Pixel Scroll 11/10/21 Pixel-Heroes Battle Pixel-Gorillas

(1) THE SIX-BODY PROBLEM. There’s a new trailer out for China company Tencent’s production of The Three-Body Problem, which is fueling comparisons with another adaptation forthcoming from Netflix. Will Netflix’ Benioff and Weiss, veterans of Game of Thrones, overlook Chinese cultural subtleties? Will China’s censors allow Tencent to address all of them? Variety begins with a gloss of the trailer: “Tencent’s First ‘Three-Body Problem’ Trailer Sparks Netflix Rivalry”:

…The new Tencent trailer opens with an exchange between two off-screen male voices.

“Have significant accidents ever happened to you in your life?” one asks. “No,” the other replies. “Then your life is a sort of accident,” the first continues. “But isn’t that the case for most people?” the second voice asks, and the first responds, to a backdrop of ominous music with deep foghorn-type blasts that would feel at home on the “Tenet” soundtrack: “Then most people’s lives are all accidents.”

In a final line, a woman’s voice says: “This is the end of humanity.”

Several companies have been trying to produce adaptations of Liu Cixin’s novel.

Tencent nabbed the rights to adapt the story into a TV series way back in 2008. Now, its version is entering a crowded playing field.

There are at least two other “Three-Body Problem” adaptations in the works in China, including a film backed by IP rights holder Yoozoo Group that may have fallen permanently to the wayside and an animated take from Gen Z- and anime-leaning platform Bilibili.

Netflix struck its own deal with Yoozoo to create an English-language adaptation, announcing the project last September. The American version is being co-created by “Game of Thrones” big shots David Benioff and Dan Weiss alongside Alexander Woo (“True Blood”), and will be directed by Hong Kong’s Derek Tsang (“Better Days”).

Chinese social media is pressuring Tencent to do a good job:

“‘Three-Body’ is a story full of Chinese elements told by we Chinese from our Chinese perspective and ways of thinking …to express Chinese people’s values, worldview and view of the universe. These things are very hard for foreigners to express — only we are able to do it,” wrote one popular comment in response to Tencent’s Weibo recent post about the new trailer.

It was outranked by the top comment, liked 27,000 times. It read: “Buck up — you better not lose to Netflix’s nonsense version.”

While nationalist users maintained that only a Chinese production could capture the essence of the story, the novel is set during the Cultural Revolution, which could pose a problem for censors in a Chinese retelling.

Incidentally, here is the trailer Bilibili released in 2019 for its anime adaptation of The Three-Body Problem.

(2) CHIP IN. M.C.A. Hogarth is closing in on the $10K stretch goal of a Kickstarter launched to fund a collection of MilSF short stories set in her Peltedverse: To Discover and Preserve by M.C.A. Hogarth. Two days left – you might want to get in on this.

Alysha Forrest, my oldest Peltedverse character, needs some love, aletsen. Not only does she need some, she deserves it. Though fewer in number than the books comprising the Eldritch canon, the Stardancer/light milsf books of the Peltedverse sell well and without nearly the advertising the Eldritch canon has. I have a bunch of short stories that belong to this side of the timeline, but they’re all Patreon extras or newsletter gifts… and I get questions about where new readers can find them all the time! That means it’s time to collect them for retail. And while I have five stories (enough to credibly issue a single volume), they’re pretty short and could use some friends. 

Hogarth has given fans this incentive to push the Kickstarter past $10K:

…if we do, rather than continuing to pad the collection indefinitely, I will promise to finish writing the latest Alysha novel. This is the only way to guarantee you see it within the next year, since it’s otherwise indefinitely backburnered…. 

(3) CLI-FI. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today premiered a prerecorded video event, “Cli-Mates: Climate Futures Conversations from Scotland,” in collaboration with the Scottish SF magazine Shoreline of Infinity. The event features the SF authors Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken MacLeod, Xia Jia, Libia Brenda, Gabriela Damián Miravete, Tendai Huchu, and Hannah Onoguwe, along with several scholars and editors.

During the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26 (1-12 November, 2021), the eyes of the world are on Glasgow, Scotland, where nations, civil-society groups and activists are meeting to determine the shape of global action in the face of the climate crisis. At this moment, perhaps more than any other, we need creatively expansive thinking about possible futures—stories that help us chart a path towards a just, equitable, sustainable global civilization.

(4) FOUNDATION FX. Apple TV+ shows how it’s done in Foundation — Bringing Visions To Life Featurette”.

From the start, the world’s most dedicated visual effects artists and costume designers established that Foundation would be a show unlike any other on TV.

(5) ONE-TIME OPPORTUNITY. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] I came across this interesting-sounding item on Twitter: On November 18, the Smithsonian Archives department presents Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Visions of the Future on Film, a 1984 film that was part of a NMAH exhibit on “how past visions of the future continue to impact our present and inspire even further futures”, plus commentary from current conservator William Bennett. This is part of the Smithsonian 175th Film Fest, presenting films from the Smithsonian archives.

Due to copyright restrictions, viewers will need to register for a Zoom webinar; the presentation won’t be streamed or saved on YouTube.

(6) FROM AREA 57. “Heinz Debuts ‘Marz Edition’ Ketchup Made With Tomatoes Grown in Mars-Like Conditions” reports Smithsonian Magazine.

On Monday, Heinz revealed its first bottle of “Marz Edition” ketchup, a special recipe made with tomatoes grown in extreme temperature and soil conditions similar to the Red Planet. The team of scientists behind the celestial sauce, which is the product of two years of research and development, says the delicious achievement also advances the possibility of long-term food production on Mars.

“We’re so excited that our team of experts have been able to grow tomatoes in conditions found on another planet and share our creation with the world,” Cristina Kenz of Kraft Heinz said in a statement. “From analyzing the soil from Martian conditions two years ago to harvesting now, it’s been a journey that’s proved wherever we end up, Heinz Tomato Ketchup will still be enjoyed for generations to come.”…

Also note that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night included a “cold open” of Hunt’s trying to one-up Heinz with Uranus catsup—“The best tasting thing to come out of Uranus.” 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966 — Fifty-five years on NBC, Star Trek’s “The Corbomite Maneuver” first aired. It was the tenth episode of the first season, and it was written by Jerry Sohl who had previously written for Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits, The Invaders, and The Twilight Zone. (His other Trek scripts were “Whom Gods Destroy” and “This Side of Paradise”.) It was the first episode that was filmed in which Kelley played Dr. Leonard McCoy, Nichols played Lt. Uhura and Whitney played Yeoman Rand, though we first saw them in “The Man Trap”.  Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, played Balok, and Ted Cassidy, who was Gorn in “Arena” and the android Ruk in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, voiced the Balok puppet here. So did critics like it? No idea as I can’t find any contemporary reviews of it though media critics now love it. Most put it in their top twenty of all the Trek series episodes. It was nominated for a Hugo at NyCon 3, the year that “The Menagerie” won. “The Naked Time” was also nominated that year. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 10, 1924 Russell Johnson. Best known in what is surely genre for being Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan’s Island. His genre career started off with four Fifties films, It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Space Children. He would later appear in both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. On ALF, he would appear as Professor Roy Hinkley in “Somewhere Over the Rerun”.  (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 10, 1932 Roy Scheider. First genre role was as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd in 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. His other major genre performance was as Captain Nathan Bridger in the SeaQuest DSV series. He also has roles in The Curse of the Living Corpse (his first acting role, a very low budget horror film), one of The Punisher films, Dracula III: Legacy and Naked Lunch which may or may not be genre.  I do not consider the Jaws films to be genre, but you may do so. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 10, 1943 Milt Stevens. Today is indeed his Birthday. On the day that OGH announced his unexpected passing did a wonderful post and y’all did splendid commentary about him, so I’ll just send you over there. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 10, 1950 Dean Wesley Smith, 71. Editor of Pulphouse magazine which fortunately Black Gate magazine has provided us with a fascinating history which you can read herePulphouse I first encountered when I collected the works of Charles de Lint who was in issue number eight way back in the summer issue of 1990. As a writer, he is known for his use of licensed properties such as StarTrekSmallvilleAliensMen in Black, and Quantum Leap. He is also known for a number of his original novels, such as the Tenth Planet series written in collaboration with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch. 
  • Born November 10, 1955 Roland Emmerich, 66. Usually I don’t touch upon SJW affairs here (well I do when I want to) but he’s very strong campaigner for the LGBT community, and is openly gay so bravo for him!  Now back to his genre credits.  The Noah’s Ark Principle was in ‘84 by him written and directed by him as his thesis after seeing Star Wars at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film MünchenMoon 44 followed which likely most of you haven’t seen but now we get to his Hollywood films, to wit Universal SoldierThe High Crusade (yes, the Poul Anderson novel — who’s seen it?), StargateIndependence Day… no, I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say he’s created a lot of genre film. And oh, he directed Stonewall, the 2015 look at that historic event which I know isn’t genre or genre adjacent but is worth noting. 
  • Born November 10, 1960 Neil Gaiman, 61. Where to start? By far, Neverwhere is my favorite work by him followed by the Sandman series and Stardust. And I sort of liked American GodsCoraline is just creepy. By far, I think his best script is Babylon 5’s “Day of The Dead” though his Doctor Who episodes, “The Doctor’s Wife” and “Nightmare in Silver” are interesting, particularly the former. 
  • Born November 10, 1971 Holly Black, 50. Best known for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which were created with fellow writer and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, and for the Modern Faerie Tales YA trilogy.  Her first novel was Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. (It’s very, very good.) There have been two sequels set in the same universe. The first, Valiant, won the first Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Doll Bones which is really, really creepy was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Suffice it to say if you like horror, you’ll love her. 
  • Born November 10, 1982 Aliette de Bodard, 39. Author of the oh-so-excellent Xuya Universe series. Her Xuya Universe novella “The Tea Master and the Detective” won a Nebula Award and a British Fantasy Award, and was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Award. “The Shipmaker”, also set herein, won a BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction. Her other major series is The Dominion of the Fallen which is equally lauded. She’s nominated for a Hugo this year for her “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” novelette. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TAKE THE CASH AND THE CREDIT, TOO. [Item by David Doering.] I caught a reference on Cracked about writer credits and comics. A fan asserted that comic writers only starting get credit regularly thanks to Marv Wolfman. I thought, hmmm… Really?

What do you know? It’s true. The Comics Code Authority in the 60s banned mention of “wolfman” in comics, BUT  “In DC Comics’ House of Secrets #83, the book’s host said that the story was told to him by ‘a wandering wolfman.’” Comically [pun intended], DC then credited the story to “Marv Wolfman”, making the reference OK by the CCA. 

After that, writers asking and getting credit for their stories. See full details and scans of the comics at CBR.com: “Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #119”.

(11) FALSE GRIT. Joel Haver assures us “You’ll never find a more sandy planet of sand.” So this is a Dune parody, you assume? Hell no, it’s a Star Wars parody – go figure.

(12) TAKING THE MICK OUT. “Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Blueprints Leaked Online” – and Blog Mickey has a bucket full of what leaked.

A set of blueprints reportedly belonging to the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction have leaked online. The attraction, which has been under construction for more than 4 years, will open sometime in 2022 at EPCOT. The blueprints pull the curtain back a bit on a project that Disney has only slowly revealed information about. It’s unclear how accurate the blueprints are to the final product, but lets take a look….

…As we saw in early construction photos, roller coaster track weaves throughout the building, but the blueprints show just how much track is inside.

It’s unclear how much of the roller coaster track is for the actual attraction, and how much is for the storage, but the majority of the attraction will take place in the large gravity building that was built from scratch for this attraction….

(13) THE GALACTIC HERO BILL. John Scalzi revealed his true net worth today. Don’t you agree that “Billions and billions” is a phrase that suits an sf writer very well?

