Pixel Scroll 6/18/22 It Takes A Scroll To Laugh, It Takes A Pixel To Cry

(1) IT’S STILL HOME. Samit Basu is a best-selling author in India who’s been published in the US/UK since 2013. His book The City Inside is a recent release from Tordotcom. In a guest post at Stone Soup he questions “When Is A Dystopia Just The Real World?”

…I wanted to write a near-future projection of my surroundings that was pragmatic, but optimistic. I’ve lived in Delhi for many years now, and however bad it gets, you can’t really see the place where you live as dystopian – genrewise, it’s also the setting for your romances, your office comedies, your reluctant action-adventures, your gritty urban dramedies, your heartwarming holiday specials. You live in this odd multi-tab chaos that makes you extremely conscious of your own privileges, because you’re in proximity to people whose living conditions are extremely challenging, especially in politically apocalyptic times. And this convinces you – or convinced me, at least – that whatever happens, however bad things get, the people in this city – or any other – will outlast it, because they have no choice. Not because they are passive, but because they are used to all systems failing them, and will always cling on to hope. And if you have hope, if you have purpose, you’re not living in a dystopia, even if it looks like one from outside….

(2) LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION FIGURES! Cora Buhlert has posted another ingenious Masters of the Universe action figure photo story on her blog: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Siblings’”.

Now Roboto has a bit of a strange history. He was an action figure in the 1980s, but he only had a handful of appearances in the original Filmation cartoon, where he was an alien explorer from a planet of robots who crashlanded on Eternia, was repaired by Man-at-Arms and wound up staying and fighting alongside He-Man and his friends.

The 2002 cartoon retconned his origin and made him a sentient and intelligent robot built by Man-at-Arms originally as a chess partner for Man-e-Faces. However, Roboto wanted to be a warrior, upgraded himself and heroically sacrificed himself in order to save He-Man and all of Eternia from a plague of multiplying skeletons. Luckily, Man-at-Arms was able to repair him and so Roboto was frequently seen fighting alongside the other heroic warriors.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation tweaked Roboto’s backstory yet again. He’s still a sentient and intelligent robot who was built by Man-at-Arms, but in Revelation Roboto considers Duncan his father and Teela his sister and refers to them as such….

It’s also on Twitter – here is an excerpt.

(3) WRITERS GET PAID. Preferably.

(4) PLEASE KEEP YOUR SEATS ‘TIL THE TRAIN COMES TO A COMPLETE STOP. Deadline has learned “‘Snowpiercer’ To End With Season 4 On TNT”.

TNT’s Snowpiercer will be pulling into the station. The post-apocalyptic drama’s upcoming fourth season, which is in production, will be its last. I hear the cast’s options were coming up and were not picked up, releasing the actors to book other jobs….

Snowpiercer, which follows the passengers of a perpetually moving train carrying the remnants of humanity after the world becomes a frozen wasteland, was the last remaining original scripted series on TNT as the other original drama still on the network, Animal Kingdom, is launching its final season on Sunday. The TNets already had been scaling back on original scripted fare; the process was accelerated by the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger….

(5) SOMETHING SHORT OF INFINITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Lightyear may be coming up a bit short. The new Disney/Pixar flick was expected to easily lead at the box office this Father’s Day/Juneteenth weekend. Instead, it seems to be coming in below expectations and in a close race with the latest Jurassic World movie. “Box Office: ‘Lightyear’ Could Get Clobbered by ‘Jurassic World 3’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

The animated family film was expected to open to at least $70 million to $85 million in North America, but now it looks like Lightyear may only buzz to $52 million to $55 million for the three-day weekend.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World Dominion could stomp to $57 million in its second outing.

Monday is a federal holiday honoring Juneteenth, so Monday could look more like a Saturday and Sunday in terms of traffic at the box office. Universal insiders believe Jurassic World 3‘s domestic total could climb as high as $66 million for the four days.

(6) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Book Riot’s Arvyn Cerézopoints to “11 Must-Read Filipino Sci-Fi Books”.

Philippine literature is slowly gaining international recognition, especially when it comes to general fiction and fantasy. And there are even more sub-genres waiting to be explored by international readers. For instance, though there’s a dearth of Filipino sci-fi books, they are so rare and precious that it’s only once in a while when they come out. In fact, you can count them on one hand.

… Although there’s an apparent short supply of Filipino science fiction books in circulation, I’ve managed to find 11 of them.

Their recommendations lead off with:

SCIENCE FICTION: FILIPINO FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS BY DEAN FRANCIS ALFAR AND KENNETH YU

Dean Francis Alfar, one of the more widely recognized Filipino speculative fiction writers, has written many books in the genre. Salamanca, his first novel, is considered to be a modern classic.

In this collection, however, he edited science fiction stories for Filipino young readers, which might be the first in the Philippines. The collection features stories from known Filipino spec fic writers such as Victor Fernando Ocampo, Nikki Alfar, Eliza Victoria, and Gabriela Lee. This is really sure to please.

(7) YOU’RE FIRED. “SpaceX employees fired after writing letter criticizing Elon Musk” – the Guardian has the story.

At least five employees were fired by private rocket company SpaceX after drafting and circulating an open letter criticizing founder Elon Musk and calling on executives at the start-up to make the company’s work culture more inclusive, according to two people familiar with the matter.

…SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent an email saying the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees involved” with the letter, the New York Times said.

The newspaper said Shotwell’s email said employees involved with circulating the letter had been fired for making other staff feel “uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views”.

Reuters could not independently confirm that report.

The earlier open letter to SpaceX executives seen by Reuters had called Musk a “distraction and embarrassment” to the company he founded.

In a list of three demands, the letter said: “SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.”

It added: “Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior”.

(8) SF LISTENING ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Machine Stops is airing on BBC Radio 4.  

This is an audio adaptation of the classic E. M. Forster 1909 short story ‘The Machine Stops‘. This is a new version to the previous BBC Radio 4 one half a decade ago (2016).

A far future sees humanity living underground in a vast, highly automated complex run by a machine…

You can download it from here.

(9) NOTION’S ELEVEN. Gizmodo opines that these are “The 11 Best (and Worst) Sentient Robots From Sci-Fi”. (I’d liked to have seen the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz here, too.)

HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

To kick things off, we have to talk about one of the most terrifying sentient bots of all—the “Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic Computer,” or HAL—from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001, A Space Odyssey. And by design, he’s a pretty hard working bot: he’s built into the spacecraft where the film takes place, and is tasked with essentially running the ship. He opens doors, keeps life support systems afloat, and, like LaMDA, he can talk.

Unlike LaMDA though, HAL comes programmed with real, human emotions. And after encountering a minor glitch at the start of the film, those emotions are what cause HAL to go off the rails (to put it mildly).

“Most advanced computer theorists believe that once you have a computer which is more intelligent than man and capable of learning by experience, it’s inevitable that it will develop an equivalent range of emotional reactions—fear, love, hate, envy, etc,” Kubrick said about the bot in an interview. “Such a machine could eventually become as incomprehensible as a human being, and could, of course, have a nervous breakdown—as HAL did in the film.”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2005 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this evening seventeen years ago, we got our first true look at David Tennant in that role. The episode was “The Parting Of The Ways” The episode of course, SPOILER ALERT! (Cue Dalek sound here) It featured Christopher Eccleston making his final appearance as the Ninth Doctor and marks the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor as we got our first regeneration of the modern era. END SPOILER ALERT!

It was written by Russell T. Davies who as we all know was responsible for reviving this series. It was directed by Joe Ahearne whose main credit to was the vampire series Ultraviolet. It was produced by Philip Collinson who is returneing to that role under Davies.

Of the modern Doctors, Tennant is by far my favorite one and I thought the stories were very fitting to him. He seemed both very human and very alien at the same time. From the very beginning in this episode, he seemed to have the role spot on. (Baker is by far my favorite of the older Doctors. BritBox is showing all of the surviving older Who episodes.)

Neither of the two male Doctors that followed was really to my liking, not quite sure why as the stories for the most were fine, though I did like the Thirteenth Doctor a lot. I just never warmed to either of them. I actually like the Tenth Doctor better than either of them.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 18, 1908 — Bud Collyer. He’s best-remembered  for his radio-starring role of Kent and Superman beginning in early 1940 on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also would do in the later Superman and other cartoons such as Aquaman and the Batman/Superman Hour. He was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 18, 1917 — Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles of which one, playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur, I’m willing to bet almost all of you have never seen it. (It gets a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit. Of course his major non-genre role was as Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel which I’ve seen every episode of at least three times. Really I have. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 18, 1931 — Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 18, 1942 — Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as Kipple, Parsection and Psi-Phi. At university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish autobiography is How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Of course, he grew up to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer. Mike has much more to say about him here. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 18, 1947 — Linda Thorson, 75. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performances was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode, and on the Good Witch as Mrs Hansen in “Graduation” episode.
  • Born June 18, 1949 — Chris Van Allsburg, 73. For some twenty years now until the Pandemic came upon us, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate for the children. It always sold out for the entire month they ran it. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. (I’ve never seen the film and won’t.) He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin and I highly recommended it. 
  • Born June 18, 1958 — Jody Lee, 64. Illustrator with a long career in genre work. Her first cover art was Jo Clayton’s Changer’s Moon for DAW Books in 1985. Her latest is Passages: All-New Tales of Valdemar, a Mercedes Lackey anthology, that came out last year on DAW Books which seems to be her primary client. Her rather excellent website is here. Her cover for Mercedes Lackey’s The Oathbound won her a Chelsey Award.
  • Born June 18, 1960 — Barbara Broccoli, 62. Daughter of the late James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. She has producer or director credit on at least fourteen Bond films which are definitely genre. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. She produced the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang production staged in NYC at the Hilton Theater sixteen years ago. That must have been really interesting. She was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 Queen’s New Year Honours List.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows a variation on a childhood bedtime ritual that makes sense if you think about it.
  • Lio knows why these aren’t on the aliens’ bill of fare.

(13) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books presents stories by Ai Jiang and Ricardo Victoria in episode 52 of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Emotion: XXXX – by Ai Jiang – https://aijiangauthor.wordpress.com/
music by Phog Masheeen – https://phogmasheeen.com/
read by Jean-Paul Garnier 

Last Witness – by Ricardo Victoria – https://ricardovictoriau.com/
music by Patrick Urn – https://morlox.bandcamp.com/
read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(14) MARVEL BRICK UNIVERSE. 9to5Toys has a series of reveals from LEGO CON 2022 including the Sanctum Sanctorum, and a Star Wars item (see it at the link).

Showcasing the latest addition to the Marvel side of the lineup, the new Sanctum Sanctorum has been revealed. In the same style as last year’s Daily Bugle, this one arrives with 2,708 pieces and nine minifigures. There’s tons of references packed into the three different floors, as well. It will sell for $249.99 once it launches on August 1.

Here’s a breakdown of who’s included this time around:

  • Doctor Strange
  • Sinister Strange
  • Dead Strange
  • Wong
  • Iron Man
  • Spider-Man
  • The Scarlet Witch
  • Master Mordo
  • Ebony Maw

(15) SENSITIVE SUBJECT. The Hollywood Reporter tells why: “‘Late Show’ Staffers Arrested for Unlawful Entry at U.S. Capitol After Taping Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Skit”.

A number of people working for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert were arrested Thursday night at a U.S Capitol office building after taping a skit. Among those arrested was Robert Smigel, the former SNL and Conan writer, best known for portraying Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. According to authorities, the group was confronted by police in the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday evening, after it was closed to visitors. They were charged with unlawful entry. 

… “On Wednesday, June 15 and Thursday, June 16, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was on-site at the Capitol with a production team to record interviews for a comedy segment on behalf of The Late Show,” a CBS spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Their interviews at the Capitol were authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed. After leaving the members’ offices on their last interview of the day, the production team stayed to film stand-ups and other final comedy elements in the halls when they were detained by Capitol Police.”

(16) BLOW IT OUT YOUR A&$. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One maker of robot “dogs” has a new water jet accessory available, allowing the bot to propel itself across relatively calm waters. (But don’t call it Spot — this isn’t the Boston Dynamics pooch.) “A new propulsion system allows this robotic dog to ‘swim’”.

… And now the NAUT allows a dog-shaped robot to move with water jet propulsion. The jet takes in water and ejects it at greater speed, allowing the Vision 60 to move with vectored thrust in a body of water.

“The system is capable of propelling the robotic dog and speeds up three knots and can operate at full power using a dedicated power source for approximately 35 minutes,” reports The War Zone. “The ‘tail’ can also continue to function after that by drawing electricity from the robot dog’s own internal power source.”

At 3 knots, or just 3.4 mph, the NAUT-powered Vision 60 won’t be winning any races, but should be perfectly capable of crossing streams and calm waters. The ability to go amphibious makes a robot useful in scouting and patrols in coastal or riverine terrain, and possibly even of use in the tricky terrain of a marsh or bayou….

(17) THEY CALL ME MISTER ROCKET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket likes to go by a different name. They’ve taken to calling it Mega Moon Rocket, even in official press releases. One supposes it has a better ring to it. Imagine, though, what Bezos or Musk might have come up with. “NASA prefers this nickname for Artemis’ new lunar rocket” at Mashable.

If this NASA launch vehicle could talk — say at an international consortium of the world’s most elite, hobnobbing space rockets — this is how it would introduce itself after filling out its “Hello, my name is” sticker.

Space Launch System? Bleh, only my mother and technical manuals call me that.

SLS? Not since grade school.

Please, friends call me Moon Rocket. Mega Moon Rocket.

Technically, this gargantuan is the U.S. space agency’s Space Launch System or SLS for short. But somewhere along the line, the mission crew stopped calling it by its given name and started referring to it by its badder, Transformers-ish nickname. Even the news releases from the agency use it now….

(18) CLOTHES MAKE THE WIZARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Daniel Radclliffe, Emma Watson, directors Mike Newell ad Alfredo Cuaron and several constume designers talk about the clothes in Harry Potter in this video that dropped two weeks ago (and is a 2022 film).

