…If you’re curious enough for a gargoyle safari, stay around the edifice! You will not be disappointed, as Darth Vader is just one of many pretty unusual creations conceived to adorn the National Cathedral. The 112 sculpted gargoyles include those by Walter S. Arnold, who envisioned gargoyles as portraying the specific hopes and fears of their era. Arnold’s sculptures have name like “The Crooked Politician,” “The Fly holding Raid Spray,” or the “High Tech Pair,” representing a stylized robot and surveillance camera….

(13) WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. Can these be “The 10 Goofiest Sci-Fi Movies Ever”? Screen Rant thinks so.

Idiocracy (2006)

While the movie could be considered a gruelingly accurate prediction of a dystopian future, Idiocracy is actually a satirical and hilarious sci-fi flick. The film is about a man with a below-average IQ who is frozen in a government experiment, but he’s then thawed out in the future and is treated like a genius.

It’s a silly concept, but Idiocracy also attempts to tackle so many subjects, such as people’s obsession with celebrities, entertainment and media consumption, and politics. Based in a world where the President of the United States wears an American flag as a cape and carries a machine gun at all times, the 2006 movie is so over the top.

(14) THE OLD TICKER. “Edgar Allan Poe’s pocket watch among donations to museum” reports the Guardian.

The pocket watch owned by Edgar Allan Poe while he was writing his famous short story The Tell-Tale Heart, in which the murderous narrator compares the thumping of his victim’s heart to the tick of a clock, has been donated to the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

Literary collector Susan Jaffe Tane gave the watch along with almost 60 other artefacts, including letters and rare first editions. Curator Chris Semtner said Poe’s timepiece was “especially important” because the author owned it while writing the story…

(15) APPRENTICED TO A PIRATE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Korean pirate movie sounds like fantasy to me! The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure comes to Netflix on March 2.

Lured by the promise of fortune and riches, a band of pirates set off in the hopes of uncovering hidden treasure. But when the elements turn against them and the lines between folklore and reality wear thin, they soon realize that some quests are better left unconquered.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Saturday Night Live’s “Subway Churro skit” with John Mulvaney covers most Broadway musical bases.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/1/21 Ask Not For Whom The Pixel Scrolls

(1) WFC 2021 NEWS. World Fantasy Con’s new Progress Report is a free download available here.

WFC 2021 in Montreal – taking place November 4-7 — will be a hybrid convention, with both in-person and virtual elements. Virtual memberships are $75(US)/$100(CAD) and can be obtained through the con’s registration and memberships page.

Guests of honor Nisi Shawl and John Picacio will not be attending in person but will participate virtually.

WFC 2021 has added Julie Czerneda as a Special Guest.

A communication sent to members also reminds them to adhere to the Canadian (and airline) requirements in respect to COVID vaccination and testing.

Lastly, we want to point out that if you are coming to Montreal from outside Canada, please ensure that you meet all requirements for entry into Canada. This includes being fully vaccinated and having a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of your flight to Canada. You can find more information on the Government of Canada website. (Don’t forget the other requirements too!) Your airline may have its own requirements.

We are planning on having on-site testing for travellers leaving Canada. The final price (between C$70 and C$90) will depend on the number of tests to be performed. If you are interested in on-site testing during the convention, please send a short email to covid-test@wfc2021.org. Indicate how many people would be taking the test and which day you plan to leave the country. If the antigen test is insufficient, let us know the type required, and we will see if the testing company can handle the request. We will contact interested parties when we have finalized the arrangements.

(2) BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. Elizabeth Bear made a public post about her cancer surgery at her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe newsletter.

… So that I don’t bury the lede too much, I got my pathology report back this afternoon, and I’ve got clear margins and no signs of metastasis into the lymph nodes. Which is an enormous crying-in-my-tea relief and as soon as I am not on opiates anymore I’m going to have myself a very very fancy glass of Scotch to celebrate….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to snack on shredded jellyfish with Renée Witterstaetter in episode 155 p his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Renée Witterstaetter

Come along with me to D.C.’s AwesomeCon for dinner with writer, editor, and colorist Renée Witterstaetter at Chinatown’s New Big Wong restaurant.

Witterstaetter started her comics career as an assistant editor at DC Comics working on the Superman books. She later worked at Marvel Comics on Silver Surfer, Conan, Guardians of the Galaxy, and other titles. In addition, she spearheaded the reintroduction of She-Hulk at Marvel, where she actually appeared in the comic!

But she’s much more than only comics, as you’ll soon learn.

We discussed how Jerry Lewis launched her interest in comics, the way science fiction fandom led to her first job at DC Comics, the differences between the Marvel and DC offices of the ’70s and ’80s, what made Mark Gruenwald such an amazing editor, her emotional encounter with Steve Ditko, the inflationary info we learned about the writing of letter columns during the ’70s and ’80s, her work with John Byrne on She-Hulk, how Jurassic Park caused her to leave Marvel, the prank Jackie Chan asked her to help pull on Chris Tucker, and much more.

(4) PASSING OUT. Yahoo! consults an expert – former HWA President Lisa Morton — to find out “Why Do We Pass Out Candy on Halloween?”

…”Up until the 1930s, Halloween was largely the dominion of young male pranksters; candy—in the form of mainly candy corn, tiny sugar pellets, or taffy—might be offered at parties, but it wasn’t a particularly important part of the holiday,” says Lisa Morton, an author, screenwriter, and Halloween historian. “Then, in the ’30s, prank-playing moved out of rural areas and into cities, where it became very destructive and cost millions in damages. Rather than simply ban the holiday altogether (which some cities considered), civic groups came up with the idea of buying kids off with treats, costumes, and parties. It worked, and by 1936 we have the first mention of ‘trick-or-treat’ in a national magazine.”…

(5) CHESLEY NEWS. ASFA members (the only people who can vote) have been notified the 2021 Chesley Award Suggestions List (for 2020 Works) is live. The introduction explains:

This listing constitutes the suggestions of the Chesley Nominating Committee plus suggestions received from the community. This is NOT the final ballot; it is only an example of what the community considers worthy of nominating for the Chesley Awards. These suggestions are provided to show you the kind of information we want from you on your ballot, and to maybe help jog your memory of other worthy works of art you saw in 2020. You are encouraged to look beyond this listing when making your nominations; any works published for the first time in 2020 or if unpublished, displayed for the first time in 2020, are eligible. Check out your local bookstore, gaming shop, or knock yourself out visiting various artist’s websites … lots of wonderful art out there. You may make up to five nominations in each category.

(6) I’M YOUR MAN WINS. The winners of the 2021 German film award Lola have been announced. Normally, this is of zero genre interest, but this year’s big winner, taking Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Film is the science fiction romantic comedy I’m Your Man“Lolas 2021 German Film Awards Winners List” from The Hollywood Reporter. 

I’m Your Man, a sci-fi rom-com from director Maria Schrader, featuring Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens as a German-speaking romance robot, has won the Lola in Gold for best film at the 2021 German Film Prize, Germany’s top film awards.

Schrader, fresh off her Emmy win (for best directing for a limited series in Netflix’s Unorthodox), picked up the best director Lola for I’m Your Man. Schrader and co-screenwriter Jan Schomburg took the best screenplay honor for their I’m Your Man script, an adaptation of a short story by German writer Emma Braslavsky. Maren Eggert, who plays the robot’s no-nonsense human love interest, won the best actress Lola for her performance, a role that has already earned her the best actress Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, where I’m Your Man premiered earlier this year….

(7) MAIL CALL. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Bobby Derie, who’s one of those unsung fan writers I wish more people would know, takes a look at the correspondence between C.L. Moore and Robert E. Howard: “Her Letters to Robert E. Howard: Catherine Lucille Moore” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein. 

… Catherine Lucille Moore burst into the pages of Weird Tales with “Shambleau” (Nov 1933). She was a secretary at the Fletcher Trust Company in her native Indianapolis, Indiana, and engaged to a bank teller named Herbert Ernest Lewis. During the Great Depression, jobs were scarce and her $25 a week was needed to support her family; married women were often expected to be homemakers, and this may be why Moore and her fiance had a long engagement—and it is why, when she began to sell her stories to the pulps for extra cash, she used her initials “C. L.” so that her employers would not discover she had an extra source of income….

Derie also examined the correspondence and relationship in general between H.P. Lovecraft and his wife Sonia H. Greene: “Her Letters To Lovecraft: Sonia H. Greene”.

(8) A SINGULAR SENSATION. The Guardian published an article by Stephen Fry about a non-genre writer popular with some fans: “Stephen Fry on the enduring appeal of Georgette Heyer”.

From the absolutely appalling cover art that has defaced her books since she was first published, you would think Georgette Heyer the most gooey, ghastly, cutesy, sentimental and trashy author who ever dared put pen to paper. The surprise in store for you, if you have not encountered her before, is that once you tear off, burn or ignore those disgusting covers you will discover her to be one of the wittiest, most insightful and rewarding prose writers imaginable. Her stories satisfy all the requirements of romantic fiction, but the language she uses, the dialogue, the ironic awareness, the satire and insight – these rise far above the genre….

