Pixel Scroll 1/23/23 You Can Make The Scene On The Mezzanine, But Don’t Scroll In The Pixels

Android Jones. Photo by Greg Preston. From Jones’ appearance at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! in 2012.

(1) HELP ARTIST RECOVER FROM STUDIO FIRE. [Item by Arnie Fenner.] Artist Andrew “Android” Jones’ studio burned down on January 18. I posted a little about it on Muddy Colors, “Android Jones Fundraiser”, and you can see some photos of his studio (before and after) in his GoFundMe page.

Several days ago a distinguished member of our art family experienced every artists’ nightmare: Andrew “Android” Jones’ studio burnt to the ground in a devastating fire. The studio, built by Andrew’s father, was separate from his home and contained all of his computers, back-up files, printers, sketchbooks, business records, traditional paintings and drawings, and his library. Thankfully Andrew and his family are safe, but everything in the studio was lost.

As one of the world’s most innovative artists—someone who was a leader of the “immersive experience” so popular today with his projections on the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House and at Burning Man, someone whose innovations with Painter and Photoshop pushed the boundaries and possibilities of digital art—Android’s loss is a loss for us all.

GoFundMe: “Fundraiser by Andrew Jones : Android Jones Studio Fire”.

Here’s a bit from his bio:

Best described as a “digital painter,” Jones has created an immense body of work. He has become well known for his many layered, psychedelic works and live performances using a custom built digital set up. He participated in the Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well Tour and his work has been projected on the Sydney Opera House and the Empire State Building. A long time member of the Burning Man community, Android has traveled the world exhibiting his work and has contributed to events on 6 continents.

Andrew’s art appeared on the cover of Spectrum #14 and was featured in a show at the Smithsonian: “Android Jones” at Smithsonian American Art Museum.

(2) COZY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] My Semiprozine Spotlight project never really took off the way the other spotlights did, but I just posted another one today, featuring Wyngraf Magazine of Cozy Fantasy.

Tell us about your magazine.

Wyngraf is a magazine of cozy fantasy short fiction—as far as I know, the first of its kind. Cozy fantasy focuses on low-stakes stories, often with themes of home and community. They can be simple slice-of-life tales or feature some conflict, but they’re never about toppling kingdoms or preventing the world from ending and they’re rarely solved with violence. They’re often set at home, though when they go off wandering we call that “backpack fantasy” and still count it. Our stories always give readers worlds they’d love to live in and endings that leave them feeling warm and, well, cozy!

(3) EARLY HORROR AFICIANADO. Bobby Derie has dug up an 18th century piece of horror criticism: “’On the Pleasure derived from Objects of Terror; with Sir Bertrand, a Fragment’ (1773) by Anna Laetitia Aikin & John Aikin” – Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

Anna Laetitia Aikin was born in 1743; her father was a Presbyterian minister and the headmaster of a boy’s school, and both Anna and her brother John Aikin received solid educations, which led to their careers in letters—Anna being noted for working in multiple genres, and earned a reputation as a poet and author. One of her earliest publications was Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773), published jointly with her brother. Among the contents of this volume is “On the Pleasure derived from Objects of Terror; with Sir Bertrand, a Fragment.”

The essay is one of the early English works on the subject of the horror story, and much of it is as insightful today as it was two and a half centuries ago…

(4) JMS ON B5. J. Michael Straczynski has released another Babylon 5 episode commentary track on YouTube: “Babylon 5: Severed Dreams”

A new sync-up commentary sponsored by my Patrons (if you’d like to lend your support you can do so the Patreon page noted above) for Severed Dreams, the third episode of the Messages from Earth trilogy. Best listened to by playing this on your iphone or tablet while the episode unspools on the TV in front of you.

(5) LOCUS GETS GRANT. “CLMP Names US Literary Publishers’ ‘Capacity-Building’ Grants” reports Publishing Perspectives. Locus Magazine is one of the grant recipients.

CLMP, the nonprofit Community of Literary Magazines and Presses in the United States, has announced extensive funding to 43 independent nonprofit literary magazines and presses. Each of these grantees has been chosen to receive two-year “capacity-building” grants of US$2,500 to $25,000 per year, meaning that each company listed will get, in total, between $5,000 and $50,000….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1991 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Emma Bull’s Bone Dance

There’s a nice riff on gardening, on growing food, in Emma Bull’s Bone Dance when Sparrow is in a community outside the city. 

I used to read, when I could still read novels, this Hugo-nominated work at least every few years as it’s one of my favorite novels. It’s got great characters, especially the gender ambiguous Sparrow, a fascinating setting that’s based according to her on our Minneapolis and an absolutely stellar story. 

I do have a signed copy of it as I do Finder and two copies of War for The Oaks, one just after her unfortunate accident and one much later one. And yes, she is on the chocolate gifting list. Surely you aren’t at all surprised by that. 

Here’s the quote. 

As my endurance came back, and my flexibility, I began to walk instead of sit. Outside the second ring of houses (my estimate had been low; there were thirty-nine), I found barns and sheds and stables and workshops. Beyond those were pastureland and cultivated fields. Grain did its foot-rooted wind dance there; corn thrashed its jungle leaves; beans waggled long green or purple or yellow fingers; summer squash ripened furiously in a pinwheel of tropical-looking vegetation. Here, too, there were always people, cultivating, hoeing weeds, spreading things, raking things, trimming, harvesting. It all seemed as ritual as a pre-Bang Catholic mass, and as intelligible to outsiders.

Work 

One morning, when I’d gone farther than I had before and was feeling the effects, I sat down in the shade of a tree next to a field. Five people were hoeing up and down the rows of something I didn’t recognize. One of them reached the end of the row nearest me, looked up, smiled, and came over.

“Hi,” she said, dropping down onto the grass. “Sparrow, isn’t it? I’m Kris.” She pulled her straw hat off to reveal a brush of hair the color of the hat. She tugged a bandanna out of her pocket and wiped her face with it; then she unclipped a flask from her belt and poured some of the contents over the bandanna. She draped that over her head like a veil and jammed the hat back on. “Funny-looking,” she said with a grin, when she saw me watching the process. “But it does the trick. The evaporating water keeps your head cool.”

“Looks like hard work,” I said, nodding back out into the sun.

“Goddess, it is. Especially this part of the year. Harvesting isn’t any easier, but it’s more fun, and you have something to show for it right away. Every year about now I start wishing it was winter.”

This was a reasonable line of conversation, not too personal. “What is that out there?”

“Sugar beets. We voted to do ’em this year instead of tobacco, thank Goddess. Don’t get me wrong—I love to smoke. But I’ll pay for my tobacco and be glad to. It’s a good cash crop, but the hand labor is murder, and no matter how careful we are, we always have trouble with the tomatoes when we grow it. Turns out we’ll make as much on the beets, anyway, so I can afford to buy my smokes.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both from the usual suspects and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 23, 1933 Emily Banks, 90. She played Yeoman Tonia Barrows in the absolutely splendid “Shore Leave”.  Though her acting career was brief, ending twenty years later, she shows up on Mr. Terrific, a series I’ve never heard of, Fantasy IslandThe Wild Wild WestBewitched, the original Knight Rider, Highway to Heaven and Air Wolf.
  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg is aged 84, but Tim passed seventeen years ago. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wooton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice. (Tim Hildebrandt died 2006.)
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 80. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly, I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer. Roy Batty In Blade Runner of course but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the vey evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 73. Yes I am counting MacGyver as genre you can say it is open to debate if you want. His main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate small universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it. Too bad it got cancelled so fast. 
  • Born January 23, 1950 David Feldman, 73. Before authoring the “Imponderables” series, David Feldman taught the first-ever college course on soap operas at Bowling Green State University (OH), at that time the only school in the world with a postgraduate degree in popular culture. That’s where Mike Glyer met him. After Feldman took his talents to the University of Maryland in pursuit of a Ph.D., where the soap opera class blew up into a 350-student draw, he worked in New York in the programming department of NBC, in both daytime and primetime programming until he decided writing books was a more attractive idea. Imponderables, the first in the 11-book series, came out in 1986. And once upon a time, he even ran Wolfman Jack’s campaign for president. (OGH)
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, age 67.  Ray Bradbury suggested he join LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is?  CM soon earned the LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Co-chaired Equicon ’74, Westercon 28, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon; chaired Loscon 12.  Fan Guest of Honor, Westercon 41, Loscon 27 (with wife Genny Dazzo), Baycon 2006, Boskone 55.  With Marv Wolfman co-created and produced Pocket Dragon Adventures.  Memoir of work with Lucasfilms Star Wars Adventures.  Three hundred television writer and producer credits.  Writers Guild of America West’s Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 59. First, I must note she is the lead cast member as Olivia Benson of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, now in its twenty-fourth season, the longest running scripted series currently on television. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in the not very good, indeed truly awful, Tales from Earthsea. Bad, bad idea. 

(8) REVISITING APPENDIX N. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The good folks of Goodman Games are profiling more early 20th century SFF authors who appear in Appendix N of the original D&D Dungeon Master handbook:

 James Maliszewski profiles Abraham Merritt: “Adventures in Fiction: Abraham Merritt”.

Of all the literary influences on D&D and DCC RPG, Abraham Merritt is perhaps the “most-influential of the least-known.” His work is rarely read in this modern time, yet he is named by Gary Gygax as one of “the most immediate influences on AD&D. Today, on January 20, 2020, the 136th anniversary of his birth, we provide a little more insight into this little-read but well-deserving author. You can also learn about all the Appendix N authors by listening to the Appendix N Book Club. For Merritt in particular, his most famous work, The Moon Pool, was recently covered in a special session on the Appendix N Podcast in which Joseph Goodman participated. You can find more about it HERE.

Michael Curtis profiles Clark Ashton Smith: “Appendix N Archaeology: Clark Ashton Smith”.

…While we cannot fault Gygax for not including certain names, we can, however, dig deeper into the authors he does list and examine where they drew their influences from. In the process, we discover that some of the names that people grumble about over their absence, are in fact representative in the works of those that are present. One of these influencers of the influencers is the third name from “the big three of Weird Tales”—Clark Ashton Smith….

Ngo Vinh-Hoi profiles John Bellairs: “Adventures in Fiction: John Bellairs”.

…Many years later a fan asked Bellairs about his time in England only to have him reply “I lived for a year in Bristol [England], and it was the most miserable year of my life.” Bellairs’s misery was everyone else’s good fortune though, as this is when he wrote The Face in the Frost….

(9) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Also at Goodman Games, Bill Ward contrasts those archetypical adventurers Conan and Elric: “Archetypes of Adventure: Conan and Elric”.

Few characters in fantasy are as iconic as Conan the Cimmerian: black-haired barbarian warrior with the deadly grace of a panther and the impressive physique of a prize fighter, a wanderer, a reaver, and a king by his own hand. Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone perhaps rivals Conan in terms of iconic status (if not exactly in market saturation), perhaps in part due to his deliberate inversion of many of Conan’s characteristics….

(10) SHE KNOWS. “We Think Rian Johnson’s Poker Face Is a Superhero Show, and He’s OK With That” says Gizmodo at the top of its interview with the director.

Columbo. Kojak. Murder, She Wrote. These are the shows most commonly mentioned when describing Peacock’s new show, Poker Face. And, it being from Rian Johnson, the mastermind behind the Knives Out films (as well as The Last Jedi), the comparisons are accurate and logical. Poker Face is, at its core, about a woman named Charlie (Natasha Lyonne) who travels the country and solves murders.

But there’s a twist. Charlie is a human lie detector. She can instinctively tell, for a fact, if a person is lying about something. So if you step back and describe that in a different way you might say she has an innate, unexplained power that makes her superior to others. Or, in other words, a superpower….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Arnie Fenner, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 1/20/23 Scrolling About Pixels Is Like Stardancing About Naval Architecture

(1) SHORT SFF REVIVAL. Charlie Jane Anders diagnoses the problem and then brings forward “Some Ideas for How to Save Short Fiction!”

Short fiction is once again in crisis. After an era when the Internet seemed to be helping a lot of short stories find a bigger audience, the same thing is now happening to short stories that are happening to a lot of other content: the invisible hand is raising a big middle finger. Among other things, Twitter is getting to be much less useful in helping to spread the word about short stories worth reading, and Amazon just announced that it’s ending its Kindle subscription program from magazines, depriving magazine publishers of a pretty significant slice of income….

Here’s a short example out of several ideas Anders pitches.

I’d love to see more short fiction turning up in incongruous contexts

This is something I talked about a lot in the introduction to my short story collection Even Greater Mistakes (shameless plug alert!). I am always happy to see short stories show up on coffee bag labels, in pamphlets on public transit, scrawled on bathroom walls, or in the middle of a publication that mostly includes serious non-fiction pieces about politics and culture. I feel like we could be doing more to leverage the ability of short stories to show up in surprising places and suck us in with their narrative power.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Paul Di Filippo’s partner Deborah Newton wrote to friends that on January 19 Paul was hit by a large SUV. 

The driver stopped, spoke to Paul and gave him her phone to call Newton.

I ran the three blocks to where the accident had occurred — the ambulance passed me as I ran.  Luckily there was a witness whose moving car was facing the accident when it happened and had a video camera on the dashboard.  He made arrangements with the police, who had already arrived, to share the video.  

Those of you who have met Paul in the flesh will not be surprised that he dragged himself up after the huge hit, and even climbed by himself into the ambulance.  The Dr. at the ER later called that “adrenaline”, but I believe Paul has a stronger energy and will than most of us mere mortals.

After extensive testing in the ER it was determined he sustained no head wounds or broken bones. However, writes Newton, “He is covered with bruises and has a large hematoma on his left thigh. His hip, where he believes he landed after the hit, is excruciatingly painful.”

He is back home, presently using a walker to get around.

(3) LIVE FROM 1968. Cora Buhlert returns to Galactic Journey as one of the contributors to a “Galactoscope” column, reviewing Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber — and also talking about some of the biggest protests her hometown has ever seen. There are also reviews of Picnic on Paradise by Joanna Russ, a Jack Vance book, an Andre Norton book and several others: “[January 20, 1968] Alyx and Company (January 1968 Galactoscope)”.