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Chicago Sun-Times is looking forward to “’It Came from Outer Space’ musical, inspired by cult classic film” which was based on Ray Bradbury’s story. The show runs June 22-July 24 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Before there was “Alien,” before there was “Star Trek,” before there was “Star Wars,” there was “It Came from Outer Space.” The 1953 sci-fi film may look cheesy by today’s standards but that, and its Ray Bradbury pedigree, has only added to its status as a cult classic.

Now Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, the musical theater team behind the hit show “Murder for Two,” have met the challenge of transforming the film, which was based on a Bradbury story, into a stage musical….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KRAPOPOLIS (Fox Entertainment)

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

QUANTUM LEAP (Universal Television)

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

GOTHAM KNIGHTS (Warner Bros. Television)

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

THE WINCHESTERS (Warner Bros. Television/CBS Studios)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me, When I Pixel Scroll?

(1) GET AN EARFUL. Today File 770 partnered with AudioFile Magazine to unveil “AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks”. Here is the link to the complete AudioFile Magazine – Best Of 2021 list.

We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

(2) A PAY SERVICE NIXES DISCON III. “WeChat Restrictions, We Tried, We Really Tried” says DisCon III:  

“We have had to remove WeChat as a payment option. Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time. Our tech team is working to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. That said, all of our other avenues are still available, and there’s still time to join us at DisCon III. Please visit our member services page to purchase your membership.” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

(3) ON BROADWAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The opening of (Marvel) Hawkeye (new TV series) includes Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (and his 3 kids) going to a performance of Rogers The Musical (note that the signage looks very Hamiltonian), and we get to, delightfully, see about half of “I Can Do This All Day” about the NYC invasion, in the first Avengers movie.

Here’s one of many articles on this, including an audio with the full lyrics:  “Hear Hawkeye’s Rogers: The Musical song, and how Marvel pulled it off” at Polygon.

… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You CanRogers is the MCU’s latest attempt to reminisce over past battles with a wink and nod. A little like the scene in Loki where the God of Mischief finds Infinity stones being used as paperweights, the silliness of Rogers asks the audience if they can remember what all the fuss was about….

(4) HE GAVE IT A SPIN. Camestros Felapton says “The Wheel of Time adaptation is looking good”.

…A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world….

(5) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Ride,” by Linda Nagata, a story about climate, public transportation, and AI in Hawaii.

 …The boy waved at them, then turned again to Jasmine. “Give it a try,” he exhorted her in a conspiratorial whisper. “Promise you will?”

Those eyes.

Her smile brightened. She didn’t want to disappoint those eyes. So she played along, teasing, “I might.” And maybe she really would. It was just a little game, after all….

It was published along with a response essay by cities and transit journalist Henry Grabar: “What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?”

I like to think of myself as deeply skeptical of the many internet algorithms telling me what I want and need. I turn off targeted advertising wherever I can. I use AdBlock to hide what’s left. Most of my YouTube recommendations are for concerts or sports highlights, but I know I’m just a few clicks away from a wild-eyed influencer telling me to gargle turpentine for a sore throat. Twitter trending topics? I regret clicking immediately.

But I make an exception for the sweet, all-knowing embrace of the Spotify algorithm, to whom I surrender my ears several times a day. This software doesn’t just know my taste in music better than my friends; it acts on it, with chains of songs that build off things that I know I like, or forgot I did….

(6) HARLAN IN THE WILDERNESS. Stephen Bowie interviewed Harlan Ellison in 1996 about his early days writing for television: “Harlan Hits Hollywood” at The Classic TV History Blog.

…I was going to ask you if you remembered watching “Memos From Purgatory” when it was first broadcast, but perhaps you don’t, since it wasn’t actually the first one.

It’s a moderately funny story about what happened the night it aired.  I was living in Beverly Glen, in this little treehouse. The television set that I had was a real small TV, with rabbit ears, and the antenna was up the side of the mountain behind the house.  I mean this house, literally and actually, sat half on a rock ledge and the other half sat in the crotch of a gigantic banyan tree. It was raining that night, it was raining terribly. And the antenna, which was up the hill – rabbit ears down in the house and an actual antenna up on the hill; I mean, there was no cable – well, the antenna fell over.  

I had invited all these people to come and see the show, and we couldn’t get any reception.  So a friend of mine volunteered to go up, and he put on my raincoat, and he stood up there in the pounding rain, a really torrential downpour.  He stood up there holding the fuckin’ antenna up. And I was kind of, you know, upset that he was up there, not to mention that there were cougars or mountain cats – really, there were catamounts or cougars or whatever the fuck they are – up there running loose, because it’s all watershed land.  And I was terrified that he was going to get eaten, or washed away, or drowned, or fall off the mountain, or something. So about midway through I went up and I took his place. And I came back drenched, soaking wet, I looked like a drowned rat, and everybody was raving about this thing, and I had only seen about half of it….

(7) DRAGON IT OUT. A new book says “George R.R. Martin flew to New York to ‘beg’ an HBO executive to make ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 seasons long, according to his agent” reports Yahoo!

HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” came to an end in 2019 with two shortened seasons, which brought the total to eight seasons and 73 episodes. But the story’s original creator, the author George R.R. Martin, pushed for up to 10 seasons and 100 total episodes, according to a new book.

New accounts of Martin’s wishes can be found in a book titled “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” by the journalist James Andrew Miller.

Miller, who conducted 757 interviews for the book, spoke with Martin, Martin’s agent, Paul Haas, and Richard Plepler, HBO’s former CEO.

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas told Miller.

(8) IN XANADU. Henry Farrell points to the availability of the video of a panel he was on with Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Noah Smith, and Jo Walton. And he has a few more things he’d like to say in his post “The Future Finds Its Own Uses for Things” at Crooked Timber.

So this event on the relationship between social science and science fiction went live late last week. It has Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton, Noah Smith and … me. I’ve been wanting to say something a little bit more about this relationship for a while. Here is one take, which surely misses out on a lot, but maybe captures some stuff too.

…The Hume quote captures a particular – and very common – way of thinking about the world. It suggests that beneath the vast procession of history, the extraordinary profusion of ways in which human beings organize their society, their politics and their economies, lies a hidden and coherent unity. He emphasizes “the constant principles of human nature” – other social scientists have other notions about what the underlying unity involves and entails. But from this perspective all the ways in which things are different across time and space are really illustrations of how they are really deeply the same. This is a powerful lens for understanding the world and perhaps changing it.

When Marco Polo counters Kublai Khan, he points towards quite the opposite phenomenon; how an apparent unity -an abstract of plane forces – can be opened up to disclose the quiddity of things. A chessboard is a plane divided into sixty-four squares – yet it is also something physical, made out of joined-together pieces of wood, each with its own history. The apparently all encompassing abstract unity conceals a world of variation. Unless you understand how the squares were formed – a year of drought; a frosty night; a caterpillar’s appetite; you cannot understand how the chessboard came to be as it is.

It is a little too simple to say that social science is on Hume’s side of the dialectic, while science fiction is on Marco Polo’s. What makes more sense, I think is that very good social scientists and very good science fiction writers each work the tensions between the two understandings of the world, more from the one side than the other….

(9) NAME YOUR PRICE. Filer Jane Sand’s novelette “Not Poppy Nor Mandragora” is in the newly released Fusion Fragment issue #9. The publishers invite readers to “download Fusion Fragment #9 for free or pay what you want!”

(10) CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SPOILERS. I say, this Ars Technica article gives away the entire story, never mind spoilers! “David Tennant makes a dashing Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days preview”. It wasn’t easy to find an excerpt that didn’t blab some important part!

…Verne’s story, in turn, inspired the late 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly to make her own world tour, completing the trip in 72 days. She even met Verne in Amiens and wrote her own bestselling book about her adventures. Monty Python alum Michael Palin made the charming TV travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 1988, detailing his recreation of Fogg’s journey, without resorting to airplanes….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Nineteen years ago on NBC, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie first aired. It was the first film to be made for television by The Muppets franchise. It was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (in his feature directorial debut though he earlier been hired by Nimoy to associate produce the Conspiracy ’87 Hugo-nominated Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis.

It starred the usual Muppet puppeteers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson) plus a number of human guests: David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg. Executive producers Juliet Blake and Brian Henson, though the actual producers were Martin G. Baker and Warren Carr. 

This is also the final Muppets production from the Jim Henson Company, as The Muppets were in their final years of ownership by the Henson family before being sold to Disney in 2004.

Critics were generally very impressed by this film with such comments as the Canadian Movie News saying it “is a medley of familiar Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Story and The Grinch, amongst others, with a distinct Muppet spin.” Interestingly audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less impressed giving a mediocre fifty-one percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C S Lewis. I first encountered him when reading The Screwtape Letters in University. I later read of course The Chronicles of Narnia which I found most excellent though I’ll admit that I’ve not read his Space Trilogy. (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. She has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 71. He played the title character in the late Seveties Dr. Strange film, well before the present MCU film reality existed. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as OrcaHouse of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’d accused it of name laundering, including 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1955 Howie Mandel, 66. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 52. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther alias Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.)

(13) IT’S NOT SURPRISING. “‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Square Episode Missing From Disney+ Hong Kong; Discovery Leads to Censorship Concerns” reports Deadline.

An episode of The Simpsons during which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform.

Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, having launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

At time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities and Disney has not responded to requests for comment.

The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong….

(14) D&D DIVERSITY. “‘A safe haven’: how Dungeons & Dragons is slaying social anxiety” – the Guardian runs the numbers.

… Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has brought together a far more diverse array of players than its stereotypes suggest. Earlier this year, the game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, released a report showing that, of its estimated 50 million players, 54% were younger than 30 and 40% identified as female. What it didn’t reveal was the rise in visibility of queer and neurodiverse players.

…For people such as Shadia Hancock, the founder of advocacy group Autism Actually and Dungeon Master to a group of young neurodiverse players, the therapeutic potential of the game has always been clear.

“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Hancock says. “I work out the players’ expectations at the beginning of a game. Some get really into creating their characters, some are more interested in finding items and exploring the world, others are really interested in how the characters met. We all have a mutual love of gaming, but we all want something different from the session.”

Some characteristics expressed by some of Hancock’s players – social anxiety, increased empathy, difficulty adapting to change, feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments – have become familiar to many Australians in the wake of lockdowns. Studies cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found reported levels of social anxiety increased over the past two years among all age groups, with young neurodiverse Australians even more likely to have experienced a decline in wellbeing.

“While other people are excited about going out, I’m filled with dread,” Hancock tells me. “With Covid, we [autistic communities] had all these sudden changes, often with short notice, and there was this need to constantly adapt to new rules. Not knowing what is coming up is really anxiety-inducing. During the pandemic, that became a shared experience.”

(15) NEXT TIME, TAKE THE TRAIN. John Holbo’s “The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas” is adorned with a big Omelas-themed travel poster (which you can see at the link.)

*Confused? This page contains a parody of a famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d point you to it, but there are no versions legally free on the web. Buy a book! Read Wikipedia. If you are somehow here about the BTS song – sorry, I don’t know about that. (But with half a billion hits, somebody probably does.)

I’ve written notes on my take on Le Guin. An essay! That’s here

Also, once I made the graphics I tossed ’em on Redbubble. Forgive me. It seemed funny.

“I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

(16) DS9 ON NFT. Voice actor Joshua Martin put together a parody video where Deep Space Nine’s “Quark and Odo discuss NFTs and Crypto Currency”. There’s also a Twitter thread that starts here.

(17) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. SlashFilm reveals “This Is What You’re Really Hearing When R2-D2 Screams In Star Wars”.

…One fateful moment of stress managed to help define a character through more than four decades and nine movies in the Skywalker saga — and counting.

(18) STAND BY TO ENTER HYPE-SPACE. Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken pans Disney World’s effort to sell people on its new theme hotel: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel Preview Looks Unimpressive”.

If you’ve been slavering for your chance to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to head to Walt Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, might I suggest you towel off your chin for the time being? Disney has released a video preview of some of what awaits families who come aboard the Halcyon, and it doesn’t look particularly enticing.

The first thing you should know about this video is that it stars Disney Parks Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson and The Goldbergs’ sitcom actor Sean Giambrone. The two take a very short tour of the Starcruiser, but instead of them just talking like normal people about what people who come to the Halcyon can expect, it’s scripted and painfully unfunny. You’ve been warned. But this video also raises an important question, which is: Disney wants $6,000 for this?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Jayn, Bill, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 10/14/21 Pixel 10-10 Whose Gracious Presence Illuminates The File Like The Edgescroll Of A Knife

(1) DOCTORAL THESES. A roundup of Radio Times’ Doctor Who coverage.

The show’s official social media accounts posted a snap of the pair on the TARDIS set, holding a clapperboard, with an accompanying message that confirmed they’d “finished filming”.

Whittaker’s departure from Doctor Who was first announced, along with that of current showrunner Chris Chibnall, back in July.

Though this new post confirms that Gill has also “finished filming” on the next set of episodes, the BBC is yet to officially confirm if she will be departing her role as companion Yaz Khan.

Both stars will return for the show’s 13th series, set to air from 31st October on BBC One. This will be followed by two specials which will air in 2022, then one final feature-length adventure for Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor which will also mark the BBC’s centenary.

Speaking to Digital Spy, he explained: “It all depends. The moment you say yes to Doctor Who, even before you’ve done an episode, you’re being asked whether you’d go back after you finish. I don’t know if this happens to James Bonds. I don’t know if Pierce Brosnan gets asked if he’d go back to James Bond.

“Because there’s that element of fantasy, anything is ultimately possible. You should never say never to anything. I think that way madness lies.”

Well, that didn’t take long – Tennant is voicing the Doctor in a game:

David Tennant returns to the world of Doctor Who today with a special voice appearance in Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality, a video game that sees Tennant’s Time Lord sharing a screen with Jodie Whittaker’s incumbent version of the famous TV hero. But this return did come with a bit of “weirdness” thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(2) FOLLOWING THE JUMP. Heavy.com revisits several efforts to revisit Star Trek’s Guardian of Forever in other iterations of the series: “How Spock Was Supposed to Meet Himself on ‘the Next Generation’”.