(14) SHOW NO MERCY. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Young People Read Old SFF introduces the panel to Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.”

“Vaster” takes place in Le Guin’s Hainish setting, where for the most part other worlds are inhabited by variant humans seeded in the ancient past by the Hainish. “Vaster” is an exception: first contact here is not between two branches of humanity but between humans and something very alien. Let’s see what the Young People make of it! 

Sort of like a Beat Bobby Flay episode, the young judges record a split decision.

(15) LOST IN SPACE TRAILER. Official trailer for the third and final season of Lost in Space. All episodes drop December 1 on Netflix.

(16) UNHOBBLING THE HUBBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This latest problem started 23 October. NASA seems cautiously optimistic that the Hubble can make a full recovery. WIRED has the story: “NASA Tries to Save Hubble, Again”.

THE HUBBLE SPACE telescope, one of the most famous telescopes of the 20th and 21st centuries, has faltered once again. After a computer hardware problem arose in late October, NASA engineers put Hubble into a coma, suspending its science operations as they carefully attempt to bring its systems back online.

Engineers managed to revive one of its instruments earlier this week, offering hope that they will end the telescope’s convalescence as they restart its other systems, one at a time. “I think we are on a path to recovery,” says Jim Jeletic, Hubble’s deputy project manager.

The problem began on October 23, when the school bus-sized space probe’s instruments didn’t receive a standard synchronization message generated by its control unit. Two days later, NASA engineers saw that the instruments missed multiple such messages, so they put them in “safe mode,” powering down some systems and shuttering the cameras.

Some problems are fairly easy to fix, like when a random high-energy particle hits the probe and flips a bit on a switch. But when engineers encounter an unknown problem, they’re meticulous. The slow process is designed to protect Hubble’s systems and make sure the spacecraft continues to thrive and enable scientific discovery for as long as possible. “You don’t want to continually put the instruments in and out of safe mode. You’re powering things on and off, you’re changing the temperature of things over and over again, and we try to minimize that,” Jeletic says.

In this case, they successfully brought the Advanced Camera for Surveys back online on November 7. It’s one of the newer cameras, installed in 2002, and it’s designed for imaging large areas of the sky at once and in great detail. Now they’re watching closely as it collects data again this week, checking to see whether the error returns. If the camera continues working smoothly, the engineers will proceed to testing Hubble’s other instruments….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Eternals Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, has the writer say he has characters including “a speedster, a lady with ancient weapons, and a super-strong guy who shoots beams from his eyes.” The producer asks, “Yeah, yeah, and Batman and Aquaman. Are you sure you’re in the right office?”  The writer also can’t explain why introducing 10 superheroes we’ve never seen before can’t be done in an eight-hour Disney Plus show instead of a single movie.

After Avengers Endgame, Marvel has the massive task of not only continuing their surviving heroes’ stories, but also making audiences care about all new characters and all-new universe-threatening events. Their latest movie Eternals takes on the gargantuan challenge of introducing ten new superheroes AND explaining why they’re only showing up now. This thing’s getting complicated. Eternals definitely raises some questions. Like should this have been a Disney Plus show? Why do the Eternals only have important conversations at Golden Hour? Why is introducing humans to weapons not considered interfering in their affairs? Wouldn’t the Celestials be interested in stopping Thanos if they need a massive population to birth celestials? Why didn’t Kumail have a shirtless scene after all that work!? What have these post-credit scenes become?! To answer all these questions and more, step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Eternals! It’ll be super easy, barely an inconvenience.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, Joey Eschrich, Bruce D. Arthurs, M.C. Hogarth, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/6/21 The Arrakis Island Line Is A Mighty Fine Line

(1) CLI-FI. Peter O’Dowd has quotes from several sff writers in WBUR’s post “Novelists illustrate the climate futures that could await us”.

Omar el-Akkad authored 2021’s “What Strange Paradise” and 2017’s “American War,” which is about a second civil war triggered by a ban on fossil fuels.

“[Climate change] is happening geologically in the blink of an eye,” says novelist Omar el-Akkad, “but in human terms, it’s too long to think about. Very few politicians in power right now have to worry about getting re-elected 30 years from now. Once you move past the lifespan of a mortgage, you’re in trouble.”

El-Akkad says that stories can make the abstract threat of the climate crisis real for readers.

“I think that’s one of the things that fiction allows you to do. To try to say, ‘hey, listen. Care about someone who’s not you,’ ” he says. “Is that going to work against the massive tide of incredibly individualistic society that we’ve created? I don’t know. But fundamentally I have to believe that it might”…

(2) AFROFUTURISM. The New Yorker signal boosts “An Afrofuturist Seneca Village, at the Met”.

In 1857, Seneca Village, a community of predominantly Black Americans, was destroyed to build Central Park. Beginning Nov. 5, the Met imagines an alternate world, one in which the village still thrives, with “Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room,” combining historic and contemporary art and décor. Its visionary lead curator, Hannah Beachler—who won an Oscar for her production design on “Black Panther”—is pictured here, with wallpaper by the Nigerian American artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

The Met’s online guide to the imagined room is here: “Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room – In-Gallery Guide”. One item on the walls is this Henry Taylor portrait:

— based on a photograph taken in 1982 at a U.S. Navy facility in Panama City, Florida, of Andrea Y. Motley Crabtree, the first woman to pass the rigorous qualification for deep sea diving, a highly specialized aspect of military service. While Crabtree wears a standard white diving uniform and holds a Mark V helmet in her lap, both the rich, dark painted backdrop and her seated posture align her with depictions of regal subjects such as popes, kings, and cardinals by artists such as Velázquez or El Greco, similarly marking her as a figure highly worthy of prestige.

(3) BOARD GAMES OVER THE MILLENNIA. LASFS’ Nick Smith presents the Pasadena History Museum’s video lecture “From Senet to Monopoly to Terraforming Mars: 4,600 Years of Board Games”.

The evolution of board games has transformed them into a popular pastime all over the world. Join Nick Smith for another fascinating adventure as we discover the history and popularity of ancient games, familiar classics and today’s popular versions of this age-old pursuit.

(4) REINING IN RAMPANT CAPITALISM. In the UK, “Monopoly Sets Up Holiday Hotline To Settle Family Disputes” says Huffington Post.

…Family members attempting to ruin Christmas by bending the rules or blatantly cheating during the game will now have to answer to an official board.

The folks over at Hasbro UK are setting up a dispute hotline from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 for game enthusiasts in the United Kingdom and Ireland stuck in the midst of an argument.

Hasbro conducted a survey of 2,000 adults and found that players are widely unfamiliar with Monopoly’s official rules. As a result, games regularly devolve into disputes. In fact, in a statement sent to The Huffington Post, Hasbro listed 10 common arguments that occur during playing and found that “people making up rules” is the No. 1 issue.

So the company set up the hotline to mediate issues….

… Hasbro expects to receive a “flood of calls” around 6 p.m. on Christmas day.

(5) SEREDIPITY. Kim Beil touts the benefits of writers having a project in “What I Learned While Cataloguing an Entire Library of 19th-Century Schoolbooks” at Literary Hub.

Chapter 4. Accidents are meaningful. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly write about another volume of the National Reader, something fell out of its pages: a newspaper advertisement for “The Most Popular Writer of the Day for Boys and Girls.” Clearly, the book’s owner wished he was reading something else, too. This bookmark led me to other things filed in the Reader’s pages: a small engraved portrait, a scrap of emerald silk. And this, an anathema, or book curse: “Steal not this ^book for fear of strife/ For the owner carries a big/ Dirk Knife.” The project can take you places you’d never think to go on your own.

(6) LEIA’S LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES. At Reason.com, an excerpt from Stephen Kent’s new book on the philosophy of Star Wars, How The Force Can Fix The World. “Princess Leia shows us why hope is crucial for a liberty-oriented way of life.” “Hope Must Conquer Fear in Politics”.

… Hope is a lot of things. It can be personified, objectified, or embodied in places, faith, and prose. But the most simple definition for hope is that it’s to want something you can have, at least in theory. I want very badly to have the Jedi power of levitating objects and moving them around my house with my mind, but I don’t have hope of achieving such a thing, nor should I, even in theory. It’s not within the realm of possibility. But what if I watched enough YouTube videos made by weirdos living in their mothers’ basements, telling me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m wrong, and this power is in fact attainable? All I’d have to do, according to these armchair wizards of the web, is watch enough of their videos and wire them some money. There’s a good chance that at some point you’ll become bitter and angry. After all, someone sold you false goods, hope beyond hope.

This is what happens to Anakin Skywalker when he is told by a supposed friend, Chancellor Palpatine, about the power to control life and death that is known only to the Sith. Anakin, suffering from visions of his wife Padme dying in childbirth, is lured in by a twisted kind of hope we might understand as an intergalactic spin on the snake-oil salesman who travels from town to town hawking miracle cures that almost certainly will let the buyer down.

Just as hope can push the likes of Princess Leia forward through a tragedy like the destruction of Alderaan, hope can also move a desperate and loving husband to spend the last of his savings or sell the house to get that cure from the roving snake-oil salesman. It’s not unlike the snake oil hawked by politicians who say all our problems will be solved if we just give them votes and power, warping the minds of people who go to great lengths to follow them. There is a light and dark side to everything….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 6, 1981 — Time Bandits premiered. Co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Kenny Baker, Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and David Warner. Gilliam has referred to it as the first in his Trilogy of Imagination followed by Brazil  and ending with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It received widespread critical acclaim with a current ninety percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers and was a financial success as well.  Apple has gained the rights for a Time Bandits television series for their Apple TV+ service with Gilliam on board in a non-writing production role and Taika Waititi who directed Thor: Ragnarok as the director of the pilot.  You can read Kage Baker’s review of the Criterion edition here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 6, 1907 Catherine Crook de Camp. Author and editor. Most of her work was done in collaboration with her husband L. Sprague de Camp, to whom she was married for sixty years. Her solo work was largely non-fiction. Her Science-Fiction Handbook was nominated for Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4, and Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Heinlein in part dedicated Friday to her. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 6, 1914 — Jonathan Harris. Doctor Zachary Smith, of course, as seen on Lost in Space. He was somewhat typecast as a villain showing up as such as Mr. Piper on Land of the Giants, The Ambassador on Get Smart and the voice of Lucifer on the original Battlestar Galactica. He did play lighter roles such as Johann Sebastian Monroe on Bewitched  in the “Samantha on the Keyboard” episode, and the voice of Professor Jones, the second Butler of Freakazoid on the series of that name. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 6, 1948 Michael Dirda, 73. Currently book critic for the Washington Post. His connection to genre is a fascinating work entitled On Conan Doyle; or, The Whole Art of Storytelling which won  the Edgar Award for Best Critical / Biographical Works in 2012 and which looks at his SF work as well. Also worth bringing to your attention is Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books which y’all should naturally be interested in reading. 
  • Born November 6, 1955 Catherine Ann Asaro, 66. She is best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire. I don’t think I’ve read them, so if you’ve read them,  please do tell me about them. She won Nebula Awards for The Quantum Rose novel and “The Spacetime Pool” novella. And the Analog readers really like her, having voted her three An-Lab awards for Best Novella, “Aurora in Four Voices”, “A Roll of The Dice” and “Walk in Silence”.  
  • Born November 6, 1958 Trace Beaulieu, 63. Puppeteer, writer, and actor. For the first eight seasons of MST3K, he wrote for the show, operated and voiced the Crow T. Robot puppet, and played the role of Dr. Clayton Forrester, the head mad scientist at Gizmonic Institute.
  • Born November 6, 1968 Kelly Rutherford, 53. She’s here for having the recurring role of Dixie Cousins on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and that’s in addition to managing to get herself involved in some bad genre series that got cancelled fast such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Kindred: The Embraced (eight episodes each). And her very first genre gig had the dubious title of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge.
  • Born November 6, 1972 Rebecca Romijn, 49. Played Mystique in the X-Men film franchise but my favorite role for her is as Eve Baird, The Guardian of the Library that cross all realities in The Librarians series.  She also was a regular playing Roxie Torcoletti in Eastwick, yet another riff off the John Updike novel. She is now Number One on Discovery and the forthcoming Strange New Worlds

(9) THE SHARP OF THINGS TO COME. Heavy.com demands to know “Why Are the New ‘Star Trek’ Ships All so Pointy?” There’s a lot of info about Trek’s design history packed into this article, and input from key artists like Rick Sternbach.

