Pixel Scroll 6/24/22 Uptown Scroll

(1) DOES THE GENRE HAVE A CORE? Charles Payseur, whose reviews of short sff fiction now appear in a column for Locus, questions what is the “core” of the genre in the context of noting that he doesn’t cover Clarkesworld, Asimov’s or Analog. “Quick Sips 06/24/2022”.

…I do always encourage people to just find venues that you like and then otherwise read what you feel like. The field of short SFF is too big to take on comprehensively, and even trying can quickly lead to burnout and frustration (just ask…most short SFF reviewers who try). As a reviewer and now as an editor, though, does there arise some sort of obligation to try? It’s a decent question, and one that I’m not sure anyone can answer because…what would trying look like, if not doing exactly what I’m doing now? Could I fit Clarkesworld into my reading? I’m actually unsure. Probably if I could I would have. It’s not like I have suddenly opened up a bunch of free time in my life. And yet I feel that some would think this omission a failing, as some have found my lack of coverage of Asimov’s and Analog a failing. And…I don’t have much to offer to that. All of those are very large publications and take a big commitment to get through every month. Were they smaller I’d probably be more tempted. As is…

There are some arguments one could make about how to determine where the “core” should be. By what pays best, maybe? Or by what has a long tradition of award nominations. By the prestige of the editor. However the lines of the “core” are drawn, though, many will feel excluded for being on the outside of it. It’s a problem that really can only be overcome by engagement. If more people were engaged in drawing their personal cores, then what gets engaged with critically might greatly expand. If reviewers all are moved not by proximity to some sort of “required reading” but rather are pulled in the direction of their personal taste, then as long as the field of reviewers were diverse and acting in good faith, then the largest possible coverage would be achieved….

(2) ON THE LEFT COAST. SFF author Brenda Clough, whose family moved from Virginia two years ago, tells a Washington Post interviewer “What I love about my home in Portland, Ore.”

Brenda W. Clough and her husband moved from Reston, Va., to Portland, Ore., early in 2020. Brenda, a novelist, shared their experience and what they love about their new home in an email. The following was edited for length and clarity.

“My husband and I sold our big house in Reston, Va., when we retired in early 2020. What good timing we had, because both of our offices closed down later that year. We moved to his hometown, Portland, Ore., where we bought a condo downtown.

… I also wanted modern architecture. The D.C. suburbs are almost purely Colonial in style, a Mid-Atlantic thing. Now I have become a fan of poured concrete and Brutalism. My current home has plate-glass windows that go from floor to ceiling. There are no steps at all. I can’t hear my neighbors, and I don’t have screens on the windows. There aren’t many bugs downtown.

Because I am a novelist, I also needed a place that could accommodate our 10 tall bookcases full of books. I dragged the ones in the picture all the way from the East Coast to the West, the tools of my trade: a science fiction and fantasy collection that spans 70 years and historical volumes focusing on Antarctica or Victorian England. And these are only the survivors of a major cull. I weeded out half of the books and gave them to Reston’s Used Book Shop in Lake Anne, which has been enabling my book shopping for decades. It costs roughly a dollar a pound to move stuff coast to coast, a price that powerfully focuses the mind. Moving like this is the opportunity to prune all the possessions back. It has been liberating to get rid of stuff from the basement, garage and attic….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab dinner with Gwendolyn Clare during Episode 174 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Gwendolyn Clare

Gwendolyn Clare’s debut novel, Ink, Iron, and Glass, and its sequel, Mist, Metal, and Ash, compose a duology published in 2018 and 2019 about a young mad scientist with the ability to write new worlds into existence. Coming up in November is In the City of Time, the first book in a duology about three science prodigies on a time-traveling adventure to save the Earth. Her short stories have appeared in ClarkesworldAsimov’sAnalog, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others, and her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling Award.

Her short story “Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast” was reprinted in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018. She holds a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, and a PhD in Mycology — the last of those making me wish I got around to asking her to assuage my fears about a relative of mine who picks and eats wild mushrooms … but hey, that will have to be dealt with at a future meal during a different con.

We discussed the important lesson COVID taught her about her career, whether her most famous short story reads differently during these pandemic times, the identity of the science fiction writer I was startled to learn had been her high school geometry teacher, what the novels of Elizabeth Bear taught her about writing, the short story concept she decided to instead turn into what became her first published novel, how she gets into the mindset to write in the Young Adult genre, the amazing cleanliness of her first drafts, the pantsing fingerprints she sees on Stephen King, the many iterations recent writers have made to John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?,” and much more.

(4) WJW AND THE THREE R’S. The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Portolan Project conducted “An Interview with Walter Jon Williams” about the three R’s of writing craft: Raising the stakes, Reveals, and Reversals.

“Reveals keep the narrative from plodding directly from one point to another, and often sends it off in another direction entirely. This comes from theater in which there’s a curtain, you don’t know what’s behind the curtain. Action goes on, the curtain is pulled back and suddenly you’re in another place that is very different from where you were before.”

Watch or read our interview with Walter Jon Williams on the three R’s of writing craft and how they could make our stories more engaging. 

Incidentally, the Portolan Writing Project: Phase 1 recently completed a successful Kickstarter that raised over $5,000. The initiative seeks “to provide a wealth of exceptional creative writing courses and resources, free to the public.”

(5) BETWEEN WORLDS. Barbara Graham searches for the dividing line in “Paranormal Or Normal?” at Mystery Fanfare.

My debut mystery, What Jonah Knew, has been described many different ways: Magical. Mystical. Paranormal. Supernatural. And though in one way the labels fit, in another way they raise questions about where the otherworldly stops and reality begins.           

Some background. I was working as a journalist when I was assigned to write a magazine article on past-life regression therapy. As part of my research, I scheduled an appointment with a well-known Jungian analyst who specialized in this work and had published books on the subject. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything to happen. I knew these sessions involved hypnotic suggestion and I—an admitted control freak—believed myself to be immune to trance-induced states. What’s more, the whole business struck me as unreliable at best, fraudulent at worst. Nearly everyone I’d read about who claimed to recall a past life under hypnosis seemed to remember being someone famous—Napoleon, Nefertiti, Abraham Lincoln—never your average serf or working stiff….  

(6) VOGEL VOTING DEADLINE APPROACHES. Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) have until June 30 to get in their 2022 Sir Julius Vogel Awards votes.

The main SFFANZ site (separate to this news service) was down for a bit – that has been fixed.

You need to be a member to vote (it only costs $10) – see “How to Join SFFANZ”. Here’s the info about how to vote and where to download the voting form. If you need more info about the nominees, there is a voting pack available.

(7) PRIDE Q&A’S. The Horror Writers Association blog continues their “Point of Pride” theme in these interviews with Cody Sisco and Steve Berman.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Being part of a marginalized group creates a hyperawareness of how members are represented in the media, including in fiction. To paraphrase an apocryphal quote: First they ignore you, then they scorn you, then they laugh at you, etc. When LGBTQ writers tell stories, there can be pressure to create “good representation” and to avoid portrayals that are complicated or nuanced especially if they touch on stereotypes. Writing horror is doubly tricky because we have to navigate creating characters and plots based on real fears and injustices, which can blur into inflicting pain on readers and calling up their trauma.

In my writing, I aim to include shades of dark and light, to explore the complications, inconsistencies, and dilemmas that shape every character, and to reach a queer audience with stories that expand the boundaries of queer pop culture.

How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

I must admit I am fascinated with essays utilizing queer theory to explore works of horror that most readers would consider “very straight” classic works of horror. A number of academics have applied this to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde as well as Stoker’s Dracula. I feel that such examinations are perfectly valid as I bring my own perspective (a very gay one) to everything I read or watch or hear.

While the number of queer-themed contemporary horror fiction has grown over the years so it is very possible to fill several bookshelves with just new releases, I do wish more LGBTQ readers would familiarize themselves with older works—I’m frustrated with tweets and posts that present and celebrate queer horror as a twenty-first-century phenomenon, ignoring the great efforts of of many authors. Before there was Clive Barker and Poppy Z. Brite, horror fans could delve into the Gothic storytelling of Francis Lathom or Forrest Reid, the Southern macabre of Michael McDowell, or the vampires of Jewelle Gomez and Jeffrey McMahan. To deny their existence is wrong.

(8) BANNED SOMEWHERE BESIDES IN BOSTON. Slashfilm can tell you “Why These Sci-Fi Movies Are Banned Around The World”.

Since the dissolution of the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, in the late 1960s, film censorship has been relatively uncommon in the United States. However, several other countries still actively ban films. Though science fiction is less of a target than other genres, there are still many notable examples of sci-fi films that ran afoul of censors, and behind each case lies a deeper story. Ironically, these bans end up revealing more about the perpetrators and their politics than any sci-fi film ever could.

First on the list:

The Matrix: Reloaded

“The Matrix” sparked backlash when it was first released in Egypt. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports, several Islamic publications interpreted the film as supporting Zionism. Naturally, Egypt promptly banned its follow-up, “The Matrix: Reloaded,” as well, but the reasoning behind that decision is somewhat murkier.

