Pixel Scroll 2/21/22 And The Scrolls That Mother Gives You Don’t Have Any Pixels At All

(1) WAVE FUNCTION. Jim Benford was interviewed in a double-segment of 60 Minutes about the “Havana Syndrome” that is sickening State Department staffers around the world. He was interviewed as an expert on microwaves and as the author of High Power Microwaves, a copy of which was shown on screen. He was asked if the syndrome could be caused by a microwave weapon. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript.

James Benford: I think the best explanation, the most plausible, is that it’s a high-power microwave weapon.

James Benford is a physicist and leading authority on microwaves. He was not part of the government studies, but he co-wrote the book on microwave transmission. These are portable microwave transmitters of the kind that could damage the tissues of the brain.

James Benford: There are many kinds, and they can go anywhere in size from a suitcase all the way up to a large tractor trailer unit. And the bigger the device, the longer the range. 

Scott Pelley: This would be able to transmit its microwave energy through the wall of a van, the wall of a home, something like that?

James Benford: Vans have windows, microwaves go through glass. They go through brick. They go through practically everything.

The technology, Benford told us, has been studied more than 50 years.

James Benford: It’s been developed widely in, perhaps, a dozen countries. The primary countries are the United States, Russia and China.

(2) VALE LOVECRAFT. From Joseph T. Major’s latest Alexiad I learned: “H. P. Lovecraft has stunned the world by announcing that this summer will see the end of his regular advice videos, ‘Ask Lovecraft’, on YouTube. How blasphemeously rugose and squamous! …Leeman Kessler, the real voice of Ask Lovecraft, has a second child and regular responsibilities as Mayor of Gambier, Ohio. After ten years, this additional activity has become more than he can handle. We will miss Ask Lovecraft.”

The latest video assures listeners things will wind down gradually —

And we’re not ending right away. Have no fear, we’re going to take things to the middle of the year so that we are right on our 10th anniversary. Until that time we will continue to answer your questions, dispense wisdom and offer up all the jackanapes you’ve come to expect.

(3) IT’S THE ECONOMY. Author Kyle Galindez asks “Why can’t Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine alternatives to capitalism or feudalism?” at Salon.

… As a fantasy author myself, I’m intrigued as to how writers’ imagination hit a wall when imagining political alternatives. I am reminded of the oft-quoted remark from literary theorist Frederic Jameson, who quipped that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. Accordingly, the authors who are adept at imagining the end of capitalism are, more often than not, at the fringes….

(4) BY CROM, NOW THIS IS A MIGHTY ORGAN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Found in my library’s sale pile, and purchased for a buck, because it didn’t occur to me to first check Hoopla, YouTube, etc:

Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack for the Conan The Barbarian movie, transcribed for organ, performed by Phillipp Pelster (on Amazon).

As opposed to the actual soundtrack: “Conan The Barbarian (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” (via Hoopla).

Here’s one of several tracks, via YouTube:

Here it is being played on piano

And here’s a live orchestra performance (not just the organ):

By Crom’s Cavitous Teeth, I wouldst happily sell my copye for that dollar plus shipping (media mail even), elstwhyse I mayeth slip the foul thing back into the library’s for-sale box.

(5) MOCCA. The Society of Illustrators released the visuals for the 2022 MoCCA Arts Festival to be held April 2-3 in New York.

Featuring work by over 500 creators, the weekend will also include live lectures, panels, and artist signings! In one of the first independent comics festivals of the season, this year’s Fest will truly be a momentous occasion with many happy reunions for the community!

To help announce and promote this year’s Fest, the Society asked creator Yadi Liu, previous MoCCA Arts Fest exhibitor and Award of Excellence gallery artist, to create a colorful, celebratory image. Liu’s art will grace the cover of the Souvenir Journal and will feature prominently on all advertising and promotional materials, as well as a selection of merchandise available to purchase at the SI Booth. “Yadi’s art really captures our excitement for the return of the Fest. After several years of challenges and disappointments, we are so happy to welcome everyone back!” said Executive Director Anelle Miller.

In addition to Liu’s art, the Society has also asked several notable artists to create work for the show. Natalie Andrewson’s whimsical creatures will be displayed on the badges, and Patrick McDonnell’s quirky MUTTS characters will be featured as spot illustrations found throughout the Fest. These featured artists will be attending the Fest, and their schedules and table locations will be released as the date approaches. 