(9) A CLEVER CANARD. Evelyn C. Leeper drew attention to this W. Somerset Maugham quote in the weekly issue of MT Void:

“After mature consideration I have come to the conclusion that the real reason for the universal applause that comforts the declining years of the author who exceeds the common span of man is that intelligent people after the age of thirty read nothing at all.  As they grow older the books they read in their youth are lit with its glamour and with every year that passes they ascribe greater merit to the author that wrote them.”

(10) RICHARD CURTIS Q&A. A famous literary figure shares a wealth of knowledge.

Watch & listen to author, playwright, literary agent and former publisher Richard Curtis talk about writing, publishing and many things that will interest writers and the general public. Richard gives tips, advice and a bit of a history of publishing and how it has changed over the years in his conversation with author Rick Bleiweiss.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years ago, the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction dated October 1950 was published. It was founded by a French-Italian company, World Editions, who hired as editor H. L. Gold who was both an established SF author and editor since the Thirties having made his first sale to Astounding in 1934. There was fiction by Clifford Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, Katherine MacLean, Issac Asimov, Fredric Brown and Fritz Leiber, as well as lots of reviews, mainly by Groff Conklin, but one each by Fredric Brown and Isaac Asimov as well. Gold contributed several essays too. The 1952 run of the magazine would be get a Hugo for Best Professional Magazine at Philcon II. Gold would later be inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 1, 1930 Richard Harris. One of the Dumbledores in the Potter film franchise. He also played King Arthur in Camelot, Richard the Lion Hearted in Robin and Marian, Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels, James Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man and he voiced Opal in Kaena: The Prophecy. His acting in Tarzan, the Ape Man got him a nomination for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Anyone see that film? It earns a ten percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 1, 1935 Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, 86. The original Mary Poppins! I could have stopped there but I won’t. (Hee.) She had a scene cut in which was a maid in The Return of the Pink Panther, and she’s uncredited as the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Yet again she’s uncreated as in a Panther film, this time as chairwoman in Trail of the Pink Panther. She voices Queen Lillian in Sherk 2Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. And she’s the voice of Karathen in Aquaman
  • Born October 1, 1940 Richard Corben. Comic book artist best remembered for his work in Heavy Metal magazine. His work also appeared in CreepyEerie and Vampirella. All the stories and covers he did for Creepy and Eerie have been reprinted by Dark Horse Books in a single volume: Creepy Presents Richard Corben. Corben collaborated with Brian Azzarello on five issues of Azzarello’s run on Hellblazer, Hellblazer: Hard Time. (Died 2020.)
  • Born October 1, 1948 Mike Ashley, 73. Anthologist, and that is somewhat of an understatement, as the Mammoth Book series by itself ran to thirty volumes including such titles as The Mammoth Book of Awesome Comic Fantasy and The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne Adventures. He also did The History of the Science Fiction Magazine which features commentary by him. He’s did a number of genre related studies including The History of the Science Fiction Magazine with Robert A. W. Lowndes and Out of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It.
  • Born October 1, 1950 Natalia Nogulich, 71. She’s best remembered as being on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as Vice Admiral/Fleet Admiral Alynna Nechayev. Interestingly, though Serbian, they gave her a Russian surname. She was the voice for Mon Mothma for the radio adaptation of Return of the Jedi. She had one-offs on Dark SkiesPreySabrina, the Teenage Witch and Charmed. 
  • Born October 1, 1953 John Ridley, 68. Author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn novels. Both excellent though high on the violence cringe scale. Extremely high. Writer on the Static Shock and Justice League series. Writer, The Authority: human on the inside graphic novel. And apparently he was the writer for Team Knight Rider, a female version of Knight Rider that lasted but one season in the Nineties. I’ve never even heard of it until now. In 2021, Ridley began writing a number of series for DC Comics Including a future Batman story.
  • Born October 1, 1973 Rachel Manija Brown, 48. Co-writer of the Change series with Sherwood Smith; Laura’s Wolf, first volume of the Werewolf Marines series. She wrote an essay entitled “The Golden Age of Fantasy Is Twelve: SF and the Young Adult Novel” which was published in Strange Horizons. She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born October 1, 1989 Brie Larson, 32. Captain Marvel in the Marvel film universe including of course the most excellent Captain Marvel which was nominated for a Hugo at CoNZealand. She’s also been in Kong: Skull Island as Mason Weaver, and plays Kit in the Unicorn Store which she also directed and produced. Her first genre role was Rachael in the “Into the Fire” episode of the Touched by an Angel series; she also appeared as Krista Eisenburg in the “Slam” episode of Ghost Whisperer. I wrote up a review of her Funko Rock Candy figure at Green Man

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SUIT SETTLED. Everybody’s now “proud” and “pleased”, but as one might expect terms of the settlement were not released. “Scarlett Johansson, Disney Lawsuit Settled Over ‘Black Widow’” says The Hollywood Reporter.

“I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” stated Johansson. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”

Disney Studios chairman Alan Bergman added: “I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding Black Widow. We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s Tower of Terror.”…

The New York Times adds:

… Ms. Johansson would have made tens of millions of dollars in box office bonuses if “Black Widow” had approached $1 billion in global ticket sales; “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” both exceeded that threshold in prepandemic release, so similar turnout for “Black Widow” was not out of the question.

The Wall Street Journal reported this month that Creative Artists had privately asked Disney to pay Ms. Johansson $80 million — on top of her base salary of $20 million — to compensate for lost bonuses. Disney did not respond with a counteroffer, prompting her to sue….

(15) JEOPARDY! While watching last night’s  Jeopardy!, Andrew Porter’s jaw dropped when a contestant came up with this response.

Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature

Answer: A 2000 Library of Congress exhibit called this 1900 work “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.”

Wrong question: What is “Shrek”?

Right question: What is “The Wizard of Oz”?

(16) JUSTWATCH – SEPTEMBER TOP 10S. Here are the top sff movies and streaming shows of September 2021 according to JustWatch. (Click for larger images.)

(17) WEEKS LATER, THESE ESCAPEES ARE STILL WEARING STRIPES. I’m having trouble thinking of a way to connect this to science fiction, thereby justifying the presence in the Scroll of an item that amuses me. Any suggestions?  “A Month Later, Five Zebras Are Still on the Run in Maryland” from the New York Times.

…A month after they escaped from a farm in Maryland, five zebras have evaded capture and are continuing to ramble across the wilds of suburban Prince George’s County, eking out a living on territory far from the grasslands of East Africa.

… Daniel I. Rubenstein, a professor of zoology at Princeton University, said he was not surprised that the zebras had proved so elusive.

Unlike domesticated horses that will return to a barn after they’ve gotten loose, zebras are wild animals and “don’t like people generally,” he said. And they may not have any need to feed on the grain set out for them as bait, if they can find enough food to munch elsewhere.

If the zebras continue to elude capture, “they should be able to do just fine” in Prince George’s County, Dr. Rubinstein said.

The county has plenty of lawns, fields and pastures where the zebras can graze, as well as streams and other places for them to drink water, which they need to do once a day, he said.

And with the dearth of lions in the Greater Washington area, they have no natural predators, he said, adding, “coyotes they can deal with.”

While zebras “won’t like snow,” they may be able to survive colder weather in the fall and winter. Zebras, he said, live on the slopes of Mount Kenya, at 13,000 feet, where temperatures at night dip into the 30s.

“They should be able to thrive quite nicely,” Dr. Rubinstein said. “They will be able to sustain themselves naturally on that landscape.”…

(18) NOW AT BAT. Possibly too sciency but then many are interested in SARS-CoV-2 source…. “Laos Bats Host Closest Known Relatives Of Virus Behind Covid” in Nature.

Studies show southeast Asia is a hotspot for potentially dangerous viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. Scientists have found three viruses in bats in Laos that are more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than any known viruses. Researchers say that parts of their genetic code bolster claims that the virus behind COVID-19 has a natural origin — but their discovery also raises fears that there are numerous coronaviruses with the potential to infect people.

(19) CHERNOBYL BACK IN NEWS. This is worrying: Radiation levels are rising around reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which suffered the catastrophic meltdown in 1986: “Chernobyl’s Blown Up Reactor 4 Just Woke Up” in History of Yesterday. The article explores several hypothetical explanations why this could happen.

… Scientists from Ukraine have placed many sensors around reactor 4 that constantly monitor the level of radioactivity. Recently those sensors have detected a constant increase in the level of radioactivity. It seems that this radioactivity is coming from an unreachable chamber from underneath reactor 4 that has been blocked since the night of the explosion on the 26th of April, 1986….

(20) TINGLE TALK. Dominic Noble decided to answer the question “Is Chuck Tingle A Good Writer?” and reviewed 25 of Tingle’s books.

