Pixel Scroll 7/15/23 I Went Looking For A Scroll And All I Found Was This Lousy Jetpack

(1) IT WON’T BE FREE. “Steven Soderbergh is releasing a surprise sci-fi series starring Michael Cera next week” and EW tries to find out why.

Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to experimentation. In 2006, he released Bubble simultaneously on cable and in theaters before that was commonplace. He shot Unsane and High Flying Bird using an iPhone. Now, he’s dropping a sci-fi series starring Michael Cera and Roy Wood Jr. on his own website, Extension765

The mysterious project, which follows his new Max series Full Circle, is called Command Z, and EW can confirm Soderbergh directed the series in addition to producing. He shot the comedy — the name of which is the computer keystroke for undo — “in secret,” according to an announcement from his Extension765 website. Command Z will stream via the site on July 17, though EW can confirm it won’t be available for free.

“This very morning, our fearful leader explained that in three days (July 17th for those who don’t want to do the math) we will be ‘dropping’ a series of some sort called Command Z,” reads a letter on Soderbergh’s website, written by a possibly fictional figure named Fabrizia del Dongo. “If I seem hedgy, it’s because A) None of us have seen it; and B) It’s apparently about ninety minutes long, but there are eight episodes of varying length, so is it an actual series or just a movie cut up into pieces?”…

(2) ON STRIKE. Variety reports that SAG and the AMPTP even dispute what some of their disagreements are. This article tries to identify all the sticking points: “SAG Actor Strike: Talks Stalled Over AI, Streaming and Pay Hikes”.

SAG-AFTRA and the major studios remain at odds on a dizzying array of issues, as film and TV actors hit the picket lines Friday for the first time since 1980.

According to sources on both sides, the biggest sticking point is the union’s demand for 2% of the revenue generated by streaming shows. The two sides also remain far apart on basic increases in minimum rates, with the studios offering 5%, 4% and 3.5% across the three years of the contract, while the union is demanding 11%, 4% and 4%.

But that only scratches the surface. The parties are at odds on dozens of issues, only a handful of which have been publicly reported.

In some cases, the two sides don’t even agree on what the disagreements are. They engaged in a rare public back-and-forth Thursday over the use of artificial intelligence to replicate background actors.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s executive director, alleged that the studios want to pay an extra for one day of work to be scanned, and then reuse that likeness forever. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers hotly disputed that, saying that its proposal explicitly limits the reuse to the project for which the extra was hired….

(3) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books has released Simultaneous Times episode 65. Listen to the episode here.

Simultaneous Times Episode 65

Stories featured in this episode:

  • “The Sport of Snails” by F.J. Bergmann; with music by Phog Masheeen
  • “Hollow Hearts” by Eric Fomley; with music by Fall Precauxions

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(4) DEVELOPMENT HELLIONS. JoBlo asks “WTF Happened to Johnny Mnemonic?” “We take a look at the making of one of the biggest flops of the 1990s, the Keanu Reeves cyberpunk adaptation Johnny Mnemonic.”

…One of the early challenges had been expanding Gibson’s original 1981 story, which was a mere 22 pages, to a satisfying feature film length. The story’s broad strokes would remain – a courier carrying crucial encrypted data in a cranial hard drive, a double-crossing handler, a monowire-twirling Yakuza assassin, a cyborg dolphin, an outcast group called Lo-Teks. 

To stretch the story, Gibson borrowed liberally from his own work like VIRTUAL LIGHT and introduced new plot points and “cinematic pacing”, with the data in Johnny’s overloaded brain storage now both a proverbial ticking time bomb and the invaluable cure to a global pandemic called Nerve Attenuation Syndrome. This mysterious disease, also known as the “black shakes”, is a result of constant exposure to the omnipresent technology that has become the world’s addiction. PharmaKom, the corporate owner of the sensitive data wants it returned so they can maximize profits, and they dispatch assassins to literally collect Johnny’s head.

