Pixel Scroll 6/27/22 Scroll Ain’t Nothing But Pixel Misspelled

(1) STOP STICKING IT TO AUTHORS. In “Amazon’s e-book return policy comes under criticism from authors” NPR takes up the cause of the writers whose pockets are being picked.

… Authors are protesting Amazon’s e-book return policy, a system they say allows readers to “steal” from self-published authors. Amazon’s current return policy for e-books allows customers to “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But, for some readers, seven days is more than enough time to finish a book and return it after reading, effectively treating Amazon like a library.

When an Amazon customer returns an e-book, royalties originally paid to the author at the time of purchase are deducted from their earnings balance….

…Those suggesting the read-and-return practice think they’re “sticking it to Amazon,” but in reality are only harming the authors, said Eva Creel, a fantasy writer who publishes under the name E. G. Creel.

“I have my book available at the library. If somebody wants to read it for free, they can,” Creel said. “But reading it and making me think that I’ve made an income and then that income being taken away from me, that feels like stealing.”

Science fiction and fantasy author Nicole Givens Kurtz said she’s concerned that this trend will continue.

“If people continue to promote [reading and returning e-books], it impacts my income, which impacts my quality of life and my ability to take care of my family,” she said. “I don’t think readers quite understand or see the person behind the product.”

(2) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM CFP. The Gunn Center reminds everyone that the deadline for proposals for the first annual Sturgeon Symposium is only 3 days away. The event takes place September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. See the call for papers here.

(3) INCIDENT INTERRUPTS BUSINESS AT MACMILLAN. “After ‘Security Incident,’ Macmillan Closes, Will Not Process Orders” reports Shelf Awareness. The details are not disclosed.

Macmillan sent a notice to customers saying that because of “a security incident” on Saturday that involved its servers and internal system, the company has closed offices today, Monday, June 27, in order to continue its investigation and to rebuild “a secure working environment.” As a result, Macmillan is currently not able to process, receive, place or ship orders. The company added that it will keep customers posted.

(4) HUGO TAKES. This month the SF Insiders blog launched. Who’s writing it? No idea! It’s a secret.

Not unlike other writers hoping to break into the science fiction and fantasy field, we have high hopes, many opinions, and no power. We remain anonymous to protect ourselves from the Internet horrors we’ve seen inflicted on others.

The blog’s first order of business is evaluating the 2022 Hugo finalists. They’ve written about two Hugo categories and the Astounding Award so far.

2. Sheila Williams

Williams is the only previous winner on this year’s ballot and the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction. She’s also edited several anthologies, but none of those were published in 2021. Asimov’s output for 2021 was exactly what we’ve come to expect and Williams continued involvement with the Dell Award did not go unnoticed by us. There’s a reason she’s won two Hugos and continues to appear on this list.

5. Escape Pod

A science fiction podcast that publishes a mix of reprint and original stories. Their editors are finalists for Editor Short form and we stand by the opinions stated there. On discussing this publication for the second time, however, we questioned why the same work is eligible for two awards. This isn’t the first time it has happened, but we think it would be more fair if these magazines choose to be in one or the other. With how often there are repeat finalists in these categories, restricting it to one would give us more variety to choose from.

We were supposed to talk about the Astounding Award finalists during this week’s Zoom, but we went in a different direction instead: the “not a Hugo” status of the award. Maybe someone can tell us how has this never become an official Hugo Award? As writers, the current status feels like a slap in the face and we’re not even eligible yet….

(5) LE GUIN, ROBINSON, AND UTOPIAS. The Tin House podcast offers “Crafting with Ursula : Kim Stanley Robinson on Ambiguous Utopias”.

Today’s guest, Kim Stanley Robinson, is perhaps the living writer most associated with utopian literature today. And as a student of the philosopher, political theorist, and literary critic Fredric Jameson, Robinson has thought deeply about the history of utopias, the history of the novel, and the strange hybrid form that became the utopian novel. In his mind it was Ursula K. Le Guin who wrote the first truly great utopian novel. We discuss Le Guin’s utopian work alongside his, and contextualize her importance historically. Robinson also shares some incredible anecdotes from his time in the 70s as her student and the ways their lives as fellow writers have intersected over the decades.

What is a utopian novel? What is an ambiguous utopia? And why has this genre become a particularly vital form and even a critical tool of the human imagination today? Listen in to find out. 

(6) NO COUNTRY FOR YOUNG MEN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Ringer does some interesting research into the trend of Hollywood blockbuster action movies that center on older actors and finds that it’s a multifaceted phenomenon that can be tied to economic heft of older moviegoers, changing media tastes in younger generations, and shifts in how movie studios build tentpole features around intellectual property rather than around individual actors and their personal brands. “The Golden Age of the Aging Actor”.

They quote film historian Mark Harris: “Maybe they’re gamers, or maybe what they really enjoy is TikTok, or maybe it’s something else, but a generation can’t generate stars if it doesn’t really love the medium that creates and accommodates stars.”

(7) BRYAN BARRETT OBITUARY. Fan and bookdealer Bryan Barrett, who co-chaired the 1998 World Fantasy Convention, died June 21. Lucy Huntzinger relayed the news from Bryan’s nephew, and wrote a tribute about him on Facebook which says in part:

…I can’t say enough about what a genuine, caring, intelligent, interesting man he was. He was always willing to help out friends with his little truck while he still had it, and he had a marvelous time at the San Jose Worldcon in 2018 seeing many old fannish and mystery friends again.

Because of his poor health in the last few years he lived a life that became increasingly housebound and full of medical appointments, but he never stopped caring about the world, about fairness and justice, about democracy….

(8) MEMORY LANE

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-six years ago this evening on ABC, the rather at first mundane soap opera Dark Shadows first aired. Now it wasn’t until ten months later that the Toothy One, vampire Barnabas Collins, as played by Jonathan Frid, made his first appearance. 

Before its six seasons and one thousand two hundred and twenty-five episodes ran their course, those of us who watched it will have seen Frankenstein style monsters, ghosts, a parallel universe, time travel, warlocks, werewolves, witches, and even zombies. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something of a fantastic nature that happened there. 

It has never left syndication in forty years. Dark Shadows (later referred to as Dark Shadows: The Revival) was attempted in 1991. That too created by Dan Curtis who was responsible for Dark Shadows, it lasted twelve extremely poorly received episodes. Dan Curtis also did two films set in the Dark Shadows continuity, House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows.

It was somewhat unusual in a small company of performers played many roles; and as performers came and went, some characters were played by more than one performer.

I am not going to comment about Tim Burton directing a film version of this starring Johnny Depp, who finally realized one of his childhood fantasies of being Barnabas Collins. Really. I’m not. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 27, 1909 — Billy Curtis. You’ll best remember him as the small Copper-Skinned Ambassador in Trek’s “Journey to Babel” episode. His genre experience goes all the way back to Wizard of Oz where he was a Munchkin, and later on he’s a mole-man in Superman and The Mole-Men, and later on a midget in The Incredible Shrinking Man. He had lots of one-offs, be it on Batman (twice there), Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Planet of The Apes or Twilght Zone. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 27, 1941 — James P. Hogan. A true anti-authoritarian hard SF writer in the years when that was a respectable thing to be. The group that gave out the Prometheus Award certainly thought so with fifteen nominations and two Awards for two novels, The Multiplex Man and Voyage from Yesteryear. I’m sure that I’ve read at least a few of his novels, most likely Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. A decent amount of his work is available at the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 27, 1952 — Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands, her first novel. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice”. Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available at the usual suspects. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 27, 1959 — Stephen Dedman, 63. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it. He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles.
  • Born June 27, 1966 — J.J. Abrams, 56. Executive Producer of AliasLost: Missing PiecesStar Trek, Lost, FringeStar Trek Into DarknessAlmost Human… Well you get the idea. Most fans really like, a few very vocal ones really hate his guts mostly for his Star Trek work. I love Fringe unreservedly and therefore will forgive any transgressions he committed elsewhere. 
  • Born June 27, 1972 — Christian Kane, 50. You’ll certainly recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before becoming Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. 
  • Born June 27, 1975 — Tobey Maguire, 47. Spider-man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one seriously weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film. 
  • Born June 27, 1987 — Ed Westwick, 35. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarize), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nancy shows a writer with ambitious goals.

(11) TRALFAMADORIAN TOOLKIT. Emily Temple has collected “Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Writing Advice” for Literary Hub.

5. Sound like yourself
The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

(12) HISTORY JUMPS THE TRACKS. Annalee Newitz joins Margaret Atwood on the list of sff writers who didn’t set out to predict the present in “Science fiction, abortion, and predicting the future” at Slate.

A few months before COVID shut the world down in 2020, I published a book called The Future of Another Timeline. Set in 2022, it’s about a group of time travelers who live in an alternate United States where abortion was never legalized. Working in secret, they travel 130 years back to the 19th century to foment protests against the anti-abortion crusader Anthony Comstock. Their goal is to change the course of history. Spoilers: They succeed—sort of. When they return to 2022, abortion is legal in a few states, though it remains illegal in the majority of them.

It is not a good feeling to live through a version of the dark timeline I imagined in my fiction….

(13) A LONG TIME AGO. Craig Miller posted the letter he sent to winner of a contest he ran for The Star Wars Corporation in the Seventies.

In issue two of the Newsletter of the Official Star Wars Fan Club, I announced a contest to come up with an actual name for the newsletter. Fans could send up to three suggestions. We received a huge number of entries. I don’t remember how many but, apparently, there were thousands.

…The winning name: Bantha Tracks. And the winner, Preston Postle.

The letter is dated just 10 months after I started this newzine. I should have asked Craig for some of his discards – I’ll bet there were some better ideas in there than File 770, eh?

(14) THIS REMINDS ME. [Item by Chris Barkley.] When I heard this story, naturally I thought of this quote: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” Listen to the Here and Now report on WBUR: “Don’t worry about the robot revolution: One expert explains why AI is nowhere near sentience”.

For decades, robot revolutions have been a staple of science fiction stories. But earlier this month, the stuff of fiction came a little too close to reality when Blake Lemoine, a Google engineer, claimed that the company’s artificial intelligence had achieved sentience, the ability to experience feeling and thought.

While Lemoine’s claims made waves online, many experts are pretty skeptical. They argue that just because a program can imitate human language doesn’t mean it’s actually human.

One of those critics is Emily M. Bender, a professor at the University of Washington specializing in computational linguistics and grammar engineering. She spoke with Here & Now‘s Celeste Headlee.

(15) GOOD FORM. Walter Jon Williams told readers he recently leveled up in his martial arts training: “Achievement Unlocked”.

…I successfully tested for my 6th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate. In the days since, I’ve been judging at the tests of lower-ranking belts, and participating in a demonstration in front of a live audience.

All with a torn achilles tendon which requires me to walk with a cane much of the time.

Fortunately most of the test consisted of theory and philosophy. I was required to do some forms, but I designed most of these myself, and could alter them when I needed to. (For the demonstration, I was able to do my own kata more or less without modification, and the other form requires me to alter the steps once. It was uncomfortable and a little awkward, but I wasn’t left with the impression I’d bungled anything.)…

(16) POORFEADING. Jon Del Arroz, who styles himself a leading figure of ComicsGate, wrote an article belittling Heather Antos’ work for IDW. A true case of Muphry’s law in action, as Taylor Talks Comics pointedly reveals in a thread that starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(17) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Thanks for a friend alerting me that Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is now available on the Disney+ streaming service for free (well, no $ other than the monthly fee), I’ve got one non-spoiler question (not directly germane to the movie, but I suddenly found myself wondering):

What happens when Blackadar Boltagon (aka Black Bolt), a (Jack Kirby-created) Inhuman usually ruler of Attilan and (often but not always) spouse to (the Inhuman named) Medusa, whose slightest whisper is explosive, burps, hiccups, or sneezes. (Or, for that matter, snores — let’s hope he doesn’t have sleep apnea.)

(18) OLDER THAN LUCY AND PROBABLY DESI. “Ancient fossils in the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ are more than 1 million years older than previously thought” reports Yahoo!

In 1936, archeologists began unearthing a trove of early human fossils in a South African cave. Now, researchers say most of those ancient bones date back 3.7 million years, which makes them more than 1 million years older than previously thought….

To gauge the ages of the hominid skeletal remains, Granger and his team used a technique known as “cosmogenic nuclide dating,” or burial dating, which involves examining the rocks that encased the ancient bones. It works like this: When energetic particles from space, or cosmic rays, hit rocks, they produce elements like aluminum and beryllium that build up and decay at a known rate.

“We’re able to take a rock that was exposed to cosmic rays, and if it falls into a cave, it’s shielded from more radiation,” Granger told Insider, adding, “It’s called burial dating because, really, what we’re doing is dating when the rock was buried.”

Granger used the same method in 2015 to estimate that one set of Australopithecus remains found in the Sterkfontein Caves, nicknamed Little Foot, was about 3.4 to 3.7 million years old. The new study suggests that in addition to Little Foot, all Australopithecus remains on the site are between 3.4 and 3.7 million years old, rather than roughly 2 million years old, as scientists previously thought.

The remains’ shifting age puts the species within roughly the same time frame that the famous human ancestor “Lucy” — which belonged to the species Australopithecus afarensis — roamed what’s now Ethiopia, 3.2 million years ago. According to Granger, that refutes the theory that the Sterkfontein individuals descended from Australopithecus afarensis. “There must be an older common ancestor somewhere,” Granger added…

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, Stephen Burridge, Alan Baumler, Daniel Dern, 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 Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 6/19/22 She Filed Me Into A Scroll! (I Got Better!)

(1) HARASSMENT CAMPAIGN. [Item by Meredith.] Someone(s) used the names and email addresses of several members of sf/f fandom including Paul Weimer, Patrick S Tomlinson, John Scalzi, and Adam Rakunas to send racist abuse to a black author (@fairyfemmes) through the contact form on their websites (where the email address can be entered manually). The author originally believed it was real, but is now wanting to know who is behind it. They’ve taken their account private.

John Scalzi tweeted:

Paul Weimer posted on Patreon about “The Trolls Harassing others in my name”.

The Trolls that have harassed me for years in my name have come up with a new and horrible trick–they are harassing others, in this case, a POC, and using my name to do it.  

So it’s a double whammy–to hurt someone else, and to blacken my name at the same time.

Patrick S. Tomlinson addressed a message sent under his name, and another from the person posing as Adam Rakunas.

(2) TONOPAH PROGRAM UPDATED. The most recent (June 19) Westercon 74 Program Schedule  version has downloadable PDFs of the Program Grid, which shows items by date/time/location. Click on the link.

(3) WISCON’S COVID OUTCOME. The “WisCon 2022 Post-Con COVID-19 Report” begins with a fully detailed account of the extensive COVID-19 safety measures instituted by the committee, then assesses the results. 

…Two weeks out from the end of the convention, we are stopping our case tracking efforts. While it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether some members arrived sick, contracted COVID-19 during travel to/from, or contracted COVID-19 at the con, we can, with much gratitude, report that we had a total reported count of 13 cases including one possible false positive, or 3% of our estimated 407 in-person attendance. That’s just about miraculous.

We want to especially extend our thanks to those who tested positive very soon after arriving and took the necessary measures to take care of themselves and keep those around them safe, up to and including leaving the convention entirely. We know it must have been so gut-wrenching and disappointing. Thank you….

(4) STOP DISCOUNTING CRAFTSMANSHIP. Mark Lawrence reacts to a viral tweet by someone who rates books highly for other things than good writing in “I don’t care how good a writer you are…”

…It’s as if people are celebrating the idea that writing doesn’t matter and that “good writing” is some form of intellectual elitism that doesn’t have anything to do with them. They’re death metal fans and they don’t care about opera.

But that is, of course, nonsense. It’s akin to saying “I don’t care how good a brain surgeon you are, as long as you get this tumour out.” “I don’t care how good a mechanic you are, as long as you fix my car.” Sure, the end is the thing that’s important to you … but the end is generally strongly correlated with the means….

(5) SCARE PALS. Adrienne Celt advises New York Times Magazine readers that “You Need a Horror Movie Friend for a More Frightening, Less Lonely Life”.

… A lot of people hate horror movies, but I don’t. In fact, I frequently find myself strong-arming my friends and loved ones into watching something scarier than they would prefer, just for the company. It’s a difference of philosophy as much as a difference in taste. Horror deniers often claim there’s nothing emotionally valuable in the experience of being frightened. I disagree. When I first watched “The Last Unicorn” (a horror movie masquerading as a children’s cartoon) at age 8, the image of a naked harpy devouring a witch was burned into my brain, but so was the realization that the conditions that created the harpy also allowed for the unicorn. The existence of horror is inevitably proximate to the existence of wondrous possibility.

Meeting another person who loves horror as much as I do, then, is like meeting a fellow traveler from my home country while stuck somewhere distant and strange….

(6) A LOT TO LIKE. Rich Horton continues his project of filling in the historic blank spaces with “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1954” at Strange at Ecbatan.

… This was a remarkable year for SF novels, and the five that I list as nominees — the same list the Retro Hugo nominators picked — are all certified classics in the field. There some impressive alternate choices too — among those I list, Leiber’s The Sinful Ones (an expansion and in my opinion an improvement on his 1950 short novel “You’re All Alone”) is a personal favorite. In my Locus article I picked The Caves of Steel as the winner, but I’m really torn. Nowadays I might lean to either More Than Human, or to the Retro Hugo winner, Fahrenheit 451….

(7) REREADING PRATCHETT. Nicholas Whyte discusses “Mort, by Terry Pratchett” at From the Heart of Europe.

…You’ve read it too, so I won’t go on at length. It is as funny as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised on re-reading by the breadth and depth of references to classic (and Classical) literature. The main driver of the Sto Lat subplot, the rewriting of history and destiny, is actually more of a science fiction trope, rarely found in fantasy (and the description of it is fairly sfnal). And Death’s slogan resonates still for me, 35 years on.

THERE’S NO JUSTICE. THERE’S JUST ME.

