Pixel Scroll 12/4/22 A Fist Full of Pixels

(1) LIST OF 100. The Guardian analyzes the latest edition of the British Film Institute’s “The Greatest Films of All Time”, a recurring poll, in “The top 100 films… and what they say about our changing society”. At #6, 2001: A Space Odyssey is the highest ranked genre film.  

…This weekend, film lovers seem happy to salute this fresh list of 100 illustrious titles, published by Sight and Sound, the British Film Institute’s journal. It is a line-up compiled every 10 years from the votes of international directors, actors and critics, a constituency expanded this time to 1,639. Since the poll began in 1952, the results have been dominated by male directors, so the time was ripe, most concede, for a broader view.

True, a few commentators are quibbling about the usurping of the acknowledged “great movies” of the past in favour of more zeitgeisty offerings, such as 2019’s Oscar-winning Korean satire, Parasite, at number 90, Barry Jenkins’s story of queer identity, Moonlight, at 60, Jordan Peele’s racially astute horror debut Get Out, now at number 95, and the notable ascent of a three-year old film, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, now at 30. Others have grumbled about a suspected “tick box” instinct among voters, allegedly prompting them to make sure that more female directors made the grade.

But as the dust settles and the list is analysed for what it says about changing critical tastes, there is good news for the sustained power of British storytelling. …

(2) IRISH BOOK AWARDS. The winners of the 2022 An Post Irish Book Awards have been announced. They don’t have an SFF category, however, the book named “Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year (Senior)” is Girls Who Slay Monsters by Ellen Ryan, illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald.

There was a time when tales of Ireland’s mythical goddesses – their astonishing powers, bravery, and unbreakable bonds with nature – were famous, in Ireland and beyond. But over time, these stories were lost, often replaced or rewritten to make room for male warriors and kings.

UNTIL NOW.

Girls Who Slay Monsters brings these heroes of Irish mythology back to vibrant, magical life. From Éire, Ireland’s fierce namesake, and Bé Binn, a giant who overcame her bullies, to Badb, a gleefully gruesome death prophet, and Bé Mannair, a gender-fluid spy who challenged an entire army. These are goddesses of many shapes, skin shades and sizes, from every corner of ancient Ireland, whose daring still inspires today. Stand by their sides as they wield magic, fight monsters, and protect the powerless – and you might just discover that you, too, are a force of nature.

(3) WHAT THEY DO INCLUDES THINGS YOU DON’T WANT THEM TO. “Cory Doctorow Wants You to Know What Computers Can and Can’t Do” is an interview with the author in The New Yorker conducted by Christopher Byrd.

…In the eighties, in its metaphor stage, cyberpunk got people to realize how intimate technology had become in their lives. But you don’t think we need metaphors so much anymore?

I’ve been at this for long enough that I had to explain to people that I wasn’t speaking metaphorically when I said that they were headed for a moment in which there would be a computer in their body, and their body would be in a computer—by which I meant their car. And, if you remove the computer, the car ceases to be a car. And that they would have things like pacemakers and artificial pancreases, and just all manner of implants. I have a friend with Parkinson’s who now has a wire in his brain that’s controlled by a computer.

We think of computers as being a thing that sits on your desk and that you use to do your taxes. And then we think of it as a rectangle in your pocket that you use to distract yourself. Eventually we’re just going to think of a computer as being, like, a physics, right? The rules by which we make infrastructure will be our computer capabilities and policies.

Bill Gibson was going to arcades in Toronto and seeing kids thrust their chests at the video games while they pumped quarters into them and thought, What world are they trying to enter when they play these games? And he coined the term cyberspace. The thing that cyberspace gets us, as a metaphor, is the sense that our technology policy is going to be the framework in which our infrastructure, and thus our lives, emerge. And that enormity is difficult for people to grasp….

(4) GET ON BOARD. Sunday Morning Transport has posted this month’s free-to-read story, “Curses and Cake” by Sarah Beth Durst. “When it comes to certain kinds of curses—there’s often more than meets the eye.”

(5) READER BAIT. Dorothy Grant shares the secrets of “Building Better Blurbs” at Mad Genius Club.

… Then, I set to work – first with the hook.

The hook has gone in and out of style since Ad copy was first written. Back when you had a single line on the mail order form in the back of the paperback, it was supreme. Later, it was passed up for diving into the meat of the blurb. These days, some people use it, some don’t – but if you can come up with a catchy hook, it makes the reader attention stickier, and more likely to continue below the fold to read the rest….

(6) BEAGLE COLLECTIONS ON THE WAY. Tachyon Publications will bring out two volumes of collected short stories by Peter S. Beagle in May 2023: The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume 1: Lila the Werewolf and Other Stories and The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume 2: Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories.

Celebrating the storied career of bestselling author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), these essential hardcover volumes of short stories demonstrate why he is one of America’s most influential fantasists. With his celebrated versatility, humor, and grace, Beagle is at home in a dazzling variety of subgenres, evoking comparison to such iconic authors as Twain, Tolkien, Carroll, L’Engle, and Vonnegut. From heartbreaking to humorous, these carefully curated stories show the depth and power of his incomparable prose and storytelling. Featuring original introductions from Jane Yolen (The Devil’s Arithmetic) and Meg Elison (Find Layla) and gorgeous illustrations from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law (Shadowscapes), these elegant collections are a must-have for any fan of classic fantas

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1990 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fremont, Seattle Troll Under the Bridge

Trolls, definitely part of our shared folklore. So this Scroll, we’re looking at the Troll Under the Bridge in Fremont, Seattle. 