Fans cried during the airing of the “Star Trek” episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” This particular program would be proclaimed by many as the “greatest episode” in the franchise’s history. Written originally by science fiction scribe Harlan Ellison, “City” featured a story that taught the cruel lessons of time travel.

… Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) were able to travel into the past with the help of a living machine known as the Guardian of Forever….  

(3) HITTING THE THEMATIC TARGET. Author and editor Michael A. Ventrella from the Pocono Liars Club chats with authors and editors Keith DeCandido and Randee Dawn on the topic of “Writing for Themed Anthologies” with lots of stories, laughs, and advice for writers and editors both!

(4) OCTOTHORPE. Octothorpe 42 is up now. Listen here: “I‘m Up for Running Controlcon”.

John Coxon used to have a different face, Alison Scott is going to Smofcon, and Liz Batty is in disguise. We talk about Douglas Adams, the SF Encyclopedia, and upcoming Worldcon bids.

(5) THE BIG TIME. [Item by Christian Brunschen.] I watched the most recent episode of the BBC quiz show Only Connect on BBC 2 – a quiz show where contestants have to find connections between clues, hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell – and one of the combinations this time featured this combination.

[Note: iPlayer link only works in UK, but YouTube has the episode. This game segment comes after the 20-minute mark.]

(6) GUESS WHO’S A BIG JEAN-LUC FAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Travis M. Andrews and Roxanne Roberts say Jeff Bezos has been a Trekker since fourth grade, when he’s come home from school and watch classic Trek episodes.  Andrews and Roberts note that Bezos’s favorite captain is Jean-Luc Picard, and that he nearly named Amazon makeitso.com.  His current favorite sf writers are Alistair Reynolds, Ernest Cline, and Andy Weir and it’s not a coincidence that Amazon Studios saved The Expanse after the show was killed by Syfy. “Jeff Bezos and Star Trek: A love affair”.

…“For years, I have been begging Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, to let me be in a ‘Star Trek’ movie,” he said that year. “I am very persistent, and you can imagine the poor director who got the call: ‘You have to let Jeff Bezos be in your ‘Star Trek’ movie. ”

Bezos said he was willing to be unrecognizable but wanted a speaking part — and one that was central to the plot so it didn’t end up on the cutting-room floor.

Bezos appears in the first five minutes of the film as an alien Starfleet officer stationed at Yorktown Starbase in 2263 who scans Kalara as she pleads for help from Commodore Paris and Captain Kirk. “Speak normally,” Bezos tells her. The cameo role required such extensive makeup that he could only drink through a straw.

“He was awesome,” director Justin Lin told the Associated Press. “It was like a president was visiting, you know? He had a big entourage! But it didn’t matter because he was so into it. He had to wait around all day because it was one day we were shooting like three different scenes and, it was also credit to Jeff because … he just nailed it every time.”…

(7) YES BUCKS, YES BUCK ROGERS. I’m still catching up, and this seems a timely place to slip in Saturday Night Live’s “Billionaire Star Trek” sketch from a week ago.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1926 – Eighty-five years ago, A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, was first  published in the United Kingdom. It is a collection of short stories with illustrations by E. H. Shepard. It was the first of two such collections, the second being The House at Pooh Corner. (Yes, it’d later be a song written by Kenny Loggins and performed by their Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their 1970 Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy album but I digress.) The book was well-received at release, and was an extraordinary success, selling some one hundred fifty thousand copies before the end of the year. Winnie-the-Pooh has been adapted in other media, most notably by Disney beginning with Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree in the Sixties. Both books are free as part of the Audible Plus program. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 14, 1899 Martin Miller. He played Kublai Khan in the completed erased by the BBC First Doctor story, “Marco Polo”. He’s in the first Pink Panther film as Pierre Luigi, a photographer, and has roles in Danger ManDepartment SThe Avengers and The Prisoner. In the latter, he was number fifty-four in “It’s Your Funeral”. The Gamma People in which he played Lochner is I think his only true genre film though I’m obviously open to being told I’m wrong. (Died 1969.)
  • Born October 14, 1927 Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint for most of the Sixties, an amazing one hundred eighteen episodes. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau!  He even got to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes in New York. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 14, 1946 Katy Manning, 75. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared in that role with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born October 14, 1949 Crispin Burnham, 72. And then there are those who just disappear.  He was the founder, writer and publisher of Dark Messenger Reader / Eldritch Tales from 1975 to 1995 as the publisher Yith Press. He was also a prolific essayist from 1973 to 1995, his final essay being a reflection on the life and career of Robert Bloch. There’s nothing to show him active after 1998 when the final part of his “People of The Monolith” was publishedin Cthulhu Cultus #13. Then he vanishes without a trace. 
  • Born October 14, 1953 Richard Christian Matheson, 68. Son of the Richard Matheson that you’re thinking of. A very prolific horror writer mostly of short stories, he’s also no slouch at script writing as he’s written for Amazing StoriesMasters of HorrorThe Powers of Matthew StarSplatterTales from the CryptKnight Rider (the original series) and The Incredible Hulk. Wiki claims he wrote for Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber but IMDB shows no such series or show. The usual suspects  have a goodly number of story collections available for him.
  • Born October 14, 1953 Greg Evigan, 68. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes, Shatner was in it. He also shows up in DeepStar Six as Kevin McBride, as Will South in the horror film Spectre aka The House of The Damned, as Marcus Cutter in Cerberus: The Guardian of Hell, and on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents as David Whitmore in “In the Driver’s Seat”. 
  • Born October 14, 1963 Lori Petty, 58. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The HungerTwilight ZoneStar Trek: Voyager, BrimstoneFreddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced quite well Livewire in the DCU animated shows.
  • Born October 14, 1968 Robert C. Cooper, 53. He was an executive producer of all the Stargate series. He also co-created both Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe with Brad Wright. Cooper has written and produced many episodes of Stargate series as well as directed a number of episodes. I’m really impressed!

(10) COMICS SECTION.

2021: Let’s not do anything about the climate yet. – That’s a crazy bad idea.

2050: That didn’t work, I wonder what went wrong. – It was a crazy bad idea. 

(11) IATSE STRIKE IMMINENT. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) will go on strike Monday, October 18 unless studios and streaming companies meet their demands reports Business Insider: “Hollywood Union President Declares Strike Ultimatum for Monday”.

Earlier this month, IATSE members voted to authorize a strike, with over 98% of members voting in favor for a strike. The union and producers resumed bargaining negotiations on Wednesday, according to Deadline, marking eight days since the strike authorization. The unions have been locked in multiple negotiations since July, but parties have repeatedly failed to reach a consensus on a deal….

The Washington Post sums up the reasons for the stike:

…Members of the IATSE contend that television and film studios have raked in massive profits during the coronavirus pandemic as consumers turn to streaming options to fill more time at home. But those gains have not extended to workers, they say, who now put in significantly longer workweeks…

David Gerrold also discussed what the high (98%) vote portends and urged his readers to support  IATSE.

And John Scalzi voiced his support, too.

(12) UNION FORMS. Meanwhile, Dicebreaker reports board game industry employees are organizing: “Workers at Paizo have announced the United Paizo Workers union”.

Over 30 Paizo staff members from several departments have signed a letter announcing the formation of the United Paio Workers union, in coordination with the Communication Workers of America. This effort is the first of its kind in both the tabletop RPG and board game industry.

The letter states that Paizo workers have been organizing for some time but were spurred to act by September firing of customer service and community manager Sara Marie and what they call the sudden departure of customer service representative Diego Valdez and several others in the recent past. Many former and current employees, as well as freelancers and contract workers, took the opportunity to share stories of abuse, harassment, mistreatment and hostile management.

“These events, as well as internal conversations among Paizo workers, have uncovered a pattern of inconsistent hiring practices, pay inequity across the company, allegations of verbal abuse from executives and management, and allegations of harassment ignored or covered up by those at the top,” the letter said. “These findings have further galvanized the need for clearer policies and stronger employee protections to ensure that Paizo staff can feel secure in their employment.”

(13) DUNE MOTHER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, behind a paywall, Raphael Abraham interviewed Rebecca Ferguson about her role in Dune.

(Timothee) Chalamet may be the star but Ferguson’s character is in many ways the story’s catalyst; her role amped up by (director Denis) Villeneuve–she has defied her mysterious religious order to bear a son and possesses supernatural powers that she attempts to impart to him.  And, while other main players are killed off or become separated from the hero, it is Paul’s mother who remains by his side, battling on foot across the inhospitable desert planet of the title, evading enemies and giant sandworms.  For Ferguson and Chalamet, this meant shooting under the Abu Dhabi sun in bulky space costumery.

‘We had to adapt to mother nature,’ the actress says. ‘We could only film for an hour and a half at dusk and dawn, and during the day we had to stay inside and not burn ourselves.  It was a struggle running uphill in stillsuits but it was also so lovely doing it in the real environment–no bloody studio!’

(14) MASSIVE ART INSTALLATION HONORS ASTRONAUT. The Smithsonian explains how “A Monumental Portrait of NASA Astronaut Stephanie Wilson Crops Up in Atlanta”, as designed by artist Stan Herd.

…Fittingly, for his next creation, which will debut today at Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta, the 71-year-old crop artist is looking up to the sky for inspiration. Stretching 4,800 square feet in size, the piece coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child initiative and is also part of World Space Week, an annual event that celebrates global accomplishments in science and technology. Since this year’s theme is Women in Space, Herd has created a portrait of Stephanie Wilson, a veteran NASA astronaut with three space flights under her belt (she’s also the second African American woman to go into space), and one of 18 astronauts who are a part of Artemis, NASA’s lunar exploration program that is scheduled to send the first woman to the moon in 2024…

(15) DESKTOP SPACE BASE. John King Tarpinian is right when he says the S.T. Dupont Space Odyssey Prestige Collectors Set is “over the top.” But it’s priced to move! Now marked down to $9,596.

(16) GILLIAN ANDERSON VOICE ROLE. Robin Robin comes to Netflix on November 24.

Robin Robin, a holiday special from Aardman Animation, makers of Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit. “Starring Gillian Anderson, Richard E Grant, Bronte Carmichael and Adeel Akhtar.” When her egg fortuitously rolls into a rubbish dump, Robin is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent. Robin sets off on the heist to end all heists to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse – but ends up discovering who she really is.

(17) MARTIAN MUD. The journal Science features a Red Planet discovery: “Perseverance rover reveals an ancient delta-lake system and flood deposits at Jezero crater, Mars”.

Perseverance rover reveals an ancient delta-lake system and flood deposits at Jezero crater, Mars

Observations from orbital spacecraft have shown that Jezero crater, Mars, contains a prominent fan-shaped body of sedimentary rock deposited at its western margin. The Perseverance rover landed in Jezero crater in February 2021. Researchers have analyzes images taken by the rover in the three months after landing. The fan has outcrop faces that were invisible from orbit, which record the hydrological evolution of Jezero crater. Researchers interpret the presence of inclined strata in these outcrops as evidence of deltas that advanced into a lake.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In this Saturday Night Live “Cut for Time” sketch, a dinner party (Owen Wilson, Kenan Thompson, Cecily Strong, Heidi Gardner, Alex Moffat, Ego Nwodim) disagrees on splitting a check. But wait! – There’s more, and it’s genre.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Nancy Sauer, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Lise Andreasen, John A Arkansawyer, Christian Brunschen, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/24/21 Scrolling Pixels Give You So Much More

(1) SUES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. The heirs of Steve Ditko filed to reclaim their rights to some well-known Marvel characters – now Marvel is suing to prevent them. The Hollywood Reporter looks over the filings in “Marvel Suing to Keep Rights to ‘Avengers’ Characters”.

Disney’s Marvel unit is suing to hold on to full control of Avengers characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, Thor and others.

The complaints, which The Hollywood Reporter has obtained, come against the heirs of some late comic book geniuses including Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Gene Colan. The suits seek declaratory relief that these blockbuster characters are ineligible for copyright termination as works made for hire. If Marvel loses, Disney would have to share ownership of characters worth billions.

In August, the administrator of Ditko’s estate filed a notice of termination on Spider-Man, which first appeared in comic book form in 1962. Under the termination provisions of copyright law, authors or their heirs can reclaim rights once granted to publishers after waiting a statutory set period of time. According to the termination notice, Marvel would have to give up Ditko’s rights to its iconic character in June 2023….

If the plaintiffs win, Disney expects to at least hold on to at least a share of character rights as co-owners. The studio would have to share profits with the others. Additionally, the termination provisions of copyright law only apply in the United States, allowing Disney to continue to control and profit from foreign exploitation.

(2) LIKE PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE. Lincoln Michel on why noir blends well with sf, at CrimeReads: “Why Noir and Science Fiction Are Still a Perfect Pairing”.

… I think the answer lies first in the fact that both genres have an inherent critique of the social order. They question the state of the world, refusing to just accept the corruption, inequality, and destruction as “the way things are.” Or at least saying, sure, it’s the way things are, but it’s still screwed up.

While other crime genres are often fundamentally a defense of the status quo—police procedurals focus on petty criminals and heroic cops, spy thrillers defeat threats to the established global order—noir presents the established order as crime. It is the rich and the powerful, and the institutions that serve them, that are the true villains. (Of course this isn’t true of every single noir work, but it is of the ones that influenced SF subgenres like cyberpunk.) Take Dashiell Hammett’s masterpiece Red Harvest, in which a rich man and a corrupt police force collaborate with gangs to crush poor workers. Or Chinatown, in which a business tycoon controls government institutions to choke off water supplies. This critique of the social order is why the prototypical hardboiled (anti)hero exists outside of the official law enforcement structure. They’re not a police officer, FBI agent, or government spy. They’re a private investigator, and sometimes even unlicensed as in the case of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins, and realize that the legal system is as corrupt as the organized crime it is fighting…and often in bed with.

(3) RAUM, THE FINAL FRONTIER. Cora Buhlert describes West German TV’s new (in 1966) space adventure show: “[September 24, 1966] Science Fiction TV from West Germany: Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion: Episode 1: Attack From Space” at Galactic Journey.

