Pixel Scroll 8/5/22 Welcome To The Scrolltel California. You Can Pixel Out Anytime But You Can Never Leave

(1) HWA ELECTIONS UPCOMING. The Horror Writers Association will be holding elections for President, Secretary, and three Trustee positions in September.

John Edward Lawson is running unopposed for President, and Becky Spratford is the lone candidate for Secretary.

The candidates for the three Trustee positions are Marc L. Abbott, Linda Addison, James Chambers, Ellen Datlow, Anthony Gambol, Sèphera Girón, Douglas Gwilym, Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito, Eugene Johnson, Stephen Mark Rainey, David Rose, Lindy Ryan, and John F.D. Taff.

The candidates’ statements are here. The elected officers will hold their respective offices for terms of two years, beginning on November 1 and ending on October 31.

(2) KEENE HEALTH UPDATE. Horror writer Brian Keene is positive for Covid-19 – and has symptoms — so he alerted Facebook readers who might have come in contact with him at last weekend’s Scares That Care Charity Weekend VIII.  

For those who had me sign their books or take a selfie with them this past weekend: I have just tested positive for Covid-19. As you saw, I was pretty militant about keeping my mask on, so I hopefully didn’t spread it. But you deserve a heads up, regardless. My symptoms are more than mild but less than severe. Will be quarantining at home.

(3) LITERARY CONTACT TRACING. David Agranoff, host of the DickHeads Podcast, says the evidence suggests Philip K. Dick based a Ubik character in part on Robert Lichtman. Thread starts here.

(4) WRITERS GETTING PAID. Deadline reports “WGA Wins $42 Million ‘Self-Dealing’ Arbitration Against Netflix”.

The WGA said today that it has prevailed in a huge “self-dealing” arbitration against Netflix that it says will result in hundreds of writers on more than 100 Netflix theatrical films receiving an additional $42 million in unpaid residuals. The WGA West and the WGA East say they now are pursuing about $13.5 million in interest that Netflix reportedly owes writers for late payment of these residuals.

In a notification to their members, the guilds said that their victory stems from “an important arbitration over Netflix’s underpayment of the writer’s residuals for the theatrical motion picture Bird Box. Netflix argued the WGA should accept a substandard formula the company negotiated with DGA and SAG-AFTRA. After a hearing, however, an arbitrator determined differently — that the license fee should have been greater than the gross budget of the film. He ordered Netflix to pay the writer a total of $850,000 in residuals along with full interest of $350,000.”

“As a direct result of this ruling,” the WGA added, “216 writers on 139 other Netflix theatrical films are receiving an additional $42 million in unpaid residuals. The guild is now pursuing approximately $13.5 million in interest Netflix also owes writers for late payment of these residuals.”

The meaning of self-dealing and its consequences were explained by the guilds in their message to members:

“When a theatrical is licensed or released in any other market – like streaming or television or home video – residuals must be paid on revenues earned in those markets. The typical residual for the credited writer is 1.2% of the license fee paid to the producer for the right to exhibit that film.

“If the license is between related parties – for example, when Netflix is both the producer and the distributor of the film — the MBA requires that the company impute a license fee based on arm’s length transactions between unrelated parties of comparable pictures — for example, a Sony film licensed to Netflix. This critical definition, negotiated as part of the resolution of our strike in 2008, protects against the undervaluation of license fees through self-dealing.

“Rather than follow the established MBA definition for related party transactions (which exists in the DGA and SAG-AFTRA agreements with the AMPTP as well), Netflix negotiated new deals with the DGA and SAG-AFTRA that allow Netflix to pay residuals on significantly less than the cost of the film. Netflix then tried to force the WGA to take this ‘pattern’ deal. Since it was clear the new formula negotiated by the other Guilds undervalued these ‘imputed’ license fees, the Guild instead took the dispute to arbitration.

“During the arbitration, the Guild showed that when Netflix licensed comparable theatrical films from third party producers it almost always paid a license fee that exceeded the budget. The industry refers to this model as ‘cost-plus.’ The Guild argued that Netflix must apply this cost-plus model to its own films and impute license fees in excess of the budget for the purpose of paying residuals. The arbitrator agreed and ruled that the license fee should be 111% of the gross budget of the film.”

(5) A “FAN FICTION” CAUSE CÉLÈBRE. Meanwhile, Netflix lawyers are busy spreading joy in another direction, suing the Grammy-winning team behind an unofficial Bridgerton musical: “Netflix Sues ‘Bridgerton The Musical’ Creators For Infringement, Seeks to Halt Live Stagings”Deadline has the details. From the complaint: “Barlow & Bear’s conduct began on social media, but stretches ‘fan fiction’ well past its breaking point.” (Read the full complaint here.)

 …Songwriting duo Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear were the minds behind the popular adaptation of the hit television series. They staged a live concert of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Album Live in Concert” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC earlier this week, selling out the venue.

Netflix originally hailed the concept when it debuted as a free online homage. But when that expanded into a profitable business, things became sticky.

“Defendants Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear and their companies (“Barlow & Bear”) have taken valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series Bridgerton to build an international brand for themselves,” the lawsuit stated. “Bridgerton reflects the creative work and hard- earned success of hundreds of artists and Netflix employees. Netflix owns the exclusive right to create Bridgerton songs, musicals, or any other derivative works based on Bridgerton. Barlow & Bear cannot take that right—made valuable by others’ hard work—for themselves, without permission. Yet that is exactly what they have done.”…

(6) SOA AWARDS TAKING SUBMISSIONS. The Society of Authors 2023 Awards are open, including new prize to encourage disability representation in literature, called the ADCI (Authors with Disabilities & Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize. Entries are being taken through October 31.

Launched in 2022, the ADCI (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize seeks to encourage greater positive representation of disability in literature.

Founded by author Penny Batchelor and publisher Clare Christian together with the Society of Authors, the prize is generously sponsored by Arts Council England, ALCS, the Drusilla Harvey Memorial Fund, the Hawthornden Literary Retreat, and the Professional Writing Academy. 

Open to authors with a disability and/or chronic illness, the prize will call for entries of novels which include a disabled or chronically ill character or characters. The winner will receive £1,000 and two runners-up £500 each.

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to catch up with Sam J. Miller over khachapuri in episode 177 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sam J. Miller

It’s time to settle in for another lunch during the Washington, D.C. pop culture festival Awesome Con. Last episode, you eavesdropped on my meal with Patrick O’Leary, and this time around you get to take a seat at the table with Sam J. Miller.

You first heard me chat and chew with Sam 5-1/2 years ago in Episode 24, and when I noted he’d be at the con to promote his debut short story collection Boys, Beasts & Men, I knew it was time for us to catch up.

So much has changed since I last shared him with you in late 2016! His first novel, The Art of Starving, was published the following year and was a finalist for the 2018 Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and won the 2018 Andre Norton Award. Blackfish City, published in 2018, won the 2019 John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and was named a best book of the year by Vulture, the Washington Post, and Barnes & Noble, as well as a must-read for Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine. His second young adult novel, Destroy All Monsters, was published by HarperTeen in 2019, and his second adult novel, The Blade Between, was published by Ecco Press in 2020.

We discussed the 1,500 short story submissions he made between 2002 and 2012 (as well as the one story which was rejected 99 times), the peculiar importance of the missing comma from the title of his new collection Boys, Beasts & Men, his technique for reading collections written by others, why the Clarion Writing Workshop was transformative, how Samuel R. Delany gave him permission, the way his novels and short stories exist in a shared universe, the impossibility of predicting posthumous fame, the superpower he developed via decades of obscurity, the differing ideas of what writers block means, and much more.

(8) A DATE IN THE SF CALENDAR. From Ray Bradbury‘s “There Will Come Soft Rains”.

The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.  Smoke and silence. A great quantity of smoke.  Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam: “Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is…”  

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is the Amicus film that premiered fifty-six years ago this evening. It was directed by Gordon Flemyng as written by Milton Subotsky, based off Terry Nation’s The Dalek Invasion of Earth for the TV show. It was the second such film done, the first being Dr. Who and the Daleks which was was based off Terry Nation’s The Daleks. It was not canon, nor has it been retroactively declared canon by the BBC.

Peter Cushing as Dr. Who and Roberta Tovey was Susan, his granddaughter. Bernard Cribbins appeared here as Tom Campbell. He appeared four times in the actual series. Despite this, the BBC explicitly note that that these films were not related to the series, nor any events here should reflect upon the series. Odd given that there was a Doctor Who there and his granddaughter, there was a TARDIS, there was Daleks and so forth.

Nation was paid five hundred pounds for three scripts with third being called The Chase but the second film drew so poorly that The Chase never got produced. 

And if you watched this one, you’ll have noticed the curious matter of the Doctor not being on-screen much of time. Cushing was seriously ill during shooting so they had to rewrite the script to remove much of his lines. 

Part of the funding came from a cereal company. The breakfast cereal Sugar Puffs to be precise and, their signs and products can be seen at various points in the film. Sugar Puffs ran a competition on its cereal packets to for its fans win a Dalek film prop, was allowed to feature the Daleks in its TV advertisements.  

The overall critical response at the time was that both films suffered greatly in comparison to the series itself. A typical comment was this one from The Times: “[T]he cast, headed by the long-suffering, much ill-used Peter Cushing, seem able, unsurprisingly, to drum up no conviction whatever in anything they are called to do.” It’s worth noting that was really made on the cheap by the BBC costing only three hundred thousand pounds. 

Tom Baker later criticized both films saying “There have been two Doctor Who films in the past, both rather poor… There are many dangers in transporting a television series onto the big screen… a lot of things that you could get away with on the small screen wouldn’t wash in the cinema.” 

It holds a poor rating of fifty-four percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

I have not seen either film. I’m curious to hear from those of you who have seen them as to what you think of them. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 5, 1891 Donald Kerr. Happy Hapgood in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars which certainly is one of the earliest such films. His only other genre appearances were in the Abbott and Costello films such as Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in uncredited roles. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 5, 1929 Don Matheson. Best remembered for being Mark Wilson in Land of the Giants. He also had roles in Lost in Space (where he played in an alien in one episode and an android in another episode), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an Alice in Wonderland film and Dragonflight. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 5, 1948 Larry Elmore, 74. His list of work includes illustrations for Dungeons & Dragons, Dragonlance, and his own comic strip series SnarfQuest. He is author of the book Reflections of Myth. He was nominated for Best Professional Artist at MidAmericCon II, has the Phoenix Award and has five Chesley Award nominations.
  • Born August 5, 1966 James Gunn, 56. Director, producer and screenwriter whose first film as director was Slither. Very silly film. He’s responsible for both Guardians of The Galaxy films, plus the forthcoming one. He executive produced both of the recent Avengers films, and he’s directing and writing the next Suicide Squad film. I am far fonder of the Guardians of The Galaxy films than I am of the Avengers films. 
  • Born August 5, 1972 Paolo Bacigalupi, 49. I remember the book group I was part of some years ago having a spirited debate over The Windup Girl (which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 in a tie with China Miéville’s The City & The City and a Nebula as well) over the believability of the central character. I think he did a better job with characters in his next novels, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, but he’s really not about characters anyways but ideas.  The Tangled Lands, a collection of his short works, won a World Fantasy Award. His novelette, “The People of Sand and Slag” got nominated at Interaction; “The Calorie Man” novelette at L.A. Con IV; “Yellow Card Man” novellette at Nippon 2007; and “The Gambler” novellette at Anticipation.
  • Born August 5, 1975 Iddo Goldberg, 47. Israel-born actor. Freddie Thorne in the Peaky Blinders series , Isaac Walton in supernatural Salem series and Bennett Knox in Snowpiercer series. He also had a recurring role on Westworld as Sebastian.  And under a lot of costuming, he played the Red Tornado in an episode, “Red Faced” of Supergirl.
  • Born August 5, 1980 JoSelle Vanderhooft, 42. Former Green Man reviewer with a single novel so far, Ebenezer, and several collections, Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories and Steam-Powered II: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories which the former were nominated for a Lambda Award. She also co-edited with Steve Berman, Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction.

(11) IT’S IN THE CARDS. Gizmodo leads fans to “Relive X-Men Trading Card Nostalgia With This New Gallery”.

Jim Lee’s designs for the X-Men are burned into the minds of X-Fans like the Phoenix Force itself—whether you devoured comics, fell in love with the animated series, or, perhaps, just collected some of the iconic trading cards of the era. If you’re the latter, then we’ve got some very good news.

io9 has your exclusive look inside The Uncanny X-Men Trading Cards: The Complete Series, Abrams ComicArts’ 30th anniversary celebration of Jim Lee’s iconic 105 Uncanny X-Men trading card set. Featuring an introduction by Bob Budiansky and a foreword by Ed Piskor, the book collects the backs and fronts of every card in the classic series, as well as insight from Marvel creators in interviews conducted by Budiansky, the original writer and editor on the trading card series…..

(12) KIPPLE IS UNDEFEATED. Robin Abcarian, the syndicated opinion writer, discovered a new word – but you probably know it already: “Why none of us can win against kipple”.

It’s coming up on two years since my father died at age 91. I miss him terribly, of course, but his death left me with a personal struggle I had not anticipated.

While you might understandably think his death left a void in my life, it did quite the opposite.

His death left me with so … much … stuff. He’d lived in the same house for more than 30 years, and even though he’d engaged in some half-hearted Swedish death cleaning — a decluttering aimed at easing burdens on one’s survivors – what he did, mostly, was just put things in boxes. Boxes I had to open to figure out what they contained after he died….

… I want to keep all of it, but I also want to pile it up and torch it.

Last week, I was bemoaning this dilemma when Anton, my future son-in-law, said, “Yeah, all the kipple.”

Kipple?

I thought it might be a Yiddish or German word, but Anton told me it was coined by the great science fiction writer Philip K. Dick in his 1968 dystopian novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” For those who need a plot refresher – or have not seen the 1982 movie “Blade Runner,” which was based on the novel – the story takes place in the future, after Earth has been mostly destroyed by a nuclear global conflict, World War Terminus. Most animal life has been extinguished. The population has emigrated to “off-world colonies.”

The word is used by the book’s protagonist, Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter assigned to kill some uncannily human-like robots who have escaped involuntary servitude on Mars and returned to Earth.

“Kipple,” Deckard explains in the book, “is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homepage. [Dick’s incredibly prescient vision of a digital newspaper.] When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it.”….

(13) UNFORCED ERROR. “Scientist admits ‘space telescope image’ was actually a slice of chorizo” says CNN.

A French scientist has apologized after tweeting a photo of a slice of chorizo, claiming it was an image of a distant star taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.

Étienne Klein, a celebrated physicist and director at France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, shared the image of the spicy Spanish sausage on Twitter last week, praising the “level of detail” it provided.

…Klein admitted later in a series of follow-up tweets that the image was, in fact, a close-up of a slice of chorizo taken against a black background.

“Well, when it’s cocktail hour, cognitive bias seem to find plenty to enjoy… Beware of it. According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere else other than on Earth”

After facing a backlash from members of the online community for the prank, he wrote: “In view of certain comments, I feel obliged to specify that this tweet showing an alleged picture of Proxima Centauri was a joke. Let’s learn to be wary of the arguments from positions of authority as much as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.”…

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ms. Marvel Pitch Meeting,” the writer explains that Kamala Khan begins as a big fan of Captain Marvel and has all of our stuff. “I like it when we can sell fictional merch,” the producer explains.  He also likes a scene where Ms. Marvel suddenly has time travel and goes back to 1942 to save her grandmother’s life, because I think it’s a good idea for a character to be born.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/4/22 Engine Summertime, And The Scrolling Is Easy

(1) BIDDING WILF FAREWELL. Radio Times profiles the late actor in “Bernard Cribbins: How he brought magic to Doctor Who”.

…It was when Howard Attfield, who’d played Donna’s dad in The Runaway Bride, passed away before his scenes could be completed on 2008 episode Partners in Crime that Russell T Davies hit upon the idea of bringing in Cribbins as Donna’s gramps (Cribbins re-filmed the scenes that Attfield had already completed).

With any other actor it would have taken fans time to fall in love, but RTD was clearly banking on 40-plus years’ worth of affection for Cribbins. And it’s testament to how scene-stealing the actor was in that episode that Wilf pops up more and more as the 2008 series goes on. He’s heartbreaking in alternate reality episode Turn Left, as he watches immigrants being forcefully taken away by the army. “Labour camps, that’s what they called them last time,” he says, tearfully. “It’s happening again.”…

(2) SIT ON IT. The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum will be exhibiting “House of the Dragon:The Targaryen Dynasty” from August 5-September 7.

The Natural History Museum and HBO Max present a new, one-of-a-kind experience exploring the lives and legends of the HBO original series House of the Dragon. Visit the mythical world of Westeros, the Targaryen Dynasty, and the dragons that ruled beside them. Attendees will be the first to see new costumes and props from the series and have the chance to sit on a replica of the new Iron Throne.

Through related digital and public programming, we will also explore the relationship between dragons and the real-life creatures that may have inspired them.

(3) A NOVEL INTERPRETATION. If the government’s suit to keep Penguin Random House from buying a competitor, Simon & Schuster, is successful, does that actually help Amazon? “The Books Merger That’s About Amazon” (limited to New York Times subscribers).  