In proper troll fashion, it was erected to deter the presence of homeless people and antisocial behavior under the bridge after winning a competition held by the Fremont Arts Council. Well, it was a troll and they do tend to chase humans off, don’t they? 

It is a fantastic piece of work as done by a collaborative group of artists — Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter and Ross Whitehead. The artists retain copyright to the Troll images. They have sued businesses that use its image commercially without written permission. They have won every time they’ve sued. 

The massive statue, erected in 1990, is located on N. 36th Street at Troll Avenue N., under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge (also known as the Aurora Bridge). It is eighteen feet high, weighs six-and-a-half tons, and is made of steel rebar, wire, and concrete.

It is clutching a Volkswagen Beetle with a California license plate made to look as if it had grabbed it from the highway above. Originally, the car held a time capsule, including a plaster bust of Elvis Presley, which was stolen when the sculpture was vandalized.

The homeless and homeless advocates objected to the construction of the Troll claiming it was their space and they didn’t like the Troll one bit as they found him scary but the City was very concerned, I think rightfully, about the drug usage and overdose deaths there. (I lived in Seattle for a time and I know how bad things could get there.) The area was cleaned up shortly after the Troll came.

In 2005, the segment of Aurora Avenue North under the bridge, running downhill from the Troll to North 34th Street was renamed “Troll Avenue” in honor of the sculpture.

In 2022, the Seattle Kraken, the new NHL team, introduced Buoy, a mascot which was said to be the Fremont Troll’s nephew.

Here’s the Troll with a human companion to give you an idea of just how huge it is.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 4, 1949 Jeff Bridges, 73. Academy Award-winning Actor whose best genre role by far is, I’d say, was as the Oscar-nominated, Saturn-winning lead in Starman – but many genre fans would offer his Saturn-winning dual role as Keven Flynn/CLU in TRON and the followup TRON: Legacy as his main genre credential. Other genre work includes Kiss Me Goodbye, K-PAX, Tideland, King Kong (1976), the Saturn-nominated titular character in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man, and the voice of Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. He appeared also as an undead police officer in a film called R.I.P.D. (the Rest in Peace Department), which was either really bad or really, really bad. The studio actually made a sequel which amazingly scored even lower at Rotten Tomatoes. No, he wasn’t in it. 
  • Born December 4, 1949 Rich Lynch, 73. Writer, Editor, Historian, and Fan who with his wife Nicki produced the long-running fanzine Mimosa from 1982 to 2003, which was nominated fourteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, winning six of those years. He has been a member of several fan groups and APAs, chaired a Chattacon, and edited the 1998 Worldcon Souvenir Program Book. He and Nicki have been Fan Guests of Honor at several conventions, and were honored with the Phoenix Award by Southern Fandom. (JJ)
  • Born December 4, 1949 Pamela Stephenson, 73. Psychologist, Writer, Actor, and Comedian who was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, and emigrated to the UK. She may be recognized by genre fans as villain Robert Vaughn’s moll in Superman III, or as Mademoiselle Rimbaud in Mel Brooks’ alt-history History of the World: Part I. Other roles include the films The Comeback and Bloodbath at the House of Death, and guest parts on episodes of Space: 1999, The New Avengers, Tales of the Unexpected, and – of special interest to Ursula Vernon fans – a 3-episode arc as Wombat Woman on the British series Ratman. She is married to comedian Billy Connolly, with whom she has three children; she was the travel researcher for his film series Billy Connolly’s World Tour of…, which JJ highly recommends, as each trip includes visits to numerous interesting sites of quirky, bizarre, and supernatural reknown.
  • Born December 4, 1954 Tony Todd, 68. Let’s see… He was a memorable Kurn in Next Gen and Deep Space Nine, he plays Ben in Night of the Living Dead, he’s of course the lead character in the Candyman horror franchise, William Bludworth in the Final Destination film franchise, Cecrops in Xena: Warrior Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Those are just selected highlights. He reprises the lead role in the latest Candyman. And a most deep voiced Darkseid in the DCU animated films.
  • Born December 4, 1954 Sally Kobee, 68. Fan, Bookseller, filker. She has served on the committees for myriad conventions, and chaired both Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 and OVFF 10, and WFC 2010 and 2016. She was honored as a Fellow of NESFA and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon XXVII. She and her now late husband purchased a bookstore in the 90s. She continues to sell books at conventions.
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 65. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia, she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carr-led workshop. And she’s an editor as well having edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. She’s won three Ditmar Awards, an A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed! I’ve not read her, so who can tell us what they liked?
  • Born December 4, 1974 Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 48 . Engineer, Physicist, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan. Known in fandom as Netmouse, she was a member of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association, and has served on numerous convention committees and chaired three ConFusions. As a member of Midfan, which ran four Midwest Construction regional conrunner training conventions in the 2000s, she was editor of their publication MidFanzine. She is a past president of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. She is married to Brian Gray, with whom she won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2010; they went to Eastercon and Corflu in the UK and produced a TAFF trip reporta piece on the Sherlock Holmes museum, and a photo album. (JJ)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a Cecil B. DeMille moment.
  • Close to Home presents an overwrought moment in robot parenting.
  • Lio has a robot that doesn’t understand holiday decorations yet.
  • Get Fuzzy makes a dino-based pun and panics the pets.

