Pixel Scroll 5/15/22 The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is Long, But It Scrolls Toward Pixels

(1) TIME IS FLEETING. The SFWA Silent Auction ends tomorrow at noon. Organizer Jason Sanford says, “In particular you and your File 770 readers might get a kick out of seeing the original Munchkin card in the auction, which I think is amazing and is shown in the press release. Also, the auction has up for bid original, first edition hardback copies of Green Hills of Earth and Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein from the early 1950s — both of which are signed by Heinlein! I’m a little frustrated that more people haven’t noticed these two rare, signed copies of his books from the Golden Age of SF.”

Specifically, these are the links to the two books Jason pointed out: Green Hills of Earth by Robert A. Heinlein, an autographed Shasta hardcover first edition (1951; no jacket); and Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein an autographed Shasta hardcover first edition (1953; no jacket). Both books include a chart of Heinlein’s Future History on a flyleaf.

(2) BRITISH FANTASY AWARDS SEEK NOMINATIONS. The British Fantasy Society is taking nominations for the British Fantasy Awards 2022. You can vote in the BFAs if you are any of the following: A member of the British Fantasy Society; An attendee at FantasyCon 2021; or A ticket-holder for FantasyCon 2022. The voting form is here. Voting will remain open until Sunday May 29, 2022.

Voters may list up to three titles in each category. A crowdsourced list of suggestions has been created here. You may vote for titles not on the suggestions list. Further guidance on the eligibility criteria for each category can be found here.

The four titles or names with the highest number of recommendations in each category will make the shortlist.

(3) ALERT THE MEDIA. “David Tennant and Catherine Tate returning to Doctor Who in 2023” reports Radio Times.

After plenty of rumours and red herrings, the BBC has confirmed the shock news that former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate are returning to the long-running sci-fi drama, over 12 years after they originally handed in their TARDIS keys and just a week after Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa was announced as the new star of the series (taking over from current Doctor Jodie Whittaker).

As the time-travelling Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble, the pair presided over a popular and critically-acclaimed era for Doctor Who still fondly remembered by fans. And now, according to the BBC, they are set to reunite with screenwriter Russell T Davies to film new “scenes that are due to air in 2023”, coinciding with Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

…It could be that these scenes are little more than a cameo, or they could be a major comeback. For now, they’re keeping it all a bit mysterious….

(4) NEXT, THE GOOD NEWS. Yesterday’s Scroll ran an item about what was getting axed at CW. Today Variety has published “UPFRONTS 2022: The Full List of New Broadcast Series Orders”, which it will continually update. Here are examples of what different companies are planning to air next season.

KRAPOPOLIS (Fox Entertainment)

Logline: Animated comedy set in mythical ancient Greece, the series centers on a flawed family of humans, gods and monsters that tries to run one of the world’s first cities without killing each other.

QUANTUM LEAP (Universal Television)

A sequel to the original 1989-1993 time-traveling NBC fantasy drama picks up 30 years after Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. Now a new team has been assembled to restart the project in the hopes of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it.

GOTHAM KNIGHTS (Warner Bros. Television)

Logline: In the wake of Bruce Wayne’s murder, his rebellious adopted son forges an unlikely alliance with the children of Batman’s enemies when they are all framed for killing the Caped Crusader.

THE WINCHESTERS (Warner Bros. Television/CBS Studios)

Logline: This prequel to “Supernatural” tells the untold love story of how John and Mary Winchester met and put it all on the line to not only save their love, but the entire world.

(5) ANOTHER INTERPRETATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Nilanjana Roy discusses feminist retellings of classic myths.

In her debut novel Kaikeyi published this month, Chicago-based writer Vaishnavi Patel dramatically reframes a story from the great Hindu epic The Ramayana, of Queen Kaikeyo who demands that her husband King Dashrath exile her stepson, the young man-god Rama. ‘I wanted to discover what might have caused a celebrated warrior and beloved queen to tear her family apart,’ Patel writes in her introduction.

Like Patel, many are interested in questioning the framing of mythical women as both villains and heroes.  Korean-American writer Axie Oh writes a less submissive protagonist into the legend of Shim Cheong in her young-adult book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea. In Oh’s version Mina, a village girl, takes the place of Shim Cheong, the dutiful daughter in the legend who sacrifices herself to the sea gods–but her role in the story is a more active one.  ‘My fate is not yours to decide,’ she says.  ‘My fate belongs to me.’

(6) GENRE STAR GILLAN WEDS. “Karen Gillan marries American boyfriend in closely guarded ceremony at castle in Argyll” – the Daily Record has the story.

Avengers star Karen Gillan has wed her American boyfriend in a closely guarded ceremony at a castle in Argyll.

The Inverness-born star tied the knot this afternoon with American comedian Nick Kocher, 36, after jetting back to Scotland for her nuptials.

Some of the A-list guests at the wedding in Castle Toward in Dunoon included fellow action star Robert Downey Jnr and Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts, who were spotted in the town earlier today.

Steven Moffat, who was executive producer of Doctor Who when Karen was Matt Smith’s Tardis companion, was also a guest for her big day.

The 34-year-old, who had kept her engagement to the Saturday Night Live scriptwriter a secret, had chartered a yacht, The Spirit of Fortitude, to take family and friends to the 3.30pm ceremony….

(7) SFF FILLS THE 1953 MAGAZINE STANDS. [Item by Mlex.] James Wallace Harris of the Auxiliary Memory blog & SF Signal, posted a bibliographic essay on the year 1953 for science fiction short stories. “The 1953 SF&F Magazine Boom” at Classics of Science Fiction.

Science fiction in 1953 spoke to a generation and it’s fascinating to think about why. The number of science fiction readers before WWII was so small that it didn’t register in pop culture. The war brought rockets, atomic bombs, computers, and nuclear power. The late 1940s brought UFOs – the flying saucer craze. The 1950s began with science fiction movies and television shows. By 1953, science fiction was a fad bigger than the hula-hoop would ever be, we just never thought of it that way. I do wonder if the fad will ever collapse, but I see no sign it will.

He also posted a related cover gallery of magazine issues from that year at the Internet Archive: “1953 SFF Magazine Covers”.

(8) READING ALOUD. Space Cowboy Books presents the 51st episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast. Stories featured in this episode:

“The Jellyfish from Nullarbor” by Eric Farrell; music by RedBlueBlackSilver; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“Apotheosis” by Joshua Green; music by Phog Masheeen; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2006 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixteen years on this date, one of the most unusual strips to come into existence did so in the form of Mark Tatulli’s Liō. It was very easy to market globally as it had almost no dialogue except that spoken by other people in the parodies that I’ll mention in a minute as Liō and the other characters don’t speak at all, and there were no balloons or captions at all again giving it a global appeal. 