According to Variety, the country’s Department of Monitoring Artistic Products partially attributed the ban to “scenes of excessive violence,” which is a common red flag in Middle Eastern countries. However, the larger reason requires more digging. The committee also noted that the film “deals explicitly with issues of creation and existence,” including “the Creator and the created, the origins of creation, [and] free will and predestination.”

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1950 [By Cat Eldridge.] Seventy-two years ago on this day, the radio version of Robert Heinlein’s Destination Moon aired on the Dimension X radio show.  It was episode twelve of the series.

Despite common belief that it based off the film version of Heinlein’s novel, it was not. It was instead based on Heinlein’s final draft of the film’s shooting script. During the broadcast on June 24, 1950, the program was interrupted by a news bulletin announcing that North Korea had declared war on South Korea, marking the beginning of the Korean War.

A shortened version of this Destination Moon radio program was adapted by Charles Palmer and was released by Capitol Records for children. 

You can hear it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 — Ambrose Bierce. The Devil’s Dictionary is certainly worth reading but it’s not genre. For his best genre work, I’d say it’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” which along with his “The Tail of the Sphinx” gives you range of his talents. Both iBooks and Kindle offer up everything (as near as I can tell) he’s written, much of it free. (Died circa 1914.)
  • Born June 24, 1925 — Fred Hoyle. Astronomer of course, but also author of a number of SF works including October the First Is Too Late which I think is among the best genre novels done. I’m also fond of Ossian’s Ride which keeps its SF elements hidden until late in the story. Though he won no genre Awards, he won a lot of other Awards, to wit the Mayhew Prize, Smith’s Prize, FRS, Kalinga Prize, RAS Gold Medal, Bruce Medal, Royal Medal, Klumpke-Roberts Award and Crafoord Prize. (Died 2001.)
  • Born June 24, 1937 — Charles N. Brown. Founder and editor of Locus. I’m going to stop here and turn this over to those of you who knew him far better than I did as my only connection to him is as a reader of Locus for some decades now. Locus won far too many Hugos to list under his time there. He also was nominated at Conspiracy ‘87 for a Hugo for his Science Fiction in Print: 1985 that was co-written by William G. Contento. (Died 2009.)
  • Born June 24, 1947 — Peter Weller, 75. Robocop, obviously, which was nominated for a Hugo at Nolacon II, with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain in the second film, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well, there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Or I hope you haven’t. Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety”.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainly qualifies. Hey he even showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Born June 24, 1950 — Nancy Allen, 72. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films for various reasons.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as an unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise? Oh why?). She’s in the direct to video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. 
  • Born June 24, 1950 — Mercedes Lackey, 72. There’s a line on a wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Very, very impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Guon and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is quite fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. 
  • Born June 24, 1982 — Lotte Verbeek, 40. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She’s got an interesting genre history including Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the cross-world Counterpart series. 
  • Born June 24, 1988 — Kasey Lansdale, 34. Daughter of Joe Lansdale. Publicist at Tachyon Books and a really nice person. Really she is. And yes, she’s one of us having written The Cases of Dana Roberts series, and edited two anthologies, Fresh Blood & Old Bones and Impossible Monsters. In her father’s Hap and Leonard collection Of Mice and Minestrone, she has “Good Eats: The Recipes of Hap and Leonard”. 
  • Born June 24, 1994 — Nicole Muñoz, 28. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same name.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side suggests superheroes are not immune to the problems of aging.  

(12) YOU ASKED FOR IT. “Amazon Promises Another Attempt to Make Comixology Suck Less” as Gizmodo puts it so delicately. Their article is based on a Comixology thread that starts here.

Daniel P. Dern sent the link with a note: “Among other things, as in, (says DPD, based on other comments I’ve seen in past months along with some of my own experience) to un-‘deprove’ recent changes which made by Amazon.

“To be fair (still DPD opining), IMHO, both Marvel and DC have made similar ‘deprovements’ to their streaming digital comic services over the past year. They’re still great deals, money for reading wise, but the UI/UX has gotten unnecessarily more ornery.”

(13) MIRACLEMAN SERIES RETURNS. After thirty years, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham complete their Miracleman saga this October in Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham: The Silver Age.

“We’re back! And after thirty years away it is both thrilling and terrifying,” Buckingham said. “Neil and I have had these stories in our heads since 1989 so it is amazing to finally be on the verge of sharing them with our readers.”

The two visionary comic talents will complete their unfinished Miracleman storyline “The Silver Age,” including remastered editions of the first two published issues, complete with new artwork and bonus material. The series will follow the previously announced Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB, the new collection containing Gaiman and Buckingham’s first Miracleman series. After 30 years, fans will finally see the full incredible story of Young Miracleman with more to come!

Young Miracleman — the lost member of the Miracleman Family — is back! His last memories were of a 1963 world of joy and innocence. Now, he’s been thrust into the 21st century, where his best friends have become gods and monsters. Where can a hero from a simpler time call home in this brave new world?

(14) CAN CONFIRM. George R.R. Martin responds to reports about “SNOW… and Other Stuff” at Not A Blog.

…Yes, there is a Jon Snow show in development.   The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER story was largely correct.   And I would expect no less from James Hibberd.   I have dealt with a lot of reporters over the past few years, and Hibberd is one of the very best, an actual journalist who does all the things journalists are supposed to do (getting the facts right, talking to sources, respecting requests for “background only” and “off the record,” etc) that most of the clickbait sites never bother with….

But, yes, it is true.   This was not an official announcement from HBO, so it seems there was another leak.   I did a long interview with James Hibberd last week, for the big HOUSE OF THE DRAGON story that HOLLYWOOD REPORTER is planning.   At the end of the call, he asked a few questions about the spinoffs.   “Is it possible one of the spinoffs is a sequel rather than a prequel?” he asked.   I answered “No comment.”   Then he asked “Is it possible a member of the original cast is attached?”  And again I answered “No comment.”   And that was all.   But plainly he found someone more forthcoming than me.   Who?   I don’t know, and suspect I never will.   A good journalist protects his sources.

There’s not much more I can tell you, not until HBO gives me a green light….

(15) HYSTERICAL LITTER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Authorities in Malmo, Sweden created a “sexy trashcan” that mutters suggestive comments whenever anyone throws in some trash.“’Sexy’ rubbish bins installed in Swedish town to encourage use”.

Two rubbish bins on Davidshallsbron bridge in Sweden’s southern city of Malmö have been equipped by city authorities with loudspeakers, blaring out sexual phrases like “ooooh, right there yeah” when the lid is opened to encourage passers-by to use the bins to get rid of their rubbish.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Dead By Daylight,” Fandom Games says this multi-player vampire slaughterfest “makes you a little more misanthropic just playing it.” The narrator suggests that after fighting various licensed monsters, the next series should feature Jared Leto. “No. not Morbius, Jared Leto. That would be truly terrifying!

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Michael J. Walsh, Scott Edelman, 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 Contrarius.]

Pixel Scroll 6/1/22 The Ones Who Scroll Away From Pixelas

(1) BURKE TELLS MORE ABOUT HER BALTICON EXPERIENCE. Stephanie Burke has written a 2600-word comment on File 770’s “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels” post that goes into fuller detail about her experience. The link is here. In the last two paragraphs she says —

…It took me close to 20 years to build up my reputation there as a person who did her best to make sure everyone had representation, that willful ignorance would be avoided, to be someone who was safe for anyone to speak to, to offer info, links, and some perspective that may help them as well as learn how I can improv myself, and now it is gone here with no proof and no way to defend myself. All I got was the decision of the board still stands and I still don’t have an idea of what exactly I was supposed to have said. They told me they didn’t have the recordings in the room where ever panel was recorded so unless someone is lying about the recording, I’ll never get the chance to defend myself. Unless of course, the recording is found at the last moment but to me that sounds like looking for proof of guilt than proof of evidence of innocence.

One of the last things I told them and still remains true, was that closest feeling I could aquait with being walked out of that room like that was a time when I was a teen working at a summer camp when some woman claimed that I had stolen her wallet. I was marched out of the room like the cops knew I was guilty, the accusing eyes and twisted lips, only to be let back in a few moments later with the woman happily calling out that she just misplaced her wallet and just found it in her purse and everything was all good and okay now, right? The cops kind of shrugged at me and said okay and that was it but I went into the bathroom and threw up my lunch. This was the closest I had ever come to feeling like that and I never want to feel like that again. I know would feel it again if I walked into another Balticon event….

(2) FIRE DISPLACES SFF WORKSHOP. Taos Toolbox has moved to Albuquerque this year. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook.

Taos Toolbox is not going to be in Taos this year. The two-week intensive science-fiction writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach is usually held at the ski resort of Angel Fire, near Taos, New Mexico. However, the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak wildfire is less than a dozen miles from Angel Fire and not yet close to being contained. Since it’s not good to incinerate workshop attendees, the workshop has moved to a hotel in Albuquerque….

Walter Jon Williams, the event’s founder, filled in the details on Facebook.

So quite a number of plans have gang agley in the last days, so I’ve been putting out fires— nearly literal fires.

Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, starts this weekend, and has been held at the Angel Fire resort for the last decade or more. It’s a deluxe place in a beautiful mountain setting, and unless there’s a mountain bike rally or something, it’s not too crowded or noisy and we can concentrate on our work.