…This case, which is about much more than books and the earnings of big-name authors, is another example of the debate over how to handle large companies — including the biggest digital powers — that shape our world.

The elephant in the room is Amazon. Book publishers want to become bigger and stronger partly to have more leverage over Amazon, by far the largest seller of books in the United States. One version of Penguin Random House’s strategy boils down to this: Our book publishing monopoly is the best defense against Amazon’s book selling monopoly.

As the dominant way Americans find and buy books, Amazon can, in theory, steer people to titles that generate more income for the company. If authors or publishers don’t want their books sold on Amazon, they may disappear into obscurity, or counterfeits may proliferate. But if the publisher is big enough, the theory goes, then it has leverage over Amazon to stock books on the prices and terms the publisher prefers.

“Their argument is in order to protect the market from monopolization by Amazon, we’re going to monopolize the market,” said Barry Lynn, the executive director of the Open Markets Institute, an organization that wants tougher antitrust laws and enforcement….

(4) WHO PAINTED THOSE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH? In the Saturday Evening Post: “The Art of the Post: Illustrator Fred Ludekens — The Post’s ‘Problem Child’”. “Falling horse? Man on Mars? Thirteenth century Mongolian warriors? When the Post needed someone to illustrate the unusual, they called Fred Ludekens.”

…For example, in 1947 the Post needed an illustration for a story by Robert Heinlein that takes place in “interplanetary space.” According to How I Make a Picture, the art editor recalled that he scratched his head and wondered, “What the hell does interplanetary space look like?” Next, he called Fred Ludekens.

The story, The Green Hills of Earth, was about a blind accordion player living in the Martian city of Marsopolis. Ludekens first thought he might avoid a lot of homework by proposing a flat, “decorative” design as an illustration. Here is his preliminary draft that he submitted to the Post:

But the Post said no. Then he thought he might get off easily by adopting a “fantasy” approach:

But again the Post said no. Any illustrator could do that kind of painting. The Post wanted a “realistic” illustration. The magazine had housewives and truck drivers amongst its readers, but it also had astronomers and university professors itching to criticize any technical error they might find. The Post needed an artist who could please a general audience but at the same time satisfy the experts….

Heinlein must have liked the painting – he ended up with it. (And it was displayed as part of the 2011 Worldcon’s history sf art exhibit.)

(5) FANDOM’S JOE KENNEDY. First Fandom Experience has another entry in anticipation of Chicon 8’s “Project 1946”, which the Worldcon is doing in lieu of Retro Hugos: “Science Fiction and Fantasy in Books: 1946”

Continuing our series of posts in preparation for the 1946 Project at Chicon 8.

In the aftermath of the war, an explosion of genre book publishing brought science fiction and fantasy closer to the mainstream. However, new novel-length fiction was scarce, so the vast majority of titles issued in 1946 looked back, republishing material from prior years.

Thanks to one prolific fan, we have a contemporaneous view of fandom’s favorites from this period. In January 1947, New Jersey’s Joseph Charles (“Joe”) Kennedy published the 1946-1947 Fantasy Review, the second in his series of yearbooks covering the field. Along with his own perspective, Kennedy presented the results of a survey that captured the opinions of 78 fans of the day. Caveats apply; e.g. the sample appears to be entirely from the United States and Canada — but the poll offers at least one window into sentiments at the time….

(6) HOLLYWOOD LOGS. Rick Wilber discusses the setting and inspiration for his story “The Goose” in his Asimov’s post “The Spruce Goose, the Hollywood Stars, and America’s Nazis” in the “From the Earth to the Stars” section.

…Hollywood was in its Golden Age in 1941 and so was baseball. As I wrote this novella, setting scenes at Gilmore Field and the Brown Derby and Long Beach Harbor for the first flight of the Spruce Goose was great fun, made all the more enjoyable for my fictional version being not so far from the truth.   

But there’s another part of this story that’s also not far from the truth. Underneath all the glamour and magic of Hollywood in those years there was a dark upwelling of fascism. There were plenty of people in America, and particularly in Southern California, who admired Hitler and the way he’d made Germany a world power again. Many, perhaps most, of these people also liked what he was doing to the Jews in Germany and thought that was something they should do to the Jews of Hollywood, especially  the Jewish studio heads and their many directors and producers and actors, who, in the fevered minds of these home-grown fascists, were destroying America with their evil money-making success trying to make propaganda films that warned of the Nazi menace and praised resistance to it. Good thing the German consul to Los Angeles, Georg Gyssling, made sure those films were changed to be less troublesome before they were released, else he’d ban them from distribution in Germany, Europe’s biggest market for films….

(7) OCTOTHORPE. “Nonsense Divide” is the title of Octothorpe podcast episode 63.

We have some locs, and then we dive into discussing the recent travails of FantasyCon, the recent books of The Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the recent venues of Conversation 2023. Art by Alison Scott.

(8) HIS FRIEND FLINT. Kevin J. Anderson paid tribute to the late Eric Flint on Facebook.

Took me a long time to do this.

It was all an act, as any of Eric’s closest friends knew: his gruff demeanor, his curmudgeonly comments, but it was nothing more than a thin disguise for the engaged, caring, and mentoring personality that was Mr. Eric Flint. This guy knew what he was talking about.

When I met Eric for the first time (or so I thought), he was already a legend. I sought him out at a Chicago Worldcon and introduced myself. He just smiled and said that we had already met—I was one of his instructors when he’d won the Writers of the Future Contest in 1993. He was one of those wide-eyed students sitting around the table (along with Sean Williams and Stoney Compton), as Rebecca Moesta and I lectured them on professionalism and productivity….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1952 [By Cat Eldridge.] No, this is definitely not genre or genre related in any way what-so-ever, but it’s a fascinating story none-the-less. So let’s look at the story of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap play. 

The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in 1952 and ran continuously until 16 March 2020, when the stage performances had to be temporarily discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic. It then re-opened on 17 May 2021. The longest-running ever West End show, it has by far the longest run of any play in the world, with its 27,500th performance taking place on the 18th September of 2018.

It is set in a guest house, Monkswell Manor, in the winter in the present day so the settings and costuming are always contemporary. it is a whodunit and the the play has a surprise ending, which the audience are asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre. Not that actually helps as many of course do discuss it.

Critics in general just plain didn’t like saying it was way too cliched and the characters were “too obvious by half”. 

Some four hundred actors have played the various roles down the decades. Most are relatively unknown.  sir Richard Attenborough was the original Detective Sergeant Trotter, and his wife, Sheila Sim, the first Mollie Ralston, owner of the Monkswell Manor guesthouse. 

The play began life as a short radio play written as a birthday present for Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. It was broadcast on 30 May 1947 as “Three Blind Mice”. 

The play is based on a short story which was Christie based off the radio play. Christie ordered that the story not be published as long as it ran as a play in the West End of London. The short story has still not been published within the U.K. but it was published in the States in the 1950 Three Blind Mice and Other Stories collection.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1923 Paul Schneider. He wrote scripts for the original Star TrekStar Trek: The Animated SeriesThe StarlostThe Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He’s best remembered for two episodes of the original Trek series: “Balance of Terror” and “The Squire of Gothos”. “Balance of Terror”, of course, introduced the Romulans. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 4, 1942 Don S. Davis. He’s best-known for playing General Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks. He had a small part in Beyond the Stars as Phil Clawson, and was in Hook as Dr. Fields. Neat factiod: on MacGyver for five years, he was the stunt double for Dana Elcar. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1944 Richard Belzer, 78. The Third Rock from The Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and a truly awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-FilesThe InvadersHuman Target, and a recurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 72. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space FungusSpacebread is available at the usual suspects for a mere ninety cents as is Born of Flame: A Space Story for the same price!
  • Born August 4, 1968 Daniel Dae Kim, 54. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World TV film, the second Fantasy Island of three series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 53. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. (See my essay on “The Unicorn and the Wasp” in item #9 here.)

(11) AMONG THE MISSING. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt explores who would have been in Batgirl if it had been finished, including J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and the return of Michael Keaton as Batman. “’Batgirl’ has been canceled. Here’s what’s lost”.

…One of the most dramatic aspects of the Batgirl mythos is that she is the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner Jim Gordon, who in many comic iterations is not aware his daughter is a crime-fighting vigilante. “Batgirl” starred J.K. Simmons as Gordon, continuing a role he began in Zack Snyder’s polarizing Justice League movies. Simmons is best known for giving one of the all-time great superhero movie performances in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy as Daily Bugle editor in chief J. Jonah Jameson. If Simmons is in your superhero movie, it’s a big deal.

Brendan Fraser, having already done stellar work for WB/DC in the HBO Max series “Doom Patrol,” was “Batgirl’s” villain, the pyromaniac Firefly. His attempt to add to an impressive array of DC movie villains over the years, from Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger, now goes up in smoke.

But the biggest holy cow moment of all from “Batgirl” was going to bethe return of Keaton as Batman. There are few bigger deals in comic book culture than his answering a Bat-signal’scall in the 21st century. He is also set to resume the role in the upcoming “The Flash” movie starring Ezra Miller, scheduled for release in 2023,but given the recent controversies surrounding Miller, one must wonder whether we’ll ever see Keaton’s bat-comeback at all….

(12) RAISE YOUR BANNERS. Creation Entertainment and Warner Bros. will run the first Game of Thrones Official Fan Convention from December 9-11, 2022 at Los Angeles Convention Center. See guest list and other details at the link.

(13) COMPELLING COMMENTS. Joe Stech read and ranked all the Hugo Best Novel finalists at the Compelling Science Fiction Newsletter. Here is an excerpt from his praise for A Desolation Called Peace.

…I also thought Martine did a great job of conveying how military officers are required to make significant decisions without enough data, and how that results in a drastically different worldview than that of an academic.

And finally, the prose was wonderful. Little things like “You think these aliens are offensive; your word for offensive is ‘wasteful'”. Just so good. I highly, highly recommend this novel….

Stech also delivers many frank observations about some of the other finalists that don’t work so well for him.

(14) DEATH’S INTERN. Plague Unleashed by D. C. Gomez (published in 2018) is book two in the action-packed and humorous Urban Fantasy series The Intern Diaries. Isis Black has survived eight months as Death’s Intern. But not even all her training could have prepared her for the madness of zombies running loose in Texarkana.

A disgruntled employee, sibling rivalry, and zombie attacks. Who said Texarkana was boring?

I swear, I didn’t do it.

It wasn’t me.

I did not start the zombie-apocalypse in Texarkana.

But I’m planning to find out who did it, before the whole city is taken over by those mindless souls.

Too bad the one person that might have the answer is the one being Constantine despises above all else, Death’s Sister, Pestilence. How can one person be so absolutely despicable? Why does she need ten interns all calling her Mistress? She is evil.

Pestilence swears she didn’t cause the Plague. I’m blaming her anyway. Now all I need is more time and less five-year-olds trying to eat their teachers’ faces. Scratch that, what I really need is a new job.

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

D. C. Gomez is an award-winning USA Today Bestselling Author, podcaster, motivational speaker, and coach. Born in the Dominican Republic, she grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. D. C. studied film and television at New York University. After college she joined the US Army, and proudly served for four years.  You can find out more about her at www.dcgomez-author.com.

(15) DOUBLE DUTCH BUS IN ANTIQUITY. “Footprints Discovery Suggests Ancient ‘Ghost Tracks’ May Cover the West” according to the New York Times.

Scientists have discovered ancient human footprints in Utah, traces, they say, of adults and children who walked barefoot along a shallow riverbed more than 12,000 years ago….

The 88 footprints are in several short trackways, some of which indicate that people may have simply been congregating in one area. “It doesn’t look like we just happened to find someone walking from point A to point B,” Dr. Duke said. They believe these footprints are of people who lived nearby. “Maybe collecting things. Maybe just enjoying themselves” in the shallow water, he added….

Dr. Urban compared the Utah footprints to the “ghost tracks” in White Sands, a term used for tracks that appear only under certain conditions, then disappear just as quickly. The fossil tracks in New Mexico, as much as 23,000 years old, were uncovered using ground-penetrating radar technology and contained a treasure trove of revelations: tracks of ancient humans and megafauna intersecting and interacting with each other. They showed proof that ancient humans walked in the footprints of enormous proboscideans and vice versa; that one human raced across the mud holding a child, put that child down at one point, picked that child back up and then rushed off to an unknown destination; that at least one giant ground sloth was followed by ancient humans, rose up on its hind legs and twirled as the humans surrounded it; that children played in puddles.

(16) WHO’S WATCHING WHAT. JustWatch says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in July.

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Everything Everywhere All at OnceStranger Things
2Spider-Man: No Way HomeMoonhaven
3Jurassic World DominionSeverance
4Independence DayResident Evil
5Jurassic WorldFor All Mankind
6The ThingWestworld
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomThe Orville
8Crimes of the FutureThe Twilight Zone
9InterstellarPaper Girls
10Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessDoctor Who

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(17) CATS WHO LOVE TURKEY. Kedi, a cat documentary filmed in Istanbul, was released in 2017. But maybe these clips are news to you, too!

A profile of an ancient city and its unique people, seen through the eyes of the most mysterious and beloved animal humans have ever known, the Cat.

(18) TESTED AGAIN. Adam Savage discusses why he loves The Matrix in this video which dropped this week. “Ask Adam Savage: What IS It About The Matrix?”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/27/22 And Did Those Files, In Ancient Time, Scroll Upon England’s Pixels Green?

(1) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Stranger Things is being edited retroactively by Netflix. Is this the beginning of a dangerous TV trend?” asks British GQ. It’s not a long article and these tweets have the gist of it.

(2) VIDEO GAME NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews The Quarry, a new game from Supermassive that stars Ted Raimi, David Arquette, and Grace Zabriskie.

While much horror cinema has taken a turn for the intellectual over the past decade, this is a straight-up lesson in the schlock doctrine, a love letter to campy teen slashers such as Friday The 13th.  You’ll find every trope in the book here, from full moons to mysterious trapdoors to flimsy metaphors for intergenerational trauma. The set-up is simple:  it’s the end of summer camp and your group of teenage counsellors are planning to stay one last night to have a party in the woods. The forest inevitably harbours a dreadful, murderous secret, but it will take a lot to faze these kids–theyre horny, wisecracking and ready to make some truly terrible decisions…

…For most of this ten-hour adventure, watching is all you’ll do. Rather than playing, you’re mostly observing scripted sequences and influencing the story by making choices,  These might be fluffy character beats (who do you want to flirt with?) or grim decisions (do you want to pull the knife out of your stomach, risking blood loss?)You’ll also be faced with that horror ur-choice:  run, or hide? There’s no right or wrong; characters can die and the story will keep going.  Each choice leads you towards one of the game’s 186 possible endings.

(3) REMEMBER WHAT THE DORMOUSE SAID. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Royal Society concludes that playing video games will not rot your brain. “Time spent playing video games is unlikely to impact well-being”.

Abstract

Video games are a massively popular form of entertainment, socializing, cooperation and competition. Games’ ubiquity fuels fears that they cause poor mental health, and major health bodies and national governments have made far-reaching policy decisions to address games’ potential risks, despite lacking adequate supporting data. The concern–evidence mismatch underscores that we know too little about games’ impacts on well-being. We addressed this disconnect by linking six weeks of 38 935 players’ objective game-behaviour data, provided by seven global game publishers, with three waves of their self-reported well-being that we collected. We found little to no evidence for a causal connection between game play and well-being. However, results suggested that motivations play a role in players’ well-being. For good or ill, the average effects of time spent playing video games on players’ well-being are probably very small, and further industry data are required to determine potential risks and supportive factors to health….

(4) INSIDE BABYLON 5. As J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 new commentaries get uploaded to his Patreon page, older ones get a public release. The latest posted to YouTube is: “Babylon 5: Message From Earth commentary by J. Michael Straczynski”.

A full-length, sync-up commentary by creator Straczynski about Messages From Earth, the first installment of a trilogy that would forever alter the course of the series.

(5) OKORAFOR PROFILED. “Africanfuturista! The fantastical adventures of Nnedi Okorafor” at Geek Afrique.

Spaceships, terrorist aliens, water spirits, soldiers, Boko Haram, and wet piles of meat. These aren’t part of a kind of dark poetry, but mainstays of some of the best work of writer Nnedi Okorafor. Her work in her genre of choice Africanfuturism (one word, no space), her speculative fiction and fantasy work, are among the most unique today. Africanfuturism, which Okorafor coined, is an exciting subgenre that welds science fiction and technology to African mythologies, weaving black people —or blackness, really— into fertile worlds rife with story possibilities….

(6) OBAMA’S BOOK RECS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Barack Obama put books by Emily St. John Mandel and Silvia Moreno-Garcia on his Summer 2022 reading list.

He also put S.A. Cosby’s novel on there. In “Noir at the Bar”, a piece I wrote for File 770 in 2019 about going to hear crime writers read short stories, I said that Cosby was clearly the best writer in the room…

(7) CREEPY CRAWLIES. “Giant spiders, creeping tentacles all in a day’s work for this Ypsilanti artist”Michigan Live profiles Anna Miklosovic. (Her website is here.)

…Miklosovic currently has two art series depicting the unusual. The first shows a paranormal side of Ypsilanti and features work with giant spiders crawling up the side of the iconic Ypsilanti water tower and a giant tentacle in the Peninsula Paper Company Dam. The 12-part series was turned into a calendar, Miklosovic said.