Liō, who lives with his father and various monsters, i.e. Ishmael a giant squid and Fido a spider, various animals like Cybil a white cat (of course there’s a cat here, a very pushy feline indeed), aliens, lab creations, and even Liō’s hunchbacked assistant.  Why there’s even Archie, Liō’s psychopathic ventriloquist’s dummy. Liō’s mother is deceased. Though why she’s deceased is never stated. Definitely not your nuclear family here.

An important aspect of the strip is that will riff off other strips, and lots of them: BlondieBloom CountyCalvin and HobbesCathyGarfieldOpusPeanuts, even Pearls Before Swine (not one of my favorite strips I will readily admit) will become fodder for parody by this strip.  That’s where the only dialogue is spoken. 

Currently  the strip which runs daily globally in more than two hundred and fifty papers. 

Tatulli on the Mr. Media podcast back a decade or so said “It’s really a basic concept. It’s just Liō who lives with his father, and that’s basically it, and whatever I come up with. I set no parameters because I didn’t want to lock myself in. I mean, having no dialogue means that there is going to be no dialogue-driven gags, so I have to leave myself as open as possible to any kind of thing, so anything basically can happen.” 

There a transcript of that podcast here as the audio quality of that interview is, as the interviewer admits, rather awful. He got better after that first interview by him. 

In multiple interviews, Tatulli has said the two major contemporary influences on his style are Gahan Wilson and Charles Addams.

And yes, it’s still in existence and offending people as this strip from late last year will demonstrate.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a very splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz franchise, nor have I read anything else by him. Nor have I seen any of the later adaptations of the Oz fiction. What’s the rest of his fiction like?  There is, by the way, an amazing amount of fanfic out here involving Oz and some of it is slash which is a really, really scary idea. (Died 1919.)
  • Born May 15, 1877 William Bowen. His most notable work was The Old Tobacco Shop, a fantasy novel that was one runner-up for the inaugural Newbery Medal in 1922. He also had a long running children’s series with a young girl named Merrimeg whom a narrator told her adventures with all sorts of folkloric beings. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 15, 1926 Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including the Agatha Christie-based  Evil Under the Sun,Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 74. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could be the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the proposed Culture series?
  • Born May 15, 1955 Lee Horsley, 67. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls as it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer.
  • Born May 15, 1960 Rob Bowman, 62. Producer of such series as Alien NationM.A.N.T.I.S.Quantum LeapNext Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-FilesReign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here.  
  • Born May 15, 1966 Greg Wise, 56. I’m including him solely for being in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (maybe) but damn fun. 
  • Born May 15, 1971 Samantha Hunt, 51. If you read nothing else by her, do read The Invention of Everything,  a might be look at the last days in the life of Nikola Tesla. It’s mostly set within the New Yorker Hotel, a great concept. I’m avoiding spoilers naturally. She’s written two other genre novels, Mr. Splitfoot and The Seas, plus a handful of stories. 

(11) BUILDING THE GENRE BRICK BY BRICK. “Lego’s next batch of official unofficial sets go on sale May 17th, and you’ll want to be quick” The Verge tells collectors. (This is the link to the sale: Designer Program 2021 Invitational at BrickLink.) The quotes below were written by the designers.

…A from-the-ground-up rebuild of the original “Bulwark” gunship design of the Space Troopers project, the spaceship you see here is chock full of the developments of a decade’s worth of building, yet remains sturdy and with a chunky simplicity that reminds me of what I’d have loved to play with as a boy. From the rear’s double cargo doors ready to discharge rovers, troops, or scientists on an expedition, to the inner hatch and gunner’s console with its cramped ladder allowing access to the cockpit, the hold is packed with scenes ripe for customization and exploration. Crew bunks and a tiny galley round out the hull, and the off-center cockpit rises up between a sensor array and two massive engines that can rotate up or down for flight.

The sliding cargo doors aren’t just there for show; a sturdy mechanism just behind the wings allows you to attach the two included modules or design your own, dropping them off on some distant planet or opening the doors to allow for use in-flight. Two crimson hardsuits in the classic Space Troopers red are more than just my concession to the strictures of the brick—they’re my homage to the classic sci-fi writers whose tales of adventure on far-off planets and dropships swooping from the sky have shaped my life. Deploying on two rails from a module that locks into place in the dropship’s rear, the suits are chunky, bedecked with pistons and thrusters, and, most importantly, fit a minifigure snugly inside to allow for armored adventures….

…I think around this time I also watched some The Big Bang Theory episodes. During one of these nights I “designed” an observatory made from LEGO bricks in my mind. I really love science and space, and I have never seen an observatory as an official LEGO set. That’s when I thought about building an observatory in real bricks. But I didn’t want to use an IP because that would only be interesting for people who has a connection to the place. I wanted to create a playable observatory that has a unique design. I imagined a building on the top of a mountain and what it would look like. And that’s why I called it “Mountain View.”…

…The Steam Powered Science (previously known as the Exploratorium) is a Steam-Punk themed research facility whose mission is to delve into the mysteries of the universe. One half of the facility is dedicated to researching celestial motion while the other is dedicated to traversing the ocean’s depths. The set was designed as part of the Flight Works Series, a group of Steam-Punk themed submissions on LEGO Ideas….

(12) CHARGE IT! Are Colin Kuskie and Phil Nichols really going to advocate for that most controversial of critics’ notions? To find out you will need to listen to episode 17 of Science Fiction 101, “Canon to the left of me, canon to the right”.

Colin and Phil return, buoyed by the news that Science Fiction 101 has risen to number 6 in Feedspot’s league table of Best UK Sci-Fi Podcasts!

Our main discussion topic the contentious issue of the “canon” of science fiction, triggered by a blog post by Dr Shaun Duke. We also have a movie quiz, and the usual round-up of past/present/future SF.

(13) STRANGE NEW TREK PARAPHERNALIA. TrekCore is pleased to report that after a long wait “QMx Finally Beams Down USS ENTERPRISE Delta Badges”.

More than three years after their initial announcement, QMx has finally brought their Star Trek: Discovery-era USS Enterprise Starfleet delta badges into Earth orbit — just in time for the debut of Captain Pike’s own series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Originally announced all the way back in February 2019, the metal Starfleet badges were showcased at that year’s Toy Fair expo in New York City… only to shuffle off the horizon, as they’d gone “on hold” by the early part of the next year (as a QMx representative told us at Toy Fair 2020), likely waiting for the then-in-the-works Captain Pike series to be announced to the public….

(14) INGENUITY BEGINNING TO AGE OUT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars showed its first sign of approaching old age when it failed to wake on time to “phone home.” After far outlasting its planned life, the approach of winter with shorter days and more dust in the air is beginning to play havoc with its ability to keep a charge on its batteries overnight. “Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Went Silent, Leaving Anxious NASA Team in the Dark” at Gizmodo.