Except this year we have the Hermit’s Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, over 300,000 acres and currently only 60% contained. It’s ten miles from Angel Fire, and when it gets a wind behind it, a fire can race along at 5 miles per day. Angel Fire has been at the “prepare to evacuate” stage for weeks now.

I mean, the pandemic wasn’t enough?

Now the fire is 60% contained, and the odds are Angel Fire would have been fine, but I couldn’t guarantee that. I couldn’t absolutely promise that Hermit’s Peak wouldn’t blaze up again, or that we wouldn’t have to evacuate 20 people to lodging unknown. So I moved the workshop to the Sonesta ES suite hotel in Albuquerque, which is quite luxe, offers free breakfast, and has a fine view of the semi trucks running past on the freeway….

(3) ROYALTY IN GENRE. The British Science Fiction Association anticipated Jubilee Weekend by launching this discussion topic:

Here are two of the many responses.

(4) THE GODFATHER. Craig Miller who created the Official Star Wars Fan Club for Lucasfilm told Facebook friends about his new nickname.

During the Star Wars Celebration panel “Fandom Through the Generations”, Dan Madsen – the founder of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and Star Wars Insider – called me “The Godfather of Star Wars Fandom”.

That actually felt a little weird. I suppose not entirely inaccurate. Part of my job was to take Star Wars to Fandom and to keep Lucasfilm of the mind that fans are important. But I’d never thought of it that way….

The post also contains a photo of the plaque and trophy Craig received this weekend when he was made an Honorary Member of the 501st Legion.

(5) SHOULD IT BE A PERMANENT HUGO? Trevor Quachri expands on a DisCon III panel discussion about the proposed Best Video Game Hugo in “The Play’s the Thing”, his editorial in the May/June Analog.

…So it seems straightforward: games, particularly of a “science fiction, fantasy, or related subject” bent (per the award description) deserve a permanent spot on the ballot, right?

Well, let’s hit the pause button for a moment.

Everyone on that games panel quickly stumbled over the same basic question: Given all of that background, what’s the primary criterion for judging the “best” game in a given year? And what makes the Hugo for Best Video Game different from any of the other already-existing game awards given out by fans, professional game designers, and the like? Is it a “writing in games” award? The Hugos may be primarily literary, but well-written games may not actually be the best games, taken on their own merits. (Chess, for example, isn’t a lesser game because the pieces don’t each have an elaborate backstory.)

And how do you explain what makes a good game to folks unfamiliar with them? Games are built from readily-understandable art to one degree or another—the graphics are art; the music is art; voice acting is acting, which is art; and yes, the stories in games are art—but the thing that makes games unique—the game part—isn’t so easily grasped….

(6) CORA BUHLERT. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Cora Buhlert: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Cora Buhlert is a prolific indie author, champion of independent publishing, blogger, pulp historian as well as a teacher and translator. Based in Germany, her sci-fi writing and reviews are primarily in English but she is also a tireless ambassador for science fiction from beyond the insular English speaking perspective on the genre.

(7) FROM THE START. Wole Talabi shared some “Preliminary Observations From An Incomplete History of African SFF” at the SFWA Blog.

When Did the History of Published African SFF Begin?

Tricky. And there is probably no right answer since publishing from early colonial Africa was problematic and it depends on what you define as SFF. I’ve arbitrarily limited my scope to works published between 1921 and 2021, even though I don’t have any entries from 1921. Why 100 years? To quote Geoff Ryman: Because it’s easy to remember. And the first entry in the database is Cameroonian Jean-Louis Njemba Medou’s Nnanga Kon, a novel published in 1932 in Bulu. I suppose that’s as good a point as any to start. However, that’s only one way to look at things. Another is to observe the rapid increase in published works that begins in 2011, peaks in 2016, and has somewhat stabilized since (although this could simply reflect my inability to keep up with documenting new works).

(8) COVID TRACKING. Balticon 56’s “Covid Reports” page lists five attendees who report they have tested positive.

This page will continue to be updated as COVID-19 positive tests are reported after the con. If you attended Balticon in person and have a positive test result before June 15th, please email covid@balticon.org.

(9) BACK FROM CONQUEST. Kij Johnson reports on a successful Ad Astra Center fundraiser in “Summer starts with a screeching sound, as of hot brakes making a hard turn.”

…Last weekend was a benefit auction for the Ad Astra Center, held at ConQuest, the KC SF convention, this was fantastic fun: we had a great team of six people, and ended up with more than 300 auction items, and made (we think) close to $3000, which is pretty extraordinary, considering this was a small con this year. (I also was on panels with Fonda Lee, Katherine Forrister, and other cool people.) Chris McKitterick and I had a chance to talk about what Ad Astra is looking forward to doing, and I am ever more excited by what’s going to be possible….

(10) SHALLOW ROOTS. Abigail Nussbaum says there’s a reason for the sense of sameness in the series’ second season in “Love, Death, Robots, but no Women” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…There have been thirty-five Love, Death + Robots episodes. Something like thirty of them are based on a previously-published short stories. Only one of those stories is by a woman. (Also, only one of those stories—not the same one—is by a person of color.) And frankly, that’s not only reprehensible in its own right, but it tells in the final product. There’s a certain laddishness to the stories the show chooses to tell, a disinterest in the inner life of anyone but manly, taciturn men. Bug hunt stories abound, and despite the show identifying itself as science fiction, there is no shortage of episodes that are just plain horror, whose appeal seems primarily to be watching a lot of people get torn to bits cinematically (“The Secret War” in season 1; “The Tall Grass”, season 2; “Bad Traveling”, season 3). Though some episodes have female protagonists, there are also a lot of stories where women exist to be ogled (“The Witness”, season 1) or fucked (“Beyond the Aquilla Rift”, season 1; “Snow in the Desert”, season 2).

I watched the recently-released third season over the last couple of evenings and was not impressed…. 

(11) STRANGER TV. In contrast, Nussbaum enthuses about “Stranger Things Season 4, Volume I” on her Tumblr.

Folks, I am somewhat flabbergasted to report that the fourth season of Stranger Things – a show that I would previously have described as “derivative fun, if you don’t think about it too hard” – is not only its best, but genuinely good TV. There are some caveats to this claim – the last two episodes haven’t been released yet, and the protracted episode runtimes (ranging from 63 to 98 minutes) are impossible to justify – though for the most part the show wears them pretty lightly. But even so, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen…. 

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] I still remember The Dune Encyclopedia fondly as it is an amazing creation. Published by Berkley thirty-eight years ago, it was written by Willis E. McNelly and forty-two other individuals not as a work of non-fiction but rather as an in-universe work. Everything in it was something that was supposed to actually be true. It was edited by Hadi Benotto, an archaeologist you’ll find in God Emperor of Dune and Heretics of Dune.

It was authorized by Herbert, who considered it canon, and went into detail such things as character biographies, looks at the worlds in that universe, a look at the spice melange, how such things as the stillsuits and the heighliners of the Spacing Guild function.

Herbert wrote the foreword to The Dune Encyclopedia and said: “Here is a rich background (and foreground) for the Dune Chronicles, including scholarly bypaths and amusing sidelights. Some of the contributions are sure to arouse controversy, based as they are on questionable sources … I must confess that I found it fascinating to re-enter here some of the sources on which the Chronicles are built. As the first ‘Dune fan’, I give this encyclopedia my delighted approval, although I hold my own counsel on some of the issues still to be explored as the Chronicles unfold.” 

Brian Herbert later, being the, well, I can’t use the word I want to use, declared everything here non-canon. That allowed him to write anything he wanted to in the novels he and Kevin J. Anderson have putting out by the armload. He even said his father never intended it to be canon.

If you’d like to purchase a copy today, it’ll cost you dearly, particularly in hardcover. A good copy is now running around two hundred and fifty dollars. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 1, 1926 Andy Griffith. His most notable SFF genre credit is as Harry Broderick on the late Seventies Salvage I which lasted for two short seasons. Actually that was it, other than a one-off on The Bionic Woman. It’s streaming for free on Crackle whatever the Frelling that is. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 1, 1928 Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone. British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were with the critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.)
  • Born June 1, 1940 René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder WomanThe Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic WomanBatman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryEnterpriseStargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions in recent years, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. He directed eight episodes of DS9. And he wrote a lot of novels, none of which I’ve read. Has anyone here read any of them? (Died 2019.)
  • Born June 1, 1947 Jonathan Pryce, 75. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote. 
  • Born June 1, 1948 Powers Boothe. Though not genre, he played saloon owner Cy Tolliver on the Deadwood series, and “Curly Bill” Brocius in Tombstone, one of my favorite films. Now genre wise, he’s in the animated Superman: Brainiac Attacks voicing Lex Luthor, The Avengers as Gideon Malick, Gorilla Grodd and Red Tornado in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and a recurring role as Gideon Malick in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 1, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 68. A filker which gets major points in my book. And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been at least twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. 
  • Born June 1, 1966 David Dean Oberhelman. Another one who died far too young. Mike has an appreciation of him hereThe Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko which he co-wrote with Amy H. Sturgis was published by The Mythopoeic Press. ISFDB lists just one genre essay by him, “From Iberian to Ibran and Catholic to Quintarian”, printed in Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 1, 1996 Tom Holland, 26. He’s known for playing Spider-Man in five films: Captain America: Civil WarSpider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and the recently out Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) IT’S GOT ISSUES. At The Verge, Alex Cranz says, “The merging of Comixology and Kindle has created a hell I’d like to escape”.