Her second series focuses on Ann Arbor through the lens of the apocalypse, showing abandoned versions of well-known city locations….

(8) NOT JUST ANY USED CLOTHING. The prices didn’t quite go to infinity and beyond, but close: “Buzz Aldrin’s Space Memorabilia Sells for More Than $8 Million” reports the New York Times.

white, Teflon-coated jacket worn by the astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969 sold for $2.7 million at a Sotheby’s auction on Tuesday, fetching the highest price among dozens of pieces of rare memorabilia tracing his career in space exploration.

Mr. Aldrin, now 92, has a storied career as an astronaut, joining NASA in 1963 after flying for the Air Force. Within three years, he had walked in space on the Gemini 12 mission. Then, on July 20, 1969, millions of people watched on television as he became the second man to walk on the moon, about 20 minutes after Neil Armstrong, who declared it “one giant leap for mankind.”

The custom-fitted jacket Mr. Aldrin wore on that mission sold after fierce bidding lasting nine minutes, with the auctioneer calling it “the most valuable American space-flown artifact ever sold at auction.” (The garments worn by the two other Apollo 11 astronauts from that mission are owned by the Smithsonian.)

In all, 68 of 69 lots of Mr. Aldrin’s belongings were sold for a combined $8 million on Tuesday by Sotheby’s in Manhattan at an auction that lasted more than two hours….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

2008 [By Cat Eldridge.] Your essay tonight is brought to you courtesy of two of my loves — Agatha Christie and Doctor Who. Doctor Who’s “The Unicorn and The Wasp” involved both and had the added advantage of being a David Tennant story — bliss!

This episode aired first aired by BBC One on May 17, 2008. As I said it’s a Tennant Doctor and the Companion was Donna Noble as played delightfully by Catherine Tate. I didn’t care for her at first by she grew on me nicely. 

SPOLIERS ABOUND. GO AWAY NOW!

The two arrive at British manor of Lady Clemency Eddison, (Manor house mysteries are another fascination of mine), where Christie is staying. The episode is a murder-mystery where a shapeshifting giant wasp, in disguise as one of the party guests, murders the other guests using methods similar to those in the novels of Christie. The Doctor and Christie, wonderfully played by Fenella Woolgar, collaborate rather deliciously in uncovering what is going on.

Doctor Who does CGI really well and the wasp here comes off nicely even though it could’ve come as damn silly given how big it is. It didn’t. I mean a giant wasp in the British countryside? Seriously? 

More than a few Christie novels get mentioned. Actually a lot acoording to the writer and Russell T Davies. Titles that were noted were: The Murder of Roger AckroydWhy Didn’t They Ask EvansThe Body in the LibraryThe Secret AdversaryN or M?NemesisCat Among the PigeonsDead Man’s FollyThey Do It With MirrorsAppointment with DeathCards on the TableSparkling CyanideEndless NightCrooked HouseDeath in the CloudsThe Moving FingerTaken at the FloodDeath Comes as the EndMurder on the Orient Express and The Murder at the Vicarage

And there’s a neat riff at the end where the Doctor pulled a copy of a Christie novel out of a locker on the TARDIS from five billion years in the future refuting Christie’s belief that she would be remembered. 

They tie the story into the real life mystery of Christie disappearing for nearly eleven days. Mind you, their explanation is fantastical in the extreme.  

So we get The Doctor playing effectively Holmes in a manor house mystery with the assistance of Christie. 

It’s worth noting Christopher Benjamin who is Colonel Hugh Curbishley here played Henry Gordon Jago in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, another favorite episode of mine.

END SPOILERS. REALLY. 

It’s a delightedly written episode that was penned by Gareth Roberts, who previously wrote the another episode that played off history, “The Shakespeare Code”. I’ve watched it least half dozen times and enjoyed it every times. It’s streaming on HBO Max.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of the many novels listed at ISFDB, so I’ve no idea how he is as a genre writer. Opinions, oh intelligent masses? (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1949 Maury Chaykin. Though best remembered as portraying Nero Wolfe staring with The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery on A&E, a role that lasted twenty-seven episodes, he did have some appearances in genre work. He was in WarGames as Jim Sting, he showed up in The Twilight Zone’s “A Game of Pool” as James L. “Fats” Brown, the Millennium film as Richard Keane, on Andromeda in “Pieces of Eight” as Citizen Eight and so forth. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 27, 1949 Robert Rankin, 73. Writer of what I’d call serious comic genre fiction. Best book by him? I’d single out The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse as the best work he ever did bar none. Hell even the name is absolutely frelling great. 
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 54. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein which won a BSFA and was a 2020 Hugo finalistHer Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is also a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. Her only Hugo to date was at Interaction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction though she won a lot of other Awards including BSFAs for the introduction to “Reading Science Fiction”, Rhetorics of Fantasy and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein. She’s also garnered a BFA for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (shared with co-writer Michael Levy) which also got a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy, and she’s also won the Karl Edward Wagner Award as well.
  • Born July 27, 1969 Bryan Fuller, 53. Let’s see…There’s credits as either Executive Producer, Producer or Writer for Voyager and DS9American GodsMockingbird Lane, the  last being a reboot of The Munsters which lasted one episode and was, err, strange, Pushing Daisies, a Carrie reboot, Heroes and Dead Like Me. And animated adaptation of a quirky Mike Mignola graphic novel entitled The Amazing Screw-On Head. Go see it. It’s quite amazing.
  • Born July 27, 1970 Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, 52. Jaime Lannister in Game Of Thrones and Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms; as the lead in the short lived New Amsterdam series which is not based on the series by the same name by Elizabeth Bear; also genre roles in the Oblivion and My Name Is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure films.
  • Born July 27, 1977 Jonathan Rhys Meyers, 45. Dracula in the 2013 – 2014 Dracula series, other genre roles includes being in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the Gormenghast series and Killer Tongue, a film with poodles transformed into drag queens. Would I kind you about the latter? It’s genre. 

(11) HULK ALUM RETURNS. Peter David, known for his legendary and impactful run on Incredible Hulk, is proving his acclaimed work on the Hulk mythos is far from over.  Having just finished an epic trilogy of limited series that told the grand saga of Hulk villain Maestro, David will now turn his attention to another iconic creation of his—Joe Fixit! The fan-favorite Hulk persona that muscled his way through Las Vegas as a hedonistic bodyguard will star in his very own limited series set during David’s original time on the Incredible Hulk. Joining David in this Sin City adventure will be artist Yildiray Cinar (The Marvels).

 “When I created Joe Fixit decades ago, it was merely as a means to shake up the standard formula,” David explained. “Typically Bruce would have set up some sort of situation and he would be worried that the Hulk would inevitably show up and screw things up. The storyline with Joe flipped the formula on its head, and set up the Hulk with his great situation in Vegas and he was worried that Bruce would show up to screw things up. I had no idea that the character would have this much staying power, and that so much would eventually be done with him in the pages of the Immortal Hulk. I’m thrilled that Marvel has given me this opportunity to revisit with an old friend.”

(12) 2023 EASTERCON. Chair Caroline Mullan announced that Conversation, the 2023 Eastercon, will be at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole at the NEC, from April 7-10, 2023.

…Expect to see more information from us soon about booking hotel rooms, booking for the dealers’ room and fan tables, and the timing and details of our initial rise in membership rates.

This has been a difficult year for site negotiations. We are very grateful to Vanessa May and the Persistence committee for providing the continuity with this site that has given us this outcome….

(13) THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR UNDEAD LIVES. Rest of World purports to take you “Inside the global gig economy of werewolf erotica on platforms like Dreame, GoodNovel and Amazon Kindle Vella”.

…The central characters of many of Dreame’s most beloved werewolf novels often inhabit Americanized settings, but the authors don’t typically live in the U.S. Rather, they come from countries like Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, and China – and often write novels in their second or third language. One student in Bangladesh, who writes under the pen name Anamika, spends five hours a day, seven days per week writing romance novels. She ends each chapter with a cliffhanger to keep readers hooked. Each book earns her up to $300, along with adoring messages from Western fans. “They are very sweet,” she said. “Their comments are my encouragement.” 

The emerging web novel industry spans the globe, taking a business model from Asia, assembling a global supply chain of authors in lower-income countries, and paying them to churn out thousands of words a day for English-speaking readers in the West. Rest of World spoke to four current and former employees at these platforms, who described how the art of novel writing is broken down into a formula to be followed: take a popular theme like werewolves, sprinkle it with certain tropes like a forbidden romance, and write as many chapters as you can. Some novels have hundreds of chapters, most ending on a cliffhanger to keep readers engaged and eager to read on.

The platforms, some backed by Tencent or TikTok’s parent ByteDance, thrived during the pandemic amid a surge in demand for online content – jobs that can be done from home. Dreame, GoodNovel, Webnovel, and Fizzo consistently rank among the most-downloaded reading apps in the U.S., the U.K., the Philippines, and Indonesia, and together rake in millions of dollars in revenues every month. The model has proven so successful that, in 2021, Amazon launched Kindle Vella, featuring similar episodic titles and plotlines. Kindle Vella even mimics a key mechanic of the other platforms: readers earn coins by spending more time engaged in the apps, which they can then spend to unlock more chapters….

(14) REBRANDING MURDER HORNETS? Like you need little branding irons for branding ants? MSN.com reports “Invasive ‘murder hornet’ is getting a rebrand. Here’s why.”

… The Asian giant hornet, commonly known as the murder hornet, has a new name as its former moniker could stoke anti-Asian sentiment.  

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) chose to rebrand the invasive species as the northern giant hornet, with the ESA concluding the political climate contributed to the need to change the name…. 

(15) A BAD DAY FOR STURGEON. “Two of the Largest Freshwater Fish in the World Declared Extinct”. MSN.com has details.

The Yangtze sturgeon lived in its namesake river for 140 million years. Now it doesn’t. Nor does another behemoth it shared China’s longest waterway with for ages, the Chinese paddlefish. Updating its Red List of Threatened Species on Thursday for the first time in 13 years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the two species, known as “the last giants of the Yangtze,” extinct.

Once the largest freshwater fish in the world, the Yangtze sturgeon, Acipenser dabryanus, could reach 26 feet in length and weigh 1,500 pounds. Its historic range extended throughout Asia, including Japan, Korea, and the Yellow River in China. Dubbed a “living fossil,” it sported a rounded snout, large pectoral fins, and rows of elevated ridges on its spine and flanks. Though there are still captive fish in breeding programs, authorities, despite many efforts, have failed to successfully reintroduce the fish to the river system, and now it considered extinct in the wild.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Matthew Van Ness duplicates himself dozens of times as he sings “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter movies: “I sing the ENTIRE orchestra in Hedwig’s Theme”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/21/22 This Pixel Intentionally Left Indescrollable

(1) WICKED GOOD. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] I was browsing this article in Slate and was pleasantly shocked to find Estraven from The Left Hand of Darkness on the list. There are other more mainstream SFFnal entries too. “The best death scenes in movies, TV, books, theater, songs, and more.”

…The death scene is one of the sharpest tools in a writer’s toolbox, as likely to wound the writer themself as the reader—for if a well-written death scene can be thrilling, terrifying, or filled with despair, so can a poorly written one be bathetic, stupid, and eye-rolling.

But let’s not talk about those. Let’s talk about the good ones, the deathless death scenes. We’ve assembled the 50 greatest fictional deaths of all time—the most moving, most funny, most shocking, most influential scenes from books, movies, TV, theater, video games, and more. Spoilers abound: It’s a list that spans nearly 2,500 years of human culture, from Athens to A24, and is so competitive that even poor Sydney Carton and his famous last words couldn’t make it…. 

(2) MOBY CLICK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In connection with the previous item, Slate also posted “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams explains the whale scene”, a piece reprinted with the permission of his estate in which Douglas Adams reacts to the ways that some of his readers reacted to the death of the whale. And, one supposes, this Reprinted Reaction Reaction is now Canon. 

(3)  TIMING IS THE SECRET (NOT JUST OF COMEDY). Gizmodo reports the resolution of a story I first read on Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News: “As Comic-Con Begins, Hotel Workers Went On Strike… And Won”.

Just as the Hilton Bayfront was set to open its doors to San Diego Comic Con attendees, special guests, and press, the workers at the hotel set up a picket line in front of the hotel. The strike only lasted a few hours, proving once again that collective action, worker solidarity, and excellent timing will often force management to come to the bargaining table willing to present reasonable offers.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that last Wednesday, despite the oncoming legion of nerds, geeks, and fans that are set to swarm the sold-out hotel, management had not come to an agreement with the Unite Here Local 30, which represents nearly 450 full-time employees and an additional 150 on-call workers. Today, however, they have presented an agreement that Brigette Browning, president of Unite Here Local 30, views positively, which ended the strike, for now….

(4) PICKET DUTY. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, “HarperCollins Workers Strike For Increased Wages, Benefits and Diversity”  reports the New York Times.

HarperCollins union members went on a one-day strike on Wednesday, with around 100 employees and additional supporters marching in front of the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan in the sticky heat for higher wages, better family leave benefits and a stronger commitment to diversity from the company.

Publishing has long offered meager wages to entry and midlevel employees, making it difficult to live in New York City, where the industry is based, without a second job or financial support from a spouse or family.

Many workers say that the low wages also make it hard for potential employees who don’t come from wealth to consider a career in publishing, which hampers efforts to diversify the mostly white industry.

“I love my job, I love my authors, it’s an incredible privilege to get to work on these books, and I would love to do it for the rest of my life, if I can afford to,” said Stephanie Guerdan, an associate editor in the children’s department who joined the strike.

But with a salary of $56,000 a year, she said, she worries she won’t be able to stay.

(5) HEAR THEM RING. A Marriott hosting San Diego Comic-Con visitors is wrapped with publicity for The Rings of Power.

Two tracks of music from the series have been made available to hear online.

(6) GAIMAN AS OPERA. The West Edge opera production of Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman’s book, will be performed at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, CA from July 30-August 7. Tickets here.

With great pleasure we present an opera that is for people of all ages who love gruesome things!

Coraline is a young girl whose life has been uprooted. As she wanders alone through her new creaky house, she tries to get the attention of her work-at-home parents to no avail. One day she discovers a mysterious door, through which she sets out on a terrifying adventure that tests the limits of human bravery.

(7) POWERS OF PERSUASION. While I’m already interested in Jane Austen, if I weren’t, Abigail Nussbaum’s “Four Comments on Netflix’s Persuasion at Asking the Wrong Questions would still rivet my interest. Following the four comments referenced in the title, she sums up:

…The correct attitude when approaching a field this vibrant and busy isn’t condescension, but humility. When even the specific sub-type of Austen adaptation you’re attempting—irreverent and modernized—includes films like Clueless, you don’t have the option of half-assing your work, or failing to think through your choices and how they affect the characters and plot. You have to be able to justify what you’re doing both as a reflection of what Austen wrote, and as a work in its own right. Persuasion does not even seem to have realized that it needed to do this…. 

(8) THAT EXPRESSION IS A SMILE. You might not expect to find James Davis Nicoll recommending “Five Feel-Good Comfort Reads”, but never underestimate his versatility.

Unlike the news, fiction is not limited to a seemingly unending cavalcade of disaster, calamity, and egregiously poor choices, a cavalcade as comforting as glancing up a mountainside to see an avalanche swiftly bearing down on one.  So, if doomscrolling is getting you down, consider stepping away from the newsfeeds to enjoy a comfort read or two…

First on the list, a work with previously unsuspected sff credentials:

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

Orphaned at nineteen, Flora Post embodies “every art and grace save that of earning her own living.” Without any other means at hand, she goes to live with distant relatives: the Starkadders, whose homestead, Cold Comfort Farm, is in the depths of rustic Sussex.

Flora intends to earn her living. The rural melodramas of such luminaries as Mary Webb (Gone to Earth) assure Flora that her unfortunate rural relatives must languish under a myriad of troubles that their simple rustic minds are incapable of solving. Indeed, each Starkadder struggles with issues so profound as to seem parodic. Flora, on the other hand, is a very modern, very organized girl. What seem like insurmountable challenges for her kinfolk are to her simple challenges easily solved.

Readers who know Cold Comfort Farm only from the otherwise exemplary 1995 film adaptation—”There’ll be no butter in hell!”—may be surprised to learn that Cold Comfort Farm was a science fiction novel of sorts. The 1932 text references the Anglo-Nicaraguan wars of ’46, establishing that the book takes place in what is now an alternate history.

(9) TONOPAH ON HIS MIND. Alan White’s personal Westercon 74 Memory Book is filled with entertaining snark and Alan’s marvelous art. It can be downloaded from eFanzines.com. Here’s a paragraph about staying at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah.

…The wind came up howling through the window with such force, we thought someone was testing a jet-engine in the alley. The window we could neither open nor close and not until closer inspection see the latch was off-kilter less than a hair’s breadth and with some force, clicked into place (phew). Not long after, there were other noises of speculation every time our neighbor visited the bathroom. There were noises not unlike the Titanic signaling for help whenever the faucets turned on and whenever they drew a bath, I swear there was the sound as if the Lady in Red was blowing a Vuvuzela from the drain in our bathtub. I won’t belabor you dear reader with the trifling sound coming from the air duct…

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1986 [By Cat Eldridge.] So let’s talk about the five volumes of The Hugo Winners that Isaac Asimov edited, published in various editions between 1962 and 1986. The basic facts are that Asimov selected stories that won a Hugo Award for Short Story, Novelette or Novella at the Worldcons held between 1955 and 1982. That was fine.