Late last week, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter managed to reestablish its connection with the Perseverance rover following a brief communications disruption. The space agency says the looming winter is likely responsible and is making adjustments as a result.

On Thursday, Ingenuity—mercifully—sent a signal to Perseverance after the intrepid helicopter missed a scheduled communications session. It marked the first time since the pair landed together on Mars in February 2021 that Ingenuity has missed an appointment, according to NASA.

The team behind the mission believes that Ingenuity had entered into a low-power state to conserve energy, and it did so in response to the charge of its six lithium-ion batteries dropping below a critical threshold. This was likely due to the approaching winter, when more dust appears in the Martian atmosphere and the temperatures get colder. The dust blocks the amount of sunlight that reaches the helicopter’s solar array, which charges its batteries….

(15) BABY TALK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Baby Yoda showed up on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” to promote Obi-Wan Kenobi and discuss his questionable new friends.  But don’t ask him about Baby Groot or he’ll get really angry! “Baby Yoda on His Spiritual Awakening”.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/21 Big Pixel In Little Scroll

(1) KRUGMAN’S RINGING ENDORSEMENT. “‘Dune’ Is the Movie We Always Wanted” says Paul Krugman.  After pausing to tell us why he hates Apple TV’s Foundation series, he tells why he loves the Villenueve Dune adaptation.

… Now on to “Dune.” The book is everything “Foundation” isn’t: There’s a glittering, hierarchical society wracked by intrigue and warfare, a young hero of noble birth who may be a prophesied Messiah, a sinister but alluring sisterhood of witches, fierce desert warriors and, of course, giant worms.

And yes, it’s fun. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would engage in mock combat in which the killing blow had to be delivered slowly to penetrate your opponent’s shield — which will make sense if you read the book or watch the movie.

What makes “Dune” more than an ordinary space opera are two things: its subtlety and the richness of its world-building.

Thus, the Bene Gesserit derive their power not from magic but from deep self-control, awareness and understanding of human psychology. The journey of Paul Atreides is heroic but morally ambiguous; he knows that if he succeeds, war and vast slaughter will follow.

And the world Herbert created is given depth by layers of cultural references. He borrowed from Islamic and Ayurvedic traditions, from European feudalism and more — “Dune” represents cultural appropriation on a, well, interstellar scale. It’s also deeply steeped in fairly serious ecological thinking…

(2) SILICON VOLLEY. Did you have any doubts? “’Dune: Part 2′ Officially Greenlit” reports Variety. But you have to wait ‘til 2023 to see it.

… Legendary Entertainment announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday, ensuring that the spice will continue to flow on screen. Warner Bros. will distribute the film and help finance it, though Legendary is the primary money behind the movie and owns the film rights to the book series. The film is expected to have an exclusive theatrical run, and Legendary will likely make that point iron-clad after “Dune” debuted simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max last week. The unorthodox distribution pattern was a pandemic-era concession by Warner Bros., but one that caused an uproar when it was unveiled in 2020. “Dune: Part 2” will hit theaters on Oct. 20, 2023….

When interviewed by Variety at the Toronto Film Festival, Villeneuve said, “I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously. For several reasons, it didn’t happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm… As I was doing the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I’m optimistic.”

(3) DISCON III BUSINESS MEETING DEADLINE. Meeting chair Kevin Standlee reminds all that the deadline for submitting proposals to the 2021 WSFS Business Meeting is November 16, 2021. Any two or more members of DisCon III (including supporting and virtual members) may sponsor new business. Submit proposals to businessmeeting@discon3.org. See “A Guide to the WSFS Business Meeting at DisCon III” [PDF file] for more information about the WSFS Business Meeting.

Reports from committees of the Business Meeting and financial reports from Worldcon committees are also due by November 16, 2021. Send reports to businessmeeting@discon3.org.

(4) RED ALERT. Remember when you had half a year to do all your Hugo reading? Okay, now’s time to panic. DisCon III today posted a reminder that the Hugo voting deadline is just a few weeks away.

(5) 6TH ANNUAL CITY TECH SF SYMPOSIUM. The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and SF has extended the submission deadline of its call for papers until October 29. See full guidelines at the link.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium aims to explore the broad theme of “Access and SF” as a way to understand the relationship between access and SF, identify what’s at stake and for whom, foster alliances between those fighting for access, and discuss how improving access for some improves access for all.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium is a virtual event that will be held online Thursday, December 9 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Eastern at CUNY in New York.

(6) HORROR TRIUMVIRATE Q&A. Goodreads invites fans to “Meet the Authors of Today’s Big Horror Novels”.

Stephen Graham Jones, author of My Heart Is a Chainsaw

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

SGJ: One that changes your daily behavior—makes you afraid of the shower, afraid of the dark, suspicious of the people in your life. One that leaves you no longer certain about yourself or the world you live in. A perfect horror novel is one you forget is a book at all. It’s one that lodges in your head and your heart as an experience, a little perturbation inside you that you only snag your thoughts on when alone. But when those thoughts start to seep blood, you place that cut to your mouth and drink. This is the nourishment you need, never mind how drained it leaves you feeling. Nothing’s for free.

Caitlin Starling, author of The Death of Jane Lawrence

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

CS:  I want to drown in atmosphere. That doesn’t mean I want only slow-moving horror but books that feel like the movies The Blackcoat’s Daughter or A Dark Song—something in that vein. I also want characters that I can live inside, that even if I question their decisions, I don’t just hate or want to suffer. It’s more fun for me to watch a character I enjoy struggle.

Grady Hendrix, author of The Final Girl Support Group

GR: What sparked the idea for your latest book?

GH: Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies, so after Boy Scout meetings when our Scoutmaster took us to the gas station for snacks, I convinced him that I was allowed to buy issues of Fangoria with my snack money instead. I’d pore over Fango’s deeply detailed plot breakdowns and photo spreads so that I could pretend to have seen all these horror movies. The first one I remember was their feature on the opening of Friday the 13th Part 2, in which the final girl from Part 1, played by Adrienne King, gets murdered by Jason. The casual cruelty of that blew my mind. This woman had seen all her friends die, decapitated the killer, and survived, but she still couldn’t let her guard down. I always wanted to write her a happier ending.
(Fun fact: Adrienne King is the audiobook narrator for The Final Girl Support Group.)

(7) CLASSISM IN SESSION. In “The Potterization of Science Fiction”, The Hugo Book Club Blog decries a prevalent type of sff story, and the distortions it has wrought on the TV adaptation of Foundation.