In February of this year, Amazon finally completed its consumption of the once independent app for downloading comics, Comixology. Amazon had acquired the app way back in 2013, and apart from removing the ability to buy comics directly from the app, it left it untouched for nearly a decade. But this year, Amazon changed things — incorporating Comixology’s digital marketplace directly into the Kindle ecosystem and totally redesigning the Comixology app. It has taken two distinct mediums — digital comics and digital books — and smashed them together into an unholy blob of content that is worse in every single way. Apparently, if you let one company acquire a near-monopoly in the digital books and comics spaces, it will do terrible things that make the experience worse….

…The new Comixology app is largely just… annoying. That’s the best word for it. Everything you need is still there, but the design isn’t really intuitive, and it can make a large collection of comics (I’ve been using Comixology since 2011) difficult to navigate. It feels sort of like when you go to the grocery store after they move aisles around. Everything is still there, but the change feels so dramatic after years of the familiar.

But where my local Food Bazaar will helpfully label the aisles, Comixology has not. There are no clear labels for useful built-in tools like its “Guided View,” which is designed to fluidly move you from panel to panel with a swipe instead of having each page take up the whole display. The Guided View is still there, but the clear explanation of what it is or how to use it is gone. You access it by double-tapping — which I only know because I was trying to access the menu to leave the book.

(15) CONFRONTING THE BLANK PAGE. Neil Clarke wrestles with the question of what he should be doing in his monthly Clarkesworld editorial: “Managing This Expectation”. He posits several ideas – here are two of them.

…Or perhaps, I’m filing a report of “criminal” acts? Earlier this week I was the victim of an ageist attack suggesting that I was “too old to be editing one of the leading science fiction magazines” and I should “get out of the way” so someone younger can do it. I’m only fifty-five, not the oldest editor I know, and not about to give up the magazine I started over one person’s disrespectful opinion on the matter. Their punishment is measured by the amount of time I continue to edit Clarkesworld.

Could be that it’s like being a referee, outlining how we’d like to see the game played? It’s perfectly fair to criticize or celebrate the finalists or winners of any award. Science fiction is a broad field with a variety of styles that might not appeal to everyone and the awards will reflect some of that. It’s only natural to be thrilled or disappointed when your favorite player wins, loses, or is benched. That said, we want a fair fight here. There should be no punching below the belt–criticizing or campaigning against based on anything other than the work they’ve done….

(16) FANTASY ART ON EXHIBIT. [Item by Bill.] The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, TN is holding this exhibition through September 5: “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration”.

For hundreds of years, artists have been inspired by the imaginative potential of fantasy. Unlike science fiction, which is based on fact, fantasy presents an impossible reality—a universe where dragons breathe fire, angels battle demons, and magicians weave spells. Enchanted offers a thoughtful appraisal of how artists from the early 20th century to the present have brought to life myths, fairy tales, and modern epics like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Featuring nearly 100 artworks, the exhibition explores Greek myths, Arthurian Legends, fairy tales, and modern superheroes.

The Hunter’s description of the event isn’t much, and a better one can be found here at the Norman Rockwell Museum, which organized the event.

There is an accompanying book available from Amazon and Bud’s Art Books.

If you can’t make it to Chattanooga, the exhibition is also travelling to Flint, MI and will be on display at the Flint Institute of Arts from September 24, 2022 – January 8, 2023.

(17) SOME CAN AND SOME CANTON. Camestros Felapton, in “Some Swiss news about far-right publisher Vox Day”, covers Vox Day’s announcement that he’s threatening to sue [Internet Archive link] the journalists who reported his purchase of a Swiss castle.

The journalists’ article includes this paragraph:

…On the internet, Vox Day summarizes the alt-right – to which he avoids being directly attached – as the defense of “the existence of the white man and the future of white children”. The blogger also confesses a certain admiration for Adolf Hitler. “National Socialism is not only human logic, it is also much more logical and true than communism, feminism or secular Zionism,” the Minnesota-born American writes on his blog. …

Vox always objects to being identified with Hitler and Nazis (see “Complaint About Term ‘Neo-Nazi’ Results in Foz Meadows Post Moving from Black Gate to Amazing Stories” from File 770 in 2016).

(18) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch determined these were the “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in May 2022”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
2Sonic the Hedgehog 2Obi-Wan Kenobi
3MorbiusSeverance
4Ghostbusters: AfterlifeStranger Things
5MoonfallDoctor Who
6FirestarterMoon Knight
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomThe Man Who Fell to Earth
8Jurassic WorldThe Time Traveler’s Wife
9The BatmanHalo
10Sonic the HedgehogThe Twilight Zone

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(19) BAGEL POWER. Accented Cinema is prepared to tell you “The Hidden Meaning of Everything Everywhere All at Once”.

Here it is! My analysis of the metaphors hidden in Everything Everywhere At at Once. Did you know why Michelle Yeoh put a googly eye on herself? Let’s find out!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodhunt,” Fandom Games says while earlier installments of this franchise “turned a bunch of nerds into enerds wearing eye shadow,” this installment is “the latest in the ‘kill people in a rapidly shrinking circle genre.”  The narrator thinks the game is boring and says, “call me when Bloodhunt has Ariana Grande and industrial dancing!”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/22 The Naming Of Scrolls Is A Difficult Matter. It Isn’t Just One Of Your Pixel-File Games

(1) BONDS OF EUROCON. The editors of SF2 Concatenation are mindful of the fans affected by the Russian invasion:

(2) REALITY CHECK OR CHECK ON REALITY? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Pulp scholar Jason Ray Carney talks about the value of escapist reading and sword and sorcery at the LA Review of Books“Reading Sword-and-Sorcery to Make the Present Less Real”. (For some reason, the LA Review of Books felt the need to illustrate the essay with a Weird Tales cover that’s not for a sword and sorcery story.)

 …Whether we read to engage or to escape reality, we continue to read fiction because it provides us with an experience that cannot be satisfied by other means. Additionally, as a cultural practice, reading fiction has taken on a quasi-spiritual aura; it has become a secular ritual, not unlike mindfulness meditation, that is robustly encouraged by its proponents. One recalls the Orwellian “READ” posters that have been published by the American Library Association since 1985, the most recent a rendering of Channing Tatum, holding a copy of Peter Pan, standing in front of a glittering star field. Evoking the imperious command of alien billboards in John Carpenter’s They Live — obey, marry, reproduce, consume — these posters celebrate reading as an activity of unquestionable social value and say nothing about what is real. Why not read fiction to escape the real?…

(3) LIVING BY THE SWORD. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Dariel Quiogue, a Filipino author of Asian based sword and sorcery or sword and silk, in episode 34 of the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with Dariel Quiogue – So I’m Writing a Novel…”

…Their discussion covers portrayal of war elephants in history and stories, Alexander the Great being a war criminal to some, Carter & De Camp (and Nyburg) Conan tales, Howard Lamb’s Khlit the Cossack stories (a huge influence on Robert E Howard), drawing from Asian history for his stories – including an intriguing alternate path for Genghis Khan, wanting to write more fiction based in where you’re from, being anxious about a lack of experience to the world limiting your fiction, how late in history Dariel feels you can set a story and still have it feel like sword & sorcery, the “Sword & Sorcery attitude”…

(4) APPENDIX N(ORTON). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The good people of Goodman Games continue their series of profiles of classic SFF authors. Jim Wampler profiles Andre Norton: “Adventures in Fiction: Andre Norton”.

… Norton’s influence on adventure gaming and its creators was not accidental. She often employed a recurring motif in her books in which the protagonist begins as an outsider or “other”, and through dedicating themselves to a perilous journey in the wilderness, eventually becomes a fully-realized heroic figure. The parallels to the level advancement and experience point systems of early role-playing games is obvious….

And Michael Curtis profiles Margaret St. Clair — “Adventures in Fiction: Margaret St. Clair” – focusing almost exclusively on those two novels by her which are listed in the Appendix N of the original D&D Dungeon Master’s guide, even though St. Clair wrote so much more. But Goodman Games is an RPG company, so I guess that’s fair.

…Margaret St. Clair is an interesting figure, one whose work is largely overlooked in the present age. St. Clair was one of only three women authors who appeared on Gygax’s list of influential writers and their works. During both the Golden and Silver Ages of fantasy fiction, the field was dominated by white males, so much so that the now-often derided pronouncement on the back cover of the Bantam Books 1963 printing of The Sign of the Labrys (“Women are Writing Science Fiction!”) was actually somewhat shocking. The fact that Appendix N includes three women authors is a testimony to the breadth of Gary’s reading….

(5) HOW WORLDCON GOHS ARE CHOSEN. Esther MacCallum-Stewart of the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon Bid has written a thoughtful post about the committee’s process for picking their prospective GoHs: “From the Chair: Selecting Our Guests of Honour”.