(8) A VISION FOR SF. Pop quiz: What editor’s name immediately comes to your mind when you read the statement that Astounding shaped modern science fiction? My guess is it won’t be the name that came to Colin Marshall’s mind when he wrote this post for Open Culture: “Revisit Vintage Issues of Astounding Stories, the 1930s Magazine that Gave Rise to Science Fiction as We Know It”.

Having been putting out issues for 92 years now, Analog Science Fiction and Fact stands as the longest continuously published magazine of its genre. It also lays claim to having developed or at least popularized that genre in the form we know it today. When it originally launched in December of 1929, it did so under the much more whiz-bang title of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. But only three years later, after a change of ownership and the installation as editor of F. Orlin Tremaine, did the magazine begin publishing work by writers remembered today as the defining minds of science fiction….

(9) HAPPY 90TH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur celebrates John Williams’s 90th birthday with recommendations about his orchestral music to try (ever heard his flute concerto or his violin concerti?) “Composer John Williams being feted with performances at Kennedy Center”.

… For “John Williams: A 90th Birthday Gala,” conductor Stéphane Denève will lead the NSO in a sprawling celebration of Willams’s famed film music. Special guests cellist Yo-Yo Ma, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will cue up selections from some of Williams’s most beloved scores, including “Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Harry Potter,” “Indiana Jones” and “Schindler’s List.” The program will also highlight Williams’s most recently lauded work, the score to Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane’s Oscar-winning 2017 short film “Dear Basketball.

A pair of companion concerts flanking the gala celebration will focus on two of Williams’s best-known scores — representing a fraction of his 29 collaborations with Spielberg. (Their latest project, “The Fabelmans,” is due out in November). Steven Reineke will conduct the composer’s scores for “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” on June 22 and 24, respectively. (The NSO will also perform Williams’s score for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” with a screening of the film at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on July 29.)

Taken together, the birthday party is three days of music that will hit all the subconscious buttons that Williams has wired into our collective memories over the past five decades — a rich catalogue of instantly identifiable melodies, moods and motifs that can conjure entire worlds with the stroke of a bow.

The party, however, conspicuously forgot to invite Williams’s concert music — the province of his output that truly opened my ears to his compositional mastery. (It also leaves out selections from “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” a deep cut that represents some of his best work with Spielberg, but that’s another story.)

I get it. We have come to equate Williams with Hollywood so closely that it can be hard to fathom him freed of cinema’s frame.

But in Williams’s many concertos, chamber works and solo pieces, his familiar compositional voice is fully present, albeit put to completely different use. His connections to multiple classical traditions register more clearly: his Berg-ian penchant for darkness and dissonance, his Copland-esque ease with evoking natural grandeur, his inheritance of gestures from Debussy, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Korngold.

Here are some of my favorite Williams works that have nothing to do with the movies — and have a lot more depth than you might expect from a composer we associate with the silver screen….

One of the pieces Michael Andor Brodeur recommended of John Williams was his “Fanfare For Fenway” so here it is as Williams and the Boston Pops perform the world premiere at Fenway Park in 2012.

(10) THINK FAST. Deadline calls it “Zaslav’s First Movie Crisis: What To Do With Ezra Miller, The Erratic Star Of Warner Bros’ $200M ‘Flash’ Franchise Launch”

Even though it isn’t on the Warner Bros release calendar until June 23, 2023, The Flash is becoming Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s first movie crisis, because of the escalating coverage of incidents of volatile and odd behavior involving the film’s star, Ezra Miller.

Zaslav has made clear his desire to grow the DC Universe to MCU scale and has all the ingredients of a first foot forward in The Flash, including the return of Michael Keaton as Batman along with a reprise by Ben Affleck, a $200 million budget and a hot director in Andy Muschietti, who delivered the blockbuster It for the studio. The Warner Bros Discovery CEO exercised his well known penchant for micro-management by declining to greenlight Wonder Twins for being too niche. Zaslav will have to soon make a decision of what to do with the completed picture that is The Flash, and what to do with a young actor who appears to have serious off-set issues….

(11) VERTLIEB MEDICAL NEWS. Steve Vertlieb is home after his fifth hospital stay of the year. He brings everyone up-to-date in “Back To The Suture 3” on Facebook.

… Days upon days of antibiotic treatment were required before they dared to open the wound and clean out the bacteria. This additional procedure was accomplished on Monday, June 13th.

Consequently, I was admitted yet again to the cardiac unit where I remained for nine days more until my delayed and eventual release this afternoon. I’ve a “Wound V.A.C.” attached to my groin where it hangs rather uncomfortably, and shall continue to do so for, perhaps, the next week or two. I’m home once more, and praying that this is where I shall be permitted at long last to remain….

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forbidden Planet debuted sixty years ago on this date in the United Kingdom. I had the extremely good fortune of seeing Forbidden Planet at one of those boutique cinema houses some four decades back. Great sound and print, and a respectful audience who were there to see the film so everyone paid attention to it. 

It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack who had no genre background and who would die of a heart attack, age forty-nine just two years later. It was directed by Fred Wilcox, best known for Lassie, Come Home. The script was written by Cyril Hume who had prior to this written scripts for two Tarzan films. It is said that is based off “The Tempest” as conceived in a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler. Huh. 

I’ll skip the cast other than Robbie the Robot. He cost at least one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to produce, and was based off the design originating with ideas and sketches by production designer Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie, art director Arthur Lonergan, and writer Irving Block. Robbie was operated (uncredited at the time) by stuntmen Frankie Darro and Frankie Carpenter, both rather short actors. And his voice in the film was done in post-production by actor Marvin Miller. 

The budget was about two million of which it was later estimated that Robbie was actually well over ten percent of that because of the cost of Miller’s time which added considerably to his cost. It made two point eight million, so yes it lost money. 

So what did the critics think? Variety thought it had “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the production a top offering in the space travel category” while the Los Angeles Times thought it was “more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.’” 

It has a most stellar eighty-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 — Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which included some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 — Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two very low budget TV horror films in the late Sixties that don’t show up on Rotten Tomatoes, appear to be his first venture into our realm. And no, I can’t say I’ve seen either one of them. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later which gets a most excellent seventy-eight rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. (No, don’t ask what they got for ratings. Please don’t ask.) Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (It’s Moore, again don’t ask.) (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 — Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman : Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available from the usual suspects though Cora can read him in German. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 — Salman Rushdie, 75. I strongly believe that everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (So let the arguments begin on that statement as they will.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories which I essayed here. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1952 — Virginia Hey, 70. Best remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fantastic Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it, so who has? 
  • Born June 19, 1957 — Jean Rabe, 65. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written at least five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. She has won the Internation Assoication of Media Tie-In Writers’ Faust Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark celebrates Fathers Day.
  • zach can foretell the present!

(15) OVERCOMER. [Item by Steven French.] Interesting interview with Sarah Hall, author of plague novel Burntcoat (not sure writing a book during the pandemic is quite comparable to what Sarah Connor did but ok …) “Sarah Hall: ‘I used to almost fear opening a book’”.

When did you begin writing Burntcoat?
On the first day of the first lockdown in March 2020, with notebooks and a pen, which I’d not done since my first novel, 20 years ago. It felt like a response to what was going on – this odd scribbling in the smallest room in the house, really early in the morning when it was quiet and eerie.

And you kept it up even while home schooling your daughter?
There was some part of me that thought: “This is just one more thing that’s going to make it difficult to work and I’m going to do it anyway.” I was anxious, but I’m a single parent and I go into, as I call it, Sarah Connor mode from The Terminator: it’s out there, here’s my child, what do I need to do? Get buff! I got pains in my hand because I wasn’t used to writing so much.

(16) WACKY WIKI. If for any reason you were wondering whether Vox Day’s Infogalactic is still around, Camestos Felapton permitted his eyeballs to be stabbed with its content in order to research this post: “Incredibly, Voxopedia is still running”.

(17) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, A.A. Dowd celebrates the 40th anniversary of E.T., saying the film “has the simplicity of a fable and the texture of ordinary American life.” “’E.T.,’ 40 years later, is still the most soulful of box-office sensations”.

… Not that the movie subscribes to the idea of adolescence as a carefree, unburdened time. By now, it’s conventional wisdom that “E.T.” grew out of Spielberg’s memories of his emotionally fraught teenage years. The director modeled his title character on a real imaginary friend he came up with to cope with his parents’ divorce. As written by Melissa Mathison, who combined elements from two scrapped Spielberg projects, the film became a melancholy fantasy deeply haunted by parental absence. At heart, it’s about a broken nuclear family trying to piece itself back together….

(18) WHO NEEDS SPECIAL EFFECTS? Gizmodo is delighted that “Doctor Strange 2 Gets a Dance-Heavy Blooper Reel Before Disney+ Drop”.

… Beyond that, it’s funny to watch the cast’s long capes and skirts get stuck in the scenery and have them try to fight off errant leaves as they wave their arms around doing pretend magic.

(19) A COMMERCIAL MESSAGE FROM OUR FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Estonian company Milrem Robotics has joined with a partner company (who supplied the 30 mm autocanon) to demonstrate what their “Type-X“ armored, uncrewed, AI-powered Robotic Combat Vehicle could do if outfitted as a tank. “Robot Tank Firing at Cars and Other Targets Is the Stuff of Nightmares” at Autoevolution.

The disastrous use of tanks by the Russians in Ukraine isn’t stopping defense contractors from researching such platforms, though. Of course, even if they look like traditional tanks, these new machines are as modern as they get.

Take the so-called Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle, developed over in Europe by Milrem Robotics and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. That would be an autonomous, AI-governed, tracked vehicle that could become a common presence on the battlefields of tomorrow….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Meredith, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, 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 Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/22 Never Gonna File You Up, Never Gonna Scroll You Down

(1) THIS PRESENT CENTURY. The “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022” doesn’t include sff text writers, however, it features an array of performers and filmmakers with genre resumes like (Artists) Simu Liu, Andrew Garfield, Channing Tatum, (Innovators) Taika Waititi, (Titans) Michelle Yeoh, and (Icons) Keanu Reeves, Jon Batiste.

As usual, the list is about influence, and not all influential people are wonderful – Vladimir Putin is on it.

(2) WRITER’S (LUCITE) BLOCK. Sarah Pinsker has posted her award acceptance remarks: “’Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’ won the Nebula!” The excerpt is part of the lead-up, the remarks are at the link.

….As someone who has now accepted three Nebulas and a Hugo (the Hugos were in person, but I had an asymptomatic positive Covid test that week and stayed home) from this chair in my library, I can say there’s something weird about accepting an award live online. I’m a performer; I know how to channel energy. And yet, when they say my name, and the adrenaline hits while I’m trying to find the buttons to hit “accept promotion to speaker” and also remember to turn on my camera and mic, and also try to keep the dogs from barking as they feed off my excitement, there’s nowhere for the excitement to go. I can’t see other faces, so my excitement bounces off the computer and hits me square, telling me I should speed up instead of take a breath.…

(3) TOUR DE FORCE. An interview with Emily St. John Mandel at Bookforum Magazine: “Marquee Moon – Emily St. John Mandel talks about her postapocalyptic novel, which features a moon colony, time travel, and a book tour”.

There are all these disparate elements, but structurally and thematically it really coheres. I’m thinking of that early scene where Edwin is at home and criticizes British colonialism in India, which is somewhat the catalyst for his banishment. That has really compelling parallels to the moon colonies later in the novel. It’s not a perfect mapping, because there’s a difference between colonizing an inhabited land versus colonizing an uninhabited world, but how did it feel to raise those moral and ethical questions?

I started thinking about the simulation hypothesis, which is a big part of this novel. It is what it sounds like, for anyone who’s unfamiliar—the idea that perhaps we are all living in a computer simulation. And you can find very intelligent people who strenuously argue either side of that hypothesis. I thought that maybe there’s an interesting parallel between that idea and the tragedy of colonization, in the sense that the people who colonized the so-called New World did so in the grip of a false narrative. In Canada, where I’m from, it was a narrative of empty land, the idea that this is an empty country that’s there for the taking. Of course, it wasn’t empty—people lived there. There was something about establishing a country under fundamentally false pretenses that really reminded me in a strange way of this theory that we’re all living in a simulation. For me, there was a stronger parallel between those two things than between colonizing Canada and India versus colonizing the moon. Just because, to your point, they feel like such different circumstances. Nobody lives on the moon, so it’s fine…. 

(4) THE CAUSE. Tolkien sainthood advocate Daniel Côté Davis tells readers of The European Conservative “Why Some Catholics Think J.R.R. Tolkien Could Be a Saint”. It’s a Catholic church process, and the rest of the article focuses even more strongly on those requirements than this excerpt:

… Tolkien’s discussion of the Sacraments was not limited to the Eucharist, and Catholics can also find spiritual fruit in praying on his comments on Christian marriage. The comments are particularly poignant in the context of his love of Edith his wife. This love, along with that for Christ, animated his daily life. His love for he was so deep that the story that he felt was the very centre of his legendarium is based on their love story. Though not as widely-known as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, the tale of Beren and Luthien, told both in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion and in the recently-published Beren and Luthien. The tale mythopoetically expresses a love stronger than death, and Tolkien’s children decided to adorn their parents’ shared grave with the names Beren and Luthien. Whilst maintaining this reverential romanticism, Tolkien did not, however, shirk from teaching the reality of the necessity to found love on the will, and within a lifelong purgative struggle for virtue…

(5) WISCON. In “WisCon is back, and taking a hard look at itself”, local publication Tone Madison profiles the convention.

Back for its 45th year, WisCon will return to hosting an in-person convention at the Madison Concourse Hotel this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27 to May 30). A staple of the feminist science fiction and fantasy community since 1977, the entirely volunteer-run convention has served as a crucial space for critical and invigorating thought around issues of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and more for decades….

… While the global pandemic alone brought enough change to the convention-planning landscape, the con’s governing nonprofit, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction, or SF3 for short, also experienced a complete leadership turnover in the fall of 2021….

… To ensure that anti-racist work… continues on an institutional level, the con has also allocated a budget for creating a BIPOC outreach committee to create whatever programming the committee’s members see fit. 

“One of the things that we the board have really championed is putting our money where our mouth is,” [SF3 secretary Essay] Manaktola says. “We [as in] the people who are running a con that has been racist. You know, not necessarily under our guidance, and not any more racist than the ambient culture around us, and hopefully less.” Organizers are hopeful that within its first year, the outreach committee will be able to develop a skeleton for a formal BIPOC Mentorship Program to draw in more young readers and fans of color to the con….

(6) THE NEXT ROSE. “‘I’m in awe’: trans actor Yasmin Finney on joining Doctor Who” – a Guardian profile.  

…Finney’s character is called Rose, which was also the name of the companion famously played by Billie Piper in the mid-00s. The relevance of this is currently unknown. What we do know is that Finney was recently spotted filming scenes alongside David Tennant, AKA the Tenth Doctor, and Catherine Tate, AKA the Tenth Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble. In other words, there are more than enough cryptic developments to keep Whoniverse obsessives in a tizzy until the end product finally airs in 2023.

Finney squirms at the mere mention of Doctor Who – and what little she has to say about her casting only confuses matters further. “I didn’t know for a long time,” she says over Zoom, through curtains of sleek blond hair, “but I did know. I don’t want to give too much away.” My chances of gleaning anything meaningful seem practically zero. Was it mere coincidence that Davies’ mid-00s Doctor Who collaborator Euros Lyn also directed Heartstopper? “That was a huge coincidence!” exclaims Finney, before admitting that, actually, Lyn did recommend her to producers who were “looking for a trans girl”. But she doubts Lyn knew the precise nature of the project under discussion….

(7) SHORT SFF. Gizmodo’s Linda Codega answers the question “Which Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines Deserve More Love?” basically by saying they all do.

…So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers….

(8) NEAR MISS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Pace Jetboy: “I can’t die. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Look Up’ yet!” “Asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building barreling toward Earth on May 27” at MSN.com.

An enormous asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building will make a close approach to Earth on May 27, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Fear not: the asteroid, named 7335 (1989 JA), will soundly miss our planet by about 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) — or nearly 10 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. Still, given the space rock’s enormous size (1.1. miles, or 1.8 km, in diameter) and relatively close proximity to Earth, NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” meaning it could do enormous damage to our planet if its orbit ever changes and the rock impacts Earth….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, the first and I’m going to argue only Alien film worth seeing premiered on this day. Alien was directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon which in turn was based on a story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. 

This was the first genre film by Ridley with his only previous film being The Duellists which is most excellent. (I should essay it.) Dan O’Bannon on the other hand was the writer of Dark Star, which had been directed and produced by John Carpenter and which had been co-written with him. He had also worked on Star Wars doing computer animation and graphic displays as well as miniature and optical effects unit. Shusett was the first to option Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” short story that became Total Recall.

Digression: I did see it at the theatre. It was a fascinating experience. Horrifying but fascinating. Yes it very much deserved the Hugo did it win at Noreascon Two.

It cost very little to produce, around ten million, and made at least a hundred million. Because it was so successful, it spawned it a lot of films that included three sequels, AliensAlien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (A fifth film is being talked about with Weaver coming back.) The Predator crossovers produced Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. And then there’s prequel series of Prometheus and Alien: CovenantAliens is the only one of these I’ve seen.

So what the critics think?

Well Derek Malcom of the Guardian said when it came out that “Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won’t see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.”

And the staff of the TV Guide in their retrospective look at it liked it as well: “There’s nothing terribly complex or original about the movie, but it is distinguished by its clever and innovative use of B-movie staples in a hi-tech setting. Coming into his own as a director on his second  feature, Ridley Scott wrings every possible ounce of suspense and atmosphere out of the proceedings. Swiss artist-designer H.R. Giger supplied the distinctive ‘bio-mechanical’ concepts for the film, which help make the alien one of cinema’s scariest creations: a nightmare synthesis of humanoid  form, insect-like appendages, and mechanized structure that is all the more effective for not being seen too clearly for most of the film.  The non-star cast acquits itself well, bringing an appealing quality to their characters. One of them, Weaver’s Ripley, would develop into one of the genre’s most memorable heroines through the subsequent sequels.”