…The series has the unwieldy title Raumpatrouille – Die Phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion), which viewers have already shortened to Raumpatrouille Orion or just plain Orion.

Like the new US series Star TrekSpace Patrol Orion starts with an opening narration, courtesy of veteran actor Claus Biederstaedt, which promises us a fairy tale from the future. In the year 3000 AD, nation states have been abolished. Humanity has settled the ocean floor and colonised far-flung worlds. Starships, including the titular Orion, hurtle through space at unimaginable speeds.

An impressive title sequence and a spacy and very groovy theme tune follow, courtesy of Peter Thomas, who also supplies the music for the Edgar Wallace and Jerry Cotton movies….

(4) TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. By George, Steve Davidson makes a good point: “Space Force Uniform Controversy” at Amazing Stories.

The Space Force, America’s latest (and completely unnecessary) military branch unveiled its proposed service uniform.

A lot of fans (and fan-adjacent television watchers) have remarked that the proposed dress uniform greatly resembles those created for the entirely fictional space navy depicted in Battlestar Galactica (the completely unnecessary re-boot, to be precise).

Yes, yes it does.  However, those more familiar with real military history would probably be more inclined to think that the new digs for Space Force look more like General George S. Patton’s tanker’s uniform that the general proposed between world wars one and two; about the only difference between uniforms then and uniforms now is Patton’s addition of a football helmet, while it is very unlikely that Space Force will adopt the recommended propeller beanie….

Comparative photos at the link.

(5) COVER SCORES. The public’s choices for best covers in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition have been announced – and the outcome was a lot close than expected.

(6) JO WALTON KICKSTARTER. A funding appeal launched at Kickstarter aims to produce a Lifelode Audiobook by Jo Walton.

Lifelode is a Mythopoeic Award winning fantasy novel by Jo Walton that has never had an audiobook. Jack Larsen is a young man from New Zealand who has a wonderful voice for reading aloud and wants to become an audiobook reader. Together, they could be amazing…

Jo Walton writes:

The main point of this is to try to kickstart the audiobook reading career of young New Zealand fan Jack Larsen, whose wonderful reading voice has been a mainstay of the Scintillation community through the pandemic.

They will have Jack read the book in a professional studio and have it professionally edited (which is the part which costs all the money) and then sell it where all good audiobooks are sold. 

At the Kickstarter site you can listen to Jack read the first chapter — click on the video there (which is just audio). Bear in mind, Jack did this demo on his phone.

As of today’s writing the appeal has raised $2,457 of its $7,891 goal.

(7) FOUNDATION LAYS ITS CORNERSTONE. Camestros Felapton supplies detailed comments about the beginning of the new series: “Review: Foundation Episode 1 (Apple TV)”.

2021 for all its faults, is offering fans of classic science fiction two (potential) treats: a new movie version of Dune and a TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. It’s interesting that of these two highly influential stories that with first you can make a good guess about what specific scenes will appear and in the second I’ve no idea what we will be getting….

Warning, it’s spoilers all the way down from there.

(8) PARTS IS PARTS. In contrast, Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall isn’t a believer. “New Formula for ‘Foundation’ Doesn’t Add Up”.

…Like psycho-history itself, all of these changes make sense in theory. But none of them quite accomplish what the show’s creative team needs them to. This Foundation is, like the clones’ palace on the capitol planet of Trantor, stunning to look at(*) but ultimately cold and sterile. Despite the cast and crew’s best efforts — and what appears to be an unlimited budget, even by Apple’s lavish standards — this Foundation remains an assemblage of concepts in search of a compelling TV show….

(9) LANGDON JONES (1942-2021). Author, editor and musician Langdon Jones, whose short fiction primarily appeared in New Worlds, beginning with “Storm Water Tunnel” in 1964, has died, Michael Moorcock reported on Facebook.

One of my closest, longest and best friendships was with Lang Jones, a talented composer, editor and writer, one of the most modest people I have ever known, with the sweetest nature of almost any human being I’ve met. He was Assistant Editor of New Worlds. He restored Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake to the edition you probably read and wrote the music for The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb.  You can hear his lively piano on The Entropy Tango.  His own collection of stories The Great Clock, remains his only published fiction.  I last saw him about two years ago, at the wonderful wedding of his daughter Isobel to Jason Nickolds, for whom he was extremely happy, and he said he had stopped writing and composing and had never felt better.  He leaves a son, Damon, as well as his daughter.  One of the few people of whom it’s possible to write: Loved by all.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 – Fifty-seven years ago, Mary Poppins had its New York City premiere. (Yes, it’s genre as a flying nanny is surely within our realm.) It was directed by Robert Stevenson from the screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi as based off P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins series. It was produced by Walt Disney and starred Julie Andrews in her first screen acting role. Principal other cast were Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns. The film was shot entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, using painted London background scenes.  

It won’t surprise you that the film received universal acclaim from film critics, and that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke got lavish praise. Box office wise, it earned some forty five million dollars on an estimated budget of four or so million dollars (Disney never released the budget officially) and it’s had at least another hundred million in box office rentals as well since then.

Audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent eighty-eight percent rating. A sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, was recently released and it too rates high among audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes with a sixty five percent rating. Dick Van Dyke has a new role in it. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 24, 1922 — Bert Gordon, 99. Film director most remembered for such SF and horror films as The Amazing Colossal ManVillage of the Giants and The Food of the Gods (based of course on the H.G. Wells’ novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth).  His nickname “Mister B.I.G.” was a reference both to his initials and to his preference for directing movies featuring super-sized creatures. 
  • Born September 24, 1934 — John Brunner. My favorite works by him? The Shockwave RiderStand on Zanzibar which won a Hugo at St. Louiscon and The Sheep Look Up. I’m also fond of The Squares of The City which was nominated for a Hugo at Tricon. That was easy. What’s your favorite works by him? (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 24, 1936 — Jim Henson. As much as I love The Muppet Show, and I’ve watched every show at least twice, I think The Storyteller is his best work. That’s not to overlook Labyrinth, The Witches and The Dark Crystal and the first two Muppets films which are also excellent. Warning note: the three newest takes done on The Muppets suck beyond belief. Disney should be ashamed. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 24, 1945 — David Drake, 76. Writer with his best-known solo work being the Hammer’s Slammers series of military science fiction which are space operas inspired by the Aubrey–Maturin novels. He has also drafted story ideas that were then finished off by co-authors such as Karl Edward Wagner, S.M. Stirling, and Eric Flint. He’s very, very well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born September 24, 1945 — Ian Stewart, 76. Mathematician and  writer. He makes the Birthday Honors for the four volumes in The Science of Discworld series he wrote with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett. It was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. Each of the books alternates between the usually absurd Discworld story and serious scientific exposition. (All four volumes are available from the usual suspects.) He would write a number of genre novels, none of which I’m familiar with. Anybody here read his works? 
  • Born September 24, 1951 — David Banks, 70. During the Eighties, he was the Cyberleader on Doctor Who in all the stories featuring the Cybermen — Earthshock (Fifth Doctor story), The Five DoctorsAttack of the Cybermen (Sixth Doctor story), and Silver Nemesis (Seventh Doctor story). In 1989, he played the part of Karl the Mercenary in the Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play. There were two performances where he appeared as The Doctor as he replaced Jon Pertwee who had fallen ill.
  • Born September 24, 1957 — Brad Bird, 64. Animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and occasionally even a voice actor whom I’m going to praise for directing The Iron Giant (nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000), The Incredibles (winner of Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Interaction), Incredibles 2 and Tomorrowland. He’s the voice of Edna Mode in both the Incredibles films. 
  • Born September 24, 1965 — Richard K. Morgan, 56. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are an awesome series  which are why I haven’t watched the Netflix series. His fantasy series, A Land Fit For Heroes, is on my TBR, well my To Be Listened To pile now. And yes I read Thin Air, the sequel first and it’s quite excellent. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

A meeting with the shrink is the subject of today’s Wulffmorgenthaler-239 at Politiken. Lise Andreasen supplies the translation from Danish:

So … You left him, you killed his aunt and uncle, you blew up his sister’s planet, you chopped his hand off … and NOW you want him to consider you a father figure and join you “on the dark side”. How do you think Luke feels about it?

(13) TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES. Or both… Shat might be on his way to space after all these years — “Beam me up? TMZ says William Shatner will take Blue Origin suborbital space trip”.

The next crewed suborbital spaceflight planned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture — which could launch as early as next month — is due to carry Star Trek captain William Shatner, according to the TMZ celebrity news site.

If the report based on unnamed sources is true, that would make Shatner the oldest person to fly in space at the age of 90, besting the record set by 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk during the first crewed flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft in July….

(14) THE WARMED-UP EQUATIONS. “’Astronauts check our scripts!’: inside the new age of sumptuous sci-fi TV”. The Guardian tells how we got here.

…The current renaissance can be traced to Moore’s groundbreaking 2004 reimagining of hokey 70s space odyssey Battlestar Galactica. Updating the premise for a post-9/11 TV landscape, he turned a niche sci-fi story into mainstream watercooler TV. “Whether you liked sci-fi or not, you found yourself binging all these seasons,” says Ben Nedivi, one of Moore’s co-creators on For All Mankind. 

While Star Trek, too, is thriving in the current sci-fi landscape, with no less than five series currently in production, it seems unlikely to cross the final frontier into the halls of prestige sci-fi. For Nunn, this comes down to one thing: aliens. 

While the golden age shows of the 90s relied heavily on prosthetics – and, in the case of Farscape, puppets – to present characters from other worlds, today’s sombre offerings dwell solely on human problems. “With Battlestar Galactica, you’ve got robots, but you haven’t got aliens,” Nunn points out. “And The Expanse is similar. So they can be read as science fiction but also dystopias, whereas Star Trek and Babylon 5 and Farscape, even Stargate, all had alien life-forms at their core.”…

… For Shankar, a great strength of The Expanse is that it uses space as more than just a backdrop. “This is a show that turns space into a character,” he says. With a PhD in applied physics, he served as Next Generation’s official science adviser. “On Star Trek it was really about maintaining continuity with the fake science, making sure you used the phasers when you were supposed to, and not the photon torpedoes,” he says. “The technical manual [for the Enterprise] was quite detailed, but it wasn’t real. In The Expanse we use real physics to create drama. There’s a sequence in the first season where the ships are turning their engines on and off so you’re shifting from having weight to weightlessness. Two characters suddenly lose gravity and can’t get back to where they need to be, and the solution is conservation of momentum.”

This absolute commitment to accuracy is shared by the team behind For All Mankind. “We have an astronaut who reads our scripts,” explains co-creator Matt Wolpert. “He’ll tell us when we come up with ideas that are against the laws of physics.”…

(15) TED TALK. Ted White has two books out – one fiction, one non-…. Both were designed by John D. Berry, and published with the assistance of Michal Dobson’s Dobson Books. White is former editor of Amazing® and Heavy Metal® magazines and a past Best Fan Writer Hugo winner.

He’d been set up. Someone (and “independent consultant” Ray Phoenix was pretty sure who) had filed a phony stolen car report. When a freak bus accident allows him to escape into the woods, Ray lands in an entirely new world of trouble – small-town cocaine dealing, counterfeit money, and a web of strange and violent relationships that will take all of Ray’s considerable skills to unravel.

In 1986, legendary science fiction writer and editor Ted White went to jail for possession and sale of marijuana. A prolific correspondent, Ted kept up a steady stream of letters during his confinement that vividly and powerfully detail everyday life behind bars, from relationships with other prisoners and guards to living in cells and common rooms – not to mention the fine jailhouse cuisine. (Seriously, don’t mention it.) Ted White’s letters make you feel like you’re really in jail…and really glad you’re not.

(16) DISCONTENT. [Item by David Doering.] I caught this piece on TechDirt today. It appears that Sony’s art department enjoyed this fan artist’s rendering of She-Venom so much they included it in their official poster. Too bad they didn’t acknowledge that or offer to pay for it.  I certainly see more than just coincidence here. Even if Sony/others have the rights to the character, the similarities are too striking to not say the Sony version owes something to the fan artist. The comments debate both sides. “Sony Pictures, Defenders Of The Creative Industry, Appears To Be Using Fan Art Without Giving Credit”

… You can say the images don’t match up precisely if you like, but they’re certainly very damned close. As mentioned about similar past cases, this likely isn’t a copyright infringement issue; the fan artist doesn’t own any rights to the character he drew. But, again, if the copyright industries are going to do their maximalist routine under the guise of protecting those that create content, well, fan art is content…. 

(17) EVADING THE SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s The Digital Human episode “Faceless” notes that it’s becoming harder to hide from facial recognition technology and asks what does this means for people who protest against political systems … So we are SF fans and know all about Orwell’s 1984, William Gibson’s novels etc.  Or do we?  It looks like things are getting worse, but there are ways to fight back…. Digital Human looks at the issues with examples from a non-political English teacher becoming a wanted terrorist on the run in 12 days, to counter-measures.

Johnathan Hirshon works in PR and marketing and describes himself as ‘The Faceless man’ because he’s managed to keep his face off the internet for over twenty years. This may seem extreme but Neda Soltani explains how one online photo of her face, meant she had to leave her family, country and profession. Artist and curator, Bogomir Doringer whose archived and curated thousands of faceless images off the internet talks about how technology is not only choreographing the way we use our faces but persuading us to hand over our biometric data with our use of apps that change the way we look. .

Artist Zach Blas is interested in queer culture and has created masks using biometric data from minority groups, to push back on the possibility of people being categorised by biometrics. Zach uses masks to show that facial recognition technology can be disrupted. Stephen has been trying to do just that. Stephen is from Hong Kong and spent the summer protesting against the Extradition bill. He and his fellow protesters wore masks to evade identification from the police and Hong Kong’s smart lamp posts. The remit of the protest grew when the wearing of masks by protesters was banned. Stephen believes that by using facial recognition technology on the streets of Hong Kong the authorities in Hong Kong and China are creating a sense of ‘white terror’. Stephen is now protesting in the UK but still feels this ‘white terror’. While protesting people from mainland China have been taking photos of him and other protesters. He knows that photos can go global and by using facial recognition tech he could be easily identified. Is it becoming impossible to escape recognition even when we would like to hide?