However, the powers that be at Doubleday decided that Asimov was free to express his opinions. And oh, did he do so! To put it bluntly, this was quite unusual as the text ordinarily found in these anthologies is, errr, bland to a degree that should surprise no one. Just the facts, ma’am.

Not Asimov, who wrote a short introduction about each author in each anthology. And my. He named writers that he didn’t like, those he was quite jealous of. And he went at length about those writers who won awards ahead of him and how angry that made him as he should have won those awards instead. Of course, he always believed that he should’ve won every award. Poor Isaac.

He discussed his political beliefs as he supported the ending of the Vietnam War. Basically, he used the anthologies to express his annoyance with the universe.  Ok Asimov was never shy about expressing his opinions. I’m just surprised that Doubleday gave him carte blanche authority to write what he wanted.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 21, 1911 Marshall McLuhan. He coined the expressions the medium is the message and global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. I read The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects a long time ago. Somehow it seemed terribly quaint. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 21, 1921 James Cooke Brown. He’s the creator of Loglan. Oh, and he did write SF. The Troika Incident written in 1970 features a global data net. That, and two short pieces of fiction, are the sum total of his of genre writings. The Troika Incident is available from Kindle but not from iBooks.  (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 21, 1929 John Woodvine, 93. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter, he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”.  He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, and he had a recurring role in The Tripods as Master West. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man
  • July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Novelist, critic, teacher, medievalist, among other things. His student Jeffrey Ford described Gardner’s knowledge of literature as ‘encyclopedic,’ with no regard whatever for genre boundaries. He considered Stanislaw Lem the greatest living writer, disliked Tolkien’s poetry (an assessment I agree with) but thought The Lord of the Rings ‘one of the truly great works of the human spirit’. Most of his best works are fantasy: most famously Grendel, but also Freddy’s Book, Mickelson’s Ghosts, the short story collection The King’s Indian, and his posthumously-published short story, “Julius Caesar and the Werewolf”. His book The Art of Fiction is well worth reading for anyone interested in fiction, as a writer or a reader. (Died 1982.) (PhilRM)
  • Born July 21, 1948 G. B. Trudeau, 74. Ok we decided when I first put this Birthday up that there’s enough content to be genre, but he did an amazing series on the Apple Newton when it came out. A Doonesbury Retrospective series is up to three volumes and is available from the usual suspects at very reasonable prices. 
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and George Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. No, not even genre adjacent but damn brilliant. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook which I adore, The Fisher KingBicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 21, 1960 Lance Guest, 62. He’s an American film and television actor, best known for his lead role in The Last Starfighter. He also shows up in Jaws: The Revenge as Michael Brody, as Jimmy in Halloween II, as Kyle Lane in “Fearful Symmetry” episode of The X-Files and as The Burning Zone in “The Critical Mass” episode of The Burning Zone
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 46. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. She voices Camilla in Castlevania. Filmwise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood

(12) BLACK ASL. Black Nerd Problems tells how “’The Champion’s Hike’ Brings African American Sign Language to ‘Craig of the Creek’”.

…“The Champion’s Hike” episode centers around Craig trying to fit in among his former enemies turned friends and Maya being the one to let him know that it’s okay to just be himself. The other portion of this story is how we get to see African American Sign language on screen via Jackie who is deaf. We see Jackie’s father communicating with him prior to the group leaving. We also see Keun-Sup signing communicating to Jackie with ASL as well. Not only do we get to see African American Sign Language, but this episode gives us sign language conversation between two characters of color. We also see Craig learning more ASL and remembering what he’s learned prior from Keun in order to interact with Jackie. Craig of the Creek really be out here thinking of everything man.

There is an artist touch used here as well where we know what is being said of the conversation only by how Keun reacts verbally to what Jackie is saying. We viewers who aren’t versed in ASL won’t understand what’s being said (like the conversation between Jackie and his father) However, that’s fine because it’s not for us….

The episode also attracted the attention of the Los Angeles Times: “How ‘Craig of the Creek’ got Black American Sign Language right”.

…It’s a moment that the episode’s consultants, from Southern California Black Deaf Advocates, point to as a highlight of their experience on the series.

“I teach parents [who have deaf children] how to sign, so the fact that a Black father was signing to his son, that exposure and that emphasis was so amazing,” said Deaf mentor Bibi Ashley through a sign language interpreter during a recent video call. “Just seeing that interaction, that was my favorite part.”…

(13) TALKING HEADS. Let SYFY Wire usher you through “Funko’s tour of Funkoville at SDCC 2022”.

With San Diego International Comic-Con returning this week at full capacity for the first time since July 2019, plenty of companies are finding space around the Gaslamp or on the show floor to welcome back fans and communities in a big way.

One of them is Funko, the collectible company which has long catered to corralling their hyper-engaged audience with live events at cons and at their HQ stores in Everett, Washington and Hollywood, California. After having to go virtual with their FunKon event in 2021, SDCC 2022 finds Funko incorporating the lessons learned during the pandemic and applying them to their massive new show floor booth space which they’ve dubbed Funkoville. 

(14) THEME PARK PUNCHOUT. “Disney World Brawl: Fantasyland Becomes Nightmare As Melee Breaks Out”Deadline has the story.

Close on the heels of a massive brawl that forced Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California to close early on Saturday, video has surfaced of another large melee at Walt Disney World in Florida on Wednesday.

Video posted online shows at least 6 people simultaneously engaged in physical combat, as dozens of others hover at the edges, some trying to break it up and others at times joining the fray. One large group of about a half-dozen people are dressed in coordinated red shorts and white t-shirts with mouse ears on the front. They seem to be fighting with another equally large group, at least one of whom is heard using a racial slur.

The melee took place behind Cinderella’s Castle just in front of Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland, according to a local Fox affiliate. The sheriff also confirmed to the outlet that one man was hospitalized after the incident and three people were arrested for misdemeanor battery.

This is at least the third sizable fistfight at the Magic Kingdom in as many months, according to reports.

Video of the incident and further updates are posted at WDW News Today: “UPDATE: Guest Involved in Magic Kingdom Brawl Reveals Story & More Footage”.

(15) FANCY DUDS. Just what hangs in the TARDIS closet anyway? “Doctor Who costumes ranked from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker” at Radio Times.

The Seventh Doctor once claimed to have “an impeccable sense of haute couture”. Which was a pretty bold statement for a man wearing so many questions marks that even The Riddler probably thought it was “a bit on-the-nose”.

It’s far from the only statement look the Time Lord has sported over the years, of course. And now, if tabloid reports are to be believed – and they’re usually not, but go with me here – it seems Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor is set to gallivant around the cosmos in a fetching pair of space wellies. So what more perfect time to bring you the Definitive Guide to Wellies in Doctor Who?

Just kidding (although the Cybermen did rock some delightful silver moon boots, back in the day): we’re actually here to talk about the Doctor’s duds down the years. And from Hartnell’s hat to Gatwa’s gumboots, it’s quite the catwalk parade…

(16) WHO HYPE. The Radio Times also reveals: “Doctor Who ‘gets behind-the-scenes spin-off series on BBC Three’”.

Returning Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has commissioned a special behind-the-scenes series ahead of the next season with new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, according to reports.

The BBC Three Doctor Who spin-off series will be titled Doctor Who: Unleashed and give fans a sneak-peek at the filming process, beginning with the 60th anniversary special next year and the surprise return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate, according to The Mirror.

The series will apparently be similar in format to Doctor Who Confidential, the behind-the-scenes sister show that ran from 2005 to 2012. It will reportedly continue to air alongside the next full season.

(17) DOPEST NIGHT SKY. Sometimes it isn’t aliens… “Strange Pink Glow in Sky Turns Out to Be Caused by Monster Weed Farm” says the Daily Beast.

Turns out that residents in the Australian city of Mildura didn’t need to panic when a mysterious pink glow appeared in the sky on Wednesday night—the feared alien invasion was really just light coming from a huge medical cannabis farm where staff forgot to close the blinds. The sinister hue of the celestial phenomenon was attributed to special lamps used in weed cultivation….

(18) CSI SKILL TREE. The Center for Science and Imagination’s Skill Tree event on sound and worldbuilding can now be viewed on YouTube here, and all ten CSI Skill Tree episodes are available from this playlist.

In this episode of CSI Skill Tree, we discuss how sound design and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. We look closely at Inside, a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics, and the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), and consider how the possibilities for sound and music in games have changed over time. Our special guests are science fiction and fantasy author Tochi Onyebuchi (Goliath, Riot Baby) and composer and sound designer Amos Roddy, who has worked on a number of video games, including the recent cyberpunk hit Citizen Sleeper.

(19) MAD, YOU KNOW. Silvia Moreno-Garcia promotes The Daughter of Doctor Moreau on CrimeReads. “Bad Seeds and Mad Scientists: On the Build-A-Humans of 19th-Century Literature”.

…We owe the concept of criminal brains to Cesare Lombroso, an Italian physician who promulgated the idea that criminality was inherited, and that criminals could be identified by physical defects, which indicated savage or atavistic traits. Sloping foreheads or left-handedness were some of the physical signs of primitive qualities inherent in criminal brains. Lombroso’s theories on criminality would be incorporated into eugenic discourse, and the idea of the criminal brain as a source for the creature’s violent actions would be reused in many more adaptations to come….

(20) NOT JUST ANY REC ROOM. As Gizmodo phrases it, “Owen Wilson Is Iron Man With Kids in the Superhero Comedy Secret Headquarters”. Secret Headquarters streams beginning August 12 on Paramount+.

While hanging out after school, Charlie and his friends discover the headquarters of the world’s most powerful superhero hidden beneath his home. When villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world.

(21) LEAP YEAR. In the lead-up to SDCC, the showrunners of the new Quantum Leap sequel series have released some information about the show, which begins airing in September. Entertainment Weekly has the story: “Quantum Leap bosses preview thrilling new chapter”.

…Described as a spiritual scientist, quantum physicist Dr. Song has a specific approach to time travel. “He is compelled over and over again to make the right decision, even if his own life is at stake, so he is a much better person than I am in real life. He’s something to strive for,” Lee says. Dr. Song immigrated from Korea with his mother, which will be integral to the story Quantum Leap is telling. “We’re telling an immigrant story at its core, and it is how Ben is experiencing life moving forward,” Lilien explains.

Dr. Song’s partner will be decorated Army veteran Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who assists in the form of a hologram that only Ben can see and hear. While the pair’s dynamic has the banter of Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Admiral Albert Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), the new iteration will be different. “Their relationship runs deeper than just being a hologram. They have a close relationship,” Lilien teases….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] RE the upcoming Quantum Leap series sequel, several years ago Colbert had Scott Bakula on The Late Show and they tried a reboot of their own.  Maybe the new series can take a page from them.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/15/22 The Pixels Come From The Scrollwork Out

(1) VILLAINS DOING WORK. Max Gladstone on “The Villain, Considered as Safety Tool” in “Guard Rails Around the Bottomless Pit”.

…To ask what makes a good villain, we should first ask what a villain does, so that we can understand what it means to be good at it. To call, say, Darth Vader or Keyser Soze or Sauron a ‘good villain’ is not to make any claims about their absolute moral character. It’s a statement about how good they are at doing the thing they’re in the story to do….

(2) GO PHISH. The Guardian explains why “Alleged book thief Filippo Bernardini may avoid trial in the US”.

Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen who worked at UK publisher Simon & Schuster, was arrested in the US in January, with the FBI alleging he had “impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals” to obtain unpublished and draft works. The indictment said Bernardini had registered more than 160 fake internet domains to impersonate others since 2016.

Bernardini, who was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, was due in court in early July. In June, however, the judge in his case, US district court judge Colleen McMahon, agreed to postpone the appearance so prosecutors could consider a deferred prosecution request, according to Publishers Marketplace.

A deferred prosecution agreement is usually used in fraud or financial crime cases. It consists of a deal where prosecution is conditionally suspended while the defendant fulfils the requirements of the agreement in a set period of time. It is supervised by a judge, and could consist of Bernardini having to pay fines or compensation, or enacting other measures. The judge adjourned the case until 10 September.

Bernardini had previously pleaded not guilty to both charges, reported the Bookseller.

Hundreds of manuscripts were stolen over a period of five years, with authors, agents, editors, scouts and even judges for the Booker prize among the victims of phishing scams. Manuscripts of highly anticipated novels by Margaret Atwood, Sally Rooney and actor Ethan Hawke were among those targeted….

(3) GAILEY HEARD FROM. The Fire the Canon podcast is “Talking to Author Sarah Gailey About Horror, Compulsory Girl Bossing, and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery”.

Sarah Gailey, author of the upcoming book Just Like Home, joins us to talk about one of the most famous American short stories of all time: Shirley Jackson’s 1948 classic, The Lottery. Jackie reveals her long, sordid history with technology. Rachel reads a book review from an alternate reality. Theo discusses an affordable delicacy. Topics include: old houses, cottagecore, rollerblading accidents, park raters, trusting your editor, killing off Chuck, mom texts, Muppet Treasure Island, cicada pizza, and cricket flour.

(4) FILETING THE MINIONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, John Gapper explains the success of the Minions franchise.

“There are said to be 48 variations of Minion, depending on their height and build, style of hair, and whether they possess one or two eyes, but they are essentially one big gang.  Although te plots require individuals to emerge from the pack–notably Kevin, Stuart and Bob i 2015’s MINIONS–there is power in their union.

They are also cheerful, Chris Melandri, series producer at Illumination studios, defines its purpose as ‘to make you feel good in a world where so many things don’t. The theme song of Despicable Me 2 was Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’: that’s the Minions’ selling point.”

(5) UNSTUCK LANDINGS. Only 10? I’d say this is a subject where the pickings are easy! “10 Great Sci-Fi Series With Terrible Endings” at CBR.com.

Series finales can either make or break a show. The science fiction genre, in particular, often weaves a tale of intrigue leading up to its finale episode. Because of this, an unsatisfying ending can make audiences feel as though the entire series has been ruined.

First on the list —

10 – Quantum Leap Audiences Wanted A Happier Ending

When the popular series Quantum Leap ended its run in 1993, audiences were accustomed to a more traditional happy ending. So, when the series ended with the main character, Sam, sacrificing his happy ending and leaping back to help a friend, only to never return, it wasn’t well-received.

A more modern audience might have been more accepting of the show’s sad end, but in 1993, it was too dark. It left audiences feeling as if they had followed the series for five seasons, only to be let down.

(6) MEMORY LANE.  

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Doctor Who’s “The Shakespeare Code”. My favorite Doctor by far of the modern Doctors was the one played by David Tennant. And I believe that he got some of the best stories as well. Originally titled “Love’s Labour’s Won”, the re-titling apparently is a reference to The Da Vinci Code. Or least the Wiki page for this thinks so. 

This was the beginning of the period in the series when Freema Agyeman  played companion Martha Jones. Need I say that she was my favorite of the modern companions?  Actually of all companions. 

SPOILERS HERE!

The story here is he takes Jones to 1599 arriving near the Globe Theatre where they meet Shakespeare. Shakespeare is being bewitched by three Carrionites who look like Witches to rewrite the ending to his play “Love’s Labour’s Won” so that the performance will create a code to free the rest of the Carrionite race from imprisonment. 

Jones will, as she does in her time in the TARDIS very often, save the day. How she does is something that I won’t spoil here as it’s a, ahem, meta moment that proves the universe of Doctor Who is our universe. A fascinating meta moment at that.

Martha even suggests that stepping on a butterfly might change the future of the human race, an idea that originates in Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” story.  

SPOILERS END HERE! 

Jones in her introduction here as a full-time companion is written well and more than holds her own against the Tenth Doctor. They have, and interviews later by both of them, individually and collectively, that they enjoyed working together. Even early on, he said of her that she “inhabited Martha Jones from day one without a hint of trepidation or nervousness. I found myself quite envious of her confidence. She is going to be brilliant.”

Most British critics liked it, but then they liked Tennant’s Doctor more than any other Doctor, and I’ll quote just one here, Scott Matthewman from The Stage: “It’s somehow appropriate that it’s David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor who becomes the first to meet William Shakespeare (at least on screen). More than any other, this incarnation of Doctor Who revels in wordplay, and in Gareth Roberts’ rollocking script he certainly meets his match.”

It’s one of my favorite episodes as it shows Shakespeare in a favorable light and the word play between him and the Doctor is quite delicious. Not to mention the introduction of Jones as a companion here handled quite well. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. The usual suspects have the Colossus  trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author with definite genre leanings. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titantic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group, has found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war. Warning: do not watch the films based on his novels as they are truly wretched. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which consensus here is that I’ve been wise in not seeing. Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Please don’t ask.) As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1947 T. E. D. Klein, 75. Horror writer with two awards to his name, one a British Fantasy Award for The Ceremonies novel, another a World Fantasy Award for his “Nadelman’s God” novella. He was editor of the Twilight Zone Magazine in the mid Eighties and the Night Cry zine for several around that time.
  • Born July 15, 1961 Forest Whitaker, 61. His best known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and to I’ve somehow managed not to see any of it, Host of Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 59. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 55. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. His short stories are most excellent thus it’s most fitting his recent The Twisted Book of Shadows collection won a Shirley Jackson Award. 