… However, with the sale of the Ziff-Davis magazines to Sol Cohen, the appearances of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser in the pages of Fantastic became scarce. It seemed the dynamic duo was homeless once again, unless they shacked up with Cele Goldsmith Lalli over at Modern Bride magazine, that is.

So imagine my joy when I spotted the brand-new Fafhrd and Gray Mouser adventure The Swords of Lankhmar in the spinner rack of my trusty import bookstore…

(4) 2024 NASFIC UPDATE. Sharon Sbarsky, the Pemmi-con/2023 NASFiC committee member in charge of NASFiC 2024 Site Selection, announced today that the Buffalo in 2024 bid has filed. She published the following extract from their letter of intent.

Upstate New York Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance Inc. is pleased to present this letter of intent, along with Visit Buffalo Niagara, to host the 16th North American Science Fiction Convention in Buffalo, New York USA in 2024 .

Details of the bid

Proposed date: July 18-21, 2024

Proposed site: Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Convention Center & Buffalo Niagara Convention Center

Proposed Headquarter Hotel: Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Convention Center

Upstate New York Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance, Inc. is a NYS registered not-for-profit corporation focused on encouraging and running fannish activities in New York State. Members of our bid committee include individuals who have experience working on Worldcon / NASFiC events, as well as others who have organized small conventions and other events across New York and Southern Ontario
https://buffalonasfic2024.org/

Sbarksy added: “Members of Pemmi-con will be able to vote in the Site Selection. Details will come at a later time. We hope to have electronic voting, similar to the Worldcon and NASFiC selections at Chicon 8. 180 days before the Start of Pemmi-Con is January 21, 2023, so the ballot is still open for additional bids.”

(5) GETTING UNSTUCK. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware delivers another warning: “Bad Contract Alert: Webnovel”.

A bit over two years ago, I wrote about two companies, A&D Entertainment and EMP Entertainment, that appeared to have been deputized by serialized fiction app Webnovel to recruit authors to non-exclusive contracts. The contracts from both companies were (and continue to be) absolutely terrible.

EMP Entertainment no longer appears to be active (it has no website and I’ve heard nothing about it since 2020), but A&D is still going strong, and over the past two years I’ve been contacted by a lot of (mostly very young and inexperienced) writers who are confused about its complicated English-language contract, or have changed their minds about signing up and want to know how to get free (as with the contracts of so many serialized fiction apps, there’s no option for the author to terminate).

A&D recruits via a bait and switch. Writers are solicited by an editor or Author Liaison who claims to have discovered the writer’s work on Amazon or elsewhere, and invites them to publish on the Webnovel platform (the bait)….

(6) DON’T JUST ROLL THE DICE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “5 Things SecOps Can Learn from Dungeons & Dragons” at Tech Beacon. Note, “SecOps” is tech shorthand for “Security Operations” (or possibly “Security Operators”)

… Anyone who has ever experienced a SOC 2 or ISO 27001 audit might see the parallels between a lengthy framework of rules and their arbiter. Still, D&D is significantly more fun than a cybersecurity audit. In fact, when it comes to security preparedness there are quite a few lessons that security operations (SecOps) teams that are responsible for the security of connected assets—including myriad Internet of Things (IoT) devices—can learn from D&D. And they might just have a bit of fun along the way.

Assemble Your Party

From wizards and warriors to clerics and rogues, there are a wide variety of classes in D&D—each with its own specializations. The key to an effective adventuring party is to combine them in a way that the strengths of one character can mitigate the weaknesses of another. Building a cybersecurity team is no different. Aside from all the specialized roles within cybersecurity, such as incident-response or threat-hunting teams, an effective approach to security preparedness requires cross-functional collaboration between IT teams, operational-technology (OT) teams, and other lines of business to better understand how to balance business objectives with security requirements….

(7) A THEORY ABOUT THE HOBBIT.  Scott McLemee poses the questions in an “Interview with Robert T. Tally Jr. on historicizing ‘The Hobbit’” for Inside Higher Ed.

Q: You don’t historicize The Hobbit in the naïve or narrow sense of interpreting it as a fictionalized response to real-world events. Your approach owes a great deal to the American Marxist literary theorist Fredric Jameson—the subject of your first book. What does it mean to read Tolkien as a Jamesonian?

A: “Modernism” is a dirty word among many Tolkien enthusiasts, and perhaps for Tolkien himself, but I see his desire to “create a mythology for England” as a powerfully modern thing to attempt, more like Yeats or Joyce than most mere medievalism. Also, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are clearly novelistic in form, even if they deal with “epic” or “romantic” ideas.

In his work on postmodernism, Fredric Jameson refers to the “attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place.” Coming from an entirely different direction politically, I think Tolkien was deeply concerned with the modern world’s inability to “think historically,” and thus his desire to connect elements of the medieval historical world with our own time, even if—or especially if—that meant using fantasy as a way of sort of tricking us into “realizing” history.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2021 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing was a novel that I nominated for a Hugo. Why so? Because it is damn good. It made my top ten novels of that year by having a fantastic story, great characters that for the most part I could care about and not one but two truly interesting settings, the first being the intelligent bioship You Sexy Thing, and the other being a restaurant situated near a defunct star gate.

Now unlike the restaurant in the Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy, this one is not played for laughs and is real, working environment. I don’t know if Rambo has worked in such a place but she captures the feel of it very nicely as I have a very long time ago and it seems quite right.

Now before we get to the quote, I’m very, very pleased to note that the next novel in the series is indeed out relatively soon. Here are the details courtesy of the author:

Devil’s Gun, available this August, follows the adventures of intelligent bioship You Sexy Thing and its crew. While seeking a weapon against the pirate king Tubal Last and operating a pop-up restaurant near a failed star gate, Niko and her friends encounter a strange pair of adventurers who claim to have power over the gates that link the Known Universe.  But following the two on an intergalactic treasure hunt will require going into one of the most dangerous places any of them have ever faced.

Of course it will be available from all the usual suspects in both print and epub formats. 

Now I normally choose the quote, but this time I’m honored to say that Cat chose her favorite quote about food from You Sexy Thing:

[Niko] looked at Dabry, who stood ignoring them, caressing the eggplant with all four hands and his eyes half closed. “Sweet Momma Sky, should we leave so you can have your way with that eggplant or should I just let you take it to your bunk?”

His eyes closed entirely, expression blissful. “Baba ganoush,” he said. “Flat wheat bread dusted with cumin. Seared protein tinctured with lemon and garlic…”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. He’s available at the usual suspects. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” They’re his only ones — he didn’t do SF as he really preferred Westerns. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 89. The Fourth Doctor and still my favorite Doctor. My favorite story? The “Talons of Weng Chiang” with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worst of the stories were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. And yes, he turns up briefly in the present era of Who rather delightfully. Before being the Doctor he had a turn as Sherlock Holmes In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and though not genre, he played Rasputin early in his career in “Nicholas and Alexandra”! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad,The MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech-made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of ten percent among audience reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 77. Director of the first Dune movieWent on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1960 Kij Johnson, 63. Faculty member, University of Kansas, English Department. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. She has won a Best Novella Hugo for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” had several other nominations. Much of her work is available at the usual suspects.
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 59. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Get Fuzzy makes a noble pun about a bestselling horror writer.
  • Eek! deals with a young superhero’s fib.

(11) FRANKLY SPEAKING. In “When Monsters Make the Best Husbands”, a New York Times reviewer tells about two plays, one of genre interest.  

The monster is nestled in a glacier when the villagers dig him out, frozen but not dead, because he was undead already. Tall, broad-shouldered, hulking in his platform boots, he is instantly recognizable, and once he thaws, proves unpretentious despite his Hollywood fame.

It is 1946 in a tiny European village, and he is the most endearing of monsters: awkward, uncertain, just wanting to help out. And in “Frankenstein’s Monster Is Drunk and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences,” a winsome cartwheel of a show that’s part of the Origin Theater Company’s 1st Irish festival, he finds lasting romance — with a local outcast who falls in love with him at first sight. Never mind that by his own account he is “constructed from the dismembered body parts of a number of different corpses”; their sex life is fabulous….

(12) BEGIN AGAIN. The Cromcast, a sword and sorcery podcast that started as a Conan readthrough, are rereading all the Conan stories again ten years after they launched. They started with “The Phoenix on the Sword”, the very first Conan story: “Season 18, Episode 1: The Phoenix on the Sword!”

“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of…”

(13) HE-MAN. The For Eternia YouTube channel has a great interview with Tim Sheridan, one of the writers of Masters of the Universe Revelation/Revolution, about why the Filmation Masters of the Universe cartoon resonated with so many gay people: “The Power of Pride: Talking Importance of 1980’s He-Man on the LGBTQ+ Community with Tim Sheridan”.

(14) THE NATURE OF REALITY COUNTS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I know from being involved with SF2 Concatenation that quite a few fans are interested in the interface between science and science fiction: after all, the term ‘science fiction’ contains ‘science’. Consequently, it should not be any surprise that all of the four YouTube Channels I invariably check out each week are SF and/or science related.

One of these is PBS Space-Time. It is ostensibly a physics channel (though often there’s astronomy and cosmology) and there’s nothing like at the start of the day having a mug of Yorkshire builders tea (sufficiently strong that the teaspoon stands up in it) along with a short episode of PBS Space Time: it is good to limber up with some physics before embarking on the serious biological and geoscience business of the day (tough as that is for Sheldon Cooper to take).

One aspect of the SF-science border is an exploration as to the true nature of reality. Are we living in a holographic universe? Are we living in a Matrix simulation? And if so is there a simulator?

This week’s PBS Space Time asks the question as to whether the Universe is simply, and purely, mathematical (not physical)? And if so, what of parallel Universes, dimensions and alternate Universes? Indeed, are there different levels to the multiverse?

Be assured, despite maths (or ‘sums’ as we environmental scientists call it) being in the title, there are no heavy mathematics in this short video, rather it is a somewhat deep philosophical discussion. Nonetheless, don’t worry if you find your mind being stretched: that’s what daily limbering up exercises are all about.

So, sit down with your mug of builders and enjoy this 16 minute slice of Space Time“What If The Universe Is Math?”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/23 I Get Scrolled Down, But I Scroll Up Again

(1) STOP LOAFING AROUND. Cora Buhlert snagged another figure, who stars in her latest toy photo story called: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Wun-Dar and His Wonderful Dinosaur’”.

… “Halt, stranger! State your business!”

“Relax. Like I said, I’m Wun-Dar. You know, legendary hero, champion of Grayskull and wielder – well, former wielder of the Sword of Power? And this is Giga, my trusty mount. I came through a portal from Preternia because… well, even paradise gets boring eventually, I guess. And besides, Fleaman – I mean, Adam – said that you guys needed help with someone named Skeleton? Is that right? Stupid name, at any rate.”

“It’s Skeletor, young man. And what exactly do you and this… this thing want here in my throne room?”…

(2) ANOTHER MASTERS FAN. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Dad-at-Arms podcast has a very good interview with animation and comic writer Tim Sheridan, who worked on Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Dragon Age: Absolution and a lot of Transformers and DC superhero stuff: 

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to feast on French toast with Ron Marz in Episode 189 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ron Marz is perhaps best known for his writing of the characters Silver Surfer and Green Lantern, but also for his work on the Marvel vs. DC crossover and Batman/Aliens. He also worked on the CrossGen Comics series ScionMysticSojourn, and The Path. At Dark Horse Comics, he created Samurai: Heaven and Earth and various Star Wars comics. For DC Comics, he’s written Ion, a 12 part comic book miniseries that followed the Kyle Rayner character after the One Year Later event, and Tales of the Sinistro Corps Presents: Parallax and Tales of the Sinestro Corps Presents: Ion, two one-shot tie-ins to the Green Lantern crossover, The Sinestro Corps War.

Ron Marz

We discussed how the letter he wrote to Marvel when he was a kid suggesting a Justice League/Avengers team-up predicted his future comics career, which side his childhood self fell in the Marvel vs. DC war, the difficulties of surprising readers when the publicity machine is always running, how early encounters with Bernie Wrightson and Jim Starlin led to him giving up journalism, why it was better he broke in first at “collegial” Marvel rather than “corporate” DC, how the thick skin he developed in newspapers helped him when he took over Green Lantern, why comic book companies like poaching each other’s creators, the ironic conversation that led to him writing Superman, what he still considers the best part of the job after 30 years in comics, our memories of George Perez and Neal Adams, and much more.

(4) TODAY VERSUS TOMORROW. Here are two somewhat contradictory articles from the Guardian about independent bookstores in the UK:

The number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland climbed to a 10-year high in 2022, as the book trade defied the odds in an otherwise brutal year for high street retailers.

The lifestyle changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns were a boon for the book trade, as Britons with more time on their hands read more and sought out bookshops when they reopened.

There are now 1,072 independent bookshops after the industry enjoyed a sixth consecutive year of growth, according to the Booksellers Association (BA). The resurgence followed a 20-year losing streak in which bookshop numbers sank to a nadir of 867 in 2016….

… The survey also asked booksellers about the year of trading to come, with many concerned about the cost of living crisis and how it might impact consumer spending and business viability.

Caitlin Lowe, assistant manager of the St Helens Book Stop in Merseyside, told the Bookseller that as well as being concerned about customers spending money on books, there were also concerns “about the cost of running our shop owing to increasing energy prices”….

(5) ROBERT E. HOWARD WORKS RESCUED FROM OBSCURITY. The good folks of Goodman Games have two articles about some of Robert E. Howard’s lesser known works.

Bill Ward talks about Bran Mak Morn, last king of the Picts, in “Bran Mak Morn, The Doomed King”.

…Bran is, unquestionably, one of Howard’s major creations; representing not only the best of what Howard was capable of producing, but also exemplifying deeply personal themes that would inform the entirety of Howard’s writing life.

Bran Mak Morn emerges out of Howard’s fascination with the Picts – but not the Picts of modern, sober archaeology – rather the Picts of turn-of-the-century pseudo-scientific conjectural anthropology, the sort of thing that was available for a young Howard to read….