…A question kept occurring to me over and over again that no one seemed to be addressing. Chuck Tingle is a pretty cool guy. Chuck Tingle is great at titles and covers. But are his books actually any good? Is chuck tingle a good writer? Now I feel the need to immediately qualify this. I am aware that it doesn’t matter. His books make people happy even if they’ve not read them which is quite an achievement. His inclusivity means a lot to people and his general behavior be it amusingly bizarre or the unashamedly progressive matters more in this crazy world we’re living in than if he can rock a good three-act structure… 

(21) YA COMMENTARY. YouTuber Sarah Z analyzes “The Rise and Fall of Teen Dystopias”.

[Thanks to, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cora Buhlert, Paul Di Filippo, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff, with an assist from OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 11/26/20 A Hard Pixel’s Gonna Scroll

(1) WHOSE TABLE DO YOU WANT TO SIT AT? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Writing for SYFY Wire, Brian Silliman runs down a dozen genre families (loosely defined) you might like to visit at Thanksgiving. The surviving members of LotR’s Fellowship (supplemented a bit) is included as is the Devil himself. What family not included in Silliman’s list would you pick? “The 12 genre families we’d most want to spend Thanksgiving with”.

… In the world of genre storytelling, there are countless examples of families, tribes, clans, and groups who only manage to keep hope alive because they have each other. Some of these families have seriously been through it, and many losses have happened. They get through it, and if you have nowhere else to turn this holiday season, you may be inspired by their example. You may be comforted by spending some imaginary time with them. In some instances, you may just want to have a little fun. Remember fun? It’s a thing. It’ll be back. Bet on it, bet on it, bet on it, bet on it. 

The Fam (Doctor Who)

Any chance to go aboard the TARDIS is an instant yes, as is any chance to meet any Doctor that this show has featured. We’re currently skipping along with 13, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz, though… also known as “the fam.” They’re the ones with which our giving of thanks will be done with. 

This foursome would give fun and kindhearted good cheer to anyone, and we know that the TARDIS can use its time circuits to cook a turkey. The issue here is that we’d turn into the holiday guests who never leave — once we’re in that box, we’re there for life. Deal with it, Timeless Child! You already have three companions, what’s one more? We may even fall in love, but let’s not label anything right now. Pass those carrots, Yaz! 

(2) MALIK Q&A. Lightspeed Magazine features the Pakistani author in “Interview: Usman T. Malik”.

Nine Pakistani artists and designers were commissioned to illustrate your collection. Tell us a little about why you wanted to have each story illustrated.

When I was a child, some of my favorite books were illustrated editions of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. Sketch art and color plates by Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Edward Gorey, and Gustave Doré would send my imagination soaring. This was much before I realized I was a colonial experiment—a middle-class mule with dreams and riches dangled before him as he trots along with a hundred million others. The mule’s been trained to dream a certain way, to crave the carrot and thrill at the whiplash until he thinks those are things he wants. Perhaps—or sometimes—we grow up and realize we want subversion but on our terms, not on the terms of masters past or present.

I wanted those stories illustrated my way. I wanted the Old and New Worlds to meet but at a crossroads of my choosing, at the terms of my people. That is also one reason I opted to bring out my debut collection in Pakistan rather than elsewhere.

(3) DUE DILIGENCE. Camestros Felapton is mulling over ways to decide what he should vote for in the Best Video Game Hugo category in 2021. Today he followed his opening salvo, “Video Game Hugo”, with more deep thoughts in “What is it like to be in a world”.

…Certainly a book or a film can have characters do the same but a video game is obliged to have a consistent behaviour for how this departure from reality works and also forces the player to get to grips with what it would be like to be in a world where such a thing was possible.

Given that, I should really consider the non-narrative SFF elements of a game. Doing so would mean that games without narrative elements should be considered potentially strong contenders….

(4) CHANGING GATE. Congratulations to Black Gate on a successful site migration – a lot of stuff they had to make work: Black Gate is Moving!”

…This wasn’t exactly an easy process (not according to the exhausted late-night calls we got from Support at our new service provider, anyway). It involved moving over 211,000 files, uncounted gigs of images, sound files (who uploaded sound files?), and strange databases apparently created by DAW Books in the 1970s. Our offices look like a Marvel Studios sound stage after a wrap party.

(5) READ SCIENCE FICTION COMMENTARY. Bruce Gillespie has produced another issue of his epic sercon fanzine Science Fiction Commentary – download issue #104 here at eFanzines.

A wide variety of material includes personal stuff (including lockdown pleasures) by Bruce Gillespie; a tribute to Phil Ware by Lync; and Edwina Harvey and Robert Day’s reports on the 2019 and 2020 Worldcons. William Breiding wanders the high cold deserts of USA. Jennifer Bryce, Robert Lichtman, and Guy Salvidge tell of past incidents and accidents in their lives. Michael Bishop, Jenny Blackford, and Tim Train contribute poems. And the ‘Criticanto’ section includes review-articles by Paul Di Filippo, Cy Chauvin, Henry Gasko, Murray MacLachlan, Ian Mond, and Michelle Worthington.

(6) BLACK FRIDAY. Tomorrow Blows Against The Empire: 50th Anniversary will be a SpecialRelease at Record Store Day. John A Arkansawyer sent the link with a comment, “I want it pretty bad. I’ve got the original cover (which this is) and the redo (which moves the title to the top for ease in finding in the bin). I’m hoping for a nice reprint of the booklet to go along with it all.”  The album was a Hugo nominee in 1971.

With most of the members of Jefferson Airplane missing in action, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick holed up in a San Francisco studio in 1970 alongside a cast of West Coast rock ‘n’ roll legends including Jerry Garcia, David Crosby and Mickey Hart to cut what would become Kantner’s finest solo work, his rock space-opera, Blows Against The Empire. This 180g 50th anniversary edition LP is pressed on green marble vinyl for RSD Black Friday.

Side A: “Mau Mau (Amerikon)”, “The Baby Tree”, “Let’s Go Together”, “A Child Is Coming”
Side B: “Sunrise,” “Hijack”, “Home”, “Have You Seen The Stars Tonite”, “X-M”, “Starship”

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 26, 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered. It was directed by Leonard Nimoy who wrote it with Harve Bennett. It was produced by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett. It starred the entire original original Trek cast. It would lose out to Aliens at Conspiracy ’87. The film’s less than serious attitude and rather unconventional story were well liked by critics and fans of the original series along with the general public. It was also a box office success. And it has an exemplary eighty-three percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 26, 1909 – Berkeley Livingston.  One novel, five dozen shorter stories for Amazing and Fantastic under his own name and others, called fast-paced, imaginative, tightly-plotted, or parody that unfairly gave him a reputation as an author of bad work – you pay your money and you take your choice.  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1910 Cyril Cusack. Fireman Captain Beatty on the classic version of Fahrenheit 451. He’s Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper in Nineteen Eighty-four, and several roles on Tales of the Unexpected rounds out his genre acting. Well and what looks like an absolutely awful Tam-Lin… (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born November 26, 1919 Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honoured for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards, and his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA madr him its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993 and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. Ok, setting aside Awards which are fucking impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Galaxy Science Fiction and (and its UK sister edition), IfStar Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not not but that was true of most SF writers of the time.  (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born November 26, 1939 Tina Turner, 81. She gets noted here if only for being the oh so over the top Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in Tommy as well and for appearing as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero which is at least genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born November 26, 1939 – Gaelyn Gordon.  Eight novels, as many shorter stories.  Quit teaching, went to writing, because “the people I teach … [I] often have a fairly good idea of what sort of adults they’ll be; I haven’t the faintest idea what the story I’m writing [will] turn out to be.”  At her death the New Zealand Children’s Literature Foundation established an award in her name for children’s books unheralded at the time of publication which stayed in print and proved popular with children.  In Several Things are Alive and Well and Living in Alfred Brown’s Head AB’s brain is taken over by aliens.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1945 Daniel Davis, 75. I’m singling him out for Birthday Honors for having his two excellent appearances as Professor Moriarty on Next Gen. He has one-offs on MacGyverGotham and Elementary. He played The Judge in The Prestige film. He also voiced several characters on the animated Men in Black series. (CE) 
  • Born November 26, 1949 – Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 71.  Two Hugos as Best Fanartist; also pro work.  Eighty covers, fifty interiors for us; more elsewhere (e.g. here is a plein air watercolor).  Guest of Honor at Windycon X; Kubla Khan 14 with Frank R. Paul Award.  Guest Artist at the 11th World Fantasy Con.  Here is The Harper Hall of Pern.   Here is Masters of Glass.  Here is The Eyes of the Overworld.   Here is the Sep 91 SF Chronicle.  [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1951 Van Ikin, 69. Australian editor and writer best known for his editorship of the long-running critical journal Science Fiction. He also edited Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature, and has reviewed genre fiction for the The Sydney Morning Herald since 1984. It’s unfortunate that his twenty-year-old Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction hasn’t been updated. He also edited a number of genre anthologies sometime back. (CE) 
  • Born November 26, 1955 – Tracy Hickman, 65.  Fifty novels with Margaret Weis, ten with T’s wife Laura Hickman, ten more.  Role-playing games.  Funded the Parsec Awards with Mur Lafferty and Michael Mennenga.  Guest of Honor at MisCon I, StellarCon XI, LepreCon 22,  CONduit 14.  T & L Toastmasters at 46th World Fantasy Con.  [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1973 – Peter Facinelli, 47.  Actor, director, producer, including SF e.g. SupergirlSupernovaTwilight & sequels.  One novel (with Robert DeFranco & Barry Lyga). [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1986 – Sarah Doebereiner, 34.  Five short stories for us, several others. “The work should speak for itself.  The author is just a conduit.”  [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1988 — Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, 32. He played Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the Game of Thrones for five seasons. That’s it for his genre acting, but he co-founded Icelandic Mountain Vodka whose primary product is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. Surely something Filers can appreciate! (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TWO WILD AND CRAZY GUYS. In the Washington Post, Donald Liebenson interviews Steve Martin, whose new book A Wealth Of Pigeons consists of over 130 cartoons by New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss with Steve Martin providing the captions. “’A Wealth of Pigeons,’ by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss Q&A”.