(18) HE BLABBED. Tom Hiddleston tells Loki stories: Untold: Tom Hiddleston.

(19) AN ADVENTURE WITH COMPANIONS. Yes! Another excuse to watch David Tennant! “Around the World in 80 Days” will air on PBS.

David Tennant stars as literature’s greatest explorer Phileas Fogg in a thrilling new adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel coming to MASTERPIECE on PBS. (Air date to be announced.)

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/21 The Dinosaurs That Fall On You From Nowhere

(1) DESIGNS FOR THE TIMES. Jane Frank reviewed a portfolio project by famed sff artist Richard Powers as a vehicle for studying his career and influence: “Richard Powers: The World of fFlar” at NeoText.

…Powers happily obliged, by portraying the Portfolio as a single story told in 16 (17, if you include the cover) illustrations even though the very first painting reproduced in the portfolio, The Ur-City of fFlar, cropped on the right, began life in 1958 as the cover to the fourth in a popular digest anthology series Star Science Fiction, edited by Frederik Pohl. And the same image served further duty, cropped on the left side this time, as the cover for The Deep by John Crowley, published by Berkley, 1976.

This use, and re-use of imagery, I should add, was common for Powers’ – who excelled in “re-purposing” his art, both to gain monetarily from additional usages, but also to save time. He had no qualms about cutting up and pasting portions of existing artworks in order to fashion “new” illustrations, and publishers either didn’t realize it, or didn’t care. Not only the images themselves, but also certain compositional elements, can be spotted on other covers, as if both publishers and Powers himself enjoyed creating variations on a favored theme . . . and there are fans of Powers’ art who make a sport out of discovering such connections. The humorous caption for The Ur City of fFlar indeed suggests that Powers was well aware of several uses to which one painting could be put:

Jane Frank also did an analysis of the paperback covers and other works of an iconic sff artist in “Paul Lehr: Unexpected Rhythms” at NeoText.

binary comment

…Freed from the need to produce garish imagery designed to lure adolescent readers to buy magazines, Lehr soon developed his own unique voice and palette.

One of Lehr’s studio experiments ended up being his first published cover.

“I constructed spaceships out of wire, cardboard toilet paper tubes, ping pong balls and the like, making strange looking ships. I painted them silver and white, and hung them up as still lifes against dark backgrounds, shining a strong light upon them, embellishing them with stars, bursts of fire, and other bits of painterly cosmic excitement. I also bought model kits and assembled them in crazy ways. A B-17 would become a moonlander or shuttleboat.” (Visions of Never” 2009)…

(2) INCREDIBLE BABEL. Cora Buhlert’s latest contribution to Galactic Journey is a review about the brand-new-in-1966 novel Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany: “[MAY 16, 1966] SPIES, POETS AND LINGUISTS: BABEL-17 BY SAMUEL R. DELANY”

With so much grim news in the real world, you just want to escape into a book. So I was happy to find Babel-17, the latest science fiction novel by Samuel R. Delany, in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore. The blurb promised a mix of space opera and James Bond style spy adventure, which sounded right up my alley….

(3) JOHNNY B BAD. “The Ballad of Russell & Julie”, performed a decade ago, is a hysterical “Musical Tribute to the Creators of the Rebooted ‘Doctor Who’ Series” as Laughing Squid explains. It’s newsworthy for a line that alludes to the kind of behavior which saw John Barrowman back in the headlines this week. (Around the 2:02 mark.)

During a Doctor Who wrap party in 2011, actors David TennantCatherine Tate, and John Barrowman performed “The Ballad of Russell and Julie,” a musical tribute to Russell T. Davies (RTD) and Julie Gardner, the creators of the new version of Doctor Who, which was first broadcast ten years ago today. The tribute pokes gentle fun at RTD’s smoking uncertainty and Gardner’s incredible confidence.

(4) PREDICTING STAR TREK. And there’s still time for you to add your guess to Galactic Journey’s poll about what that soon-to-premiere TV show Star Trek will be like. (Is the second choice below really a title? It looks like a code off my phone bill.)

(5) WELL-MET IN LAKE GENEVA. James Maliszewski, who runs the RPG blog Grognardia, has dug up a 1976 report about GenCon IX by none other than Fritz Leiber:  “Fritz Leiber at GenCon”.

Earlier this month, I posted an image of an article penned by author Fritz Leiber that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on September 5, 1976. Leiber recounts his experiences as guest of honor at GenCon IX and, as one might expect, what he writes is of great interest. He begins by briefly recounting the recent history of wargaming, starting with the publication of Gettysburg by Avalon Hill in 1958. (Why he starts there rather than with Tactics in 1954, I am not sure) 

Moving on from that, he speaks of GenCon, the “oldest gathering of tabletop generals in America,” which is “held at the pleasant Wisconsin resort-town near Chicago.

(6) ESFS AWARDS OPEN. The European Science Fiction Society is gathering nominations for the Next ESFS Awards.

Nominations are now open for the ESFS Awards that will be held at the 2021 Eurocon in Fiuggi, 15th to 18th July. The last day nominations will be accepted is Tuesday 15th June 2021. This is also the last day that bids for future Eurocons will be accepted for discussion in the Business Meeting, and the last day that topics to be raised in the Business Meeting will be accepted.

There should only be a single nomination from each country, as selected by their own rules. In the event of multiple nominations from one country, only matching nominations or nominations without a competing name will be accepted. In the event that all ballots from one country contain different names, there will be no nominees accepted for that country.

Nominations are made for a country by representatives of that country. If you are not familiar with how your country chooses its nominations, the EuroSMOF Facebook group is a good place to connect with other Eurocon attendees from your country.

Before nominating, read the list of current awards and their requirements, and the Awards FAQ.

(7) MONSTROUS FUN FOR TOURISTS. Travel Awaits encourages you to come and look for yourself: “Unicorns, Kelpies, And Wulvers: 7 Of Scotland’s Most Captivating Mythical Creatures”.

You probably know about the Loch Ness Monster, but have you ever heard of kelpies or wulvers?

Scots are legendary storytellers (they even host an International Storytelling Festival), and their culture is rich with imaginary creatures — or, perhaps, creatures not so imaginary… Here are some of my favorites. 

1. Unicorns 

No list of Scottish mythical creatures would be complete without mentioning Scotland’s national animal — the infamous unicorn, which adorns the country’s royal coat of arms. In Celtic mythology, the unicorn represents both purity and power, innocence and dominance. The creature has been part of Scotland’s ethos for centuries….

Pro Tip: Unicorns are ubiquitous in Scotland! The Palace of HolyroodhouseEdinburgh CastleCraigmillar Castle, and St Giles’ Cathedral — all in Edinburgh — sport unicorns. But, really, anywhere you go in Scotland, you can find a unicorn. Consider visiting on National Unicorn Day (celebrated on April 9) to get your unicorn fix. 

(8) FOLLOW THE BOUNCERS. On “The Muppet Show” on Saturday Night Live: “Security! Security!  Statler and Waldorf are causing trouble again!”

(9) RITTENHOUSE OBIT. Juris doctor, conrunner and Sidewise Award judge Jim Rittenhouse (1957-2021)  died May 16.

Steven H Silver paid tribute on Facebook.

I woke up to the news that my longtime friend and fellow Sidewise Award judge Jim Rittenhouse has lost his final battle. Jim welcomed me into fandom early and we discovered our shared love for alternate history. While working on my first Windycon under the auspices of the late Ross Pavlac, Ross was listening to Jim and me discuss alternate history and at the next meeting he presented each of us with Captain Midnight decoders, so he would be able to understand what we were talking about in the future.

Eventually Jim founded the Apazine Point of Divergence, which I was a founding member of and stayed with for a while. I later invited Jim to become a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, for which he was one of the longest serving judges.

Jim had a deep and personal interest in Chinese history and last year when I was working on my story “The Prediscovered Country,” we discussed the history of the Ming Dynasty to figure out what a Chinese colony in Australia would look like. In return, I modeled the Dutch character De Bruijn after Jim.

There will probably be a memorial service for Jim at either Windycon or Capricon.

May his memory be for a blessing.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Alfred Bester’s Demolished Man wins a Hugo for Best Novel. It was first serialized in three parts, beginning with the January 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. The novel is dedicated to Galaxy’s editor, H. L. Gold, who made writing ideas to Bester. Bester’s suggested title was Demolition!, but Gold talked him out of it. It would be his only Hugo Award. 

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

National Mimosa Day – They’re celebrating the six-time Hugo-winning fanzine at Fanac.org.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to Magic Realism blurring the real and imaginary.  Here is Union Mixer.  Here is Mindscape.  Here is The Dream.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken; a score of covers, as many interiors.  Here is Black Hearts in Battersea.  Here is A Small Pinch of Weather.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  Author and (under another name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history. In The Empire of Baphomet an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; six dozen novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 —  Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy” on the original Trek. She also one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Judith Clute, age 79.  Two dozen covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Dec 90 Interzone.  Here is Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol.  Here is Pardon This Intrusion.  Here is Stay.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 — Danny Trejo, 77. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously he’s really done a lot of really low-budget horror films. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 — Pierce Brosnan, 68. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of such films. Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man,and he was lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod, age 68.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, for us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1962 — Ulrika O’Brien, 59. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of zines in Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing —  Fringe, Widening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APA memberships include APA-L, LASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. U. O’Brien won Best Fanartist in the 2021 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1968 — Stephen Mangan, 53, Voiced Bigwig, Silverweed and Shale in the 1999 Watership Down series, Green Javelins in the Hyperdrive SF comedy series, and Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1969 — David Boreanaz, 52. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line including of course an Angel puppet. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1978 – Marion Poinsot, age 43.  Illustrator of comics, role-playing games.  In the audio series The Keep [«le donjon»of Naheulbeuk by John Lang, here is MP’s Quilt of Oblivionhere is Chaos Under the Mountain.  Here is a poster for her Nina Tonnerre.  Here is Perle the black dragon.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) AUDIO FICTION. The latest episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast from Space Cowboy Books includes Jean-Paul Garnier reading Cora Buhlert’s short story “Little Monsters” and “Hidden Underneath” by Toshiya Kamei.

(15) WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. In the Washington Post, Stuart Miller interviews five actors on The Underground Railroad about their work on the Amazon Prime show. “Filming ‘The Underground Railroad’ was grueling. But the cast grasped ‘the weight of what we were doing.’”

…So while Mbedu always felt well cared for during filming — there was a guidance counselor on set “to bring me back to myself,” she says, and Jenkins himself “was always checking up on me” — the supportive cast and crew understood that putting on the chains and the burdens of being Black in antebellum America naturally took a toll.

“I had to have tricks, like moving through the set with my eyes downcast, so that when I opened my eyes I’d be experiencing everything only as Cora, because otherwise it would be too much for Thuso to take in,” Mbedu says.

The South African actress grew up in the immediate aftermath of apartheid and, like Cora, lost her parents at a young age. But she drew a sharp border between her life and Cora’s, relying on “a whole lot of research” to bring the character’s vocal, physical and psychological journey to life.

“The one time in the past where I made the mistake of trying to draw from my own experience, my brain went, ‘That was too traumatizing, we’re shutting down now.’ I can empathize, but I cannot personalize because it’s too traumatic to relive.”…

(16) IRREPLACEABLE. The Guardian gets Patrick Ness’ reaction to various books he’s read. One genre author stands out: “Patrick Ness: ‘Terry Pratchett makes you feel seen and forgiven’”.

My comfort read
Discworld by Terry Pratchett. I am always at some point through the cycle (I’m currently on The Thief of Time). They’re not only gloriously funny, they’re humane in a way that makes you actually feel seen and forgiven, with all your faults. He was a one-off, Sir Terry. When I finish reading them through, I simply put the last book down and pick the first one up again.

(17) GREATEST OF ALL TIME TRAVEL. Ryan Britt makes a daring claim at Inverse: “The best time-travel show of all time is streaming for free right now”. And that show is? Quantum Leap!

…Trying to figure out the actual sci-fi rules of Quantum Leap is a bad idea. As stated in the voice-over, Sam Beckett “stepped into the quantum leap accelerator and vanished.” The premise of the series is that his consciousness is transferred into various people’s bodies — regardless of gender — throughout time. Once Sam shows up in one of these bodies, a holographic projection from his associate Al (Dean Stockwell) advises him on what he’s supposed to accomplish in whatever historical period he’s found himself in.

Basically, Quantum Leap is a paint-by-numbers science fiction drama. Every episode begins with Sam trying to acclimate to his new body, while Al tells him the stakes. Despite the fact that Al is assisted by a super-computer named “Ziggy,” there’s never a clear path for what Sam is supposed to do. His essential mission — which is ill-defined — is to “set right what once went wrong” — but what that means exactly is relatively opaque until the end of each episode. This makes zero sense. It’s also brilliant.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/21 And Strange At Ecbatan The File Takes Scroll By Scroll The Pixel Strange

(1) WHO? Gizmodo finds a new star in the constellation of talent around this production of Pratchett’s tale: “Terry Pratchett’s Amazing Maurice Animation Adds David Tennant”.

The animated adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Carnegie Medal-winning 2001 children’s book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents has already commandeered a huge celebrity voice cast, but apparently there’s always room for more. Now Doctor Who’s David Tennant has joined the ranks, alongside Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and House’s Hugh Laurie, among many others.

The Amazing Maurice novel is a comedic adaptation of the tale of the Pied Piper, who legendarily led the rats out of the town of Hamelin with his magic pipe, only to lead the town’s children away as well after the townsfolk failed to compensate him for his work. Pratchett’s book, which is part of his beloved Discworld series, is vastly different, featuring a sentient cat named Maurice, a pack of equally sentient rats, and a boy named Keith as they try to trick the town of Bad Blintz into hiring Keith to lead a newfound “rat infestation” away. Instead, they run into more malicious ratcatchers, a rat king with psychic powers, and more….