… Perhaps it was due to the success of Probert’s Enterprise-D that things had to change. Fans knew all about Picard’s ship from seven years of “The Next Generation.” When that change happened, it was in the form of the Enterprise-E and the Voyager.

Rick Sternbach, who served the franchise as a senior illustrator, designer, scenic artist, or technical advisor, created the design for the Voyager for executive producer Jeri Taylor. She asked Sternbach to create a new ship for the show, which was “sleeker and smaller than the Enterprise-D,” according to Trek expert and writer Nick Ottens

(10) SUITABLE FOR ANY MISSION. Add the flagship-with-a-theme-song to your holiday celebrations with the Enterprise Christmas tree topper. Or skip the tree and use the lighted model as room décor year-around: Enterprise Musical Tree Topper With Light from Moonlofty. (Click for larger images.)

(11) BEZOS LOSES. “Blue Origin Loses Legal Fight Over SpaceX’s NASA Moon Contract” reports the New York Times.

A federal judge on Thursday rejected Jeff Bezos’ latest legal attempt to overturn NASA’s multibillion-dollar moon lander contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The decision ended a monthslong battle between the space companies of two of the world’s richest men that posed a significant obstacle to NASA’s plans for returning humans to the moon for the first time since 1972.

The ruling makes it all but certain that whenever American astronauts return to the lunar surface, they will be traveling in a spacecraft built by Mr. Musk’s company. That adds another victory for SpaceX, a company that has become a dominant player in orbital spaceflight, including serving as a primary partner of NASA in carrying astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

But NASA has been unable to work on the program with SpaceX for the duration of Blue Origin’s legal challenges, which may delay the return to the moon….

(12) COMEDY TONIGHT. From last night’s Amber Ruffin show: “Lotionelle Thinks You’re Beautiful… Even With Those ‘Ugly Secrets’”. Sixty years ago this would have been the premise for a Twilight Zone episode.

(13) MORE PRO TIPS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Movie Locations Tutorial” on Screen Rant, written by Seb Decter, Ben Harrison Smith plays “Wild” Ron-Jon Mason, movie location scout, who says he found the school in School Of Rock and the house in Big Momma’s House and lots of warehouses and dark alleys for Marvel.  His advice:  shoot everything in Toronto but make sure you have a little metal Empire State Building for those New York backgrounds.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. When Owl Kitty is on the rampage in Jurassic Park,cat food always helps! “Jurassic Park but with a Cat” on YouTube.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/17/21 Parsley Scrolls Are Filed In Thyme

(1) CLI-FI COMPETITION UPDATE. Grist’s “Imagine 2200” contest has received over 1,100 entries. They will be judged by authors Adrienne Maree Brown, Morgan Jerkins, and Kiese Laymon. These short stories “envision the next 180 years of equitable climate progress.” First prize is $3,000, second prize $2,000, and third prize $1,000. Nine additional finalists will receive $300.

(2) RAISED EYEBROW. I’m shocked, I tell you. WIRED reports“Turns Out, Spock Is Kinda Bad at Logic”.

Julia Galef, host of the Rationally Speaking podcast and co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, is not impressed with the hyper-rational Vulcans on Star Trek.

“Spock is held up as this exemplar of logic and reason and rationality, but he’s set up, in my opinion, as almost a weak caricature—a straw man—of reason and rationality, because he keeps making all these dumb mistakes,” Galef says in Episode 462 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “That’s the show’s way of proving that, ‘Aha! Logic and reason and rationality aren’t actually all that great.’”

In the franchise, Spock makes confident predictions based on his superior Vulcan mind. Galef was curious to see exactly how often these predictions pan out. “I went through all of the Star Trek episodes and movies—all of the transcripts that I could find—and searched for any instance in which Spock is using the words ‘odds,’ ‘probability,’ ‘chance,’ ‘definitely,’ ‘probably,’ etc.,” she says. “I catalogued all instances in which Spock made a prediction and that prediction either came true or didn’t.”

The results, which appear in Galef’s new book The Scout Mindset, are devastating…. 

(3) MISTAKES WERE MADE, SHORTS WERE FRIED. Why do copies of this 1940 fanzine have a bit clipped out of one page? First Fandom Experience knows: “The Hole Story: Fake News and Parenting in Early Fandom”. John W. Campbell, Jr. is somehow at the bottom of it all! Scans of all the relevant zines and a complete historical narrative are at the FFE site.

… Campbell also kept an eye on leading fanzines. Fantascience Digest received a threatening letter from Street & Smith and promptly printed a polite retraction….

The Maine Scientifiction Association had also printed the offending story and had to hit the brakes!  

It appears that the MSA was in the midst of mailing issues of the January 1940 issue of the Bulletin when they became aware of the transgressionWhat to do with the fanzines they’d already printed? With an impoverished treasury, we believe the club elected to salvage the run by clipping out the offending article.

(4) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX FIVE THOUSAND. The site of many Lunacons, Star Trek conventions, comics conventions, the 1967 Worldcon, even Nebula banquets is about to get flattened: “So Long to the Hotel Pennsylvania” in Curbed.

…Eight years ago, Roth said that he was planning to renovate and turn it into something great, but we live in a different economic climate now, and the empty air above that giant site at 401 Seventh is apparently just too tempting to resist. A 1,270-foot tower, bearing the not-at-all-phallic name of PENN15, is its likely replacement.

There is inevitably, when a building of this age is about to come down, someone who wants to landmark it. Frankly, the Hotel Pennsylvania is a building that could be made handsome and appealing again, but it’s just not quite significant enough to fight over. Architecturally, it is like a lot of early-20th-century midsize hotels and office buildings around the city, only larger; it is surely a better-quality example from its period, designed by McKim, Mead & White, but it’s bulky enough that it already takes up a big bite of light and air, so you can’t make much of a case regarding scale. Even if you’re a hardcore preservationist, your energies might be better spent elsewhere….

Fancyclopedia’s entry focuses on the fanhistory made there when it was known as the New York Statler Hilton Hotel, and traces the names it went by:

It was opened in 1919 as the Hotel Pennsylvania of “PEnnsylvania 6-5000” fame and renamed the Hotel Statler in 1948. In 1954, Hilton bought it and renamed it the Statler Hilton, which is how it was known when its history crossed with fandom’s. Starting in the early 80s it went through various owners and names: The New York Statler, the New York Penta, and finally back to Hotel Pennsylvania….

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing-wise, his best known series were the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey. His “Monument” story published in Analog was a finalist at Chicon III for a Short Story Hugo. I find it interesting that he wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born April 17, 1923 – T. Bruce Yerke.  Joined LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society) in 1937, for a while its “perennial secretary”.  Recruited Ray Bradbury.  First editor of Imagination! which won the Best Fanzine of 1939 Retrospective Hugo.  Thought one of the best fanwriters of the 1940s.  Memoirs of a Superfluous Fan began 1944, never finished, reprinted 1991; see it and fandom of those days here (PDF).  More here.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born April 17, 1924 – Gerard van Straaten.  Four dozen covers, as many interiors, for Dutch SF, like this; particularly the series Euro-5, about which Alex van Oostenrijk of Independent Software in Mozambique has written, with color images, in English, here. (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 79. It’s his Doctor Who work that garners him a birthday honor.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as actor who was the First Doctor that makes him really worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time, then played the role of the First Doctor again in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories.  He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain. (CE) 
  • Born April 17, 1949 – Martyn Godfrey.  Five novels, one shorter story for us; three dozen all told; millions of books sold.  Bilson Award for historical fiction.  After his death the Young Alberta Book Society began an award in his name (2021 deadline extended to June 25th), see here.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born April 17, 1958 – Carolyn Clink, age 63.  Five dozen poems in e.g. Canadian GingerImaginariumOn SpecStar*Line; two collections.  One Aurora Award.  Edited Tesseracts 6 with husband Robert Sawyer; here is her photo of him for Foundation 80.  [JH]
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 62. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s been in our area interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as  Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark high purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of the The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.) Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson. (CE)
  • Born April 17, 1971 – François Roca, age 50.  Four covers for Michael Hoeye’s tales of a watchmaker mouse – thus titles like The Sands of Time and Time Stops for No Mouse.  [JH]
  • Born April 17, 1972 Jennifer Garner, 49. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies which have not been retconned into the MCU reality. Such was the case with Elektra and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil which was at best an OK film though I’m fond of the Kingpin character. (CE)
  • Born April 17, 1973 Cavan Scott, 48. To my thinking, there’s somewhat of an arbitrary line between fanfic and professional writing. (Ducks quickly.) Which bring me to the world of fiction set in media universes where a lot of fanfic is set. This writer has apparently specialized in such writing to the extent that he has novels in the universes of Doctor Who (including the full blown subgenre of Professor Bernice Summerfield), Blake’s 7, Judge Dredd, Skylanders Universe, The Tomorrow People, Star Wars and Warhammer Universe. Judge Dredd?  Novels? Who knew? (CE)
  • Born April 17, 1985 Rooney Mara, 36. She first shows up as Mary Lambert in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, a slasher film, followed by being Nancy Holbrook in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and then Tiger Lily in Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan. Since then, she’s been M in A Ghost Story, and lastly is Molly Cahill in Nightmare Alley. (CE) 
  • Born April 17, 1991 – Ryn Katryn, age 30.  Two short stories (under another name), several hundred covers for us; other fields too.  Here is One Little Spell.  Here is Dim Glows the Horizon.  Here is Ashes of Chadanar.  Here is Humble Beginnings (showing Far Reach Space station).  [JH]

(6) NOT VERY NICE. ScreenRant nominates them as “The 10 Most Powerful Sci-Fi Villains Ever, Ranked”. Checking in at number 10 —

10 The Daleks (Doctor Who)

The Doctor’s oldest and most powerful opponents, the Daleks didn’t start out as intimidating as they would become. At the start, they were confined to their city on their home planet Skaro and were reliant on static electricity to stay alive.

From there, however, they overcame all their early deficiencies and spread out to create a Dalek Empire across space and time, to the point where even the god-like Time Lords were no match for them. If it wasn’t for their many terrible masterplans, their penchant for in-fighting, and how helpless they are against the Doctor, they would have subjugated the universe.

(7) WHEN IN THE FUTURE. At GeekTyrant, “The Sci-Fi Timeline Infographic Shows Us When Popular Sci-Fi Films and Games Take Place”.

We’re all used to seeing movies and games set in the future, but often the date can seem a bit abstract.

We’ve brought together some of our favourites to show yo the timeline and where they all fit. There were some surprises!

See for yourself, and decide if the writers got it right!

(8) DIVERSITY ONE OF THE GOALS. “NASA Picks SpaceX to Land Next Americans on Moon” says the NASA press release.

NASA is getting ready to send astronauts to explore more of the Moon as part of the Artemis program, and the agency has selected SpaceX to continue development of the first commercial human lander that will safely carry the next two American astronauts to the lunar surface. At least one of those astronauts will make history as the first woman on the Moon. Another goal of the Artemis program includes landing the first person of color on the lunar surface.

The agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket will launch four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for their multi-day journey to lunar orbit. There, two crew members will transfer to the SpaceX human landing system (HLS) for the final leg of their journey to the surface of the Moon. After approximately a week exploring the surface, they will board the lander for their short trip back to orbit where they will return to Orion and their colleagues before heading back to Earth.

The firm-fixed price, milestone-based contract total award value is $2.89 billion.

(9) THE MARTIAN HOP. “NASA to Attempt First Controlled Flight on Mars As Soon As Monday” says the space agency.

NASA is targeting no earlier than Monday, April 19, for the first flight of its Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at approximately 3:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 a.m. PDT).

Data from the first flight will return to Earth a few hours following the autonomous flight. A livestream will begin at 6:15 a.m. EDT (3:15 a.m. PDT), as the helicopter team prepares to receive the data downlink in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Watch on NASA Television, the agency appwebsite, and social media platforms, including YouTube and Facebook.

If the flight takes place April 19, a postflight briefing will be held at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT).

(10) TYRANNOSAURUS CENSUS. The Conversation wants to know “How many ‘Tyrannosaurus rex’ walked the Earth?”

During 2.4 million years of existence on Earth, a total of 2.5 billion Tyrannosaurus rex ever lived, and 20,000 individual animals would have been alive at any moment, according to a new calculation method we described in a paper published on April 15, 2021 in the journal Science.

To estimate population, our team of paleontologists and scientists had to combine the extraordinarily comprehensive existing research on T. rex with an ecological principle that connects population density to body size.

From microscopic growth patterns in bones, researchers inferred that T. rex first mated at around 15 years old. With growth records, scientists can also generate survivorship curves – an estimate of a T. rex‘s chances of living to a given age. Using these two numbers, our team estimated that T. rex generations took 19 years. Finally, T. rex existed as a species for 1.2 to 3.6 million years. With all of this information, we calculate that T. rex existed for 66,000 to 188,000 generations….

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Redshirts Always Die invites fans to “Watch: DeForest Kelley read his poem for Star Trek’s 25th anniversary”. Starts at 4:23.

DeForest Kelley appeared at a Creation Entertainment convention in 1994, and the audience had the pleasure of listening to him read his final hilarious and poignant ode to the show, cast, Gene Roddenberry, and others who’d made the show possible. Kelley provided tongue-in-cheek updates on the actors’ lives in his Southern drawl. He even throws in a few snide comments here and there that make the poem that much better. (Especially when he’s talking about a certain green-blooded individual)

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

Pixel Scroll 4/5/21 You Say Pixels Go, I Say Here We Scroll

(1) IS CLI-FI PART OF THE PROBLEM? BBC World Service’s The Climate Question asks a panel including Ken Liu “Is science fiction holding back climate action?” (23 minute audio.)

For centuries, we’ve been reading, watching and listening to science fiction. And all too often, it’s pretty pessimistic about our future, especially when it touches on the topic of climate change.

This is leading some to ask whether these doom and gloom stories are doing the climate fight more harm than good – causing us to feel so anxious and powerless that we don’t take action.

So for this week’s climate question, we’re asking: Is sci-fi holding us back?

Graihagh Jackson is joined by: 

Amy Brady, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books, where she writes a monthly column called Burning Worlds. In it she explores how fiction addresses climate change.

Cheryl Slean is a playwright, filmmaker and educator working with the National Resource Defense Council’s Re-write the Future campaign to increase accurate climate stories in film and television.

Ken Liu is a futurist and author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards. His debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series.

(2) LAWSUIT EVAPORATES. The case has now been dismissed: “Guillermo del Toro named ‘true creator’ of The Shape of Water as plagiarism suit ends” reports Entertainment Weekly. Del Toro had won the lower court decision, which the plaintiff appealed in the federal Ninth Circuit.

Guillermo del Toro and his Oscar-winning Shape of Water team have emerged unscathed from the depths of a copyright lawsuit claiming that the Best Picture winner plagiarized the work of the late playwright Paul Zindel.

In a statement provided to EW, film distributor and production company Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight) indicated that the legal action against del Toro and associate producer Daniel Kraus had been dismissed after the Zindel estate’s attorney, Marc Toberoff, previously cited 69 points of alleged similarities between the 1969 stage play Let Me Hear You Whisper (about a woman who bonds with a lab dolphin) and del Toro’s movie (about a woman, played by Sally Hawkins, who bonds with a humanoid sea creature, played by Doug Jones, in a research facility).

“David Zindel, the son of Paul Zindel, author of Let Me Hear You Whisper, acknowledges, based on confidential information obtained during the litigation process, that his claims of plagiarism are unfounded,” the statement said. “He acknowledges Guillermo del Toro as the true creator of The Shape of Water. Any similarity between the two works is coincidental.”

… Both sides were reportedly slated to present additional information this year, and a trial had been set for July before the case was dropped.

(3) HOMETOWN PAPER SALUTES NEW F&SF EDITOR. The Daily Memphian profiles Sheree Renée Thomas: “Memphis writer emerges as a major player in the sci-fi world”.

… She says her family’s gathering and bonding time was spent watching movies and television, and they were big horror fans. And then she would realize that movies that she watched had sometimes been classic books. Then she would read those.

“That’s what I remember getting really excited about early on,” she said. “And then I started reading more science fiction work. And the writer that stood out the most for me, that I enjoyed consistently, was Ray Bradbury.”

Bradbury told stories in clear, sometimes lyrical prose, she said. And he had a great sense for characterization. 

“People came alive in his writing,” Thomas said.

She can’t pinpoint when she moved from reading to writing, too. “I don’t know if it was a conscious thing. I felt like, ‘I’m consuming these other stories, whether it was a movie or I’m reading it, someone sat down to write those and my head was full of thoughts.’”

Thomas recalls that her interest in science fiction waned for a time because of the way Black people were depicted in the stories: “Either we weren’t in the future, or if we were present in the storytelling it wasn’t in a very complimentary light or wasn’t in a way which characters had agency, or operated or moved in ways that you could recognize as having been a person that is part of the Black community or a community at all.”

So she started reading mostly Black literature, specifically Black women writers, from her mother’s shelves and the public library. Reading work by Alice Walker, Gayle Jones, Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison was formative to her….

(4) SECOND SEASON OF PICARD. Paramount + dropped a trailer for Star Trek: Picard, Season 2 which includes the return of Q.

(5) IS IT A PEARL? In the latest Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll turns his readers loose on “All the Seas with Oysters,” a 1958 story that won a Hugo the same year (because those wacky LA fans running Solacon set the eligibility period from July 1957 to July 1958.)

Avram Davidson (April 23, 1923 – May 8, 1993) was (as so often true for authors of his vintage) prolific across an expanse of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries, to name a few. His SFF awards include a World Fantasy Life Achievement award, World Fantasy Awards for The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy, and ?“Naples”, and the Hugo Award for ?“All the Seas with Oysters”, not coincidentally the subject of this month’s Young People Read Old SFF.

… Young readers encountering the tale for the first time do so without the rosy patina of uncritical nostalgia concealing whatever issues the story might have. Still, this is a widely loved classic. What are the odds generations of SF readers overlooked something? Let’s find out! 

(6) SECOND LOKI TRAILER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not that I wasn’t already psyched to watch this…

Loki’s time has come. Watch the brand-new trailer for “Loki,” and start streaming the Marvel Studios Original Series June 11 on Disney+.

And the first trailer, I believe.

BTW, the TVA (Time Variance Authority) is an established Marvel Comics organization. My main memories are from Walt Simonson’s fabulous run in Fantastic Four with the TVA. (Simonson also brought us Beta Ray Bill, and Thor as Frog, among many, many other delightful creations)

Wikipedia: The Time Variance Authority

The Time Variance Authority (or TVA) is a fictional organization, a group of timeline monitors appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. They first appeared in Thor vol. 1 #372 (October 1986). Created by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, the TVA originally paid homage to long-time Marvel writer/editor, and continuity expert, Mark Gruenwald: the TVA staff were all clones of Gruenwald.

Other resources:

(7) NYRSF READINGS. Ilana C. Myer will read from the third book in her Harp and Ring Sequence, The Poet King, and will talk will host Amy Goldschlager at the next NYRSF Readings on Facebook on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Viewers can ask questions and comment via the chat channel.  Will be available later on YouTube.

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance and The Poet King. A native New Yorker and longtime Jerusalem resident, she now lives in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

(8) CONFUSION AFTER ACTION REPORT. Farah Mendlesohn’s writeup about last weekend’s virtual Eastercon (UK) — “ConFusion FM’s con report” [PDF file] – covers the positive and negative con experiences, including how it was to use the Gather Town app, and delivers a withering comments about accessibility issues.

… I am not going to pretend here. I felt utterly betrayed. My sneaking feeling at other conventions that ‘only wheelchair users really mattered’, a feeling for which I’d berated myself, was utterly confirmed. Hearing, sight, neurodivergence, hand or co-ordination issues…. None of these things apparently mattered, yet all of them could have been addressed with good design, a careful choice of discussion platforms, and over and above all with conversation.

I didn’t go to the Feedback meetings because for much of the convention I was too angry. What would I have asked after all; “will the convention chair make a full and unqualified apology for the utter disregard of issues of accessibility in the planning and delivery of this convention?”

In future I will not vote for any bid that does not have a clear statement on access and inclusion. I will not go to a convention that does not support access and inclusion (I began declining conferences for this reason some time ago).

(9) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present via livestream Nalo Hopkinson and Bruce McAllister on April 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back for the link here.

Bruce McAllister

Bruce McAllister has been writing science fiction, fantasy and horror for some decades.  He began as an sf writer but these days writes more fantasy of the uncanny kind. His most recent novel is a little thing called The Village Sang to the Sea: A Memoir of Magic. His Hugo-nominee short story “Kin” launched the new podcast Levar Burton Reads.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian author and maker of objects. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the Andre Norton Nebula Award, and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. She authored and co-authored the series “House of Whispers” for DC Comics, set in Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” universe. SFWA recently honored her with the “Grand Master” award for lifetime achievement.

(10) SOVIET LOTR VIDEO AVAILABLE. Ars Technica surprises with news that a“30-year-old Soviet TV adaptation of The Lord of the Rings surfaces on YouTube”.

After 30 years, a TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings long thought lost has resurfaced. The 1991 Soviet television adaptation has been uploaded to YouTube in two one-hour videos.

The film focuses on the events of the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, and features many elements that were excluded from the popular global theatrical release by director Peter Jackson, including an extended sequence featuring the character Tom Bombadil—one of the biggest omissions by the bigger-budget 2001 film far more of us have seen.

Originally broadcast on TV in 1991 (and then never aired again), the film was thought lost to time by those who had seen it. But as reported in The Guardian, Leningrad Television successor Channel 5 uploaded the film to its YouTube page with little fanfare, surprising fans who had given up on seeing the production again. It is believed to be the only adaptation of these books produced in the Soviet Union….