Q: Cartoonists don’t have the luxury stand-up comedians have of honing a bit in front of an audience. One of the cartoons in the book shows Steve trying out a cartoon on his wife, his young daughter and, finally, his cat. How do you two know a cartoon is ready to go out into the world?

Martin: This is a medium where there is barely feedback. For the first time in my life, I’m going with, “Well, I think it’s funny.” Because when I do stand-up and I think it’s funny and the audience doesn’t, it’s out the next day. In a strange way, this is more fun, because you just kind of believe in it. Some days I go back to cartoons we’ve written, and I go, “I don’t get it anymore,” and some of them grow in their humor.

Bliss: Every Sunday is my syndicate deadline, so I have to come up with six cartoons, which isn’t a big deal, because outside of raking the leaves and piling firewood, there’s not much else I do. I think it’s instinctual. If something makes me laugh and then I send it to Steve and we both think it’s funny, it’s a go.

(11) TRAILER TIME. The technology that makes it easy to do promotional trailers intrigues me. I should do a File 770 trailer. Meanwhile —

Titan Comics and Guerrilla Games are proud to announce an all-new graphic novel set after the events of the critically acclaimed, award-winning video game Horizon Zero Dawn.

(12) TWO CHAIRS. In Episode 41 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, titled “A series of perfect murders”, Perry Middlemiss discusses The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan, and David Grigg talks about The Survivors by Jane Harper, and he also raves about the work of Tana French plus several other books in the crime and mystery genres.

(13) A GLOWING SPOT. “A Boston Dynamics robot dog is going to Chernobyl” – and Mashable is following the story (at a safe distance.) Video at the link.

The four-legged robot ‘Spot’ is being pegged as a replacement for humans, who carry out routine, yet risky, measurements around the contaminated Chernobyl site. The long-term goal is to have the robots help take Chernobyl apart and have it safely decommissioned. 

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Stanley Kubrick:  A Life in Pictures” on YouTube is a 2001 documentary, narrated by Tom Cruise and directed by Jan Harlan, that gives a comprehensive overview of Kubrick’s life and career, including extensive segments about Dr Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining.  The film includes about five minutes of Arthur C. Clarke talking about 2001 and one brief interview of Brian W. Aldiss talking about A.I., which Steven Spielberg took over after Kubrick’s death.

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

Peabody Awards: 2019 Winners

The Peabody Awards has named 30 programs as the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and digital media during 2019.

Here is the complete list of winners in the Entertainment category, which include programs of genre interest Chernobyl, Stranger Things and Watchmen. .

ENTERTAINMENT

  • “Chernobyl” HBO Miniseries and SKY in association with Sister, The Mighty Mint, and Word Games (HBO)

This emotionally searing miniseries about the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and political aftermath is written, acted, and composed to perfection.

  • “David Makes Man” Page Fright and Outlier Productions in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)

This visually stunning coming-of-age drama by Tarell Alvin McCraney follows a gifted 14-year-old African American boy (superbly acted by Akili McDowell) growing up in the projects in Florida and haunted by the death of a friend.

  • “Dickinson” Apple / wiip / Anonymous Content / Tuning Fork Productions / Sugar 23 Productions (Apple TV+)

While set in the appropriate time, this historical dramedy about famous poet Emily Dickinson is infused and energized by a fresh, contemporary sense and sensibility.

  • “Fleabag” All3Media International Limited and Amazon Studios (Prime Video)

Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes and stars in the second season of the hilarious and caring show about a woman struggling with the death of a friend, and attraction to a hot priest.

Ramy Youssef writes and stars in a touching, thoughtful, and very funny sitcom focusing on a first-generation American Muslim and his family in New Jersey.

Season three continues the fun, nostalgic, horror-meets-sci-fi series about a group of adolescents fighting dark forces in their 1980s Indiana town.

  • “Succession” HBO Entertainment in association with Project Zeus, Hyperobject Industries, and Gary Sanchez Productions (HBO)

Boasting one of the best ensembles on television, the second season of this satiric comic drama follows the devolution of the fictional Roy media magnate family, and their battles over who will succeed its imperial patriarch.

  • “Unbelievable” Timberman-Beverly Productions, Sage Lane Productions, Escapist Fare, Katie Couric Media, and CBS Television Studios for Netflix (Netflix)

The superb dramatization of intersecting, albeit vastly-differently-executed investigations into a serial rapist, features standout performances from Toni Collette, Merritt Weaver, and Kaitlyn Dever.

  • “Watchmen” HBO in association with White Rabbit, Paramount, Warner Bros. Television and DC (HBO)

Brilliantly penned by Damon Lindelof, this high concept sci-fi superhero show refashions the famed DC Comics series to tell a story about racism, policing, fear, and more.

  • “When They See Us” Participant Media, Tribeca Productions, Harpo Films, Array Filmworks for Netflix (Netflix)

Devastating and commanding, the powerful miniseries from Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five case and the lives it ruined, offers riveting work from a strong ensemble cast.

The organization also announced FRONTLINE and The Simpsons as recipients of Institutional Awards. This distinctive honor goes to programs that have made a significant impact on media programming and the cultural landscape. Cicely Tyson was named winner of the Peabody Career Achievement Award on Monday.

INSTITUTIONAL AWARD: THE SIMPSONS

On December 17, 1989, the clouds parted in the now-iconic opening sequence of “The Simpsons,” inviting the world into the town of Springfield for the first time. Already well known to fans of “The Tracey Ullman Show”—which ran a series of animated shorts by creator Matt Groening starting in 1987—Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie would soon rocket to international fame. “The Simpsons,” with nearly 700 full episodes to date, is now the longest-running scripted prime-time series in American television history, and likely the most globally recognized program in history.

Following a decade of earnest family sitcoms, the brash yellow splash of “The Simpsons” on TV cleared the way for a more satiric-parodic, deeply ironic mode of comedy. From the outset, the program was eager to question and rib not just the medium its viewers grew up on, but the beliefs upon which they were structured. Decades later, the effect of its witty humor and willingness to question authority is evident in similarly important comedies that followed in Homer’s four-toed path.

“The Simpsons” expanded notions of what the sitcom could be. It gifted us a wonderful family caught between the poles of father Homer’s delightful ignorance and daughter Lisa’s endearing brilliance, a family that would fumble, fight, and fail, and yet who loved each other in spite of it all. It boldly and inventively ushered animation back into primetime. And it has found ways to remain funny, fresh, and insightful while trusting and respecting its audience’s intelligence. In one episode, Homer thumps his television angrily, demanding that it “be more funny.” Peabody commends “The Simpsons” writers, animators, and cast for answering Homer’s call for 30 years.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/16/20 And Faintly Falling, Like The Descent Of Their Last End, Upon All The Scrolling And The Filed

(1) STUCK INSIDE. BBC’s Doctor Who site has posted a new short story by Paul Cornell, “The Shadow Passes”. The setup is —

… She’d been thinking that when Graham had found the sign. It had said, the letters wobbling a little in the way that indicated the TARDIS was translating for them, ‘This way to the shelters’.

‘Am I over-reacting,’ Graham had said, ‘or is that just a tiny bit worrying?’

Which was how they’d ended up in a bare room, one hundred feet underground, sitting in a circle, with the names of famous people stuck to their foreheads….

(2) BOUCHERCON CANCELLED. The annual mystery convention, which was to have been held in Sacramento, CA in October has been cancelled. Provisions will be made for the Anthony Awards and some other components of the con.

We’re terribly sad to tell you this, but out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and safety of our community, we are canceling Bouchercon 2020.

We have no way of knowing what the balance of this year holds for groups of people gathering, nor can we tell what the state of travel will be.

While we are canceling the actual Bouchercon convention, we are working to develop a different format for some of the Bouchercon events and activities such as the Anthony Awards, the short story anthology and the General Membership meeting. Nominations will continue to be open until June 5 for the Anthony Awards. As we work to develop other ways to present a traditional Bouchercon experience, we’ll keep in touch with you.

(3) VINTAGE ROLL. Via Shelf Awareness, a photo from the owners of a Sewickley, PA bookstore: “Toilet Paper Shortage Update: Penguin Bookshop”.