It gets a ninety four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, not at all surprising to me. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1913 Carl Wessler. Animator during the Thirties working on Musical Memories and other theatrical cartoon shorts for the Fleischer Studios, and a comic book writer from the Forties though the Eighties for including Charlton Comics, DC, EC Comics, Harvey Comics and Marvel. He also worked for editor-in-chief Stan Lee at Marvel’s 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best known I’d say for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 83. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course, he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats
  • Born May 25, 1944 Frank Oz, 78. Actor, director (including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives), producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise though he no longer performing him. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 73. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh my, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. 
  • Born May 25, 1950 Kathryn Daugherty. Yes, another one who damn it died far too young. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 56. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies.  She has two Nebula nominations, one for her “The Story of Love” short story and another for her “The Duke in His Castle” novella. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows two monsters squaring off – one with an obvious weapon, and the other – it will come to you.  

(12) DOOM PATROL. “’One Of The Things They Definitely Are Is Queer’: An Interview With Rachel Pollack” in The Comics Journal.

To fast-forward, the story is that you took over writing Doom Patrol after meeting Tom Peyer at a party.

Tom and I both wrote introductions for the Omnibus volume. I wrote mine first and then I saw his and corrected mine. Because I did not remember all the details of how we met. I vaguely thought that Neil Gaiman, who I had met at a writers conference, had invited me to this event. It turned out that Neil was there, but we were both there because it was a reception for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He introduced me to Stuart Moore and I was gushing to Stuart about how much I liked Vertigo – it wasn’t even Vertigo yet – but particularly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. That it was such an incredible brilliant thing. He said, well the editor is right here, which was Tom Peyer. So I was gushing to Tom and I said – and I wasn’t trying to get a job – “I’m not looking to write a monthly comic but if I ever was interested, Doom Patrol was the only thing I could imagine writing.” He said, “Actually, Grant’s leaving in a few months, why don’t you send me a sample script?” In his introduction he wrote that he was desperate to find somebody. I’m not sure why. But that’s why he responded to me. He sent me one or two of Grant’s scripts I could look at for reference. Neil sent me one of his scripts, I recall. Maybe I looked at an Alan Moore script, or maybe that was later. But I got a sense of how people do it and what I wanted to do. And the script that I sent him was the first story. He liked it enough that he said it should be my first issue. I wrote it based on what he told me [about how] Grant was going to end it, and where I would want to go with it. Basically I just had them move to Rhinebeck. [laughs] I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to move the cast who are weird super cool wild strange superheroes to some nice little village in upstate New York. [laughs]

Pollack also discusses working with editor Lou Stathis, somebody I met when he first got in fandom but only today did it occur to me to check if he has a Wikipedia entry – he does, and it’s quite a good one.

(13) 3 FREE MONTHS OF APPLE+ TV, [Item by Daniel Dern.] Good news, you can enjoy Ted Lasso. So-so news, you can watch Foundation. “Apple Subscriptions Are Free Right Now, so Go Watch Severance, Already” urges The Inventory.

… The idea of paying for yet another streaming service is exhausting, I get it. So how about this: How about you don’t pay for it?… 

The article sends you to a Best Buy site. The fine print says, “After free trial, plan automatically renews at $4.99/month until cancelled.”

(14) VARIABLE STAR. Jesse Hudson makes an interesting observation in his “Review of The This by Adam Roberts” at Speculiction.

Adam Roberts is that maddening sportsman who has trophies on the shelf to show he is a winner but doesn’t always show up to play. With an irregular training scheme and dynamic mentality, he instead depends on innate talent to win matches. Naturally, this results in inconsistency; he’s not always a threat for the podium. For the reader, this means they never know what they are going to get with Roberts—certainly one type of appeal. With 2022’s The This we get the chance to A) test the accuracy of Google’s search algorithm, and B) answer the question: has Roberts once again channeled his innate talent to make a run for the winner’s circle, or is it just another quiet bowing out in the group stage?…

(15) MINI-REVIEW OF DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Our local SF group has been to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In case anyone has not yet seen it, here is a more-or-less-spoiler free mini-review.

Action and spectacle from start to finish, director Sam Raimi takes viewers on a relentless ride.  As Bond was once accused: ‘all this running around. It’s so exhausting.’ Best bits include the death of Picard and an appearance of the cybermen…. What’s not to like, if you have the stamina.

Also trailer here.

(16) PHONE HOME? The headline oversells the story, however, the information is of interest: “Astronomer may have detected the source of the famous extraterrestrial ‘Wow!’ signal” at MSN.com.

Astronomers may have found the source of the ‘Wow!’ signal, an enigmatic radio transmission from space that some believe could have originated from an alien world.

The signal – a 72 second-long radio burst that was 20 times stronger than its background emissions – was first detected in 1977, stopping at just over a minute because that is the longest duration that the Big Ear radio telescope was able to observe. Scientists believe it is likely that the signal would have lasted longer.

Drawing attention to the mysterious transmission on a printout, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled it and jotted down ‘Wow!’ next to it. Since then, it has become of primary interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, although it has never been heard since.

… Focusing on G- and K-type stars – which are very similar to our own Sun – Caballero identified one, known as 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which appears to be the most likely source of the signal – 1,800 light-years from Earth.

“Despite this star is located too far for sending any reply in the form of a radio or light transmission, it could be a great target to make observations searching for techno-signatures such as artificial light or satellite transits”, Caballero writes.

Out of the 66 stars identified, two other stars, with temperatures and brightness very similar to our Sun, were also highlighted as worth investigating, as well as 14 more with a potentially similar temperature but unknown brightness. Caballero suggests, though, that since all these stars are located in the same part of the sky, the entire area is an ideal source for techno-signatures and should be explored.

Caballero’s findings appeared May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology….

(17) DRAW A LINE THROUGH THEM. “The end of men: the controversial new wave of female utopias” is discussed by Sandra Newman in the Guardian.

All the men are gone. Usually this is conceived as the result of a plague. Less often, the cause is violence. Occasionally, the men don’t die and the sexes are just segregated in different geographical regions. Or men miraculously vanish without explanation.

Left to themselves, the women create a better society, without inequality or war. All goods are shared. All children are safe. The economy is sustainable and Earth is cherished. Without male biology standing in the way, utopia builds itself.

I’m describing a subgenre of science fiction, mostly written in the 1970s-90s. It was once so popular it was almost synonymous with feminist SF. In 1995, when the Otherwise Award, a literary prize for “works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender”, gave five retrospective awards, four of the works were set in such worlds: Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines and Walk to the End of the World, and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and When It Changed. The fifth was Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a world whose inhabitants are all of the same sex.

Recently there has been a revival of the genre in radically different form, with titles including Lauren Beukes’s 2020 novel Afterland, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s 2021 thriller The End of Men, and my own new release, The Men. I think the way that these contemporary novels diverge from their earlier counterparts tells us something useful about gender politics in the 21st century. Part of the story, too, is a growing opposition to the basic premise, a conflict in which my novel has been recently embroiled….

(18) YES, SEX REX EVERYTHING. “’Prehistoric Planet’ shows another side to fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus Rex: The tender lover” at MSN.com.

…Working with producer Jon Favreau and the team that created the photorealistic visual effects used in  films like “The Lion King,” the series shows the period’s now-extinct creatures as if a film crew was shooting them 66 million years ago. 

Famed British naturalist commentator David Attenborough adds to the natural history heft with his narration, illuminating the T-Rex courtship ritual. The scene begins with an older male T-Rex, injured after battling a Triceratops, meeting a female at a river bed.

The meeting could lead either to fight or fancy. But the male shows a courtship posture and  utters a low-frequency vocalization to the receptive female. This behavior, like many of the “Prehistoric Planet” dinosaur depictions, is derived from phylogenetic bracketing – studying the extinct dinosaur’s living family tree, from birds to crocodiles and alligators.

“We’ve got scientific reasons for being very confident for this behavior,” says Naish. “We discussed this behind the scenes in the most detailed way, preparing for this. So in terms of exactly what to show, we knew exactly what was happening. And it’s the first time people will see this type of behavior realistically, from a natural history background.”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] So who DOES put all the arrows back in the slots…? Ryan George considers, “The Guys Who Set Up Ancient Booby Traps”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jennifer Hawthorne, 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 Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 5/19/22 That’s Why I Called The Song Alice’s Pixel Scroll

(1) HWA RELEASES SOCIAL MEDIA STATS. The Horror Writers Association shared some numbers about their coverage of social media platforms.

a. Facebook page: 3713 followers 
b. Facebook group: 15.8K members
c. Twitter: 22.3K followers
d. Instagram: 3713 followers 
e. Slasher: 5500
f. Discord Server: 150 members – has same functions as HWA’s old message boards but is more secure.
g. TikTok: 108 followers

(2) NEW DELANY NOVEL. No indication that it’s sff that I’ve seen: “Samuel R. Delany to Publish Serial Novel in The Georgia Review. The first installment is out.

The Georgia Review is proud to announce that our Summer 2022 issue will begin our serial publication of This Short Day of Frost and Sun, a new novel by Samuel R. Delany. The novel begins on New York’s Upper West Side sometime in the early 1990s, and, in an embedded tale, moves to a millionaire’s estate somewhere in the Midwest, a residence called “Mapless.” 

Somone on Facebook asked how long the serial will run. Delany replied:  

It might take them as much as three or four years to finish up the whole thing. I’m fiddling with it as I feed them chapters.

(3) NEXT YEAR’S STOKERCON. The Horror Writers Association’s StokerCon® 2023 will be in Pittsburgh, PA from June 15-18. Michael Arnzen, Benjamin Rubin, and Sara Tantlinger will co-chair the event. Register here.

(Early Bird) Launch through September 30 – $150
October 1st through October 31st – $200
November 1st through December 31st – $250
January 1st through May 15th – $300
More info will be available in the coming months.

(4) BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE YIELDS GOOD SF TV? The LA Times interviewed several showrunners to learn “How science fiction is shaping prestige TV”.

With storylines rooted in the Cold War or climate change or any number of other deep-seated earthbound concerns, no fewer than four new series (and counting) are boldly proclaiming an emerging era of prestige science fiction this season.

Why this sudden surge?

“Science fiction has always flourished when things weren’t going too well, and right now, there’s just a ton of anxiety in the world,” says David S. Goyer, showrunner for the Apple TV+ series “Foundation.”

That anxiety is reflected in these wildly variegated, star-packed offerings: Goyer’s “Foundation,” starring Jared Harris, traffics in “Dune”-style interplanetary strife set 25,000 years in the future; folksy heartland drama “Night Sky” (May 20, Prime Video) features Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons as a couple who periodically visit a distant planet via the teleportation device ensconced in their backyard shed; time-travel western “Outer Range” (Prime Video) stars Oscar nominee Josh Brolin as a Wyoming rancher spooked by a giant hole on the edge of his property; and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (Showtime) casts Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor as a charismatic extraterrestrial.

And while “Star Trek” in all its versions has been a relatively constant presence on screens big and small since the mid-1960s, its presence in these current times is growing ever larger, adding to the mix the recently launched “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” (Paramount+), which follows Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and his USS Enterprise crew on fresh adventures. And there’s still more to come as Apple TV+ will be back in the space race soon with “Constellation,” featuring Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks.

The Envelope spoke to these showrunners about how they’re reshaping sci-fi TV amid troubled times….

(5) STILL GUESSING. “Doctor Who casts Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney for 60th anniversary”Radio Times declines to leap to any conclusion about the history of the character named Rose that this actor will play.

…However, Rose is also the title of Davies’ very first Doctor Who episode, where NuWho (and his own involvement in the series) all began. As he returns to take over the show again, it seems oddly appropriate for there to be another Rose in the mix – and given his heartbreaking parting from the original Rose, we might assume it’ll have some resonance for Tennant’s Doctor as well.

For now, it’s still unclear exactly what role Finney will play alongside Tate and Tennant, how many episodes (or specials) she’ll appear in, and whether she’s just a guest star or whether she’s here for the long haul. If she is a companion, Finney will be the first trans actor to hold that position in the TV series (though Rebecca Root has played a trans companion in audio dramas, and trans actors have appeared in episodes and spin-offs before)….

Similiarly: “Doctor Who casts new Rose but what’s her connection to Billie Piper?” at Radio Times.

This new version of Rose isn’t necessarily a multiversal revamp or reincarnation. She’s not necessarily Donna’s surprise daughter (though that would be cool, right?) or a herald for Billie Piper’s own comeback (though again, let’s not rule that one out).

For the last 17 years, that name has been a crucial motif in Doctor Who. And as Davies looks back for the 60th anniversary of the show, it might have just felt right to have a new Rose blooming for a new generation.

(6) ANOTHER HUGO-WINNING PRONOUN ANTAGONIST. [Item by Anne Marble.] I didn’t know Barry Longyear would use words like “woke” and complain about pronouns. Maybe Barry Longyear should be shipwrecked on another planet with an asexual pregnant alien… Then he might learn about his prejudices. Longyear’s May 17 Facebook post begins:

I usually shy away from this sort of nonsense, but after watching the news this morning, enough is enough.

Of all the cruel, pointless, wastes of time in existence, “woke” pronoun designation and enforcement is vying with CRT and the new college segregation to promote “racial harmony” for first place. Three Wisconsin middle school boys have been charged with sexual harassment for using “incorrect gender pronouns.” A student in rather crude terms, berated a boy for not using “they” and “them” when referring to that student….

(7) DEATH DID NOT RELEASE HIM. “Marvel Signs Deal to Insert CGI Stan Lee Cameos Into Future Films”Futurism has the story.

…What happens when a brand puts words in a dead guy’s mouth? And how come Marvel reversed course? In 2021, the company said the digitally-aged cameo of Lee they inserted into “End Game” would be his last.

And emotionally, it’s worth noting that the whole thing feels a little icky. Is it really what Lee would have wanted?

“Ghoulish behavior,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “Do not resurrect the man for further movie appearances as a CGI puppet, no matter what his estate is willing to sign off on.”

(8) OH, SNAP! Seems like death did not release Nick Fury, either. How did that happen? “Secret Invasion Taking Place ‘During The Blip’ Raises Obvious Question” and Bleeding Cool tries to find the answer.

…During Disney’s Upfronts on Tuesday, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige brought out Jackson to help him promote the six-episode series. And that’s when things got interesting because while folks knew Secret Invasion would take place within the MCU timeline, Feige offered a bit more clarity that… caused a bit of confusion. While still engaging in the Marvel Studios’ policy of offering as few details as possible, did say that the series would take place “during The Blip, when half of the universe was decimated by Thanos and will explore the events that happened in that period.” So if that’s the case and it takes place between Avengers: Infinity War (especially that post-credits scene) and Avengers: Endgame, then we have a huge mystery in front of us. Because as far as everyone saw during that previously mentioned post-credits scene, Fury and Cobie Smulders‘ Maria Hill (who is also set to appear in the series) found themselves on the wrong side of Thanos’ finger-snap…

(9) VANGELIS (1943-2022). The Guardian reports Vangelis, composer of Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner soundtracks died May 17. His music was also associated with space exploration.

…A fascination with outer space found voice in 2016’s Rosetta, dedicated to the space probe of the same name, and Nasa appointed his 1993 piece Mythodea (which he claimed to have written in an hour) as the official music of the Mars Odyssey mission of 2001. His final album, 2021’s Juno to Jupiter, was inspired by the Nasa probe Juno and featured recordings of its launch and the workings of the probe itself in outer space….

Sultana Raza commemorated his passing in verse: “Cosmic Rainbow – Vangelis’ music inspired this poem”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-nine years ago, William Shatner got his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It as the 1762nd such star. He’d actually also get a star on the Walk of Fame in Canada. 

It is said that hundreds of people attended Shatner’s dedication ceremony, including Leonard Nimoy. He gave a speech on the day, in which he said that Shatner was “a wonderful man and a great actor” before telling the crowd about the terrible jokes Shatner liked to play on him. 

Shatner also spoke, “This is my small ticket to the stars. All of the other accolades are so ephemeral one never has anything that’s truly concrete and this is the one exception.” 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 19, 1904 Anthony Bushell. He played Colonel Breen in the Quatermass and the Pit series. He showed in DangerInvisible Man and The Saint. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 19, 1937 Pat Roach. He was cast in the first three Indy Jones films as a decided Bad Person though he never had a name. His first genre appearance was in A Clockwork Orange as a Milkbar bouncer but his first named role was being Hephaestus in Clash of Titans. He was of an unusually stocky nature, so he got cast as a Man Ape in Conan the Destroyer, and as Bretagne the Barbarian in Red Sonja. And of course he had such a role as Zulcki in Kull the Desttoyer. Oh, and he played a very large and mostly naked Executioner in the George MacDonald Fraser scripted The Return of The Musketeers. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy, he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight.  Can we say he earned a Hugo at IguanaCon II? I know I’m stretching it there. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of my all-time favorite films. He had an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero with his American acting debut playing a Bigfoot in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Secret of Bigfoot”. He died at age forty-six of congestive heart failure in his sleep at a Paris hotel while there for his father’s funeral. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 74. Singer, best known for a song about looking for a parking spot, but also acts. In addition to other genre roles, she was a companion of Conan in Conan the Destroyer and a Bond Girl in View to a Kill. (Alan Baumler) 
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 56. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Women, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder). She also has a most excellent two volume YA series called the Between the Lines Universe which she wrote with Samantha van Leer. ISFDB lists her Second Glance novel as genre but I’d say it’s genre adjacent at best. 

(12) WE INTERRUPT THIS SCROLL. John Scalzi has not been neglecting his Coca-Cola tasting duties – we just missed the coverage!

In February CNN Business featured another variation on the soft drink: “Coca-Cola Starlight: Coke’s new flavor is out of this world”. That week Scalzi obtained a can and shared his impression:

Then earlier this month he also wrote up another new limited edition flavor: Pixel Flavored! (How on earth – or off it – did we miss that?) “In Which I Try the Latest Coca-Cola Creations Flavor” at Whatever.