(10) THE WEE OF WATER.  Huffpost takes notes as “James Cameron Weighs In On When To Pee During His Lengthy ‘Avatar’ Sequel”.

“Any time they want. They can see the scene they missed when they come see it again,” he said.

(11) KEEP WATCHING THE SPIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A Wall Street Journal opinion piece says that the whole military “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena“ phenomenon has been bunco all along—deliberate disinformation on the part of the Pentagon and/or US intelligence agencies. 

But then again, the same guy is of the opinion that the missing Clinton emails were the real story of the 2016 election, not potential Russian collusion.

But then, yet again, even a stopped calendar is occasionally correct. “The UFO Bubble Goes Pop”

Call it the buildup to a letdown, as the latest of the required intelligence reports to Congress on the UFO question undergoes a prolonged and likely angst-filled vetting before being delivered to the relevant committees.

A month has passed since its leaked contents were detailed in the New York Times, and still the document has not appeared and it’s not hard to guess why. Its findings will be surprising only to those who imbibed previous official disinformation on so-called UAP, or unidentified aerial phenomena. The most credible and widely trumpeted sightings by Navy pilots now are explained as illusions. Though Chinese surveillance drones do operate in areas where U.S. training flights occur, these are conventional drones, with no unusual capabilities. They aren’t the uncannily speedy, supernaturally maneuverable objects mentioned in previous accounts.

Bingo. Last year’s first mandatory intelligence report in what now seems a misdirection claimed several sightings “appear to demonstrate advanced technology.” A procession of current and former officials in the media hinted at secret and disturbing knowledge. The public was listening, with academics speculating that the long history of such now-validated sightings means aliens have been among us for decades if not millennia. America’s allies and adversaries were listening too, and reasonably wondered if our military pilots were actually recording encounters with secret U.S. super-capabilities that might tip the military balance….

(12) INSIDE JOKERS. Ranker offers “25 Jokes That Scientists Will Love”. You may laugh, too!

You wouldn’t think it from the lab coats and pale skin, but scientists are super funny. When you’re cooped up in a laboratory or a classroom, you’ve got to have a sense of humor to get you through the day. The jokes on this list of jokes for science geeks are the perfect one-liners and puns to get you through a long day of staring through a microscope. Whether you’re at Fermilab, CERN, or just your local university, feel free to try out any one of the entries on our list of funniest jokes for scientists. We hope you’ve got some med students down the hall, because guts are about to start busting….

Joke #3 –

Two Chemists Walk Into A Bar. The First Says “I’ll Have Some H20.”

The second says, “I’ll have some H20 too.” The second chemist dies.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/16/22 I Can Scroll Clearly Now The Pixel’s Come, I Can See All Comments Now In This Thread, Gone Are The Strange Trolls That Spoiled My View, It’s Going To Be Bright, Bright, Bright Pixelly Scroll

(1) WISCON HANGS IN THE BALANCE. WisCon not only is trying to recruit people for leadership, their blog says the fate of their 2023 event depends on whether the positons are filled by November 30. “Co-Chair and Online Con Leads needed to have in-person, online events in 2023”.

…Last week Stephanie [Sarac] announced she would be stepping down as co-chair for WisCon 46 in 2023. Please join us in thanking Stephanie for all the hard work she did on the post-con survey, Guest of Honor nominations, and department outreach/coordination as co-chair. We’re really grateful for her willingness to jump into things after having only attended WisCon one time!

…In the interest of transparency, we want to let you all know that if the open Co-Chair position isn’t filled by end of November, the in-person con will be cancelled.  It is possible we may still do an Online-only con in that scenario, but that depends on a number of other variables.  If we’re able to fill the Co-Chair position but aren’t able to recruit Online Con Department lead(s), the con will be in-person only (we won’t be able to have online or hybrid programming). In either scenario of in-person and/or online con not being able to happen, we will use that time to build up departments, train up leads and chairs, fundraise, and put ourselves in the best possible position for a full event the following year.

(2) THE NEXT FANAC.ORG ZOOM. Fanac.org will host an interview with Maggie Thompson titled “Before, During and After the Origins of Comics Fandom,” with interviewer Dr. Chris Couch on Sunday October 30 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.  To attend the Zoom session, send a request to Edie Stern, the FANAC webmaster at [email protected].

A list of past sessions, which are all available on FANAC’s Fan History YouTube channel, go to https://fanac.org/zoom.html.

(3) SIMPLE ANSWER. Dorothy Grant has sound answers to the question “What do you have to read in order to write in a genre?” at Mad Genius Club. Similar to what Larry Niven says, that a writer must read widely in order to “stock the shelves” of the imagination.

This question was posed elsewhere, and responses were quick to make fun of mandatory reading, and of “Reading The Classics”. I, on the other hand, propose a different answer.