(2) THE ANSWERS. Rich Horton has posted the answers to his “Quiz about SF Aliens” on Strange at Ecbatan.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

Answer: SKRULL 

(3) LONELY PLANET. James Davis Nicoll has read about how cold it is out there on your own: “Far From Any Star: 5 Stories About Rogue Worlds” at Tor.com.

It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…

(4) BACKLOG. “Wondering How Much Your Pokemon Cards Are Worth? You May Need To Wait” reports NPR.

There has been a trading card accreditation bonanza that is leading to massive backlogs, hiring shortages, and big money as people seek to determine the worth of their Pokemon cards.

… SIMON: A trading card bonanza. These card-grading businesses are getting more cards over a couple of weekends than they used to get in an entire year. People are sending other cards, too. Baseball cards, of course, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh. But Pokemon is still the main attraction.

KOEBLER: Many of these companies have been overwhelmed to the point where they’re no longer even accepting the cards because they have wait times of between, like, 10 months and a year for new cards that are mailed to them….

(5) TAKE THE 101 TO THE 451. Bradburymedia’s Phil Nichols has released another episode of his YouTube series Bradbury 101: “Fahrenheit 451”.

We’ve now reached the year 1953, and the release of Ray Bradbury’s first true novel, Fahrenheit 451. Except…

The first appearance of Fahrenheit was actually a collection rather than a novel!

Confused? You will be! Watch and learn below.

(6) MUPPET VISITS OLD HAUNT. SYFY Wire hypes the “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ special coming to Disney+ this fall”.

…To ring in Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products’ “Halfway to Halloween” campaign, the Mouse House dropped a short teaser for Muppets Haunted Mansion, which arrives on Disney+ sometime this fall. The comedic announcement, made by Gonzo and Pepe the King Prawn, was short on details, but the official release promises “a star-studded Muppets cast, celebrity cameos, all-new music, and spooky fun for families to enjoy together.”

In terms of story, the plot revolves around Gonzo being challenged to spend one night in the scariest place on Earth: Disney’s Haunted Mansion….

(7) KITAEN OBIT. [Item by Dann.] Actress Tawny Kitaen died May 7 at age 59.  The cause of death was not revealed.

Her early fame came from appearing in Whitesnake and Ratt videos. Her first genre role came in Witchboard in 1986 and was followed by an appearance in one episode of the short-lived They Came From Outerspace.

Tawny’s most prominent genre role was taht of Deianeira in the Hercules series.  She appeared in all three Hercules movies (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys – Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules in the Underworld, Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur) as well as in the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys from 1995 to 1997.

She also provided the voice of Annabelle in the animated series Eek! The Cat.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 8, 1955 — On this night in 1955, X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition”.  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there as well. The cast includes  Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill   Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 8, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  Active fan from 1936; drifted away in the late 1950s, happened across Yandro and returned.  His own fanzine Dynatron.  Bruce Pelz managed to get him nicknamed HORT so we’d be cued to pipe up, when we heard it explained as Horrible Old Roy Tackett, “Oh, I know Roy Tackett.  He’s not that old!”  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 22, MileHiCon 12, LoneStarCon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter  Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1945 – Stanislaw Fernandes, age 76. Fourscore covers, a dozen interiors for us; much else.  Here is Reach for Tomorrow.  Here is the Feb 87 Omni.  Here is the Mar 88 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wheel of Darkness.  Elsewhere, here is e.g. the 15 Jan 79 Business Week.  I picked these from the past for a sense of scope; don’t think he hasn’t been busy.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1947 – Ron Miller, age 74.  Five novels; a hundred seventy covers, a hundred thirty interiors; a dozen artbooks.  Here is the Apr 74 Amazing.  Here is The Grand Tour.  Here is the Jan 01 Asimov’s.  Here is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Here is The Art of Chesley Bonestell (with F. Durant; cover by CB; Hugo for Best Related Book).  Here is Up the Rainbow.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. Stephen is dead, damn it all. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill-prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage as the copyright objected according to several sources. It’s available at all the usual digital suspects. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1957 – Jenny Blackford, age 64.  Co-edited Australian SF Review.  A score of stories, two dozen poems; essays, letters, reviews in FoundationNY Rev SFSF Commentary.  Elsewhere, e.g. 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel.  “I have forgotten more Sanskrit than I ever learned, but I still recite Catullus, and my favorite playwright is of course Euripides.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1968 – LeAnn Neal Reilly, age 53.  Five novels.  Has read The SilmarillionIvanhoe, Norwich’s Short History of ByzantiumCrime & PunishmentCatch-22, Chesterton’s St. Augustine and 2 vols. of Father Brown stories, all six Jane Austen novels, The Sound and the FuryThe Little Prince.  She writes, says Kirkus Reviews, “about resilient women caught in magical, otherworldly circumstances.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1982 – Leah Bobet, age 39.  Two novels, twoscore short stories, two dozen poems.  Founding editor of Abyss & Apex; edited Ideomancer.  Aurora, Sunburst, Copper Cylinder Awards.  Makes jam, climbs mulberry trees, plants gardens in back alleys, and contributes to access-to-democracy initiatives. [JH]

(10) HEAR ME ROAR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Now this is some cool crap. For the first time ever, one spacecraft has been used to record a “talkie” of another spacecraft.

The Mars rover Perseverance took a video of Ingenuity — the helicopter — during a test flight with sound. The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released the video which can be seen on YouTube. The sound is pretty low frequency (~84 Hz) so it’s recommended you watch the video on something with speakers that have decent base response. 

The AP has the story — “NASA Mars helicopter heard humming through planet’s thin air”.

… NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California released this first-ever audio Friday, just before Ingenuity made its fifth test flight, a short one-way trip to a new airfield.

During the fourth flight a week earlier, the low hum from the helicopter blades spinning at more than 2,500 revolutions per minute is barely audible. It almost sounds like a low-pitched, faraway mosquito or other flying insect.

That’s because the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter was more than 260 feet (80 meters) from the microphone on the Perseverance rover. The rumbling wind gusts also obscured the chopper’s sound.

Scientists isolated the sound of the whirring blades and magnified it, making it easier to hear….

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. Kris Vyas-Myall reviews the film adaptation of Modesty Blaise for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 6, 1966] BLAISE-ING WRECKAGE (MODESTY BLAISE).

…After Romeo Brown finished, Peter O’Donnell decided to create a more serious strip where a woman would be a capable hero rather than simply an object of desire or a damsel for the man to rescue. Apparently inspired by an orphan girl he met when stationed in Persia during the war, he teamed up once again with Holdaway to create Modesty Blaise.

Modesty reassures Willie’s girlfriend Marjorie that she has no romantic feelings for him.

Starting in 1963, Blaise feels like a totally new type of hero. Both Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin (her loyal sidekick) are both former criminals neither from privileged backgrounds. Modesty grew up in refugee camps in Persia and other Middle Eastern countries, whilst Willie is very much a working-class character. There is also no suggestion that she has any romantic interaction with Willie, instead they are loyal professional colleagues.

An excellent action sequence where Willie rams a lorry into Gabriel’s mansion

It is not just the initial concept that is fresh, the quality of the strip feels ahead of anything else I could easily pick up. O’Donnell’s plots feel fresh and complex, varying significantly from story to story. One week she will be investigating drug running in the Vietnam war, the next dealing with psychic espionage. These are combined with characters that feel deep and real. O’Donnell’s writing and Holdaway’s art also come together to give a really cinematic presentation with a real eye for direction….

(12) SCIENTIFIC CREDENTIALS. Gizmodo has discovered that “Cats Love to Sit Inside Squares—Even Fake Ones”.

…Cats, like people, can be fooled by optical illusions, nifty new research out this week suggests. The study, based on experiments conducted by pet owners at home, found that cats tend to sit inside 2D shapes that only look like squares about as often as they’ll sit inside a real square. The findings might give us a little more insight into cat cognition.

Whether they’re big tigers or domestic felines, cats just seem to love wedging themselves into boxes, crates, or other four-sided objects. This fascination doesn’t stop at 3D objects either, as the social media hashtag #CatSquare showed a few years ago; even using tape to make the outline of a square on the floor will entice cats ready to plop down at a moment’s notice….

(13) OVER THE WAVES. “UK Sci-Fi Series Intergalactic Gets Trailer and Peacock Release”. Io9 knows:

…The entire eight-episode first season debuted across the pond on April 30 to little fanfare, but streaming services are so hungry for content that was clearly not the issue…. 

The YouTube intro says —

Written by award-winning showrunner, Julie Gearey (“Prisoners’ Wives,” “Cuffs,” “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”), the series tells the story of fearless young cop and galactic pilot, Ash Harper (“Savannah Steyn”), who has her glittering career ripped away from her after being wrongly convicted of a treasonous crime and exiled to a distant prison colony. But on the way there, Ash’s fellow convicts stage a mutiny and seize control of their prison transfer ship. With the flight crew dead, mob leader Tula Quik (“Sharon Duncan-Brewster”), is intent on reaching the free world – Arcadia – with her gang; and Ash is the only pilot who can get them there. Ash is forced to join them on the run towards a distant galaxy and an uncertain future.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/17/21 Seriously, Dude! Don’t Scroll It!

(1) THE SEAWEED OF CRIME. BBC America has begun airing “Fury from the Deep”, another lost Doctor Who story arc reconstructed as an animated miniseries.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria find themselves on the east coast of England where a gas refinery is experiencing problems, and a sinister heartbeat is throbbing through the pipes.

The Wrap described the project in February: “Lost ‘Doctor Who’ Season ‘Fury From the Deep’ Gets Premiere Date at BBC America”.

The six animated episodes were produced by BBC Studios last year using audio tracks from the original installments starring Patrick Troughton as The Doctor. (The original 1968 versions are among the classic “Doctor Who” episodes that are famously missing from the BBC archives.) The updated animated versions, which aired in the U.K. back in September, will get their U.S. debut on BBC America on Sunday, March 21.

(2) MORE PREVIOUSLY-UNHEARD WHO. Now no longer muted!

(3) ALSO SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. It’s the Wonder Woman 1984 gag reel! You didn’t know WW84 was a comedy. And a musical. And a mime show.

(4) ROLL AGAIN. Gen Con, the massive gaming convention, has pushed back its date and announced they now will be putting on a hybrid online/in-person event. “Gen Con Postpones 2021 Convention to September”.

Today, we’re announcing that we are postponing Gen Con 2021 as originally planned for August 5-8 in Indianapolis and announcing plans for a hybrid slate of concurrent in-person and online experiences, including the rescheduled Indy convention, this September 16-19, 2021. We believe this is the best approach both to meet the many challenges of the moment and to explore possibilities for the future.

Gen Con co-owner Peter Adkison added comments on The Official Gen Con Blog:

…After the success of Gen Con Online last year, we know that the magic feeling of Gen Con can translate to a virtual format. It’s not a substitute for the in-person experience, but rather an extension of it. Just as many of us have learned how to run our RPG games over video chat or play board games on one of the incredible virtual tabletop platforms that have been developed, we’re learning how to adapt the convention experience to flexible conditions.

Gaming is changing, and so are we. This will be a Gen Con unlike any other, and the way we emerge from this period of tragedy will carry us into a new future for Gen Con and the hobby we share and love….

(5) WELL, EXCUSE US! Christopher Mark Rose takes a high overview of “Writing About Robots” at From the Earth to the Stars, the Asimov’s SF blog.

There will be a long, difficult appraisal of speculative fiction when artificial intelligences begin to read it critically. I think about this a lot.

Firstly, I find the expression “artificial intelligence” pejorative, and I’m sure that later, electronic voices will join me in objecting to it. What exactly is “artificial” about it?…

… Our writings are like scars we humans make on one another, or recordings of our own scars, encoded, obliquely or not-so, for the future to guess at. But robots are our future, and in the end we can hide nothing from them. It’s too late to stuff all those robot-hunter comic books under the bunkbed, it’s too late to burn all the copies of “I Have No Mouth.” It’s too late now, to rewrite Asimov’s Three Laws.

(6) STILL IN RESIDENCE. The series will be back: “Resident Alien Renewed for Season 2”MSN has the story.

In a major victory for morally conflicted extraterrestrials posing as human doctors everywhere, Syfy has renewed Resident Alien for a second season. The pickup comes just days after TVLine bestowed upon the series’ titular star, Alan Tudyk, its coveted Performer of the Week title. Coincidence? You be the judge!

(7) HOP ON POP. Cora Buhlert has written an article for Galactic Journey about a controversial theatre production which happened in 1966 right literally on her doorstep: “[March 8, 1966] Revolutionary Art for Revolutionary Times: Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers and the Battle over West German Theatre”. She says, “55 years later, it’s difficult to figure out just why this production was so controversial, because it was an otherwise faithful production of a classic play, starring two of the best actors of their generation who would go on to major stardom. However, people hated it because they disliked the (very cool) pop art background and the costumes.”

 … In most productions of The Robbers, the actors wear 18th century garb, which Karl complements with the slouch hat of the romantic highwayman. In Bremen, however, Karl (portrayed by Vadim Glowna whose mother-in-law Ada Tschechowa was one of the victims of the Lufthansa flight 005 crash in January) dresses in a Superman inspired costume, which looks striking, though it doesn’t provide much camouflage in the deep dark woods of Bohemia. Franz is dressed up like a monkey with a tail, a hunchback and huge fake ears, probably because Franz is supposed to be ugly and the talented 25-year-old Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, who portrays him on stage, is rather handsome. Amalia (Edith Clever), meanwhile, emphasises her virginal purity by wandering about in a white nightgown. Again, you would not think that this is particularly shocking, but the furious boos and walk-outs from parts of the audience suggest otherwise….

(8) JOINTS OUT OF TIME. Atlas Obscura maps out “16 Real Places That Look Like They’re From the Future”. I loved seeing the Atlanta Marriott Marquis on the list – I had a lot to say about the design of that place in my 1986 Worldcon report (see File 770 #62.) Even more worthy of praise for its otherworldly appearance is the —

(9) FAN Q&A. Cora Buhlert has added several more entries to her Fanzine Spotlight series which encourages Hugo voters to pay more attention to the fan categories. Here’s an excerpt from “Fanzine Spotlight: Women Write About Comics”.