Ryan Harvey takes a look at Howard’s stories for the weird menace pulps: “A Black Wind Blowing: Robert E. Howard and The Weird Menace Horror Pulps”.

…The term “weird menace” was given to these pulps by later popular culture scholars. At the time, the magazines were referred to as “horror pulps.” This wasn’t an inclusive horror, but a specific subset with its own formula. The best way to understand what weird menace is about is to imagine a three part mixture: the action-speed of pulp detective stories; the mood and settings of Gothic novels; and the bloody excess of the Grand Guignol theater of Paris….

(6) PLAID INSPIRATION. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I wouldn’t call Outlander a thriller, but Diana Gabaldon recounts how she wrote her time travel novel: “My First Thriller: Diana Gabaldon” at CrimeReads.

…“When I turned 35, I told myself I’d better get started writing. Mozart died at thirty-six.”

“Gradually, the voice in the back of my mind came up with a bunch of stuff,” she says. She wrote down ideas for a book. This would be her practice round, so she had no plans to show it to anyone. 

Inspired by a young man wearing a kilt on the BBC science fiction series “Doctor Who,” she decided to set her story in Scotland. Since she was a researcher and couldn’t afford an overseas trip to check on her setting, Diana figured the easiest type of novel for this first attempt would be historical fiction. She could find all the historical information she needed in books….

(7) IN THE MIDST OF SUCCESS. Matt Wallace pulls back the curtain on his career, and ponders about what’s to come. Thread starts here. (Via John Scalzi.)

(8) THE COLD WEIGHT LOSS EQUATIONS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Gizmodo reports “DARPA Wants to Find a Drug That Makes You Impervious to Cold”. (Playlist, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside, But Who Cares”).

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for a new way to get nice and cozy: The agency is funding research into drugs that could protect people from extreme cold. Should these efforts bear fruit, the drugs could have a variety of uses, from treating hypothermia patients to helping people better explore the Arctic—and, what is surely DARPA’s main interest, creating soldiers who aren’t fazed by freezing conditions.

… Szablowski and his team will use the money [a DARPA grant] to investigate a non-genetic treatment that can enhance our adaptation to cold temperatures via thermogenesis, or the bodily production of heat. There are two basic methods of thermogenesis in humans, with the most familiar being shivering. But the researchers are more interested in improving how our bodies burn off brown adipose tissue (BAT), or brown fat, to keep warm….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1819 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

So food I suspect is not what comes to you mind what you think of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Most likely you think of the headless rider of the horse with his weapon in hand wrecking most unholy terror upon that small village.

But Irving’s narrator was a keen observer of life on that small village and,  to be rather honest about it, craved food in all its forms. If it was edible, he dreamed about consuming it with great rapture. 

In his devouring mind’s eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cozily in dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In the porkers he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon, and juicy relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up, with its gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure, a necklace of savory sausages…

So let’s end this essay with my favorite passage…

Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. 

Such heaped-up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tenderer ‘oly koek,’ and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. 

And then there were apple pies and peach pies and pumpkin pies, besides slices of ham and smoked beef, and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums and peaches and pears and quinces, not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens, together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst– Heaven bless the mark!

It was first published in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent in 1819. “Rip Van Winkle” was also published first here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 Clark Ashton Smith. One SFF critic deemed him part of “the big three of Weird Tales, with Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.” This is while some readers found him to excessively morbid, as L. Sprague de Camp said of him in noting “nobody since Poe has so loved a well-rotted corpse.” If you’ve not read his work, Nightshade has collected it in The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, five volumes in total. They’re all available at the usual suspects. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 13, 1933 Ron Goulart. First I must acknowledge that he was very prolific, and uses many pseudonyms, to wit: Kenneth Robeson, Con Steffanson, Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and Joseph Silva. (Wow!) You did see the Doc Savage one in there, didn’t you? I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read a lot of his fiction including the Flash Gordon series, his Avenger series, maybe a bit of the Vampirella novels, the Incredible Hulk definitely, not the Groucho Marx series though it sounds fun, and, well, damn he was prolific. So what have you have read by him that you like? (Died 2022.)
  • Born January 13, 1938 Daevid Allan (aka Divided Alien, Dingo Virgin, Bert Camembert, etc.). Co-founder of the British band Soft Machine (named for the William Burroughs SF novel), and the Anglo-French psychedelic band Gong. With Gong, he released the Radio Gnome trilogy (1973-74), a surreal science-fantasy epic musical story featuring pothead pixies in flying teapots, erotic witches, and the Compagnie d’Opera Invisible de Thibet. (Died 2015.) (Xtifr)
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 85. His best-remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes he’ll show in the DS9 episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations”, that repurposed this episode to great effect. (It was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2.) He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer SpaceThe Munsters TodaySlidersThe Incredible HulkWonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 78. Chant is an interesting case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of Red Moon and Black MountainThe Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes.  Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely amazing as well, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her stellar retellings of the legends.  I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone read it?
  • Born January 13, 1947 Peter Elson. Illustrator whose life was far too short as he died of a heart attack. If you were reading SF between the early seventies and the late eighties, it’s likely that you saw his astonishing artwork. I found covers for the Sphere edition of Asimov’s Pebble in the Sky, a Mayflower edition of Leiber’s Swords Against Death and a Methuen edition in Canada on Zelazny’s To Die in Italbar, which are but a few of the several hundred covers he did. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 13, 1961 Wayne Coyne, 62. Founder and frontman of the neo-psychedelic band The Flaming Lips which frequently incorporates science-fictional elements in their songs and albums, perhaps most prominently with their 2002 hit album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Coyne also wrote and directed the low-budget 2008 SF movie, Christmas on Mars, which starred members of the Lips and friends, including actors Adam Goldberg and Fred Armisen. (Xtifr)

(11) IN PLAIN SIGHT. “Title Search: Can You Find the 21 Fantasy Books Hidden in This Story?” is the challenge posed on the New York Times’ “Books” page. It’s really not that hard, but you may find it fun to work on.  And the answers appear at the end of the puzzle story.

If you like an adventure with your quest to discover books, try this month’s Title Search challenge, which intentionally hides the names of 21 classic and popular fantasy novels (and graphic novels) within the fictional text passage below.…

(12) MATCHING SCI- WITH -FI. Nancy Kress and Robert Lanza interview each other about their collaboration on the novel Observer: “A Scientist And Sci-Fi Author On Imagining The Future And Breaking The Rules” at CrimeReads.

Scientist Robert Lanza and science fiction author Nancy Kress have co-written a new thriller grounded in deep scientific principles and guided by the writers’ shared passion for technology and biocentrism. Read a conversation between Lanza and Kress below. 

Kress: Robert, you’re a pioneer in stem cell research and in addition to writing dozens of textbooks related to the topic, you’ve written three works of nonfiction on biocentrism, the central concept in our novel, OBSERVER. Why now a novel?

Lanza: I wanted to introduce the ideas of biocentrism ─ where life is the basis of the universe ─ to a broader audience through storytelling to bring to life the science behind the astounding fact that time, space, and reality itself, all ultimately depend upon us, the observer.

(13) LATEST PLAGUE. “Review: ‘The Last of Us’ Is a Zombie Thriller About Single Parenting” says the New York Times’ James Poniewozik.

…The series kicks off in Standard Apocalypse-Onset Mode. Joel (Pedro Pascal), a construction contractor in Texas, starts his birthday in 2003 eating breakfast with his family and ends it amid the chaos of civilization’s collapse. The intense but bloated 81-minute pilot runs up a high body count, making clear that there is minimal plot armor to go around here.

Twenty years later, in 2023, we find Joel in the military-occupied ruins of Boston, a grim, grizzled survivor. Battling fungi does not make one a fun guy. With his black-marketeering partner, Tess (Anna Torv), he lands a job escorting Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a 14-year-old who is immune to zombie bites, on a risky journey that could lead to a cure.

Ellie may or may not be the savior of humanity, but she certainly rescues “The Last of Us” from apocalyptic mope. In “Game of Thrones” (in which Pascal also did time), Ramsey was memorable as Lady Lyanna Mormont, the fearsome child leader of a northern fief. Here she’s all foulmouthed verve, her adolescent insolence turbocharged by the liberation of living after the end of the world. Her fighting spirit is, well, infectious….

(14) ROBO-UMP. Robots have made it to AAA baseball reports The Comeback in “MLB world react to massive umpire news”.

While fans hoping to see robot umpires during the upcoming 2023 Major League Baseball season will still have to wait, they also won’t have to look too far to find them. Robot umpires will reportedly be implemented in all 30 Triple-A stadiums during the 2023 season.

Buster Olney of ESPN reported on Thursday that “The electronic strike zone will be used in all 30 Class AAA parks in 2023.”… 

(15) NO LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! “Wow! NASA-Funded ShadowCam Captures Dark Side Of The Moon In Stunning Detail” at Hot Hardware.

The first image from ShadowCam reveals the permanently shadowed wall and floor of Shackleton crater in incredible, never before seen detail. NASA-funded ShadowCam is one of six instruments onboard the Korean Aerospace Research Institute’s Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter.

The poles of the Moon are in a perpetual state of dawn to dusk, making it difficult to gather images of the depressions in the dark locations. KPLO has six instruments onboard, one of which is the NASA-funded ShadowCam. The instrument is the younger sibling of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), Narrow Angle Camera (NAC). LROC has been able to image nearly all of the Moon’s surface, except within permanently shadowed regions (PSRs). ShadowCam will add to our knowledge of the Moon by being able to capture images within those PSRs near the poles….

(16) POETRY IN MOTION. Gizmodo makes the latest science news sound dramatic: “Astronomers Discover Two Invisible Stars Spinning Around Each Other at Breakneck Speed”.

Researchers have found an extreme binary system that features two dwarf stars that are so cool, they don’t emit visible light. And they’re so close together that they take less than one Earth day to orbit around each other.

The system is called LP 413-53AB, and it was identified by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California San Diego. The two dwarf stars are in a class known as ‘ultracool’—their temperatures are so low that they emit mostly infrared light, rendering them invisible to our eyes (but thankfully not our telescopes). Chih-Chun “Dino” Hsu, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, led the study and presented the findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle this week….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the short film “Uprising!” from DUST, “Humanity is being tea-bagged, kill-shotted, and yo-mama-joked out of existence by robots who think they’re teenage gamers.” But kindess will out!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Essay: A Fresh Look at “Cold Equations”

By Danny Sichel: [Reprinted from the Winter 2021/2022 issue of WARP.] The latest Clarkesworld is out, and it includes “The Cold Calculations” by Aimee Ogden, most recent in a string of answer stories to Tom Godwin’s 1954 “The Cold Equations” – from “The Cold Solution” (Don Sakers, 1991), to “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign” (Cora Buhlert, 2020), and many others with less obvious titles.

“The Cold Equations” — also known as the “throw the girl out the airlock” story — has long been criticized for multiple shortcomings, in both its themes and its content. The situation is contrived! The society is broken! The EDS is bad engineering! There are other things Barton could have thrown out! Many people have complained about this last one, incidentally. There are indeed items on board that could very well have been sacrificed (including, as in Sakers’ story, the legs of both the pilot and the stowaway, which Sakers’ pilot assumed could be re-grown); apparently Damon Knight came up with a whole list.

Lately, though, a far more common criticism has been that “The Cold Equations” isn’t the story that Tom Godwin wanted to write. When Godwin sold the story to John W. Campbell for publication in Astounding Science Fiction, Campbell sent the story back for rewrites three times, because — in the words of Joseph L. Green, who spent five days with Campbell in 1970 — “Godwin kept coming up with ingenious ways to save the girl!” The moral of the story is often seen as being “space is dangerous”. This may be the case, but as Campbell biographer Alec Nevala-Lee found in a letter Campbell wrote to a friend, the story was also written as a “gimmick on the proposition ‘Human sacrifice is absolutely unacceptable.’” The situation in “The Cold Equations” is intended to force the reader to agree that human sacrifice can be not just acceptable, but necessary. As a result, you can definitely see a lot of places where Campbell’s thumb is on the scale, and remnants of earlier versions.

There are a lot of things wrong with “The Cold Equations”, and therefore I choose my words very carefully when I say: Campbell’s interference made the story better, but not for the reasons he thought.

What makes “The Cold Equations” special, what makes it an enduring classic, is that it’s about failure. Given the grossly negligent environment in which Marilyn was able to stow away in the first place (per Richard Harter, “there is a word for pilots who short cut their preflight checklist. They are called dead.”), without which the story couldn’t have happened in the first place, and the complete lack of margin for error, and, really, all the other factors that Godwin-under-Campbell’s-guidance used to make the story possible… given all that, if Barton had been able to jettison the pilot’s chair, or whatever “ingenious” thing Godwin had originally intended as the basis for a happy ending, then today… no one would remember it. It would have been Just Another Puzzle Story.

It’s more than that, though. I first read “The Cold Equations” in the early ’90s, in the same general span of time that I read “The Old Man and the Sea”, which is also about failure in some very important ways, and which may have nudged my thinking in certain directions. As is typical, I was aghast by the story’s conclusion, especially because there were so many possibilities as to how it could have been resolved without a death. But, I thought, that was the whole point.

I saw “The Cold Equations” as a classic not because the tragedy was unavoidable, but because it wasn’t.

This is what makes literature, isn’t it? Characters who aren’t perfect. They have flaws. That’s why the whole concept of the “tragic flaw” exists.

Barton was in a puzzle story. A life was on the line. All the pieces of the solution were there. And… he didn’t put them together. He wasn’t  insightful  or  creative  or educated enough to see the solution. He wasn’t bold or confident or stubborn enough to go against regulations. The pressure was on… and he didn’t make the right decision at the right moment. He wasn’t good enough.

He wasn’t the hero. He was only the protagonist.

“I didn’t do anything,” Marilyn says at the end, as she goes out the airlock to die. “I didn’t do anything.”

And neither did Barton.

And that’s why, despite everything, the story works.


Illustration posted by @23katiejoy.

Pixel Scroll 1/2/23 It’s A Wonderful File

(1) BRANDON SANDERSON V AUDIBLE. Brandon Sanderson’s “State of the Sanderson 2022” published on December 22 featured revelations about his efforts to use his market leverage to curb the greed of Audible, Amazon’s dominant audiobook seller.