There is no have to. Do I look like your abuela? But here is what you should do, in order to improve:

Read widely. Read deeply. Read the critically-acclaimed successes. Read the high-selling works the critics declaimed as Trash or Merely Pulp….

(4) EYES LOCKED ON. Joachim Boaz considers TV in “Future Media Short Story Review: Ray Bradbury’s ‘Almost the End of the World’ (1957)” at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations.

…Ray Bradbury conjures a strange new world without television….

.. Ray Bradbury’s “Almost the End of the World” first appeared in The Reporter (December 26, 1957). It later appeared in his short story collection The Day It Rained Forever (1959). If you have an Internet Archive account, you can read it online here.

In multiple earlier reviews in this series, I’ve laid out television’s transformative and speedy infiltration of the American consciousness and daily activities over the course of the 1950s. Multiple Bradbury stories critique this new world. The lovely and crystalline “The Pedestrian” (1951) imagined a future night city in which its denizens are transfixed by their TV scenes. The city, observed by the solitary one-time writer Leonard Mead, is as silent as “a wintry, windless Arizona country” (90). “Almost the End of the World” (1957) ruminates on the effects on American society if a cosmic event severs the viewer from the succor of the screen….

(5) BILL AT 91. “William Shatner talks growing older, living life without regrets” in a Yahoo! interview about his new memoir, Boldly Go.

You write in your book about when you first told your parents that you wanted to be an actor. Did they live long enough to see your success?

[When I told them], they looked at me like, “Who are you? Where did you come from? What’s acting again? Isn’t that what a minstrel does?” [Laughs] I think my father must have thought, because he came from Europe to Montreal when he was about 9 or 10 … that his son wanted to be on a horse and wagon roaming across the country.

My father was around when Star Trek began [in 1966]. He died in 1968. I don’t how much of a success I was then, but I was making a living. My mother lived until a few years ago, so she saw that success. The success part wasn’t as [important to them] as long as I could make a living. And that varied as time went on, and as more and more children arrived. The definition of what a living was increased.

(6) CHAN DAVIS APPRECIATION.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alan Wald, H. Chandler Davis Collegate Professor at the University of Michigan, remembers the sf writer Chan Davis, who died last month at 96. “H. Chandler Davis Was a Lifelong Radical and a Moral Touchstone for the Left” at Jacobin.

Chandler Davis (born Horace Chandler Davis and called “Chan” by his friends) was an internationally esteemed mathematician, a minor science fiction writer of note, and among the most celebrated political prisoners in the United States during the years of the high Cold War.

Dismissed from the University of Michigan (U-M) in 1954 for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on First Amendment grounds, he served six months in Danbury Federal Correctional Institution in Connecticut, then faced an academic blacklist that drove him to pursue a career in Canada.

The death of this endlessly resilient, lifelong radical at the age of ninety-six on September 24 in Toronto seems like the passing of an emissary from a world of the socialist Left that no longer exists. Despite errors of political judgment, which Chan was the first to acknowledge, he was for many of us a moral touchstone in our own decades of political upheaval and unpredictability….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1959 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Twilight Zone’s “Mr. Denton On Doomsday” (1959)

Portrait of a town drunk named Al Denton. This is a man who’s begun his dying early—a long, agonizing route through a maze of bottles. Al Denton, who would probably give an arm or a leg or a part of his soul to have another chance, to be able to rise up and shake the dirt from his body and the bad dreams that infest his consciousness. In the parlance of the times, this is a peddler, a rather fanciful-looking little man in a black frock coat. And this is the third principal character of our story. Its function: perhaps to give Mr. Al Denton his second chance. — Opening narration

Rod Serling was, if I must say so, bloody brilliant. And “Mr. Denton On Doomsday”, just the third episode of this series, shows this. (If you’ve not seen it of late, the series it is airing on Paramount +.) A Western, it’s also really look at how a man, two in fact can be redeemed.

SPOILERS LIKE WHISKEY IN A FICTIONAL WESTERN BAR FLOW NOW, SO GO AWAY!

Denton, our lead here played  by Dan Duryea, was once known as the quickest draw in town, but riddled with increasing guilt over the dead in his gun fights, one just a teenager, he became drunk and the derision of everyone in this Western town.

(There’s an animated Jonah Hex where this very storyline comes up. It’s called DC Showcase: Jonah Hex and Jonah, when the way-too-young male draws on him, hits with his rifle and knocks him quite unconscious. Right now, I think the only place you can see that is HBO Max.) 

A stranger offers him redemption. But he knows gunslingers come from miles around to seek him out and, inevitably, kill him. Or so he fervently hopes. The stranger named Fate (HA!) offers him and another gunfighter each a bottle of the potion. 

They fight, do not kill each other, but wound their shooting hand, thus ending their days as gunslingers. 

Fate tips his hat to Denton and rides quietly out of town.

DRINK UP, I’M DONE WITH SPOILERS. REALLY, I AM.

Martin Landau who played Dan Hotaling (the younger gunslinger) here would return to play Major Ivan Kuchenko in “The Jeopardy Room” which I’ve already essayed. He would also appear in two more Twilight Zone episodes, “The Beacon” and “One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty”. 