(8) SUPERHERO GIRLFRIENDS ANONYMOUS. Ravynn K. Stringfield tells Catapult readers how “Black Women in Fantasy Saved Me Where Academia Failed”.

…I flipped through a few dozen issues of Marvel’s Jungle Action  comics featuring Black Panther, as well as several  Captain America and Fantastic Four titles at the comics archive at Virginia Commonwealth University. I read the issues as I scanned them and took quick notes on storylines and the fan letters readers sent in when I walked back to my table to grab another from the box.

The more I read, the more the lack of Black women and girls present in meaningful ways on the page bothered me. Though I had committed to a project on Black Panther as the focal point, searching for racial diversity in comics, the distinct lack of women characters triggered an alarm in my brain. So when I stumbled across a few issues that featured a new-to-me character, T’Challa’s Black American girlfriend, Monica Lynne, I kept her close to my periphery as I worked. At that moment, I could not commit to a project or a paper on her, but she distracted me.

Even as a side character, Monica demanded attention. Her speech often reflected 1970s Black American vernacular, and she wore her hair in a neat Afro, both of which gave Wakandans pause. Monica did not always like it in Wakanda, feeling ill at ease in the palace, where she was meant to be invisible, a background fixture while everything about her defied that.

There was something about Monica that refused to be relegated to the background, a quality I envied. I saw myself folding into someone smaller in graduate school. I increasingly lacked the energy to continually insist upon the validity of how I, and others like me, experienced, thought about, and wrote about the world. Though often depicted as out of place in Wakanda because of her speech and dress, Monica’s inability to blend was a lesson in stepping confidently into the world and changing for no one.

(9) HOW NOPE GOT A YEP. “Jordan Peele on why ‘Nope’ felt impossible 5 years ago” at SYFY Wire.

…Now, as he prepares to release his third film as director, Nope, Peele has realized that the movie he just made may have been impossible back in the days of Get Out. At least, it felt that way at the time.

“I think this idea of letting a Black director put his vision into a film and commit to it… let’s put it this way, five years ago, I didn’t think they’d ever let me do that,” Peele told TODAY in a new interview. “So much of my career before I became a director was marred with this internalized sense that I could never be allowed to do that, that no one would ever trust me with money — enough money to do my vision the way they’d trust other people. I felt that that was true.”…

(10) WHAT’S SAUCER FOR THE GOOSE. BBC Culture is inspired by the Nope trailer to recall “The UFO sightings that swept the US”.

It’s only there for a moment in the trailer for Jordan Peele’s new horror film, Nope, but it’s definitely there: a flying saucer. Judging by the twists and turns in Peele’s previous films, Get Out and Us, it’s impossible to say whether its real or fake, whether it’s from the Earth or from outer space, but that glimpse of sparkling silver is tantalising. Maybe, just maybe, Nope will be a proper flying-saucer movie – a celebration of one of the most recognisable and spine-tingling shapes in the history of popular culture.

“By the end of the 1950s,” says Andrew Shail, senior lecturer in film at Newcastle University, “that particular shape had become a shorthand for ‘spacecraft piloted by beings from another world’, available to everyone working in the visual arts.” Sure enough, flying saucers have signified mysterious visitors from Mars and beyond in countless films, TV series, novels, comics, and even hit records, from Mulder’s I Want To Believe poster in The X-Files TV series to the popular children’s picture book, Aliens Love Underpants. The flying saucer is a design classic – the archetypal Unidentified Flying Object. And yet it didn’t take off, so to speak, until the 1950s, when the world went flying-saucer crazy….

(11) A DIFFERENT PRINCESS DIARY. BBC Culture calls “Princess Mononoke: The masterpiece that flummoxed the US” – “Twenty-five years old this week, the film is Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s most complex work. But how it was mishandled in the West speaks of fundamental artistic differences, writes Stephen Kelly.”

In 1997, the British fantasy author Neil Gaiman received a call out of the blue from then-head of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein. “This animated film, Princess Mononoke,” Gaiman recalls him saying, “it’s the biggest thing in Japan right now. So I thought I’ve got to get the best to do it. I called Quentin Tarantino and said, ‘Quentin, will you do the English language script?’ And he said, you don’t want me, you want Gaiman. So, I’m calling you.” Miramax, a then-subsidiary of Disney, had acquired the rights to distribute Princess Mononoke, the newest film from Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, in the United States, and Weinstein wanted to fly Gaiman to Los Angeles to watch a cut of the movie….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Thor: Love And Thunder Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the writer tell the producer, “Thor’s back–and he’s dumber than ever!”  Jane Foster may have Stage 4 cancer, but the writer says, “don’t worry–it will be hilarious all of the time!” adding that “we’re redlining the JPM”–that’s jokes per minute.  For example, in New Asgard  there’s Infinitz Conez, named after Thanos’s infinity gauntlet.  When the producer asks why someone would name an ice cream store after a device Thanos used to kill billions of people, the writer says, “Who doesn’t like ice cream?”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/13/22 Read The Scrolls That They May Teach You, Take The Pixels That They May Reach You

(1) KEEP WATCHING THE SKY WATCHER. At Heritage Auctions bidding is currently up to $62,500 (excluding Buyer’s Premium) on “Clyde Tombaugh’s Renowned Handmade 9″ Reflector Telescope”.

Clyde Tombaugh’s Renowned Handmade 9″ Reflector Telescope [circa 1927]. Presented here is the most notable telescope ever built by legendary astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Constructed by hand entirely of materials salvaged from the family farm in Burdett, Kansas. Presents signs of weather and wear; however, fully operational and intact.

Tombaugh’s fascination with astronomy led him to begin building telescopes in 1926 to explore the night sky. Using handmade lenses and mirrors, he began construction on his most prominent telescope in 1927. Fabricated from the hardware he was able to collect, including a grain elevator tube, a cream separator base, a 1910 Buick axle, tractor flywheels, and other farm machinery parts, Tombaugh produced one of the most outstanding achievements of American ingenuity of the twentieth century.

Tombaugh used this exact piece of equipment to illustrate his interpretation of the planets Jupiter and Mars. He, in turn, sent these drawings to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona for critique. His only wished to know if his home-made telescope was an accurate interpretation of the Cosmos. Instantly recognizing Tombaugh’s gift for astronomy, the Observatory wasted no time in offering him employment. Shortly after he began his work at Lowell, Tombaugh started his long list of new astronomical discoveries. The most famous of these is unquestionably his discovery of what was, at the time, the ninth planet in our solar system, Pluto. Clyde continued to work throughout his life as both an astronomer and professor at New Mexico State University.

The telescope itself is approximately 93 inches tall (depending on configuration) and sits on a custom metal base measuring 40 x 40 inches square. As previously stated, it is constructed from farm equipment remains and has some interesting aspects that only add to its character. One is the can of Coca-Cola attached to a chain that protects the eyepiece. According to his son, Alden, the telescope is in the same working condition it was when his father last used it. In fact, in the 1990’s the Smithsonian Institution inquired if the telescope could be loaned to them for display. Clyde politely declined stating, he was still actively using it to search the skies.

(2) PILOT REACHES PORT. Marc Scott Zicree’s Space Command: Redemption premieres at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on July 21.

Space Command Red-Carpet Premiere at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood July 21st! It’s finally here! The WORLD PREMIERE of Space Command Redemption at the famed Chinese Theater in Hollywood! This is the full TWO-HOUR PILOT of Space Command, starring Doug Jones, Mira Furlan, Robert Picardo, Bill Mumy, Ethan McDowell, Bryan McClure, Sara Maraffino, Nathaniel Freeman and Bruce Boxleitner!

(3) PLAYING SATURNALIA. Mark Lawrence rediscovered the text of a play-by-mail game he helped write 40 years ago: “Off Topic – big time!”

Back in 1987 I helped run a Play-By-Mail game called Saturnalia. I ran it full time for a year with a bunch of other folk in an office. And I ran my area for another 12 years after that in my spare time.

There was an extensive Wikipedia page about it – but they decided in their wisdom to reduce it to a very brief summary.

I found the original text online today (I wrote a fair bit of it), and have copied it here for posterity in case that last site vanishes….

(4) VANISHING POINTS. Amanda S. Green has experienced some more Kindle Direct Publishing accounting adventures: “Check Your KDP Emails” at Mad Genius Club.

Welp, it finally happened. My KDP/KU sales report for the month has been changed from one day to the next. No, I’m not talking about the move to the new format Amazon decided to go to. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that makes it even more difficult to get a snapshot view of what is going on with your sales and promotions. What I’m talking about is the disappearance of page reads under Kindle Unlimited….

(5) KSR’S DAYS AT BU. “Kim Stanley Robinson on the Importance of Imagination” in Bostonia.

…I’m happy to say that my career as a science fiction writer had its tentative beginnings at BU. Between my classes I would go to the library, find an empty carrel, sit down, and immediately plunk my head on the table and fall asleep. Faced with the overwhelming task of writing fiction, my mind would shut down for a while, perhaps reorganizing itself to face the strange task I was imposing on it. We’ll learn more about the mysteries of sleep in one of the articles in this issue.

For me, my naps would last around 20 minutes, after which I would wake up and work on a story I later titled “Coming Back to Dixieland.” It concerned asteroid belt miners who played jazz on the side—not a great idea for a story, but it got published a few years later in the anthology Orbit 18, edited by my great teacher and mentor Damon Knight. …

(6) IS IT YOU? Do Filers have what it takes to be America’s Next Great Author? “Kwame Alexander to present new reality show America’s Next Great Author” – the Guardian has details.

… The six finalists, locked together for a month, will face “live-wire” challenges as they attempt to write an entire novel in 30 days. The winning novelist will be crowned America’s Next Great Author.

Bestselling author and Newberry Medal winner Kwame Alexander is presenting the show, and is listed as executive producer. In a promotional video posted on the show’s Twitter feed, Alexander said it will be “the first reality show for writers produced by writers. This is your chance, if you’re writing the Great American Novel or the great memoir masterpiece or something, this is your chance to get published.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

2018 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just four years ago, a film called 7 Splinters in Time premiered in limited release in the States. With a great title, it had the premise of a down at the heels detective who investigates a murder, only to find that the victim is himself. Over and over and over again. Soon, he discovers multiple versions of himself, not all of them who want him to investigate what’s happening. 

It was written by Gabriel Judet-Weinshel who has no other genre creds unnless you think a writing the weekly series with comedy icons Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara talking about whatever is on their minds is somehow genre adjacent…

Darius Lefaux Is played by Al Sapienza, best known as Mickey Palmice on The Sopranos. It had a large cast of French performers. 

This film is writer-director Judet-Weinshel’s debut full-length feature, and most critics weren’t thrilled by it though the Austin Chronicle said of it that it was “free jazz, and Judet-Weinshel finds echoes and frequencies in the form and the content.” not at all sure what that means. 

The Variety review was much more understandable in that they said it was “edited to ribbons in a schizoid manner that likely only makes complete sense to its maker.” (I wonder if they ever read any Heinlein time travel stories.) 

And the Los Angeles Times thought that “the neo-noir sci-fi indie is a fractured narrative that can’t achieve what its lofty ideas intend.”

It however did pick up the New Vision Award from Cinequest San Jose Film Festival the year that it was released. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes aren’t terribly impressed by it giving it just a forty-three percent rating. Oh well. 

I think it sounds fascinating and have added it to my To Be Watched list if I can find it somewhere. One second… Ahhh. I can watch it on Amazon Prime which I have. Good.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1926 Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor who claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart 82. Jean-Luc Picard starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up through the current Star Trek: Picard. (They’re filming two seasons of Picard back-to-back.) Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though only slightly genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in the second version of The Lion in Winter
  • Born July 13, 1942 Mike Ploog, 80. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. His work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost RiderKull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, Little Shop of HorrorsThe Dark CrystalLabyrinth and The Storyteller series.
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 80. Three great roles of course, the first being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second of course being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh, and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. 
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 67. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1960 Gary A. Braunbeck, 62. Horror writer primarily who has won a very impressive six Stoker Awards. Interestingly his first was SF, Time Was: Isaac Asimov’s I-Bots which was co-written with Steve Perry.
  • Born July 13, 1981 Monica Byrne, 41. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back seven years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay in The Atlantic, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds something that makes a bird flip.

(10) JOE QUESADA’S AMAZING FANTASY #1000 COVER REVEALED. Here is Joe Quesada’s wraparound variant cover for Marvel’s giant-sized Spider-Man 60th anniversary one-shot hitting the stands on August 31.

(11) SOME FACTS ARE TRUTHIER THAN OTHERS. YardBarker says there are “20 facts you might not know about ‘Men in Black’”:

For a couple years in the ‘90s, Will Smith was apparently all about interacting with aliens. Independence Day was the big, crowd-pleasing action film, but personally, we’ll go with Men in Black any day of the week. It’s a weird, more cynical film, but with plenty of fun in the mix. Here’s 20 facts about the movie….

But is #15 – “The movie was a box-office success” – a fact? According to Sony, the movie has yet to turn a profit, or so they tell Ed Solomon: “1997 hit ‘Men In Black’ is still yet to make a profit says screenwriter”.

(12) ALL EARS. Paul Weimer recommends you listen to “The voice of Eru Ilúvatar: The Silmarillion in Audio” at Nerds of a Feather.

Back when, after I read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I tried to read The Silmarillion. I was still in my early teens and frankly, reader, I didn’t know what I was in for, and I bounced off of it and did not try it again for a decade. It took the second effort for me to understand the power and beauty that was to be found within, but even then, it was not the easiest of reads. Portions of it are like the Appendices to the Lord of the Rings, other parts myth and legend, other parts resembling the outline of a tale that could be told in many more pages (and in some cases, subsequently has)

But, friends, I am here to rescue you from those fears and difficulties and to get you into this Silmarillion, today. I am here to provide you a way to experience and absorb the book and get a feel for Tolkien’s earliest parts of his Legendarium, and that would be the audio edition, narrated by Martin Shaw….

(13) TODAY’S HISTORY & MORAL PHILOSOPHY HOMEWORK. It’s in Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Malnazidos (aka Valley of the Dead)”.

Is it OK to ally with fascists during a (localised) zombie apocalypse? That is today’s moral conundrum brought to you by the Spanish film Valley of the Dead (the Spanish title Malnazidos sounds cooler though).

I’ve seen Korean train zombies, Korean school zombies, British remake of Day of the Triffids zombies, Korean historical zombies, Las Vegas Casino zombies and WW2 zombies. Today’s spin on the genre is Spanish Civil War zombies….

(14) WIRE PALADINS. Also at Nerds of a Feather, “Review: The Saint of Steel Series by T. Kingfisher” is Roseanna Pendlebury’s overview of a three-book arc.

What happens when a god dies, but His berserker paladins are left behind without a hand on the holy reins? If T. Kingfisher’s Saint of Steel series is anything to go by, the answers are: angst, romance, lawyers, angst, tutting, solving murders, angst, exasperated bishops, angst, magical morticians and a lot of pragmatic, down to earth do-gooding. Each book (three currently published but more promised) follows one of the seven remaining paladins of the Saint of Steel as they rebuild their lives with each other, find love, and… yes, angst a bit….

(15) GOING SOLAR. Matt reviews “She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan”, a 2022 Hugo finalist, at Runalong the Shelves.

I often think exploration of power is a big part of fantasy. The rise of one; the search for power to defeat another and how power can work are all themes you can explore in tales from Tolkien, Abercrombie to Pratchett. One less explored theme is why do people do it? What makes someone decide out of all the things in the world they could do this is what I’ll choose to do with my life and the inevitable huge consequences this will have on their country, close relationships, and themselves? In Shelley Parker- Chan’s stunning She Who Became The Sun we get an examination of how the need to be great or to have revenge can send people down quite unexpected paths delivering a fascinating historical fantasy….

(16) FIRST EYES ON THE JWST PRIZE. The New York Times introduces readers to those who performed “The Lonely Work of Picking the Universe’s Best Astronomy Pictures”.

After the image flashes up on the projector, a few quiet beats tick by, punctuated only by a soft “wow.” Everyone is processing.

Then more “wows” bubble out, and people are talking over one another, laughing. Suddenly two astronomers, Amaya Moro-Martin and Karl Gordon, are out of their chairs, sticking their noses closer to the space fantasia onscreen, agog — “It’s a jet! This is full of jets!” — at the crisp, hallucinatory grandeur of new stars sprouting from a nebula like seeds from a flower bed.

The screen zooms in, in, in toward a jutting promontory many light-years long that stands out in sharp relief.

“Oh my god,” someone says — only that someone was me, accidentally.

“Welcome to the team,” someone else responds.

On Tuesday morning, this view of the Carina Nebula was made public alongside other new observations from the James Webb Space Telescope. But it made an earlier debut on another Tuesday morning — this one in June, when a small team clutching coffee cups gathered around a conference table at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore for one of many morning meetings to receive, process and repackage for public consumption what humanity’s latest and greatest set of eyes could see — after the team members had first signed nondisclosure agreements to ensure no early leaks….

(17) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. NBC News lets viewers “Compare photos from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope”.

The first images from the James Webb Space Telescope are just a preview of the impressive capabilities of NASA’s $10 billion, next-generation observatory. Billed as the successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, which launched into orbit in 1990, Webb was designed to peer deeper into space than ever before, with powerful instruments that can capture previously undetectable details in the cosmos. 