5. The selection team and the chair’s team then met to decide a Short List, based on the recommendations of the committee, but also considering several other criteria which allowed flexibility in looking at the list:

  • Who will represent Glasgow in 2024’s vision of Inclusion, Caring and Imagination best?
  • Who could present an indicative picture of science fiction and fantasy in 2024?
  • Who might make an interesting Guest of Honour, able to participate to the best of their ability and help create a fun, exciting contribution to a Worldcon in Glasgow 2024?
  • What other elements, like involving local voices, varied perspectives and contemporary discussions, should these Guests represent?
  • How might the Guests of Honour look as a group? (more on this later)

6. Phew! This seems like a lot, but at last there is a short list, and since this process is still happening, I’m expecting it to be about 30 names. We’re ready to start making the decision.

(6) ATWOOD ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Margret Atwood was on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour this week with a 15 minute interview. Topics included when did women’s status fall and how
the right purloins left tools.

The programme is downloadable from here for a month after which it will be available on BBC Sounds.

Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of essays, Burning Questions, gathers together her essays and other occasional non-fiction pieces from 2004 to 2021. She is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her novels include Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin which won the Booker prize in 2000. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, was followed in 2019 by a sequel, The Testaments, which was also a Booker Prize winner (with Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other). Margaret joins Emma to talk about culture wars, free speech, feminism, grief and being in your 80’s.

(7) CLONE ARRANGERS. Edward Ashton names books by Tiptree, Simak, and Mur Lafferty while recommending books about clones and replicants at CrimeReads: “Eight Books About What It Means to be Human”.

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

It’s probably a lucky thing that I didn’t read this book until after I’d finished writing Mickey7, because Six Wakes begins in a very similar place—clones, mind-mapping, immortality, an interstellar colonization mission—but then takes off in a wildly different direction….

(8) CLOTHES FOR THE OCCASION. Hypebeast shares a fashion display as “Disney Launches Official ‘Star Wars’ Galactic Starcruiser Merchandise”.

…Offered by the boutique located just off the Atrium of the Halcyon, “The Chandrila Collection” will allow you and your family and friends to fully embrace the world of science-fiction and fantasy with futuristic garments inspired by some of the most iconic characters and factions from the epic franchise. From hooded black dresses and saber-training tunics to mechanics’ jumpsuits and starship captains’ jackets, the collection carries something for every fan. You’ll also find the classic white Princess Leia dress as well as a cloak inspired by Padmé Amidala’s royal wardrobe….

There’s a video here of The Chandrila Collection – some philistines would call it a commercial, I’m sure.

(9) JEOPARDY! As usual, the wrong Jeopardy! questions are the most entertaining. Andrew Porter saw this one tonight.

Final Jeopardy: Fictional Families

Answer: Introduced in the 1930s in The New Yorker, they’ve appeared on TV & Broadway & in live action & animated films.

Wrong question: Who are the Von Trapps?

Correct question: Who is The Addams Family?

(10) KELLERMAN OBIT. Actress Sally Kellerman, whose many roles included a Star Trek appearance, has died at the age of 84. The New York Post profiled her career.

…Kellerman is also rooted in “Star Trek” history. Fans of the original series will remember her role as a psychologist in the third episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — which actually was originally filmed as one of two pilots for the sci-fi series….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2010 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  Jack Vance who I think I can say without fear of contradiction is beloved by all here won three Hugos. The first was at the first DisCon for “The Dragon Masters” which was originally published in the August 1962 issue of Galaxy, the second was at NyCon 3 for “The Last Castle” published in Galaxy in the April 1966 issue, and the third, and this one surprised me, was Best Related Work at Aussiecon 4 (2010) for This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”)

His first Hugo nomination that didn’t result in a win was at Detention for “The Miracle-Workers”, published in Astounding in July 1958, his other nomination was a Retro Hugo at Millennium Philcon for The Dying Earth novel. 

His I-C-a-BeM novelette was longlisted at Seacon. His Ecce and Old Earth novel was likewise at MagiCon. If we’re being completists… Queen of Air and Darkness, I love databases! 

Dick Lupoff delivers Jack Vance’s 2010 Hugo.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not at all like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 89. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 77. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2. He also won a Tony Award for his role in The Robber Bridegroom, a play based off the Eudora Welty novella.
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 75. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was Blade Runner as Detective Gaff, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He has made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka.
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 71. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. Though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer LimitsAmazing StoriesRay Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a excellent series indeed. 
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 56. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 54. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(13) ARTHURIANA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Molly Roberts says very few people were asking for the PBS animated series Arthur to end after 25 years with their characters aging two decades and the beloved cartoon aardvark turning into “a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee.” “Arthur grew up in the finale of his PBS show. It’s a betrayal.”

… PBS’s sendoff of his namesake show after a quarter-century of seasons unexpectedly age-accelerates its characters two decades or so. It’s a move undoubtedly designed to offer closure to fans from preschooler to professional. But maybe closure is exactly what we didn’t need.

To recap, for those too busy living adult life to dip back into the old days for the finale of the longest-running animated children’s series in history: The (non-)boy the New York Times dubbed “the world’s most popular student aardvark” has apparently become a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee. His sister, the perennial pest D.W., has become … a cop? Buster the bunny is a drably dressed teacher; self-proclaimed tough guy and secret softie Binky Barnes the bulldog is a journalist….

(14) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with director Ken Kwapis, which is worth listening to for one very good anecdote about Jim Henson.  Kwapis directed Henson as a puppeteer in Sesame Street Presents:  Follow That Bird (which Leonard Maltin thinks is an underrated musical).  Jim Henson only had one request.  Before the shoot began, Henson asked everyone–cast and crew–to hold one arm high in the air for a minute. The reason: to give everyone a sense of what puppeteers had to do during a movie.

This is an entertaining hour, but most of what Kwapis directed is not genre.  Even though he directed all seven episodes of the second season of Space Force, he doesn’t have much to say about the show. “Maltin on Movies: Ken Kwapis”.

(15) THE WINTER OF THEIR DISCONTENT. “Patton Oswalt Slams Comixology Changes as Fans Call Out Amazon” reports Screen Rant.

…As Oswalt makes clear, with the changes, ComiXology has gone from being a dedicated hub for comics to just another tab for digital content in Amazon’s Kindle storefront. Whereas before the change, in addition to being a place where subscribers could “collect” and “curate” their digital collections, ComiXolgy provided a way for fans to explore the wonderful world of comics, manga, graphic novels in efficient and enjoyable manner.

Oswalt wasn’t the only one to find fault with the changes. Indeed, from hardcore fans to casual readers, from writers to gamers, the change seems to have struck a chord everywhere….

(16) JEFFERSONIAN STARSHIP. Politico tells “Why Musk’s biggest space gamble is freaking out his competitors”. “Starship is threatening NASA’s moon contractors, which are watching its progress with a mix of awe and horror.”

Elon Musk is planning yet again to rocket beyond the status quo. And if he succeeds, the aerospace giants that won the first space race may never catch him in this one.

Standing in front of the towering Starship rocket at Space X’s southwest Texas “Starbase” on Thursday night, Musk pledged that his most ambitious spaceship yet will make its first journey in the coming months….

Starship is designed to be the first all-purpose space vehicle: a reusable and refuelable spacecraft that can take scores of people and millions of tons of cargo from Earth directly to the moon and eventually Mars — and do it over and over again.

If he can pull it off, Musk’s previous breakthroughs — electric cars, reusable rockets for launching satellites, the first commercial space capsule to dock with the International Space Station — might seem, by comparison, to be modest achievements….

(17) DUSTING OFF HISTORY. Pollen leads to a picture of “The Uneven Sweep Of Black Death’s Assault On Europe” in a Nature article.

The historical pandemic known as the Black Death might not have been as devastating as was previously thought, an analysis of ancient pollen suggests.

Historians estimate that a wave of bubonic plague in the mid-1300s killed about half of the people in Europe, at a time when most lived in rural areas. To investigate the Black Death’s true toll, Alessia Masi at the Sapienza University of Rome and her colleagues analysed ancient pollen from 261 lakes and wetlands across Europe (pictured, a sampled bog in Poland). By assessing the varieties of pollen, the team determined whether fields and pastures had been abandoned after the plague and eventually replaced by forests.

Levels of pollen from species common in agricultural lands were much lower in many places, including France and central Italy, between 1350 and 1450 than during the previous 100 years. This suggests high mortality rates. But in other regions, including Ireland and much of eastern Europe, agricultural activities were stable and even expanded, suggesting that populations there were growing.

Factors such as weather and local economies might have caused the pandemic’s course to vary, the authors say.

(18) FELL WEAPON. Nature discusses a “Gift From Above: The Meteorite Origins Of King Tut’s Dagger”.

Chemical analysis of an iron dagger found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb has identified the type of meteorite from which the metal was derived — and suggests the knife might have been a gift from another ruler.

Tut reigned in the fourteenth century bc, before iron working was common in Egypt. Previous research identified an iron– nickel meteorite as the probable
source of the blade’s metal, but little was known about how the dagger was manufactured.