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 5, 1992 — On this day in 1992, Mann & Machine premiered on 1992. It would last for only nine episodes. Starring David Andrews, Yancy Butler and S. Epatha Merkerson, it was a Dick Wolf production, he of the eventually myriad Law & Order series. Yancy Butler would go on to be the lead a decade late in Witchblade. It has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the critic rating there is 20%.  NBC has the pilot available here for your viewing. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 5, 1526 – Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  More than his work as a court painter, like this, his portraits composed of pertinent objects appeal to our fantasy.  Here is the Emperor Rudolf II portrayed as Vertumnus, the god of plant growth and fruit trees.  Here is a librarian.  Here is a waiter.  (Died 1593) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1867 – Helen Stratton.  Illustrator in monochrome and color.  Three editions of H.C. Andersen, three of The Arabian Nights, three of Grimm, The Princess and the Goblin (G. MacDonald), Marie of Romania’s Lily of Life, many more.  Here is The Wild Swans.  This is from “The Tinderbox”.  This is from “The Snow Queen”.  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki Page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommended by me. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him that I’ve read the most. He’s not well represented at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 95. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his first such film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1931 – Al haLevy, age 90.  Chaired Westercon 16 (2nd appearance of B. Trimble’s Project Art Show! rumor – false – that F. Pohl lost Galaxy to B. Bernard at late-night poker!), co-chaired Pacificon II the 22nd Worldcon.  Revived Rhodomagnetic Digest awhile.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1935 – Helen M. Hoover.  A dozen novels for us, two others.  Golden Duck Award.  Two American Lib’y Ass’n Best Books.  Alas, Children of Morrow and Treasures of Morrow are about a person, not a place, although come to think of it one could still tell people “Go to Morrow.”  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1950 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her own series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton.  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1955 – Toriyama Akira, age 66.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  So successful in manga and animé that he won not only Shogakukan Publishing’s Manga Award, but also the 40th Anniversary Festival Award at the Angoulême Int’l Comics Festival, and was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.  Dragon Ball has sold 300 million copies worldwide, plus animé, video games.  See more here. [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1963 – Arthur Adams, age 58.  Artist and writer for Marvel, Legend (Monkeyman and O’Brien still appears here and there), DC, Wildstorm.  Diana Schutz got him to draw Gumby Summer Fun Special 1, so of course he drew this – and won an Eisner.  Front and back covers for Ron Goulart’s Great Comic Book Artists vol. 2.  Frequently in Spectrum.  Inkpot Award.  Here is Wolverine.  Here is Phoenix.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 56. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which are an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense. I’ve not seen the series made from the novels. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1982 Hayley Atwell, 39. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit has been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire save the first Iron Man and Avengers films being the ones that I’ve flat out enjoyed so far. Even the misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin. (CE) 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a different opinion about what really happened to Godzilla. (OK, you’re right. That’s not really what it’s about.)

(15) LIVING UNDER A CLOUD. [Item by rcade.] A Brazilian science fiction film that presciently anticipated the Covid-19 pandemic has won the top prize at the Sofia International Film Festival. “Brazil’s ‘The Pink Cloud’ wins top prize at lockdown-hit Sofia film festival” at Screen Daily.

The Pink Cloud, written and directed by Iuli Gerbase, is about a couple whose one-night stand becomes a permanent arrangement when a killer cloud drifts into cities across the globe and forces people to shut their windows and quarantine at home. A film that seems like a painfully obvious metaphor for the pandemic was written in 2017 and filmed in 2019, according to a disclaimer that precedes the opening credits.

Guy Lodge writes in Variety (“’The Pink Cloud’ Review: Brazil’s Effective, Accidental Lockdown Drama”:

It’s not often one sees a film arguing against its own topicality, but that’s what happens at the outset of The Pink Cloud, a subtly fevered quarantine drama that is so of the moment, you all but wonder how they had time to shoot and cut it just last week. But they didn’t …

 Not even sure they like each other to begin with, Giovana and Yago try things out as platonic roommates, friends with benefits and eventually lovers, never comfortable settling into any of those modes. Early in the lockdown, Giovana jokes that their setup is akin to an arranged marriage: It’s a comparison that seems less amusing as weeks turn to months, and months to years.

Public screenings at the film festival were stopped by a new pandemic lockdown caused by surging cases in Bulgaria.

(16) THE WAIT IS OVER. A.V. Club introduces readers to a Korean sff author: “I’m Waiting For You by Kim Bo-Young review: Cosmic tales of love, loss”.

In the title story of I’m Waiting For You, the first of Korean science fiction writer Kim Bo-Young’s works to be translated into English, the unnamed protagonist says he felt he was prepared for solo space travel because he’d once spent a few months without leaving his home. After a year in which so much of the world has experienced an even more extreme version of such isolation, that idea might seem trite. But then the character goes on to explain how wrong he was:

That wasn’t actually living alone. I have never once really lived alone. Someone cleared away the trash I left out for collection, and emptied the septic tank… In another place they boiled noodles and put them in a dish and delivered them… I had never lived alone, not once. How would really living alone even be possible?

“I’m Waiting For You” was originally written in 2015 at the request of a fan who wanted Kim to write a story he could use to propose to his girlfriend. The tale of a man journeying through time and space in an increasingly desperate and unlikely attempt to reunite with his fiancée has taken on new power as we look toward the end of more than a year of isolation that has also produced a newfound understanding of how connected we are to the communities around us….

(17) HISTORIC WARNING. “Ghosts of the Future: A Conversation with Larry Achiampong” is a Critierion Channel Q&A with the maker of the Relic film series.

The London-based, British Ghanaian artist and filmmaker Larry Achiampong explores race, class, and history in a multidisciplinary practice that, as described in the biography on his website, seeks to “examine his communal and personal heritage—in particular, the intersection between pop culture and the postcolonial position.” First devised in 2016, partially as a response to the sociopolitical shock of Brexit, Achiampong’s Relic Traveller is an ambitious project that has manifested as performance, sound installation, moving image, prose, and a remarkable public commission in which Achiampong reimagined London Underground’s iconic roundel in Pan-African colors—green, black, and red—that spoke symbolically to various African diasporic identities.

A central pillar of the project is a suite of four science fiction–inflected short films—Relic 0, Relic 1, Relic 2, and Relic 3—now streaming on the Criterion Channel.

… Clearly, these films engage deeply with long, painful histories and would be resonant at any time. But in the past few years, particularly in the UK, there’s been a real resurgence of empire fetishism, and seemingly more reluctance than ever among the media and ruling classes to address the reality of this history. To what extent are the films a reaction to that context?

For me, the films represent a warning to the West about its negligence, ignorance, mythical approach to history, omission of the histories and legacies of empire, slavery and colonization, and how those things affect the way that we live today: the way that Black people are still disenfranchised. They’re a stark warning that the West will undo itself as a result of the lies it has celebrated, taught, and disseminated for a while. It’s almost as if it will eat itself unless an understanding of the truth—or what has not been allowed to be revealed as the truth—is opened up….

(18) CURB APPEAL. SYFY Wire says “We might need to see the Earth like aliens would if we intend to find them”.

Suppose there really are aliens out there who are creeping around on the surface of some faraway planet and have managed to survive everything space has thrown at them so far. How could we find out they exist?

The answer might lie in how they would (hypothetically) see us. We may never know whether there really are intelligent beings who have spotted our planet as it passed by the sun, but observing it from their perspective could help us see through extraterrestrial eyes. This is the objective of the Earth Transit Observer (ETO) mission concept. Led by a research team from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), ETO will watch Earth in transit as if it was a spacecraft sent out here by other intelligent beings.

Researchers Noam Izenberg and Kevin Stevenson, who will be the project leads if this mission becomes reality, and co-led a study recently presented at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and Laura Mayorga, who also co-led the study, believe that observing Earth from the perspective of a being who never knew it existed could give us new insight on how to look for habitable—and possibly inhabited—planets….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla vs. Kong Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George’s screenwriter tells the producer, “We’re just going to keep cutting to monsters punching each other so that no one has time to digest the mumbo-jumbo we use as explanation” for why Godzilla and King Kong fight each other. SPOILER WARNING.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, N., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Daniel Dern, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, John Hertz,John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Nina Shepardson, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/21 Scroll The Night, There’s Files Enough Here For Two

(1) EVERYBODY COMPLAINS ABOUT THE WEATHER. And they complain even more if somebody does something about it. Sierra Garcia points to research about “How Early Sci-Fi Authors Imagined Climate Change” at JSTOR Daily.

More than a century before melting polar ice caps, geoengineering schemes, and soaring greenhouse gas emissions became the norm, humans causing climate change was the stuff of science fiction.

For a few decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, authors from across ideologies and genres published stories that today would be called “cli-fi,” or climate fiction. French author Jules Verne, best known for popular adventure stories like Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, penned a novel in 1889 called Sans Dessus Dessous about capitalists intentionally heating the Arctic to extract coal reserves. Mark Twain included a subplot of selling warm climates in his 1892 novel The American Claimant. Recently, literary scholar Steve Asselin reexamined these and dozens of other early cli-fi stories, finding several disquieting themes relevant to how we think about modern-day climate change.

(2) STACK OF GREEN. Vox’s Peter Kafka, in a “Recode” feature, analyzes “Why Substack writers are mad about money Substack is paying out”, a topic mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll (item #2). It includes revenue figures Matthew Yglesias shared about his own deal.

…First the why: [Jude] Doyle says they left Substack because they were upset that Substack was publishing — and in some cases offering money upfront to — authors they say are “people who actively hate trans people and women, argue ceaselessly against our civil rights, and in many cases, have a public history of directly, viciously abusing trans people and/or cis women in their industry.”

Doyle’s list includes some of Substack’s most prominent and recent recruits: Former Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, my former Vox coworker Matt Yglesias, and Graham Linehan, a British TV writer who was kicked off Twitter last year for “repeated violations of [Twitter’s] rules against hateful conduct and platform manipulation.”

Substack’s main business model is straightforward. It lets newsletter writers sell subscriptions to their work, and it takes 10 percent of any revenue the writers generate (writers also have to fork over another 3 percent to Stripe, the digital payments company).The money that Substack and its writers are generating — and how that money is split up and distributed — is of intense interest to media makers and observers

But in some cases, Substack has also shelled out one-off payments to help convince some writers to become Substack writers, and in some cases those deals are significant….

(3) CUT TO THE CHASE. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder about the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, with Deborah Snyder saying “the fans got a huge corporation to listen to them and make this (Snyder cut) a reality,” but with Betanourt noting the release of the Snyder cut is also because HBO Max is hungry for superhero content to compete with Disney. “’Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ is what the director really wanted all along”.

… Knowing the Snyder Cut would be a streaming experience and not a theatrical one allowed it to grow. The film is four hours and two minutes, twice as long a the original. HBO Max’s hunger to have game-changing new superhero content to compete with Netflix and Disney Plus — not to mention a pandemic making everyone eager for more at-home offerings — created a golden opportunity for all involved.

“What the streaming services have done is allowed a lot more risks to be taken,” Deborah [Snyder] said. “There’s movies getting made — and [the Snyder Cut] is a perfect example — that wouldn’t be made if it wasn’t for the streamers. As a filmmaker and as a producer, that is exciting to me. I want to see the envelope being pushed and risks to be taken.”

(4) JOURNEY PLANET IS GETTING CRAFTY! They’re looking for a few good crafters… or any crafters really. Team Journey Planet (this time being James Bacon, Sara Felix, and Chris Garcia) is putting together a Crafting in the Time of COVID-19 theme issue that will explore the DIY methods that people tried to pass the time they would normally spend out in the world. They’re looking for stories of hobbies taken up or re-kindled, photos of crafts managed, art cars or campers created, art you might have created during lockdown, and much more. 

Did you build a rudimentary lathe and start turning artisanal batbase bats? We wanna hear about it. Did you start painting alternate bookcovers for your favorite novels? We wanna see ’em? Take up bookbinding, or clockmaking, or knitting, crocheting or tiara-making? Share ’em with us. 

Deadline is March 31 — send any submissions or questions to journeyplanet@gmail.com

(5) CHINA MUTES OSCARS COVERAGE. “China Tells Media to Downplay Oscars With Protest Film Nominated” reports Bloomberg.

China told local media not to broadcast next month’s Oscars ceremony in real time and to play down coverage of the awards, according to people familiar with the matter, after a documentary on the Hong Kong protests was nominated and amid concern over the political views of Best Director contender Chloe Zhao.

“Do Not Split,” nominated for best short documentary, chronicles the anti-Beijing demonstrations that took hold in Hong Kong in mid-2019 and China’s growing power and influence in the former British territory.