Tell us about your site or zine.

WWAC (pronounced “Wuh-Whack, according to the poll results) is an Eisner Award-winning online journal that offers diverse insight into the world of comic book culture and the comic book industry at large by amplifying the voices of women and people of marginalized genders. We’re committed to giving our readers diverse, interesting, critical, and fun content on comic books, the comic industry, books, comic book culture, and a look into differing geeky lifestyles.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 17, 2006 — On this day in 2006 in the United States Doctor Who aired “Rose”, the first episode of the new Doctor Who. It starred Christopher Ecclestone as The Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler. “Rose” was the first Doctor Who episode to air since the Doctor Who television film in 1996. The story was written by Russell T Davies. Most critics and Whovians generally liked the new series. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 17, 1906 Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. In her first appearance as an actress she played two roles, Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch, plus several uncredited roles as well.  She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and in particular attacking Jewish financial speculators. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born March 17, 1917 – Charles L. Fontenay.  A score of novels, twoscore shorter stories.  Outside our field, editor of the Nashville Tennessean; biography of Estes Kefauver.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born March 17, 1933 – Ken Barr.  A hundred twenty covers, a hundred thirty interiors.  Here is the Dec 58 Nebula.  Here is Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship.  Here is Lord of Thunder.  Here is his poster for The Terminal Man.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born March 17, 1933 – Laurence M. Janifer.  A score of novels, fourscore shorter stories, various pseudonyms, co-authors e.g. Randall Garrett, Terry Carr.  Anthology Masters’ Choice with 18 choosing e.g. Asimov, Bradbury, Davidson, Kornbluth, Lafferty, Moore.  Pianist.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born March 17, 1947 James K. Morrow, 74. I’m very fond of the Godhead trilogy in which God is Dead and very, very present. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a lot of satisfying satirical fun as is The Madonna and the Starship which is also is a wonderful homage to pulp writers. (CE)
  • Born March 17, 1948 William Gibson, 73. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. The works I struggled with are Pattern RecognitionSpook Country and Zero History. I’ve tried all of them, none were as appealing. (CE) 
  • Born March 17, 1949 Patrick Duffy, 72. Surely you’ve seen him on Man from Atlantis? No?  Oh, you missed a strange, short-lived show. His other genre credits are a delightfully mixed bag of such things as voicing a Goat on Alice in Wonderland, appearing on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne as Duke Angelo Rimini  in the “Rockets of the Dead” episode and voicing  Steve Trevor in the incredibly excellent “The Savage Time” three-parter on Justice League. (CE)
  • Born March 17, 1951 Kurt Russell, 70. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good and he’s fantastic in it. (CE)
  • Born March 17, 1951 – Lian Tanner, age 70.  Eight novels.  Two Aurealis Awards.  She has been dynamited while SCUBA diving and arrested while busking.  “I get some of my best ideas while walking on the beach, which is just three houses away at the end of my street….  I recently worked out that I have read more than 10,000 books.”  [JH]
  • Born March 17, 1958 Christian Clemenson, 63. Though I’m reasonably sure his first genre appearance was on the Beauty and The Beast series, his first memorable appearance on the BtVS episode “Bad Girls” as a obscenely obese demon named Balthazar. Lots of practical effects were used. His other significant genre role was on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. as fish-way-out-of-the-water Eastern lawyer Socrates Poole. And yes I loved that series! (CE) 
  • Born March 17, 1970 – Patrice Nganang, Ph.D., age 51.  Temps de chien won the Marguerite Yourcenar prize and Grand Prix littéraire d’Afrique noir, tr. Dog Days; eight other novels; essays.  Taught German at Vassar, now Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature at State Univ. NY, Stony Brook.  “What compels me to write is the feeling that the complexity of an African life has not been told yet” (he is Cameroonian); see this 2009 interview.  [JH]
  • Born March 17, 1971 – Sherri Smith, age 50.  Two novels for us; five others and Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen?  Nine years at Bongo Comics, six Simpsons titles.  Flygirl (outside our field) an Am. Lib’y Ass’n Best Book for Young Adults and Calif. Book Awards Gold Medalist.  Teaches at Hamline Univ. and Goddard.  [JH]

(12) DRAWN THAT WAY. “Women and Monsters: PW Talks with Aminder Dhaliwal” at Publishers Weekly.

Lately, cartoonist and animator Aminder Dhaliwal has been drawing monsters. “It might have been a result of drawing women for so long,” she says, referring to her acclaimed debut graphic novel, Woman World, “but I started drawing more grotesque things. It slowly segued into the idea of sexualizing monsters.” Dhaliwal drew a cartoon of a cyclops woman with a single breast and posted it on Instagram to delighted responses. This became the seed of her latest funny, socially-aware, fantasy graphic novel, Cyclopedia Exotica, to be published by Drawn & Quarterly in April.

Cyclopedia Exotica takes place in a world where one-eyed cyclopes-folks live alongside two-eyed people and are treated as a minority group. The book opens as an encyclopedia of cyclops history, biology, and culture before a cyclops interrupts the columns of facts to say, “Blegh! What a dull way to learn about a minority.” From that point, the cyclopes take over the story….

(13) FREE READ. Cora Buhlert’s “Cold Equations” rebuttal story “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign,” posted on her blog in 2020, is now also available as a free e-book with a neat cover in the format of your choice here.

(14) COMPANION’S PERSPECTIVE. In “Doctor Who Mandip Gill: ‘One day the Doctor will be a woman of colour’”, Radio Times has highlights from a BBC Radio 4 interview.

…Syal asks directly if Gill thinks an actress of colour will ever play the Doctor, to which she says, “Yeah, I do. I think there’s a long way to go but there’s definitely room for change. And actually I think at the BBC and at Doctor Who they are very open and forward-thinking, so yes.”

Of course Jo Martin became the first woman of colour to play an incarnation of the Doctor last year, appearing in two episodes of the show’s 12th series, but Doctor Who has never had a BAME star play the Doctor as the show’s lead. Yet.

Syal also asks Gill if she is aware that she inspires young girls in her role as Yaz, to which she says, “I am very, very aware there are little people who are watching.”

Gill, who appears alongside actress Josette Simon on the show, also reflects on how excited she was to be cast in Doctor Who in the first place. “I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d filmed Casualty the January before and that was in the same building,” she says.

‘We were at the top of the hallway and when I finished Casualty, they walked us to the canteen and they were like, ‘Don’t go in that door, that’s for the Doctor Who people!’. There and then I thought I’d never be in Doctor Who… Cut to six, seven months later and you know what? I’m like ‘Don’t go up there… that’s for Casualty!’”

(15) PEEPS GOURMAND. A Food & Drink reviewer reports“I tried every flavor of Peeps I could find, and only 2 were better than the original”.

…It once took about 80 people to make a limited amount during Easter and 27 hours to create one tray.

I was skeptical that this process was ever worth it but was also excited to be proven otherwise.

As a writer for Insider, Just Born sent me 16 flavors of Peeps to taste test so I’d be able to try all of the current offerings. 

First on the list:

Chocolate-pudding flavored Peeps

Review: This choice was fine, but the chocolate taste seemed diluted and reminded me of protein powder. I didn’t mind it, but I didn’t love it either.

(16) JUST BLEW INTO TOWN. Some sff celebs slipped in under cover of a Beijing dust storm.

 (17) MORE ANTIKYTHERA NEWS. In “The Antikythera Cosmos” on Vimeo, Martin Freeth shows how researchers at University College (London) have come up with new ideas about the front of the Antikythera mechanism, showing that we completely misunderstood how the front of the mechanism works.

(18) STRIVING FOR MUNDANITY. Joel Haver says “If Fantasy Characters Made Movies About Our World” then this is what the casting call would look like.

[Thanks to JJ, Nancy Sauer, Mike Kennedy, N., Hampus Eckerman, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Cora Buhlert, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

RadioTimes.com Awards 2021

The RadioTimes.com Awards 2021 winners were revealed today by the UK publication in a ceremony streamed on Facebook.

The categories of genre interest follow. The complete list is here.

TV Moment of the Year: Dame Judi Dench slams Tennant and Sheen in Staged

Dame Judi Dench was on hand to accept the award, and told us: “I’m absolutely delighted to be given the TV Moment of the Year from the Radio Times. Thank you very much indeed.”

Best Comedy: Staged

David Tennant said of Staged‘s win: “Just wanted to drop by and say how chuffed we are that Staged has won this prize. It means so much to us that it’s connected with everyone who reads the Radio Times and everyone who watched the show this year. It was great fun to make and it’s meant so much to us.”

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy: Doctor Who

Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill on the win for Doctor Who: “We just want to say thank you so much to all our fans and to everybody who voted, to everyone at Radio Times. We’re absolutely delighted, and this is such a massive honour so thank you!”

Best Film: Soul

Peter Docter, Director of Soul, said: “Thank you Radio Times readers for voting Soul Best Film of the year – that’s amazing. I’m Pete Docter the director of the film and on behalf of myself and the entire crew, our co-director Kemp Powers, producer Dana Murray, our entire fabulous cast, we’re so thankful. It’s been an amazing journey working on this film and realising how things we don’t really value in our lives are often the most important stuff. It’s given us a new chance to look out on the world and say thank you, be grateful for what we have – and this award certainly goes into that category. We’re so thankful – thank you!”

Pixel Scroll 2/26/21 Got My Mjolnir Working

(1) IF YOU LOVED THEM IN GOOD OMENS… A finalist for RadioTimes.com Awards 2021– TV Moment of the Year is Judi Dench slamming David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, a British comedy series set during the COVID-19 pandemic and primarily made using video-conferencing technology.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing exaggerated versions of themselves (actors) in 2020 trying to get work is already hilarious, but add in Dame Judi Dench and you’ve got a work of art. Tennant and Sheen aren’t exactly enthusiastic about their new role in a play, and Dench is on hand to remind them they have said yes to a job so they should “stop f**king about” and “do the bloody job”. That’s them (and us) told.

The series premiered on BBC One last summer, and another eight-episode series was released January 4. The first series synopsis is —

David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End. The pandemic has put paid to that, but their director (Simon Evans – also playing himself) is determined not to let the opportunity pass him by. He knows how big a chance this is for him and turns his attention to cajoling his stars into rehearsing over the internet. All they need to do is read the first scene, but throughout the series they come up against a multitude of oppositional forces: distraction, boredom, home-schooling and their own egos.

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Don Blyly is interviewed by Carz Nelson in “Down But Not Out: The Future of Uncle Hugo’s” at The Alley Newspaper.

…Deciding whether to reopen the stores won’t be easy. At 70 years young, many assumed owner Don Blyly would retire from retail business after the fire. Such assumptions are premature, however. It takes a lot of drive to start over from nothing, but Blyly seems to be equal to whatever tasks he sets himself.

…He admits that he has a knack for bouncing back from adversity, “I’ve noticed that I seem to have more resilience than most other people and I’ve wondered why. Partly it is stubbornness. Partly it is because the more of a track record you have at overcoming previous difficulties, the more confidence you have of overcoming the latest difficulty.”

Blyly says the city has a lot to answer for when it comes to the uprising, “Back in 2015 the Department of Justice made recommendations for reforming the Minneapolis Police, but the City Council has done nothing to implement those recommendations. The judge in the trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Damond raised issues about problems with the Minneapolis Police that have never been addressed.” 

Since the uprising and subsequent looting, he’s concerned that many people think the area is too dangerous to visit, “About half of my sales were to people outside the I-495/ I-694 loop, and they are now scared to come to Minneapolis to spend their money. Customers in South Minneapolis told me that they would be scared to return to the Uncles if I rebuilt in the old location. The city is going to have to actually work on fixing the problems with the Minneapolis Police instead making ‘defunding’ speeches before people will feel comfortable about spending their money in Minneapolis again.”

(3) IT PAYS TO BE POSTHUMOUS. Julie Phillips, in “Born to Be Posthumous” at 4Columns, reviews Mark Dery’s Born To Be Posthumous:  The Eccentric Life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

By his mid-twenties, the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey had already settled on his signature look: long fur coat, jeans, canvas high-tops, rings on all his fingers, and the full beard of a Victorian intellectual. His enigmatic illustrations of equally fur-coated and Firbankian men in parlors, long-skirted women, and hollow-eyed, doomed children (in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, among other works) share his own gothic camp aesthetic. Among the obvious questions for a reader of Gorey’s biography are: Where in his psyche, or in the culture, did all those fey fainting ladies and ironic dead tots come from? And, not unrelatedly: Was Gorey gay?

…Gorey described himself as “undersexed” in a 1980 interview, and equivocated: “I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.” Did he reject a gay sexuality, or was his particular sexuality, perhaps asexuality, not yet on the menu? Dery isn’t out to judge, and encourages us instead to look at how Gorey’s arch imagery, flamboyant self-presentation, and “pantheon of canonically gay tastes” (ballet, Marlene Dietrich records, silent film) allow him to be read in the context of gay culture and history, whatever his praxis in bed…. 

(4) TOO MANY NOTES. Vox’s Aja Romano investigates a kerfuffle at Archive Of Our Own (AO3) about the issues of a million-word fanfic with 1,700 tags. “Sexy Times with Wangxian: The internet’s most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning”.

… Since it first appeared in October 2019, “Sexy Times With Wangxian,” or STWW, has become notorious across AO3. That in itself is unusual, because most AO3 users stick to their own fandoms and don’t pay much attention to what’s happening in others. STWW belongs to the fandom for the wildly popular Chinese TV series The Untamed, and the “Wangxian” in the title refers to the ship name for the show’s beloved main romantic pairing. It’s a very long fanfic, over a million words, and contains more than 200 chapters of porn featuring The Untamed’s large cast in endless permutations and sexual scenarios.

All that, by itself, isn’t enough to make STWW remarkable — not on a website as wild and unpredictable as AO3. Yet the fic has become impossible for many AO3 users to ignore thanks to a unique quirk: Its author has linked it to more than 1,700 site tags (and counting).