(6) BLACK HISTORY MONTH CONTINUES. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its “Black Heritage HWA interview series” –

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

For sure in the 50 years that I’ve been writing I see changes. Per diversity: In the beginning there were so few Blacks (and others) in genre writing. Since then it has increased in horror and science fiction and fantasy, which is good. The birth of black publishers and self-publishing has created an outlet for Other authors to offer their work to readers, in addition to the traditional publishers. We need this expanding to include more Others to continue. There are many different kinds of stories to be told and and creators to be seen. A big part of making this happen is for the publishing field to increase awareness and be willing to work at including other voices and realize that decision makers need to include Others.

Who are some African diaspora horror authors you recommend our audience check out?

The incredibly talented Chesya Burke is a writer who first came to my attention when I was putting together 60 Black Women in Horror. Valjeanne Jeffers and Crystal Connor are two writers who have impressed me with their short story work. I love L.A. Banks’ highly entertaining Vampire Huntress series. I love anthologies that give the reader a sampling of various African Diaspora horror writers, and Sycorax’s Daughers, edited by Linda Addison, Kinitra Brooks, and Susanna Morris and Dark Matter edited by Sheree Renee Thomas are two I recommend.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I was drawn to horror because I needed it. I needed the distraction, the escape. The truth is, I was sort of an outcast and a latch-key kid until high school, where I would settle into just being awkward. I’m the quintessential late bloomer. With that, all that we now label ‘nerd stuff’ drew my attention and helped keep my little mind off some of the more challenging aspects of my life. Because of my strange interests, the other kids didn’t get me, and to be fair, I may have handled it badly. To give you a sense of how early my problems started, the first fight I ever had in school was over a Planet of The Apes action figure which I mistakenly brought to school only to have someone try to steal it. That was second grade.

As far as horror was concerned, everything I was exposed to became part of this rich fantasy world I developed in my head. At any given moment my imagination let me either hunt Dracula or be just like them. Naturally, this was balanced out with fantasies about being Batman or Spider-Man but as I approached my teens, these fantasies became an addiction. I think that’s possible; being addicted to your own imagination. And mine is a beast. It’s been fed some of the best horror books and movies. There’s also been a lot of cross pollination within genres, like drama and comedy. That’s why there are certain things I cannot stop doing, like inserting humor into some of my work, or creating these dialogues that could easily be inserted into a family drama, if not for the fact it’s a vampire and a werewolf having the argument.

(7) THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK. The New York Times asked “How Marlon James, Novelist, Spends His Sundays”.

ON CALL When I come back here, I usually have to deal with people who don’t respect the sanctity of my Sunday, like the production team for this TV show I’m working on called “Get Millie Black,” a detective show set in the U.K. and Jamaica. It’s produced by HBO and hopefully will be out around this time in 2023. When you’re a writer, there’s no days off….

(8) WORLD VIDEO GAME HOF NOMINATIONS. You have until February 28 to submit a recommendation for the 2022 World Video Game Hall of Fame sponsored by The Strong National Museum of Play.

Do you have a favorite video game that deserves to join icons such as Pong, Pac-ManSuper Mario Bros., TetrisThe Legend of Zelda, and The Oregon Trail in The Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame? Video game lovers everywhere are urged to submit nominations for induction onlineSubmissions for nominations must be made by Monday, February 28, 2022. Finalists will be announced in March, 2022, and inductees will be revealed at a special ceremony at The Strong museum on May 5, 2022.

The World Video Game Hall of Fame at The Strong was established in 2015 to recognize individual electronic games of all types—arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile—that meet the following criteria: icon-status, the game is widely recognized and remembered; longevity, the game is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over time; geographical reach, the game meets the above criteria across international boundaries; and influence, the game has exerted significant influence on the design and development of other games, on other forms of entertainment, or on popular culture and society in general.

(9) WADE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna writes about “Homer At the Bat,” a classic episode of The Simpsons that first aired in February 1992 and was one of the first episodes to feature multiple celebrities in one episode.  Cavna reports the episode is packed with baseball lore (if you know who Cap Anson was, this is a show for you) and he interviews Wade Boggs, who says at autograph shows “I feel like I’m at a Comic-Con” because he has as many fans asking him to sign stills from The Simpsons as he does photos of him in a Red Sox, Yankees, or Devil Rays uniform. “’Homer at the Bat’ at 30: The ‘Simpsons’ baseball episode that pushed the show’s boundaries”.