The harmonica music you hear in the background is an old Russian folksong known as “Stenka Razin”.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 16, 1924 David Armstrong. He appeared in two Trek episodes, “A Taste of Armageddon” as a guard to the Eminiar, uncredited of course, and as Kartan in “Operation – Annihilate!” and, though having a name, also uncredited according to Memory Alpha. He also had an amazing twenty-two appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. where he was only credited when he showed as Thrushman, which must have been some sort of inside joke. Genre roles were common for him — I SpyGet Smart!The InvadersThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Kolchak were all where he showed up. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the BSFA Award for Best Film and is based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. (Died 2022.)
  • Born October 16, 1926 Joe Sinnott. He worked primarily as an inker. He is best remembered for his work on the Fantastic Four from the Sixties to into the Eighties, with it being first over the pencils of Jack Kirby. He worked, mostly as a freelancer, some sixty years at Marvel, where he had long runs on The AvengersThe Defenders and Thor. And yes, he deserved many an Award  — the Alley Award, the  Inkpot Award, the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, the Inkwell Awards Hall of Fame and finally the Retro Inkwell Awards Favorite Inker. (Died 2020.)
  • Born October 16, 1947 Guy Siner, 75. Apparently he’s one of only 32 actors to appear in both the Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”.  And that might place him in very select acting company indeed.
  • Born October 16, 1958 Tim Robbins, 64. I think his finest role was as Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, but his first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in Green Lantern
  • Born October 16, 1965 Joseph Mallozzi, 57. He is most noted for his work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three Stargate series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series. 
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 49. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Real Humans upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld blends literary analysis with psychoanalysis.

(10) THE GHOSTS OF COMICS PAST. “When DC Seriously Tried to Prove Bob Kane Wasn’t Actually Drawing Batman” – a “Comic Legend” history piece by Brian Cronin.

COMIC LEGEND:

Mort Weisinger tried to prove that Bob Kane wasn’t actually drawing his Batman comics when Kane added Lew Sayre Schwartz as his ghost in 1948

STATUS:

True

A while back, I wrote about the peculiar situation when it came to Bob Kane’s ghosts on the Batman comic books heading into the 1960s. The majority of the artwork being done for Batman comic books throughout the 1950s and 1960s was by “Bob Kane,” but obviously, for that much artwork to be produced, no one believed that Bob Kane was doing it all himself. As it turned out, by the mid-1950s, Kane wasn’t doing it at ALL, with Sheldon Moldoff doing ALL of the work that was credited to Kane…

(11) AN EARLY FILER. [Noted by John Hertz.]

Plutarch grappled with … the import of the word E’i inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. In Greek it can mean “Five”; it can mean “If”: but above all it means “Thou Art”.

M.A. Screech, intr. to Montaigne’s Apology for Raymond Sebond p. xxix (1993)

(12) GETTING WHAT THEY DESERVE? Molly Odintz reviews books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Stephen Graham Jones at CrimeReads: “These Books Prove We’re Living In a Golden Age of Horror”.

…There are several converging factors for the rise in horror. First, we can’t underestimate the impact of Jordan Peele or the film Midsommar on the trends of social horror and folk horror, respectively. We apparently now wish to not only watch what we want to read, but read what we want to watch. Second, horror fiction, like crime fiction, is a vastly more diverse landscape than just a few years ago, and a genre that I’d previously stereotyped as full of fear of the other (sorry, Stephen King!) is now distinguished by sympathy for the other. Third, we’ve all gotten far more interested in haunted houses since we became forced to spend every waking hour in them. And fourth, people have simply gotten worse, and it is correspondingly more satisfying to watch them die (hence the return of the slasher)….

(13) ALSO ON CRIMEREADS. Michael Gonzales looks at the 1968 sf film Wild In The Streets. “Rock & Roll Apocalypse: ‘Wild in the Streets’”.

…It was during one of my Saturday night movie marathons that I first saw the politically charged sci-fi satire Wild in the Streets (1968), a flick about a bugged-out alternative America guided by an insane pop star named Max Frost, his band mates The Troops and the millions of fans. Twenty-two-year-old Max despised anyone over 30, and throughout the film worked hard to get rid of mature adults who were “stiff with age.” Played with crazed charisma by method actor Christopher Jones, a southern mumbler who critics compared to James Dean, Max Frost began his mission by partnering with a youngish (thirty-seven years old) congressman who helped him by getting the voting age lowered to fourteen…. 

(14) EYE OPENER. This must be my Mercedes Lackey moment, because our printing “Bulgaria” when it should have been “Croatia” is something I would have thought was more like an easily fixed mistake. Evidently it’s much worse.

(15) LIZARDS IN THE WILD. Check out the rather funny cosplay encounter at “EV Grieve: Saturday’s parting shot”.

A tail of two cities today near Union Square … photo by Derek Berg

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George discovers that it’s really hard for people in 2022 to explain to the world in 1996 what the metaverse is like. “Time Traveler Discovers The Metaverse – THE FUTURE IS DUMB”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John Hertz, 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 Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 9/9/22 The Risk of Repeating Scroll Titles is Real

(1) YOU’RE NOT FOOLING ANYONE EXCEPT YOURSELF. Cat Rambo tells SFWA Blog readers to “Stop Multitasking”.