The four “secret project” novels that will be going to backers of his record-breaking Kickstarter will also be produced as audiobooks and put up for sale, but not on Audible. Here’s an excerpt, and there’s a great deal more information at the link.

AUDIOBOOKS for NON-BACKERS

On the tenth or eleventh of each month a book goes to backers, we will put the audiobooks up for sale. They will be on several services, but I recommend the two I mentioned above. Spotify and Speechify. 

The books will not be on Audible for the foreseeable future. 

This is a dangerous move on my part. I don’t want to make an enemy of Amazon (who owns Audible). I like the people at Audible, and had several meetings with them this year.

But Audible has grown to a place where it’s very bad for authors. It’s a good company doing bad things. 

Again, this is dangerous to say, and I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty. I have an Audible account, and a subscription! It’s how my dyslexic son reads most of the books he reads. Audible did some great things for books, notably spearheading the audio revolution, which brought audiobooks down to a reasonable price. I like that part a lot.

However, they treat authors very poorly. Particularly indie authors. The deal Audible demands of them is unconscionable, and I’m hoping that providing market forces (and talking about the issue with a megaphone) will encourage change in a positive direction.

If you want details, the current industry standard for a digital product is to pay the creator 70% on a sale. It’s what Steam pays your average creator for a game sale, it’s what Amazon pays on ebooks, it’s what Apple pays for apps downloaded. (And they’re getting heat for taking as much as they are. Rightly so.)

Audible pays 40%. Almost half. For a frame of reference, most brick-and-mortar stores take around 50% on a retail product. Audible pays indie authors less than a bookstore does, when a bookstore has storefronts, sales staff, and warehousing to deal with. 

I knew things were bad, which is why I wanted to explore other options with the Kickstarter.  But I didn’t know HOW bad.  Indeed, if indie authors don’t agree to be exclusive to Audible, they get dropped from 40% to a measly 25%. Buying an audiobook through Audible instead of from another site literally costs the author money…. 

Daniel Green analyzes “The Audible Situation” in this video —

(2) KING’S NEW YEAR’S HONOURS LIST 2023. The King’s New Years Honours list included a knighthood for Queen guitarist Brian May.

Dr Brian Harold May CBE. Musician, Astrophysicist and Animal Welfare Advocate. For services to Music and to Charity. (Windlesham, Surrey)

May also worked as a member of the New Horizons team, for which he wrote a song that debuted during the the New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule on January 1, 2019.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Actor Jeremy Renner (Marvel’s Hawkeye) was in critical condition after a snow plow accident Variety reported on January 1.

…“We can confirm Jeremy is in critical but stable condition with injuries suffered after experiencing a weather related accident while plowing snow earlier today,” Renner’s rep confirmed with Variety. “His family is with him and he is receiving excellent care.”…

His reps later told Deadline:

“We can confirm that Jeremy has suffered blunt chest trauma and orthopedic injuries and has undergone surgery today, January 2nd 2023. He has returned from surgery and remains in the intensive care unit in critical but stable condition.”

(4) ROLLING OVER THE RESOLUTION. Owner of Colorado’s Mile High Comics, Chuck Rozanski, advises people to protect their collections, while confessing he still has more work to do on his own.

…Clearly, I am trying to protect our home through these defensive environmental actions, but I want to make note of the fact that I am also trying to protect my many personal collections, including my comic books. Inspiring me is the tragedy of one of our dearest family friends, who lost everything that she owned, including her 50-year comics collection and her vast science fiction books library, to that horrible Marshall inferno. My efforts may in the end prove futile, but at least some houses in otherwise incinerated cul-de-sacs in Louisville survived, so advance planning does at least seem to improve one’s odds. Just saying…

So, what have you done lately to protect your own collection? If you’re like me, probably not enough. I have (for example) vowed for the past nine years to elevate all of my storage cabinets in my personal comics vault to at least an inch above ground level, so that if another 20-inch deluge of rain materializes (as it did upon us in 2013) that the bottom of my storage bins (and everything sitting in the floor) will not get soaked (again). Have I accomplished that incredibly arduous task? Nope. I keep putting it off, while I have instead been traveling endlessly all around the country to buy even more comics. Sigh. I really do mean to be more diligent, but finding the time is truly hard. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to it this winter….

(5) LIGHTS ON. Cora Buhlert renews two series of “spotlight” profiles she’s doing to make people more aware of works eligible for Best Fancast and Best Related Work.

The new “Fancast Spotlight” is for a channel called “Dennis Frey Books”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

I do a lot of content on creative writing on Twitch – lessons, reading excerpts from the community and my own books, longer workshops, throwbacks to the first works of different artists… aaaand it’s all in German. Sorry.

If that’s fine with you, there is about 100 hours of writing content from the streams on my YouTube Channel.

Buhlert also did a new “Non-Fiction Spotlight” for “Slaying the Dragon – A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons by Ben Riggs”.

Tell us about your book.

My book is the shocking and true story of the rise of Dungeons & Dragons and how it almost imploded in the 90s under the weight of terrible management decisions. If you’re interested in an representative sample, Dicebreaker excerpted the disastrous attempt of TSR to create a comic book company in the 90s.  https://www.dicebreaker.com/series/dungeons-and-dragons/feature/dnd-comic-books-failed-attempt-tsr-dc-comics

(6) ADDAMS UNKNOWN. David Gerrold reviews Wednesday, which he finds to be such a departure from the established characterizations that he calls it “the Addams Family in name only”.

…And that finally brings me to Tim Burton’s series on Netflix — Wednesday.

It reinvents not only the Addams Family, it reinvents the world they live in.

In the sitcom, in the movies, in the two animated films, the Addams Family exists in a world that is (mostly) normal, even mundane.

In the Tim Burton series, there are monsters, sirens, medusas, werewolves, shapeshifters, and more. Wednesday has an estranged relationship with her parents. Gomez and Morticia are both flawed, they can’t keep their hands off each other, and only Wednesday has the ability to solve their situations.

Also, this Wednesday has visions that clue her in to a horrific past at Nevermore University and the town of Jericho.

So this isn’t the Addams family that we are familiar with, it’s a reinvention. And it’s not the most endearing one….

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

January 2 is National Science Fiction Day. Sure, every day is science fiction day for some of us, but this date was picked for national observance because it’s Asimov’s birthdate.

John King Tarpinian thinks maybe this would be better called ABC Day…after Asimov, Bradbury, & Clarke.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. — C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Turkish delight is a popular dessert sweet in Greece, the Balkans, and, especially Turkey. But most Americans, if they have any association with the treat at all, know it only as the food for which Edmund Pevensie sells out his family.

I don’t know about you but I had no idea what Turkish delight was until I was at University as it wasn’t something that was carried in the stores where I grew up. A friend had a box and offered it up. It was, errr, sweet and chewy. I liked and I’ve since gifted quite a few times.

Turkish Delight, the name we know it by in the West is not inaccurate. The Turkish people make and consume an immense quantity of lokum in a wide range of varieties as it called in Turkey and it’s a popular gift, a sign of hospitality. The candy was invented in the early 19th century, apparently by confectioner Bekir Effendi, though that’s disputed by other Turks who say they invented it.

Most Westerners  encounter it first in reading this novel (or possibly the Eighties television series, or the film). As you know, Edmund is tempted by Turkish Delight into an alliance with the White Witch, who has brought eternal winter to Narnia. When Edmund first encounters the witch, she asks him, “What would you like best to eat?” He doesn’t even hesitate. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can hardly summarize everything he’s done here, so I’ll just pick my very short list of favorite works by him which would include the Galactic Empire series, the Foundation Trilogy which a Hugo at a Tricon, The Gods Themselves which won a Hugo at TorCon II and his I, Robot collection.  And no, I’ve not watched the Foundation series although I have the Apple + streaming service. Should I watch it? (Died 1992.)
  • Born January 2, 1940 Susan Wittig Albert, 82. She’s the author of The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, a series of mysteries featuring that writer. Really. Truly. Haven’t read them but they bear such delightful titles as The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. She has non-genre series involving an herbalist and a gardening club as well. 
  • Born January 2, 1948 Deborah Watling. Best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield, a companion of the Second Doctor. She was also in Downtime, playing the same character, a one-off sequel to a sequel to the Second Doctor stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. No Doctors were to be seen. If you’ve seen the English language dubbed version of Viaje al centro de la Tierra (Where Time Began, based off Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth), she’s doing the lines of Ivonne Sentis as Glauben. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 2, 1959 Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 64. In a fit of exuberance Wiki lists him as a “editor, fan, fanzine publisher, essayist, reviewer, anthologist, teacher and blogger.” Which is true. He’s won three Hugo Awards for Best Editor Long Form (2007, 2010, 2013), won a World Fantasy Award for editing the Starlight 1 anthology (1997). 
  • Born January 2, 1967 Tia Carrere, 56. Best remembered for her three-season run as Sydney Fox, rogue archeologist on Relic Hunter. She’s been in a lot of one-offs on genre series including Quantum LeapHerculesTales from The Crypt, AirwolfFriday the 13th and played Agent Katie Logan for two episodes on Warehouse 13.
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias S. Buckell, 44. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which he managed to wrap up rather nicely. The collection he edited, The Stories We Tell: Bermuda Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is well worth reading, as is his own Tides from a New World collection. And his Tangled Lands collection which won the World Fantasy Award is amazing reading as well.
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 39. She’s Barbara Barga in the SS-GB series adapted from the superb Len Deighton novel. She’s both a producer and a performer on The I- Land Netflixseries where she’s KC, a decidedly not nice person. For a more positive character, she portrayed Lois Lane in Superman Returns.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Six Chix makes a mighty literary New Year’s resolution. It will probably sound familiar to a few of you!
  • Peanuts On This Day on Twitter brings us an sff-adjacent strip from January 2, 1973.

(11) HERE COMES THE DRAGON-PROWED BOAT. The Los Angeles Times asks “Why is a Swedish billionaire buying up California’s video gaming empire?” In recent years many game makers have been acquired by Lars Wingefors’ company, Embracer.

…Or as the tech-oriented website the Verge put it: “Embracer Group, the company forging one IP portfolio to rule them all.”

The strategy has sparked both criticism and confusion in the gaming world. Some gamers accuse Embracer of sacrificing artistry, while others find the company’s approach scattershot and incoherent. An Embracer developer defends the company’s approach, saying it supports game makers.

“If you look at them from afar, you might wonder what the company is doing,” says Simon Rojder, a programmer who is the founder of Mirage, a game studio in Karlstad that Embracer absorbed in 2016. “What he [Wingefors] does is find people who know what they are doing and then leaves them alone.

“This company is called the big dragon monster of gaming because they soak up everything. But they give you space to do your work. We feel quite independent, even if on paper we are not.”

Today, Embracer oversees 237 games being developed across 132 studios on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. More than 15,000 employees work for Embracer or a company under its umbrella.

In California, Embracer has a foothold in San Francisco, where it owns a studio that developed the free game “Star Trek Online.” Irvine is home to a recently acquired karaoke company, Singtrix, while SpringboardVR, a company focused on arcade development, is in Los Angeles. In Agoura Hills, Embracer runs global marketing for Vertigo Games, a Dutch game studio and virtual reality group. It also has a distribution contract with Exploding Kittens, an L.A. game studio named after the card game, which shot up in popularity after launching on Kickstarter in 2015.

Embracer’s rapid expansion comes as tech, gaming and moviemaking collide in a content race to grab the attention and dollars of any consumer they can. Fueled in part by a boom during pandemic-era lockdowns, the gaming industry’s price tag now rivals those of Hollywood and music…

(12) UNDERFOOT IN THE CRETACEOUS. Elsewhere in Sweden is a place where they study “The Fossil Flowers That Rewrote the History of Life” – read about it in The New Yorker.

The centerpiece of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, in Stockholm, is probably the Fossils and Evolution hall, in which an enormous Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton seems to yawn over crowds of starstruck schoolchildren. Nearby, tourists marvel at a triceratops skull and a velociraptor model. These iconic dinosaurs evolved during the late-Cretaceous epoch and went extinct about sixty-six million years ago, around the time that an asteroid smashed into the planet. It is difficult to think of any event in the history of life that has left a bigger mark on the human imagination. “I don’t think you can compete with the dinosaurs,” Else Marie Friis, a paleobotanist and professor emerita at the museum, told me the first time we spoke.

Friis has come to believe, however, that the disappearance of the dinosaurs was not even the most interesting development of the Cretaceous period. She is more interested in a pair of easy-to-miss boulders near the feet of the T. rex, which bear impressions of some very old angiosperm leaves. Angiosperms, or flowering plants, are so ubiquitous today that one can hardly imagine life without them; they encompass at least three hundred and fifty thousand species, including everything from cactuses to wind-pollinated grasses to broadleaf trees, and far outnumber older plants such as ferns, conifers, and mosses. Yet the first dinosaurs, in the Triassic and Jurassic periods, lived in a world without flowers. The first angiosperms probably bloomed in the early Cretaceous, around a hundred and thirty-five million years ago. They ignited a revolution that reinvented nature itself….

(13) ONE AND DONE. “’1899′ Canceled: Netflix Not Moving Forward With Season 2” says Variety.

1899” will not receive a second season at Netflix. The news was confirmed by series co-creator Baran bo Odar through a statement shared to his official Instagram. The letter to fans was also signed by Odar’s partner and series co-creator Jantje Freise.

“With a heavy heart we have to tell you that ‘1899’ will not be renewed,” Odar wrote. “We would have loved to finish this incredible journey with a second and third season as we did with ‘Dark.’ But sometimes things don’t turn out the way you planned. That’s life.”

“We know this will disappoint millions of fans out there. But we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts that you were a part of this wonderful adventure,” the statement continues. “We love you. Never forget.”

(14) LA MANCHA AND TATTOOINE. According to Ted Gioia, “Don Quixote Tells Us How the Star Wars Franchise Ends”.