I inherited this 25-year-old roll of penguin toilet paper when I bought the Penguin in 2014. And darn it! Come hell or high water (or no more tp) we aren’t going to use it now.

Jim Freund said online, “I think The Penguin Shop, formerly headquartered in Brooklyn and with a physical store at the South Street Seaport called ‘Next Stop, South Pole’ used to carry that TP.  25 years ago sounds about right, so they may well have gotten it from there.”

(4) PAINT YOUR STARSHIP. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler finds women sff authors in 1965 – but it isn’t easy: “[Apr. 16, 1965] The Second Sex In Sff, Part VIII”. Six are named in this post.

It’s been almost two years since the last edition of our The Second Sex in SFF series came out.  In that time, women have only gotten more underrepresented in our genre.  Nevertheless, new women authors continue to arrive on the scene, and some who produced under gender-ambiguous names have become known to me…

(5) WHY THE FUTURE IS COVERED IN KUDZU. Geoff Manaugh, in “Tax Incentives and the Human Imagination” on Bldgblog, says that the landscape of horror films often depends on which state or country offers the biggest tax deductions, including such obscure ones as the amount of expenses caterers can deduct.

…My point is that an entire generation of people—not just Americans, but film viewers and coronavirus quarantine streamers and TV binge-watchers around the world—might have their imaginative landscapes shaped not by immaterial forces, by symbolic archetypes or universal rules bubbling up from the high-pressure depths of human psychology, but instead by tax breaks offered in particular U.S. states at particular moments in American history.

You grow up thinking about Gothic pine forests, or you fall asleep at night with visions of rain-soaked Georgia parking lots crowding your head, but it’s not just because of the aesthetic or atmospheric appeal of those landscapes; it’s because those landscapes are, in effect, receiving imaginative subsidies from local business bureaus. You’re dreaming of them for a reason….

(6) READ A KIJ JOHNSON STORY. Us in Flux is a new series of short stories and virtual gatherings from the Center for Science and the Imagination that explore themes of community, collaboration, and collective imagination in response to transformative events. The project’s second story launched today: “An Attempt at Exhausting My Deck,” by Kij Johnson.

On Monday, April 20 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have a virtual event on Zoom with Kij in conversation with Jessie Rack, an ecologist and coordinator for the Supporting Environmental Education and Communities program at the University of Arizona.

Programming Note: They’ll have two more weekly installments (stories by Chinelo Onwualu and Tochi Onyebuchi), then continue publishing on a biweekly schedule.  

(7) DENNEHY OBIT. Actor Brian Dennehy has died at the age of 81. His genre work included the movie Cocoon (1985), the Masters of Science Fiction episode “The Discarded” (2007) – based on a Harlan Ellison story, and voice work in Ratatouille (2007).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 15, 1955 Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 16, 1913 Lester Tremayne. Between 1953 and 1962, he appeared in these in these genre films: The War of the WorldsForbidden PlanetThe Monolith MonstersThe Angry Red Planet and Kong vs. Godzilla. He’d later appear in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaMy Favorite MartianMy Living Doll (yes, it’s SF) and Shazam! (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 16, 1918 Spike Milligan. Writer and principal star of The Goon Show which lampooned  a number of genre works such as H. Rider Haggard’s She, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and Quatermass and the Pit. You can find these scripts in The Goon Show Scripts and More Goon Show Scripts. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: a James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction sounds fascinating published in the late Fifties, he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both a radio and television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 58. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb.
  • Born April 16, 1963 Scott Nicolay, 57. Navajo writer whose “Do You Like to Look At Monsters?“ was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. It’s found in his Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer the Other the Damned and the Doomed collection. He hosts The Outer Dark, a weekly podcast about weird fiction.
  • Born April 16, 1983 Thomas Olde Heuvelt, 37. He won a Novelette Hugo at Sasquan for “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” (translated by Lia Belt). He’s best for HEX, a horror novel, and  “You Know How the Story Goes: A Tor.com Original”  is his other English language story. 

(10) BIRTHDAY QUIZ. And via Lise Andreasen (translated from this tweet):

Who am I?
One of my names is þórhildur.
I appear on stamps from Greenland.
One of my ancestors was Harald Bluetooth.
I illustrated Tolkien under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer.
I turn 80 today. 

Answer: The Danish queen. 

(11) CAN YOU DO THIS? Wil Wheaton publicized an opportunity for 3D makers to help frontline workers: “Gamers vs. COVID-19”. Contact info at the link.

My upcoming eSports competition show, Gamemaster, has been delayed like everything else, but the people involved wanted to use the resources they had already mustered for production to do some good at a moment in time when it’s so desperately needed.

So we’re organizing to 3D print what we can for our frontline healthcare workers!

(12) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Anna Nemtova, in “Chernobyl Is Burning and a Sci-Fi Cult Is Blamed” on The Daily Beast, says that there are substantial fires in Ukraine near Chenobyl (closed to all visitors because of the coronavirus) and authorities blame “stalkers,” devotees of the Arkady and Boris Strugatsky novel Roadside Picnic, who are living on refuse left behind in the new sealed-off region, just like the “stalkers” in the Strugatsky brothers’ novel were scavengers who lived on refuse left behind by alien visitors.

…The Ukrainian state agency monitoring radiation levels has reported toxic lithium in the air, but the health minister reportedly says radiation levels are normal. Meanwhile, winds have brought the smoke in the direction of Kyiv, making hundreds of thousands of people under COVID-19 quarantine think twice before opening windows.

As often happens with wildfires, the cause of the blaze is not entirely clear. But in a truly strange twist, many in the region blame people who call themselves “stalkers,” inspired by characters in the classic science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic published back in 1972, in the Soviet era, by authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. 

It’s a story of how people on Earth deal with a visit by aliens who seem to have stopped off, paid little attention to the inhabitants, and, like irresponsible picnickers, left a lot of their junk lying around in half a dozen “Zones” on the planet. The aliens’ discarded refuse has enormous potential to change life on the planet, if only humans can figure out what it’s for. 

Most of the present-day stalkers are respectful of the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl and some have even fixed up abandoned apartments in the abandoned town of Pripyat. But there are also criminals, and there are constant conflicts with what had been booming legal tourism in the area before coronavirus lockdowns began March 16.

“They hate us tourist guides and our tourists,” Olena Gnes from Chernobyl Tour told The Daily Beast. “Now, when no tourists can travel to Chernobyl’s zone, the ghost city and the villages around belong to them.” 

“The fire started right on the paths, where stalkers normally walk,” said Yaroslav Emelianenko, director of the Chernobyl Tour group, who saw the fire and visited burned villages Sunday, then returned to Kyiv to collect generators, respirators, and other aid for firefighters….

(13) SILVER SLATE. To make sure the Dragon Awards continue to enjoy the reputation they have today, Superversive SF signal boosted “Silver Empire’s Slate for the 2020 Dragon Awards”. Silver Empire publisher Russell Newquist’s stable includes all of these authors, plus John C. Wright and more.

Silver Empire’s Slate for the 2020 Dragon Awards

  • Best Sci Fi: Overlook by Jon Mollison
  • Best Fantasy (incl. Paranormal): Victory’s Kiss by Bokerah Brumley
  • Best YA: The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright
  • Best Mi-SF: Justified by Jon Del Arroz
  • Best Alt History: This Deadly Engine by (Philip) Matt Ligon
  • Best Horror: Deus Vult by Declan Finn

(14) RHETORIC…ARISTOTLE…SOMETHING. Five years later (!), Chris Nuttall is still trying to reshape what the Sad and Rabid Puppies did into an argument he can win: “The Right to be Wrong”.

…For example, a few years ago, I attended a panel at a convention that touched on the Sad Puppies controversy.  One of the panellists put forward an argument that went a little like this: “Vox Day supports the Sad Puppies, Vox Day is a fascist bastard, therefore the Sad Puppies are evil.”  Quite apart from the sheer number of inaccuracies in the statement, it misses the fundamental point that [whatever] is not rendered right or wrong by whoever says it.  Just because Vox Day said something doesn’t make it automatically wrong.  That argument leads to logical fallacies like “Hitler was a vegetarian and openly promoted the lifestyle, therefore vegetarians are evil.”  I’m pretty sure that every last vegetarian would find that fallacy offensive.

The Sad Puppies affair does show, on a small scale, the problems caused by bad faith arguments.  No one would have objected to a statement that started “the Sad Puppy books are not Hugo-worthy” and gone on to give a calm and reasonable argument.  Even if the arguments were unconvincing, they would not have the corrosive effects of bad faith arguments like the one I mentioned above and many more. …

(15) AT THE CORE. “Astronomers saw a star dancing around a black hole. And it proves Einstein’s theory was right”CNN has the details.

… Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity suggested the orbit would look like an ellipse, but it doesn’t. The rosette shape, however, holds up Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“Einstein’s general relativity predicts that bound orbits of one object around another are not closed, as in Newtonian gravity, but precess forwards in the plane of motion,” said Reinhard Genzel, in a statement. He is the director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

…Sagittarius A* is the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It’s 26,000 light-years from the sun. Our solar system exists on the edge of one of the Milky Way’s massive spiral arms.