Tomoko Arai at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Narashino, Japan, and her colleagues mapped the metal’s elements by shining X-rays along the blade and analyzing the resulting fluorescence. They found that the nickel was distributed in a crosshatched pattern typical of a group of meteorites called octahedrites. The blade must have been forged at a relatively low temperature to retain the pattern and other meteorite specific features, they say….

(19) GALAXY CHEX QUEST. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece based on the 1996 computer game Chex Quest. According to Wikipedia, Chex Quest was included as a cereal prize in boxes of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and Wheat Chex. “Daily bunny no.1676 is fighting for a balanced breakfast (A Patreon reward for @DrWho42!)”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/22 I Have No Internet And I Must Stream

(1) BREATHTAKING. Here’s a chance to admire Nalo Hopkinson’s magnificent SFWA Grand Master award.

(2) SILVER Q&A. Sea Lion Press’ Gary Oswald has a conversation with a co-founder of the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History: “Interviewing the AH Community: Steven H Silver”.

In 2020, a Sea Lion Press story won a Sidewise Award for the first time. Most Sidewise winners are paper novels by major book publishers which sell in the thousands so it was exciting to us that an ebook by a minor publisher with more modest sales could win it. You’re obviously not the only judge but do you consider popularity or legitimacy at all or would you be happy to vote for a self published ebook with barely any sales if you felt the work was good enough?

I try to read each story or novel for the Sidewise Award pretending I know nothing of its provenance. I try to ignore who the author is, who published it, or the way it got to press. To me, it is about the story being told and the way it is told. I try to judge each book on two levels. Is it a good/interesting alternate history and is it a well written book. I’ve voted down books I like because they were strong in one of those two categories, but weak in the other. If the writing isn’t good, the concept doesn’t matter and if the writing is good but the alternate history is weak, it is hard to consider it a contender….

(3) WHO CAN RESIST CETACEANS? [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist JohannesVIII (@ViiiJohannes) did this piece of two humpback whales assimilated as Borg from Star Trek.

(4) FANHISTORY ZOOM. Fanac.org’s next Fan History Project Zoom Series presentation is happening on February 26. To RSVP, or find out more about the series, please send a note to fanac@fanac.org.

  • Death Does Not Release You – LASFS Through the Years with Craig Miller (M), Tim Kirk, Ken Rudolph and Bobbi Armbruster

Date: February 26, 2022
Time: 4pm EST, 1pm PST, 9PM London, 8AM Sunday AEDT (Melbourne)

LASFS is unique – in its history and impact on fandom. LASFS has a clubhouse, a long list of professional writers that have been members, and has had an incredibly active fan group over the decades. Los Angeles area fandom has produced innumerable fanzines, six Los Angeles Worldcons (and many other conventions). Join us for a session with our real world AND fannishly accomplished participants – convention runners (including a Worldcon chair), a noted fan and professional artist, and a fanzine editor, all past or present LASFS members – in conversation about Los Angeles fandom from the inside.

Upcoming Fanac.org fanhistory Zooms are:

  • March 19 — Traveling Ghiants, Fan Funds from the Days of Mimeo to the Days of Zoom

Geri Sullivan (m), Lesleigh Luttrell (DUFF), Justin Ackroyd (GUFF) and Suzle Tompkins (TAFF)

4pm EDT, 1pm PDT, 8pm London, 7am AEDT (Melbourne) – 

  • April 23 — Fandom From Both Sides

Joe Haldeman and Gay Haldeman

2pm EDT, 11am PDT, 7pm London – 

(5) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The CDC has published a study of what ABC News identifies as the 2021 Anime NYC COVID-19/Omicron outbreak. The function isn’t named in the study, but details that are given match that convention. “Omicron spread quickly at convention in New York City — but boosters helped at ABC News.

…According to convention rules, attendees were required to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and wear masks indoors.

The first case was reported to the CDC by the Minnesota Department of Health on Dec. 2 in a man — called Patient A — who had flown to New York City for the convention, the report said.

For the report, the CDC teamed up with the MDH and state and local departments across the country interviewing Patient A, and 23 of his 29 close contacts from 13 states who also attended the convention.

Patient A had traveled to New York City on November 18. He was fully vaccinated and received a booster shot earlier in November, according to the authors.

However, he developed symptoms on Nov. 22 and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, after which he notified all his close contacts, the report said.

Of the 23 attendees contacted, 16 tested positive for the virus, equating to an attack rate of 70%.

All the contacts were fully vaccinated, but only 11 had received a booster dose before going to the convention, according to the report. The authors indicate that having a booster dose lowered the odds of testing positive for COVID-19.

Ten of the 12 people, or 83%, who didn’t receive a booster tested positive for the virus while six of the 11 people, 55%, who tested positive were boosted, meaning there were 1.5 times fewer infections in boosted individuals….

(6) TEXMOOT CALL FOR PAPERS. Signum University is hosting a hybrid event, TexMoot 2022, whose theme is “Starships, Stewards, and Storytellers: How Imaginary Worlds Teach Us to Care for This One”. It takes place in Austin, TX on March 26. Registration costs $50 for on-site participants, $25 for online attendees, and $15 for students in either mode. To register, click here. The complete call for papers is here.

In 2022, Signum University’s Annual Texas Language and Literature Symposium (TexMoot) invites you to join us as we consider the ethical turn in speculative fiction: How do imaginary worlds teach us to care for this one?

From ecological concerns to social commentary, science fiction and fantasy offer readers a mirror through which to view our own world. For example, the struggles of a terraforming planet may remind us how precious and fragile is the one we live on. The real-world conflict between nature and technology comes to life on the page when trees march to war. We may find insights into how to interact with people around us by spending time with characters in a fellowship—or on a starship. 

At TexMoot 2022, you will explore questions like: How do we relate to the Other—the “monsters” and “aliens” beyond the bulkhead door? What roles can technology play in preserving nature or reinforcing what makes us human? Do humans change the nonhuman environment, or are they inevitably changed by it? Is there really a clear line between the human and the nonhuman, anyway? And whose responsibility is it to preserve “civilization” and transmit its legacy to future generations?

TexMoot 2022 will also investigate the ways authors convey these commentaries. What literary techniques best serve the message; at what point does a work cross the line into propaganda? When does the message serve the story, and when does the story serve the message?

The TexMoot Team is looking for both traditional academic papers (of about 15 minutes) and shorter discussion prompts in which the presenter talks for 5 minutes and ends with a provocative question to start a roundtable discussion. Presentations and discussion topics can be more academic or popular, according to your preference and experience. 

(7) STRANGER THINGS GETS FIFTH SEASON. The airdates for the fourth season of Stranger Things have been announced, as has the greenlit fifth and last season. Deadline has the story, and a gallery of promotional posters. “’Stranger Things’ Renewed For Fifth And Final Season, Gets Premiere Dates For Split Season 4 On Netflix”.

Stranger Things, a signature show for Netflix since its premiere in 2016, has been renewed for a fifth and final season.

In addition to the climactic renewal, the company said the long-awaited Season 4 of the show will premiere in two “volumes,” the first on May 27 and the second on July 1. In an open letter to fans (read it in full below), co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer said the split season resulted from the season’s nine episodes having a total running time twice as long as that of any previous season.

The Duffer Bros noted that the full arc was expected to be “four or five” seasons when they first envisioned the show, so the end is not a surprise. Plus, it won’t be the end of the franchise, they promised.

“There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of Stranger Things: new mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes,” they wrote. “But first we hope you stay with us as we finish this tale.”

(8) IT HAPPENED TO JANE. You may not be able to watch Natalie Portman gear up as Thor just yet, but you can pre-order an action figure of her. Gizmodo offers “Thor Love and Thunder Natalie Portman as Thor First Look”, but it comes with a spoiler warning.

While movie studios like Marvel like to keep all details about their films under complete wraps, there’s one truth they simply cannot get around: It takes a long time to make merchandise, especially action figures. That’s why they’re often the first looks at movie outfits and characters, and it’s why we’re getting this first look at Natalie Portman as Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. In related news, she’s awesome—as regular Thor’s new movie outfit, which you can also see here!…

(9) RIDE WITH THE SPACE COWBOY. Simultaneous Times science fiction podcast episode 48 is live, featuring short stories by F.J. Bergmann and Toshiya Kamei with original soundtracks by Phog Masheen and RedBlueBlackSilver. “Simultaneous Times Ep.48 – F.J. Bergmann & Toshiya Kamei”. Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(10) FAREN MILLER (1950-2022). Faren Miller, a Locus staffer and contributor for 37 years, died February 15 at the age of 71 reports Locus Online. Miller was hired by Locus in 1981, and her last review column for the magazine was in 2018. Her only published novel, The Illusionists (1991), was a finalist for the William Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for first fantasy book.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1989 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-three years ago, the first film of what would become the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, premiered on this day. It was directed by Stephen Herek as written by Chris Matheson, son of author Richard Matheson, and Ed Solomon, writer of the first Men in Black film, who would write all three of these films. 

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, of course, stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin. (I met the latter many years ago. A rather nice gentleman he was.) Two out of the three had successful careers after this, one really didn’t. 

It was a box office triumph earning back forty million against a modest budget of just ten million.