…As Major League Baseball endures a lockout and faces a possible delay to this season, it’s an apt occasion to remember another time when ballplayers and management didn’t see eye to eye. Enter Homer, Mr. Burns and themighty lineup of imported pro ringers.

“Homer at the Bat,” which featured the voices of nine active major leaguers andmade its debutFeb. 20, 1992,was more than a quirky one-off in celebrity stunt casting. The 17th episode of Season 3 emboldened the minds behind “The Simpsons” to push the boundaries of what an animated half-hour series could do and show.

And from a ratings standpoint, it was a bellwether for the surging show: “Homer at the Bat” marked the first time that a new “Simpsons” episode beat an original episode of “The Cosby Show,” long an NBC juggernaut; on that prime-time Thursday night, “Simpsons” softball also topped CBS’s Winter Olympics coverage from Albertville, France….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1967 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-five years ago, Raquel Welch starred in One Million Years B.C. which was financed by Hammer Film Productions and Seven Arts. It was a remake of One Million B.C., a film made twenty-seven years earlier. The original film was also known as Cave Man, Man and His Mate and Tumak. That film was produced by Hal Roach and D. W. Griffith who I know you’ll recognize. 

 It was directed by Don Chaffey from the screenplay by Michael Carreras which in turn was based off the screenplay for the first film written by Mickell Novack, George Baker and Joseph Frickert. 

The primary cast was Raquel Welch as Loana and John Richardson as Tumak with rest of the cast being Percy Herbert as Sakana, Robert Brown as Akhoba, Martine Beswick as Nupondi  and Jean Wladon as Ahot. 

Ray Harryhausen animated all of the dinosaur attacks using stop-motion animation techniques, and also coordinated all of the live action creatures used from turtles to crickets and iguanas. 

So what was the reception for it? Most critics liked it. The Monthly Film Bulletin said that while it was “Very easy to dismiss the film as a silly spectacle; but Hammer production finesse is much in evidence and Don Chaffey has done a competent job of direction. And it is all hugely enjoyable.” And TV Guide said “While far from being one of Harryhausen’s best films (the quality of which had little to do with his abilities), the movie has superb effects that are worth a look for his fans.”

It cost just two point five million to make and made four point five million, a solid profit at the time.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a really poor thirty-six percent rating which I admit surprised me.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 Peter Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp fiction starting in the Thirties, and is generally considered one of the more popular writers of the period. His work appeared in such magazines as Amazing StoriesAstoundingThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionMarvel TalesSuper Science Stories, and Weird Tales to name but a few of the publications he appeared in. He began book reviewing beginning initially for Astounding Science Fiction and later for its successor, Analog. The 1963 Worldcon presented him with a special committee award for book reviewing. He had but two novels, Genus Homo, written with L. Sprague de Camp, and Alicia in Blunderland. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1914 H.L. Gold. Editor of Galaxy from 1951 to 1960 and If from 1959 to 1961. Before that, from 1939-41 he was an assistant editor on Captain FutureStartling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories. He also was a writer working for DC in the early Forties on BatmanBoy Commandos, Superboy, Superman and Wonder Woman. In the Thirties, he wrote two novels, A Matter of Form and None But Lucifer, the latter with L. Sprague de Camp. And he wrote a double handful of short fiction. Philcon II awarded him, along with John W. Campbell, Jr. for Astounding Science Fiction, the Hugo for Best Professional Editor for his work on Galaxy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he was prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The usual digital suspects stock him deeply at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 21, 1937 Gary Lockwood, 85. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot, Mission ImpossibleNight GallerySix Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 76. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the productions in the series, no matter what they are. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role in the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume in our community. Of course he played Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1950 Larry Drake. I know him best as the over the top Robert G. Durant in the Darkman franchise. His other genre roles are largely in series one offs such as several appearances on Tales from the Crypt, an appearance on The Outer Limits and even an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1961 David D. Levine, 61. Winner of the Hugo Award at L.A. Con IV for the Best Short Story for his story “Tk’tk’tk” which you hear thisaway. He has the Adventures of Arabella Ashby series which currently is four novels strong. To date, he has had one collection titled Space Magic.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro with Batman and Robin – took me a moment to get it!
  • It’s The Argyle Sweater, but this one would be just as at home in Bizarro or The Far Side.
  • Dinosaur Comics’ creator tells the audience, “What this comic assumes is that the ninth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, knows who Spider-Man is. I believe this to be an extremely fair assumption.”
  • Tom Gauld in the Guardian:

(13) EASTER EGGS. Each week Dan Piraro, the creator of the Bizarro newspaper comic, posts his Sunday comic, then a short essay. In “Pie Eyed” he explains all the extras in yesterday’s comic. There are plenty!

…Anyway, I’m fascinated by background jokes and hidden images. I’m saying all this because the Sunday cartoon above is a prime example of my obsession. There are so many background gags in this one it almost overwhelms the main joke. I’m aware of that but I can’t stop myself.

I’ve included Bunny’s Pie Repair as a business in the background of cartoons on city streets a bunch of times, but I think this one is the most elaborate version I’ve done. Here’s an enlargement for your convenience….

(14) ARCHIE’S NOTES. Bob Byrne turns another calendar page at West 35th Street: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 37” at Black Gate.

So, in 2020, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through thirty-six. Here is thirty seven (April 27). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Thirty Seven – 2020 Stay at Home

I was looking through some old notebooks today and came across this gem from a case I never finished writing up. There have been times when I think Inspector Cramer really did want to lock me up forever, and this was one of them…

(15) ONCE AND FUTURE AILUROPHILES. Mark Twain House & Museum will host a free virtual event “A Cat’s Tale: Dr. Paul Koudounaris and Baba the Cat on the History of Cats in America” on Thursday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

The Mark Twain House & Museum is delighted to welcome fellow feline enthusiast, historian, and author Paul Koudounaris – a man who might just love cats as much as Mark Twain did.

Paul will discuss the history of America’s felines and their oft neglected contributions. Presented with a slideshow of historical images, the talk will take the audience on a wild and harrowing journey to reclaim the prodigious achievements of some of our nation’s greatest cats. Learn about cats in wartime and their role in the Wild West. Hear the extraordinary stories of cats like Clementine Jones, who traveled 1600 miles to find her family in a home and city she had never before been in. Or Pooli, a World War II US Navy cat who is the most decorated military animal in American history. Or Kiddo the flying cat, the world’s first celebrity feline. Or the amazing Colonel, the greatest (and highest ranking!) cat in US Army history.

(16) KEEP CALM.

Twitter would not give me the blue check, so I can assure everyone that standards are being upheld.

(17) COULD IT BE…CTHULHU? “Galaxy’s Centre Hosts Hundreds Of Strange Tendrils” reports Nature.

The Galaxy’s population of mysterious filaments that emit bright radio waves is at least ten times larger than scientists realised

Radio astronomer Farhad Yusef-Zadeh co-discovered the first of these filaments in the 1980s.  The structures consist of electrons travelling at nearly the speed of light, on trajectories that spiral around magnetic-field lines. Now, Yusef-Zadeh, who is based at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and his collaborators have used MeerKAT, an array of 64 antennas in South Africa’s Northern Cape region, to take a series of 20 shots of the Milky Way’s central region, an effort that took some 200 hours.

The resulting composite image reveals a number of striking features, including expanding shock waves generated by supernovae, or exploding stars, and almost 1,000 filaments. The filaments’ spectral features suggest that their origin is not related to supernovae.

One possible explanation is that they originated from past cycles of activity of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the Galaxy’s centre. Mysteriously, some of the filaments seem to be clustered together and evenly spaced, like the teeth of a comb.

(18) WALLY FUNK AND INGENUITY AWARDED. The National Air and Space Museum’s 2022 Michael Collins Trophy has been awarded to Wally Funk and the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter Team.