I am here to say: Stop multitasking. Yes, I understand its appeal. Like many writers, I love the idea of multitasking, the notion that one can be doing two things at once, such as driving to work while dictating one’s novel, or answering e-mails while dialed into a Zoom call and listening to a meeting.

How could we not embrace that notion? It holds the promise of getting more done, with a little edge of “easier.” That’s a seductive promise. Particularly if you suffer from a particular and common form of writer’s guilt: the awareness that even when you are working on one piece, you are not working on some other piece of writing. And like many seductive promises, it is a false one. Humans consistently overestimate their ability to multitask, and you are probably not the exception to that. It’s okay. I’m not either.

Multitasking, for the overwhelming majority of people, is not compatible with writing….

… Multitasking may be more obvious than you realize. I was on a podcast recently while my mother was texting me, and while the host was speaking, I took a second to read those and make sure everything was okay. The host stopped and said, “I feel like I lost you there,” and I realized at that moment that yes, my focus and energy had lessened, and that was pretty uncool. Since then, I try to give podcasts and other recordings 100 percent of my attention….

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to meet Max Gladstone for a Mexican meal in episode 180 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Max Gladstone

I’d like you have lunch with Max Gladstone. Max is perhaps best-known for his Craft Sequence of fantasy novels which began in 2012 with Three Parts Dead, continued in 2013 with Two Serpents Rise, and so far consists of six volumes, which considered as a whole were nominated for a Best Series Hugo Award. His interactive projects include the Choice of the Deathless and Deathless: The City’s Thirst, which both take place in the world of the Craft Sequence. With previous guest of the podcast Amal El-Mohtar, he wrote the internationally bestselling This is How You Lose the Time War, which was published in 2020 and won the Hugo, Nebula, and Ignyte Awards. Gladstone also created the Serial Box series Bookburners, and the interactive television series Wizard School Dropout. His most recent novel, Last Exit, was published in March.

We discussed what a Godzilla movie has to tell us about the way future art will likely deal with the pandemic, our differing ideas over what we mean when we say we’ve written another draft of a story, how we’d be willing to dispense with the art inspired by tragedy if we could only skip the tragedy as well, the differences between his early and final drafts of Last Exit, how to make us care equally when writing from multiple points of view (and how doing so could cause the reader to trust the writer even more), what it is about science fiction that attracts dystopias, how our dreams have changed due to COVID-19, what we get wrong when we write about civilizations lasting thousands of years, and much more.

(3) REAL NUMBER$. Dorothy Grant shares a lot of publishing industry sales data while countering the recent “most books only sell 12 copies” meme in “Lies, Damn lies, and Statistics” at Mad Genius Club.

… Now data is a funny thing. It can be sliced and diced to create different types of views. For instance we could run the same analysis on ALL of those 487K new books published in the last 52 weeks, which includes many small press and independetly published titles, and we would find that about 98% of them sold less that 5,000 copies in the “trade bookstore market” that NPD BookScan covers. (I know this IS a true statistic because that data was produced by us for The New York Times.)

But that data does not include direct sales from publishers. It does not include sales by authors at events, or through their websites. It does not include eBook sales which we track in a separate tool, and it doesn’t include any of the amazing reading going on through platforms like Substack, Wattpad, Webtoons, Kindle Direct, or library lending platforms like OverDrive or Hoopla.

BUT, it does represent the general reality of the ECONOMICS of the publishing market. In general, most of the revenue that keeps publishers in business comes from the very narrow band of publishing successes in the top 8-10% of new books, along with the 70% of overall sales that come from BACKLIST books in the current market….

(4) INTERNET ARCHIVE AND CDL. “Publishers, Internet Archive Trade Reply Briefs in Book Scanning Case” and Publishers Weekly offers analysis.

In a reply filing last week, four major publishers further detailed their claims that the Internet Archive’s long-running program to scan and lend physical library books based is blatant copyright infringement that “ignores established law and undisputed facts.” And in a reply filing of their own, lawyers for the Internet Archive further insisted that the publishers are improperly conflating the market for licensed e-book lending with the IA’s efforts to facilitate traditional library lending.

The briefs come after the parties filed dueling motions for summary judgment on July 7, and more than two years after the publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House, organized by the Association of American Publishers) first filed its copyright infringement lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the Internet Archive’s controversial program to scan and lend books under an untested legal theory known as “controlled digital lending” is a massive piracy operation “masquerading as a not-for-profit library.”

In their 41-page reply to the IA’s motion for summary judgment, filed on September 2, lawyers for the publishers attack the Internet Archive’s claims that its scanning and lending of physical library books is merely an extension of traditional library lending, contending that that argument ignores clearly established law—most recently a high profile decision in Capitol Records vs. ReDigi, in which the federal courts forcefully rejected an upstart program to expand the doctrine of first sale (also known as exhaustion) to create a resale market for digital music files.