…This is an important shift in the history of storytelling, and we need to pay close attention to it—because this is how Star Wars ends. This is how the Marvel Cinematic Universe loses its mojo. This is how the movie business will eventually reinvent itself.

The key person here is Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). And the amazing thing is that he relied on a knight to kill all the other knights, and clear the way for the rise of the novel.

Cervantes’s knight was the famous Don Quixote, celebrated in the book of the same name. And we could argue endlessly whether this book was, in fact, the first novel. The exact chronology here isn’t the key issue. The more pressing point is that Don Quixote made all the earlier books about knights look ridiculous. In other words, Cervantes pursued the literary equivalent of a scorched earth policy.

The title character in his book is a shrunken and shriveled man of about 50, who has gone crazy by reading too many stories about knights and their adventures. In a fit of delusion, he decides to leave home and pursue knightly adventures himself—but the world has changed since the time of King Arthur, and our poor knight errant now looks like a fool. Other characters mock him, and play practical jokes at his expense—and simply because he believes all those lies in the brand franchise stories.

We start to feel sorry for Don Quixote, even begin cheering for our hapless hero. Thus this protagonist, in Cervantes’s rendering, is both absurd and endearing. This is what raises the novel above mere satire—because we eventually come to admire Don Quixote for holding on to his ideals in the face of a world where they don’t fit or belong.

In other words, there is much to admire in this book, but this three-layered approach to reality is perhaps the most interesting aspect of them all. Here are the three layers:

  1. Don Quixote is just an ordinary man, not a hero by any means.
  2. But in his delusion, he pretends to be a hero, following rules and procedures that are antiquated and irrelevant. They merely serve to make him look pitiful and absurd.
  3. Yet by persisting in this fantasy, he actually does turn into a hero, although a more complex kind that anticipates the rise of the novel. He is the prototype of the dreamer and idealist who chases goals in the face of all obstacles.

The end result was that the old fake stories of knights were now obsolete, but something smarter and more sophisticated emerged in their wake. After Cervantes, readers demanded better stories—and not just the intellectuals and elites. The novel soon became the preferred narrative format at all levels of literate European society.

Believe it or not, this could happen again, even in Hollywood….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/1/23 Billy Pixel Has Come Unscrolled In Time

(1) COMING UP. Nicholas Whyte researched the genre so he could tell you “What to expect in 2023, according to science fiction” at From the Heart of Europe.

I wasn’t able to find a single film set in 2023. I did find eight novels, one video game, and two Japanese anime series (and a third set in 2023 but missing my usual twenty-years-before deadline as it was made in 2004)….

…The one video game set in 2023 is Perfect Dark, originally released by Nintendo in 2000 but remastered since and still on the market, about special agent Emma Dark heading off an alien-led conspiracy to Take Over The World. The trailer is visually impressive if the script is a bit cringe (“the only person man enough to handle the job … is a woman!”)

(2) THE GOOD GUYS. Cora Buhlert has posted the companion piece to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award, “The 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award”.

While I have been awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents for 42 years now, the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award is a new prize that I only introduced in 2020 as a companion piece to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award.

As for why I felt the need to introduce a companion award, depictions of parenthood in popular culture are currently undergoing a paradigm shift with more positive portrayals of supportive and loving parents and fewer utterly terrible parents. Personally, I believe that this shift is a very good thing, because the reason that I started the Darth Vader Parenthood Award in the first place is because I was annoyed by all the terrible parents in pop culture. For while most real world parents may not be perfect, at least they do their best. Maybe, the conditions that gave rise to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award will eventually cease to exist and we can permanently retire the award….

(3) CENTENNIAL-LEE. Sideshow celebrates “Stan Lee 100: Stan the Man’s Amazing, Fantastic Centennial!” with an extended profile.

This year marks one hundred years of Stan Lee! To some, he’s known as the King of Cameos. To others, Stan the Man or True Believer. No matter what you call him, Stan Lee is a beloved figure in the world of comic books and super heroes.

Over time, Stan Lee became a larger-than-life character all his own. Marvel is celebrating 100 years of Stan Lee with plenty of history, quotes, and collabs from one of the most famous faces in comics. In honor of his enduring legacy, let’s look at Stan Lee’s life, starting with his origin story up until his endless string of pop culture cameos….

(4) KSR AND CLI-FI. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Kim Stanley Robinson for the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast: “Climate Fiction”.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our next set of essays is concerned with food and drink, and where better to start than in Ellen Kushner’s Riverside during the Winter and with their obsession with hot chocolate.

IN THE MORNING, THERE WAS CHOCOLATE.

Betty seemed recovered from the previous day’s excesses. She must not have been working the party. The tray barely rattled as she set it down by the bed, and a heavenly rich scent filled the room.

I got up at once to engage with the little pot of bitter chocolate, set out with an entire jug of hot cream, as much sugar as I should care to put into it and, oh, the loveliest china cup to mix it in! I wished my mother were there to share it with me. I poured slowly, watching the cream swirl in the cup. It made the confusions and indignities of last night seem a little more worth it; I felt even better when Betty said, “And your new clothes have come, too.”

The chocolate was marvelous, but I gulped it down, assuring myself, There will be more again tomorrow, and tomorrow, and again the day after that.

— The Privilege of The Sword

Now it’s not going to surprise you that the fans of Riverside have created a cuisine for it, all the result of a contest from The Fall of the Kings audiobook launch.

And Ellen being Ellen has kindly collected those recipes including of course those for hot chocolate on on her excellent site. As she puts it there, “you’ll find everything from recipes and menus created by fans of the series to delight the Mad Duke Tremontaine and his Riverside friends, to ones created by friends of the author to keep her at her desk.” 

And yes, I’m deeply, madly in love with both Swordspoint and The Privilege of The Sword. I’ve read them many, many times and even the Suck Fairy gets a warm fussy feeling every time she reads them. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1941.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. Surprisingly, at least to me, there’s a lot his fiction at the usual suspects. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1933 Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.”  Orton was murdered by his lover. Unlike his other novels, Head to Toe is not available at the usual suspects. (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger ManThe Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 69. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meet Irish myth story and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1965 Jennifer Hale, 58. She’s a voice actor primarily showing up on such series as Green Lantern: The Animated SeriesStar Trek: Lower Decks and all over the Star Wars universe. She played Killer Frost in Batman: Assault on Arkham, the animated Suicide Squad film that was infinitely better than the live ones were.
  • Born January 1, 1971 Navin Chowdhry, 52. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London“.   I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting.  He was also Prince Munodi in the BBC Gulliver’s Travels series, and oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Born January 1, 1976 Sean Wallace, 47. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav of mine. He won an impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THREE BY BUHLERT. Cora Buhlert has had a story and two articles published lately.

….I wasn’t enamoured with John Norman’s debut novel Tarnsman of Gor and didn’t plan on reading the sequel. However, December 6 is St. Nicholas Day and since St. Nick was kindly enough to put a copy of Outlaw of Gor into my stocking, I of course felt obliged to read and review it….

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Screen Junkies’ Honest Trailers brings us “Every Star Wars Movie (Compilation)” beginning with “Star Wars the first one (we are not calling it a New Hope)” that has grown into an industry “where every single person, place, or thing on screen has at least a 1000-word Wikipedia article about it.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MrDalliard.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/22 What Are Pixels? Ask The Scrollman As He Knows

(1) IS ENOUGH MONEY POURING IN? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “Avatar: The Way Of Water passes $1bn at the global box office” the BBC reports. Arguably something the studio needed as Avatar: The Way of Water is apparently most expensive film made; Budget $350,000,000 (estimated). 

Remember, this is gross box office, director Cameron needs not just net box office but studio receipt, which means he needs US$2 billion to break even.

Avatar: The Way Of Water has made $1bn (£831m) at the global box office in just 14 days, becoming the fastest film to pass the milestone this year.

The long-delayed sequel has proved a hit with audiences despite wildly varying reviews.

It is one of only three films to surpass $1bn this year, after Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion….

Not seen it myself. Saw the first one. OK story with lots of meaningless but photogenic eye-candy. With a run time of over three hours, I’m not tempted, though I suspect this really needs to be seen on the big screen.

What do others think?

(2) CLARION WEST CALLING. The Clarion West Six-Week Summer Workshop is going virtual. Applications open January 4

Clarion West is returning to a fully virtual workshop in 2023. We will accept a class of 15 students to keep the workload and screen time manageable for all. Tuition is $3,200, and a scholarship section is included in our workshop application, which opens January 4.

The Workshop’s faculty members will be:

  • Week 1: Mary Anne Mohanraj & Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • Week 2: Cat Rambo
  • Week 3: Samit Basu
  • Week 4: Karen Lord
  • Weel 5: Arley Sorg
  • Week 6: N. K. Jemisin

Find full information in “Frequently Asked Questions about the Clarion West Summer Workshop”.

(3) CLAUSES, BUT NO SANTAS. David Steffen’s presentation “How to Read a Short Story Contract” is now available on Dream Foundry’s YouTube channel.

What is the purpose of short story contracts? What clauses do you want to see? What clauses do you want to avoid? What do you do if you see something in a contract that you don’t like?

(4) IT’S SHOW TIME. [Item by Soon Lee.] Adam Roberts does The Silmarillion to the tune of the Muppets Show theme, and others add verses. Thread starts here.

(5) CON OR BUST. Dream Foundry hit the target of raising $10,000 for Con or Bust before year end.

This year our fundraising efforts are focused on our Con or Bust program. If you are still unfamiliar, Con or Bust provides grants to fans and creators of colour who would otherwise be unable to attend industry events due to costs. Thanks to a very generous donation, we’ve met our goal of raising $10k before the end of the year, but we know we can do more! If we raise another $3,000 before the end of the year, that will ensure we can connect even more fans and creatives of color with community. Donate now to be a part of something truly special. If you’d like to learn more about Con or Bust, we have that information also here

(6) PLAY NICE. Let Jo Walton be your guide “In Search of Books in Which Nothing Bad Happens” at Tor.com. After a long search she eventually thinks of one. (This excerpt isn’t it – we wouldn’t want to steal the payoff.)

…Romance. Pretty much all genre romance is “everything is OK at the end” but bad things happen in the meantime. But some Georgette Heyer has plots that work because bad things seem about to happen and are averted—this is different from everything being all right in the end, the bad things never occur, they are no more than threats that pass over safely. Cotillion does this. Two people are separately rescued by the heroine from iffy situations that could potentially become terrible, but they don’t. I think this counts. (It’s funny too.) That makes me think of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in which the worst thing that happens is somebody exaggerates and somebody else has to go home alone on a stagecoach…that’s really not very bad. Right up there with the bear who can’t go to sleep….

(7) DC FINALLY GETS SOME CREDIT. Drumroll, please! “The 2022 ComicBook.com Golden Issue Award for Best Comic Book Movie” goes to….

The Batman

Clocking in at nearly three hours with a pulse-pounding score, intense violence, and a plot inspired by some of DC’s best detective comics, The Batman is a true tour de force for the character. And while it includes echoes of the original Tim Burton franchise, takes influence from Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s trilogy, and even has a bit of the same flavor from Todd Philips’ Joker, The Batman stands out as a wholly unique cinematic entry featuring pop culture’s most unique crime fighter….

(7.5) BEAR REMEMBERED. The Guardian’s “Greg Bear obituary” appeared today and includes a long profile of his career. Plus a credited photo by Andrew Porter (an uncropped version of which appeared here).

The American science fiction writer Greg Bear, who has died aged 71 following heart surgery, was, as he put it “all over the map” as far as interests and subjects were concerned: genetics, starships, politics, artificial constructs and combat in space were among the themes explored in his 35 novels. The work he did to research them with thinkers and institutions made them remarkably prescient, not only scientifically – he is attributed with the first descriptions of nanotechnology – but also politically….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2000 [By Cat Eldridge.] Kermit the Frog Landmark Statue at Henson Studio

Kermit the Frog as Charlie Chaplin in his role as The Little Tramp? Why not?

Let’s start with beginning of the press release the Muppet Studio folk put as they call this they Kermit the Frog Landmark Statue Unveiled at Front Gates of Henson Studio: “In a touching homage to both Jim Henson and Charlie Chaplin, today, The Jim Henson Company unveiled a stately 12 foot tall statue of Kermit the Frog dressed as Charlie Chaplin’s The Little Tramp, which was permanently mounted on the tower of the studio’s front gates. All who enter or pass by will be reminded that the two visionaries contributions to mankind are celebrated on these grounds.”

This twelve-foot-high statue was unveiled on the roof of the main building in July of 2000.

The reason why Kermit is dressed like Chaplin is that this is the original location of Charlie Chaplin Studios. The studio was built in 1917 by silent and sound film star Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin sold the studio in 1957 to Kling Studios and they produced the old Superman television series with George Reeves. And then it was owned by Red Skelton, and CBS who filmed the Perry Mason series. In February 1969 it was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

So did you know that in 2000, the Henson family sold the company to the German media company EM.TV & Merchandising AG, for a rather stunning six hundred and eighty million dollars which included the Sesame Street Workshop? I didn’t. 

Just three years after that German media company lost its behind on other concerns, the Henson family paid just over eighty million to get everything back. Nice, really nice.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H. Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. In 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins.  Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of FireBlaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the usual suspects yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film (with Peter Cushing as The Doctor.) He would make it into canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special. (Died 2022.)
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 59. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well, and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 56. Did you know one of Sax Rohmer’s novels was made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Nielsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born December 29, 1969 Ingrid Torrance, 53. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Sentinel, Viper, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Seven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1, The 4400, Blade: The Series, Fringe, The Tomorrow People, and Supernatural.
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 50. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fave role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy in Repo Men and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians.

(10) HELL RAISERS. It’s time to find out who Cora Buhlert has given “The 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”. (Not to mention the “Retro Darth”!) There are so many possibilities…

It’s almost the end of the year, so it’s time to announce the winner of the coveted (not) 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.

Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page to various computer file formats, updated every year. Eventually, I decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner, the 2019 winnerthe 2020 winner and the 2021 winner were announced right here on this blog.

Warning: Spoilers for several things behind the cut!