It is the Byte Limited Edition Pixel Flavored Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which you cannot get in the stores; you have to order it off the Coca-Cola Web site, where it comes in a specialty boxed package (which you can see in the background) featuring two cans, a sticker and a QR card for a video game, all for $15 or thereabouts. Apparently only 25,000 of the boxes will be made. Well, okay; I bought two boxes, just in case I fell so in love with whatever “pixel flavored” tastes like that I needed to have a couple extra to string it out.

(13) MORE LOVE, MORE DEATH, MORE ROBOTS. And unrelated to beverages, About Netflix tapped John Scalzi for comments on “’Love, Death + Robots’: The Story Behind the Anthology Series’ First-Ever Sequel”.

How did it feel to return to these characters?

For me, the thing that was great is I wrote the characters because, years ago, a friend of mine kept poking me until I contributed to her anthology, Robots Vs. Fairies. I knocked it out in about an hour. The fact that something I did to keep my friend from annoying me has gone on to have such a long life – first in the book, then the first season, then being the only episode that is explicitly a sequel – just tickles me. And it thrills me, because the longer I’m with those characters, the more I love them….

(14) BRADBURY DNA. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater will be inspired by a bard from another world when they stage “It Came from Outer Space” from June 22-24.

A new musical comedy adapted from the ‘50s cult classic sci-fi film from Universal Pictures! Amateur astronomer John Putnam encounters an alien spaceship in the desert and becomes the laughingstock of his small town—until the extraterrestrial visitors make their presence known and he must convince the gathering mob that they have come in peace. A clever musical score and creative physical humor puts a new spin on Ray Bradbury’s flying saucer tale, examining society’s fear of outsiders as it simultaneously embraces the wonder of what lies just beyond the stars. Commissioned and developed by Chicago Shakespeare with Creative Producer Rick Boynton, the production reignites an artistic partnership with creators Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, following the triumph of their Jeff Award-winning 2011 musical, Murder for Two, which went on to an acclaimed New York run.

(15) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was planted in front of the TV tonight when Jeopardy! contestants stumbled over this genre item.

Category: Lit Bits

Answer: This book introduced us to the Eloi and Morlocks.

Wrong questions: What is “The Lord of the Rings” and “What is “War of the Worlds”?

Right question: What is “The Time Machine”?

(16) TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE. The answers to Thursday’s puzzle are hidden to avoid spoilers. Though we guess most Filers will get this four-letter answer pretty easily.

(17) ORION SHALL WRITHE. “In The Original ‘Star Trek’ Pilot, It Wasn’t Easy Being Green” explains H&I. It’s not a long anecdote, and would be spoiled by running enough of an excerpt to read coherently. So just click over and be entertained.

(18) NOT A FLOOR BUT A CEILING? Dr. Matt O’Dowd analyzes possible answers to a reciprocal of the usual assumption: “What If the Galactic Habitable Zone LIMITS Intelligent Life?” at PBS Space Time.

Our solar system is a tiny bubble of habitability suspended in a vast universe that mostly wants to kill us. In fact, a good fraction of our own galaxy turns out to be utterly uninhabitable, even for sun—like stellar systems. Is this why .. most of us .. haven’t seen aliens?

(19) NOT A FAN OF FOX. Screen Rant takes notes as “Star Trek Writer Hits Back At Controversial Fox News Op-Ed”. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe reacts to a Fox News op-ed that smeared the show as having suddenly adopted ‘woke politics.’”

(20) MEANWHILE, BACK IN FLORIDA. Reason brings you “Democratic Disney vs. Republican Disney”.

Tired of Disney not bending to their partisan sensibilities, two politicians update their theme parks.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, says that when the writer tells the producer that Wanda has gone bad because she’s been “possessed by an evil book,” the producer says, “this is why I don’t read.”  But the producer discovers who to cast for cameos when the writer makes smirky faces to him.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/22 I’ve Scrolled Pixels You People Wouldn’t Believe

(1) DISCON III SOUVENIR BOOK NOW AVAILABLE IN CHINESE. The 2021 Worldcon committee has had the Souvenir Book translated into Chinese.

It is digitally available in either English or Chinese on their website to anyone who wishes a copy. The English edition is here. The Chinese copy is here.

(2) STOKERCON PHOTOS. Ellen Datlow has shared her Flickr album of photos taken at Stokercon 2022 Denver. No captions yet, however.

(3) MORE HUGO FINALIST SAMPLERS. Alasdair Stuart has anticipated the Hugo Voter Packet by making available his selections from 2021’s The Full Lid, a Best Fanzine finalist, as either a PDF or a zip file containing PDF, mobi, and epub formats. He adds, “With many thanks to Nick Eden for the assembly!”

You can also find voter materials for two Best Semiprozine finalists, Escape Pod as well as PodCastle, at their sites.

(4) SPACE HOSPITALITY. In “Hugo Novel 2022: The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers”, Camestros Felapton reacts to another finalist.

…The story very much fits the expectations of a Chambers novel. The stakes are galactically-low and focused on the personal. There is conflict but it is either resolved or accommodated by people finding ways to get along. If anything, the focus on this aspect is greater than in previous stories and oddly, I found it better for that. It is a novel that is far more confident in staying within this personal space that is nonetheless shaped by political and cultural events….

(5) CODE NAME: DUDLEY. James Davis Nicoll begins “Five SF Works About Fighting Crime in Space” by explaining a bit of Canadian news to Tor.com readers, what might hypothetically follow, then names some books that might provide models:

…Presumably some sort of jet-pack-wearing analog of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will be along to enforce this. Its officers might well wonder “how would a space-based police force work? How does one even set fire to a barn in space?” Happily, while a space patrol may be new to Canada, SF authors have already explored how such an organization might operate, as these five vintage works prove.

Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein (1948)

While hardly the first space patrol novel, Heinlein’s coming-of-age tale may be one of the best known. Space Cadet follows the education and early career of would-be Interplanetary Patrolman Matt Dodson, from his enrollment to his first major assignment on Venus. Along the way, he is transformed from a naïve teen into a responsible young man.

While the Patrol reserves the option to simply nuke problems from orbit, it prefers more subtle approaches. The Venus affair is a case in point. In the 19th or 20th century, a dispute between natives and traders might have been resolved through violent retribution against the natives. The Patrol, with its more ethical and enlightened outlook, does its best to respect the Venusians and deliver actual justice. Hard news for the trader in question, who is very much in the wrong.…

(6) THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN. Amazon dropped this trailer for season 3 of The Boys today.

(7) A QECHJEM’A’ GROWS IN BROOKLYN. “Star Trek’s Klingon Helps NYC Teachers Understand Student Struggles Learning English” reports NBC New York.

Teachers at a Brooklyn school are finding inspiration from an unlikely source: Star Trek.

They’re boldly going where no educators have gone before (probably), learning “Klingon” as a way to connect to students in their classroom — as the fictional language invented for aliens serves as a reminder of everyone’s humanity.

Teachers at Saint Mark Catholic Academy in Sheepshead Bay are hoping that changing their language will help change their way of thinking. They are learning a language that until fairly recently was all Greek to them.

“Unless you’re a real Star Trek fan, you’re not well versed in Klingon,” said principal Mark Wilson.

It’s spoken by the fictional Klingon warriors on Star Trek. But learning this foreign fictional language is helping the teachers better understand real students learning English as a second language.

Over the last few years the school has seen an influx of eastern European students — children who don’t speak English at home. That includes Denys Shorodok, who came from Ukraine and for whom English is a third language.

“The teachers were coming to me (saying) I want to help my students but I don’t know how, and I wanted to help my teachers and I didn’t know how. So That’s when I reached out to ACES,” said Wilson.

… “One of the key parts of empathy is to think about what would it feel like for you if you were in the same situation,” said Rania El-Badry, the assistant director of the program.

“They now are familiar with the psychology and emotions of students in the classroom,” says program director Erica David, “and that’s something that will influence the way that they teach going forward.”…

(8) REVOVLVERS.  Dwayne Day discusses his five favorite moons in “All the myriad worlds” at The Space Review.

The other day I was having dinner with a prominent planetary scientist when I mentioned that I had a list of my five favorite moons. You do? He asked, surprised. Sure. Don’t you? He studies Venus, and Venus, like Vulcan, has no moon, so he didn’t have his own list of favorite moons but asked me to name mine. As I explained, most of my choices are not based strictly on scientific merit, but on the stories they tell—and the history of how we have discovered, studied, and explored them. Here they are, and why they’re on my list.

First up – Triton.

…Triton is one of Neptune’s moons, the largest, and it is an oddball. It circles the planet backwards, retrograde, in the opposite direction of Neptune’s other moons. This indicates that it did not form with them, and was likely captured when it wandered in from the Kuiper Belt. Triton was discovered shortly after the discovery of Neptune in 1846. Triton is cold, with estimated temperatures of 38 K (−235 °C). That, and its origins, combine to make it very interesting, and intriguing….

(9) KARL LEMBKE (1960-2022). Long-time LASFSian Karl Lembke died May 15 after a three-year battle with cancer. Karl was first elected Chair of the Board of Directors in 2002 (which I know because I took the minutes of the meeting!) and served continuously for 20 years.  

He joined LASFS in September 1985. He received the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the club in 2010. His financial donations to the club were acknowledged by making him a Patron Saint of the 38th meeting of the year. At times he also served as Scribe of the Thursday night meetings.

Past LASFS President Eylat Poliner adds, “Karl was a gentle soul. He was a devoted and loved member of the LASFS. He ran hospitality for Loscon for many years. He loved to play mahjong. He liked to cook/bake and was loyal to his family, He loved science fiction. He brewed mead and beer. He loved his co-workers and boss.”

As a conrunner, Karl often worked the green room or staff lounge at Loscon, Gallifrey, and even Corflu the last time it was in LA. He chaired Loscon 32 in 2005.

Heinlein would have been impressed to know that in Karl’s lifetime he made 997 apheresis (plasma and platelet) donations to the Red Cross.

Karl identified himself with the Sad Puppies – even reblogging installments of Chris Chan’s 2017 article series this year when it was reposted by John C. Wright. His Twitter @KarlLembke actively reflected comparable political interests. 

Karl Lembke in 2004.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2013 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just nine years ago, the sequel to rebooted Star Trek came out, Star Trek Into The Darkness. The twelfth film in the Trek franchise (really it was), it would be Leonard Nimoy‘s last film appearance before his death two years later. The Trek cast from the first film were back and the guest cast of Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, and Peter Weller would be here as well.

Naturally it was directed by J.J. Abrams off a script written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman  and Damon Lindelof. Abrams and Orci created Fringe, Kurtzman wrote the first film in this series plus he directed and co-wrote The Mummy which I essayed here not long ago, and Lindelof is one of the prime movers behind Lost.

In case someone here has managed not to see it yet, I’m not going to discuss it. See NO SPOILERS. 

It was costly. Best estimates say it was close to two hundred million by the time they were all done but it made nearly a half billion according to industry sources. That said, calculating in all of the expenses, Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film made a profit of only thirty million. Oh ouch.

So what did critics think of it at the time? Well most liked it though some I will admit detested it with all their hearts. Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone said: “Spoilers would cause me more trouble than an army of Klingons. One hint: If you rewatch any Star Trek movie before seeing this one, make it 1982’s iconic The Wrath of Khan. Kudos to Abrams for going bigger without going stupid. His set pieces, from an erupting volcano to the hell unleashed over London and Frisco Bay, are doozies. So’s the movie. It’s crazy good.” 

And SF Crownest said: “Snappy dialogue, spry action sequences, vibrant special effects, solid characterizations and galaxy-induced intrigue paints ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ as one the first summertime hits of 2013 to register its big box office promise with genuine thrills at a time where aimless sequels usually spell redundancy and disaster. Alas, it is quite acceptable to feel around in the ‘Darkness’ for Abrams’s stimulating spectacle that beams up some sharp and boisterous fun-filled momentum as routinely as it does an exasperated Scotty looking to return on board the ship.”

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic has an interesting point in his review I think and so we’ll leave our review notes with it: “For all its chasing and falling and fighting–and the movie supplies a great deal of each–Star Trek Into Darkness is at its best when the Enterprise crew are merely bickering and bantering among themselves: less space opera than soap opera.”

It currently has a most excellent ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 Barry Atwater. Surak in “The Savage Curtain” episode where several reliable sources say he had serious trouble making Vulcan hand gesture. He did a lot of other genre work from Night Stalker where he played the vampire Janos Skorzeny to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Alfred Hitchcock HourVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaNight Gallery, The Wild Wild West and The Outer Limits. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green-skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy” on Trek. She also one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild West, Voyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 16, 1950 Bruce Coville, 72. He’s won three Golden Duck Awards for Excellence in Children’s Science Fiction. He won first for his My Teacher Glows in the Dark, the second for his I Was a 6th Grade Alien, and the third for producing an audio adaptation of Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones. And NESFA also presented him with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. He was twice nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. 
  • Born May 16, 1953 Pierce Brosnan, 69. Louis XIV in The Moon and the Sun adaptation of Vonda McIntyre’s novel, shot in 2014 then not released til this year. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of such films. Seriously, what do you remember about his Bond 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.
  • Born May 16, 1955 Debra Winger, 67. Not I grant you an extensive genre resume but interesting one nonetheless. Her first genre appearance is in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in uncredited turn as, and I kid you, a Halloween Zombie Nurse with a poodle. Really I’m not kidding. And she appeared in three episodes of the Seventies Wonder Woman as Drusilla / Wonder Girl. If you want to stretch it, she was Rebecca in The Red Tent film.
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 54. 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. Last year, he was the lead in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic. 
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 53. 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. He’s currently Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Jason Hayes on SEAL Team which has migrated to Paramount + which means that the adult language barrier has been shattered so it’s quite amusing to hear a very foul mouthed Boreanaz. 
  • Born May 16, 1977 Lynn Collins, 45. She was an excellent Dejah Thoris in the much underrated John Carter. Her first genre role was Assistant D.A. Jessica Manning on the very short lived horror UPN drama Hauntings, and she showed up in True Blood as Dawn Green. She survived longer on The Walking Dead as Leah Shaw.  Back to films, she was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine as Kayla Silverfox, Rim of The World as Major Collins and Blood Creek as Barb. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) GEORGE PÉREZ APPRECIATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt has an appreciation for George Pérez.  He notes that Perez was proud of his Puerto Rican heritage and was proud of creating with Bill Mantlo the first Puerto Rican superhero, the White Tiger, whose first appearance was in The Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu #19 in 1975. “George Pérez was the master of the big comic-book moment”.

… And on the page, the storytelling power of Pérez’s pencils was fueled by the undeniable joy that came through in every panelhe ever illustrated. To flip through the pages of his decades of work with Marvel and DC Comics as well as independent projects was to know this man was born to draw superheroes.

As comics changed over the years, his art style remained classic — subtle and sophisticated. He never bowed to the pressure to draw oversexualized heroines in suggestive positions or heroes who looked as if they took superhero performance enhancers, which were the norms for many publishers in the very extreme 1990s….

(14) A MASTER’S VOICE. Frank Frazetta was an Illustrators of the Future Contest judge from its inception until he passed away in 2010. The contest recently made available a short video featuring him: “Advice from a Master: Frank Frazetta”.

(15) IF YOU CAN’T MAKE IT HERE. The New Yorker’s critic Richard Brody scoffs, “’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Is a Formulaic Corporate Slog”.

The first “Doctor Strange” film introduced an idiosyncratic character by means of an apt cinematic peculiarity, but its sequel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” squeezes the character into the Marvel franchise by trimming away all the whimsy. The strength of the first “Doctor Strange” is the embrace of its protagonist’s weirdness, which enshrines him among the franchise’s fictional personalities. The sequel is conservative: the weirdness is reined in, and the narrative’s symbolic loose ends are replaced by chains that bind it to other characters and story lines from the Marvel stable.….

(16) AUNTIE EM! AUNTIE EM! The Smithonian’s video series STEM in 30 tracks “The Science of the Wizard of Oz”.

How can monkeys, houses, and witches fly?

L.Frank Baum’s book “”The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”” was first published in 1900 and was a hit from the get-go. While the story was first adapted for Broadway in 1903 and for film in 1910, it is probably the 1939 film starring Judy Garland that most people think of when one mentions The Wizard of Oz. In this episode we’ll explore some of the more fanciful parts of the story and dive deep into tornadoes, flying witches, hot air balloons and – what about those flying monkeys?

(17) OLD SPARKY. HuffPost Entertainment tells how “John Oliver Killed By ‘Murderous Hell-Demon’ In Surprise Show-Stopper”.

…Oliver said he’d normally bring out a mascot to show how “terrible and horrifying” utilities are.

But he didn’t have to in this case.

“They already made a murderous hell-demon almost 100 years ago,” he said, referring to an extremely creepy long-ago mascot for power companies called Reddy Kilowatt.

He regretted it almost instantly.

“I could kill you right now and there’s nothing anyone could do about it,” Reddy Kilowatt declared.

Then, he did exactly that….

(18) UPON A STAR. Tella is an animated film, directed by Zachary Conlu, about a little girl and her unusual new pet.

A lost girl gets a surprise visit from a fallen star that seems to give no notice of her…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Eddie Izzard sketch of what happened when Darth Vader showed up in the Death Star cafeteria may have 28 million views, but it’s never appeared in File 770! (From 2008.)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/22 Make Room Party, Make Room Party

(1) COME THE MILLENNIUM. This year marks 60 years of the iconic Spider-Man. Marvel Comics will celebrate this milestone anniversary with a special issue honoring the comic that started it all, Amazing Fantasy. Arriving in August, Amazing Fantasy #1000 will be a giant-sized one-shot brought together by some of the industry’s most acclaimed creators.