…While initially lauded in the Chinese press for the success of her naturalistic film “Nomadland,” Zhao — who won the Golden Globe for Best Director last month — has since attracted criticism for a 2013 interview where she is said to have described China as “a place where there are lies everywhere.”…

(6) FRANK THORNE OBIT. Frank Thorne (1930-2021), artist of the Red Sonja comics of the 1970s has died. Heavy Metal pays tribute:

… Red Sonja, a character from the Conan-verse created by Robert E. Howard, made her Marvel Comics debut in Marvel Feature #1, penciled by Dick Giordano. Thorne took over as artist in the second issue, and remained Red Sonja’s artist through the title’s seventh and final issue, dated November 1976. Red Sonja got her own title beginning in January 1977, illustrated by Thorne (he did it all — pencils, inks, colors and lettering, and cover art) through issue 11.

Thorne clearly relished Red Sonja; his association with the title went beyond a job and became part of his identity. There was also a performative aspect — Thorne would show up at conventions dressed in a wizard costume, accompanied by a model or few (calling themselves “The Hyborean Players”) wearing the famous scale-mail bikini of Red Sonja. One of the Red Sonja models was Wendy Pini, who managed to make conventions and photo shoots when she wasn’t illustrating the series that would make her famous in the comics world: ElfQuest. Yup, that Wendy Pini….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 19, 1999 — On this day in 1999, Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.  The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia by Network Nine, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars which is considered the fifth season.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 19, 1821 Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. He worked on the translation of an unexpurgated version of One Thousand and One Nights. Also, Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. Philip Jose Farmer made him a primary character of the Riverworld series. (Died 1890.) (CE)
  • Born March 19, 1894 – Lilith Lorraine.  Author of poetry and otherwise, editor, radio lecturer, under various names.  Half a dozen short stories, a hundred poems.  Founded Avalon poetry ass’n; The Avalonian carried Robert Silverberg’s first paid story.  Time Grows Thin posthumous coll’n of poetry (so consider the title!) has an introduction by Steve Sneyd.  (Died 1967) [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was  active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick  McGoohan. Creator along with George Markstein of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but do comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 85. I’m sure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. (CE) 
  • Born March 19, 1946 – John Gribbin, Ph.D., age 75.  Eight novels, a score of shorter stories; columnist, correspondent, reviewer for AnalogOmniVector; fourscore books of nonfiction e.g. Almost Everyone’s Guide to Science (with wife Mary Gribbin); Hyperspace, Our Final Frontier; biographies of Einstein, Feynman, Schrödinger.  Lifetime Achievement Award from Ass’n of British Science Writers.  [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1953 – Laurie Sutton, age 68.  A dozen novels.  Worked for the Comics Code Authority awhile; “I never considered my job to be one of censorship…. being a comic book fan.”  Then comics for DC (including Adam Strange) and Marvel (including Star Trek); introduced Frank Miller to Japanese comics.  Publishing Innovation Award.  [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 66. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? Setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down),  Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). (CE) 
  • Born March 19, 1960 – Karen Cooper, age 61.  Chaired Ditto 12 (fanziners’ con; Ditto, a brand of spirit duplicator).  Long-time member of Minn-Stf.  Her Minicon 34 Restaurant Guide (with husband Bruce Schneier) was a Hugo finalist for Best Related Book (as the category then was, now “Best Related Work”).  Fan Guest of Honor at WindyCon 40.  [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 57. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series and on The Great War of Magellan film. (CE)
  • Born March 19, 1970 – Kimberly Sabatini, age 51.  One novel so far.  Alice Curtis Desmond Award.  When her father died, she “discovered … she’s full of questions that need to be answered.”  Has read Endurance (Scott Kelly), The Wonderful Wizard of OzHidden FiguresFrankensteinNothing Stopped Sophie (Sophie Germain), SeabiscuitGone With the Wind.  [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1973 – Josh Rountree, age 48.  One novel, twoscore shorter stories including “The Review Lester Bangs Would Have Written for the New Stones Album if He’d Lived Long Enough to Witness the Fall of Humanity and the Rise of the Other”.  Seen in Andromeda SpacewaysBeneath Ceaseless SkiesDaily SFElectric VelocipedeRealms of Fantasy.  [JH]

(9) FUNKO SPOCK WITH SJW CREDENTIAL. Io9’s Rob Bricken headlines these new collectibles: “Star Trek: The Original Series Finally Gets More Funko Pops”.

Of the seemingly thousands of Pop figures that Funko has made, it’s weird to think that the company has only released six from Star Trek: The Original Series, way back in 2013. Sure, it’s made characters from The Next Generation, the Star Trek Beyond movie, and even put the cast of The Big Bang Theory in Trek uniforms since then. But Funko will finally right this wrong later this year with eight new figures from TOS.

The original six Pop figures included Kirk, Spock, Scotty, a Klingon, an Andorian, and an Orion Slave Girl. It shouldn’t be surprising that after so long, as StarTrek.com reports, the new series also contains a Kirk and Spock, but now the former is sitting in his captain’s chair, while Spock is, uh… holding a cat…

Spock  with Gary Seven’s familiar from “Assignment: Earth”

(10) HARRYHAUSEN IN THE MUSEUM. You won’t need a ticket for an aeroplane, or time to take a fast train — Edinburgh News tells how you can see it. “Edinburgh gallery launches ‘virtual experience’ devoted to Hollywood special effects legend Ray Harryhausen”.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has turned its Ray Harryhausen tribute into a “virtual experience” after spending years working on the exhibition with the legendary movie-maker’s family.

A £10 pass, which is available from today, will offer unlimited access to the online incarnation of the exhibition, which explores how Harryhausen inspired cinematic legends like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Peter Jackson thanks to his groundbreaking work on Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Sitans, Earth vs the Flying Saucers and the Sinbad series.

They will be able to secure glimpses of rarely-seen models, drawings, sketches, photographs, posters and storyboards drawn from the archives of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, which is run by the family of the Californian-born special effects legend and his wife, who both passed away in 2013.

(11) ZOOMING WITH THE BENFORDS. Fanac.org’s next FanHistory Zoom will be “The Benford Twins, Fandom and the Larger Universe” on March 27, 2021, 2 pm Eastern. To receive a Zoom link, please RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.  

Jim and Greg Benford (founding editors of the legendary fanzine Void) became fans in the 1950s, and throughout a lifetime of science, professional writing, and extensive accomplishments, they have remained fans. In this Zoom session, they’ll talk about their introduction into fandom, their fandom over the years, and tell stories about the important and interesting people they’ve met. What influence has fandom had on them? Did relocation change their interactions with fandom? How have their professional lives influenced their fandom? Join us and find out (and expect a few surprises.)

The current schedule of future Fan History zoom sessions is available here.

(12) BONESTELL GOING UNDER THE HAMMER. Heritage Auctions would like to get up to $30,000 for Chesley Bonestell’s “Winged Rocket Ferry Orbits Mars Prior to Landing after 250-Day Flight” cover art for The Exploration of Mars (1956) when it’s submitted to bidders during the April 30 Illustration Art Signature Auction in Dallas.

(13) FLAME ON. “NASA completes engine test firing of moon rocket on 2nd try”AP News has the story.

NASA completed an engine test firing of its moon rocket Thursday, after the first attempt in January ended prematurely.

This time, the four main engines of the rocket’s core stage remained ignited for the full eight minutes. Applause broke out in the control room at Mississippi’s Stennis Space Flight Center once the engines shut down on the test stand.

NASA officials called it a major milestone in sending astronauts back to the moon, but declined to say when that might occur or even whether the first test flight without a crew would occur by year’s end as planned.

(14) CANCEL THAT RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA. AP News says “No cigar: Interstellar object is cookie-shaped planet shard”.

Our solar system’s first known interstellar visitor is neither a comet nor asteroid as first suspected and looks nothing like a cigar. A new study says the mystery object is likely a remnant of a Pluto-like world and shaped like a cookie.

Arizona State University astronomers reported this week that the strange 148-foot (45-meter) object that appears to be made of frozen nitrogen, just like the surface of Pluto and Neptune’s largest moon Triton.

The study’s authors, Alan Jackson and Steven Desch, think an impact knocked a chunk off an icy nitrogen-covered planet 500 million years ago and sent the piece tumbling out of its own star system, toward ours. The reddish remnant is believed to be a sliver of its original self, its outer layers evaporated by cosmic radiation and, more recently, the sun.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “MCI Commercial With Leonard Nimoy, TOS Cast, and Jonathan Frakes” on YouTube reveals that in 1993 the original Star Trek cast was eager to call 1-800-3BEAMUP to get 20 percent off the MCI Friends and Family Plan.  But who invited Jonathan Frakes to the party?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 2/21/20 Pixels Strike Curious Poses, They Scroll The Heat, The Heat Between Me And You

(1) MAGICALLY UNEMPLOYABLE. Julien Darmoni claims “I Went To Hogwarts For Seven Years And Did Not Learn Math Or Spelling, And Now I Can’t Get A Job” in The New Yorker.

… It’s hard out here for a poorly rounded wizard. Recently, I went on magical LinkedIn and saw almost none of my Hogwarts class of 2007 represented at top-tier wizarding companies. It’s not difficult to speculate why—without the assistance of Hermione Granger, half of my fellow-Gryffindors couldn’t even conjugating most verbs, and I am not sure that the instruction we received from Hagrid the giant is technically certifiable. Additionally, I cannot sit still for more than four hours a day without embarking on spontaneous adventures, and my vocabulary is poop….

(2) THERE’S A REASON FOR THE HEAT. WIRED’s Kate Knibbs tells why “The Hottest New Literary Genre Is ‘Doomer Lit’”.

…Sure enough, a doomer perspective seems most at home in so-called climate fiction (cli-fi for short). The genre, which imagines stories and worlds shaped by climate change, is sometimes considered a cousin of science fiction. For the most part, cli-fi titles traffic in danger but contain optimistic codas, allowing their characters to triumph or at least survive. But there is a growing offshoot of more downbeat fare. Andrew Milner, a literary critic and the author of the forthcoming Science Fiction and Climate Change, has tracked the trend. Along with his coauthor, J. R. Burgmann, he calls pessimistic fatalism one of the major “paradigmatic responses to climate change in recent fiction.”…

(3) ACH! IT’S A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE JOB, HAULING A HIPPO OUT OF A BOG. The Paris Review calls him “Russia’s Dr. Seuss”.

Let me tell you something about children’s poetry: people tend to create it for the right reasons. I was taught this concept in connection to medieval lyric poetry. My teacher’s point was that art made in the modern world is under scarcely any obligation to be good. It can be interesting instead, or new. Or it can “bear witness.” Being good—actually good—is even considered a little passé.

The minute you bring a six-year-old into the picture, though, everything changes. She doesn’t care whether what you’re doing “serves as a useful critique.” She wants it to be good. Consequently, if I’m in a used bookstore and I see a book called Thai Children’s Poetry or Setswana Children’s Poetry or Inuit Children’s Poetry, I pretty much buy it on contact. One wants to know: Does Botswana have a Dr. Seuss? Does Thailand? ’Cuz if they do, I need to know about it.

Russia had a Dr. Seuss. Same deal as ours, except his hot decade wasn’t the fifties; it was the twenties. There’s a lot to be said here.

Name: Kornei Chukovsky. Dates: 1882 to 1969. Number of supremo-supremo classic children’s books to his credit: ten or twelve. His stuff is a lot like Green Eggs and Ham: about that long; rhymes bouncing around like popcorn; no real point in sight….

(4) WESTWORLD, HO! The Hollywood Reporter introduces “‘Westworld’ Season 3 Trailer: HBO’s Science Fiction Thriller Heads to a New World”.