…One of the fundamentally troubling assumptions behind the born-great protagonist is the anti-democratic idea that the lives of some people simply matter more than the lives of other people. If we accept that Harry Potter is destined to be the only one who can do the thing that’s important, then why should we care about the life of Ritchie Coote? Likewise, if Aragorn is destined for the throne then we have to accept that all other Men of Gondor would be incapable of managing the kingdom (let alone Women of Gondor). There is a direct link between the idea that one person can be born great, with the ideas that underpin racism, classism, and sexism. See also: the equally flawed “great man” theory….

(8) DEATH FROM ABOVE. In the latest episode of Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie’s Science Fiction 101 podcast, “Fly Me To The Moon”, they review The Apollo Murders.

The author, Chris Hadfield, has flown on the Space Shuttle and on Soyuz, worked on the Russian Mir space station, and commanded the International Space Station. You can’t get more astronaut experience than that.

….If you’ve been tempted by The Apollo Murders, listen to our review to see if it’s the kind of thing that appeal to you. But do be warned: here there be spoilers!

(9) FRIENDLY LOCAL GAME STORE DOCUMENTARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Here’s a trailer for an interesting Kickstarter documentary about the largest independent games store on Earth. Now, I might be biased, since I worked there in the 1990s, but Sentry Box is great. One of the best SF book selections anywhere (Gord, the owner handed me my first copy of Lest Darkness Fall … and Steve Jackson and Judith Reeves-Stevens used to visit the store semi-regularly.) 

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1984 – Thirty-seven years ago, The Terminator said “I’ll be back” as the first in that franchise was released.  It was directed by James Cameron who wrote it along with Gale Anne Hurd who also produced it. (She would marry Cameron in 1985.) It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton.  Almost all the critics at the time really liked it, though the New York Times thought there was way too much violence. You think? One critic at the time said it had, and I quote, “guns, guns and more guns.” Huh.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a very high score of eighty-nine percent. I was surprised that it did not get a Hugo nomination.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 67. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. 
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 61. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quelled, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. It’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 59. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride which won a Hugo at Nolacon II as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. And no, that’s hardly all his genre roles. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 58. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 50. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his other series, Codex Alera and Cinder Spires? I see he won a Dragon this year for his Battle Ground novel, the latest in the Dresden Files series.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 48. Ok, I confess that I tried watching The Orville which he created and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I will admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield shows we need some better way to handle giant robots. (I imagine Slim Pickens delivering the line in the comic.)

(13) DIOP WINS NEUSTADT. Boubacar Boris Diop is the 27th laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide. Diop is not a genre writer so far as I’m aware, but this major literary award news came out today.

Francophone writer Diop (b. 1946, Dakar, Senegal) is the author of many novels, plays and essays. He was awarded the Senegalese Republic Grand Prize in 1990 for Les Tambours de la mémoire as well as the Prix Tropiques for The Knight and His Shadow. His Doomi Golo was the first novel to be translated from Wolof into English. Toni Morrison called his novel Murambi: The Book of Bones “a miracle,” and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair listed it as one of the 100 best African books of the 20th century.

…The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. Winners are awarded $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver and a certificate.

Boubacar Boris Diop

(14) SCIENCE FICTION IS ALWAYS ABOUT THE PRESENT.  Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s article about the Dune novel and movie’s use of culture is much more nuanced than the headline Slate gives it: “Is HBO’s 2021 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s book a white savior narrative?”

…Part of this is also Herbert’s fault. By writing a story in which he intended to critique “Western man,” Herbert also centered Western man. Often when critiquing something, one falls into a binary that prevents the very third option that so many have been looking for since decolonization. Herbert’s greatest shortcoming can be seen in his analysis of T.E. Lawrence and the deification of leaders in an interview he gave in 1969. He said, “If Lawrence of Arabia had died at the crucial moment of the British … he would have been deified. And it would have been the most terrifying thing the British had ever encountered, because the Arabs would have swept that entire peninsula with that sort of force, because one of the things we’ve done in our society is exploited this power.”

Herbert’s shortcoming is not his idea that “Western man” seeks to exploit the deification of charismatic leaders but that Arabs (or any other non-Western) would fall easily for it. This notion, in fact, builds on a stereotype that motivated European powers to fund propaganda among Muslims during the world wars in the hope that they could provoke a global jihad against one another. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, because Islam isn’t a “warrior religion” whose followers are just waiting for the right trigger to go berserk. Islam’s followers are human and are as complicated and multifaceted as other humans. Herbert should have seen that more clearly….

(15) PILE THESE ON TOP OF MT. TBR. CrimeReads’ Rektok Ross recommends some compelling YA horror and sf novels: “9 YA Survival Thrillers To Get Your Heart Pounding This Fall”.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

During a catastrophic natural disaster, high school sophomore Miranda takes shelter with her family in this heart-stopping thriller. After a meteor knocks the moon closer to earth, worldwide tsunamis demolish entire cities, earthquakes rock the world, and ash from volcanic explosions block out the sun. When the summer turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother are forced to hideout in their sunroom, where they must survive solely on stockpiled food and limited water. Readers will find themselves completely riveted by this story of desperation in an unfamiliar world although there are small slivers of hope, too.

(16) UNCOVERED. Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, in “Inspiration: The Reflection”, compares Will Bradley’s 1894 art with the science fictional cover by Mike Hinge it inspired, published by the 1975 fanzine Algol. Editor Andrew Porter commented there —

…This issue was the first with a full color cover. Working with the artist, Mike Hinge, was a challenge. He was a stickler for details, even demanded that his copyright appear on the front cover, in the artwork! This was also the first issue with the covers printed on 10pt Kromecoate, so the image really bumped up.

I forgot to mention that Hinge also did interior artwork, for the Le Guin piece. Also, all the type on the cover, and the headlines inside was done using LetraSet, which I still have dozens of sheets of, though I haven’t used it in decades.

(17) TOCHI ONYEBUCHI AND NGHI VO. At Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron, Nghi Vo and Tochi Onyebuchi joined Alan Bond and Karen Castelletti to talk about their 2021 Hugo Awards nominated works, Empress of Salt and Fortune and Riot Baby.

(18) FAMILY TREE. Joe Abercrombie’s response to Nina Melia’s tweet is, “Holy shit I’m Frodo in this metaphor?”

(19) THE WEED OF CRIME. In the Washington Post, Hannah Knowles says that federal prosecutors have charged Vinath Oudomzine for fraudulently obtaining a pandemic-related Small Businsss Administration loan. Prosecutors charge that Oudomosine spend $57,789 on a Pokemon card, which they did not identify. “Vinath Oudomsine used covid-19 business relief to buy a Pokémon card, federal prosecutors say”.