Before we get to the main event, let’s start with the 2022 Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents. I originally created the Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award as an anaologue to the Retro Hugos in 2020 to honour terrible parents who either did their villainous parenting before the award was a thing or who were overlooked in the past for unfathomable reasons….

(11) A CHRISTMAS CARACOLE. About that story John Scalzi promised if Locus hit its $75K fundraising target? Well, he wrote it: “A Holiday Gift For You: ‘End of the Year PR Missives From Scrooge & Marley’” at Whatever.

… DECEMBER 24 1843

SCROOGE & MARLEY DECRY THE USE OF COAL FOR HEATING, PLEDGE TO “GO GREEN” IN ‘44

When you think of “Ecologically Friendly Companies,” you might not immediately think of Scrooge & Marley (established 1803), but perhaps you should. Co-founder Ebenezer Scrooge has gone on record decrying the use of coal, a carbon-intensive “legacy fuel” for the purposes of heating office buildings in London and elsewhere in Great Britain. “It’s expensive and not what we need for the future of our company,” he proclaimed. 

Scrooge has encouraged employees to seek other options, including personal insulation units composed of natural, sustainable fibers….

(12) CENTENARY SALUTE. “Stan Lee Documentary Coming to Disney+ in 2023” reports Variety.

Marvel Entertainment tweeted a 25-second video on Wednesday confirming the 2023 release of a Disney+ documentary on Stan Lee. The announcement aligns with what would have been the 100th birthday of the late comic creator….

(13) FOR YOUR HOARD. The Royal Mint will be “Celebrating the Life and Work of JRR Tolkien” with the issue of a £2 coin in 2023. The King is on the front, Tolkien is commemorated on the back.

…Tolkien passed away in 1973 although, 50 years later, the father of modern fantasy fiction still has a palpable influence on the genre. His trademark monogram, encircled by a runic pattern skilfully created by the artist David Lawrence (pictured below), will forever grace this commemorative UK £2 coin. ‘NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST’, a quote from the poem ‘The Riddle of Strider’, which features in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, serves as the coin’s edge inscription….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] This library in Jamestown Township, Michigan, has been having serious trouble with politically-based attacks. (“Town votes to defund library after claims it was ‘grooming’ kids”LGBTQ Nation.)

One of their librarians finally had enough. (“Angry librarian tells off conservative Christians protesting library in righteous speech”LGBTQ Nation.)

Here’s a captioned video of her speech.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, PhilRM, Soon Lee, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/22 I Think There Is A World Market For About Five Pixel Scrolls

(1) BAD NEWS FOR SFF MAGAZINES. [Item by rcade.] Neil Clarke posted on Mastodon that Amazon has informed Clarkesworld that it is ending Kindle Subscriptions in 2023 and trying to get magazines to move to Kindle Unlimited:

In an absolutely devastating announcement (right before the holidays) Amazon has informed us that they are ending their Kindle Subscription program in 2023 and trying to get magazines to switch to Kindle Unlimited. Asking for more details, but this is bad. Magazine subscriptions are guaranteed revenue from each subscriber. KU is not like that. It will effectively cancel thousands of subscriptions since there’s no migration path.

It’s hard to even say how much we’d get from a single subscriber. This completely removes our ability to control our price if we want to be in the dominant ebook ecosystem.
I’ve scheduled an appointment to talk with Amazon later this afternoon. Have many questions. Fellow editors of mags on Amazon: feel free to DM/email me. We should be talking.

(2) LOTS OF BUZZ. Cora Buhlert returns with a new “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Honeypot’”.

This story is called “Honeypot” and the star is not He-Man for once, but another member of the Masters of the Universe (which was originally just the name of the toyline, until the 2002 cartoon made it the name of the heroic warrior team, something most subsequent versions kept), namely Buzz-Off.

(3) AN INTERVIEW WITH MATT RUFF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An interview with Matt Ruff by Moid over at Media Death Cult. Despite discouragement Matt Ruff has always been a writer, it’s what he was born to do. His novel Lovecraft Country was adapted into a HBO TV show.

Matt Ruff, as he says at the start of the interview, is largely unknown in Great Britain, unlike his native US, but originally was most popular in Germany. I certainly never heard of him (though was aware of the show Lovecraft Country) so I did a word search on SF2 Concatenation’s news section on the basis that the majority of the specialist genre imprints – and a few ancillary ones – send their catalogues for their titles to be added to its news pages’ forthcoming books sections. I only found the novel Lovecraft Country listed in awards news as well as the book listings. It is published over here by Picador. Picador is a respected imprint in the UK but not especially noted for having an SF/F focus (despite having published some very worthy SF/F – they have a broader ‘literary’ camp). Picador’s PR folk don’t normally proactively reach out to us, though they are good at responding when we hear of relevant news and get in touch with them. Picador belongs to the Macmillan group and Matt Ruff might want to consider moving to Macmillan’s Tor (UK) if he wants more attention from Britain’s SF/F reading community…? (Just saying.) (Don’t know who publishes him in the US.)

(4) EXCELSIOR AWARD NOMINEES. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden are shortlisted for Excelsior Awards for Hellboy: The Bones of Giants, and Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran are shortlisted for Chivalry, both published by Dark Horse Comics. “Excelsior Award Red 2023”.

The Excelsior Awards are chosen by students in over 200 schools in the UK. The Excelsior Award is split up into four different shortlists: Access the entire range of Excelsior Award shortlists 2023 at the link.

  • Excelsior Award White, for students aged 9 and over (Key Stage 2)
  • Excelsior Award Blue, for students aged 11 and over (Key Stage 3)
  • Excelsior Award Red, for students aged 14 and over (Key Stage 4)
  • Excelsior Award Black, for students aged 16 and over (Sixth Form)

Each shortlist consists of five books (graphic novels and/or manga) that will cost no more than £65. 

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dive into dim sum with Randee Dawn in episode 187 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Randee Dawn

Randee Dawn’s debut novel, the humorous pop culture fantasy Tune in Tomorrow, was released in August by Rebellion Publishing. She’s a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Soap Opera Digest, and these days covers show business for VarietyThe Los Angeles TimesEmmy Magazine, and Today.com. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and online publications such as Stories We Tell After MidnightEven in the GraveAnother World: Stories of Portal Fantasy, and more.

She co-edited the anthology Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles. Her love of all things Law & Order led her to appear in one episode and later co-author The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion. Once a month she hosts Rooftop Readings at Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn.

We discussed the way her soap opera and gaming backgrounds led to the creation of her fantasy debut novel Tune in Tomorrow, what made her decide it was time for her to write funny, why her first instinct is always to turn her ideas into novels rather than short stories, how Law & Order fan fiction conquered her fears of showing her writing to others (and eventually led to her appearing as extra on the franchise), the reason she doesn’t read her reviews, and much more.

(6) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books’ Simultaneous Times podcast episode 58 features these stories:

“The Hand, The Face” by Megan Engelhardt
music by Fall Precauxions

“Cave Art” by Xauri’EL Zwaan
music by Phog Masheeen

Find the podcast here.

(6) RECOMMENDED. “Avatar: On The Cutting Edge” – movie critic Leonard Maltin is very positive about the sequel.

I surrender. It’s easy to poke holes in James Cameron’s films because of awkward dialogue or glib characterizations or his propensity for staging climaxes to his climaxes. But I was completely taken in by Avatar: The Way of Water and overwhelmed by its fluid, kinetic action scenes, eye-popping production design and propulsive storytelling….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] Eeyore, Piglet, Winnie the Pooh and the Hunny Pot, Newton Free Library, Newton, Massachusetts 

You didn’t think we’d pass this up, did you? It’s a most stellar group of statues of Eeyore, Piglet, Winnie the Pooh and the Hunny Pot at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Massachusetts.

They were sculpted by Nancy Schön who is best known for the  “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture in the Boston Public Garden (which has had two stolen since it was first installed — bad people! Yes, she sculpted new ducklings to replace them.)

All are in honor of young children who have departed us. Piglet was commissioned by a woman who wanted us to celebrate the quite short life of her much-loved brother. She thought her brother was very much just like Piglet. He was timid, yet brave and he was quite able to conquer his fears, according to her, facing the reality of dying. 

Nancy notes of Pooh and the Hunny Pot that, “Sarah died on February 14, 2001. Her parents asked me to design a sculpture of Winnie-the-Pooh in her memory. I added a hunny pot for children to sit on, possibly to cheer Eeyore up. The sculpture was installed on May 12, 2002 with a plaque reading “For The Children of Newton From Sarah Oliver”.

Eyeore was the original statue that she did and was there alone for almost a decade as he was cast in bronze as they all were in 1991, and Pooh and the Hunny Pot in 2002. Piglet would join them eleven years later.

These are based the original illustrations in the A. A. Milne’s books which were illustrated by E. H. Shepard. They are closer in appearance to stuffed animals than the awful Disney version of these characters. For one, Pooh doesn’t have a shirt in the statue. (And of course those were Disney copyright.) 

Here they are with sculptor Nancy.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome.  I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there and I passed by his residence one day. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama  and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read. I’ve read a lot of short fiction including of course Tales from The White Hart which I’ve read over and over. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say that saying he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. I was surprised his only Hugo win for his fiction was for The Man in The High Castle at Discon though Blade Runner would pick up one at ConStellation.  (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley. He had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 — Mel Odom, 65. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the BuffyverseOutlandersTime PoliceRogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1961 — Jon Tenney, 61. He’s best known as Special Agent Fritz Howard on The Closer and continued in its spinoff Major Crimes, but he does have genre creds. He played Jimmy Wells in The Phantom, Martin Jordon in Green Lantern, and Lt. Ching in two episodes in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also showed up on Tales from the Crypt, Outer Limits and neXt
  • Born December 16, 1967 — Miranda Otto, 55. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. (I stopped watching after The Fellowship of The Rings.) She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an amazing cast even if the tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a five percent rating meaning the critics really didn’t like it.

(9) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the December 14, 2022 gathering of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series where Richard Kadrey and Cassandra Khaw each read sections of the forthcoming collaborative novel The Dead Take the A Train coming out from Nightfire.

(10) YIPPIE-AI-OH. David D. Levine has been making this sound pretty interesting – “Die Hard the Musical Parody” which will be a Funhouse Lounge streaming event on Christmas weekend.

In 2017, Funhouse Lounge presented its first original work of its kind, Die Hard the Musical Parody. It was a live stage version of the 1988 Willis/Rickman action classic, re-imagined as a musical. During its 3-year sold out run, it became a holiday tradition for many who came to see it.

We are happy to say it has returned this year, live on stage, for another sold-out run. However, we understand that given the current situation, many of you may not be comfortable gathering to see it. Or, you waited too long and didn’t get tickets. Or you don’t live nearby, but still like stuff that kicks ass. Or maybe you want to enjoy it with friends and family on that big screen TV at home. If any of these describe you, we have what you need.

We will have a recording of this year’s performance and it will be available to view streaming Christmas weekend. Showtimes are December 24th, 25th and 26th,

So, treat yourself to a present you deserve after another long hard year. Gather your family around the TV. Make your favorite hot drink, remembering that the drunker you are the funnier we are.

Levine also got a kind of onstage credit for donating to the production.

(11) TIME VS. GRAVITY. “Time rules everything around you. It’s also an illusion” explains NPR.

… The best-known force that stretches time is gravity. The more gravity somebody experiences, the slower time passes for them when compared to someone in a lower gravitational field.

The effect is miniscule compared to a human lifespan, but it is real and measurable. Boulder, Colo. is a mile above sea level. That means the gravitational field is slightly weaker, and time ticks by a little faster.

But modern technology can’t deal with flowy time like this. As a result, the timekeepers at Boulder and elsewhere make corrections to ensure these different flows of time look like they’re ticking in lock-step….

(12) ALSO SPRACH MATTEL. The Barbie teaser trailer is a hilarious take on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Margot Robbie is Barbie, Ryan Gosling is Ken in the new film.

(13) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Perhaps the sequel to the Avatar skit we ran yesterday from The Late Late Show With James Corden: “Zoe Saldaña Is Crazy About Anything Blue”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Dariensync, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Scott Edelman, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/22 Pixel Plus X

(1) STOCKHOLM BIDS FOR 2023 SMOFCON. A group is bidding Stockholm, Sweden at the site of the 2023 Smofcon. Their proposed dates are December 1-3, 2023, and the venue would be a culture center called Dieselverkstaden in Sickla. In Dieselverkstaden there are conference rooms, a public library, a room for indoor climbing, a restaurant and a café. The group has organized several Swecons in the same place.

The convention venue is a culture center called Dieselverkstaden in Sickla, where there are conference rooms, a public library, a room for indoor climbing, a restaurant and a café. Sickla is a suburb of Stockholm.

The bid committee members are Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf (chair) Tomas Cronholm, Britt-Louise Viklund, Marika Lövström, Nina Grensjö, Ann Olsson Rousset, and Shana Worthen.

(2) FREE EDITING PANEL. The Omega Sci-Fi Awards invite anyone, including those writing a story for The Roswell Award or the New Suns Climate Fiction Award, to get ready to edit with the pros.

Free registration here for this one-hour panel on Thursday, December 8 at 12pm PST to hear advice on sharpening short science fiction stories. Featuring: Tamara Krinsky, Howard V. Hendrix, Gwen E. Kirby, and Gary Phillips.

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Richard Kadrey and Cassandra Khaw on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

RICHARD KADREY

Richard Kadrey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim supernatural noir series. Sandman Slim was included in Amazon’s “100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime.” Some of Kadrey’s other books include King Bullet, The Grand Dark, and Butcher Bird. He’s also written screenplays and for comics such as Heavy Metal, Lucifer, and Hellblazer.

CASSANDRA KHAW

Cassandra Khaw is an award-winning game writer, and a Bram Stoker, World Fantasy, Ignyte, British Fantasy, Shirley Jackson, and Locus Award finalist. They have written for video games like Sunless Skies, Gotham Knights, Wasteland 3, and Rainbow 6: Siege. Khaw lives in New York, and spends a lot of time lifting large weights before putting them down.