Critics generally hated it. The New York Times in reviewing it flatly stated that it was a “painfully inept comedy”. And the Los Angeles Times said that it was an “unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake”. Dissenting from this unrelenting hostility, the Radio Times cheerfully said ir was a “flawless, purpose-built junk movie”. 

So how do audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes view it now? Well, they give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1913 David Duncan. A screenwriter and novelist who was nominated twice for Hugos, first for being writing the screenplay for The Time Machine at Seacon, and for the same work on Fantastic Voyage at NyCon 3. He also wrote Time Machine: The Journey Back sequel to The Time Machine. And he wrote The Outer Limits’ “The Human Factor” episode. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 17, 1939 Kathy Keeton. Founder and publisher of the now defunct Omni. It was founded by her and her partner and future husband Bob Guccione, the publisher of the also defunct Penthouse. It would publish a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata”, Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic” and George R. R. Martin’s “Sandkings” to name a few of the stories that appeared there. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 68. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person.
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 51. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. A few years later she’ll be Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She played Victoria Dare in Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1975 Jerry O’Connell, 47. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind-the-broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League DarkThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent.

(13) SUBSCRIBERS MUST SQUINT. According to Polygon, “recent updates have made it harder to read, shop, and publish on the U.S.’s most popular digital comics platform” — “Amazon’s big Comixology changes ignite concern from comic book creators, fans”.

This week Amazon, launched a new app for its digital comics platform, Comixology, and a new Amazon-native online storefront that will eventually replace Comixology’s browser-based store and reader. But the new changes have alarmed both users and creators.

Long-time Comixology users have taken to social media to list all the ways the new web and app user experience represents a step backward from what they’re used to. Chief among the many complaints is a new web reader that doesn’t display double page spreads correctly, has removed creator credits from book listings on the storefront, and lacks both panel-by-panel and zoom functions, rendering most comics in illegibly small images….

(14) MISSING A PART OF THE FUTURE. Voice acting veterans Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Kari Wahlgren, and Charlie Adler call out Hulu, which is reviving Futurama but hasn’t been willing to meet the terms of Bender’s voice John DiMaggio: “Futurama Hulu revival: Actors supporting John DiMaggio” at SYFY Wire.

A number of established Hollywood veterans have come to the side of John DiMaggio as the actor continues to clash with Hulu and 20th Century Studios over proper compensation for the streamer’s upcoming revival of Futurama.

The official announcement of the beloved series’ return from co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen was slightly marred by the fact that DiMaggio (who voices foul-mouthed robot Bender and a plethora of supporting characters) was the only member of the original cast who had not signed on for the revival. It was soon reported that the show would recast Bender in the wake of contract negotiations stalling out. If talks have ended for good between both parties, some fans say they won’t be tuning in if DiMaggio isn’t brought back for the 20 additional episodes slated to premiere sometime next year (production kicks off this month)….

(15) STORYLIVING BY DISNEY. Love Disney parks so much you’d want to live in one?  Now you can (sort of). “Disney is developing planned communities for fans who never want to leave its clutches”The Verge will fill you in.

Disney has launched a new business for fans who can’t bear to leave the pristine, family-friendly world the corporation has nurtured through its theme parks and media ventures.

“Storyliving by Disney” will operate as part of the company’s theme parks division, developing a series of master-planned communities for residential living, designed by Disney’s creative staff and offering the same pampered tranquility found in its resorts.

“Picture an energetic community with the warmth and charm of a small town and the beauty of a resort,” said Disney Parks, Experiences and Products exec Helen Pak in a promotional video.

Only one location has been announced so far: a community of 1,900 housing units named Cotino that will be built in the city of Rancho Mirage in California’s Coachella Valley (a location where Walt Disney himself once lived)….

(16) SPLISH SPLASH, YOU’LL BE TAKIN’ A BATH. [Item by Michael Toman.] I can’t be the only Filer who would be interested in reading this Kim Stanley Robinson nightmare scenario, with or without fires and earthquakes. What will California’s coast look like in 100 years? “We’re Kind of Built on This Knife’s Edge” at Alta.

Eighteen thousand years ago, give or take, the continental shelf 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco was exposed as a wide, flat coastal plain with an extensive system of dunes and river valleys connecting the Farallon Islands to the continental United States, which didn’t go by that name. Farther north, salt waters from the Pacific Ocean stretched all the way inland to present-day Sacramento.

Rising sea levels have continued to erode the shoreline ever since, as human beings established a society they would eventually call California. Some of our biggest cities were built in this 10 miles of dynamic coastline.

“We often think of the California coast as this high-relief terrain with active tectonics, which it is, but we’ve put millions of people in the lowest parts of the entire state, like the San Diego Bay, the San Francisco Bay, and the Los Angeles Basin,” says Patrick Barnard, the research director of the climate impacts and coastal processes team at USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz….

(17) YAKKITY-YAK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Not satisfied with something commonplace like a robotic dog, China is going for a robotic yak. They are said to be essentially ready for troop support, but Popular Mechanics isn’t buying it. “China’s New ‘Robotic Yak’ Will Support Ground Troops, But It’s Not as Capable as It Seems”.

Chinese engineers are developing a large, four-legged robotic “yak,” supposedly capable of hauling as much cargo as two real yaks. The unnamed robot—which seems destined for military use—is similar to the robo-dog concept that Waltham, Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics has popularized over the last decade. But a careful reading of the video shows that it may just be a bunch of Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

Supported by its four spindly legs and barrel-shaped body, the robot is topped off with a cargo-carrying metal rack. Global Times, a Chinese tabloid with links to the Chinese government, claims it can carry up to 160 kilograms (352 pounds) and travel at up to 6.21 miles per hour. It cites the Chinese Communist Party news site People’s Daily as saying the robot was “the world’s largest, heaviest and most off-road-capable of its kind.”…

…. Robo-yak isn’t going anywhere anytime soon for the same reasons the Marines never pursued LS3: robots run on batteries and once the batteries run down, it takes hours—at a place with abundant power to spare, which is not exactly the desert—to recharge them. 

(18) THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN. “Homelander’s Vought Origin Story Shown In The Boys Diabolical Trailer”Screen Rant sets the frame:

Set within the same universe as its parent series, The Boys: Diabolical acts as an eight-part collection of animated short films exploring a range of stories related to the corrupt superhero world that fans of The Boys have come to know and love. Each episode will run between 12 and 14 minutes and feature a unique animation style

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: It Takes Two,” Fandom Games says the gimmick of this game is that you’re supposed to play it with your partner and preserve your marriage.  But the narrator says a better test is to “Play Cuphead with your wife, because if your marriage can survive that, it can survive anything!”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/6/20 Pfiltriggi Longstocking

(1) NEVER GIVE UP HOPE. That’s Sultana Raza’s advice in an “Essay on writing life” at Facebook.

If people see someone giggling away on a bus for no apparent reason, they tend to back away, wondering how crazy that person might be. Unless that person happens to be typing away on their tiny mobile. Depending on the flow of words coming, I can type my stories in buses, trams or trains. Sometimes even in crowded cafes where no one knows me, which is the case right now, with a 90s song blaring away in the background. Usually though, I tend to type away at night, when I have the impression I have unlimited time, and no interruptions. However, as soon as I go on the internet to research something, it’s easily an hour or so before I notice I’ve been page surfing, reading up related trivia. So I wait till I have a few points to research before I jump in the whirlpool of research.

Though I’ve been writing from school days, my very first note-book got lost when I moved away from India….

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Craig Laurance Gidney in a YouTube livestream event on Wednesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over 80 anthologies and magazines. Her collections, Engines of Desire and Furnace have both received Shirley Jackson Award nominations for Best Collection, and her short story “One of These Nights” won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story. She lives in Jersey City.

Craig Laurance Gidney

Craig Laurance Gidney is the author of the collections Sea, Swallow Me and Skin Deep Magic; the novels Bereft and A Spectral Hue and numerous short stories. Both his collections and A Spectral Hue were finalists for the Lambda Literary Award and Bereft won both the Bronze Moonbeam and Silver IPPY Awards. Hairsbreadth, a fairy tale novel, is currently serialized on Broken Eye Books. Craig is a lifelong resident of Washington, DC.

(3) CURSES. Stephanie Merry and Steven Johnson have a piece in the Washington Post about readers commenting on the books they read this summer: “What the country is reading during the pandemic: Dystopias, social justice and steamy romance” T. Andrew Wahl of Stanwood, Washington read Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers.

“I read this epic pandemic tome when it came out last summer, and it scared the hell out of me.  At the time, it was just a well-crafted sci-fi thriller.  Now it feels prophetic as we’re living through just about every plot twist in the book…Damn you, Chuck Wendig:  It’s time to write a happy book about the world recovering and everything being all right!”

(4) BLACK PANTHER FREE. The Verge spread the word that “Black Panther titles are free right now on Comixology”. (I made this screencap an hour ago.)

Amazon-owned cloud-based comic book platform Comixology appears to be offering a wide selection of Marvel’s Black Panther comics for free this weekend. The unannounced sale was noticed by tweeters and Redditors; many Marvel comics related to the fictional African country Wakanda, where Black Panther is set, are available for free.