Dense stars can be found around the black hole. One of them, the star known as S2 in this observation, passes closest to the black hole within less than 20 billion kilometers.

It’s one of the closest stars to be found orbiting the black hole.

And when it nears the black hole, the star is moving at 3% the speed of light. It takes 16 Earth years for the star to complete an orbit around the black hole.

“After following the star in its orbit for over two and a half decades, our exquisite measurements robustly detect S2’s Schwarzschild precession in its path around Sagittarius A*,” said Stefan Gillessen, who led the analysis of the measurements at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

(16) PYRAMID IN THE SKY. “Europe’s Cheops telescope begins study of far-off worlds”.

Europe’s newest space telescope has begun ramping up its science operations.

Cheops was launched in December to study and characterise planets outside our Solar System.

And after a period of commissioning and testing, the orbiting observatory is now ready to fulfil its mission.

Early targets for investigation include the so-called “Styrofoam world” Kelt-11b; the “lava planet” 55 Cancri-e; and the “evaporating planet” GJ-436b.

Discovered in previous surveys of the sky, Cheops hopes to add to the knowledge of what these and hundreds of other far-flung objects are really like.

…Kelt-11b has provided a good early demonstration. This is a giant exoplanet some 30% larger than our own Jupiter that orbits very close to a star called HD 93396. Kelt-11b is a seemingly “puffed up” world with a very low density – hence the comparison with expanded foam.

From the way the light from the star dips when Kelt-11b moves in front to make its transit, Cheops’ exquisite photometer instrument is able to determine the planet’s diameter to be 181,600km (plus or minus 4,290km). This measurement is over five times more precise than was possible using a ground-based telescope.

(17) MATTER OF IMPORTANCE. BBC reports “Biggest cosmic mystery ‘step closer’ to solution”.

Stars, galaxies, planets, pretty much everything that makes up our everyday lives owes its existence to a cosmic quirk.

The nature of this quirk, which allowed matter to dominate the Universe at the expense of antimatter, remains a mystery.

Now, results from an experiment in Japan could help researchers solve the puzzle – one of the biggest in science.

It hinges on a difference in the way matter and antimatter particles behave.

…During the first fractions of a second of the Big Bang, the hot, dense Universe was fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs popping in and out of existence. Without some other, unknown mechanism at play, the Universe should contain nothing but leftover energy.

“It would be pretty boring and we wouldn’t be here,” Prof Stefan Söldner-Rembold, head of the particle physics group at the University of Manchester, told BBC News.

So what happened to tip the balance?

That’s where the T2K experiment comes in. T2K is based at the Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory, based underground in the Kamioka area of Hida, Japan.

(18) VACCINE RESEARCH. “Global race to a COVID-19 vaccine” — a bit Harvard-centric, but a lot of detail on various approaches.

In Dan Barouch’s lab, many researchers have not taken a day off since early January, and virtually all are working nearly seven days week to develop a vaccine that could help end the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everybody wants to contribute to this global crisis as best they can,” said Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The team hopes their work will be worth it. There is cause for optimism.

The lab developed a vaccine in collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos., the drug-making arm of Johnson & Johnson. It plans to launch clinical trials in the fall as part of a joint $1 billion collaboration agreement announced by the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson on March 30…..

(19) ALGOLRITHIM AND BLUES. “Coronavirus: Facebook alters virus policy after damning misinformation report”.

Facebook is changing how it treats Covid-19 misinformation after a damning report into its handling of the virus.

Users who have read, watched or shared false coronavirus content will receive a pop-up alert urging them to go the World Health Organisation’s website.

A study had indicated Facebook was frequently failing to clamp down on false posts, particularly when they were in languages other than English.

Facebook said the research did not reflect the work it had done recently.

The California tech firm says it will start showing the messages at the top of news feeds “in the coming weeks”.

The messages will direct people to a World Health Organisation webpage where myths are debunked.

The changes have been prompted by a major study of misinformation on the platform across six languages by Avaaz, a crowdfunded activist group.

Researchers say millions of Facebook users continue to be exposed to coronavirus misinformation, without any warning on the platform.

The group found some of the most dangerous falsehoods had received hundreds of thousands of views, including claims like “black people are resistant to coronavirus” and “Coronavirus is destroyed by chlorine dioxide”.

(20) WHAT GOES AROUND. The coronavirus has turned this bus into the “Dave Kyle says you can’t sit here” Express. (Reference explained at the link.)

(21) KEEP THEM DOGIES ROLLIN’. Digital Trends tells how “Stanford’s shape-shifting ‘balloon animal’ robot could one day explore space”.

The cool thing about balloon animals is that, using the same basic inflatable building blocks, a skilled person can create just about anything you could ask for. That same methodology is what’s at the heart of a recent Stanford University and University of California, Santa Barbara, soft robotics project. Described by its creators as a “large-scale isoperimetric soft robot,” it’s a human-scale robot created from a series of identical robot roller modules that are mounted onto inflatable fabric tubes. Just like the balloon animals you remember, this leads to some impressive shape-shifting inventiveness….

[Thanks to Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff (this is the other half of a suggestion, the first part of which ran last year on June 15).]

Genre Footnotes from the 2020 Grammys

The winners of the 62nd GRAMMY Awards included two composers of interest to Filers:

60. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media
Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, a current legitimate motion picture, television show or series, video games or other visual media.

  • CHERNOBYL
    Hildur Guðnadóttir, composer

62. Best Instrumental Composition
A Composer’s Award for an original composition (not an adaptation) first released during the Eligibility Year. Singles or Tracks only.

  • STAR WARS: GALAXY’S EDGE SYMPHONIC SUITE
    John Williams, composer (John Williams)

DGA Awards 2020 Winners

The winners of the 72nd DGA Awards presented by the Directors Guild of America on January 25 included the directors of a Watchmen episode, and the genre-adjacent Chernobyl miniseries.  

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series

NICOLE KASSELL – Watchmen, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice” (HBO)

Ms. Kassell’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Managers: Karen Wacker, Ron Schmidt, Joseph E. Iberti
  • First Assistant Director: Keri Bruno
  • Second Assistant Directors: Lisa Zugschwerdt, Ben White
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Jessie Sasser White

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Limited Series

JOHAN RENCK – Chernobyl (HBO)

The complete list of winners follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 7/26/19 Scroll-Fly Pie And Pixel-Pan Dowdy

(1) MARY SUE ORIGIN STORY. [Item by Jerry Kaufman.] This recent article from the London Review of Books is about fandom, or fandoms as the case may be, the woman who identified the “Mary Sue”, and her recent writing. (I am the real Jerry Kaufman – accept no other) – “On Sophie Collins”. (Registration required to read full article.)

A ‘Mary Sue’ is an implausibly skilful, attractive or successful protagonist who seems to be a stand-in for the author, especially in fanfiction. The term comes from Paula Smith’s parodic story ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’ (1973), originally published in a mimeographed journal for Star Trek fans. In mocking ‘Mary Sue’, Smith was not attacking fanfiction but trying to bolster its literary quality against fans who used it naively for wish fulfilment. Most of these fans were (like Smith) female. As the term, and the critique, became more common, some fans, and some feminist critics, pushed back. They saw fan communities, and the defiantly unprofessional cultural production that emerged from them, as a kind of safe space, where the rules imposed by a patriarchal outside world about what one can say, and who one can be, could be ignored.

(2) ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE. “City Council Votes to Name Bronx Street ‘Stan Lee Way’ in Honor of Comic Book Genius, Spider-Man Creator” — New York TV station NBC-4 has the story.

Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s proposal aims to honor Stan Lee’s Bronx roots by co-naming a section of University Avenue between Brandt Place and West 176th Street after the comic book genius.

The city council voted Tuesday to approve the proposal.

… “Stan Lee was a Bronx native who grew up in my district,” said Cabrera. “Stan Lee was a creative genius who co-created iconic super heroes including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther and more. Mr. Lee’s amazing talent brought joy and entertainment to countless children and adults and he deserves to be permanently memorialized in his home borough, the Bronx.”

(3) BUILDING A STORY WITH MAGIC. Juliette Wade’s new Dive Into Worldbuilding introduces readers to “Julie Czerneda and The Gossamer Mage. View the video interview, and/or read the summary notes at the link. 

…I asked her where the idea for the book started, and she said it started with a pen – and proceeded to show us the pen in question! She brought a lot of cool props to show us, so I encourage you all to check out the video if you’re curious about them.

One of the things that Julie explored while writing this was the history of ink. Battles were fought over areas of the world that provided good ink ingredients, and pirates stole ink as well as other things.