At the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(4) WHAT MADE THE POHL HOLE? On August 22 the IAU approved naming a crater on Mars after Frederik Pohl. Which is why his name appears on maps in news articles today bearing headlines like “Giant Asteroid Unleashed a Devastating Martian Megatsunami, Evidence Suggests”.

Multiple lines of evidence suggest that Mars wasn’t always the desiccated dustbowl it is today.

In fact, the red planet was once so wet and sloshy that a megatsunami was unleashed, crashing across the landscape like watery doom. What caused this devastation? According to new research, a giant asteroid impact, comparable to Earth’s Chicxulub impact 66 million years ago – the one that killed the dinosaurs.

Researchers led by planetary scientist Alexis Rodriguez of the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona have located an enormous impact crater that, they say, is the most likely origin yet of the mystery wave.

They named it Pohl and located it within an area scoured with catastrophic flood erosion, which was first identified in the 1970s, on what could be the edge of an ancient ocean.

When NASA’s Viking 1 probe landed on Mars in 1976, near a large flood channel system called Maja Valles, it found something strange: not the features expected of a landscape transformed by a megaflood, but a boulder-strewn plain.

A team of scientists led by Rodriguez determined in a 2016 paper that this was the result of tsunami waves, extensively resurfacing the shoreline of an ancient Martian ocean….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to bite into blood sausage with Tim Waggoner in episode 186 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tim Waggoner is a writer of dark fantasy and horror whose first short story was published in 1992 and first novel came out in 2001. Since then he’s published more than 50 novels and seven collections of short stories. He’s written tie-in fiction based on SupernaturalGrimmThe X-FilesAlienDoctor WhoA Nightmare on Elm Street, and Transformers, and other franchises, and he’s written novelizations for films such as Halloween KillsResident Evil: The Final Chapter and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. His most recent original novel, We Will Rise, was published earlier this year.

He’s the author of the acclaimed horror-writing guide Writing in the Dark, which won the Bram Stoker Award in 2021. He won another Bram Stoker Award in 2021 in the category of short nonfiction for his article “Speaking of Horror,” and in 2017 he received the Bram Stoker Award in Long Fiction for his novella The Winter Box. In addition, he’s been a multiple finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award, and a one-time finalist for the Splatterpunk Award. In addition to writing, he’s also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio.

We discussed whether being a horror writer gives him any special insights into the pandemic, the true meaning of his latest novel’s very specific dedication, the patience the writing life requires, what his agent doesn’t want him to let his editors know, the reason ghost stories have never struck him as scary, how to write about people unlike yourself and get it right, the unusual way he decided which characters would live and which would die, why Psycho was one of the best movie experiences he ever had, the most difficult thing a writing teacher can teach, and much more.

(6) FANCAST ILLUMINATED. Cora Buhlert has posted another Fancast Spotlight for the “Fiction Fans Podcast”.

What format do you use for your podcast or channel and why did you choose this format?

We decided to do audio-only because it’s lower-key. Video editing is a lot more effort and also would require that we look at least semi-presentable when recording.

In terms of episode format, we always spend some time chatting about a good thing that’s happened recently and what we’re currently reading (not podcast-related) at the beginning of the episode, before we actually start discussing the book of the week. We like to have an initial section where we talk about non-spoiler themes or character motivations, before we dive in to a meatier full-on spoiler discussion of the book. We figured that if we were listening to a podcast about a book we hadn’t read, we would want a chance to stop listening before any major plot twists were spoiled for us. Be the podcast you want to listen to, right?

(7)  WHAT SHOULD WIN THE REH NEXT YEAR? The 2023 Robert E. Howard Awards are open for nominations.

We are pleased to announce the opening of nominations for the 2023 Robert E. Howard Awards starting on November 30, 2022. The Robert E. Howard Foundation has revised the rules and categories for the awards, so please read over the information below. Some categories have changed, and there is a new category for works of fiction. We have also brought back the Black River Award. Under the new rules, nominations are due in to the Awards committee by January 15, 2023, with the Awards committee selecting the top nominees in each category for the final ballot by January 31, 2023. The Final ballot will be uploaded on a website with its address sent out to all current Robert E. Howard Foundation members for voting on the winners on February 15, 2023.

You do not have to currently be a member of the Robert E. Howard Foundation to send in nominees…

(8) DRAWING A CROWD. I hadn’t noticed how this local event is blowing up: “LA Comic Con Expects 140,000 Fans This Weekend — And Plans To Keep Growing” reports LAist.

L.A. Comic Con had a rocky start. In its early years, issues ranged from a lineup without star talent to fire marshals shutting the doors and not letting more people inside.

Cut to this year, when one of its major guests is actor Simu Liu, best known for playing Marvel superhero Shang-Chi. Organizers also managed to bring in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in recent years. Convention CEO Chris DeMoulin notes that getting a current Marvel star is still unusual for L.A. Comic Con — the local convention that’s still not at the same level in the convention world as marquee events like San Diego’s Comic-Con International or New York Comic Con.

Still, what started as a rickety alternative has quickly grown, now featuring a who’s who of guests from the wider universe of pop culture…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1912 [By Cat Eldridge.] Peter Pan in Kensington Garden

It of course is a statue of the character in Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, the 1904 novel by Barrie which actually started life two distinct works by Barrie, The Little White Bird, 1902, with chapters 13–18 published in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, 1906, and the West End stage play “Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”, 1904.

It was commissioned and paid for by Barrie and sculpted  by Sir George Frampton, a Scottish sculptor best remembered as for having been commissioned by the Royal Family  during the Diamond Jubilee to sculpt a statute of Queen Victoria.

Now let’s talk about this statue which is located in London in Kensington Garden. If you should visit, you can find it to the west of the Long Water, in the same spot as Peter lands his bird-nest boat in “The Little White Bird” story.  This is close to Barrie’s former home on Bayswater Road. 

Barrie hired workers to put the statue in Kensington Gardens without permission from the City of London or the Borough of Kensington.

He published a notice in The Times of London newspaper the following day, May 1, 1912: “There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning. Down by the little bay on the south-western side of the tail of the Serpentine they will find a May-day gift by Mr J.M. Barrie, a figure of Peter Pan blowing his pipe on the stump of a tree, with fairies and mice and squirrels all around. It is the work of Sir George Frampton, and the bronze figure of the boy who would never grow up is delightfully conceived.”

It stands about fourteen feet and is shaped a tree stump, topped by a young boy, about life size for an eight-year-old, blowing a musical instrument, maybe a usually thought to be pan pipes. 

The sides of the stump are decorated with mice, rabbits, squirrels and fairies. 

Barrie had intended the boy to be based on a photograph of Michael Llewelyn Davies wearing a Peter Pan costume, but Frampton instead, not at all pleased with him as Peter Pan, chose another model, perhaps George Goss or William A. Harwood, though no one is really certain. Barrie was quite disappointed by the results, claiming the statue “didn’t show the Devil in Peter”. 

In 1928, vandals tarred and feather sculpture. The bronze surface was exceedingly difficult to clean.

Royal Parks replaced the plinth, the base below the animals and faeries, in 2019, which caused great controversy. It had deteriorated badly due to exposure to weather and salt.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 85. Writer of Horror who came to distinction in the 1970s, both with his writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the 1980s, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on speaker-to-the-dead Harry Keogh. His short story “Necros” was adapted into an episode of the horror anthology series The Hunger. His works have received World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Stoker Award nominations; the short story “Fruiting Bodies” won a British Fantasy Award. Both the Horror Writers Association – for which he was a past president – and the World Fantasy Convention have honored him with their Lifetime Achievement Awards.
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 76. British-born American illustrator and writer who is genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as CathedralThe New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty five years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech” . (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1952 O. R. Melling  70. Writer from Ireland. For novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series, consisting of The Hunter’s Moon, The Summer King, The Light-Bearer’s Daughter, and The Book of Dreams are quite excellent; the first won a Schwartz Award for Best YA-Middle Grade Book. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey: Would You Go if You Were Called? – featuring a fantasy writer who is invited to take part in a week-long retreat on a magical, remote Scottish island – I’d highly recommend.
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 54. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Silvermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-FilesHercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall haughty she did show up in Luke Cage.
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 51. Artist and Illustrator from South Korea who is best known as creator of the ever so stellar Liberty Meadows series, as well as work on Hulk, Mighty Avengers, and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. His works have received Ignatz, Haxtur, Charles M. Schulz , and National Cartoonists Society’s Awards, as well as Eisner, Harvey, and Chesley Award nominations, and his documentary Creating Frank Cho’s World won an Emmy Award.

(11) ANTI-ANTICIPATION. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Comic writer and artist Tim Seeley posted this rather sad Tweet about the effect the rise of toxic fandom has on creators: 

It’s not certain which comic he is referring to. Several people assume that he was referring to the upcoming Masters of the Universe comics, since that normally friendly fandom has attracted a bunch of toxic jerks of late, but the new Masters of the Universe comics won’t be out until February 2023. Personally, I suspect it’s Hexware, which is debuting next week.

(12) SPOILER, MAYBE? “Disney Robbed Us of Maarva’s Choice Words for the Empire in the ‘Star Wars: Andor’ Finale” says The Mary Sue.

…In an interview with Empire Magazinestar Denise Gough talked about her first day on set and let us all know the truth about Maarva Andor’s speech at her own funeral. She really did say “Fuck the empire” in it. “My first day was Ferrix,” she said. “I was given my two Death Troopers – one of whom had to be trained to run like a Death Trooper and not like a musical theatre star – and I couldn’t help myself, I just started doing the [hums the Imperial March]. Then, everyone started doing it.”…

(13) GOSH. The Atlantic’s Marina Koren assures everyone “’2001: A Space Odyssey’ Is the Most Overhyped Space Movie”. (Behind a paywall.)

As the outer-space correspondent at The Atlantic, I spend a lot of time looking beyond Earth’s atmosphere. I’ve watched footage of a helicopter flying on Mars. I’ve watched a livestream of NASA smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid on purpose. I’ve seen people blast off on rockets with my own eyes. But I have never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This is an enormous oversight, apparently. The 1968 film is considered one of the greatest in history and its director, Stanley Kubrick, a cinematic genius. And, obviously, it’s about space. Surely a space reporter should see it—and surely a reporter should take notes.

What follows is my real-time reaction to watching 2001 on a recent evening, edited for length and clarity. Even though the movie has been out for 54 years, I feel a duty to warn you that there are major spoilers ahead. (If you’re suddenly compelled to watch 2001 first, you can rent it for $3.99 on YouTube.)…

(14) STREAMING LEADERS. JustWatch says this is what people were watching in November.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cora Buhlert, James Bacon, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/30/22 Mr. Balrog, I Move We Adjourn Combat Sine Die

(1) FUND FOR PETER DAVID. A GoFundMe has been started on behalf of writer Peter David, who has many health problems and faces mounting bills. “Peter David Fund”.

I’m fundraising for author Peter David and his family. He’s had some compounded health problems, and the bills are piling up! On top of kidney failure, and the steep medical bills incurred from that, he just had another series of strokes AND a mild heart attack.  

As we wish him a swift recovery, and send our love and support to his wife Kathleen and his family, let’s also pitch in and help with their medical bills and living expenses. 

Please give what you can to relieve some of the immense stress that this family is going through right now.  

On behalf of Peter, Kathleen, and the whole family, thank you!

The appeal had brought in $51,725 from 1100+ donors at the time this was written.

(2) ARISIA NAMES NEW CHAIR. Melissa Kaplan is the new acting con chair of Arisia 2023. She has written a statement about her conrunning background and why she volunteers to do this.

The past few months have been among the most tumultuous in Arisia’s long history. After the loss of our conchair Jodie Lawhorne, two people stepped up to complete his work. In late October we learned about a serious incident involving one of our volunteers that was reported but never written down many years ago. The individual was put through our current more robust incident response protocol and was subsequently banned from all future participation in Arisia. We also learned that the acting con chairs had had knowledge of this and despite that, had consulted with this individual about volunteering for Arisia 2023. Between that information, and increasing levels of unrelated personal stress on those acting con chairs, it was determined that it was best for all parties for them to step down. Where that left us was 7 weeks out from a convention with no one in charge. I reached out to the e-board and offered to fill in the gap.

So hi, my name is Melissa Kaplan and I’ll be your acting con chair for the next 6.5 weeks….

(3) WILLIS X 2. Dave Langford and Rob Hansen have assembled TAWF Times Two: The 1962 Trip Reports by Walt and Madeleine Willis into a book and made it available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please.

The Tenth Anniversary Willis Fund (TAWF) was organized to bring Walt Willis – this time with his wife Madeleine – to the 1962 Chicago Worldcon, ten years after the fan initiative that brought Walt alone to the 1952 Worldcon also held in Chicago. Both wrote trip reports: Walt’s was serialized in various fanzines and eventually collected as Twice Upon a Time in the monumental Warhoon #28 (1980) edited by Richard Bergeron. Madeleine’s instalments of The DisTAWF Side appeared in The SpeleoBem edited by Bruce Pelz, and have never until now been collected.

For this ebook, Rob Hansen has digitized Madeleine’s chapters, expanded them with comments and corrections from others (plus an unpublished letter from Walt and another from Madeleine) and written a new Foreword covering both reports. David Langford had the easier task of extracting Twice Upon a Time from Warhoon #28, unscrambling dates, correcting typos and restoring a fragment of lost text. Scans of all the original fanzine appearances at Fanac.org were a great help to both of us.

Released as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 1 December 2022. Cover photo of the Willises in 1957 from the collection of Norman Shorrock, probably taken by Peter West. Over 87,000 words.

(4) ANOTHER OPENING OF ANOTHER SHOW. “The Museum of Broadway Is Open. Here Are 10 Highlights.” The New York Times gives reasons to visit when you’re in town.

When a Broadway show closes, the next stop for the hundreds of costumes, setpieces and props is often … the dumpster.

“The producers often stop paying rent in a storage unit somewhere, which is heartbreaking,” said Julie Boardman, one of the founders of the Museum of Broadway, which opened in Times Square this month.

Boardman, 40, a Broadway producer whose shows include “Funny Girl” and “Company,” and Diane Nicoletti, the founder of a marketing agency, are looking to reroute those items to their museum, a dream five years in the making.