… On July 14, 2020, according to prosecutors, Oudomsine sought a loan for a business that he said had 10 employees and revenue of $235,000 over a year. The next month, court documents state, the SBA deposited $85,000 into a bank account in Oudomsine’s name.

Court filings give few details about the alleged Pokémon card purchase — such as which “Pocket Monster” it carried — simply stating that Oudomsine bought it “on or about” Jan. 8 of this year.

Collectible gaming cards can fetch big sums — this year, one unopened box of first-edition Pokémon cards sold for more than $400,000.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Halloween Kills Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, which has spoilers, Ryan George says Michael Myers managers to escape from the cliffhanger of the previous Halloween movie, even though he’s “an eight-fingered 60-year-old with smoke inhalation.”  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis, despite her billing, is barely in the movie and about half the script is various characters saying, “Evil dies tonight!”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Jennifer Hawthorne, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, Dann, Gadi Evron, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/21 I Scrolled Pixel Rae’s Lawn

(1) JEOPARDY! Tonight’s installment of Jeopardy! featured an entire category about the Nebula Awards. The first clue even mentioned the L.A. Science Fiction League of 1937. Andrew Porter provides screencaps. (Click for larger image.)

(2) TURN BACK THE CLOCK. Internet Archive Blog proudly points to a“Major SciFi Discovery Hiding in Plain Sight at the Internet Archive”.

Fans of science fiction learned last week that the word “robot” was first used in 1920—a full three years earlier than originally thought.The “massively important yet obvious” change in date was confirmed with a search of the Internet Archive, which has a digitized first edition of the Czech play, R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots, published in 1920. There on the title page, hiding in plain sight in an English-language subtitle to the work, is the earliest known use of the word “robot.”

This important piece of information is one of many little-known facts captured in the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. The project was completed this year by historian Jesse Sheidlower,…

(3) PROGRESS REPORT. Alastair Reynolds, in “We’ve been landing on Mars for a long time”, compares the length of time probes have been going to Mars with a benchmark in the history of eartbound aviation.

(4) THE WRIGHT STUFF. There was a lot more mileage left in the old bird after all: “Part of Wright brothers’ 1st airplane on NASA’s Mars chopper” reports AP News.

A piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane is on Mars.

NASA’s experimental Martian helicopter holds a small swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the space agency revealed Tuesday. The helicopter, named Ingenuity, hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, arriving last month.

Ingenuity will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet no sooner than April 8. It will mark a “Wright brothers’ moment,” noted Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, the Wrights’ hometown, donated the postage-size piece of muslin from the plane’s bottom left wing, at NASA’s request….

(5) BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. “Campaign to buy JRR Tolkien’s Oxford home fails” reports The Guardian.

An appeal to the public to raise £4.5m to buy JRR Tolkien’s former home in Oxford has failed.

Project Northmoor launched a crowdfunding campaign in December to raise money to acquire Tolkien’s former house at 20 Northmoor Road in Oxford, before it was put on to the market. Backed by names including Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, who played Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf in adaptations of Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the campaign said it wanted to turn the Grade II-listed property into “the first literary centre in the world dedicated to Tolkien”, and that it needed £4.5m to do so.

The Tolkien Society distanced itself from the project, after being approached for support by organisers, saying that the house “would not be a museum and would not be open to the public”, and that given the property is a listed building and already has a blue plaque celebrating the author, it is “well protected under the law and not in need of rescue”. The Tolkien Society was also concerned that plans it had seen for the property included “spiritual retreats”, that the charity’s “business model includes running a bed and breakfast, with a full-time resident warden”, and that its “primary intention appears to be to run creative workshops, rather than educational programmes about Tolkien”. It was also critical of the fact that “no prominent members of the Tolkien community – be they writers, academics, artists etc – are directors of the company”…

(6) “BLERDS” EXPLORE INTERSECTION OF BLACKNESS AND NERDINESS. Adam Bradley of the New York Times offers an insightful article titled “The Black Nerds Redefining the Culture”. In it, he traces how race and nerd subcultures overlap and affect each other.

“Blerds still love the same types of content [as other nerds],” Terril “Rell” Fields, the 33-year-old founder of the Raleigh, N.C.-based blerd.com says. “A Blerd just sees nerd culture through their Black cultural lens.” They may notice things that other nerds don’t: a Black or brown supporting character in a comic book that might otherwise be forgotten; a political allegory of race and democracy played out in a sci-fi television series.

(7) THEY CAME IN FROM THE COLD – TO WRITE. In “The Best Spy Novels Written by Spies, According to a Spy” on CrimeReads, sf writer Alma Katsu, a former spy, recommends her favorite spy novels by people who served in intelligence.

…As a retired intelligence professional and a published novelist, and now the author of a spy novel, I’m here to set the record straight: Even when you’ve been in the espionage business, it’s hard to write a good spy novel.

The heart of a good spy novel is not the caper but the personal or moral issue facing the protagonist. In a nutshell, that is the spy business, particularly on the clandestine side. You’re constantly asking yourself, am I doing the right thing? Do the ends justify the means? If I do this questionable thing, what does it mean about me as a person? The best spies—like the best people in general—question themselves. Test their motives. And try to hold themselves accountable. Because—like Spiderman—spies have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility….

Joe Weisberg, An Ordinary Spy

That’s right, the mind behind the brilliant TV series The Americans put a few years in with one of the three-letter agencies. Before his transition to television, he wrote this absolutely true-to-life novel. There was a tussle with CIA’s pre-publication review board that resulted in redactions, which the publisher cheekily decided to leave in. Without fail, when asked what it’s like to work at the Agency, this is the book I recommend. An Ordinary Spy perfectly captures what happens in the beginning, when your James Bond dreams crash into reality.

(8) THERE ARE OLD EQUATIONS, AND BOLD EQUATIONS, BUT THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD COLD EQUATIONS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Stowaway, about a stowaway aboard a Mars mission,