A quick note about AO3’s tagging system: It is designed to let users tag creatively and freely. So you can add useful tags, like pairing labels and character names, but you can also toss in personalized tags for fun and creative expression, from “no beta readers we die like men” to “I wrote this at 4am on three bottles of Monster Energy and zero sleep don’t judge.”

The tagging system is in service of the site’s total permissiveness — you can write anything you want in tags. But for the site to function, tags still need to be useful for navigation. So AO3 has hordes of volunteers known as “tag wranglers” whose sole job is to sort through the massive number of fic tags on the site and decide which ones will actually help users find what they’re looking for.

Those tags are then made “canonical,” which means they’ll become universal tags that every user can sort through. They’ll also appear within a list of suggested tags as you type. If I start to type “hospital” while tagging a fic, AO3 will return canonical tag suggestions like “Alternate Universe — Hospital,” “Hospital Sex,” and “Hogwarts Hospital Wing.” That makes it easy to determine whether your fic fits tags the community is already using.

AO3’s tagging system is so organized and thorough that it has won widespread acclaim from fields like library science and internet infrastructure. But it still has its limits — and with more than 1,700 tags, “Sexy Times With Wangxian” has revealed what some of those limits look like — in some cases quite literally….

The tags are so numerous, they can’t fit into a single screenshot on a large monitor. Here’s a quick scroll through the entire thing…

(5) THEY’RE FEELING BETTER. Jen Chaney, in “No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time” at Vulture, has an oral history of the last episode of Lost, which reveals that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had the ambiguous ending in mind the whole time and that the show was so important that the State of the Union in 2010 was moved because it conflicted with the final season opening episode.

…When the finale aired, it sparked divided responses (understatement) from fans. Some loved the emotional way in which Jack’s journey and that of his fellow survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 came to a close. Others were extremely vocally angry about not getting more direct answers to the show’s many questions. Still others came away from it all convinced that the castaways had been dead the whole time. (They were not dead. They really weren’t.)

What was semi-clear at the time and is even clearer now is that the broadcast of the Lost finale would mark the end of something else: the truly communal broadcast television experience. Subsequent finales would be major events (see HBO’s Game of Thrones) and even draw larger audiences (2019’s final Big Bang Theory attracted 18 million viewers, compared to the 13.5 million who tuned in for the Lost farewell). But nothing else since has felt so massively anticipated and so widely consumed in real time the way that the end of Lost, the Smoke Monster Super Bowl, did in 2010.

Vulture did extensive interviews with writers, cast, and crew members, who reflected on the development of “The End,” the making of the still hotly debated episode, and the cultural conversation it continues to generate. Because, yes, of course, we had to go back.

(6) AT HOME WITH SFF. Aidan Moher conducts a lively and revealing Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, Brian Staveley, Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard in “Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House” at Uncanny Magazine.

…An appreciation for speculative fiction isn’t always handed down from within a family. Sometimes it grows on its own, or is introduced by a friend or a teacher. Or a child is uninterested, despite their parents’ best efforts to sway them to the side of elves and proton cannons. I recently reached out to several writers to ask them about their experience growing up, their parents’ relationship to speculative fiction, and the impact that parenthood has had on them as writers….

…There are also emotional sacrifices that come along with parenthood. After the birth of her first child, de Bodard’s tolerance for stories featuring child abuse or endangerment “went from weak to zero” immediately. “I had to put off reading a book I was much looking forward to because I couldn’t get past the violence against a child.” As the father of a daughter, I’ve had a similar experience to de Bodard, and have also become even more aware of and angered by the pervasive sexism that continues to plague speculative fiction and fandom.

Personal writing of any sort reveals layers to a person that even their close friends and loved ones might not recognize. My wife often finds it odd to read my writing—not because of the subject matter, but because it’s told in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar to her ear.

“My children have all read at least some of my writing,” said Elliott. “I often consult them about plot, character, and world–building because I like to hear their feedback, because they know me so well, and because they have fascinating and deep imaginations. They are probably my most valuable writing resource, with my cherished writer and reader friends a close second.”…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the opportunity to “Savor Stan Lee’s favorite sandwich with comics writer Jo Duffy” in episode 139 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Duffy

My old Marvel Bullpen pal Jo Duffy had a lengthy, celebrated run back then on Power Man and Iron Fist, where she also wrote Conan the BarbarianFallen AngelsStar Wars, and Wolverine. She also wrote Catwoman for DC and Glory for Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios imprint of Image Comics. Additionally, she worked on the screenplays for the horror films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5.

We discussed why she knows what Superman will look like when he’s 100, the many reasons our kid selves both thought Marvel had D.C. beat, the genius of Marie Severin, how I may have inadvertently been responsible for her getting a job as an Assistant Editor in the Marvel Bullpen, what it was like to work with Steve Ditko, the firing she still feels guilty about 40 years later, how she approached the challenge of writing Power Man and Iron Fist, the letter she wrote to Stan Lee after the death of Jack Kirby, the two-year-long Star Wars story arc she was forced to squeeze into a few issues, the best writing advice she ever got, and much more.

(8) FIRST THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS. Sarah Gailey, in “Building Beyond: Move Mountains” at Stone Soup, gets an assist from Alex Acks and nonwriter Kacie Winterberg to illustrate how easy a particular facet of sff creation can be:

Building Beyond is an ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.

How do you go about communicating with a mountain to prevent it from pursuing its ambition of becoming a volcano?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 26, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, considered the most popular of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not-so-accidental take off of Fu Manchu. Cat Eldridge reviewed the episode at A Green Man Review. You can watch the first part online here with links to the rest of the story there as well. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 26, 1874 – Katherine Cameron.  Member, Glasgow Society of Lady Artists (Women Artists after 1975).  A dozen illustrated books for us.  This is in Stories from the Ballads (M. Macgregor, 1906).  Here are Snowdrop and the Seven Dwarfs.  Here is Celtic Tales.  Here is Undine.  This is in The Enchanted Land.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1916 – Clifford Geary.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us; many others.  Noteworthy in particular for illustrating Heinlein’s “juveniles”.  Here is a frontispiece for Starman Jones.  Here is an interior for Between Planets.  This is in Space Cadet.  Here is one from outside our field.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 76. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 – Alex Eisenstein, age 76; 1946 – Phyllis Eisenstein (Died 2020).  Active fannish couple; P also an active pro, a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories with A collaborating on half a dozen; so far as I know The City in Stone, completed, remains unpublished.  AE co-edited Trumpet.  Here is his cover for More Issues at Hand.  PE was Guest of Honor at Windycon XXX, Capricon 26, ConQuesT 38; a soft-sculpture of her was part of the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  AE, a noted SF art collector, has organized many displays including that Chicon.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 73. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1952 – Bob Devney, F.N., age 69.  Eight-time finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lover of SF movies – some of them, anyway.  When I remarked to him I hadn’t seen The Devniad in a while, he muttered something about Twitter; but quite possibly he still hasn’t recovered from Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, where he worked very hard, as I saw and maybe you did too.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1957 – John Jude Palencar, age 64.  A hundred ninety covers, five dozen  interiors.  Artbook Origins.  Here is Rhinegold.  Here is Kushiel’s Avatar.  Here is The Dark Line.  Here is Mind of My Mind.  This picture led to The Palencar Project – David Hartwell did such things.  Five Chesleys.  American Water Color Society Gold Medal.  Hamilton King Award.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Also National GeographicSmithsonianTime.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on  Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had any lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current carnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series there features here as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material including photos of her puts it. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 56. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1968 – Lynne Hansen, age 53.  Half a dozen novels, ten dozen covers.  Here is Strangewood.  Here is Things That Never Happened (hello, Scott Edelman).  Here is A Complex Accident of Life.  Here is The High Strangeness of Lorelei Jones.  [JH]

(11) COATES TO SCRIPT SUPERMAN MOVIE. Trey Mangum, in “Ta-Nehisi Coates To Write Upcoming Superman Film From DC And Warner Bros.” on Shadow and Act, says Coates will write a script for a Superman movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, but with no director or stars attached at this time.

…We’re hearing that no director is attached as of yet and plot details remain under wraps. Additionally, the search for an actor to play Kal-El / Superman hasn’t started yet.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” said Coates in a statement received only by Shadow and Act. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

“There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity,” said J.J. Abrams in the statement to S&A.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” added Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

(12) SANS RIDES ET SANS REPROCHE. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara finds this is a rhetorical question: “Is Disney California Adventure, with no rides, worth $75?”

…If you think Disney’s recent announcement that it will soon be charging $75 a head for the thrill of wandering around California Adventure to buy and eat things while admiring the entrances to still-closed rides is nuts, I am here to tell you that it is not.

At least not if my recent visit to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is any indication.

…It was absolutely clear right away. Desperate for even the faintest tang of the Disney experience, thousands of us apparently are quite willing to settle for the elements of the Disney experience we normally complain about the most: waiting in line, overpriced food and the siren call of way too much Disney merch.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was a 45-minute wait simply to enter the Downtown Disney area, 50 if you count the five-minute walk from the car, which cost 10 bucks to park.

To be fair, the line that snaked through an entire parking lot could be construed, at least in these coronavirus-plagued times, as a Disney experience in and of itself. The now-ubiquitous six-feet-apart marks created a socially distant conga line that involved far more walking than standing: “Well, we’re getting our steps in,” one of my daughters remarked.

…As the sun set over the Simba parking lot and our group advanced through the temperature-taking station and the bag-check station, then past a police presence prominent enough to make any mask-shirker think twice, one could at least imagine a world returning to something approaching normal.

Listen to the piped-in music! Yes, once upon a time it did indeed drive some of us insane. But now, after a yearlong lifetime of home-office work — concentration broken on an hourly basis by the maddening syncopated roar of leaf blowers and brain-drilling hum of the neighbors’ home improvement project — all those Disney tunes fell around us like the singing of a heavenly host….

(13) MARTINE’S SEQUEL. In a review at Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere makes the book sound irresistible: “A Desolation Called Peace: Wonderfully rich and nuanced”,

…Beyond the plot reasons, I loved that it was more a cultural conflict because that concept is at the heart of this duology: the way the Empire doesn’t simply conquer via its military but swamps others with its pervasive, relentless, invasive cultural tentacles (hmm, sound familiar?), the way the question of “who counts as human” (or more broadly, who can be considered a person) runs throughout the Empire on a macro level, and throughout the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass on a micro level.

… It’s impossible to read these moments and not relate them to everyday existence for those forced to swim in the sea of a majority culture. This fraught tension is made all the richer for how Martine portrays (realistically) how seductive such cultural power is even for those it threatens to swamp, like falling in love with the waves that are trying to drown you. And then it gets under the skin and into the brain so it becomes almost second nature: “Mahit laughed, a raw sound … She couldn’t do it all. She thought in Teixcalaanli, in imperial-style metaphor and overdetermination. She’d had this whole conversation in their language.”

(14) HARD TIME. Will it be at least seven more years before Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has something good to say about the monthly issue of Analog? “[February 26, 1966] Such promise (March 1966 Analog)”.

… It all came down to this month’s Analog.  If it were superb, as it was last month, then we’d have a clean sweep across eight periodicals.  If it flopped, as it often does, the streak would be broken.

As it turns out, neither eventuality quite came to pass.  Indeed, the March 1966 Analog is sort of a microcosm of the month itself — starting out with a bang and faltering before the finish….

(15) FROM BROADWAY TO BROADBAND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 19 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews “online interactive theatre shows” which try to capture some of the spontaneity of live theatre.

Collaboration is key to success with all these show: the quicker an audience learns to share tasks, the better.  In Sherlock In Homes:  Murder At The Circus (from the Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre), this turns out to be a group of small girls from Wales with a formidable line in questioning,  (The same companies have also created Sherlock In Homes 2:  Murder On Ice.)

Another Sherlock-inspired show, Murder At The Circus is a droll, family-friendly affair, low on tech high in audience-actor interaction. Sherlock is missing (again), leaving behind a rum case involving a dead circus clown and a plate of potted meat.  We, the impromptu detectives, must quiz a line-up of dubious suspects with names like Glenda Flex (acrobat) and Rory McPride (lion tamer), all of whom are adept at juggling the truth.

After several rounds of unfocused interrogation from our team, the Welsh 10-year-olds spring into action. “Where were you location-wise when you were kissing?’ demands one, sternly, of a particularly evasive character,  It would take a hardened criminal not to crack.”

The websites for this are sharpteeththeatre.orgthewardrobetheatre.com, and sherlockimmersive.com.

(16) MALZBERG ON PKD. A year ago on the DickHeads Podcast: “Interview #12 – Barry Malzberg – Malzberg Spectacular Part 1”.

David must have done something right because author Barry Malzberg was willing to sit down for a lengthy phone conversation with him. In this interview, Barry leads David through his experiences with multiple authors including PKD, the in’s and out’s of the publishing industry of the 60s and 70s, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out part 2 of our Barry Malzberg Spectacular where author James Reich joins David in an in-depth look at the award-winning novel Beyond Apollo, which garnered the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

(17) POTATO HEAD, THE MORNING AFTER. The London Economic has an entertaining collection of tweets about yesterday’s kerfuffle: “Best reactions as usual mouthpieces are foaming over a genderless Potato Head”. Here are a few —

When it was all over but the shouting, Reason’s Robby Soave announced:  “Mr. Potato Head will remain the strong, masculine figure he always was.”

(18) IN MELODY YET GREEN. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman reviews Lady Gaga Oreos. They’re pink! (With green filling!) “Lady Gaga Oreos are an extra-sweet mystery wrapped in an enigmatic pink wafer”.

…One of the promotions tied to Gaga’s cookies is a Sing It with Oreo feature. You can make personal recordings, transform them into “musical messages of kindness” and send them to folks you love and support. The pink foil packaging for Gaga Oreos features a QR code, which provides instant access to the recording function. You probably have to give up countless pieces of personal information in the process, but go ahead, “Just sing from the heart, and make someone’s day a little brighter.”

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