There was one story complication arising from Gibson’s own prominence, however. The film rights to Neuromancer were already held by another studio, which meant the shared character of capable razor-fingered mercenary Molly Millions was off-limits for his own adaptation of Johnny Mnemonic. In her place would be a desperate bodyguard wannabe named Jane, who suffers from the “black shakes”.

But the movie would linger in development hell under Carolco, until the company ultimately imploded for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the notorious flop Cutthroat Island. One former Carolco executive still wanted to make Johnny Mnemonic and pitched it to various studios, but to no avail. The project would eventually find support through Canadian company Alliance… and around 20 different international financiers. Sony’s Tristar Pictures entered the mix and would distribute the movie in America, and the studio would invariably make creative demands and revisions that proved maddening for the writer and director….

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1988 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

A writer I really enjoy is Jane Yolen. Indeed, she’s on the chocolate gifting list, preferring no more that no more than seventy percent dark. And I’ve got a personally signed copy of The Wild Hunt here. 

Now eighty-four, she’s been both an author and editor who is responsible for close to four hundred books existing.  Short stories? Well, she’d fill dozens of collections if publishers were so willing. Not One Damsel In Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls shows you her strong feminist bent and Meow: Cat Stories from Around the World gives you a look at her love of our companions. 

She has garnered three Mythopoeic Awards, another three World Fantasy Awards, and a hat trick was completed with three Nebulas. She also won a Skylark, and a bunch of Awards for her poetry. 

So, Mike selected the Beginning of Sister Light, Sister Dark, the first novel of the Great Alta saga, for this Scroll. It was published thirty-five years ago by Tor with the cover art by Dennis Nolan. It was nominated for a Nebula. It was followed by White Jenna and The One-Armed Queen

And now her Beginning of this Saga…

THE MYTH: 

Then Great Alta plaited the left side of her hair, the golden side, and let it fall into the sinkhole of night. And there she drew up the queen of shadows and set her upon the earth. Next she plaited the right side of her hair, the dark side, and with it she caught the queen of light. And she set her next to the black queen.RN

“And you two shall be sisters,” quoth Great Alta. “You shall be as images in a glass, the one reflecting the other. As I have bound you in my hair, so it shall be.” Then she twined her living braids around and about them and they were as one. 

THE LEGEND: 

It happened in the town of Slipskin on a day far into the winter’s rind that a strange and wonderful child was born. As her mother, who was but a girl herself, knelt between the piles of skins, straddling the shallow hole in the earth floor, the birth cord descended between her legs like a rope. The child emerged, feet first, climbing down the cord. When her tiny toes touched the ground, she bent down and cut the cord with her teeth, saluted the astonished midwife, and walked out the door. 

The midwife fainted dead away, but when she came to and discovered the child gone and the mother dead of blood-loss, she told her eldest daughter what had happened. At first they thought to hide what had occurred. But miracles have a way of announcing themselves. The daughter told a sister who told a friend and, in that way, the story was uncovered.

The tale of that rare birthing is still recounted in Slipskin—now called New Moulting—to this very day. They say the child was the White Babe, Jenna, Sister Light of the Dark Riding, the Anna.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. iBooks and Kindle have the Colossus trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titanic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the Civil War. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which somehow I’ve avoided seeing so far. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Don’t ask.) If Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1951 Jesse Ventura, 72. He’s actually been in far more genre films that I thought. His first film was Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe which audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a rating of twenty percent. After that, he’s been in PredatorRunning ManDemolition Man and Batman & Robin
  • Born July 15, 1961 Forest Whitaker, 62. His best-known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and Host of Twilight Zone
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 60. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 56. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark has a sarcastic playlist for Storm Troopers.
  • Bliss will be twice as funny if you’ve been around long enough to recognize the graffiti artist.