Here’s just some of what fans can expect from this landmark issue:

  • Visionary writer Neil Gaiman’s grand return to the Marvel Universe
  • Emmy Award winning creator behind “Veep” and “Avenue 5” Armando Ianucci’s Marvel Comics debut
  • Spider-Man mastermind Dan Slott and superstar artist Jim Cheung team up to explore the enduring love between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in a story set in the far future
  • Acclaimed artist Michael Cho and novelist Anthony Falcone introduce a new Spider-Man villain
  • Ho Che Anderson crafts a horror-fueled Spidey adventure that cuts to Peter Parker’s core
  • Plus stories by Rainbow Rowell, Jonathan Hickman, and many more!

 “It’s Spider-Man’s 60th and we wanted to celebrate in style by inviting some of the greatest creative minds in the world to celebrate it!” Editor Nick Lowe said.

Join the industry’s top talent in celebrating Spider-Man’s birthday when Amazing Fantasy #1000 arrives in August. 

(2) THE SKY IS FALLING. Chillercon, the Horror Writers Association’s UK event, announced a change of venue after the ballroom ceiling collapsed in their planned facility. The con will still take place in Scarborough from May 26-29.

The convention received news this week that there has been a ceiling collapse in the Cabaret Ballroom of the Grand Hotel, one of our main programming rooms in that hotel, and asbestos has been discovered. The room has been closed off and the hotel declared safe to run by the relevant authorities, but for the last forty-eight hours the convention committee has been working with both hotels towards the best solution for both the ability of ChillerCon UK to run effectively and for the safety of our attendees, as obviously we are keen to ensure there’s no risk to anyone attending.

To that end, we are pleased to confirm that all programming and accommodation has now been moved to the Royal Hotel with immediate effect….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join John Appel for a dry-aged burger in Episode 171 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Appel

John’s debut novel Assassin’s Orbit, published last year, was a finalist for the 2022 Compton Crook Award. He’s a former US Army paratrooper, a long-time information security professional, a historical fencer, and a life-long gamer who’s written the occasional tabletop RPG adventure. He co-edited the anthology Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger along with Mary Alexandra Agner. John’s also a graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop and a founding member of the Maryland Space Opera Collective writing group.

We met for lunch at the White Oak Tavern, which is in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center in Ellicott City, Maryland, and if there was ever a proper place to record an episode of Eating the Fantastic, an Enchanted Forest certainly sounds like it.

We discussed how pitching his debut novel as “Battlestar Galactica meets Golden Girls” got him an agent, why his background in table-top RPGs might be the reason he writes novels rather than short stories, how he deals with the “candy bar” scenes of his plots, the way critique groups and sensitivity readers can help make books better, how to juggle multiple viewpoints and still have them all be equally compelling, the political aspects of his novel which make it a different read than it would have been when it was first begun, his particular set of skills which helped bring fight scenes alive, and much more.

(4) BARRIERS REMAIN. Nalo Hopkinson is profiled by Silvia Moreno-Garcia for the University of British Columbia publication Beyond: “As publishing becomes more varied and diverse, challenges remain for writers of colour”.

…Hopkinson believes universities can help enrich the literary landscape by embracing genre fiction, looking at alternatives that deviate from traditional forms of learning and helping students develop a sense of belonging. For example, the traditional workshop model, where students sit around a circle discussing their stories, may be of little value to a student if they are the only writer of colour in a class.

“I encounter a lot of emerging writers who come from a marginalized community who feel that they won’t be welcomed,” she explains.

Hopkinson believes something that helped her become a writer was “middle class entitlement.” She grew up in a place where Black people were in the majority, where her father was a teacher and her mother a librarian and literature seemed an obtainable pursuit.

“There’s a certain type of entitlement because of that. Not wealth, but entitlement,” she says. “That sense of I have a right to be here.”

The hardest lesson for Hopkinson to teach is this self-empowerment….

(5) THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN. “Janelle Monáe: ‘Erasure is happening right under our noses’” the singer and author tells Christiane Amanpour at CNN Style.

…As Monáe wrote on Instagram in December, they have always used sci-fi and Afro-Futurism as “vehicles” for translating ideas into music, art and now literature. But the singer told Amanpour that they believe memory and history are under threat in today’s America.

“I think that there is definitely an agenda for erasure,” Monáe said, pointing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans LGBTQ+ topics in elementary school classrooms, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing legislation that restricts how race and US history is taught in the state’s schools.

“These are real experiences for our ancestors, real experiences for us,” Monáe said. “And erasure is happening right underneath our noses. And it’s being done through lawmaking.”…

(6) VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses TV adaptations of games.

What film directors seem to miss while adapting games for cinema is that games do not resolve around stories we are told but worlds we inhabit. They need to ask what it means for this story to be watched rather than played, and how it might have to change accordingly. In that respect, TV may prove a more natural fit. The length of a series creates space for the spreading storytelling style of games and their myriad characters. This breathing room should also allow showrunners to capitalise on the abundant lore and environmental detail of modern games, which assist in the trendy pursuit of ‘world building.’

Two TV shows that offer hope for the future are both animations. Castlevania, a vampire story based on a series of hit 1990s games, has become a surprise hit on Netflix since launching in 2017.  It is sharply written with mature themes and thoughtful plotting and paved the way for last year’s Arcane. Another Netflix show, Arcane digs into the origin stories of two heroes from the online battle arena game League Of Legends using striking animation that blends hand-painted textures with 3D graphics. Unlike other adaptations, Arcane forgoes fussy plot exposition in favor of character-driven drama and plays loosely with its source material, focusing on the complex relationship between two women and including action only where it meaningfully impacts the narrative.

(7) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is hosting the first annual Sturgeon Symposium on September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. Here’s the call for papers. They are accepting proposals until June 30.

(8) TIME TRAVEL AND SEX. Nibedita Sen is interviewed by Sarah Gailey in “First Times” at Stone Soup.

First Times is structured unlike anything I’ve read before, using recursion in the narrative to expand and deepen the theme of the story. What inspired you to work in this particular structure? How did you approach storytelling in this medium?

A couple of things, actually – the most important of which is that this was my very first time (hah) writing interactive fiction. As such, I really wanted to keep the game as short and simple as possible, having been warned how easily the simplest-seeming idea can balloon once you actually get down to writing multiple branches of a narrative. Another piece of advice I was given, as a first time IF-writer, was to think about replayability – a game shouldn’t be a one-and-done (hah) kind of thing, but something a reader could go back to multiple times, discovering something new every time….

(9) FRED WARD (1942-2022). Actor Fred Ward has passed on at the age of 79. Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell, Earl Bassett in Tremors and sequels, and the lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He was also in The Crow: Salvation, Invasion Earth (miniseries), had parts in episodes of The Incredible Hulk and The Hitchhiker. The New York Times tribute here comments:

…Mr. Ward was likely best known for his performances in “The Right Stuff,” the acclaimed 1983 adaptation of a book by Tom Wolfe, and “Tremors,” a monster movie that ascended to cult classic status since its release in 1990.

But his long career included a broad range of roles in which he applied a sometimes gruff but almost always grounded charisma to parts on film and TV: among other parts, a union activist in “Silkwood,” a detective in “Miami Blues,” Henry Miller in “Henry and June,” and a motorcycle racer in “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann.”…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-eight years ago, The Crow premiered. I saw it at the theatre and yes, I liked it quite a bit. I’m not a horror fan but I found this quite impressive.  I hadn’t realized until now that it was co-written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow but I’ll get back to that in awhile. 

It was directed by Alex Proyas who would later be nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon Three (1999) for Dark City. (The Truman Show won that year.) And he’d also later direct I, Robot.

The Crow was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill. Most would produce the sequels, The Crow: City of AngelsThe Crow: Salvation and The Crow: Wicked Prayer. Pressman was the uncredited executive producer for Conan the Destroyer and Grant Hill was involved in the Matrix films plus V for Vendetta.

Of course the movie starred Brandon Lee, an actor who gave the film a certain tragic edge by dying. The other major roles were held by Ernie Hudson and Michael Wincott. Ernie you know, but Michael Wincott has largely played villains in such films as Alien Resurrection and The Three Musketeers (remember I hold them to be genre). 

So yes, it was written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow. Checking IMDB, I see Shirley has written far too many screenplays too list all of them here, so I’ll just note his work on Deep Space NineBatman Beyond and Poltergeist: The Legacy. Though definitely not genre, he also wrote one episode of the Red Shoe Dairies. Really he did.

The Crow did well at the box office making nearly a hundred million against twenty-four million in costs. 

So what did the critics think? Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune had this to say: “What’s scary about The Crow is the story and the style itself: American Gothic, Poe-haunted nightmare, translated to the age of cyberpunk science fiction, revenge movies and outlaw rock ‘n’ roll, all set in a hideously decaying, crime-ridden urban hell.” And Caryn James of the New York Times said: “It is a dark, lurid revenge fantasy and not the breakthrough, star-making movie some people have claimed. But it is a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth.”

It holds a most exemplary ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 13, 1922 Bea Arthur. Really only one meaningful genre credit but oh but what a credit it is. She’s in the Star Wars Holiday Special as Ackmena. That character in the Star Wars canon was the nightshift bartender in Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley on Tatooine who joined the resistance. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite, as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. No, I’ve not forgotten about his Hugos. Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal.  It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light. His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 13, 1946 Marv Wolfman, 76. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And he worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell, he even wrote a Reboot episode!) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 73. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. 
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 71. His retelling of The Tain is marvellous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific.
  • Born May 13, 1964 Stephen Colbert, 58. Ubernerd who’s currently recovering from his third bout of Covid. He’s hosted charity showings of Tolkien. Genre credits a cameo as a spy in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the voice of Paul Peterson in Mr. Peabody & Sherman and the voice of President Hathaway in Monsters vs. Aliens

(12) THE SLEEPER SYMBIOTE CLAIMS A NEW HOST IN VENOM #11. This cover reveal is really only the first phase of Sleeper Agent’s look. They are symbiotes, after all. Pick up his debut issue when Venom #11 arrives in August.

Writers Al Ewing and Ram V and artist Bryan Hitch’s acclaimed run on Venom continues to reshape the symbiote mythos in each explosive issue! And luckily for Venom fans, the trio of superstar creators have no plans to slow down as the ongoing series enters its’ third terrifying arc this August in Venom #11. Kicking off a three-part story called “VENOMWORLD”, readers will see Eddie and Dylan Brock’s journey take a sharp turn as they deal with the shocking revelations of Venom #10. Dylan is still at the mercy of Bedlam while Eddie battles his way across the cosmos, discovering more about the symbiotes than ever before. And the hits keep coming as the Sleeper symbiote joins the fray with a deadly new look… 

(13) LIVE TWEETING. Cat Rambo did the Writers Corner Live show, talking about The Reinvented Heart with Mary Elizabeth Jackson. 

(14) BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Doctor Strange 2 writer Michael Waldron, in a spoiler-packed article, discusses his screenplay and the Star Wars film he is working on for Kevin Feige. BEWARE SPOILERS! “’Doctor Strange 2′ Writer on Wanda, Mr. Fantastic, ‘Star Wars’ Movie” in Variety.

SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses major plot points in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, currently playing in theaters. Do not read until you’ve seen the movie.

As an alum of “Community” and “Rick and Morty,” screenwriter Michael Waldron certainly knows outré, genre-hopping science fiction; with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Waldron found a kindred spirit in director Sam Raimi, who invented outré, genre-hopping horror with his “Evil Dead” trilogy.

Together, Raimi and Waldron have made one of the most distinctive — and, for some, controversial — movies ever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To wit (the big spoilers start here): Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) goes full Scarlet Witch and brutally murders anyone who gets in the way of her mission to find a universe in which her sons from the 2021 Disney+ series “WandaVision” are still alive. It’s a heel turn that has shocked many — including Olsen — especially when Wanda decimates the Illuminati, the team of superheroes from an alternate reality that includes Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier (from 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” movies), Anson Mount’s Black Bolt (from ABC’s “Inhumans” TV series), and John Krasinski’s Reed Richards, the first time the leader of the Fantastic Four has appeared in the MCU….

(15) IT WILL BECOME ROUTINE. “Huntsville International Airport becomes first commercial airport allowed to land a space vehicle” reports WAFF.

The Huntsville International Airport was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow commercial space vehicles to land at the airport….

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser is a space utility vehicle that is designed to transport crew and cargo to destinations such as the International Space Station.

Sierra Space was awarded six missions by NASA to resupply the International Space Station. The FAA could grant the Dream Chaser the option to land in Huntsville in 2023.

“This is a significant milestone for Huntsville International and for our community in the pursuit of landing a commercial space vehicle right here in Rocket City U.S.A.,” Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Port of Huntsville/Huntsville International Airport, Mark McDaniel, said in a statement. “That’s going to be an exciting day, not just for the Airport but also for the talented and dedicated partners in this effort.”

(16) EATING OUTSIDE THE BOX. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Marylou Tousignant says that May 11 was National Eat What You Want Day and recommended ten foods kids could try, including Japanese tuna eyeballs, Vietnamese coconut worms, and Marmite. “On Eat What You Want Day, try something new”.

… It’s easy to think of foods you love and want to eat. We decided to tinker with the idea and tell you about 10 unusual dishes from around the world that you may never have heard of. We’re calling it International Give It a Try Day….

She alerted me to all the damage Paddington caused in this commercial when he switched from marmalade to Marmite sandwiches! “Paddington Bear Marmite TV Commercial “.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Dan’l, Paul Weimer, Cat Eldridge, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 5/11/22 Pixelled In The Scroll By A Chuck Tingle Pixel Scroll Title

(1) STAR TREK SPOILER WARNING. Let that be said right up front. Anybody that doesn’t want Picard Season 2 spoiled, please skip to the next item.

Okay. Now for the rest of you: “Star Trek Producers Fought Over Which New Shows Get To Bring Back Wesley Crusher” reports TrekMovie.com.

Today Paramount released a “Wesley Crusher’s Return” video feature that was also included in The Ready Room. The video features executive producers Akiva Goldsman and Alex Kurtzman discussing the fact that after the idea of Wesley returning on Picard was brought up, it started a sort of Crusher conflict with at least one other series…

Actor Wil Wheaton commented on Facebook:

I had no idea that the showrunners of the different Star Trek shows were fighting over who could write Wesley into their story.

This just feels like such a huge validation and such a huge win for Wesley, for me, and for all the other kids who were weird, unseen, awkward, or any of the other qualities we all had in common that made him important to us.

And as long as I have your attention: I feel seen and celebrated right now, in a way I never have before. I feel like it’s personal in a way that is brand new, that *belongs* to me, because it is a gift that was given to me.

I don’t know who all the people were, at every step of the way, who made Wesley’s return to Star Trek canon happen, but I am so grateful to all of them for making this happen.

And I’m so grateful to everyone who has celebrated me, and Wesley. It feels really good and it means a lot to me.

Here’s the clip:

(2) LMB MAKES HISTORY. “Bujold interview by Asena Ideus, 23 March 2022” was posted by Lois McMaster Bujold at Goodreads.

Raw version of an email interview I did for a college student for her history thesis paper. I was rather bemused to have my teen fannish enthusiasms viewed as history; my parents would have been quite surprised…

When it comes to Star Trek zines, you are featured in Spockanalia 2 (issued 1968) for your short piece The Free Enterprise. Could you talk more about that, especially since fanzine culture is so different (practically nonexistent) today? What were fanzines like during the ‘60s and ‘70s? The first documented fanzines began in the 1930s, but were they extremely popular among SF fans when Star Trek: TOS was airing or were they still an emerging medium?

LMB: Fanzine culture is thriving today, its content just moved online. It’s just called blogs and websites. It may not know its own history in some cases, true.

One commenter described the internet hitting fanfic as like throwing a gasoline tanker truck onto a campfire, which sounds about right to me….

(3) COMICMIX BACK IN THE SEUSS BUSINESS. Publishers Weekly has the details. “ComicMix Launches Campaign to Publish Public Domain Seuss Stories”. The Kickstarter is here. (People have pledged $4,813 of its $5,000 goal at this writing.)

Less than a year after settling a lawsuit with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, ComicMix is launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of The Zaks and Other Lost Stories by Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, to be released in July. The stories, which are in the public domain and available digitally on the Seussville website, include the titular story The Zaks, and The Sneetches, among others. ComicMix plans to release the titles of the other stories in the compilation as successive crowdfunding goals are met.

Between 1950 and 1956, Geisel published 23 stories in Redbook, including the seven that will be published in this compilation…. The ComicMix edition of the stories was created with high-quality scans from the original Redbook stories, tracked down from collectors of the magazine. Redbook reverted the copyright to these stories to Geisel, but the copyright was not renewed, so the versions that appeared in the magazines are now in public domain. 

ComicMix issued an official comment about the publication, stating, “This book is not associated with, nor approved by, nor even particularly liked by Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P., a California limited partnership, which owns some of the copyrights of the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the author and illustrator who created many works under the pseudonym ‘Dr. Seuss.’ ” Hauman, who preferred to comment about the upcoming book in Seuss-like rhyme, had this to say:

“We found Dr. Seuss stories, once thought to be lost,
that we’re bringing to you at a reasonable cost.
Some tales are familiar, though not quite this way,
but all fine examples of Seuss’s wordplay!
We spruced them all up, and now are good times
to rediscover his artwork and rhymes.
We filled up a book to put on your shelf
So that you can at last read them for yourself!” OY

Dr. Seuss Enterprises declined to comment on the story.

(4) WOKE SF TROLLS. [Item by Mlex.] A thoughtful discussion of the flap of people complaining about “woke” sf by Christopher Reeves, commentator for DailyKos. “Right-wing trolls accusing science fiction of being ‘woke’ are messing with my childhood”.

Sometimes, I fall into a rabbit hole I didn’t even know was going to happen. I was following along with a YouTube thread regarding Stargate SG-1 when it was pointed out a reboot was possible. I, having followed the series, thought, “Cool, cool, I might really enjoy this so tell me more.” I sat down to watch and learned a few things, but within the first three minutes, something interesting came about. According to a video on the subject: “Fans have become concerned following the recent release of The Wheel of Time series, and the upcoming Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series. Both of those series have taken significant creative license to change the characters and story to fit what many science fiction and fantasy fans believe is a ‘woke’ or progressive agenda at a cost to the canon of the original stories.