Wally Funk will receive the 2022 Michael Collins Trophy for Lifetime Achievement. Funk embodies the adage of “never give up on your dreams.” Since her first flying lesson in 1948 at age 9 and enrollment in flight school at 16, Funk knew that she wanted to fly, despite societal biases against women in aviation. After earning multiple certificates and ratings, she set her sights even higher in the sky—space. She was one of the top-performing participants in the Lovelace Woman in Space Program and dedicated decades of her life to flight instruction and safety, having logged over 19,600 hours of flight time, while never abandoning her dream of going to space. In 2021, that dream came true when she launched on the first crewed suborbital mission of Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule.

MiMi Aung and the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Team will receive the 2022 Michael Collins Trophy for Current Achievement. In April 2021, a small robotic helicopter achieved the first powered flight on another planet. Delivered to the surface of Mars by the rover Perseverance, Ingenuity was a technology demonstration aboard the Mars 2020 mission and successfully proved that flight was possible on the Red Planet. It is also now serving as a helpful tool to aid rover exploration of Mars. Ingenuity completed increasingly challenging flights and scouted areas for the Perseverance rover’s upcoming treks. Ingenuity’s “Wright brothers moment” captured the attention of the public back on planet Earth and inspired everyone to imagine what could be next in planetary exploration.

Congratulations to these two worthy recipients! They will be honored at an event at the end of March. The event is sponsored by Atlas Air Worldwide, BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, Jacobs, Leidos, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Pratt & Whitney, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Thales.

(19) FLAME ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This remake of Stephen King’s Firestarter is coming in May and has a kid “who can unleash a nuclear explosion simply by using the powers of her mind.”  Gosh wow!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This video, which dropped yesterday, has Ryan George playing an apprentice ghost who’s having a hard time learning not to haunt people: “Ghosts Are Bad At Revenge”.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/20/20 Scrollcial Distancing

(1) TOWER OF FABLE. Mark Lawrence promoted a new book release by challenging his readers to make towers of their books and send him photos — “The Girl And The Stars – contest!”. He has posted the entries — it’s an amazing gallery.

(2) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May/June 2020 cover. The art by Maurizio Manzieri is for “Who Carries the World” by Robert Reed.

(3) ASIMOV RESEARCH SPARKS SUSPICION. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Australian SF fan Steven Cooper caught the interest of the security folks at Australia’s National Emergency Library due to his unusual borrowing habits. The software engineer had been checking out books ten at a time for several years, which made the organization wonder if something was amiss. In an interesting blog post on Archive.org, Wendy Hanamura (@whanamura) explains how a research project about Isaac Asimov put Cooper in the hot seat for a few minutes. “Suspicious Activity in the National Emergency Library? No, just the best kind of activity…” 

This software engineer with an obsession for Asimov never expected his passion project would be seen by the public, let alone a constellation of science fiction devotees. He did it for himself, to explore the many dimensions of Asimov’s thinking, where the writer’s curiosity would lead him, the clarity with which he would explain the world.

…The fruits of Steven Cooper’s labor are now available for anyone to use. His list is 676 pages long, at the moment. Yet, this software engineer with an obsession for Asimov never expected his passion project would be seen by the public, let alone a constellation of science fiction devotees. He did it for himself, to explore the many dimensions of Asimov’s thinking, where the writer’s curiosity would lead him, the clarity with which he would explain the world. “He is known as possibly the most wide-ranging writer of the 20th Century,” Cooper ruminated. “I was just interested to see how wide ranging that was. I don’t think anyone has ever read everything he wrote.”

Here’s the link to Steven Cooper’s “An Annotated Asimov Bibliography”.

(4) YOUR SPOILER MILEAGE MAY VARY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As part of research for an article I’m writing, I’m (re)reading Asimov’s The Caves Of Steel. I’d gotten a copy through interlibrary loan (via The Robot Novels, also includes The Naked Sun)… and, ~2/3rd of the way through the story, encountered this (see pic) reader annotation. So far, having finished tCoS, and, flipping through the pages (easy to do, since it’s paper), I don’t see said “solution” scribbled elsewhere.

Unless it was on the flip side of the very next page, which has ~1/3″ torn off at the bottom (thankfully, below the book text proper).

So, the spoiler spoiled?

It’s a decent re-read… yes, it has its share of oatmeal/porridge info-lumps throughout, many not plot-essential, but back then (early 50’s) that’s part of what many (of us) were reading sf for, no?

And it’s a plays-fair-with-the-reader detective story. The clues are there, all along. (Hardly surprising, given Asimov’s interest and writing in that sibling genre.)