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 24, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that its birthday but let’s skip past that technically please. Quark was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. It starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and  Cyb Barnstable. It specialised in satirizing popular SF series and films and the Wiki article says three episodes were based upon actual Trek episodes. It lasted but eight episodes, beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 24, 1852 – Edward Page Mitchell.  Editor-in-chief of the New York Sun; pioneering SF author.  “The Crystal Man” predated Wells’ Invisible Man; “The Clock That Went Backward” predated The Time Machine – though Wells must be credited for that superb name, and story; faster-than-light travel (“The Tachypomp”) in 1874; other firsts.  See Sam Moskowitz ed., The Crystal Man (1973).  More here.  (Died 1927) [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were apparently written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad”. (Died 1926.) (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1897 Theodora Kroeber. Mother of Ursula K. Le Guin. Anthropologist, Ishi in Two Worlds is the work she’s most remembered for. ISFDB lists her as having but one genre work, a children book titled Carrousel with illustrations by Douglas Tait. Ishi is available on the usual suspects. (Died 1979.) (CE) 
  • Born March 24, 1911 – Gabriel Mayorga.  I know of five covers, half a dozen interiors for us, but he may have done more.  Tuned a notable artistic vision to the demands of our publishers.  Here is the May 40 Super Science (Fred Pohl, editor).  This Jun 40 Astonishing was re-used by Justine Larbalestier for The Battle of the Sexes in SF.  Here is the May 41 Super Science Novels (also Pohl).  Painted, sculpted, and taught in New York City, working in oil, pastel, watercolor, epoxy, plastic and polyester plastic.  Here is Strength (1928) carved from a bar of soap for a contest.  He illustrated this Theory and Practice of Fencing.  More here.  (Died 1988) [JH] 
  • Born March 24, 1930 Steve McQueen. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents he had which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. He died of a heart attack. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born March 24, 1946 Andrew I. Porter, 75. Editor, publisher, fan. Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. Editor of Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction which became StarshipAlgol / Starship started in the Sixties and was a five-time Hugo nominee in the Seventies, and exceedingly superb reading it was. He won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis, who was doing SFR. He founded the newzine Science Fiction Chronicle in May 1980 and published it monthly, eventually selling it to DNA Publications in May 2000.  He has won myriad awards including the Big Heart Award. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and nearly forty Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He was Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon. And with John Bangsund, he was responsible for Australia hosting its first Worldcon. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 75. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death  resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever.  Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 72. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprised me. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1949 – Bob Walters, age 72.  A score of covers, a hundred eighty interiors.  Here is Sunspacer.  Here is the Dec 84 Asimov’s.  Here is the May 85 Analog.  Here is A Thunder on Neptune.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1960 – Lene Kaaberbøl, age 60.  A score of novels for us; also crime fiction.  Nordic Children’s Book Prize.  Morgensen Prize.  First published at age 15.  “I was born in Copenhagen, by mistake, really, since my parents are both Jutlanders…. the distinction may appear trivial to non-Danes, but to insiders it is a crucial one!…  The Morning Land was one of the first … Danish fantasy novels for adults.”  Silver medal in pétanque at the World Championships.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1975 – Carl Hancock Rux, age 46.  Author of novels, essays, poems, plays, songs; actor and director; instrumentalist, singer (five solo albums, a dozen singles). Village Voice Literary Prize, NY Fdn. for the Arts Prize.  Alpert, Bessie, Doris Duke, Obie Awards.  Asphalt (novel, play) is ours.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1988 – Viktoria Gavrilenko, age 33.  Three covers for us.  Here is Villains, Inc.  Here is Young Sentinels.  Freelance concept artist and illustrator (also as “Viccolatte – call me Vik”); other occupations, tea drinking, writing, staring at ducks.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd’s “IMDb Vaccines” illustrates an eccentric thought experiment about a scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
  • Frank and Ernest discuss the legal issues of a monster stomping on a city.

(12) INTERNET RANDALL. Lorelei Marcus replays a famous (at the time) production of Arsenic and Old Lace with Boris Karloff for Galactic Journey readers: “[March 24, 1966] Dark Comedy and Birthday Wishes (a Tony Randall double feature)”.

… For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Arsenic and Old Lace is a dark comedy about two sweet old ladies who murder for fun, and their poor nephew, Mortimer Brewster, who discovers their nasty habit and tries to clean up the whole mess. Further conflict arises when Boris Karloff- I mean Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer’s brother and a notably malicious murderer, returns home to hide out for a while. As you might imagine, insanity ensues….

Though the rest of the cast is marvelous, I’d have to say Tony Randall gives the best performance as Mortimer Brewster, the straightman nephew. You may believe I have a slight bias in favor of Randall at this point, and that’s probably true, but I think it’s also fair to say that his execution of Mortimer ties the whole show together.

(13) BEEN THEN, DONE THAT. The Science Fiction 101 podcast returns in episode 2, “It’s About Time”.

Phil [Nichols] and Colin [Kuskie] consider the persistence of the concept of time travel. And we have a little guess-the-mystery-sound competition, albeit with no prizes to speak of other than (a) some small kudos and (b) a shout-out on our next episode. (Post a comment if you can identify the sound.)

(14) THE LARCH. “This Wooden Sculpture Is Twice as Old as Stonehenge and the Pyramids” says Smithsonian Magazine. Image at the link – it looks like Groot imitating “The Scream.”

Gold prospectors first discovered the so-called Shigir Idol at the bottom of a peat bog in Russia’s Ural mountain range in 1894. The unique object—a nine-foot-tall totem pole composed of ten wooden fragments carved with expressive faces, eyes and limbs and decorated with geometric patterns—represents the oldest known surviving work of wooden ritual art in the world….

Based on extensive analysis, Terberger’s team now estimates that the wood used to make the Shigir statue is about 12,250 years old. Carved from a single larch tree with 159 growth rings, the object itself was likely crafted around 12,100 years ago, at the end of the Last Ice Age, reports Michelle Starr for Science Alert.

(15) BEFORE 42. CBC previews a new book that reveals “Even Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author Douglas Adams struggled with writer’s block”.

Writing didn’t always come easily for Douglas Adams.

That may be a surprise to fans of the late British comedy and sci-fi writer, whose prolific resume includes the iconic novels The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, as well as classic episodes of Doctor Who and Monty Python. 

But it’s no surprise to his sister Jane Thrift, who was there when he was writing some of his most famous works, and often got a sneak peek at his earliest drafts. 

“If it was going well, oh, it was exciting. He’d call you in and print it off the printer or show you what he’d written and he’d stand there. And it was a bit tricky sometimes because he was just waiting for the expression or the laugh,” Thrift told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

“But the times when it was difficult — those were difficult. Those were hard. It was hard to watch him go through that process. And I think it was probably as he became more successful, he knew the value of each word and it had to be perfect.”

Adams’s insecurity about his own writing is one of revelations about the author’s inner-life that will be explored in the forthcoming book 42: The Wildly Improbable Ideas of Douglas Adams. …

(16) THEY CAN’T SEE YOU COMING. Smithsonian Magazine answers “How Does Your Vision Compare to Other Critters in the Animal Kingdom?”

Ever wondered what the world looks like through a cockatoo’s eyes? How about a giraffe—or even a butterfly?

For a new study published last month in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, a team of researchers set out in search of answers. As lead author Eleanor Caves explains in a press release, humans have higher visual acuity than most members of the animal kingdom, who “see the world with much less detail than we do.” And in recent decades, researchers have been slowly teasing apart how clear (or blurry) each critter’s view of the world is.

… As the measure decreases, an animal’s (or individual’s) vision worsens: At less than 10 cycles per degree, a human is deemed legally blind. The majority of insects, however, are lucky to see even one cycle per degree.