“IA argues that CDL ‘is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending’ and should be treated as a fair use since it ‘furthers the ends of copyright’s exhaustion doctrine,’” the publisher’s brief states. “This position is a study in blind denial that ignores established law and undisputed facts. Perhaps most astonishing, IA essentially disregards ReDigi, in which the Second Circuit held that (1) unauthorized reproduction is ‘not protected by [First Sale]’”; (2) the fair use doctrine cannot be used to expand the statutory scope of [first sale]; and (3) ReDigi’s actions were unlawful even though it used technology to avoid increasing the number of music files in circulation, a practice akin to CDL’s central principle.”

Under CDL, the Internet Archive and other libraries make and lend out digital scans of physical books in their collection under rules that mimic traditional lending: only one person can borrow a scanned copy at a time; the scans are DRM-protected; and the corresponding print book the scan is derived from is taken out of circulation while the scan is on loan to maintain a one-to-one “own-to-loan” basis.

But not only is CDL a fatally flawed, invented legal theory, the publishers argue, the IA doesn’t even follow the rules of CDL…

(5) AFTER ACTION REPORTS. Dave Hook takes us inside a couple of panels he participated in at the Worldcon.

Epistolary fiction has a long tradition in speculative fiction, starting with “Gulliver’s Travels” (1726) and “Frankenstein” (1818, originally published anonymously!) among others. As was noted on the panel description, some think it is undergoing a resurgence. One aspect of this is clearly the new modes of communication which were envisioned in some ways and which are now actual, such as email, text messages, twitter, etc. We could have equally argued that epistolary fiction never went away.

…The other factor which I observed for the 1944 and 1945 Retro Hugo nomination and voting was a substantial amount of voting based solely on the name of the author and not on the specific work on the ballot. Especially when I looked at the nominations in some categories, the only response I could offer was something like “WTF? I don’t believe they read this.” The 1944 and 1945 Retro Hugo Awards avoided major debacles in the works receiving awards, in my humble opinion, but this aspect of it was not confidence building. I get that we’ll always have some “Wow. I love that author, so I’m voting for them regardless of what they wrote here.”, but this is much more of an issue for the Retro Hugos….

(6) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Time Tunnel. Ahhh, Irwin Allen. A man responsible for a number of interesting genre undertakings, this being one of them. Fifty-six years ago, the same year that Star Trek premiered, The Time Tunnel series launched on ABC.

It was the third of Allen’s genre series, having earlier done Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. His last one would be Land of the Giants.

It starred James Darren, Robert Colbert, Whit Bissell, John Zaremba and Lee Meriwether. I’m convinced that every one of these genre series has to have a beautiful female on them.

It lasted one season of thirty episodes.

Please don’t ask how it stands up nearly sixty years on. Really don’t. I’m a Seven Days devotee.

Like of so many series including Star Trek, it was filmed in and around Southern California so scenes set elsewhere had that hilly landscape desert scrubby look where filming obviously occurred. Didn’t Galaxy Quest deliberately parody this look in several scenes?

The series was dropped because of network politics, as it was doing well in the ratings, in favor of The Legend of Custer. That series bombed in the ratings and only lasted seventeen episodes. 

Time Tunnel is apparently not streaming anywhere, however, episodes can be rented for viewing on Amazon Prime

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 9, 1922 Pauline Baynes. She was the first illustrator of some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s lesser known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major and of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of cartographers from the Bordon military camp in Hampshire, Baynes created a map that Allen & Unwin published as a poster in 1970. Tolkien was generally pleased with it, though he didn’t particularly like her creatures, especially her spider. (Let the disagreements begin…) (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 9, 1929 Joseph Wrzos, 93. He edited Amazing Stories and Fantastic under the name Joseph Ross from August 1965 through early 1967. He was responsible for their move to mostly reprints and a bimonthly schedule while the publisher refused to pay authors for the reprints saying he held the rights to them without needing pay additional renumeration and leading to severe conflict with SFWA. With Hannes Bok, he edited in 2012, Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration.
  • Born September 9, 1952 Angela Cartwright, 70. Fondly remembered as Penny Robinson on the original Lost in Space. She, like several of her fellow cast members, made an appearance in the Lost in Space film. She appeared in the Logan’s Run series in “The Collectors” episode as Karen, and in Airwolf as Mrs. Cranovich in the “Eruption” episode. 
  • Born September 9, 1954 Jeffrey Combs, 68. No doubt his best known genre role was as Weyoun, a Vorta, on Deep Space Nine. However, his genre portfolio is really, really long. it starts with Frightmare, a horror film in the early Eighties and encompasses some forty films, twenty-six series and ten genre games. He’s appeared on Babylon 5, plus three Trek series, Voyager and Enterprise being the other two, the Enterprise appearance being the only time an actor played two distinct roles in the same episode.  He’s played H.P. Lovecraft and Herbert West, a character by that author. Each multiple times. 
  • Born September 9, 1954 Graham Joyce. Let’s talk about him. The Tooth Fairy which won a British Fantasy Award is one damn scary novel as is Some Kind of Fairy Tale which garnered the Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel. I’m sure the latter kept me up several nights. His short stories are quite delicious which is why I’m recommending his 25 Years in the Word Mines: The Best Short Fiction of Graham Joyce. He stopped genre fiction writing well before his death. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 9, 1953 Janet Fielding, 69. Tegan Jovanka, companion to the Fifth Doctor. The actress had a rather short performing career starting with the Hammer House of Horror series in 1980 where she was Secretary Mandy on the “Charlie Boy” episode” before landing the the Doctor Who gig through 1984 before her career ending in the early Nineties. She was part of the 2013 50th Anniversary The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born September 9, 1960 Hugh Grant, 62. He appeared in The Lair of the White Worm as Lord James D’Ampton and in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E as Mr. Waverly. (I have not seen it. So how is it?) And he was the Handsome Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the 1999 Doctor Who special made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon. I know I’m missing some important genre wise about him, but what is it? 
  • Born September 9, 1971 Henry Thomas, 51. Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Let’s just say that he’s had a busy if mostly undistinguished post-E.T. acting career, though I will single him out for his rather good work in Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House series. He’s playing Doctor Mid-Nite in the Stargirl series on the DCU streaming service. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a crude but effective award joke.