Here’s how the Webb telescope stacks up to its famous predecessor….

(18) WHO ARE YOU? (DOC WHO, THAT’S WHO!) According to the Huffington Post, “This NASA Picture Is Giving Brits 1980s Nostalgia”. They’re referring to the first JWST image released the other day.

The image is a photo composite made from images at different wavelengths, adding up to 12.5 hours, and it shows the galaxy cluster as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.

Despite the significance of the new release though, there were plenty of people who couldn’t help noticing it reminded them of something: Doctor Who.

More specifically, the opening credits to the long-running fantasy/science-fiction show during earlier seasons.

Several people referenced Peter Davison, the fifth doctor who was in the role between 1982 and 1984, and pointed out that the image reminded them of this particular era….

Others joked about it clearly being a nod to the fourth doctor, Tom Baker, who starred in the series between 1974 and 1981.

(19) INSIDE JOB. A special trailer from Disney celebrates that Tron and Tron: Legacy are now available on Disney+.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/11/22 Properly-Grounded Electronic Sheep May Safely Graze

(1) IT WON A HUGO; DOES THAT HELP? What does James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel think of C.J. Cherryh’s “Cassandra”?

July 2022’s entry in Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists is C. J. Cherryh’s 1979​ “Cassandra”. C. J. Cherryh should need no introduction. Over the course of nearly half a century, she has published dozens of books, and is still actively raking in award nominations and wins in awards as diverse as the Hugo [1], the Nebula, the British Science Fiction Award, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. That said, if there is one thing this project teaches us, it is that all the accolades in the world do not necessarily translate into accolades from the Young People. Let’s see what they thought…. 

(2) JWST. NASA’s “First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope” begin with one unveiled by the President.

On Monday, July 11, President Joe Biden released one of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first images in a preview event at the White House in Washington. NASA, in partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), will release the full set of Webb’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data during a televised broadcast beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT (14:30 UTC) on Tuesday, July 12, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Learn more about how to watch.

This first image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is overflowing with detail. Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground. Learn more about this image here: NASA’s Webb Delivers Deepest Infrared Image of Universe Yet.

(3) WHAT I SAW ON MULBERRY STREET. “Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse”. The New York Times says “More than 300 bookstores have opened in the past couple of years — a revival that is meeting a demand for ‘real recommendations from real people.’”

People told Lucy Yu it was a crazy time to open a bookstore in Chinatown. It was early 2021, and the pandemic had devastated the neighborhood, forcing dozens of stores and restaurants to close. The rise of anti-Asian hate crimes had shaken residents and local business owners.

But Ms. Yu believed that a bookstore was just what the neighborhood needed.

She raised around $20,000 on GoFundMe, enough to rent a narrow storefront — a former funeral supply store — on Mulberry Street in downtown Manhattan. A neighborhood grant gave her $2,000 for shelves and books. And in December, she opened Yu and Me Books, which specializes in titles by and about immigrants and people of color.

The store was profitable within four months, Ms. Yu said….

(4) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Gregory Frost and Daniel Braum on Wednesday, July 20 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Gregory Frost

Gregory Frost writes across the fantasy spectrum. He’s currently at work on a fantasy set in 12th Century Scotland, a supernatural western mashup set in 1858, and a hard sf story in collaboration with his late friend, the inestimable Bill Johnson. His previous collaborative story, with Michael Swanwick, won an Asimov’s Readers Award in the pre-COVID universe of 2015. Most days he’s accompanied by his cat.

Daniel Braum

Daniel Braum’s latest collection Underworld Dreams is full of stories that explore the tension between the supernatural and the psychological. His novella The Serpent’s Shadow and collection The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales are out with Cemetery Dance eBooks. His novel Servant of the Eighth Wind is forthcoming from Lethe Press.

They are in-person at the KGB Bar. Masks welcome. KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

(5) JANUARY FIFTEENTH. It’s Rachel Swirsky’s turn to present “The Big Idea” at Whatever:

What would it be like if the United States of America had Universal Basic Income?

Tens of thousands of questions.

What kind of Universal Basic Income? How would it come about? How would it be regulated? Dispersed? Who determines eligibility? Who determines amount? Are there restrictions for felons? Does it come along with other social services or replace those systems entirely? Is there a trial run? How long will it last? Can it be canceled? What institutional forces might try to influence the project or hijack it for themselves?

Beyond logistics–and there are so many logistics–lie the lives inflected by innumerable variations. How do you raise children who have their own universal basic income? How do these new assets affect people in institutional care? In prison? In the military with a foreign girlfriend overseas?

When I began writing January Fifteenth, I started with one question, and ended up with more tangled stories than I could write.

(6) KU DEAL ON AMAZON PRIME DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Amazon Prime Day (July 12-13) offers include 2 months of Kindle Unlimited, normally $9.99/month or something like that, for $0.99/month — jumping back to the full rate after two months if you don’t explicitly cancel before then.

(Not sure whether you have to be an Amazon Prime member to get this, since I already am anyway.)

(7) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Sophie Flynn shares a lot of tips that can help writers draw attention to their books. Thread starts here.

(8) THINKING MACHINES. In episode 19 of the Science Fiction 101 podcast, “Do As A.I. Say”, Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie delve into their favorite sci-fi artificial intelligences.

We largely ignore ambulatory A.I., so you won’t find much talk of robots or androids here. Instead we try (but don’t always succeed) to discuss the type of A.I. that won’t chase you down a corridor or strangle you.

Among the works mentioned are some Star Treks; some Keith Laumer, AsimovClarke and Gerrold; and several classic movies that highlight our human terror at the thought that computers might one day take over….

(9) SOLVING AN ONLINE MYSTERY. The Artifice Girl premieres at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 23.

When an internet vigilante develops a revolutionary new computer program to combat online predators, its rapid advancement leads to serious questions of autonomy, oppression, and what it really means to be human.

(10) BOMBADIL, A PERPETUAL QUESTION. “Who is Tom Bombadil? In Search of the ‘One-Answer-To-Rule-Them-All'”: a profile of author C.R. Wiley at Front Porch Republic.

Who is Tom Bombadil? Readers of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, have been asking this question ever since the epic tome first appeared in print in 1954. Novice fans of the book as well as diehard veterans of Tolkien’s Legendarium are equally perplexed by this mysterious character. In their quest for answers, many have scrutinized every jot and tittle from Tolkien’s pen, but the esteemed author never reveals in the novel, in his letters, or in his other writings exactly who Tom is. Those who have only viewed Peter Jackson’s film trilogy (2001–2003) also wonder who this bewildering fellow is, since the director opted to exclude Bombadil from his big screen adaptation altogether. Jackson has stated the reason he cut Bombadil was because he felt that the character wasn’t essential to the basic plot of the story. Some readers of The Lord of the Rings agree – not only do they ask, “Who is Tom Bombadil?” but they also ask “Why is he there?”C. R. Wiley, in his accessible yet perceptive little book In the House of Tom Bombadil, argues that we need to change the way we approach the “who?” and “why?” of Tom Bombadil. Wiley suggests we need to grapple with the question, not as a modern scientist or as a Sherlock-like sleuth, but as a philologist steeped in medieval lore. This makes good sense given that Tolkien was a philologist and professor of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval English at Oxford University. His understanding and appreciation for languages and for the legends that grew from them helped shape every aspect of Tolkien’s Middle-earth mythology. If we are going to really understand Tom Bombadil, we must see him as an outworking of both Tolkien’s love of language and lore….

(11) MEMORY LANE

1942 [By Cat Eldridge.] I’m quite the fan of Dashiell Hammett, so I thought I’d take a look at the second filming of The Glass Key which happened eighty years ago. (This is an appreciation piece so this is not the date it premiered.) Why it was made a second time is simple: Paramount retained the rights to it and saw it as the vehicle to make Alan Ladd a star. They also considered it the first major film for Veronica Lake as well.

It has been just seven years since the first version had been done with George Raft playing Paul Madvig who Alan Ladd will play here. That film was quite successful, being one of Raft’s biggest box-office hits of the Thirties. Though critics one and all hated it. 

This version was directed by Stuart Heisler under contract to Paramount. All biographies of him say he was at best an uninspired director but he did a better job here according to critics than the 1935 director did. And critics really hadn’t been fond of Raft as Madvig. Stolid and boring got used a lot when describing Raft where Ladd was called cheerful. 

Of course it was a vehicle for Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake as one critic noted: “The Glass Key further increased the box-office pull of Paramount’s new team of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.” 

And another one echoed that: “The film is mostly done for entertainment purposes, as it lightly skips over the corrupt political process as merely background for the unlikely love story developing between the engaging Lake and the deadpan Ladd.”  

The two versions pretty much get the same rating at Rotten Tomatoes, the 1935 version gets sixty percent and the 1942 version gets seventy percent.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. Along with William Strunk Jr. he’s the co-author of The Elements of Style English language style guide. In a survey of School Library Journal readers, Charlotte’s Web came in first in their poll of the top one hundred children’s novels. I know I saw the Stuart Little film. It was, errr, cute. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1913 Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I’ve read once and really did like at the time. His short story, “The Game of Rat and Dragon”, was nominated at NYCon II (1956), and The Planet Buyer was nominated at LonCon II (1965). The usual suspects are well stocked with his novels and short stories, and “Scanners Live in Vain”, a most excellent novella. It was nominated for a 1951 Retro-Hugo Award. (Died 1966.)
  • Born July 11, 1920 Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. Are we considering The King and I genre or even genre adjacent?  If we are, he played Prince Mongkut in the short-lived Anna and the King as well. Ok I’m declaring it genre as the Siam there is a fantasy Siam, not actual Siam. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1925 David Graham, 97. The voice of Daleks in the early years of Doctor Who including two very non-canon films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.; his voice work made him a sought after worker and he’d be used on Thunderbirds, the rather excellent Asterix & Obelix Take On CaesarTimeslip, the superb Moomin, Stingray and even the recent Thunderbirds Are Go.
  • Born July 11, 1950 Bruce McGill, 72. His first role was as Director Eugene Matuzak in Time Cop. He later has got one-offs in Quantum Leap (twice), Babylon 5Voyager and Tales from the Crypt.  He’s in the first television remake of The Man Who Fell to Earth as Vernon Gage. If MacGyver counts as genre and I for one think that it should, he has the recurring role of Jack Dalton there. 
  • Born July 11, 1956 Amitav Ghosh, 66. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery which won the Arthur C Clarke Award. Really just go read it and we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. His newest work is Jungle Nama, a graphic novel with illustrations by Pakistan-born Salman Toor based on the medieval Bengali tale about the forest (Sundarbans) goddess, Bon Bibi. Seriously, I need to read more of his fiction. 
  • Born July 11, 1958 Alan Gutierrez, 64. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog Magazine, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines. He’s been nominated for five Asimov’s Readers Awards and two Analog Awards as well. 
  • Born July 11, 1959 Richard James Bleiler, 63. Genres breed academics. One of them is this bibliographer of speculative fiction, crime, and adventure fiction. Among his papers are “The Fantastic Pulp Fiction of Frank Belknap Long” which appeared in Gary Hoppenstand’s Pulp Fiction of the ’20S and ’30S and “Forgotten Giant: A Brief History of Adventure Magazines” which was published in Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

(13) ROSWELL ANNIVERSARY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Dave Kindy has a piece on the 75th anniversary of the UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico (which took place on July 8, 1947).  He interviews aerospace historian Roger Launius, who notes that in 1994 the Air Force said the “UFO debris” was part of a high-altitude balloon launched as part of Project Mogul, which was “designed to intercept Russian radio messages via high-altitude.”  Because Project Mogul was classified the Air force bungled its response to the incident and created UFOlogy. “Roswell ‘flying saucer’ report 75 years ago sparked UFO obsession”.

 The world was worrying about war when rancher W.W. Brazel walked into the sheriff’s office in Corona, N.M., on a hot, dusty day 75 years ago to report a “flying disk” he might have found on his property, about 100 miles northwest of Roswell Army Air Field.

The next day — July 8, 1947 — the public information officer at the base issued a news release stating the U.S. Army Air Forces had recovered a “flying saucer” at the ranch. While military brass quickly retracted the statement, it was too late: The legend of Roswell as the “UFO Capital of the World” was already soaring — much like the countless bright objects many Americans claimed to have seen in the sky that summer….

(14) DIGITAL IN 1982. “40 Years Ago, Disney’s Weirdest Failure Changed Sci-Fi Movies Forever” contends Fatherly.

…But even more groundbreaking than the idea was the unique approach to visual effects. While The Last Starfighter would push the boundaries of computer-generated special effects two years later, Tron’s method of integrating human performers with a mostly empty virtual world was simultaneously stunning and moody as hell. While Bridges, Cindy Morgan, Bruce Boxleitner, and David Warner were shot with old-school backlighting techniques, the fact that their vehicles (LIGHT CYCELES!) and surroundings would be all digital was pretty much brand new….

(15) MORE STYLISH THAN THE TARDIS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jon Pertwee shows up on Blue Peter with Doctor Who’s Whomobile in this clip from November 1973 that dropped today.

Doctor Who star Jon Pertwee glides into the Blue Peter studio for a chat with Peter Purves about the Whomobile, the Doctor’s unique new mode of transport.

(16) HARLEY QUINN. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the third season of Harley Quinn today. It arrives on July 28.

The mayhem and madness continue in season three of this biting and uproarious adult animated comedy series. Wrapping up their “Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour,” Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) return to Gotham as the new power couple of DC villainy. Along with their ragtag crew – King Shark (Ron Funches), Clayface (Alan Tudyk), Frank the Plant (JB Smoove) – “Harlivy” strives to become the best version of themselves while also working towards Ivy’s long desired plan of transforming Gotham into an Eden paradise.

(17) SPACEX SETBACK. “Starship Booster Explodes During SpaceX Ground Test” reports Gizmodo.

SpaceX is in the midst of preparing its Starship rocket for its inaugural orbital launch, but an apparent explosion of the Super Heavy booster during tests at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, may represent a serious setback.

The explosion happened around 5:20 p.m. ET, and it was as unexpected as it was severe. …

The Elon Musk-led company is currently testing Super Heavy Booster 7 at its Boca Chica facility, known as Starbase. The prototype booster, with its 33 Raptor engines, arrived at the launch mount in late June. A Starship second stage will eventually be stacked on top, forming a fully stacked Starship rocket. Musk was hoping for an orbital test flight of the system in July, but that seems unlikely given today’s events…. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele ask, “What If Hogwarts Were an Inner-City School?” in this clip from 2019.

An HBO documentary dives deep into the deplorable conditions at Vincent Clortho Public School for Wizards.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/22 And In The Naked Light, I Saw Ten Thousand Pixels, Maybe More

(1) HOW THE BALLOT SHOULD HAVE LOOKED. Rich Horton has posted his latest Hugo nomination ideas, for the 1952 Hugo year (that is, stories from 1951). He makes a “Special recommendation to ‘Beyond Bedlam’, a story I knew of but had not read until just now. It is wonderful, original, wrenching.” “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1952” at Strange at Ecbatan.

The 1952 Worldcon was Chicon II, in Chicago, the tenth World Science Fiction Convention. (This year will be Chicon 8!) As noted, they gave no Hugo awards. The International Fantasy Award went to John Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights, a remarkable book, though as a story collection not eligible for a Hugo in this or any year. There was also a non-fiction award, to The Exploration of Space, by Arthur C. Clarke.

(2) A DOCTOR WHO PRACTICED IN THE SIXTIES. The Guardian shares a gallery of behind the scenes photos from the 1960s Doctor Who movies: “The Daleks invade 60s Surrey: on the set of the classic Doctor Who films – in pictures”.

Dalekmania inspired Amicus films to buy up the cinema rights to the Saturday tea-time television adventures of Dr Who, leading to two films starring Peter Cushing.

(3) GOING POSTAL. At Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein, Bobby Derie takes a look at the correspondence between Margaret St. Clair and Clark Ashton Smith: “Her Letters To Clark Ashton Smith: Margaret St. Clair”. About a letter written by Smith in 1940:

… A major point of the letter involved the change in editorship at Weird Tales; Farnsworth Wright had been fired and was replaced with Dorothy McIlwraith. There was some hard feelings among the older guard of writers about Wright’s treatment, and Wright himself apparently floated the idea of forming a competing weird magazinebut this would not come to pass, and Wright himself would pass away on 12 June 1940. On a lighter note, Smith also noted that the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy had been established not far away from his cabin. In a postscript to the letter, Smith wrote jocularly:

Can’t we start some sort of coven in opposition to that nunnery?

(4) THE UNKINDEST CUT? Also at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein, Cecelia Hopking-Drewer talks about her experiences reading H.P. Lovecraft: “An Australian Woman Looks At Lovecraft”.

… My involvement with Lovecraft scholarship goes back some twenty-seven years. At one stage I was a huge Stephen King fan, and I found a reference in King’s non-fiction work Danse Macabre to Lovecraft (see King, 1982:132-5). I was studying English literature at Master’s level, around 1992/3, and in the realm of academia, historical writers were more acceptable research subjects than contemporary writers, so I approached the department about a project. The project was approved, but the resident Gothic expert was unable to provide supervision, and I struggled along against a curtain of institutional resistance regarding texts associated with popular culture. My assumption that as a ‘dead white male’ to quote the cliché, Lovecraft would be respected academically was incorrect, and instead he proved to be a controversial and polarizing figure…. 