“I was born into this world, and my first memories of it are pain.” So speaks Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), the artificial intelligence icon who broke free from the park confines of Westworld at the end of season two, trading her original world for a new one — our world, to be precise, albeit with some pivotal technological upgrades.

That nearish-future version of our world is front and center in the brand-new official trailer for Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s science fiction series, returning for its third season on March 15, with veterans like Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright along for the ride, as well as space for newcomers, including Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul.

(5) MONTGOMERY OBIT. “Julius Montgomery, Who Broke a Space-Age Race Barrier, Dies at 90” – the New York Times pays tribute.

Julius Montgomery had already broken one color barrier when he faced another.

In 1956, he had become the first African-American who was not a janitor to be hired to work at the Cape Canaveral space facility in Florida. He was part of a team of technical professionals, known as “range rats,” who repaired the electronics in malfunctioning ballistic missiles and satellite equipment.

Two years later, his team wanted to start a school to keep the space workers up-to-date. Brevard Engineering College, as it was to be called (Cape Canaveral is in Brevard County), planned to lease classrooms at a public junior high school near the space center.

But public officials in Florida — a state still in the grip of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan — had control over who walked into their classrooms. And they didn’t want black people.

The county’s superintendent of schools said he would not allow Mr. Montgomery to participate, and he threatened to shut down the college before it even got started.

Mr. Montgomery withdrew his application so the college could open. Three years later, in 1961, Brevard secured its own facilities and admitted Mr. Montgomery, who became the first student to integrate the college, known today as the Florida Institute of Technology.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1958 — Day The World Ended premiered in West Germany. It was produced and directed by Roger Corman. It starred Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, and Mike Connors. This was the first SF film by Corman. The film was shot over 10 days on a budget of $96,234.49. Critics at the time considered it silly and fun. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 42% rating. You can watch it here.
  • February 20, 1968 The Power premiered.  It was produced by George Pal as directed by Byron Haskin in what would be in his final film. It stars George Hamilton and Suzanne Pleshette. (Look for Forrest J Ackerman as a Hotel clerk.)  It is based on Frank M. Robinson’s The Power. It had previously been a Studio One episode. The audience score at Rotten Tomatoes is 35%. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 P. Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp stories in he Thirties and Forties in a wide range of zines including Amazing StoriesMagazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Weird Tales to name but a few. He wrote just a single novel, Genus Homo, (with L. Sprague de Camp) but wrote nearly fifty stories. He was also known as a reviewer winning a Special Hugo for that work. His reviews ran in Astounding Science Fiction and its successor, Analog. Most, though interestingly not all, of his stories are available for the usual digital sources. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1913 Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff, 85. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The digital publishers stock him deeply at reasonable prices.
  • Born February 21, 1937 Gary Lockwood, 83. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot ,Mission Impossible, Night Gallery, Six Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume beyond that film in our community. Of course, he played Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.)  He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 74. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1962 –  David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read Infinite Jest. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 21, 1977 Owen King, 43. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. I’m rather fond of his short story collection, We’re All in This Together, but then I like his father’s short stories better than I like his novels, too. He also got a graphic novel, Intro to Alien Invasion, but I’ve not seen it anywhere yet. 

(8) THIEVES LIKE US. “Crimes, Capers, and Gentleman Thieves: 5 Must-Read SFF Heist Novels” — James Davis Nicoll’s recommendations at Tor.com.

Heist stories always seem so straightforward at the beginning. All that stands between our protagonists and possession of whatever it is they covet or require is a team with the right skills, a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, and a bit of concerted effort. What could possibly go wrong? And yet, something always does.

It doesn’t matter if the heist takes place in a mundane world or a science fiction world or a fantasy world. There are always complications…because otherwise, where’s the fun?

(9) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart is back with “The Full Lid for 21st February 2020”

This week in The Full Lid, we take a look at the changing faces of heroism as embodied by Lost in Space‘s John Robinson, Don West and Ben Adler. I also take a look at upcoming Marvel title The Union and talk about why I desperately want it to work. Then we round off with ‘Breadventures!’ in which Marguerite and I are tutored in the ways of pizza baking by a Siberian baking wizard. 

Women in Horror spotlight this week highlights writers Gemma Amor, Sandra Odell, Cassandra Khaw and C.A. Yates. Signal Boost this week includes The Palimpsest Podcast ,Flying in the Face of Fate and Humble Hauntings as well as writer Michael J. Hollows and editors Ryan Boyd and Jason Arnopp 

(10) FIRST TRACTION. “‘The Host’: Looking Back on ‘Parasite’ Director Bong Joon-ho’s Stinging Social Monster Thriller” at Bloody Disgusting.

But nowhere does Bong mix comedy and direness better than with his international breakout hit, The Host, back in 2006. No, I’m not referring to the Stephanie Meyer adaptation. Instead of futuristic love stories, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is a wildly entertaining monster thriller about a mysterious monster infesting the waters of the Han River in South Korea and soon emerging from the river to attack people on the surface, doubling as a sharp critique of the American and South Korean governments.

Though Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite led to a surge of popularity for Bong Joon-ho in his native country, The Host is what first garnered him international popularity, playing at several prominent film festivals across the world and earning famed auteur Quentin Tarantino’s seal of approval with a placement on his Top 20 favorite films since he became a director (which gives Bong’s shout-out to Quentin at the Oscars more context).

(11) WHERE THE 80S MET THE 90S. Paste’s Holly Green promises “World of Horror Combines H.P. Lovecraft and Junji Ito for a New Kind of Terror”.

World of Horror is one of those games that makes me wish I’d been there—“there” being the specific intersection of time and space that inspired World of Horror. Modeled after the ‘90s era of Japanese PC gaming, it’s a game that, like many of its peers in the genre, taps into our instinctive fear of the archaic and forbidden by evoking the fashions of a period long gone. The result is a blend of styles that melds the visual horror of ‘80s manga artist Junji Ito to the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, with compelling results.

The game is set in 1980s Shiokawa, Japan, where the convergence of recent paranormal events and modern technology triggers the awakening of a dark pantheon of Eldritch gods. As a resident in the town, the player sets out to investigate a handful of local mysteries, looking into peculiar tales and disturbances that seem to be strangely interconnected. If they can survive the results of all five cases, they receive the keys to a nearby tower, where a final ritual awaits.

World of Horror is best described as a paranormal investigation game, with five available mysteries to be explored by the player during each individual playthrough.

(12) HITS AND MISSES. The BBC discusses and rates “The best James Bond themes that never made it to the screen”.

The James Bond movie theme tunes have become an indelible part of pop music culture.

Almost from the get-go, with Sean Connery’s industry-creating turn as the suave secret agent in Dr No, the Bond films’ producers hit upon a formula as long-lasting as the secret agent himself.

While each official Eon Productions Bond film has featured the characteristic theme tune by Monty Norman – you’re humming it now – they have also featured a secret weapon, one which makes each film as distinct as the villain the vodka-martini-sipping spy has to despatch: the theme song.

It’s impossible to think of Live And Let Die (1973) without Wings’ apocalyptic slice of rock opera, or A View To A Kill (1985) without Duran Duran’s grandiose theme song. And that’s before we even consider Shirley Bassey’s masterclasses of cinematic unsubtlety with Goldfinger.

So, spare a thought for those well-known artists who penned a Bond theme hoping for immortality, only for it to be rejected on the casting couch. As Billie Eilish prepares to unleash her Bond theme No Time To Die at the Brit Awards, BBC Music looks back at some of the Bond themes that might have been…

Johnny Cash, Thunderball

Film: Thunderball (1965)
Lost to: Tom Jones
Better than the chosen theme? Tied
Most Bond-like lyric: Somewhere, there is a man who could stop the thing in time/ He is known by very few but he’s feared by all in crime

“Thunderball, your fiery breath can burn the coldest man!” intones The Man in Black, in a manner both outrageously camp and as stony faced as an Easter Island statue. Lyrically, Cash’s failed Bond theme follows the film’s plot faithfully – coastal city menaced by a ship containing a giant bomb – in a cinematic country style full of whooping backing vocals and booming brass. Tom Jones, of course, may have recorded the actual theme, but Cash’s effort is a champion among failures.

(13) PAINTER OF OZ. BBC acquaints readers with “The artistic wizard who brought Oz to life”.

Scottish artist George Gibson created the movie scenery which helped define the look of legendary films including The Wizard of Oz during Hollywood’s golden age. Now his family hope he will finally get the wider recognition he did not receive at the time.

In the 1930s and 40s, movie backdrops had to be created on indoor sound stages by crews of scene painters who conjured up everything from cityscapes to rolling hills.

Film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was one of the leading exponents of the art, all produced under the watchful eye of George Gibson.

He was the head of MGM’s scenic design department for 30 years. The backdrops he created appeared in films such as the Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951) and Brigadoon (1954).

His backdrops were as large as 60ft x 150ft (18m by 45m) and so realistic that the audience often did not realise the setting was a soundstage.

…In an effort to find better weather and work in America, a friend convinced Gibson to move out west to California – where he picked up odd jobs such as illustrating storyboard art at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

By 1938 he became head of the scenic design department, where he helped construct the MGM scene painting workshop, which was arguably the finest in the country.

He convinced the studio heads to construct a pioneering new building where all the backdrops could be painted centrally on movable frames rather than the fixed scaffolding of the soundstages.

(14) MICROBERSERKER. AI powers medical breakthrough. “Scientists discover powerful antibiotic using AI”.

In a world first, scientists have discovered a new type of antibiotic using artificial intelligence (AI).

It has been heralded by experts as a major breakthrough in the fight against the growing problem of drug resistance.

A powerful algorithm was used to analyse more than one hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days.

The newly discovered compound was able to kill 35 types of potentially deadly bacteria, said researchers.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 2/4/20 You Always Snark the One You Love, the One You Shouldn’t Snark At All

(1) OUT OF THE FRIDGE. Tom Nicholson, in “Harrison Ford In ‘Indiana Jones 5’ Is The Tragedy America Needs Right Now” in Esquire, says that Harrison Ford has agreed to be in another Indiana Jones movie, and speculates on what sort of Indiana Jones film that would be given that given Ford’s age (77). This film would take place in 1970.

…Let’s take a step back. At 77, Ford apparently hasn’t quite completed the valedictory tour of his most beloved roles which began back in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, continued with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and rounded off with Blade Runner 2049 in 2017. During that run it felt like Ford was being very savvy in using Rick Dekkard, Han Solo and Indy to cement his legacy and remind younger audiences that he wasn’t always a man badly CGI’d into the fight scene in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

(2) RAGTIME GAL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Finally saw The Rise of Skywalker.

Scenes we hadn’t expected to see included:

  • Jar-Jar Binks’ daughter showing as the new Darth Vader. (Helmet problems, of course, ears ended up dangling out from visor, tssk!)
  • The Force Ghost of Yoda does a comedy song routine, including some action riffs from Singing in the Rain and Make ‘Em Laugh. Using lightsaber as a cane/umbrella was inspired!

What were your (non-spoiler) favorites?

(3) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 6 to make your voice heard: “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2019!”.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2019. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 9 to February 6, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

(4) IT’S IN THE RNA. Romantic Novelists’ Association released the shortlists for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards on February 3. [Via Locus Online.]

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award:

  • The Girl at the Window, Rowan Coleman, Ebury Press, Penguin Random House
  • The Ghost Garden, Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead, Totally Bound
  • Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel, Ruth Hogan, Two Roads
  • The Hotel Where We Met, Belinda Jones, Independently published
  • The Stone’s Heart, Jessica Thorne, Bookouture

The awards will be presented in London on March 2.