(8) FIRST ENCOUNTERS OF THE CLOSE KIND. DC’s Joshua Lapin-Bertone tells us about the first time “When Superman Met Lois Lane” – a story which really has no consistent beginning!

I don’t know about you, but I love hearing about how a couple first met….

So how did Lois and Clark first meet, really? Let’s start from the beginning…

Their first encounter in Action Comics #1 was replayed in the Superman comic strip.

1939 – Superman Newspaper Strips

Clark Kent notices Lois Lane for the first time when he enters the Daily Star looking for a job. He hears Lois arguing with her editor, and remarks that she has spunk. Lois meets Superman for the first time when he rescues her from some thugs.

The sequence is almost identical to the one in Action Comics #1, but since it’s running in a daily newspaper it’s dragged out. For example, the thugs throw Lois from a plane, where Superman catches her. Then she winds up in quicksand, where he has to save her again. You can’t say he’s not devoted to her.

(9) INFO DUMPER. “Foundation’s showrunner explains why big book adaptations start so dang slow” in The Verge.

Adaptations of big, complex books tend to start slow — and that’s usually because there’s just so much to explain. It was true of Game of Thrones and The Rings of Power, and it was especially true of Foundation on Apple TV Plus, which took Isaac Asimov’s novels and turned them into prestige television. With unusual concepts like psychohistory (a kind of math that can predict the future) and a genetic dynasty (a never-ending line of clone emperors who rule the galaxy), the first few episodes of season 1 were bogged down by exposition.

According to David S. Goyer, showrunner on Foundation, there really wasn’t a way to avoid that. “I felt like the first three episodes of season 1 were so exposition heavy, but — trust me — we tormented ourselves trying to figure out a way around it,” he explains. “We just decided, screw it, we have to explain this stuff and hope the audience is still around.” He believes that might just be a necessary evil of this kind of adaptation, though. “A lot of the really worthwhile shows that I ended up loving took a while to get going,” Goyer says. “Maybe that’s just what one has to do when you’re doing a big ambitious, novelistic show.”…

(10) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] On Friday’s Jeopardy! episode, the first round of the game had a full category of “Modern Fantasy Lit”. The contestants took the questions in reverse order, so that’s how I’ll present them.

$1000: This “Remains of the Day” author wrote fantasy with “The Buried Giant”, set years after the death of King Arthur

Challenger Alison Madson knew it was Kazuo Ishiguro.

$800: In P. Djéli (sic) Clark’s “Ring Shout”, Klansmen summon demons during a viewing of this 1915 D.W. Griffith film

Returning champion Ittai Sopher: “What is ‘Birth of a Nation’?”

(Checked this with Google’s help: it should be Djèlí.)

$600: S.A. Chakraborty’s “City of Brass” has Nahri team up with Dara, one of these mystical creatures whose name starts with a silent “D”

Alison responded correctly.

$400: In a book by Gail Carson Levine, obedience is the curse of this title girl, “Enchanted”; she also pines for Prince Charmont

Daniel Moore said, “Who is Ella?”

$200, last clue of the round: Monza Murcatto, thrown from a great height & left for dead, later gets revenge in Joe Abercrombie’s “Best Served” this

Daniel: “What is cold?”

(11) FINAL JEOPARDY! And Andrew Porter noted the night’s last stage also included something of genre interest.

Final Jeopardy: category: Books & Authors

Answer: In 1930 this author wrote “Murder at Full Moon”, a horror-mystery novel set in a fictional town in central California.

Wrong question: Who is Jack London?

Correct question: Who is Steinbeck?

(12) SIDE EFFECTS. FirstShowing.net sets up the official trailer for Aporia:

…Since losing her husband, Sophie has struggled to manage her grief, her job, and parenting her devastated daughter, but when a former physicist reveals a secret time-bending machine, Sophie will be faced with an impossible choice. He offers her a chance to restore her previous life, but of course, this kind of attempt to change history always comes with other dangerous consequences….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Kathy Sullivan, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]