I’ve always found constrained magic systems very interesting, so I asked her to tell us about the magic system she used in The Gossamer Mage. Julie said she agreed with me that she liked constrained systems. She said she liked it when everyone knows how to use the magic, but wait, it’s not so simple. This particular magic system is constrained in part because it requires writing, which means it requires a particular type of scholarship. You have to be able to write words that are not human words, and to intend them. Further, this magic can only be done in the one place in the world where magic remains. One important ingredient here is that magic used to be in more of the world, but is no longer present except in one region, ringed with mountains.

Thus, magic is constrained physically, and it is constrained to scholars….

(4) BOOK MAKER. Shelf Awareness does a Q&A with Babylon-5 creator, who recently published his autobiography Becoming Superman: “Reading with… J. Michael Straczynski”.

On your nightstand now: 

Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I believe that an appreciation of poetry is essential for any writer in any field. That economy of language reminds you of the importance of choosing exactly the right word, not the word next to the right one on the shelf. On a conceptual level, I admire Ferlinghetti’s writing which comes at you from a right angle with a huge impact, so I reread his work every couple of years to keep my brain flexible.

(5) HE WHO OVERCOMES. Then, Cory Doctorow does an epic review of “J Michael Straczynski’s “Becoming Superman”: a memoir of horrific abuse, war crimes, perseverance, trauma, triumph and doing what’s right” at BoingBoing.

And so, drip by drip, crumb by crumb, inch by inch, Straczynski manages to become a writer, and it turns out that not only can he write to deadline, he’s really good at it. Even projects that seem silly or trivial on their face, like writing for He-Man or The Real Ghostbusters, are treated with such intense seriousness that they just kill.

But this being Hollywood, where, famously, nobody knows anything, every success that Straczynski ekes out is eventually scuttled by venality, cowardice, grift, or all three, as greedy execs and bullshit-slinging consultants demand that he compromise on what he knows is right. And Straczynski being Straczynski — being the survivor of a campaign of terror visited upon him by a literal Nazi — refuses to back down, because despite the mountain of shit he’s climbed to get where he is, the prospect of falling down to the bottom is incapable of scaring him beyond his threshold of tolerability.

And, remarkably, despite industry concentration and a thousand variations of “you’ll never work in this town again,” Straczynski continues to work. His story is a beautiful parable about how luck is made: the way it’s told, it seems like Straczynski has a horseshoe up his ass, with opportunities dropping appearing over the horizon just a little faster than the burn-rate of the bridges he’s torched behind him, but when you look a little closer, you realize that the most improbable thing here isn’t the opportunities, but rather Straczynski’s relentless, singleminded determination to seize them, writing (for example) entire seasons of his TV shows when the studios’ dumb mistakes leave them shorthanded.

(6) REVOLUTIONARY DATA. Can you imagine Brent Spiner playing John Adams in 1776? There’s a concept. He’s the guest on the latest Maltin on Movies podcast.

Forever to be remembered as Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: the Next Generation and other treks to follow, Brent Spiner is a versatile actor and performer with notable Broadway credits—and two fervent fans in Leonard and Jessie, who saw him play John Adams in a masterful revival of 1776. He’s happy to discuss all facets of his career, from musical theater to his memorable role in Independence Day. Even longtime fans may learn things they didn’t already know about Brent in this delightful chat.

(7) THIS IS COOL. The earth seen from outer space —  here is a visualization of how Planet’s satellites assemble swatches of remote sensing tiles to complete a global observation in 24 hours:

In four years, Planet has flown on 18 successful launches and deployed 293 satellites successfully into low Earth orbit. With more than 150 satellites currently in orbit, Planet has the largest constellation of Earth imaging satellites in history.

As you may notice, the satellites are not always taking photos (or sending / “beaming” the data down to Earth). Parts of the landmass can also be missing due to complete cloud cover that day. See the Amazon, Central Africa, or Northern Australia for example.

A companion piece reveals more about the satellites themselves; the “doves”, “RapidEyes”, and “SkySats”. Explaining their sizes, the numbers out there already and the types of images they capture. Check out the story here!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1883 Edwin Balmer. Together with author Philip Wylie, he penned When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. The first was made into the 1951 movie by George Pal. He also wrote several detective novels and collaborated with William MacHarg on The Achievements of Luther Trant, an early collection of detective short stories. The latter are not genre, despite being listed as ISFDB as I’ve read them. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class decades ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1919 James Lovelock, 99. Just shy of a century now in life, the Gaia theorist wrote a genre novel with Michael Allaby, The Greening of Mars, of the transformation of the red planet into a green one.  His newest work, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, thinks that hyperintelligent machines are coming into being by our own hand and that we better be prepared for their arrival. 
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 74. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time.
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 74. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor,62. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the best of the Trek series to date. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit.
  • Born July 26, 1971 Mary Anne Mohanraj, 48. Writer and editor. Founder of Strange Horizons, a genre fiction magazine. She has one genre novel, The Stars That Change, and two stories published in the Wild Cards Universe, “Low Chicago” and “Ties That Bind”. She also an anthology, Without A Map, co-edited with Nnedi Okorafor.
  • Born July 26, 1978 Eve Myles, 41. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. She and the full Torchwood cast did an an BBC 4 Radio Play called  Golden Age in which they time travelled back to Imperial India. Highly recommended. 

(9) THE BOYS. According to NPR’s Glen Weldon, “Superhero Satire ‘The Boys’ Doesn’t Have Much New To Say, But Says It Loudly”.

…Amazon’s new 8-episode series The Boys – about a team of non-powered mercenaries determined to take down the world’s premier team of evil, corrupt, soulless-corporate-shill superheroes – chooses to play in a sandbox that’s seen its share of use. A sandbox that’s been sitting out in the sun and rain and wind for decades, filling up with cigarette butts and cat poop and old toys left by previous storytellers, who’ve hit precisely the same themes.

This is even more true today than it was in 2006, when the comics series The Boys, by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson – from which the Amazon show has been adapted, freely – first debuted.

…What The Boys was, at the time — especially if you’d been reading comics for years — was tiresome, more than anything else: Really? We’re still doing … this?

I’m happy to report that the Amazon series improves on its source material. It does so by taking the comics’ lazy inciting incident – the accidental death-by-superhero of the girlfriend of its main character Hughie (Jack Quaid) – and treating it as something more than solely a plot trigger. The series gives Hughie time to absorb, to grieve, to soak in the brutal incident so – even though it is depicted, lovingly, in garish slow-motion – it becomes something more than another nihilistic gag.

That’s a hallmark of the show, as it turns out. Where the comic was content to steer headlong into bloody spectacle and smugly snicker, the show serves up the spectacle (on a budget) and then … takes the time to inspect it, examine it, unpack it. To legitimately honor it, in other words. In its way.

(10) NEW TENANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE. Zombieland: Double Tap comes to theaters October 18.

A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland 2: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.

(11) CHANNELING TRADER JOE. Fast Company appreciates why “The Trader Joe’s YouTube channel is unexpectedly amazing—and very weird”.

Although wackiness levels vary from video to video, the run times are all wisely kept brief. The only things that run longer than the time it takes to decide between regular avocados and organic ones are the cooking tutorials. Everything else—including charm-infused shorts like Christmas in Germany, produced by Condé Nast Traveler, which mixes traditional animation with stop-motion footage of Pfeffernüsse cookies and other German delicacies—runs at around the one-minute mark, making for a thoroughly undemanding watch.

This one’s very stfnal –

While this one’s just plain funky –

(12) NASFIC/WESTERCON IN UTAH. Rodford Edmiston has posted an album of photos from Spikecon at Flickr. Whether intentionally or not, the photographer showed a genius for standing at the back of a hall in which the only people were in the front row and on the platform.

(13) REUBEN AWARD. Stephan Pastis won the 2018 Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year given by the National Cartoonists Society. The award was announced during the NCS Annual Reuben Awards Weekend in May.

STEPHAN PASTIS is the creator of the daily comic strip Pearls Before Swine, syndicated by Andrews McMeel Syndication. Stephan practiced law in the San Fransisco Bay area before following his love of cartooning and eventually seeing syndication with Pearls, which was launched in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Pearls Before Swine the Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and in 2006. Stephan is also the author of the children’s book series Timmy Failure. Stephan lives in northern California with his wife Staci and their two children.

(14) CHERNOBYL. BBC digs into “The true toll of the Chernobyl disaster” in a long meaty article. Here is a brief excerpt:

Covered up by a secretive Soviet Union at the time, the true number of deaths and illnesses caused by the nuclear accident are only now becoming clear.

Springtime was always the busiest time of year for the women working at the wool processing plant in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine. More than 21,000 tons of wool passed through the factory from farms all across the country during the annual sheep shearing period. The April and May of 1986 were no exception.

The workers pulled 12-hour shifts as they sorted the piles of raw fleece by hand before they were washed and baled. But then the women started getting sick.

Some suffered nosebleeds, others complained of dizziness and nausea. When the authorities were called to investigate, they found radiation levels in the factory of up to 180mSv/hr. Anyone exposed at these levels would exceed the total annual dose considered to be safe in many parts of the world today in less than a minute.

Fifty miles away was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On 26 April 1986 reactor number four at the power plant suffered a catastrophic explosion that exposed the core and threw clouds of radioactive material over the surrounding area as a fire burned uncontrollably.