“We see it as an experiential, interactive museum that tells the story of Broadway through costumes, props and artifacts,” Nicoletti, 40, said of the four-floor, 26,000-square-foot space on West 45th Street, next to the Lyceum Theater….

‘Phantom of the Opera’ Chandelier Installation

Each of the 13,917 glistening crystals in this piece, which were fashioned by the German artist Ulli Böhmelmann into hanging strands, is meant to represent one performance the Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera” will have played from its opening on Jan. 26, 1988, through its closing night performance. Though the final show was originally set for Feb. 18, 2023, the production announced Tuesday that it had been pushed to April 16 amid strong ticket sales (Böhmelmann plans to add the necessary crystals).

‘Avenue Q’ Puppets

In the early days of the 2003 Broadway production of the puppet-filled musical comedy “Avenue Q,” the show’s low budget meant the puppeteers had to put their charges through quick changes. The show initially had only three Princeton puppets — but he had eight costumes — meaning the puppets took a beating from changing clothes multiple times eight shows a week. “Eventually, they had a puppet for every costume,” McDonald said.

Gershwin Theater Set Model

This scale model, which is just over five feet wide, was designed by Edward Pierce, the associate scenic designer of the original Broadway production of “Wicked,” and took four people seven weeks to build. It includes more than 300 individual characters — and another 300 seated audience members in the auditorium. (See if you can find the Easter egg: a small model of the set model, with the designers — who look like the actual designers — showing the director a future design for “Wicked.”)

Wicked set model

(5) THE BEGINNING. In “Back to Back and Belly to Belly and Other Epiphanies on Speculative Poetry”, Akua Lezli Hope shows where it all comes from.

The world’s first literature is speculative poetry.

We told each other stories and encoded them in the form of verse. The earliest written literature is poetry – The Story of Gilgamesh, The Iliad and Odyssey, The Ramayana and Mahabharata, Beowulf and other npoem myths, verse histories and tellings in cultures across and around the world.

I had an epiphany about speculative poetry.

It was there from the start, in my womb and my heart….

(6) PROBABLY AN ANNIVERSARY. “Hitchhiker’s at 42” and 3 Quarks Daily is celebrating. Because something to do with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy happened forty-two years ago. Didn’t it?

… To document the broader cultural impact of Hitchhiker’s, we’ve asked a number of public figures in science, the arts, the humanities, and government to reflect on how the book changed their own understanding of life, the universe, and everything.

The Hitchhiker series taught me to laugh at the absurd, to mock self-proclaimed genius, to put off searching for the meaning of life in favor of play, and to oppose time travel on the ground that proper tense usage would become too difficult. It also prepared me to understand that some Albany politicians are like Vogons, insofar as neither are above corruption in the same way that the ocean is not above the sky. And it made 42 my favorite number.” –Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and host of Stay Tuned and Doing Justice…

(7) FREE READ. Congratulations to Cora Buhlert, who has a new short story “Legacy of Steel” in the November 2022 issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine. The other stories in the issue are “Sun in Shadow” by Sandra Unerman and “You Stand Before the Black Tower” by Nathaniel Webb.

(8)  MORE FROM THE MASTERS. Cora Buhlert also has posted a new Masters of the Universe photo story on her blog: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Family’”.

…I have had some new arrivals recently, including at long last King Randor, which opens up a lot of possibilities for stories involving the royal family of Eternia.

One thing that is remarkably consistent over all versions of Masters of the Universe from the early mini-comics via the Filmation cartoon of the 1980s, the 2002 cartoon, the various comics, Masters of the Universe: Revelation all the way to the Netflix CGI show is that Prince Adam has a strained relationship with his father King Randor. Cause Randor always finds something to criticise about his son and heir. Adam is too lazy, too irresponsible, not princely enough, not interested enough in affairs of state, not heroic enough, too foolhardy and he also missed dinner or an official reception, because he was off saving Eternia….

(9) NO MERE METAPHOR. Douglas Kearney holds forth “On the Similarities Between Writing and Turning Oneself Into a Werewolf” at Literary Hub.

…While stretching my hands into claws, I hunt my memory. Have I ever felt talons grow from my fingertips? Do I know the twinge of lupine hair breaking my burning, blossoming skin? How does the paradigm of meaning-making shift when I find I can smell more keenly than I can see? In all these years, have I come closer to knowing?

You might suggest I use writing to account for these questions. Documenting my thoughts about them in a field journal—“May 26: I think I smelled a pig at one mile today.” Nope. I’ve no werewolf archive. There are a few poems, sure; yet they skin the lycanthrope to cover and do some other thing. Those poems, they are not telling you what I am telling you: that I have meant to be a werewolf, and that this has been, I’m afraid, a quiet, lifelong ambition, a discipline I’ve maintained longer and to less purpose, it would seem, than nearly all else….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] Hobbit holes (New Zealand)

Stop me before this gets novella length!

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. — The Hobbit

Only one of the movie sets in New Zealand survives and charmingly enough it’s the village where the hobbits resided. It was used for both trilogies and quite unsurprisingly is now a place with guided tours being offered every day. 

Jackson spotted it during a search by air for suitable locations using one of his airplanes, or so the story is now told, and thought it looked like a slice of England. Furthermore Alan Lee commented to him that the location’s terrain “looked as though Hobbits had already begun excavations” there. 

It became Hobbiton and the Shire with the facades of quite a few hobbit holes and associated gardens, a double arch bridge, hedges, and a mill. They erected an immense oak above Bag End that had been growing nearby and which was cut down and recreated in fibreglass on site complete with artificial leaves.

When I mean facades, I really mean just that. It’s not possible to go inside the as there is nothing inside them, just retaining walls and beyond that dirt. I’m guessing that the site is going to need expensive ongoing maintenance if it is going to survive long term. 

Bag End is the exception as they designed it so a little bit of interior has been designed to seen and the door will open so you can peek in. 

About those hobbit holes. No, the interior scenes for Bag End weren’t not shot here. (Of course they’d make lousy film sets, wouldn’t they? You can’t get cameras in there.) The interior of Bag End was shot in a studio in Wellington.  Ok, there are actually two Bag Ends as Ian McKelllen explains on his charming look at these:

Hobbits must appear smaller than the other characters in the film. When I, as Gandalf, meet Bilbo or Frodo at home, I bump my head on the rafters. (Tolkien didn’t think to mention it!) So there is a small Bag End set with small props to match. 

As Ian Holm and Elijah Wood would be too big within it, they have “scale doubles” who are of a matching size with the scenery and its miniature furniture. In the small set Bilbo and Frodo are played by Kiran Shah (Legend) who is in hobbit proportion to my Gandalf.

And of course there has to be a big Bag End, where the scale is human-sized and all the objects of the small set are duplicated but bigger. There the “hero actors” can play the hobbits but the camera expects a gigantic Gandalf and gets him in Paul Webster (a 7’4″ Wellingtonian) who substitutes for me.

So we’ve got a village full of hobbit hole facades that all look very charming as you can see here and you’ve got the rather amazing effect of creating the illusion of a hobbit hole interior that we can all think is real. I certainly did when I watched the first Hobbit film. I may not have cared for the film itself, but oh my the scenery and the depiction of Bag End was stellar! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 30, 1835 Mark Twain. It’s been decades since I read it but I still know I loved A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. His other genre work is The Mysterious Stranger in which Satan might be visiting us went unpublished in his lifetime and it’s only relatively recently published with the University of California Press editions of all his completed and uncompleted versions in one volume that a reader can see what he intended. (Died 1910.)
  • Born November 30, 1893 E. Everett Evans. Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom who started out with fan writing, but eventually became a published genre author as well. He helped to found the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) and served as its president and editor of its publication. Food for Demons was a chapbook compilation of his fantasy tales, though he was generally not considered to be a good fiction writer. Fandom’s Big Heart Award, which was founded by Forrest J Ackerman in 1959, was named for him for its first 40 years. In 2018, Bob Tucker’s fanzine Le Zombie, of which he had co-edited two issues, won a Retro Hugo Award. (Died 1958.) (JJ)
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent and The Lost Gallows is apparently genre. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as are his vampire mythos backstoried novels, Three Coffins and He Who Whispers. And I really should note his Sir Henry Merrivale character has at one genre outing in Reader is Warned. The usual suspects have a more than decent stock of his offerings. (Died 1977.)
  • Born November 30, 1950 Chris Claremont, 72. Writer in the comic realm. Best known for his astounding twenty year run on the Uncanny X-Men starting in 1976. During his tenure at Marvel, he co-created at least forty characters. Looking at his bibliography, I see that he did Sovereign Seven as a creator own series with DC publishing it.  And then there’s the matter of Lucas providing the notes for The Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy to follow the Willow film and then contracting our writer to make them exist.  Anyone ever encountered these?
  • Born November 30, 1952 Debra Doyle. Writer, Filker, and Fan. Her novel Knight’s Wyrd, co-written with her husband and collaborator James D. Macdonald, won a Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature. Most of their co-written works are fantasy, but their Mageworlds series also crosses into space opera territory. As filker Malkin Grey, she and Pergyn Wyndryder won a Pegasus Award for Best Historical Song. She was an instructor at the Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop, and has been Guest of Honor at several conventions. (Died 2020.) (JJ)
  • Born November 30, 1955 Kevin Conroy. Frell, another great one lost too soon. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series and many other DCU series.  On Justice League Action, the other characters often noting his stoic personality.  I’ve not seen it, but on Batwoman, he plays Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” episode.  (Died 2022.)
  • Born November 30, 1952 Jill Eastlake, 70. IT Manager, Costumer, Conrunner, and Fan who is known for her elaborate and fantastical costume designs; her costume group won “Best in Show” at the 2004 Worldcon.  A member of fandom for more than 50 years, she belonged to her high school’s SF club, then became an early member of NESFA, the Boston-area fan club, and served as its president for 4 years. She has served on the committees for numerous Worldcons and regional conventions, co-chaired a Costume-Con, and chaired two Boskones. She was the Hugo Award ceremony coordinator for the 1992 Worldcon, and has run the Masquerade for numerous conventions. Her extensive contributions were honored when she was named a Fellow of NESFA in 1976, and in 2011 the International Costumer’s Guild presented her with their Lifetime Achievement Award. She and her fan husband Don (who is irrationally fond of running WSFS Business Meetings) were Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon.
  • Born November 30, 1957 Martin Morse Wooster. He discovered fandom in 1974 when he heard about “a big sci-fi con” in downtown Washington where admission was $10 at the door.  He had ten bucks, and so attended Discon II at 16.  A year later, he discovered fanzines through Don Miller, and discovered he liked writing book reviews.  He started contributing to File 770 in 1978 and continued for the rest of his life. He was one of twelve founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, which split from the Washington Science Fiction Association in 1975, and regularly attends PRSFS meetings to discuss books. Lost his life to a hit-and-run driver on November 12. (Died 2022.) (JJ)

(12) THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T SEE EVERY DAY, EDGAR. “Passenger Jet Flies Over Launchpad Right as SpaceX Rocket Takes Off” reports Futurism.

Passengers on board a United Airlines commercial jet flying over Florida’s Cape Canaveral were able to spot an amazingly rare sight in the distance: a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, far below….

(13) HITCHCOCKIAN HORROR. “’Lost in Space’ star Bill Mumy shares ‘scary’ moment with Hitchcock, claims ‘he’s the monster of the story’” at Yahoo!  I don’t want to spoil the anecdote with an excerpt, however, you film history buffs will be interested.

Bill Mumy has worked with some of the most celebrated filmmakers in Hollywood history – but not all of his experiences were out of this world.

The former child star, who made his mark in the ‘60s series “Lost in Space,” has recently written a memoir titled “Danger, Will Robinson: The Full Mumy.” In it, he details his rise to stardom and the numerous encounters he had with TV and film icons along the way – including Alfred Hitchcock.

Mumy worked with the filmmaker in the TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” for the episode “Bang! You’re Dead!”. It was filmed in the summer of 1961 when Mumy was 7 years old….

(14) LEADER OF THE PACK. “Toxoplasma-Infected Wolves More Likely to Lead Packs, Study Finds”The Scientist has details.

Wolves infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii are far more likely to become pack leaders than uninfected wolves and are also more likely to disperse from the pack they’re born into, a study published November 24 in Communications Biology reports. The finding points to a possible connection between the infamous parasite and wolf population health.

Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a “mind control” parasite that can infect any warm-blooded animal, the paper states. The protozoan can only reproduce sexually in the guts of cats, and often spreads through contact with infected feline feces. Infection with T. gondii causes hosts to accrue permanent brain cysts and also induces toxoplasmosis, a disease that can embolden some host species, causing infected animals to seek out more situations in which they can transmit the parasite. Mice infected with T. gondii lose their fear of cat urine, for example, making them more likely to be killed and eaten by a cat, enabling the parasite to reproduce once again…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Snopes has a surprising answer to the question “Was a Harrison Ford Cameo Cut from ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’?” Well, you’re not surprised now – it wouldn’t be worth linking to if the answer was “No”, would it?

…The film, which was released in 1982, was written by Melissa Matheson, whom Ford was dating at the time. During a 2012 reunion for the film, actor Henry Thomas, who played the main character, Elliott, told Entertainment Weekly that he was just excited at the prospect of meeting Ford.

“When I met Steven, the first thing out of my mouth was I think, ‘I love Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and my hero was Harrison Ford,” Thomas said. “I basically was just excited to meet Steven in hopes that I would meet Harrison.”

Ford eventually agreed to shoot a cameo scene with Thomas, playing an uptight school principal who would scold Elliott after the famous frog escape scene, in which Elliott would also kiss a girl in his class. Spielberg also spoke about the cameo in an interview with EW: “He did the scene where E.T. is home levitating all of the stuff for his communicator up the stairs. Elliott is in the principal’s office after the frog incident. We don’t ever see Harrison’s face. We just hear his voice, see his body.”…

(16) VIDEO OF A PREVIOUS DAY. A short clip from Futurama illustrates why, “In the end, it was not guns or bombs that defeated the aliens, but that humblest of all God’s creatures, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Standback, Rich Lynch, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]