(5) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. SF2 Concatenation wants to give some folk in lock-down some distraction and also wave the flag for con-going fandom. “SF convention-goers wanted”.

…So here’s the thing. Given the next few months many of us are going to be largely housebound, how about those of you who regularly go to a particular series of conventions give a shout out to that convention series?

There are a number of articles you could write and we’d be delighted to post.

Possibilities include, but not restricted to, writing an outline history (or recent history) of the series of conventions you wish to share.  Alternatively, if you are feeling creative, you could write a convention review of a convention that has been cancelled this year.  If you have been to two or three previous conventions in the series you can mine events that took place at those earlier cons paraphrasing them. You can check out the Guests of Honour that would have appeared at this year’s event and write a short paragraph on each….

(6) HUBBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In honor of the Hubble Space Telescope‘s 30th birthday, NASA would like to show you a great image shot on your birthday… Or any other day of the year that’s particularly special to you.

Just follow the link — “What Did Hubble See on Your Birthday?” — select & confirm the date, et voilà, a sure-to be spectacular image will be provided. 

(7) ROLL VS. ROLE. At Unusual Things, Max Florschutz unpacks the problems with a trendy solution for creating characters: “Being a Better Writer: Tools VS Actions”. An interesting diagnosis.

… There were several discussions I’d seen in the last few weeks across writing sites and discussions about so-called “gamification” of characters. Or, to put it another way, writing characters whose abilities felt like they were out of a video game….

…See, this writer had gone ahead and written out a character sheet, as writers often do. No problems there. But when it came to the section on their characters skills, rather than be general with what their character was good at, they had written—you guessed it—a named list of “actions” they could take.

Like a role-playing game. Or an anime. There was the name of the skill, and how it worked, and what they did with it. All in a neat little list.

But seeing that list made all these complaints I’d been reading “click” in my head and I immediately saw how and why so many were complaining about this type of writing, and how people were getting there.

Because in making lists like this, these authors had restricted themselves. Fallen into a trap of their own making wherein they were becoming too specific and limiting what they (and their characters) could do.

What it came down to, ultimately, was what I immediately made notes of as “Tools VS Actions.” Which ended up being the title of this post.

Okay, let me explain a little further by giving you a simple example. Suppose you are writing a character that is a thief. They break into places and steal stuff. Now, you sit down to create a character sheet, but have you ever considered that how you write the character sheet determine how you’ll see them in the story?…

(8) ROWE OBIT. The death of D.J. Rowe was announced by Michael Moorcock on Facebook.

Very sorry to hear of the natural death at 83 of D..J. Rowe, who ran my first fan club. He was a sweet, unassuming man and continued to be the hub of the Nomads of the Time Streams. He will be very sadly missed.

(9) DEITCH OBIT. Winner of the Winsor McCay Award (2004) for his lifelong contribution to animation, Gene Deitch has died at the age of 95. The Hollywood Reporter fills in his resume:

…Deitch’s movie Munro won the Academy Award for best animated short film in 1960. He also was nominated for the same award twice in 1964 for Here’s Nudnik and How to Avoid Friendship.

Earlier, Deitch had created the Tom Terrific series, while the short Sidney’s Family Tree, which he co-produced, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1958.

Born on Aug. 8, 1924, in Chicago, Deitch arrived in Prague in 1959, intending to stay for 10 days, but fell in love with his future wife, Zdenka, and stayed in the Czechoslovakian capital.