(5) CREDITS CHECK. K.C. McAbee has an article about Leigh Brackett at Luna Station Quarterly“Her Majesty the Queen of Space Opera: Part One”.

Leigh Brackett will always be a name to conjure with, and not just because she wrote the first draft of a little movie you may have heard of called The Empire Strikes Back. Though she died before it went into production and hers was not the final filmed screenplay, she created many of the story beats that ended up in the movie. City in the clouds: check. Battle of Hoth: check. Deadly trip through an asteroid field: yep, it’s there. Love triangle between Luke, Leia and Han: check, check, and check….

(6) MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I posted another of those Masters-of-the-Universe photo stories that people have been enjoying entitled “Consent Is Sexy, Harassment Stinks”.

The small toy aisle at the German drugstore chain Rossmann has turned out to be an unlikely source of Masters of the Universe toys, because they tend to have even hard-to-find figures like Clawful or the Horde Trooper at regular prices. I didn’t find a Clawful during my last visit to the local Rossmann store, but I did get lucky and snapped up none other than Stinkor, Masters of the Universe‘s very own walking fart joke….

(7) HEAR SF POETRY READINGS. In 2022, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, in an effort to further engage Rhysling Award voters and speculative poetry audiences at large, Akua Lezli Hope organized and hosted three virtual gatherings on Zoom at which poets with work nominated to the short poem category of the Rhyslings read their work aloud. You can watch the recordings on the SFPA YouTube channel; click here for the full playlist.

SFPA is now creating a series of Rhysling Award Readings for the 2022 Long Poem Nominees. There presently are two videos; more will be added.

(8) MEMORY LANE

1970 [By Cat Eldridge.] “This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours: Obey me and live, or disobey and die.”

If you were in West Germany on this date, you could have enjoyed the premiere there of Colossus: The Forbin Project. It was from a screenplay by James Bridges who based it off  Dennis Feltham Jones’ Colossus novel. It would be his only genre movie script. He’d later do one for the Alfred Hitchcock Hour off Ray Bradbury‘s 1944 “The Jar” short story. 

SPOILER ALERT!

Dennis Feltham Jones did a trilogy of Colossus novels, and a lot of other SF as well. Ok the premise here is Colossus is an AI that wakes up, assumes controls of all Earth’s military resources and won’t relinquish control. In time, it fuses with its Soviet counterpart. The film is taken directly off his first novel. 

END SPOILER ALERT!

Critics generally liked it. Victor Canby of the New York Times said it was “no Dr. Strangelove, but it’s full of surprising moments of humor and intelligence”. And David Kher of the Chicago Reader declared that it was “Above-average science fiction”. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-six percent rating. 

It’s been in remake Hell since 2007. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 John Wyndham. His best-known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. The usual suspects have an impressive selection of his novels including these titles though little of his short fiction is available, alas. The Day of the Triffids is currently a buck ninety-nine there. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 10, 1914 Joe Shuster. Comic book artist best remembered for co-creating Superman with Jerry Siegel. It happened in Action Comics #1 which was cover-dated June 1938. Need I mention the long fight with DC over crediting them as the creators and paying them? I think not. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr. Though much better known for writing and producing The Waltons, he wrote eight scripts for the Twilight Zone including “Black Leather Jackets” in which an alien falls in love with a human girl and “The Hunt” where raccoon hunters enter the Twilight Zone. He also wrote the script of the Hanna-Barbera production of Charlotte’s Web.  (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1929 George Clayton Johnson. He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including “A Game of Pool”, “Kick the Can”, “Nothing in the Dark”, and “A Penny for Your Thoughts”, and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap”. (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. At age 21 she chaired TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon in Chicago. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at the Sasquan Worldcon. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”.  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading, and they’re available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 Susan Seddon Boulet. Another one who died way, way too young after a long struggle with cancer. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight which also features her art. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 10, 1945 Ron Glass. Probably known best genre wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and the sequel film Serenity. His first genre work was the role of Jerry Merris in Deep Space, a SF horror film, and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it has a very impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nancy prepares to explain two literary terms to a friend.
  • Tom Gauld has a gag about a combat robot workshop at New Scientist.
  • Tom Gauld again on the tradition of “last orders” in the Guardian.
  • Macanudo’s Tolkienesque joke is truly bizarre.

(11) A SLIGHT DELAY. Sunday Morning Transport’s story is “The Daily Commute” by Sarah Gailey.

We love how Sarah Gailey’s story merges magic and public transport with a wonderful, wrenching effect. ~ Fran Wilde, July 10

(12) KELLY’S HEROICS. “Try to remember the kind of September, When you were a tender and callow fellow.” (P.S. This is Scott Kelly in the video, not his twin brother Mark Kelly.)

(13) FOR THOSE WITH DEEP POCKETS. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Getcher Stormtrooper Helmet now (actual person’s head not included): “’Blast ‘Em!’: Heritage Auctions Offers in July Stormtrooper Helmet and Blaster Used in 1977’s ‘Star Wars’”.

A long time ago in a theater probably not too far from your house, Star Wars was released — May 25, 1977, long before the original space opera was rechristened Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. To celebrate that 45th anniversary, Heritage Auctions is thrilled to offer in its July 22-23 Hollywood & Entertainment Signature® Auction two of the rarest and most coveted items featured in the film that spawned a never-ending franchise: a screen-matched stormtrooper helmet and a screen-used hero E-11 blaster shared by stormtroopers, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

….Of these six original sandtrooper helmets, only two are confirmed to exist in private hands. Heritage Auctions is offering one of the two.

In addition to being one of the surviving original first-produced and first-filmed stormtrooper helmets from the original Star Wars, this specific helmet can be conclusively identified on-screen across multiple sequences. It was also worn by one of the few stormtroopers who delivered dialogue — the very one who speaks to the bartender after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s, let’s say, disarming encounter in the Mos Eisley cantina….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/22 Pixel Scroll Them From Orbit, It’s The Only Way To Be Sure

(1) PKD IS READY FOR HIS CLOSEUP. A movie will be made about the life of Philip K. Dick announces The Hollywood Reporter: “Blade Runner Author Philip K. Dick Gets ‘Only Apparently Real’ Biopic”. It will be based in part on the book written by Paul Williams, the one-time literary executor of Dick’s estate and friend of the author. 

…His own life was just as mind-bending as his work, filled with drug use and hallucinations, a suicide attempt and letters to the FBI, paranormal experiences and believing he was living parallel lives in two different time periods, one in the present and the other in the Roman Empire.

Only Apparently Real centers on a break-in at Dick’s house that took place in the early ’70s. He was in the midst of his fourth divorce, trying to give up amphetamines, battling writer’s block and possibly being spied on by the United States government. Then his house was ransacked, his safe blown open and his manuscripts were stolen. But then again, maybe they weren’t and maybe there was never a break-in.

“His life was as surreal as his books,” says Shestack. “He was a high-level functioning person and you never know, even when reading his journals, what is real and what isn’t.”

The story also tackles what Dick himself described as a tragic theme that pervaded his life: the death in infancy of his twin sister, Jane, and the reenactment of it over and over again. Dick attributed many of his psychological issues and personal life challenges to her death, including his attachment anxieties….

(2) BRANCHING OUT. Lois McMaster Bujold received some major league help in expanding her family tree she told Facebook readers.

A while ago, I was invited to be a guest subject on a website called WikiTree, which is an online association of dedicated genealogy enthusiasts. https://www.wikitree.com/ They run a group effort called WikiTree Challenge, in which they turn their skills loose upon the guest’s family tree for one week, and compete to see who can find out the most previously unknown information about the guest’s ancestors; sort of a cross between Roots and Time Team, crowdsourcing genealogy research.

The link to the Bujold entry on WikiTree is: Lois (McMaster) McMaster Bujold (b. 1940s)

The Bujold page is linked to WikiTree’s page which collects information about a number of well-known sf writers – “Which Science Fiction author are you most closely connected to?”

The experience inspired Bujold to assemble the diaries of three Civil War era family members and make them available for sale: The Gerould Family of New Hampshire in the Civil War: Two Diaries and a Memoir.

“When family history meets history…

“This chapbook is a collection of eyewitness historical documents from the American Civil War handed down through descendants of the Gerould family. Two transcribed pocket diaries for the year 1864 describe the day-by-day tribulations of young Union navy surgeon Dr. Martin Gerould, assigned to the ill-fated ironclad Eastport in the Red River Campaign; and his aging mother Cynthia Locke Gerould, the wife of a clergyman, back home in New Hampshire. The increasingly gripping cross-illumination of the paired accounts is further rounded out by the later-written memoir of Martin’s eldest brother Reverend (soon to be Private) Samuel L. Gerould, detailing his experiences in the Fourteenth New Hampshire Volunteers: three voices from the past speaking directly, in their own words.

“Editor Lois McMaster Bujold is a well-known science fiction and fantasy writer, and the great-granddaughter of Samuel L. Gerould.”

With my added introductions and other material, it ended up running about 42k words, about the size of a long novella. Really, it was a lucky intersection of stimulus, time, technology, and ebook skillset, most of which I’d not had until recently.

(3) THOSE THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. You can now see video of the “Fandom through the Generations Panel” from the recent Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022.

Which era did you enter into Star Wars fandom – classic, prequel, The Clone Wars/Rebels, sequels? Join fandom tour guides Richard and Sarah Woloski from Skywalking Through Neverland as they take you through four decades of fandom. Featured guests include Craig Miller (Former Director – Fan Relations for Lucasfilm), Dan Madsen (Founder – Star Wars Insider), and Matt Martin (current Lucasfilm Senior Creative) who share stories of the ever-evolving fan communities.

(4) CLARION WEST UPDATE. In Clarion West’s Six-Week Summer Workshop, the class is finishing up Week 2 with P. Djèlí Clark. Listen to him read from A Master of Djinn for the Summer of Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Series on YouTube.

They’re now heading into Week 3 with instructor Fonda Lee. She will be reading on July 5th at the Seattle Public Library; register here to attend either in-person or online.

(5) INTERZONE MIGRATES. TTA Press has announced that the UK prozine “Interzone Has A New Publisher”

From issue #294 Interzone will be edited by Gareth Jelley and published by MYY Press.

Buy a 6-issue print subscription to Interzone and get a high-quality full-colour magazine packed full of mind-expanding fiction and nonfiction delivered directly to your door bimonthly, all for just €47 (price includes VAT and free delivery worldwide).

New subscriptions begin with issue #294.

If you are renewing or extending a TTA Press subscription, we will combine them to ensure you don’t miss out on an issue.

SUBSCRIBE TO INTERZONE

Many thanks to all the collaborators, contributors, readers, and everybody else who helped and supported us through the past one hundred issues. Interzone #292/293, our 100th and final issue, should be purchased as normal from the TTA Shop.

(6) INTERZONE DIGITAL. Meanwhile, Ansible Links alerted readers to the creation of Interzone Digital – mind-bending fantastika from all over the planet, and a web page that concisely explains, “Interzone Digital is like Interzone, but digital.” They’re open for story submissions.

(7) IN THE BLACK FANTASTIC. The Guardian’s Aindrea Emelife visits an Afrofuturism exhibit at a London gallery: “In the Black Fantastic review – reaching for tomorrow’s art world”

Hayward Gallery, London
Eleven contemporary artists inspired by Afrofuturism consider possible futures with a hopeful, fizzing energy

Of the many themes addressed by In the Black Fantastic, a new exhibition inspired by Afrofuturism at the the Hayward Gallery, the negotiations of the Black body is perhaps the most resonant.

Take Chain Reaction, a dramatic new commission by the American sculptor Nick Cave, which sees casts of the artist’s arm, joined together in both unity and struggle, hang from the ceiling, fingers grasping for each other. Elsewhere, Cave’s Soundsuits – colourful costumes that cover the wearer’s face and body – loom with unsettling yet celebratory fervour. When in movement, as part of Cave’s performances, they ensure that the Black male body is seen. It is no coincidence that Cave’s first Soundsuit was made in 1992 following the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. Soundsuit 9:29, the latest iteration on display here, is a homage to George Floyd and the duration of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck. For Cave, taking up space and sound is a form of protest and a means of envisioning new realities.

With its hopeful, fizzing energy, this collection of work by 11 contemporary artists from the African diaspora is important because it offers a glimpse of the way ahead…. 

(8) A HOLE NEW WORLD. Gizmodo nominates these as “The 8 Worst Apocalypse Bunkers in Science Fiction”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

If the world were to end, you’d probably want to be as sequestered as possible—preferably underground with a freshly stocked pantry, your loved ones close by, and plenty of stuff to distract you from the fiery inferno outside your door….This list compiles some of the worst, most grotesque, and eeriest bunkers in recent years, with shelters that tried everything from draining people of their blood to experimenting with cryogenics….

(9) IF YOU KNOW WHERE THEY ARE, THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS. The Atlantic’s Leslie Kendall Dye contends that “The Organization of Your Bookshelves Tells Its Own Story”.

….Now I use “The Library of Babel” as a metaphor for the landscape of my own library. My books are not organized alphabetically, or, for the most part, by genre. The arrangement seems to have been made entirely at random, unless you know the quirk by which it was conceived. Books are placed next to one another for companionship, based on some kinship or shared sensibility that I believe ties them together. The Little Prince is next to Act One, by Moss Hart, because I think Hart and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry convey, in their respective works, a similar purity of heart and openness of expression. The Little Prince is a French fable set primarily in the Sahara; Act One is a memoir of a poor Jewish boy’s journey to Broadway. But to me, they are about the same thing: finding what matters in life, and shutting out all that is of no consequence….

(10) NOT ELEMENTARY AT ALL. At CrimeReads, Erika Kobayashi discusses what it was like having parents who were determined to translate all of the Sherlock Holmes stories into Japanese. “My Poison Snake: Erika Kobayashi on Growing Up in a Household of Sherlock Translators”.

…Papa and Mama would sit in the kitchen munching senbei crackers.

They were peering intently at foreign-language books spread out before them: the stories of Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Papa had once been a doctor, and Mama had once worked at a bank.

But with the arrival of their fourth daughter—that is, me—they decided to quit their jobs and devote themselves full time to translating the stories of Sherlock Holmes.

Their dream was to translate all sixty works—the entire Canon….

(11) MEMORY LANE

2011 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this date, Men in Black: The Series (also known as, depending on where you were watching it, as MIB: The SeriesMIB: The Animated Series, and Men in Black: The Animated Series) ended its four year run. The date hereafter refers to its run on KId’s WB. 

The animated series was developed by Duane Capizzi, Jeff Kline and Richard Raynis. Cappizzi was the writer/producer of the animated The Batman, a series I really liked. Kline was co-executive producer of Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, and Raynis was the same. 

The show is set in an alternate timeline to the Men in Black reality with  the major differ differences being that Agent K is still active, and Agent J is still regarded as a rookie. It has a more than new characters and considerably new technology, something you can do with an animated series.

Charles Napier is Zed and Keith Daimondc as Jay are the only voice performers that are in almost every episodes. Patrick Fraley and Patrick Pinney as the Wormguys voice their characters in all but a handful of episodes. George Berger and Ed O’Ross both play K. 

It lasted for fifty- three episodes over four seasons. 

Yes, I’ve seen more than a handful of episodes. No, it doesn’t have the energy of the films, particularly the first film, but it is reasonably done. The closest comparison I can make to another series is the animated Beatlejuice. You really aren’t going to catch the feel of the original performers, are you? 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar eighty six percent rating.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft-forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though they were hardly his only genre roles, as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery, and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Addams Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.)
  • Born June 30, 1920 — Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. He was the “mystery guest of honor” at Clevention in 1955. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as The Immortal Storm, Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born June 30, 1938 — Jeri Taylor, 84. Scriptwriter and producer who wrote many episodes of the Next Generation and Voyager series. To say she was a scriptwriter is a bit of an understatement — she wrote one hundred and sixty-eight of the Voyager episodes, all but four that aired. She only wrote thirteen episodes of Next Gen and three of Deep Space Nine.
  • Born June 30, 1959 — Vincent D’Onofrio, 63. His long running role is Detective Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent which is in no way genre. He was Kingpin in that very good Daredevil series, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film to date and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye.
  • Born June 30, 1961 — Diane Purkiss, 61. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History
  • Born June 30, 1966 — Peter Outerbridge, 56. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s also in two series, The Umbrella in a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. 
  • Born June 30, 1972 — Molly Parker, 50. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The Legacy,  Human Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio gets a big reaction when it’s his turn on “Story Sharing Day.”
  • Hagar The Horrible shows a couple with conflicting priorities.
  • Pearls Before Swine shows a possible reason why some writers become recluses.

(14) MS. MARVEL ASSESSMENT. An NPR roundup shows “Many Pakistanis dig the cultural nods on ‘Ms. Marvel’ but are mixed on casting”.

…”The portrayal of a Pakistani household is just right,” wrote Ozan Khan, a lifestyle editor for The Correspondent PK, a digital news organization in Pakistan, on Twitter. “Some references [are] very relatable.”