Wait, what? I’ve read almost all of Tolkien. I’ve watched every Star Trek series. I’ve read some of Ringworld, and in general, I devoured science fiction. What on Earth are these fans so upset about? What am I missing here? I decided last night to do a little bit of looking, and I regret some of the time I sacrificed but it certainly left me with some thoughts. I can always tell things are going wrong when people use terms like “woke” which is just one of those right-wing slurs that they use to replace “compassionate” or “reasonable” it seems….

(5) FREE READ. The “Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog,” a Best Fanzine Hugo finalist, has made their submission to the Hugo Voter Packet available as a free read at the link. And a very nice job they did, picking the material and creating the design.

(6) JDA SNEAKS BACK ONTO TWITTER. You knew that wouldn’t take long. Jon Del Arroz after being ousted from Twitter on May 6 simply opened another account and immediately resumed tweeting the usual links to his crowdfunding appeals, comics, and books. And misogynistic BS. (The last image below wasn’t posted by JDA, but I bet he wishes he’d thought of it.)

(7) LYNN HARRIS DIES. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Long-time Midwestern and Southern fan Lynn Harris passed away on May 10, 2022. She was 70 years old. Lynn was an artist who was known for running and/or working on many convention art shows, including at the late lamented Rivercon and Kubla Khan. She received the Rebel Award at the 2000 Deep South Con.

(8) PATRICIA MCKILLIP (1948-2022). World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement honoree Patricia A. McKillip died May 6 at the age of 74. Her best-known works included the books in the Riddle-Master trilogy, The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), Heir of Sea and Fire (1977), and Harpist in the Wind (1979) — the latter her only Hugo finalist, also a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, British Fantasy Award, and winner of a Locus Award.

Four of her books won the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature or Adult Fantasy, Something Rich and Strange (1995), Ombria in Shadow (2003, which also won the World Fantasy Award), Solstice Wood (2007), and Kingfisher (2017). Her other World Fantasy Award winning book was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (1975), which was published in 1974, the year after the appearance of her first published work, The Throme of the Erril of Sherrill (1973), a novella.

McKillip’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction entry written prior to her death summed up her career: “Over the past two decades, eschewing the use of fantasy backgrounds for inherently mundane epics, McKillip has become perhaps the most impressive author of fantasy story still active.”

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] The considerable joy of doing these anniversaries is finding these weird little shows that I’ve never heard of. So it is with a Disney series called So Weird whichran for sixty-five episodes. So Weird could best be described as a younger version of the X-Files and it far darker than anything which was on Disney when it debuted in 1999. It lasted for just three seasons. 

It was centered around teen Fiona “Fi” Phillips (played by Cara DeLizia) who toured with her rocker mom Molly Phillips (played by Mackenzie Phillips). They kept running into strange and very unworldly things. For the third and final season, she was replaced by Alexz Johnson playing Annie Thelen after the other actress gets the jones to see if she could make in Hollywood. (Well she didn’t.)

The story is that one of the characters, Annie, while visiting an Egyptian museum encounters a cat who once belonged to Egyptian queen that now wants her very much missed  companion back. Yes, both the cat and the princess are either immortal or of the undead. 

The writer of this episode, Eleah Horwitz, had little genre background having written just three Slider episodes and a previous one in this series. He’d later be a production assistant on ALF. 

Now if you went looking to watch So Weird’s “Meow” on Disney + after it’s debuted, the streaming service pulled the second season within days of adding the series but returned it a month later within any reason for having pulled it. The show has never been released on DVD. 

However the first five episodes in the first season of the series were novelized and published by Disney Press as mass-market paperbacks, beginning with Family Reunion by Cathy East Dubowski. (I know the Wiki page says Parke Godwin wrote it but the Amazon illustration of the novel cover shows her name. So unless this is one of his pen names, it is not by him.) You can find the other four that were novelized in the Amazon app by simply doing So Weird + the episode name. No they are not available at the usual suspects.

I didn’t find any critics who reviewed it, hardly surprising given it was on the Disney channel but a lot of folks really liked including John Dougherty at America: The Jesuit Review: “As a kid, my favorite show was about death. Well, not just death: it was also about faith, sacrifice and trying to make sense of life’s ineffable mysteries. Strangest of all, I watched it on the Disney Channel. ‘So Weird’ ran for three seasons from 1999 to 2001. It was Disney’s attempt to create a kid-friendly version of ‘The X-Files,’ tapping into an in-vogue fascination with ghosts, alien encounters and other paranormal phenomena. In practice, it became something more: a meditation on mystery and mortality.” 

I think I’ll leave it there. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 11, 1930 Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into  SpaceTwilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 11, 1935 Doug McClure. He had the doubtful honor of appearing some of the worst Seventies  SF films done (my opinion of course and you’re welcome to challenge that), to wit The Land That Time ForgotThe People That Time ForgotWarlords of the Deep and even Humanoids From The Deep. Genre wise, he also appeared in one-offs in The Twilight ZoneOut of This WorldAirWolfAlfred Hitchcock PresentsFantasy Island and Manimal. Some of which were far better. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 11, 1936 Gordon  Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.)
  • Born May 11, 1952 Shohreh Aghdashloo, 70. Best known genre role is Chrisjen Avasarala on The Expanse series. (I’ve not seen it, but have listened to all of The Expanse series.) She also had a recurring role as Farah Madani on The Punisher. She was also in X-Men: The Last Stand as Dr. Kavita Rao, but her role as The Chairman in The Adjustment Bureau didn’t make it to the final version. She was Commodore Paris in Star Trek Beyond, and she had a recurring role as Nhadra Udaya in FlashForward
  • Born May 11, 1976 Alter S. Reiss, 46. He’s a scientific editor and field archaeologist. He lives in Jerusalem, and has written two novels, Sunset Mantel and Recalled to Service. He’s also written an impressive amount of short fiction in the past ten years, which has appeared in Strange HorizonsF&SF, and elsewhere. 

(11) DISNEY, PAY THE WRITER. LA Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik reports at length about #DisneyMustPay in “Disney’s unpaid artists”.

Given its immense appetite for entertainment content to keep its movie and television pipelines filled, you would think that Walt Disney Co. would do its best to treat its creative talent fairly.

You would be wrong.

For years, Disney has been cheating the writers and artists of tie-in products — novelizations and graphic novels based on some of its most important franchises — of the royalties they’re due for their works. That’s the conclusion of a task force formed by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and joined by the Writers Guild East and West and several other creator advocacy organizations.

…[Mary Robinette Kowal] and others say that Disney has refused to take a proactive approach to identifying the creative artists who are owed money and paying what it owes. The company has ignored pleas by the task force and individual agents to post a portal on its website and a FAQ page to inform writers how to file claims and to whom their claims should be addressed.

The company has also refused to accept names and contact information from the SFWA for writers and artists who have reached out to the organization. “Disney gets away with this by using the exhaustion tactic,” Kowal told me. “They wear people down.”

The tactic works, she says: “Some authors have just given up because Disney puts up roadblocks and makes people jump through hurdles.”

The company, according to Kowal, has told some authors who stopped receiving royalties or royalty statements that this happened because it didn’t have their addresses. “They tell that to authors they’ve sent author copies of books to,” Kowal says, “so clearly they have their mailing addresses.”…

(12) FLASHBACK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BECCON’s 40th anniversary reunion has been held – a year late due to CoVID.

BECCON was a series of biennial conventions in the 1980s: 198119831985; and the 1987 UK Eastercon. BECCON standing for the Basildon Essex Centre CONvention with ‘Centre’ becoming ‘Crest’ when the hotel changed its name. The 40th anniversary reunion would have taken place last year but was postponed due to CoVID. The gathering took place in Arlesey, Bedfordshire, where previous reunions had taken place so as to give one of BECCON’s film projectionists, Graham Connor, a fan experience (Graham had severe mobility issues several years prior to his passing and could not get to conventions). BECCON may be a thing of the past but those involved with it, for the most part, are still very active in fandom and BECCON did spawn two spin-out ventures still going today: Beccon Publications (a number of whose books have been short-listed for Hugos) and the SF² Concatenation (the winner of a number of Eurocon Awards).

Those present at the reunion were from far left and clockwise: John Stewart,Roger Robinson (Beccon Publications), Jenny Steele (sadly obscured), Brian Ameringen (Porcupine Books), Peter TyersArthur Cruttenden, Caroline Mullan (2023 Eastercon committee), Anthony Heathcote and Jonathan Cowie (SF² Concatenation),

The BECCON ’87 programme book front cover. This was back in the days (prior to the 2010s) when Eastercons had a souvenir programme book in addition to the schedule timetable booklet.  It is particularly notable as being the first British Eastercon programme book to have a full colour cover. The cover art was by one of the convention’s GoHs, Keith Roberts.

(13) DOCTORAL THESIS. At Nerds of a Feather, Arturo Serrano concludes “’Doctor Strange 2′ is visually delightful and narratively bland”.

Despite the refreshing shift in visual style brought into the MCU by director Sam Raimi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is far from the milestone it was expected to be. The ongoing saga of the Avengers was supposed to expand into a wealth of possibilities with the addition of alternate realities, character variants, and reclaimed franchises just acquired by Disney from Fox. But what this movie delivers is smaller than the sum of its parts….

(14) LOST IN SPACE. Serrano also finds another franchise lacking: “‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 2 is aimless and inconsistent”

Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard bites more than it can chew. In the span of ten episodes, it tries to explore xenophobia, eugenicism, the weight of self-blame, repressed trauma, the tragedy of finitude, the tension between open and closed societies, the human yearning for intimate connection, the fear of loneliness, the responsibilities that come with parenthood, immigration policy, the purpose of life in old age, the narcissism inherent to the search for a legacy, authoritarianism, temporal paradoxes, suicide, and the uncertainty about the turbulent direction of humankind in the 2020s. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t manage to say anything insightful about any one of its myriad themes….

(15) SAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. Inverse presents “The 8 best movie time machines of all time, ranked by scientists”. You’d be surprised what kind things scientists have to say about the TARDIS.

These time-defying contraptions fill us with wonder because, while we’re innately curious with a desire to explore, we also love fawning over shiny screens and elaborate gadgetry. Humans are hardwired to push any button we see. No matter the ramifications….

6. DOCTOR WHO’S TARDIS

WHAT IT DOES: It takes you to another realm that enables you to move through time (the time vortex).

Everyone we spoke to mentioned this iconic machine, which looks like an old, blue, British police box.

“What other time machine gets a decorating job every few years, keeps updating its canon, and has an Olympic-sized swimming pool? Or even a personality?” Šiljak says. “The way the TARDIS operates and interacts with the Doctor is also a great suspension of disbelief catalyst that allows me to enjoy a plot that has holes.”

Its properties are bizarre, but its time-travel abilities are appealing to real scientists.

“The core of the TARDIS is a tesseract, which is a four-dimensional cube,” says Dr. Erin Macdonald, an astrophysicist, writer, producer, and Star Trek science advisor. “The reason this is great scientifically is our universe is four-dimensional, but we can only control three of those dimensions (space, not time). It logically makes sense that if we had an object that had four dimensions, that extra dimension could be time and could have more control than just space.”

Jan J. Eldridge, a theoretical astrophysicist and associate professor in the physics department at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, adds that the TARDIS’ ability to travel freely through both space and time also helps explain another of its key features: the interior doesn’t match the exterior.

“Any technology that allows you to bend space-time to travel through time would also leave you with the ability to stretch and square space-time itself,” she says.

(16) JEOPARDY! A whole category about sci-fi trilogies on tonight’s Jeopardy!, and Andrew Porter was tuned in. Unfortunately, the contestants weren’t!

Category: Sci-Fi Trilogies

Answer: This Alphanumeric book series follows up on the “Judgment Day” film, telling more of the story of Skynet & John Connor.

No one could ask, What is T-2?

Answer: The first in a Cixin Liu trilogy, this numerical novel is partially set during China’s Cultural Revolution.

No one could ask, What is ‘The 3-Body Problem”?

(17) SPACE EXTRICATION. “I hate that MS Word considers this an error,” says John King Tarpinian. “Double Space” at Nerdy Tees.

(18) CEREAL KILLER. Today’s Heather Martin says, “I tried Tropicana Crunch, the new cereal designed to be eaten with orange juice”.

Tropicana Crunch Honey Almond Cereal is a limited-edition offering for the “cereal curious” released to honor National Orange Juice Day on May 4. It’s the first cereal made specifically for pairing with OJ, and the company claims it’s “crispy and ready to get citrusy.” It comes thoughtfully packaged with one of Tropicana’s famous red-striped straws, so you can finish the cereal … juice … with class instead of lapping it from the bowl like a dehydrated Labrador….

It’s hard to swallow, I’ll grant you, but hear me out: It might be a sound concept. I often talk to clients who either don’t like milk or are allergic to it, and just like the box says, many times they tell me that they have tried orange juice on cereal.…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  The Batman,” the Screen Junkies say Robert Pattinson is the first Gen-Z Batman, because the “villains are influencers, he’s worse off than his parents, and his home town will very soon be under water.”  Also, the Riddler “talks a big game abou cleaning up the city while dressed like a garbage bag.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Cat Rambo, Joel Zakem, Michael J. Walsh, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Adam Rakunas, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/7/22 Your Scroll, A Flame Of Pixel’s Desire

(1) BASFF 2022. Rebecca Roanhorse is the guest editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2022.

(2) PRO TIP. What’s the best writing advice J. Michael Straczynski’s ever been given?

(3) COMPLAINT: JUSTIFIED OR UNJUSTIFIED? [Item by Anne Marble.] This review of the new alternative history novel The Peacekeeper: A Novel by B.L. Blanchard might make an interesting discussion. There’s also a three-star review showing the same confusion. (This is one of the First Reads book for this month on Amazon, so the potential reviewers probably come outside of SFF, but still… Why can’t people just Google?)

(4) VIDEO GAME NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Norco, a point-and-click adventure game with magical realist elements based on the personal experiences of lead developer Yuts, who grew up in Norco, Louisiana near “a Shell oil refinery that exploded during his childhood in 1988, damaging his house.”

Norco‘s writing nods to Southern Gothic authors such as William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy alongside genre writers Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. Looking at a vehicle in your garden, you are told:  “This truck was your grandfather’s.  You remember hiding in his lap while he let you steer. The dead wasps that collected behind the seat. The smell of grease, whiskey and nicotine.’ This terse, stylish language is studded with sharply observed local vernacular and occasional bouts of impressionistic poetry whose adventurous metaphors only rarely stray into purple prose….

..If it all sounds sombre, the game leavens its storytelling with plenty of wackiness and wry humour.  There is a detective who wears clown make-up as a fashion choice.  A cat on a bookshop counter will, if stroked repeatedly, purr so ecstatically that it flies through the air, crashing through the ceiling.

(5) LIFEWRITING. [Item by Todd Mason.] Tananarive Due and Steve Barnes’s latest podcast features guest Patton Oswalt. All three are horror genre folks, among other things, including being screenwriters, and Harlan Ellison friends or acquaintances. “Lifewriting: Write for Your Life! Special Guest: Patton Oswalt!”

In this episode, Steve and Tananarive talk to comedian and actor Patton Oswalt about how horror helps us navigate difficult times, the horror-comedy connection, the late Harlan Ellison, and meditation as a tool for coping with stress.  

(6) GEORGE PERÉZ (1954-2022) George Pérez, the acclaimed comic book artist and writer known for his work on major DC properties, including Crisis on Infinite Earths and Wonder Woman, along with Marvel’s The Avengers, has died. The Hollywood Reporter noted his passing with a long tribute. He was 67.

Someone in touch with the family posted this emotional description about his last hours.  

To all of George’s fans and friends,

Constance here, with the update no one wants to read. George passed away yesterday, peacefully at home with his wife of 490 months and family by his side. He was not in pain and knew he was very, very loved.

We are all very much grieving but, at the same time, we are so incredibly grateful for the joy he brought to our lives. To know George was to love him; and he loved back. Fiercely and with his whole heart. The world is a lot less vibrant today without him in it.

He loved all of you. He loved hearing your posts and seeing the drawings you sent and the tributes you made. He was deeply proud to have brought so much joy to so many.

Everyone knows George’s legacy as a creator. His art, characters and stories will be revered for years to come. But, as towering as that legacy is, it pales in comparison to the legacy of the man George was. George’s true legacy is his kindness. It’s the love he had for bringing others joy – and I hope you all carry that with you always.

Today is Free Comic Book Day. A day George absolutely loved and a fitting day to remember his contributions to comics and to our lives. I hope you’ll enjoy your day today with him in mind. He would have loved that.

Please keep his wife Carol in your thoughts and again, I thank you for respecting her privacy. I remain available through the contact on the page.

George’s memorial service will take place at MEGACON Orlando at 6pm on Sunday, May 22nd. It will be open to all. Details to follow.

We will miss him always.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, The Fifth Element got its first theatrical exhibition at the Cannes Film Festival, an English-language French film directed by Luc Besson and co-written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen from a story by Besson. 

Artists Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, whose books Besson acknowledges are his inspiration for a great deal of the film, were hired for production design. The fabulous if admittedly over-the-top costume design was by Jean-Paul Gaultier who is not in the film. (I checked.) The filming took place in London and Mauritania when nothing in France was available. 

It is very much an adolescent fantasy, or fiction if you prefer, as he wrote it at sixteen though he was thirty-eight when it was actually produced. I love the cast which includes among many Bruce Willis, John Neville, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm and, in a role for the ages, Maïwenn Le Besco. Look I love this film — the casting is great, the story works and I love the universe here. I’ve watched it least a half dozen times so far. 

The budget was close to ninety million but it made back over two hundred and sixty million. Quite impressive indeed.