Working from behind the Iron Curtain, he directed 13 episodes of Tom and Jerry and also some of the Popeye the Sailor series….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 20, 1950 Dimension X’s “Report On The Barnhouse Effect” first aired on NBC. A mild college professor discovers the secret of telekinesis and becomes a most potent weapon. It was the first short story written and published by Kurt Vonnegut, and would be in the February 11, 1950 issue of Collier’s Weekly. In 1952, the story would be in Heinlein’s Tomorrow, the Stars anthology. Here the cast was Santos Ortega and William Quinn with direction by Edward King from a script by Charles Ross. Bob Warren was the announcer. You can hear it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 20, 1908 Donald Wandrei. Writer who had sixteen stories in Astounding Stories and fourteen stories in Weird Tales, plus a smattering elsewhere, all in the Twenties and Thirties. The Web of Easter Island is his only novel. He was the co-founder with August Derleth of Arkham House. He has World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and he’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. Only his “Raiders of The Universe“ short story and his story in  Famous Fantastic Mysteries (October 1939 issue) are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 20, 1937 George Takei, 83. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel.  Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again. He also was Kaito Nakamura on Heroes. And later he got to play his character once again on one of those video fanfics, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.
  • Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 81. I’ve known him for about fifteen years now, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back.)  My favorite works? TamsinSummerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born April 20, 1943 Ian Watson, 77. He’s won the BSFA Award twice, first for his novel, The Jonah Kit, and recently for for his short story, “The Beloved Time of Their Lives“. He also got a BSFA nomination for the charmingly titled “The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080”. 
  • Born April 20, 1949 John Ostrander, 71. Writer of comic books, including GrimjackSuicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The Spectre,  Martian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad isavailable on the DC Universe app as his amazing work on The Spectre.
  • Born April 20, 1949 Jessica Lange, 71. Her very first role was Dwan in the remake of King Kong. Later genre roles are modest, Sandra Bloom Sr. in Big Fish and Constance Langdon / Elsa Mars / Fiona Goode / Sister Jude Martin in American Horror Story
  • Born April 20, 1951 Louise Jameson, 69. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed here. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her tole for Big Finish productions. 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Clint Howard, 61. So the most interesting connection that he has to the genre is playing Balok, the strange childlike alien, in “The Corbomite Maneuver” which I remember clearly decades after last seeing it. He’s also John Dexter in Cocoon, and Mark in The Rocketeer as well as Jason Ritter in the Austin Powers franchise. He’s got a minor role in Solo: A Star Wars Story as a character named Ralakili. 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Carole E. Barrowman, 61. Sister of John Barrowman. John and Carole co-wrote a Torchwood comic strip, featuring Jack Harkness, entitled Captain Jack and the Selkie. They’ve also written the Torchwood: Exodus Code audiobook. In addition, they’ve written Hollow Earth, a horror novel. She contributed an essay about her brother to the Chicks Dig Time Lords anthology which is lot of fun to read. 
  • Born April 20, 1964 Crispin Glover, 56. Actor in such roles as George McFly in Back to the Future, Ilosovic Stayne aka The Knave of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Grendel in Beowulf and Mr. World, the god of globalization, in American Gods
  • Born April 20, 1964 Andy Serkis, 56. I will freely admit that the list of characters that he has helped create is amazing: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, King Kong in that film, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series. Captain Haddock / Sir Francis Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin (great film that was), and even Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Last year, he portrayed the character of Baloo in his self-directed film, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • At The Far Side, a palm reader’s advice is right on the mark.
  • This Pearls Before Swine has the word “moon” in it – that makes it science fiction, right?
  • Bizarro gets into type.
  • F-Minus shows a way to shrink monsters.
  • Non Sequitur quotes what one dinosaur was saying right before the meteor hit.

(13) PAINTING WITH WORDS. Bizarro’s Dan Piraro does a blog accompaniment to his week’s cartoons in “Senses”.

…The above cartoon, a satire of the ancient Japanese maxim, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” attempts to illustrate how on the Internet, seeing, hearing, and speaking evil has become the preferred norm. And not just in ways that authoritarian conspiracy nuts use it to mislead people, but in the way we all use it to eavesdrop, spy, gossip, argue, insult, and otherwise exercise our insecure egos in ways that seem delicious and satisfying at the first, but which darken our outlook and mood over time.

This is the primary reason I don’t read or respond to comments on the Interwebs. To be clear, I read all comments left on my cartoon posts and occasionally will respond once to an attack (succinctly, in an adult manner, without insult or profanity) but it ends there. I won’t argue with people online. I may as well be arguing with the radio in my car.

I find that this approach leads to a more peaceful daily existence. If I read a rant by someone who thinks Donald Trump was sent by God to give Amurica back to white people, it aggravates me for days. As pointless as it is, I can’t stop arguing with them in my head. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. I know the world is full of gullible idiots—there’s no need to keep proving it to myself by spending time on Facebook….