(5) WIKIPEDIA SPOTLIGHTS FALL’S ‘HELICOPTER’ STORY. Rhetorical question Do very many short stories have their own Wiki article? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Sexually_Identify_as_an_Attack_Helicopter

This seems to have popped up in a hurry, and was promptly featured on Wikipedia’s front page (see last item):

(6) I.D.O.U. Brian Keene weighs in about “The Only Thing An Author Owes”.

…As a public figure, the contract between an author and a reader is as follows:

Author writes the book. Reader purchases and reads the book.

That’s it. That’s the sum total. Purchasing a book or wanting to be an aspiring author doesn’t entitle you access to an author’s social media any more than it entitles you to sleep in their bedroom at night. Social media is necessary marketing for authors, but that doesn’t mean they have to engage with unpleasantness. Some do. In the past, I often have. But I’m older, and hypertension is a thing, and quite frankly, I don’t need the bullshit. If I invite you into my living room, am I expected to sit there and let you call me an “arrogant egotistical asshole with sycophants surrounding” me simply because you shared a link to my podcast a few days ago, or because you bought a book by me at some point?

Hell no.

I don’t block people for politics. I don’t block them for what they like or dislike, or for who they follow. But if I feel someone is being purposely antagonistic or ignorant, or if I think they’re the latest in a very, very, very, very long line of geniuses whose beginning and ending marketing plan is, “I’ll pick a fight with Brian Keene/Nick Mamatas/Wrath James White/insert other name here and that will get me noticed” (a ploy so old, by the way, that Maurice Broaddus wrote about it way back in 2005), or if I think they have the potential to join in on those shenanigans, then yeah, I block them. It’s better for my mental health, and it’s definitely better for my blood pressure.

(7) THE ZINES OF ’44. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari helps voters decide for themselves what deserves  Retro-Hugo this year. http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1944.html

In support of the Retro Hugos project for CoNZealand, we’ve added an alphabetical list of 1944 fanzines. It is the largest list of 1944 fanzines that we could compile. We have linked, both from our site and others, all the zines we can find to give you the ability to read what was going on in 1944. We will link to additional zines as we find them, and are also still scanning more ourselves. If you know of appropriate materials not on the list, please let us know. We hope this will give you some ability to judge the 1944 materials first hand. Much of it may not seem of significant quality to us today, but it gives context and the ability to compare the writers and editors of 1944, rather than just relying on their later reputations.”…Joe Siclari 

(8) CLI-FI FICTION CONTEST. The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative launched their third global climate fiction writing contest yesterday. The Everything Change Climate Fiction Contest 2020 is taking submissions until April 15. Full guidelines at the link. 

Inspired by the incredible international response to our climate fiction contests in 2016 and 2018, we are proud to announce our third contest in 2020—a momentous year for climate action, and an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine how humans will live on this planet in the future.

Work will be selected and judged by Claire Vaye Watkins, a Guggenheim Fellow, winner of The Story Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and author of Gold Fame Citrus, a climate fiction novel that was named a best book of 2015 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and NPR. Claire will join an interdisciplinary group of judges with expertise in climate science, sustainability, creative writing, and environmental literature.

All genres are welcome. The author of the winning story will receive a $1000 prize, and nine finalists will receive $100 prizes. The winning story and finalists will be published in an anthology by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University.  

(9) HEMMING AWARD NOMINEES SOUGHT. The Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is taking entries in the Norma K Hemming Award for works published in 2019. Submit items here through February 29.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award is now open for entries.

The award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work. Entry is free for all works, and entries may be provided to the judges in print or digital format.

Two prizes will be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations are open to all eligible work produced in 2019.

“We encourage publishers and creators to carefully consider their work from the eligible period,” said award administrator Tehani Croft. “It is our goal to see all eligible material considered by the jurors. It is important to us that every person has the opportunity to see themselves reflected in fiction, and we hope that the Norma can have some part to play in making works dealing in themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in speculative fiction more visible.”

(10) CLARK OBIT. Bestselling thriller author Mary Higgins Clark died January 31 at 92. The LA Times notice ends —

Married since 1996 to former Merrill Lynch Futures Chief Executive John J. Conheeney, she remembered well the day she said goodbye to hard times. It was in April of 1977, and her agent had told her that Simon & Schuster was offering $500,000 for the hardcover to her third novel, “A Stranger Is Watching,” and that the publisher Dell was paying $1 million for the paperback. She had been running her own script production company during the day and studying for a philosophy degree at Fordham University at night, returning home to New Jersey in an old car with more than 100,000 miles on it.

“As I drove onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, the tailpipe and muffler came loose and began dragging on the ground. For the next 21 miles, I kur-plunked, kur-plunked, all the way home,” she wrote in her memoir. “People in other cars kept honking and beeping, obviously sure that I was either too stupid or too deaf to hear the racket.

“The next day I bought a Cadillac!”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 4, 1983 Videodrome premiered. It was written and directed by David Cronenberg, with a cast of James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Debbie Harry. It was the first film by Cronenberg to get Hollywood backing and it bombed earning back only two million dollars of its nearly six million budget. In spite of that, critics and audience goers alike found it to a good film. Today it is considered his best film by many, and it holds a sterling 80% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1922 William Phipps. He started off his genre career by being in both The War of The Worlds and Invaders from Mars. He’d later be in Cat-Women of the Moon, The Snow Creature, The Evil of Frankenstein, and the Dune series. He’d have one-offs in Batman, Green Hornet, The Munsters, Wild Wild West and a lead role in the Time Express series which would last four episodes according IMDB. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Author of a number of genre novel of which the best by far is Riddley Walker. Indeed, ISFDB lists some fifteen such novels by him, so I’m curious how he is as a genre writer beyond Riddley Walker. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1936 Gary Conway, 84. Best remembered I’d say for starring in Irwin Allen‘s Land of the Giants. You can see the opening episode here. He was also in How to Make a Monster, a late Fifties horror film which I’m delighted to say that you can watch here. He’s the Young Frankenstein in it. 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George A. Romero. He’s got an impressive listing form the Dead films, I count seven of them, to Knightriders, which is truly genre adjacent at best, and one of my favorites of his, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Oh, and he wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as Stan Lee, but he did show up in at least seven of his films.  (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 80. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn in “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 60. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters), voicing a role in The Cat in The Hat short, Night Gallery, Sealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO. She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 59. I’ve been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I’m listening to The Line War right now and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of a hundred thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again). As I said last year, h the sort of writer that I think drives our Puppies to madness — literate pulp SF pumped out fast that readers like. 
  • Born February 4, 1962 Thomas Scott Winnett. Locus magazine editorial assistant and reviewer from 1989 to 1994. He worked on Locus looks at books and Books received as well. In addition, he wrote well over a hundred review reviews for Locus. He died of AIDS-related pneumonia. (Died 2004.)

 (13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus shows the origins of empire building.

(14) WADE IN. Find out what’s behind the new novel Mazes of Power in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

This is the story of a very old, and very big idea. When I first had it, I was thirteen years old, and the idea was so big that I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. It was the idea for a world of cavern cities, where families were restricted in their professions, and about conflicts of power… but until I’d turned this idea over hundreds of times, over years, it always seemed out of my grasp. I learned about anthropology, and added a new social awareness to my idea, and realized it was for a work of sociological science fiction. I studied linguistics, and added that, too. I tried to write a story about it, knew it was wrong, and learned more, and wrote it again. I concentrated hard on learning how language and the world around us reflect our concepts of our social selves, and wrote it again.

Until it stopped being wrong, and became the world of Varin….

(15) TRUE GRIT. Dune and The Martian are two of the recommendations on Penguin Random House’s “Books to Read on a Desert Island”, which makes an unintentionally humorous kind of sense….

So you found yourself stranded on a desert island, what book do you wish you had with you? More realistically, you’re sitting on a long plane flight or waiting for an appointment, but the question still applies! We’ve suggested a few fiction and nonfiction books below that will have you contemplating life or forgetting reality.

(16) DO NOT COLLECT $200. Vanity Fair replays the crime – and no, the culprit wasn’t the Hamburglar: McMillions: The Stranger-Than-Fiction Story of the $24-Million McDonald’s Monopoly Theft”

…But in 2000, the FBI got an anonymous tip about an “Uncle Jerry” rigging the McDonald’s competition. The organization launched an investigation that would uncover the fact that many of the winners—despite the out-of-state addresses they listed—actually lived within a 25-mile radius of the lakefront home Jacobson owned. According to the Daily Beast, “25 agents across the country…tracked 20,000 phone numbers, and recorded 235 cassette tapes of telephone calls.” McDonald’s even sent an employee undercover to help the FBI stage a fake TV commercial campaign—Argo–style—to get the fraudulent winners to incriminate themselves on camera. There were raids. And in 2001, in a scene tailor-made for the third act of an action thriller, McDonald’s launched another Monopoly game—knowing that their game had been compromised—because the FBI needed more evidence.

(17) EXTRAORDINARY. Adler #1 will be released in comic shops tomorrow. “Irene Adler is on a mission to take down Sherlock’s greatest nemesis, Moriarty!”

It’s the League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen, as Adler teams up with a host of famous female faces from history and literature to defeat the greatest criminal mastermind of all time!

Written by World Fantasy Award Winner Lavie Tidhar, with art by Paul McCaffrey (TMNT).

(18) VAMPIRE PAPERWORK. The AP reports “Tulane acquires archive of “Vampire” author Anne Rice”.

Tulane University has acquired the complete archives of bestselling author Anne Rice, who was born and raised in New Orleans and whose books, including “Interview with the Vampire,” often drew inspiration from her hometown.

The collection was a gift from Stuart Rose and the Stuart Rose Family Foundation to the university’s Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, the university said in a statement.

“That Tulane has provided a home for my papers is exciting and comforting,” Rice said in the statement. “All my novels — in a career spanning more than 40 years — have been profoundly influenced by the history and beauty of New Orleans, and by its unique ambience in which my imagination flourished even in early childhood.”

Rice has written 30 novels. She moved to California to attend university and has spent much of her life since then in California, according to her biography. But New Orleans has played a central role in much of her fiction.

(19) AUTISM RESEARCH. “Researchers Link Autism To A System That Insulates Brain Wiring”.

Scientists have found a clue to how autism spectrum disorder disrupts the brain’s information highways.

The problem involves cells that help keep the traffic of signals moving smoothly through brain circuits, a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The team found that in both mouse and human brains affected by autism, there’s an abnormality in cells that produce a substance called myelin.

That’s a problem because myelin provides the “insulation” for brain circuits, allowing them to quickly and reliably carry electrical signals from one area to another. And having either too little or too much of this myelin coating can result in a wide range of neurological problems.

For example, multiple sclerosis occurs when the myelin around nerve fibers is damaged. The results, which vary from person to person, can affect not only the signals that control muscles, but also the ones involved in learning and thinking.

The finding could help explain why autism spectrum disorders include such a wide range of social and behavioral features, says Brady Maher, a lead investigator at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and an associate professor in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“Myelination could be a problem that ties all of these autism spectrum disorders together,” Maher says. And if that’s true, he says, it might be possible to prevent or even reverse the symptoms using drugs that affect myelination.

“If we get to these kids really early, we might be able to change their developmental trajectory and improve their outcomes,” Maher says.

(20) SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT MISTER ROGERS’ DOOR. “’Exploding meteor’ drops out of night sky in Derby” — short video.

A man’s doorbell camera has captured a celestial light show as what is thought to be a meteor dropped through the night sky in Derby.

Gary Rogers, 52, who captured the footage about 23:30 GMT on Monday, said he was amazed and felt lucky to have seen it.

Experts at the National Space Centre in Leicester said they believe it was a bolide – a bright meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.

Rob Dawes, chairman of nearby Sherwood Observatory, said the brightness suggested it was larger than a normal meteor.

He said: “[Mr Rogers] was very lucky to get such a nice bright one. But you’d be surprised how many of these do come into the atmosphere at any time of year.”

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