So what did the critics think at the time? Let’s as usual start with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune: “’The Fifth Element,’’ which opened the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, is one of the great goofy movies–a film so preposterous I wasn’t surprised to discover it was written by a teenage boy. That boy grew up to become Luc Besson, director of good smaller movies and bizarre big ones, and here he’s spent $90 million to create sights so remarkable they really ought to be seen.”

And let us finish with Marc Salov of the Austin Chronicle who obviously didn’t know how old Besson was he wrote the script: “The Fifth Element never takes itself too seriously. Oldman is hilarious as the effete, over-the-top Zorg; Willis plays essentially the same character he’s played in his last five films — ever the scruffy rebel; and Jovavich is gorgeous, charming, and thoroughly believable as Leeloo (thanks to some terrific post-English language skills). Even U.K. trip-hop sensation Tricky scores points as Zorg’s right-hand toadie. Although the film tends to suffer from a severe case of overt preachiness in the third reel (shades of James Cameron’s The Abyss), it’s still a wonderfully visual, exciting ride. Besson remains one of France’s great national treasures, and The Fifth Element is a surprising, delightful melange of old-school dare-deviltry and new-age sci-fi.” 

It has a very impressive eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for a Hugo at BucConeer, the year Contact won. It is streaming on Amazon Prime and Paramount +.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Oh, I loved him being Carl Kolchak on the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have I seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes, it was corny, yes, the monsters were low-rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in the Tales of Tomorrow series as Bruce Calvin in “The Duplicates“ episode which you can watch here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda, then she had the extended recurring role of Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. He’s won the BFA, Nebula, Skylark, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards but to my surprise has never won a Hugo though he has been nominated quite a few times. He has been honored as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. Another one taken far too young by the damn Reaper. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very, very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA-winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury, and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant and quite unsettling look at the theatre world. I’ve done several essays on her so far and no doubt will do more. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 71. SF reviewer for the LA Times, the unfortunately defunct as I enjoyed it quite a bit Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films. 
  • Born May 7, 1952 John Fleck, 70. One of those performers the Trek casting staff really like as he’s appeared in Next GenerationDeep Space Nine in three different roles,  Voyager and finally on Enterprise in the recurring role of Silik. And like so many Trek alumni, he shows up on The Orville.
  • Born May 7, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 53. They are the winner of a Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 with Charlie Jane Anders for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel, while winning a Lambda Literary Award. Very impressive indeed. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for their best short science fiction, “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. They are nominated again this year at Chicon 8 for a Best Fancast Hugo for their “Our Opinions Are Correct” podcast. 

(9) STRANGE HAPPENINGS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Olsen about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with Cumberbatch explaining that he thinks Stephen Strange is part of an ensemble and not necessarily the star. “Benedict Cumberbatch on Doctor Strange sequel: ‘It’s not all about him’”.

… Cumberbatch still gets opportunities to flex his own superhero muscles in the new film by playing multiple alternate universe versions of Doctor Strange. These include heroic, seemingly evil and zombielike versions of the superhero, who was created by the late Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and first appeared in Marvel Comics “Strange Tales” No. 110 back in 1963. Cumberbatch first dabbled with a Doctor Strange from a different world when he voiced the character in the animated series “What If…?” last year.

Ego seems to be the common denominator among the variants — he never works well with others. But Cumberbatch says Strange has to learn to rely on someone other than himself.

“These parallel existences have a similarity about them but there’s also key differences,” Cumberbatch said. “It was a challenge … to create something that’s different but at the same time recognizably Strange. There’s an element of him that’s constant. But he’s still really injured by his ego and his arrogance and his belief that he has to be the one holding the knife. This film really undoes that logic and stress-tests him in a way that means his evolution is such that he can’t operate as a solo entity. He has to collaborate.”…

(10) THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR HAWKING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Starfleet boots seen on the new series will be made available to the public and will retail for about $500 Cdn. “Vancouver designer’s boots on deck as official shoes of the Enterprise in new Star Trek series” reports CBC News. And there’s no stitching in them because in space no one can see a sewing machine!

Vancouver’s John Fluevog is joining the USS Enterprise this spring as Starfleet’s official bootmaker.

Fluevog, whose shoes have been worn by the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and even B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, designed footwear for the cast of the new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which premieres May 5. 

He said he feels a sense of connection to Star Trek in that both his shoes and the series offer a sense of escapism….

(11) CASTING COINCIDENCE. “West Side Story Actor Brings His Talents To He-Man” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Boston Dynamics’s Spot is a hard-working robot but he still likes showing off his latest dance moves! “No Time to Dance”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Lisa Garrity, Anne Marble, Todd Mason, 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 Thomas the Red.]

Pixel Scroll 5/1/22 They Say Everyone Has A Pixel Scroll Tile Inside Them

(1) LESSING’S LETTERS. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] In between her biographies of Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree and the in-progress one of Ursula Le Guin, Julie Phillips has written a study of motherhood and creativity, The Baby on the Fire Escape. Slate has published this excerpt on Doris Lessing. “Doris Lessing and motherhood: Why the novelist left her first two kids.”

… Yet is also occurs to her that the problem is structural, and possibly generational. Her English grandmother had had a nanny, and her grandchildren, she predicted, would have affordable day care. It was her contemporaries who were so disappointed: promised career success, stuck with babies. “I haven’t yet met a woman who isn’t bitterly rebellious,” she wrote, “wanting children, but resenting them because of the way we are cribbed cabined and confined.”

I found her in the letters not trying to get away from John and Jean, but arguing to spend more time with them, an uphill battle against her first husband. The problem was that under Rhodesian law, a woman who left her marriage lost all rights to her children. At the time of the letters, Wisdom was just starting to allow her to visit them again, after a full year in which he had kept them from her….

(2) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. A Facebook friend of Steve Vertlieb’s reports that Steve made it through his heart operation. Good news!

(3) NEBULA CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIPS: TIME IS RUNNING OUT. Only a few hours remain for people to apply for 2022 Nebula Scholarships – the deadline is May 1, 11:59 p.m. Pacific.

SFWA will once again be offering up to 200 scholarships for members of underserved communities to attend the conference! If you or someone you know may benefit from these scholarships, please apply or share the link. Scholarship applications must be completed on the form below by May 1, 11:59pm Pacific Time.  

Here are the categories of scholarships we’re offering and the number available for each. 

Scholarship for Black and/or Indigenous Creators: This scholarship is open to Black and/or Indigenous creators in the United States and abroad. (quantity: 80)

Scholarship for AAPI Creators: This scholarship is available to Asian creators, Asian American creators, and creators from the Pacific Islands. (quantity: 30)

Scholarships for Hispanic/Latinx Creators: This scholarship is available to creators with backgrounds in Spanish-speaking and/or Latin American cultures. (quantity: 40)  

Scholarship for Writers Based Outside of the U.S.: This scholarship is available to creators who live outside the United States. (quantity: 50)

Scholarship for Ukrainian Creators: This scholarship is for creators displaced or otherwise affected by the war in Ukraine. (quantity: case-by-case)

From the applicant pool, the scholarship recipients will be selected by lottery.

(4) SFRA ONLINE CONFERENCE. The Science Fiction Research Association is registering people for its online SFRA 2022 Conference. The theme is “Futures From The Margins.”

There is no cost to attend the conference, and you need not be an SFRA member to attend. Register here.

(5) IAFA ONLINE CONFERENCE. The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts will hold an online conference — “The Global Fantastic” – from October 7-9, 2022. The Call for Papers is at the link.

The Guest of Honor is Tananarive Due, the winner of the American Book Award for The Living Blood (2001). The Guest Scholar is Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay (University of Oslo), an internationally recognized scholar of global fantastic and the leader of the prestigious European Research Council grant “CoFutures: Pathways to Possible Presents.”

(6) IMPERIAL VISION. Jason Sanford contends Mikhail Yuriev’s The Third Empire: Russia As It Ought to Be is “The Science Fiction Novel that Inspired Putin’s War” in an unlocked Patreon post.

One aspect of the horrific Russian invasion of Ukraine that hasn’t received much attention is how a science fiction novel appears to have heavily influenced Vladimir Putin’s decision to start this war….

(7) NEW DHS APPOINTEE TARGETED. [Item by Karl-Johan Norén.] Nina Jankowicz, who recently was selected to head the new Disinformation Governance Board within the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS Standing Up Disinformation Governance Board Led by Information Warfare Expert”) has become a target for online trolls. Her background as a wizard rocker in the band The Moaning Myrtles (2006-2009, with a short reunion in 2017) was dug up, and it has been used in a smear and doxxing campaign against her.

Short background: Wizard rock developed as the musical branch of Harry Potter fandom. A lot of the bands used and uses the schtick of presenting themselves and singing from the viewpoint of one of the characters in the Harry Potter stories. The Moaning Myrtles used the ghost of Moaning Myrtle and her toilet in a very creative way within that tradition.

The band was made up of Lauren Fairweather and Nina Jankowicz.

(8) FELINE FELICITY. Michael Steinberg notes “A Few Points of Philosophical Interest Learned by Watching Our Cats: Part I” at The Philosophical Salon.

…What goes on “inside” Oliver’s mind? What is it like to be our cat? Those two moments in our everyday interactions seem to map out two opposing possibilities. When he nuzzles me and settles between my legs it is hard not to see Oliver as a being imbued with a rich emotional life and the awareness that comes with those feelings. William James saw emotions as intuitions of bodily states, and as Mark Solms points out, they would be useless unless they were experienced. But when Oliver springs into action he seems to be identical with his acts, living in a pure responsiveness without reflexive awareness.

These happen to be the only two possibilities that Descartes could imagine. He argued that humans were ensouled, self-aware beings capable of both thought and the passions, but “beasts” were merely animate bodies. …

(9) MEMORY LANE.

[By Cat Eldridge.] Robert Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo: A Fan Letter (1947)

Seventy-five years ago this year, one of my favorite Robert Heinlein novels came out. Rocket Ship Galileo, the first of the Heinlein juveniles, a long and successful series that was published by Scribner’s. Heinlein originally envisioned the novel as the first of a series of books called “Young Rocket Engineers”. 

Now it almost didn’t exist as a novel. Publishers, all save one, rejected the idea, judging that going to the moon was “too far out” in the late Forties, as Heinlein tells the tale in the paperback edition of Expanded Universe. Fortunately Scribner’s decided differently and we got to read the story.

I loved this novel, as I did all of the juveniles he did, for both the characters and the settings appealed to the young me. Without doubt the novels I remember the fondest all these decades on are first Rolling Stones, which I still find absolutely fascinating, followed by Space CadetHave Space Suit—Will Travel and Starman Jones

I still think that these juveniles are his finest writing. Indeed I can even make a rather great argument that Rolling Stones is his best novel.  I know it didn’t win a Hugo (although it was eligible for the first ones, having been published after August 1952) but damn it, it was the funnest to read of all his novels by far and that as to count for a lot, doesn’t it? 

It is available as a Meredith moment from the usual suspects. Spider Robinson narrates the audio version. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 1, 1905 Edna Mayne Hull. Wife of A.E. van Vogt who began writing genre fiction after their marriage in 1939. Her initial sale, “The Flight That Failed”, appeared in the November 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction under chosen author credit of “E.M. Hull” though eventually she used her own name. She has but one novel of her own, Planets for Sale, and one with her husband, The Winged Man, and only a dozen stories, one with A.E. Van Vogt & James H. Schmitz. Alibris.com has copies of both of those books, no else does.  (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 1, 1923 Ralph Senensky, 99. Director of six Trek episodes including “Obsession” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?“ which are two of my favorite episodes. He also directed episodes of The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleThe Twilight Zone (“Printer’s Devil”), Night Gallery and Planet of the Apes.
  • Born May 1, 1924 Terry Southern. Screenwriter and author of greatest interest for adaptating Peter George’s original novel, Two Hours to Doom (as by Peter Bryant) into the screenplay of Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a movie directed (and in part written) by Stanley Kubrick. He was also involved in scripting Barbarella. Though uncredited, he did work on the script of Casino Royale as well. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 1, 1946 Joanna Lumley, 76. She was no Emma Peel, but she was definitely more than a bit appealing (pun fully intended) in the New Avengers as Purdey. All twenty-six episodes are out on DVD. Her next genre outing was In Sapphire & Steel which starred David McCallum as Steel and her as Sapphire. If you skip forward nearly near twenty years, you’ll  find her playing the The Thirteenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death, part of a Comic Relief special. Yes, she played the first version of a female Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born May 1, 1952 Andy Sawyer, 70. Member of fandom who managed the Science Fiction Foundation library in Liverpool for 25 years up to last year. For his work and commitment to the SF community, the Science Fiction Research Association awarded him their Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service. The paper he wrote that I want to get and read is “The Shadows out of Time: H. P. Lovecraftian Echoes in Babylon 5” as I’ve always thought The Shadows were Lovecraftian!  And his APA list is impressive: &Another Earth Matrix, Paperback Inferno and Acnestis
  • Born May 1, 1955 J. R. Pournelle, 67. Some years ago, I got an email from a J. R. Pournelle about an SF novel they wanted Green Man to review. I of course thought it was that Pournelle. No, it was his daughter, Jennifer. And that’s how I came to find out there was a third Motie novel called, errrr, Moties. It’s much better than The Gripping Hand. I have no idea where you can get it and my copy alas disappeared when that MacBook died a fatal death several years back. I don’t see listed anywhere at the usual suspects. 
  • Born May 1, 1956 Phil Foglio, 66. Writer, artist, and publisher. Foglio co-won with his wife Kaja the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story at Anticipation for the absolutely stunning Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, and the next two in the category at Aussiecon 4 and Renovation. Having won these three years running, they removed themselves from further competition.  If you haven’t read them, you’re in for treat as they’re quite amazing.
  • Born May 1, 1957 Steve Meretzky, 65. He co-designed the early Eighties version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy video game with the full participation of Douglas Adams. ESF also says that he also did a space opera themed game, Planetfall and its sequel A Mind Forever Voyaging in the Eighties. He did the definitely more erotic Leather Goddesses of Phobos as well. Well, erotic by the standards of the Eighties. 

(11) HE LIKES THEM. Dennis Hartley decided against making big claims for this list – they are just “favorites” – “Any world (that I’m welcome to): 10 Sci-fi favorites” at Digby’s Hullaballoo.

I thought I’d paw through the “sci-fi” section of my collection and share ten of my favorites. Keep in mind that these are personal favorites; I was careful not to title the post “Top 10 Sci-fi Movies of All Time” (there is no more surefire way to spark a virtual bare-knuckled fracas). Anyway, here are 10 off-world adventures awaiting you now…

On the list is –

The Day the Earth Caught Fire– This cerebral mix of conspiracy a-go-go and sci-fi (from 1961) was written and directed by Val Guest. Simultaneous nuclear testing by the U.S. and Soviets triggers an alarmingly rapid shift in the Earth’s climate. As London’s weather turns more tropical by the hour, a Daily Express reporter (Peter Stenning) begins to suspect that the British government is not being 100% forthcoming on the possible fate of the world. Along the way, Stenning has some steamy scenes with his love interest (sexy Janet Munro). The film is more noteworthy for its smart, snappy patter than its run-of-the-mill special effects, but delivers a compelling narrative. Co-starring veteran scene-stealer Leo McKern.

(12) BRING FORTH THE HOLY HAND GRENADE OF JERUSALEM. Business Insider reports an interesting discovery: “Jerusalem: Archeologists Find Evidence of Crusader Hand Grenades”.

…Sherd 737, according to the archeologists, contained traces of a unique explosive mix composed of plant oils, animal fats, nitrates, and sulfur. It suggests that Crusader knights had invented their own blend of explosive chemicals.

“It shows that the explosive weapons described by the Crusaders were a local invention,” said Carney Matheson, a molecular archaeologist at Griffith University, in an email to Insider.

“This shows for the first time a whole different mixture for the ingredients of an ancient explosive which is consistent with the historical Arab texts,” Matheson continued….

(13) MARTIAN HOPPER. Yahoo! made me click: “NASA’s Mars helicopter discovers ‘alien’ wreckage on the Red Planet”. Image at the link.

…In this case, though, humans are the aliens. The wreckage was found to be from another Martian spacecraft; it is a part that detached during the landing of the Perseverance rover back in February 2021.

The photos of the wreckage, while fascinating on their own merit, will actually help scientists plan more landings on the surface of Mars in the future.

According to NASA, Martian landings are “fast-paced and stressful”. A vehicle entering Mars’ atmosphere can spiral into the planet at nearly 12,500 mph and wrestle with high temperatures and intense gravitational forces. Being able to study the wreckage that remains might allow scientists to make changes that allow for smoother landings in the future….

(14) THEY MADE A FEW MISTAKES. Indy100 tells how “Doctor Strange viewers spot four mistakes in just 13 seconds of new movie” – just like Filers do with the Scroll! Here’s the first example.

The next Marvel extravaganza, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness isn’t even in cinemas yet but fans have already spotted a litany of mistakes in a short teaser scene released online this week.

A clip from the mind-bending new superhero film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen, was exclusively released by IMBD earlier this week and shows the Sorcerer Supreme battling the creature known as Gargantos on a New York City street.

The clip is just over a minute long and although it is fun, in the typical Marvel way, eagle-eyed viewers have spotted a huge error in the director, Sam Raimi’s film.

If you concentrate on Cumberbatch, you notice a man carrying a briefcase running past him in terror, trying to get away from Gargantos. However, that man doesn’t just run past Cumberbatch once but runs past him four times.

(15) LINE UP, SIGN UP, AND REENLIST TODAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I think this is a recruiting video for ILM that shows all the opportunities people have at the company to use their creativity.  It dropped earlier this week. “Inside ILM: To be a Generalist”.

At Industrial Light & Magic, Generalists possess a high degree of proficiency across multiple disciplines including modeling, lighting, texturing, shading/look development, FX, matte painting, animation, shot composition, and rendering. Take a deep dive into what makes the team unique, then head to jobs.jobvite.com/lucascompanies/jobs/ilm to apply today.