(14) NO HARD FEELINGS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] According to IndieWire, a site that covers the world of independent movies, David Lynch is not interested in Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming two-part cinematic adaptation of Dune. Lynch is known to be unhappy with his own adaptation of Dune in the mid-80s: “It Should Surprise No One That David Lynch Has ‘Zero Interest’ in Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’”.

Lynch has been a vocal detractor of his own “Dune” film since its release in 1985, going so far as wanting to remove his name off the final theatrical cut. Some longer cuts of the film that feature an extended introduction with still illustrations even replace Lynch’s name in the end credits with that of Alan Smithee, the industry pseudonym used by filmmakers who wish not to be associated with their films. Lynch spent three years making “Dune,” only for producers and financiers to get in the way of his creative vision. As cast member Brad Dourif once said, Lynch had to cut some of the “most gorgeous” sequences from his script because producers refused to give Lynch the money to film them. The tightening of the budget also forced Lynch to be complacent with shoddy visual effects and a more cheap-looking production.

(15) SONG FOR THE TIMES. “‘Toy Story’ composer Randy Newman shares social-distancing song ‘Stay Away'”ABC News has the story.

Some of the lyrics of “Stay Away” include: “Stay away from me. Baby, keep your distance, please. Stay away from me. Words of love in times like these. I’m gonna be with you 24 hours a day. A lot of people couldn’t stand that. But you can. You’ll be with me 24 hours a day. What a lucky man I am.”

(16) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! A bit of Tolkienesque humor. And the man below NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-general of Health. He often gives the daily COVID-19 press conference.

(17) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? “‘Alien comet’ visitor has weird composition” – BBC has the story.

The first known comet to visit us from another star system has an unusual make-up, according to new research.

The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov was detected in our Solar System last year.

This mysterious visitor from the depths of space has provided astronomers with an unprecedented opportunity to compare it to comets that formed around the Sun.

New data suggests it contains large amounts of carbon monoxide – a possible clue to where it was “born”.

The findings appear in two separate scientific papers published by Nature Astronomy.

…The teams identified two molecules in the gas ejected by the comet: hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and carbon monoxide (CO).

HCN has already been detected in this interstellar vistor, and is present at similar amounts to those found in Solar System comets.

However, they were surprised to see large amounts of CO. The researchers using Alma for their observations estimated that 2I/Borisov’s CO concentration was between nine and 26 times higher than that of an average Solar System comet.

(18) SIGN OF THE TIMES. Seen in The Week.

A man wearing a Batman costume and driving a custom-made replica Batmobile has been patrolling the streets of Monterrey, Mexico, earning reisdents to stay indoors and observe government-ordered social-distancing measures.  ‘Hey, you! Stay home,’ urges the recorded message blasting from the faux-Batmobile as the anonymous caped crusader drives through the city.  ‘Join us superheroes, stay home.’

(19) RETURN TO NATURE. “Australia coronavirus lockdown: Kangaroo hops through empty Adelaide streets” – video.

South Australia Police have captured the moment a kangaroo hopped through the heart of downtown Adelaide during coronavirus lockdown.

(20) APOCALYPSE AHEAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Sydney Diary” by Geraldine Brooks in the January 11 Financial Times.

“When I was in my early teens, I read John Wyndham’s post-apocalypse novel The Chrysalids.  In it, one of the characters keens for her devastated planet:  ‘What did they do here?  What can they have done to create such a frightful place?…There was the power of gods in the hands of children, we know; but were all of them mad children, all of them quite mad?…

…”I am a novelist, so in my mind I create a character like Wyndham’s in the aftermath of the climate apocalypse, looking back at the devastation, trying to fathom the madness that allowed it.  The country was burning, but they gave the go-ahead to the vast Adani coal mine.  Their rivers were dying, but they flushed their toilets with drinking water.  They used the fossil fuels that were poisoning their planet to make plastic things they used just once then threw in the oceans.  And yes, because I too am among this moment’s mad and guilty, they thought it was OK to fly around the planet, willy-nilly, just because they wanted to.”

(21) MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Gimme Love” — Genius explains:

The themes of space travel seen in the videos of Nectar’s first two singles, “Sanctuary” and “Run,” are continued in the video for “Gimme Love.” The video features a montage of clips showing Joji’s journey in becoming an astronaut, finishing as Joji rebelliously launches to space inside a rocket.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Gordon Van Gelder, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Errolwi, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rob Thornton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]