But Chernihiv was regarded to be well outside the exclusion zone that was hastily thrown up around the stricken plant and readings elsewhere in the town had shown it to have comparatively low levels of radiation.

(15) HAUER’S MASTERPIECE. Bilge Ebiri explains why “Even Now, Rutger Hauer’s Performance in ‘Blade Runner’ Is a Marvel” in the New York Times.

…Had Hauer played Batty as another stone-faced Eurobaddie, “Blade Runner” itself might have been a more comfortably classifiable genre effort, the kind of movie that many viewers expected in 1982, the kind that promised to pit Ford, the star so familiar to us as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, against a new kind of futuristic nemesis. Instead, audiences were thrown off by the knotty neo-noir that Scott and the screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples delivered, the film flopped, and a cult masterpiece was born.

Look no further than Batty’s extended final battle with Deckard to see both the evidence of the movie’s idiosyncratic tone and how Hauer’s remarkable performance enhances it, practically deconstructing the simple plot before our eyes. The replicant chases the beleaguered, frightened Deckard around an abandoned building, toying with the cop and playing singsong children’s games. But there’s still a catch in Batty’s words, slight pauses scattered in unusual places. Seeing that Deckard has killed his replicant lover, Pris (Daryl Hannah), Batty offers, “I thought you were good. Aren’t you the … good man?” The awkwardness of the words, combined with the pause before “good man” seems to question the film’s very moral universe…

(16) X MARKS THE PLOT. ScreenRant fires up another Pitch Meeting – this one for Dark Phoenix.

The X-Men franchise has been running for nearly two decades, and it all culminates with Dark Phoenix, a storyline that the movies already covered in 2006. Once again, Jean Grey goes absolutely bonkers with power, but this time Wolverine isn’t around to stab her. The movie has a pretty awful score on Rotten Tomatoes and definitely raises a lot of questions. Like what’s the deal with the aliens, are they bulletproof or not? Why was Quicksilver dismissed from the movie so quickly? What was up with that Phoenix moment in X-Men Apocalypse? Why do these movies keep jumping forward a decade each time? Is Magneto supposed to be 62 years old, and if so, why is a 42-year-old with no make-up playing him? Why did they show Mystique dying in the trailer?

[Thanks to Jerry Kaufman, Juliette Wade, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, mlex, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #41

Chernobyl: A Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

Chernobyl (****, 2019, 200 minutes) with Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagaitis, Con O’Neill, Adrian Rawlins,Sam Troughton, Robert Emms,Emily Watson, David Dencik, Mark Lewis Jones, Alan Williams, Alex Ferns, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Fares Fares and Michael McElhatton. Written by Craig Mazin, Directed by Johan Renck.  

Bechdel Test: Passes (In Spades)

Yeah

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away
How long?
How long must we sing this song?
How long, how long?
‘Cause tonight, we can be as one
Tonight

Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday…

The opening lyrics of U2’s political horror anthem “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” released in March 1983, three years and one month before the Chernobyl disaster…

In Episode Four of HBO’s historical drama series Chernobyl, entitled “The Happiness of All Mankind,” a Soviet soldier encounters an old woman milking a cow in a barn. This soldier is strict under orders to evacuate every civilian from an ever-widening exclusion zone around the city of Pripyat, the site of the shattered and dangerously radioactive Chernobyl nuclear reactor plant.

As the old woman milks the cow, she calmly maintains that she has seen waves of young men with guns, bolsheviks, revolutionaries, thieves and Germans alike, family and friends murdered or disappeared and she has stayed here on her family farm. And she has no intention of leaving now. Nervous and agitated, the soldier snatches the half-filled container of milk from beneath the cow and unceremoniously dumps it outside. Returning, he finds the old woman has resumed her milking with a different bucket. Angry, he draws his service pistol from his holster, cocks it and forcefully says, “It’s time to leave!” The old woman ignores him.

What happens next shocked me to my core and is one of the most brilliantly disturbing moments in this moving, caustic and infuriating docudrama, and in my opinion, one of the best dramas ever made for television.

Nothing can prepare you for some of the shocking images Chernobyl serves up:

  • The meeting of the city’s party bosses, who decide to conceal the truth from the citizens and cut off communications from the outside world to contain the bad news.
  • The face of a plant engineer, who is ordered, under the threat of force, to go to the roof the shattered reactor building to report on the state of the exploded core, knowing all too well that he will have days to live after peering over the edge into the inferno.
  • A fireman, unknowingly picking up a piece of graphite from the core of the reactor, is on the ground minutes later, holding up a blistered and bloody hand.
  • The irradiated bodies of barely alive first responders, whose flesh is literally melting off of their bodies.  

In the middle of watching Chernobyl, I wrote the following post on my Facebook wall:

After seeing three of Chernobyl’s five episodes, I have no doubt WHATSOEVER that it is one of the most excruciating, shocking, sorrowful dramas in the history of television. It is brilliantly acted through an astonishing ensemble and I have yet to detect a false note in its script or direction.

People, I’ve seen a TON of television in my life and I say this from the heart, you may never see a finer drama in your lifetime than HBO’s Chernobyl. SEE IT!

Over the past few weeks, I have also seen a lot of negative reviews in print and online, maligning Chernobyl as being sensationalistic, overwrought, scientifically and historically inaccurate and generally slanders the former Soviet Union, the people who lived in the city of Pripyat and those who heroically dealt with the crisis.

This, of course, is all bullshit.

Chernobyl’s writer, Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck were very upfront in stating that this production was not a documentary but a fictionalized version of events. In other words, Chernobyl is about as accurate as other historical dramas such as the film adaptations of The Right Stuff, All the President’s Men, Hidden Figures, Chariots of Fire, Selma and Moneyball. These works don’t tell the LITERAL truth of their stories but the ESSENTIAL truth of what happened. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Mazin said that “The lesson of Chernobyl isn’t that modern nuclear power is dangerous. The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism are dangerous”.

And while no docudrama or historical fiction is above criticism or reproach because there have been plenty of ham-fisted and wrongheaded productions that have been produced over the decades. But I get a little annoyed when a remarkable work such as Chernobyl is treated as though it must live up to an impossible standard, when in fact it has made no pretense about being a dramatization, an amalgamation of the true facts mixed with drama. And while drama, mythmaking and truth may not be the same thing but their paths lead in the same direction with a common destination: Illumination.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the mini-series’ emotional heart is anchored by a trio of brilliant, powerhouse performances; veteran character actor Jared Harris portrays Valery Legasov, one of the real scientists who was recruited to help manage the crisis, Stellan Skarsgård as his boss, Boris Shcherbina, a Council of Ministers’ deputy chairman who quickly finds out that all of the political power he wields is no match for the forces of nature he has been commanded by the State to stop; and Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk, a composite character created to stand in for the scores of scientists who persistently  defied the Soviet bureaucracy in order to learn exactly what went wrong with the reactor design and how the accident happened. 

I offer a vivid validation in this review I found on the public comments page of Chernobyl’s IMDB entry, from an actual eyewitness::

They got it right

24 May 2019 | by curiosityonmars

“I was born in Pripyat. I was four years old when the accident happened. Watching it is more horrifying than living through it. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. It’s not like a hurricane or an earthquake that takes you by surprise and causes massive destruction. Here everything looked normal, that day was just like any other day and yet you were told to abandon everything and just leave. The immediate casualties of the accident were not huge, but it had an enormous impact on lives of hundreds of thousands of people. I often think what my life would be like if this didn’t happen.

This mini series is a masterpiece, perfect in every way. Some people are complaining here that the actors don’t speak Russian. I’m a native speaker of Russian and Ukrainian, I don’t want the actors to speak Russian. You get so consumed by this show you stop noticing what language they speak.

It’s not a documentary, so not each and every detail is accurate, yet I would still call it authentic. The creators got the important stuff right… Both of my parents worked at Chernobyl plant, I grew up hearing stories and versions of what happened. I think this show is the best depiction of the Chernobyl disaster and the stories of its victims. This show is to remind all of us of the cost of lies.”

In the weeks that have passed since I saw Chernobyl, I have been thinking about next year’s Hugo Awards ballot and what I might be nominating in the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form category. And, as much as I loved Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, Star Trek Discovery, Black Mirror, The Umbrella Academy and probably the upcoming season of Stranger Things, I cannot bring myself to nominate any of them next year. What U2 sang about the terrorism, riots, bloody countermeasures and lies told in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s, easily applies to the leaders and policies of Soviet Union in the 1980’s and, more significantly, today’s brutally toxic political landscape.

I think that Chernobyl will cast a long shadow for the next generation of visual artists, as the high bar for what can be dramatized and how it should be done. In my opinion, efforts like this should not be ignored nor go unrewarded by the fannish community.

Chernobyl will be the lone entry on my ballot in the BDP-Long Form category next year.

And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die

the real battle just begun
(Sunday, Bloody Sunday) to claim the victory Jesus won

On
Sunday Bloody Sunday, yeah
Sunday Bloody Sunday