(17) STILL MORE SHAT! Birthday week continues with “William Shatner for the Commodore VIC-20” on YouTube. Shat learns that in 1982 you can play computer games on a computer!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Cloudy Dog Talk About” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Asami Ike for Filers who know dogs are their friends!

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Rich Lynch, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Jennifer Hawthorne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/4/21 And All The Scrolls Are Full Of Pix

(1) SPACE OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY. The virtual Tucson Festival of Books will include a panel “Galactic Empires, Murderbots and More!” with Tochi Onyebuchi, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells on Saturday March 6 at 11:00 a.m. Mountain time. Registration info here.

(2) GUEST WHO? “Star Trek: The Next Generation Almost Featured Robin Williams” at CBR.com.

…One actor the show never snagged, however, was Robin Williams, despite the fact that an episode was written specifically for him and the actor’s passion for the series.

The episode written for Robin Williams was Season 5, Episode 9, “A Matter of Time.” The episode focuses on the time-traveler Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a 26th century historian who traveled back in time to observe Picard and the crew of the Enterprise during a crucial moment. Except Rasmussen didn’t come from the future — he came from the past. He had stolen his time machine and was visiting The Next Generation‘s 24th century in order to steal as much technology as he could and become rich back in his own time….

(3) THE WONDER OF THUNDER. Netflix dropped a trailer for Thunder Force, a superhero comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer.

(4) HARD SF LAUGHS. “Weir(d) Science: PW Talks with Andy Weir” is a Q&A at Publishers Weekly about the author’s neaw book Project Hail Mary.

How did you decide on the level of humor?

I’m a smartass myself, so smartass comments come naturally to me. For me, humor is like the secret weapon of exposition. If you make exposition funny, the reader will forgive any amount of it. And in science fiction—especially with my self-imposed restriction that I want to be as scientifically accurate as possible—you end up spending a lot of time doing exposition.

(5) FIRST STEP INTO SPACE. In the “ESA – Parastronaut feasibility project”, the European Space Agency will try to develop people with physical disabilities as astronauts. (Click for larger image.)

For the first time in over a decade, ESA is looking for new astronauts. These recruits will work alongside ESA’s existing astronauts as Europe enters a new era of space exploration.

In a first for ESA and human spaceflight worldwide, ESA is looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware.

ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission.

… Because we believe that exploration is the matter of a collective effort, we need to extend the pool of talents we can rely on in order to continue progressing in our endeavour. One effective way of doing this is to include more gifted people of different genders, ages and backgrounds, but also people with special needs, people living with physical disabilities.

Right now we are at step zero. The door is closed to persons with disabilities. With this pilot project we have the ambition to open this door and make a leap, to go from zero to one.

…There are many unknowns ahead of us, the only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for a professional astronaut with disability.

(6) AN INCREDIBLE CAREER. Sunday Profile: LeVar Burton on YouTube is an interview of Burton (he’s now a grandfather!) by Mo Rocca that aired on CBS Sunday Morning on February 28.

(7) #ILOOKLIKEANENGINEER . S.B. Divya, in “Hard Science Fiction Is Still Overwhelmingly White—But It’s Getting Better” at CrimeReads, says hard sf is becoming more welcoming to women and people of color as engineering and technology become more diverse professions.

…I didn’t start my adult life as a writer. First, I wanted to be a scientist. I went to Caltech to major in astrophysics, got sideswiped by computational neuroscience, and ended up working in electrical and computer engineering. From the moment I set foot on the Caltech campus, to the most recent tech job I held, I found myself and my fellow female engineers vastly outnumbered by our male cohort. Over almost 25 years in the industry, I have not seen these ratios improve. If anything, they’re getting worse.

The same phenomenon appears in so-called “hard science fiction,” which is another label that people attach to Michael Crichton’s novels. This subgenre encompasses stories whose speculative science and technology elements do not put a strain on credibility. (In contrast, see any fiction involving faster-than-light spacecraft, anti-gravity, or time travel.) Here, too, is a domain whose bestsellers are dominated by white men.

We live in the year 2021, and yet we persist in associating certain jobs—and certain types of stories—with specific groups of people. Engineers are Asian; startup CEOs are white. School teachers are women, and academics are men. Unfortunately, many times the statistics bear these out in reality, too. Why do we struggle to break free of these narratives and associations? Because we have so few counterexamples that are publicized. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they do not permeate our popular consciousness. It takes effort to overcome these associations, whether you fit in the stereotyped demographic or not. Without that struggle, the associations become self-fulling prophecies.

(8) ECHO WIFE NEWS. Sarah Gailey’s new book has been optioned – Deadline has the story: “Annapurna To Adapt Sarah Gailey’s Novel ‘The Echo Wife’ For Film”.

After a competitive situation, Annapurna has successfully optioned the rights to bestselling author Sarah Gailey’s most recent novel The Echo Wife and is adapting the book as a feature film.

Gailey will executive produce the project alongside Annapurna….

Hugo Award-winning and bestselling author Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Gailey’s nonfiction has been published by Mashable and The Boston Globe, and won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Gailey’s fiction credits also include Vice and The Atlantic. The author’s debut novella, River of Teeth, was a 2018 finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, published in 2019.

The Echo Wife was published on Feb. 16 by Tor Books, the science fiction and fantasy division of Macmillan Publishers….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 4, 1977 — On this day in 1977,  Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four TV movies. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1933 – Bernie Zuber.  Original vice-president of the Mythopoeic Society.  Early editor of Mythlore.  Founded the Tolkien Fellowships, edited The Westmarch Chronicle.  Guest of Mythcon XIII.  Active in local (Los Angeles) fandom.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1952 – Richard Stevenson, age 69.  College English teacher of Canada, has also taught in Nigeria, musician with Sasquatch and Naked Ear.  A score of poetry books, memoir Riding on a Magpie Riff.  Six dozen poems for us.  Stephansson Award (Writers Guild of Alberta).  Has published haikusenryu (two Japanese short-poetry forms, unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines), tanka (Japanese short-poetry form, unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines).  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1954 Catherine Anne O’Hara, 67. First genre role role was in the most excellent Beetlejuice filmas artist Delia Deetz followed by being Texie Garcia in Dick Tracy, a film I’ll be damn if I know what I think about. She voices most excellently Sally / Shock bringing her fully to, errr, life in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I see she’s in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Justice Strauss. Lastly, and no this is by no means a complete listing of what she has done, she was on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Dr. Georgina Orwell. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event HorizonAlien V. PredatorPandorum and even Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Paul Malmont, 55. Author of the comic strips, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC Comics’ Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1969 – Sarah Bernard, age 52.  Half a dozen books for us.  Did her own cover for this one.  Has read a Complete Sherlock Holmes, three by Julian May, a dozen by Anne McCaffrey.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 – Marco Zaffino, age 48.  Author, filmmaker, musician; some for us e.g. Pure Bred Chihuahua.  Things can be unclear at borders (perhaps why those bookshops closed); see this Website.  These Sentries might be ours.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 Len Wiseman, 48. Producer or Director on the Underworld franchise. Also involved in StargateIndependence DayMen in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department. Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote pilot as well. Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted. (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Maggie Lehrman, age 39.  One novel for us; another outside our field, reviewed by Kirkus as “An earnest high school romp” which I guess leaves ML feeling as I did when someone – who as I’ve said is still my friend – described me as an earnest man in a propeller beanie, I mean what do you want?  Anyway, Website here. [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Lauren Miller, age 39.  Two novels for us, one other; now working on another as L. McBrayer.  She says “writing and seeing and being.  I have come to believe that there is magic to be found if we can learn to do all three at the same time.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SEUSS ON THE LOOSE. The New York Times’ coverage — “Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts” – includes these interesting sales figures.