It’s not clear how long the “sale” will last, however; there doesn’t appear to have been any official announcement.

(5) TODAY’S DAY.

From memoirs to sci-fi; there are so many different types of books out there today, so use Read a Book Day to find the perfect book for you to really get stuck into. Read on to discover everything that you need to know about Read a Book Day and the different ways that you can celebrate this date…. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • September 6, 1953 — The Hugo awards are first presented in 1953 at the 11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. (According to its Program Book the con had no official nickname, however, The Long List calls it Philcon II.) Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man won Best Novel and Best Professional Magazine  jointly went to  Astounding Science Fiction as edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. and  Galaxy as edited by H. L. Gold.  Best Cover Artist (Hannes Bok and Ed Emshwiller), Best Interior Illustrator (Virgil Finlay), Excellence in Fact Articles (Willy Ley), Best New SF Author or Artist (Philip José Farmer) and  #1 Fan Personality (Forrest J Ackerman) rounded out the Hugos. Toastmaster was Isaac Asimov. The Convention guide is here.
  • September 6 , 1989 — On this day in 1989, Doctor Who began  its twenty-sixth and final season of the original run on BBC. The Seventh Doctor was portrayed by Scottish actor Sylvester McCoy, here in his third season. That was the same time as his two predecessors but not nearly as long as the Fourth Doctor who went seven seasons, the longest to date. It began with Ben Aaronovitch‘s Battlefield“ story and ended with Rona Munro‘s “Survival” story. (She would write the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Eaters of Light”, making her the only writer to date to have worked on the old and new eras of the show.) BBC would not aired another Doctor Who story until the “Rose” aired on the 26th of March, 2005 with actor Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 – Groff Conklin.  One of our first and finest anthologists; also poetry, nonfiction, outside our field.  The Best of SF appeared months before Healy & McComas’ great Adventures in Time and Space; forty more; also the monthly 5-Star Shelf in Galaxy 1950-1955.  Perhaps his best, besides The Best, are A Treasury of SFThe Big Book of SFPossible Worlds of SFOmnibus of SFSF Adventures in Dimension.  Barry Malzberg said “the most important science fiction anthologist through the years [when] its previously magazine-bound masterpieces were being systematically located….  all our postwar history exists in the penumbra of his work.”  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1936 – James Odbert, 84.  Half a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors.  Here is Home From the Shore.  Here is the Spring 94 Fractal.  Here is the Minicon 10 Program Book.  Here is an illustration for Sturgeon’s “Talent”.  Here is his Three of Swords in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (each card done by a different artist in that artist’s own manner).  Artist Guest of Honor at Empiricon V, Balticon 46.  [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 77. Ok, I might well be stretching it in saying that Pink Floyd genre.  The Wallis maybe. And quite possibly also The Division Bell with its themes of communication. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger! (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1946 – Halmer Haag.  Chair of Balticon 25, 35; Balticon’s Gaming Czar; Ghost of Honor at Balticon 44.  Instigator of the Baltimore in ’98 Worldcon bid, which succeeded and became BucCONeer (56th Worldcon).  BSFS (Baltimore SF Soc.) Board of Directors.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1951 – Val Lakey Lindahn, 69.  Thirty covers, two hundred ten interiors; two short stories; many with co-artists e.g. Artifact, John Lakey, Ron Lindahn; more outside our field.  Here is the Sep 83 Analog.  Here is The Asimov Chronicles.  Here is “Time On My Hands”.  Here is Fire from the Wine-Dark Sea.  One Gaughan, one Chesley.  [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1953 Elizabeth Massie, 67. Ellen Datlow who’s now doing the most excellent Year’s Best Horror anthology series was the horror editor for Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror where she selected Massie’s “Stephen” for the fourth edition. A horror writer by trade, she’s also dipped deeper into the genre by writing a female Phantom graphic novel, Julie Walker is The Phantom in Race Against Death! and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion novel. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 67. She’s best remembered for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consulted a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but it made for a nice if fictional coda on her story. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1966 – Ellen Key Harris-Braun.  Yale summa cum laude.  Certified professional midwife.  Editor at Del Rey; started DR Internet Newsletter.  After DR, independent On-line Writing Workshop.  “Some of what is great about Ellen … believing in things, making them happen with grace and perseverance”.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1972 — Idris Elba, 48. He was Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise as well. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond. (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 48. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 is the one I’ve re-read the most followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that theNew Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. Now his writing on the Dial H sort of horror series for DC was fantastic in all ways that word means. (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 44. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later show up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episiode of Angel. He does the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and he‘s Angelo on Suicide Squad. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1979 – Anna Sheehan, 41.  Young Shakespeare Players of Madison.  Technical degree in commercial goldsmithing.  A Long, Long, Sleep winning a Golden Duck, it and sequel No Life But This, based on Sleeping BeautySpinning Thorns a re-telling.  Ranks Harold and the Purple Crayon above The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.  [JH]

(8) SPIN ME A YARN. The Raksura Colony Tree hosts “The Yarnbomb@CoNZealand Gallery”.

Organized by Jan Bass and Monique Lubberink, CoNZealand had a lovely community craft project planned: Yarnbombing along the routes connecting the different venues in Wellington. I posted about this earlier this year. Then 2020 happened, and CoNZealand had to go virtual. The project pivoted to yarnbombing wherever the contributors lived and sending in pictures and/or video of the results. We certainly could do with a bit more colour in our lives this year!

We ended up with a lovely display of everybody’s contributions in the Virtual Exhibits Hall at CoNZealand. With the kind permission of the contributors involved, I’d like to share the fun with all of you. Click on the pictures to see a close-up and title!

(9) THE DYING OF ART. Eater Los Angeles mourns the loss of another famous place with art on the walls: “Moore’s Deli, Hollywood Animator Hangout and Burbank Staple, Closes After Ten Years”.

Ten-year-old Valley restaurant Moore’s Delicatessen has closed permanently, just shy of its October anniversary. The longtime restaurant was a haven for Hollywood animators in the Burbank area, and featured a ton of hand-drawn artwork on the walls of a back room.

(10) CHECK YOUR DRAWERS. The Guardian asks“Are aliens hiding in plain sight?”

In July, three unmanned missions blasted off to Mars – from China (Tianwen-1), the US (Nasa’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover) and the United Arab Emirates (Hope). The Chinese and American missions have lander craft that will seek signs of current or past life on Mars. Nasa is also planning to send its Europa Clipper probe to survey Jupiter’s moon Europa, and the robotic lander Dragonfly to Saturn’s moon Titan. Both moons are widely thought to be promising hunting grounds for life in our solar system – as are the underground oceans of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus.

Meanwhile, we can now glimpse the chemical makeup of atmospheres of planets that orbit other stars (exoplanets), of which more than 4,000 are now known. Some hope these studies might disclose possible signatures of life.

But can any of these searches do their job properly unless we have a clear idea of what “life” is? Nasa’s unofficial working definition is “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”. “Nasa needs a definition of life so it knows how to build detectors and what kinds of instruments to use on its missions,” says zoologist Arik Kershenbaum of the University of Cambridge. But not everyone thinks it is using the right one.

Astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild of Nasa’s Ames research centre in California sees a cautionary tale in AA Milne’s story from Winnie-the-Pooh, in which Pooh and Piglet hunt a Woozle without knowing what it looks like and mistake their own footprints for its tracks. “You can’t hunt for something if you have no idea what it is,” she says.

(11) MULAN’S SCREEN HISTORY. In the Washington Post, Martin Tsai gives a backgrounder on non-Disney versions of the Mulan legend, including the fourteen other films about Mulan, with the most recent Chinese version, with the most recent Chinese version being Jingle Ma’s Mulan: Rise Of A Warrior (2009). “The live-action ‘Mulan’ is not the first retelling of the legend. Or the second. Or the sixth.”

…Since her story first graced the big screen in 1926, the folk heroine has, under different interpretations over the course of a century, come to variously emblematize filial piety, patriotism, feminism and, perhaps inadvertently, cultural commodification. Given that Hua Mulan may not be an actual historical figure, faithfulness has seldom been a point of contention in the reworkings of “The Ballad of Mulan” in every form and medium — including literature, music, dance, theater, martial arts and television, as well as film — as expanding on those 330 words necessitates artistic license.

(12) UNPUTDOWNABLE. If Popsugar is right that these are “12 Sci-Fi Books About Pandemics That You Won’t Be Able to Put Down”, you’ll need to learn to do a lot of things with your feet.

For some people, the scariest science-fiction books involve alien attacks, rebellious robots, and malevolent technology. For others, sci-fi is truly at its best when it introduces an unseen killer: a deadly disease. While fictitious, pandemic novels hit a little bit closer to home than tales of time travel and parallel universes because — unlike most anything written by Nnedi Okorafor or Octavia Butler — they reflect a very possible reality, even if the stories are a little more fantastical. Novels about inexplicable viruses and devastating pathogens definitely shouldn’t be overlooked by sci-fi-lovers (or really anyone), and these 12 books about pandemics are some of the best out there….

(13) FACE ART. The worldwide mask industry now boasts two for fans of the Inklings, a Narnia map mask and a Hobbit book cover mask.

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