(16) TEASER FOR MAY THE FOURTH. “Apple Teases Star Wars-Themed ‘Behind the Mac’ Film Featuring Skywalker Sound”MacRumors has the story.

Apple today released a brief teaser trailer for an upcoming “Behind the Mac” film featuring Skywalker Sound, the sound effects division of Lucasfilm known for the Star Wars franchise and many other high-profile movies.

The full film will be released on Apple’s YouTube channel on May 4, Star Wars Day, and will examine how artists at Skywalker Sound use Macs and other tools to generate the sounds featured in the iconic films.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cliff, Cora Buhlert, Jason Sanford, Chris Barkley, Karl-Johan Norén, Jeffrey Smith, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 4/22/22 All My Life’s A Pixel, Scrollrise And Scrolldown, The Roads Roll Thru The Daytime; The Moon’s Sold By Heinlein

(1) FLIEGER Q&A. Renowned Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger responds to questions by Cristina Casagrande and Eduardo Boheme for On Fairy-Stories: “Between darkness and the splintered lights of Tolkienian Faery: an interview with Verlyn Flieger”.

You have edited many of Tolkien’s own manuscripts, such as The Story of KullervoOn Fairy-StoriesSmith of Wootton Major, and The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun. What must an editor be ready to deal with when facing a Tolkien’s manuscript?

His handwriting first of all. Tolkien used several scripts, ranging from a beautiful, calligraphic hand (when he was making a fair copy), to an undecipherable scribble when the ideas were coming thick and fast and he was hurrying to catch up with them. There have been words and sometimes whole sentences, especially in the drafts of “On Fairy-stories” that I simply could not read.

(2) CAUGHT IN THE ROCKETS’ RED GLARE. Camestros Felapton finds one more thing needs to be said: “Rockets & Raytheon: A Debarkle Coda – 1”.

…In the last weeks of 2021 I attempted to write just one more chapter of the Debarkle series. It was poor timing and that additional chapter quickly spun out of control. So I put it aside and decided to return to it later on.

The reason for the chapter was twofold. The initiating issue was the surprise sponsorship of the 2021 Worldcon by the infamous arms manufacture/aerospace company Raytheon. There are many unanswered questions about this sponsorship including what the financial arrangement was and the timing of the decision. The program book of the convention did not list Raytheon as a sponsor and while there was (apparently) a Raytheon booth at the convention, the primary publicity given to the company (specifically the Raytheon Intelligence & Space division) was at the start of the live-streamed Hugo Award ceremony.

The subsequent controversy embroiled not just the Washington DC-based convention but the Hugo Awards and the Hugo finalists as well…

(3) A RUSSIAN WRITER YOU MIGHT READ. Yahoo! profiles Russian author Vladimir Sorokin: “He Envisioned a Nightmarish, Dystopian Russia. Now He Fears Living in One.”

Over the past 40 years, Vladimir Sorokin’s work has punctured nearly every imaginable political and social taboo in Russia.

… “A Russian writer has two options: Either you are afraid, or you write,” he said in an interview last month. “I write.”

Sorokin is widely regarded as one of Russia’s most inventive writers, an iconoclast who has chronicled the country’s slide toward authoritarianism, with subversive fables that satirize bleak chapters of Soviet history, and futuristic tales that capture the creeping repression of 21st-century Russia. But despite his reputation as both a gifted postmodern stylist and an unrepentant troublemaker, he remains relatively unknown in the West. Until recently, just a handful of his works had been published in English, in part because his writing can be so challenging to translate, and so hard to stomach. Now, four decades into his scandal-scorched career, publishers are preparing to release eight new English-language translations of his books.

… He is a master of mimicry and subverting genre tropes, veering from arch postmodern political satire (“The Queue”) to esoteric science fiction (“The Ice Trilogy”) to alternate histories and futuristic cyberpunk fantasies (“Telluria”).

(4) DON’T SAY GAY IN THE KINGDOM. “‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Banned in Saudi Arabia”The Hollywood Reporter explains why.

Disney and the MCU have fallen foul of Gulf censors once more.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel’s long-awaited follow-up to the hit 2016 superhero film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has been banned in Saudi Arabia. Rumors began emerging online early on Friday, with The Hollywood Reporter now officially confirming the decision. THR has heard that the ban also applies to Kuwait, although this hasn’t yet been confirmed.

While the film is yet to be released and also hasn’t yet been reviewed, the decision is once again said to be related to LGBTQ issues, according to Middle East sources, with the new sequel introducing the character America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) who, as per her portrayal in the comics, is gay. With homosexuality officially illegal across the Gulf, films that feature any LGBTQ references or issues often fail to get past censors….

… The film follows on the heels of Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, which was banned across much of the Gulf in November following the inclusion of a same-gender couple in the film and the MCU’s first gay superhero. At the time, THR understood that censors had requested a series of edits to be made that Disney was not willing to make. An edited version did screen in the U.A.E., however….

(5) THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FIFTH. “Large Hadron Collider to restart and hunt for a fifth force of nature” – the Guardian has details.

…So far, everything discovered at the LHC – including the Higgs – has fallen in line with the so-called standard model. This has been the guiding theory of particle physics since the 1970s but is known to be incomplete because it fails to explain some of the deepest mysteries in physics, such as the nature of dark matter.

However, data collected in the LHCb experiment, one of four huge particle detectors at Cern in Switzerland, appeared to show particles behaving in a way that could not be explained by the standard model.

The experiment looked at the decay of particles called beauty quarks, which are predicted to decay at an equal rate into electrons and their heavier cousins, muons. However, the beauty quarks appeared to be turning into muons 15% less often, suggesting that an unknown factor – potentially a new force – was tipping the scales. Two of the top candidates include hypothetical force-carrying particles called leptoquarks or Z primes.

“The stakes are extremely high,” Patel said. “If we confirm this, it will be a revolution of the kind we’ve not seen – certainly in my lifetime. You don’t want to mess it up.”…

(6) SOME DON’T COME RUNNING. The Hollywood Reporter listens in as “Steven Spielberg Details How Harrison Ford Helped Convince Melissa Mathison to Write ‘E.T.’”

… Spielberg told [Ben] Mankiewicz that he started working on a script focused specifically on his parents’ split in 1976, around the time he was filming another alien-themed project, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “We were shooting the scene in Mobile, Alabama, where the extraterrestrial comes down from the ship and does the hand signs with Francois Truffaut,” he detailed. “I suddenly thought, wait a second, what if that little creature never went back to the ship?”

The idea took some years to develop, eventually leading him to Mathison. Spielberg recalled that the pair worked on the script while he was editing Raiders of the Lost Ark in Marina del Rey with editor Michael Kahn. “We would spend two hours a day for five days and she would go off and write pages and come back,” Spielberg continued of their process, crediting the late scribe with coming up with memorable moments, like E.T.’s telekinesis. “There were so many details for character that Melissa brought into my world from her world.”…

(7) JUNIOR BIRDMEN. In “The High and Lowest of Infographics”, Print Magazine recalls Will Eisner’s work for the Army. The entire illustrated booklet is reproduced at the link.

Comics and cartoons often are the best teaching tools. Not just because pictures are worth a thousand complicated and confounding words, but with a combo of drawings and words you get the picture—see what I mean?! This concept is no better illustrated than in this gem of a training booklet illustrated by none other than the creator of “The Spirit” comics, Will Eisner. Produced by the U.S. Army in 1944, it’s an instruction pamphlet for young pilots to master the basics of safe flying, complete with two quizzes and two pages of “Slanguage” at the end….

(8) FANHISTORY IN NEW ENGLAND. Fanac.org has made available video of a panel from the sixth FanHistoriCon in 1997, “From MITSFS to NESFA to MCFI” with Ed Meskys, Richard Harter, Tony Lewis and Hal Clement.

FanHistoriCon 6 was held February 13-16, 1997 in conjunction with Boskone 34 in Framingham, MA. In this 35 minute excerpt of the panel “From MITSFS to NESFA to MCFI”. Ed Meskys, Richard Harter, Tony Lewis and Hal Clement tell us stories of Boston area fandom from the Stranger Club in the 1940s, through area fandom’s evolution by way of conventions, MIT and worldcon bids to NESFA and MCFI in the 90s. 

Beginning with the readers’ club of the 40s and giving way to the more active projects of MITSFS and NESFA, the panel fondly remembers the people and pastimes that were the substance of Boston area fandom. 

Anecdotes mention well known names such as L. Ron Hubbard and Hugo Gernsback, the price of an interior illo from Amazing Magazine in the 1940s, and the storybook romance of Larry Niven and Fuzzy Pink. 

You’ll learn the rules of the MITSFS game “Insanity”, the originally proposed name for NESFA, the origins of Locus and much more. You’ll even get a first hand report of why/how Hal Clement was “fired” from the Noreascon 1 committee. 

If you’re interested in 20th century Boston fandom, here’s your chance to listen to four of the folks that made it happen. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Razul: You are a student of Egypt, but you are not one of its sons. And until you have heard what I have heard and seen what I have seen, I would not expect you to believe that such a thing as a curse could be true, but it is. 

Sam: 3500-year-old dead men don’t just get up and walk around.

Thirty years ago this evening, Quantum Leap’s “The Curse of Ptah-Hotep” first aired on NBC. In 1957, Sam leaps into the body of Dale Conway, an American archaeologist at a dig in Egypt just as he and his partner Ginny Will discover the tomb of Ptah-Hotep. A sand storm traps them deep in the tomb’s inner chambers.

You think that they made up this particular Egypt royal person but no, he was quite real. Ptahhotep, sometimes known as Ptahhotep I or Ptahhotpe, was an ancient Egyptian vizier during the late 25th century BC and early 24th century BC Fifth Dynasty of Egypt.

The curse that forms the story here was evidently a real one that affected a number of archeological digs undertaken here.  And it is worth definitely worth noting that Sam, throughout the entire series, thoroughly disbelieves in the supernatural, except for the force has him leaping around and that could be science. He frequently tells Al not to be superstitious about anything. But here he certainly seems to take the resurrected mummies in this episode as a given.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 22, 1902 Philip Latham. Name used by astronomer Robert Shirley Richardson on his genre work. His novels were largely first published in Astounding starting in the Forties, with the exception of his children’s SF novels that were published in Space Science Fiction Magazine. He also wrote a few scripts for Captain Video, the predecessor of Captain Video and his Video Rangers. His Comeback novel starts this way: “When Parkhurst heard the announcement that climaxed the science fiction convention, he found that he’d been right, years ago when he had faith in science-fictionists’ dreams. But, in another way, he’d been wrong . . .: It’s available at the usual digital suspects for a buck. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 22, 1934 Sheldon Jaffery. An editor and bibliographer of pulps whose non-fiction work and genre anthologies are both fascinating. Among the latter are such publications as Sensuous Science Fiction From the Weird and Spicy Pulps and The Weirds: A Facsimile Selection of Fiction From the Era of the Shudder Pulps, and from the former are Future and Fantastic Worlds: Bibliography of DAW BooksThe Arkham House Companion: Fifty Years of Arkham House and Collector’s Index to Weird Tales. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1937 Jack Nicholson, 85. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (the previous three films are all Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim  Burton’s The Batman.
  • Born April 22, 1944 Damien Broderick, 78. Australian writer of over seventy genre novels. It is said that The Judas Mandala novel by him contains the first appearance of the term “virtual reality”. He’s won five Ditmar Awards, a remarkable achievement. I know I’ve read several novels by him including Godplayers and K-Machines which are quite good. The latter won an Aurealis Award for Excellence in Speculative Fiction
  • Born April 22, 1959 Catherine Mary Stewart, 63. Her first genre role was Maggie Gordon in The Last Starfighter followed by beingMiranda Dorlac in Nightflyers and she played Sukie Ridgemont in the TV version of The Witches of Eastwick. She has one-offs in Mr. MerlinKnight Rider and The Outer Limits.
  • Born April 22, 1977 Kate Baker, 45. Non-fiction editor, podcast director /narrator for Clarkesworld. She won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine twice, and the World Fantasy Award’s Special Award: Non Professional in 2014, all alongside the rest of the editorial staff of Clarkesworld. She’s a writer of three short genre stories, the latest of which, “No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak”, you can hear it here. Warning for subject matter: abuse and suicide. 
  • Born April 22, 1978 Manu Intiraymi, 44. He played the former Borg Icheb on the television series Star Trek: Voyager. A role that he played a remarkable eleven times. And this Birthday research led me to discovering yet another video Trek fanfic, this time in guise of Star Trek: Renegades inwhich he reprised his role. Any Trekkies here watch this? 
  • Born April 22, 1984 Michelle Ryan, 38. She had the odd honor of being a Companion to the Tenth Doctor as Lady Christina de Souza for just one story, “Planet of the Dead”.  She had a somewhat longer genre run as the rebooted Bionic Woman that lasted eight episodes, and early in her career, she appeared as the sorceress Nimueh in BBC’s Merlin. Finally I’ll note she played Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BBC’s Learning project, Off By Heart Shakespeare

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Far Side makes a grotesque Peter, Paul & Mary reference.  

(12) E. E. SMITH REFERENCE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES(!) [Item by David Goldfarb.] Every two weeks the NYT puts up an acrostic puzzle put together by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. The one for April 24th has as clue I, 7 letters:

Kind of beam in the 1947 novel “Spacehounds of IPC”

This is a novel I would have thought little-remembered! (Alas, my first guess based on Lensman, PRIMARY, turned out to be incorrect.)

(13) SIGNS OF THE FUTURE. Michael Okuda, the graphic designer known for his work on Star Trek, told Facebook readers how he found the answer to something he wanted to know about the bridge:  

I had always wondered: If the famously-unlabeled buttons on the TOS bridge had been labeled, would those labels have been visible? In 2005, I did an experiment during the filming of “In A Mirror, Darkly” (ENT). For this experiment, I had hundreds of small clear labels printed with small numeric codes. I asked Alan Kobayashi to stick them onto most of the backlit “jellybean” buttons on the re-created TOS Enterprise bridge set, thereby labeling each button….

(14) BREAKING THE PIGGY BANK. Netflix may have stopped spending cash on original animation, but that does not mean they have stopped spending on other projects. SYFY Wire reports an eye-popping figure: “Stranger Things 4: Netflix spending $30 million per episode”.

Thanks to an ensemble celebrity cast and lavish location shoots that can take over an entire mall, Stranger Things has always had the feel of a big-budget, Steven Spielberg-inspired show. But the Hawkins arcade would need to collect more than just a truckload of quarters to cover the eye-popping cost of the series’ long-awaited fourth season.

A recent report at The Wall Street Journal reveals that Netflix is turning its wallet Upside Down and inside out to bring Stranger Things 4 to life, spending an average of $30 million on each of the smash hit series’ nine new episodes. That far eclipses the princely $13 million per-episode sum commanded by Season 4 of The Crown, the previously-reported most expensive show in the streamer’s original-series lineup….

(15) ON THE OTHER HAND. For the cost conscious among us, “House of the Dragon Budget: Under 20 Million Per Episode”. By Grabthar’s hammer, what a savings!

… If you’re wondering how HBO managed to keep the cost of “House of the Dragon” Season 1 from rising too much above what it paid for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” especially with even more CGI dragons expected to be flying around, the production insider says HBO is now so adept at these world-building series through years of not just “GoT,” but also producing “Westworld” and “His Dark Materials,” that the team can make a high-quality series as efficiently and effectively as possible….

(16) EVERYTHING AND MORE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 20 New York Times Magazine, Alexandra Kleeman profiles Everything Everywhere All At Once star Michelle Yeoh, who explains why doing a multiverse movie (in which she plays a hibachi chef, a laundromat store owner, and a universe where everyone has fingers that look like Twinkies) was a stretch for her in a career that has taken her from Hong Kong super action movies to James Bond to Crazy Rich Asians. “Michelle Yeoh’s Quantum Leaps”.

… Approaching a role that bounds gleefully across so many modes and genres put Yeoh to the test. She showed me a photo of her script, dutifully flagged with adhesive tabs that denoted the genre of each scene she appears in (action sequences, comedic scenes, heavy-duty drama): The stack of pages bristled with color, like a wildly blooming flower. She experimented with different kinds of sticky notes. “With the fat ones, they were overlapping so much. So, I had to get the skinny ones,” she told me. “Oh, my God, it was a whole creative process. And then when I finished, I looked at it and go, Oh, my God, I’m in serious trouble.”…

(17) ACTOR OUT. Frank Langella is definitely out of his latest film – the 84-year-old is accused of sexual harassment: “Frank Langella Fired From Netflix’s ‘The Fall Of the House Of Usher’ After Probe” reports Deadline.

…Sources confirmed to Deadline TMZ‘s report from earlier this week that the investigation was launched after the 84-year-old actor had been accused of sexual harassment, including making inappropriate comments to a female co-star on set during work.

Langella led the cast of The Fall of the House of Usher, which also stars Carla Gugino, Mary McDonnell, Carl Lumbly and Mark Hamill.

The eight-episode series is described as an epic tale of greed, horror and tragedy. Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher, which serves as the basis for the show, features themes of madness, family, isolation and identity.

Roderick Usher, the role previously played by Langella that now is being recast, is the towering patriarch of the Usher dynasty….

(18) SIC TRANSIT GLORIA PHOBOS. The space agency tells how “NASA’s Perseverance Rover Captures Video of Solar Eclipse on Mars”.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has captured dramatic footage of Phobos, Mars’ potato-shaped moon, crossing the face of the Sun. These observations can help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface, ultimately shaping the Red Planet’s crust and mantle.

Captured with Perseverance’s next-generation Mastcam-Z camera on April 2, the 397th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, the eclipse lasted a little over 40 seconds – much shorter than a typical solar eclipse involving Earth’s Moon. (Phobos is about 157 times smaller than Earth’s Moon. Mars’ other moon, Deimos, is even smaller.)

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on The Batman, answering such questions as, “If he’s The Batman, why does he say his name is vengenance?” and “Why does Superman show up in inappropriate moments?”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, David Goldfarb, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]