…Classic children’s books are perennial best sellers and an important revenue stream for publishers. Last year, more than 338,000 copies of “Green Eggs and Ham” were sold across the United States, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks the sale of physical books at most retailers. “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” sold more than 311,000 copies, and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” — always popular as a high school graduation gift — sold more than 513,000 copies.

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” one of the six books pulled by the estate, sold about 5,000 copies last year, according to BookScan. “McElligot’s Pool” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” haven’t sold in years through the retailers BookScan tracks. Putting the merits of the books aside, removing “Green Eggs and Ham” would be a completely different business proposition from doing away with new printings of “McElligot’s Pool.” (Though the news that the books would be pulled caused a burst of demand, and copies of “Mulberry Street” were listed on eBay and Amazon for hundreds or thousands of dollars on Wednesday.)

(13) MISSION UNPOSSIBLE. Science Fiction 101 is a new podcast by Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie: “It’s Alive: Science Fiction 101 first episode!” Their first mission, should they choose to accept it, is to define the term!

In this debut episode, your friendly hosts Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie first attempt to define “science fiction”. If you want to know more about this thorny subject, check out Wikipedia’s attempt to do the very same thing. Or, for a more in-depth discussion, check out what the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has to say on the subject.

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available – “26: I’m Not Even a Single-Tasker”

John [Coxon] is an annoying prick, Alison [Scott] is not sure she’s staying sane, and Liz [Batty] is going to a beach. We discuss all the news from Eastercon, going to Picocon, and then look back on Punctuation before staying sane in the apocalypse.

(15) NOT ULTRAVIOLENCE BUT HYPERVIOLENCE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Keanu Reeves, who co-created with Matt Kindt and artist Ron Garney BRZRKR, a 12-issue comic published by Boom! Studios. “Keanu Reeves on the joy of writing his first comic book: ‘Why not? That sounds amazing!’”

… To dramatize this “Highlander”-meets-“Logan” fighter during the Boom! introductions, Reeves stood and acted out potential scenes, even flashing some fighting moves — pitch meeting as full-body immersion. The approach was similar to when Reeves first met with Pixar for “Toy Story 4,” striking action poses to play Duke Caboom. “I’ll get in touch with a feeling or thought — or a feeling-thought,” says the bearded Reeves, wearing a black Levi’s jacket and starkly backdropped by a near-white wall — Zoom room as Zen room. “I’ll express it and it tends to come out through the filter of the character.”

“BRZRKR” opens with maximum carnage and minimal verbiage. The creative team promises more textured themes are on the horizon. Discussing the comic’s scope, Reeves riffs until he’s in full mellifluous monologue: “We do want to take on morality, ethics, peacetime, war, violence, whose side, what’s right, what’s wrong, truth, fiction, memory, what do we believe in, who are we, with not only violence but also love — and then our own identities and who we are as humans.” Whoa.

(16) STARSHIP EXPLODES AFTER LANDING. “SpaceX Starship appears to ace touchdown, then explodes in Texas test flight”KTLA has the story.

SpaceX’s futuristic Starship looked like it aced a touchdown Wednesday, but then exploded on the landing pad with so much force that it was hurled into the air.

The failure occurred just minutes after SpaceX declared success. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.

The full-scale prototype of Elon Musk’s envisioned Mars ship soared more than 6 miles after lifting off from the southern tip of Texas on Wednesday. It descended horizontally over the Gulf of Mexico and then flipped upright just in time to land.

The shiny bullet-shaped rocketship remained intact this time at touchdown, prompting SpaceX commentator John Insprucker to declare, “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” before SpaceX ended its webcast of the test.

But then the Starship exploded and was tossed in the air, before slamming down into the ground in flames.

(17) BY THE SEA. You can read the introductory paragraphs to an article about mermaids here — “Splash by Marina Warner – the rest of the article is behind a paywall at the New York Review of Books.

In l819 the French inventor Cagniard de La Tour gave the name sirène to the alarm he had devised to help evacuate factories and mines in case of accident—in those days all too frequent. The siren, or mermaid, came to his mind as a portent, a signal of danger, although it might seem a contradiction, since the sirens’ song was fatal to mortals: in the famous scene in the Odyssey, Odysseus ties himself to the ship’s mast to hear it, and orders his men to plug their ears with wax and ignore him when he pleads to be set free to join the singers on the shore. Homer does not describe these irresistible singers’ appearance—only their flowery meadow, which is strewn with the rotting corpses of their victims—but he tells us that their song promises omniscience: “We know whatever happens anywhere on earth.” This prescience inspired Cagniard: he inverted the sirens’ connection to fatality to name a device that gives forewarning.

In Greek iconography, the sirens are bird-bodied, and aren’t instantly seductive in appearance but rather, according to the historian Vaughn Scribner in Merpeople, “hideous beasts.” A famous fifth-century-BCE pot in the British Museum shows Odysseus standing stiffly lashed to the mast, head tilted skyward, his crew plying the oars while these bird-women perch around them, as if stalking their prey: one of them is dive-bombing the ship like a sea eagle. An imposing pair of nearly life-size standing terracotta figures from the fourth century BCE, in the collection of the Getty Museum, have birds’ bodies and tails, legs and claws, and women’s faces; they too have been identified as sirens… 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. It’s “FallonVision” with Elizabeth Olsen on The Tonight Show. “Jimmy Fallon’s ‘WandaVision’ spoof with Elizabeth Olsen alters our pandemic reality”.

Jimmy Fallon took viewers on a journey through the decades of talk-show history while spoofing “WandaVision” this week. Because after all, what is “The Tonight Show” if not the tradition of late-night TV persevering?

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