At home, Kamala’s father watches TV highlights of old cricket matches, a sport that people are fanatical about in Pakistan. Aunties (or as Kamala and Nakia call these nosy community women, “illumin-aunties” — because they see and know everything) gossip about family members and spy on their neighbors. And a cover of the 1966 Pakistani pop hit, “Ko Ko Korina” plays in the background while Kamala and her mom shop for her clothes and jewelry for her brother’s engagement in Jersey City’s South Asian markets.

Many Muslim Pakistanis love the religious touches on the show, too. “It’s the most positive representation of Pakistanis and Muslims out there right now,” wrote Zunaira Inam Khan, a Pakistani social media influencer, on Twitter.

…But our sampling of interviewees did voice criticisms. Some wish that more of the cast had Pakistani heritage. While many of the actors identify as Pakistani (Iman Vellani, the actor who plays Kamala, is Pakistani Canadian, while Nimra Bucha, Samina Ahmed, Mehwish Hayat are regulars in Pakistani TV and film) — the actors who play Kamala’s parents, Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur, are Indian.

Shroff and Kapur “don’t seem like Pakistani parents, quite honestly. And the fact that they are Indian actors is indicative of that,” says Rehman.

“When Shroff spoke, I could hear inflections of a Mumbai accent. She didn’t sound like a Pakistani mother.”

Indian actors from the Bollywood industry dominate South Asian representation in TV and film, wrote @ShabanaMir1 on Twitter. So why did the parents have to be played by Indian actors? “[Disney+], we have a ton of great Pakistani actors,” she tweeted.

(15) DC, THE NEXT GENERATION. DC dropped this trailer about the son of Superman and the son of Batman teaming up. “Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons”.

(16) DREDD ARTIST. The Guardian looks at the “Dredd zone: the anarchic world of comic-book artist Steve Dillon”.

…Dillon’s adopted home town of Luton is currently running an exhibition at the Hat House’s Basement Gallery, featuring work from the artist’s early days through to his illustrations for the satirical dystopian lawman Judge Dredd from British weekly comic 2000AD. There are also pages from Preacher and Warrior, the magazine that launched the careers of a number of British comics luminaries in the 1980s.

“Steve has a special place in this town,” says Samuel Javid, creative director at the Culture Trust Luton. “We have roads called Preacher Close and Cassidy Close, some of his ashes are buried here, and his local pub has a picture of him behind the bar, sticking his middle finger up … ”

Ennis, who also collaborated with Dillon on Judge Dredd and Marvel’s gun-toting antihero the Punisher, first got to know the artist in the early 90s. “I recall sitting up with him one night in the spring of 1990, long after everyone else had crashed, and killing off a bottle of Jameson while we talked about what we thought we could do in comics,” Ennis says. “There was an almost audible click as we realised we’d make a good creative partnership. Each of us simply trusted the other to do the job. I didn’t ask him for the impossible – no 10-panel action-packed pages loaded with dialogue – and he turned in perfect storytelling every time.”…

(17) LIVE LONG AND MODEL. Gigi and Bella Hadid have become Vulcans. Photos at the link: “Gigi and Bella Hadid stun runway with partially ‘shaved’ heads” at CNN Style.

Supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid debuted bold new looks Monday, storming a New York runway with bleached eyebrows, short bangs and — what appeared to be — half-shaved heads.

But the sisters’ dramatic transformation was soon revealed to be the work of prosthetics artists, who had altered their appearance with the help of bald caps, wigs and makeup.

(18) YE KEN NOW. NME is agog: “Ryan Gosling wore a Ncuti Gatwa ‘Doctor Who’ t-shirt on ‘Barbie’ set”. And Russell T Davies joked that he’s going to sue the actor over the “illegal” merchandise.

Ryan Gosling has been pictured wearing a t-shirt depicting actor Ncuti Gatwa as Doctor Who while filming on the set of Barbie.

Gatwa, who stars alongside Gosling in director Greta Gerwig’s upcoming film, shared the picture of the t-shirt (designed by fan Matthew Purchase) on Instagram….

(19) AIN’T THIS THE PITS. La Brea creator and showrunner David Appelbaum discusses the “La Brea Season 2 teaser trailer” with SYFY Wire.

“This season will still largely take place in 10,000 BC. However, we will no longer be telling a concurrent story in modern-day Los Angeles. Instead, we will be telling a story in 1988 Los Angeles,” Appelbaum continued. “We think this will add a new layer of fun and intrigue to the episodes. It’s also a story I don’t think anyone in the audience would have expected when they first started watching the show. We love the idea of keeping our viewers on their toes and never knowing what’s around the next corner.”

The summary that accompanies the trailer says:

La Brea follows an epic family adventure after a massive sinkhole opens in Los Angeles pulling people and buildings into a mysterious and dangerous primeval land where they have no choice but to band together to survive. In season two, the Harris family remains separated as Eve is reeling from her son, Josh, having mistakenly gone through a portal to 1988. What she doesn’t know yet is that her ex-husband, Gavin, and their daughter, Izzy, have landed in prehistoric Seattle and now must brave the elements and animals to make their way to L.A.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George, in the spoiler-packed “Obi-Wan Kenobi Pitch Meeting,” has the producer ask the writer if he has “Star Wars milk…so we can milk the franchise we’ve spent billions of dollars on.”  The writer says that Obi-Wan has lost his powers but all he has to do is “think about stuff” and he becomes a Jedi master.  The writer also explains that there’s a really logical place in this series for Obi-Wan to kill Darth Vader but doesn’t “because it’s a contract thing.  Vader has to be in all the other movies.”

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, rcade, Rich Horton, Steven French, 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 Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/22 Last And First Scrolls

(1) CHARLIE JANE ANDERS KEYNOTE OPENS EVERY DOOR. In “Children’s Institute 10: Charlie Jane Anders Says ‘Magical Portals Exist, and Adults Aren’t Real’”, Publishers Weekly has extensive details of the author’s talk.

Science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders (Victories Greater Than Death) brought abundant charisma to the stage for her Ci10 keynote. Her hot-pink bob, matching Doc Martens, and neon-confetti-dotted black dress reinforced her energy. She delivered her talk, “Magical Portals Are Real, and I Can Prove It!,” in a conversational and confiding tone, to booksellers who know and recommend her LGBTQ+ fiction.

Alluding to Frank Herbert’s Dune dictum that “the universe is full of doors,” Anders said that we encounter portals in our lives. “I’ve jumped universes three or four times,” she said, acknowledging how she came to recognize her authorial persona and trans identity. “This is definitely not the universe I was born in.”…

(2) FINAL SCORE? Indiana Jones 5 might be it: “John Williams, 90, steps away from film, but not music” – reports the Associated Press.

After more than six decades of making bicycles soar, sending panicked swimmers to the shore and other spellbinding close encounters, John Williams is putting the final notes on what may be his last film score.

“At the moment I’m working on ‘Indiana Jones 5,’ which Harrison Ford — who’s quite a bit younger than I am — I think has announced will be his last film,” Williams says. “So, I thought: If Harrison can do it, then perhaps I can, also.”

Ford, for the record, hasn’t said that publicly. And Williams, who turned 90 in February, isn’t absolutely certain he’s ready to, either.

“I don’t want to be seen as categorically eliminating any activity,” Williams says with a chuckle, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I can’t play tennis, but I like to be able to believe that maybe one day I will.”

Right now, though, there are other ways Williams wants to be spending his time. A “Star Wars” film demands six months of work, which he notes, “at this point in life is a long commitment to me.” Instead, Williams is devoting himself to composing concert music, including a piano concerto he’s writing for Emanuel Ax….

(3) THE DNA OF SFF. Camestros Felapton works out the difference between bounty hunters and Our Heroes in “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew versus bounty hunters”.

…But why, in reality, are bounty hunters so distinctly American? Like many things, once you dig beyond the fiction you run straight into the depressing inevitabilities of US history. There is a complex history behind bounty hunters in the US but looming large in that history are slave catchers. People employed to catch fugitive slaves were not a US invention but the size of the US slave economy (until the Civil War and emancipation) meant that “slave catcher” was both casual work and a profession for some. The powers of slave catchers was further enhanced prior to the Civil War with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Act_of_1850) which codified the ability of slave catchers to act beyond the borders of slave states. Slavery is not the only defining element in the US bounty hunting history but it is such a substantial example in the formative years of the nation that it is hard to imagine that it isn’t key to the lasting influence of the idea in the US.

The attraction of the bounty hunter concept to quasi-libertarian SFF is apparent. The bounty hunter as a character can be simultaneously running a private business and be an arm of law enforcement. As a legitimised vigilante, the bounty hunter as a character can sit in a kind of Lagrange point between the pull of the heroic individualist and the pull of authoritarian imposition of order…. 

(4) SPACEHOUNDS OF THE WSFS, And when Camestros Felapton is finished with the topic above, he chronicles the work of another set of adventurers who are hard at work to disarm “The Hugo Kill Switch”.

The people at The Hugo Book Club Blog (Olav Rokne & Amanda Wakaruk) are on a high-stakes mission to defuse a time bomb. Deep within the WSFS constitution is a hidden switch that is creeping ever closer to hitting some beloved Hugo Award categories. Can a rag-tag team save the Fan categories before the timer reaches zero?!

(5) TO THE EGRESS, AND BEYOND. Arturo Serrano analyzes the special challenges inherent in the audience’s complicated history with the Toy Story franchise and the Buzz Lightyear character and tells why Lightyear doesn’t fly, but it falls with style” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The quest for continued relevance is a preoccupation that the movie assigns to both Buzz and itself. It tries to evoke the feel of the Flash Gordon serials and, of course, both of the big Star franchises. But instead of the now-common practice of attempting to recapture an old moment of wonder via repetition and allusion, this movie gave itself the harder task of pretending to be that first experience. Although the villain’s big plan involves the return to an idealized past, Lightyear is not a case of nostalgia (because anything it could try to revisit is supposed to be provided by this story for the first time), but of pastiche. It may be unfair to cast Pixar as a victim of its own spectacular successes, but Lightyear is certainly not the best that the studio is capable of, and at times it’s a stretch to imagine small Andy being blown away by it….

(6) YES, THE END IS NEAR! The inaugural winner of the first Self-Published Science Fiction Competition will be announced in three weeks.

(7) WHO IN THE MOVIES. Radio Times covers the revelation that a “Doctor Who unmade film script featured two Doctors”.

…However, Subotsky revealed that a second deal was negotiated following production of 1965’s Dr. Who and the Daleks which would indeed have allowed for a third film. “There was a further agreement that was entered into, to give the rights to make a third movie, which of course was never done,” he explained. “It was on the same terms as the original films, so my feeling is… the option lapsed.”

Though a third movie never materialised, Subotsky further revealed that his father did in fact produce a screenplay for the proposed sequel that remains in his family’s possession and was also displayed at the BFI event – this script, however, was not an adaptation of any existing Doctor Who television serial.

“Many years later, maybe 15 years later, it was clearly still on his mind, because he had prepared a script called ‘Doctor Who’s Greatest Adventure’ which actually was a repurposed script of a horror film entitled ‘King Crab’… the original title was even worse, it was ‘Night of the Crabs’!

“It was with two Doctors – a young Doctor and an old Doctor – which is an idea that has been returned to.”…

(8) PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE. Polygon’s Joshua Rivera drops a few SPOILERS along the way: “Obi-Wan Kenobi finale review: a Star Wars show as broken as its hero”.

… Across its brief six-episode run, Obi-Wan stopped the spectacle to focus on people — and it mostly resonates as a contrast to how much I’ve missed them in other Star Wars stories.

At the heart of this are Obi-Wan’s two central performances. As Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor plays a broken man in exile, a soldier who knows he lost the war but is still being asked to fight it, keeping constant vigil from afar over the young Luke Skywalker. As befits the character that shares the series’ name, every note of Obi-Wan’s journey rings true, largely thanks to McGregor’s performance….

(9) PHYSICS AIN’T MISBEHAVING. Matt O’Dowd of PBS Space Time whittles away at the question, “Is Interstellar Travel Impossible?”.

Space is pretty deadly. But is it so deadly that we’re effectively imprisoned in our solar system forever? Many have said so, but a few have actually figured it out.

(10) MEMORY LANE

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-nine years ago, the follow-up film to the Twilight Zone series premiered this week. Produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis, Twilight Zone: The Movie certainly carried high expectations. This film features four stories directed by Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller. 

Landis’ segment is the only original story created for the film, while the segments by Spielberg, Dante, and Miller are remakes or more precisely reworkings of episodes from the original series.

The screenplay is not surprisingly jointly done by a committee of John Landis, George Clayton, Johnson Richard Matheson and Melissa Mathison as is the story which is by Landis, Matheson, Johnson and Jerome Bixby. 

The principal cast was surprisingly small given that there were four stories, just Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow and Kathleen Quinlan. 

It did quite well at the box office, making over forty million against a budget of under ten million. Some critics like Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Tribune like some of it though he noted that, “the surprising thing is, the two superstar directors are thoroughly routed by two less-known directors” while others such as Vincent Canby at the New York Times hated all of it calling the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth”. 

It was enough of a financial success that the suits at CBS gave the approval to the Twilight Zone series.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great fifty-five percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1908 — Sloan Nibley. Writer who worked on a number of genre series including Science Fiction TheaterAddams FamilyThe Famous Adventures of Mr. MagooShazan, and the New Addams Family. (Died 1990.)
  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 77. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. Her ”Stable Strategies for Middle Management” story picked up a nomination at Noreascon 3 (1989), and “Computer Friendly” garnered a nomination the next year in the same category at ConFiction (1990). She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 65. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which is on Amazon Prime y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 – Liu Cixin, 59. He won the Best Novel Hugo at Saquan (2015) for his Three Body Problem novel, translated into English by Ken Liu. It was nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Nebula, Canopus and Prometheus Awards as well. He picked up a Hugo novel nomination at Worldcon 75 (2017) for Death’s End also translated by Liu. 
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 50. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and  Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also  voiced the character in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well which are quite excellent. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 1980 — Melissa Rauch, 42. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory which is at least genre adjacent if not genre. She gets to be really genre in voicing Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn which Bruce Timm considers “a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series”. Having watched a few episodes on HBO when I was subscribed to that streaming service, I vehemently disagree. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 22. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The God Complex”. She had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond.  I can’t find anything online that talks about how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DEADLY DESIGNS. Paul Weimer will make you want to read the second City Siege novel of KJ Parker: “Book Review: How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with it” at Nerds of a Feather.

…While the first volume had Orban explicitly say that he was not telling the whole truth in the end, here from the beginning we have a professional telling us right from the get go about the power of stories, lies, shading the truth and more in order to tell his story. The first novel was Parker geeking out about engineering and siegecraft and how a determined engineer could frustrate the greatest army the world has assembled. By contrast, this second novel does have concerns regarding the siege and defending it, because Parker does really like to go down his rabbit holes and show it off. (In some ways, I think of him very much like Herman Melville, just enjoying sharing what he has learned and shown off about all sorts of abstruse subjects, interwoven masterfully into the story)….

(14) OCTOTHORPE. With a cover courtesy of DALL-E, Octothorpe 60 is now up! Listen here: “Different Types of Tedium”.

John Coxon is going to brunch, Alison Scott watched a film, and Liz Batty is critical. We discuss what we’d do if we were king of The Hugo Awards for the day, and then we talk about ABBA and other science fiction. And Monster Munch – you love to hear it.

Cover by DALL-E

(15) LIGHT FINGERS. Yahoo! listens as “Taika Waititi admits to stealing equipment from ‘The Hobbit’ set”.

New Zealand filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi appeared Wednesday on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, where he shared a Hobbit-sized secret regarding the second film in the popular franchise directed by fellow Kiwi Oscar winner Peter Jackson.

Waititi shared, “When I did What We Do in the Shadows, when Jemaine [Clement, the film’s co-writer and star] and I were shooting that, we didn’t have much money to do that film, and The Hobbit had just wrapped. And, so, our production designer — man, I don’t know if I should tell this. OK, but I will. Our production designer, in the dead of night, took his crew to The Hobbit studios and stole all of the dismantled, broken-down green screens and took all of the timber, and we built a house.”…

(16) THEY CROSSED THE STREAMS. “The Mandalorian gets mashed up with The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Star Wars/Ghostbusters crossover cosplay” at Ghostbusters News. They draw our attention not only to the clever cosplay, but “the adorable replacement for Grogu, consisting of a miniature version of Stay Puft being seen nestled inside his pram pod.”

(17) IT IS HIS FETA. Gizmodo takes a pretty funny look at “The Weirdest, Goat-iest Thor: Love and Thunder Merchandise”.

Marvel’s latest movie is bringing with it an Asgard Tours boat-load of weird and wonderful merchandise.

(18) REVISITING FILMATION. [Item by Bill.] The 1973-1974 Star Trek: The Animated Series was produced by Filmation.  Recently, Gazelle Animations has done some clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager in the Filmation style:

The animator gives background. And note the Most Important Device in the Universe!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Lightyear Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, the producer learns that the premise of Lightyear–that it’s an action movie Andy saw in 1995 that made him want to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy–he gets excited because that means a producer in the Toy Story universe made money on the film.  But even though it’s supposed to be “a 1990s movie,” fans of 1990s movies that featured “a lot of over the top action and cheese” will be cruelly disappointed.  Toy Story fans who remember that the villain Zurg is Buzz Lightyear’s father will also be very disappointed.

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