(9) D23 SPIDER-MAN HIGHLIGHT. Marvel celebrates Spider-Man’s 60th anniversary at D23 Expo 2022 with a very special comic giveaway.  Two variants for Amazing Fantasy #1000 will be given to attendees of the “Marvel Comics: Celebrating 60 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man panel.” 

(10) SUBSCRIPTION CANCELED. “Amazon Cancels ‘Paper Girls’ After One Season” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service has canceled the series, based on a comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, after a single season. The decision comes six weeks after the eight-episode season debuted in its entirety.

The show received positive reviews from critics and solid audience scores on review aggregators, but it did not break out with viewers, based on what little data is available. Paper Girls didn’t make Nielsen’s top 10 original streaming rankings for any of the three weeks after its July 29 premiere….

(11) LAST WILL AND TESTAMENTS. However, Handmaid’s Tale will have a sixth season to wind up, and a spinoff. “The Handmaid’s Tale renewed for sixth and final season”.

Since premiering in 2017, The Handmaid’s Tale has received critical praise for its portrayal of Margarett Atwood’s dystopian novel, earning multiple Emmy Awards throughout its run. Now, Elisabeth Moss’ journey as June looks to have an end date. Ahead of the Hulu Original’s fifth season return on September 14, the show has been renewed for a sixth season, which will also be its last.

While this determines the end for the once-never-ending, dark narrative that we’ve gone on with June and other characters throughout the series, there are already spin-offs in the mix. Under the tutelage of The Handmaid’s Tale creator, showrunner, and executive producer Bruce Miller will come the sequel series The Testaments, based on Atwood’s 2019 sequel novel. Set 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the book is narrated by three women, including the villainous Aunt Lydia (played by Ann Dowd in the Hulu series).

(12) A LAST MISSION. “Another Star Trek Legend Honored With A Final Space Voyage” and MSN.com has the story.

Last month we learned that a portion of the ashes of Nichelle Nichols–who passed away at the end of July–would be joining the DNA of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Roddenberry’s wife as well as a Trek alum of multiple projects Majel Barrett, actor James Doohan, and visual effects master Douglas Trumbull on United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur mission. Today we learned another name has been added to those whose remains will soon start a fitting journey into deep space. The DNA of Star Trek: The Original Series star DeForest Kelley–who played Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the show and in many subsequent projects such as the first six Trek films–will be joining those of his late colleagues.

(13) WHEN COUSINS AREN’T TWO OF A KIND. “Gene-Edited Organoids Explore Neanderthal Brain Function” at The Scientist Magazine.

A gene called NOVA1, which plays a role in regulating the formation of synapses between neurons, could hold the key to understanding how we differ from our Neanderthal cousins. Researchers created human brain organoids with a Neanderthal and Denisovan variant of the gene, resulting in neurons that matured faster than neurons with a modern sequence did, developing synapses that fired at a higher rate, according to a study published yesterday (February 11) in Science.

“This is amongst the first studies of its kind to investigate how specific changes in the DNA of modern humans influences brain development,” Duke University’s Debra Silver, a developmental neurobiologist who did not participate in the research, tells Science

“It’s an extraordinary paper with some extraordinary claims,” developmental biologist Gray Camp of the University of Basel in Switzerland notes to Nature. Camp was also not involved in the current study but reported with colleagues last year an analysis of Neanderthal gene variants, which modern humans still carry, in human stem cell–derived brain organoids.

In human pluripotent stem cells, University of California, San Diego, neuroscientist Alysson Muotri and his colleagues used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system to change a single base pair in NOVA1, effectively converting the modern gene into an archaic version. The researchers then grew the cells in culture conditions to induce the growth of brain-like organoids up to 5 millimeters in diameter. Comparing them with organoids containing all modern DNA, Muotri tells Nature, the difference was obvious, with the CRISPR’d organoids being smaller with convoluted, rather than smooth, surfaces. “As soon as we saw the shape of the organoids, we knew that we were on to something.”

Muotri and his colleagues chose NOVA1 because they found that it is one of just 61 genes with modern sequences not found in the Neanderthal genome—nor in the genome of Denisovans, another archaic group of hominins—and because it has a prominent regulatory role in neurodevelopment. Dysfunction in the gene and its associated pathways has been linked with neurological conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.

In addition to the structural differences in the organoids, the team found that the archaic gene induced significant changes in the expression of 277 genes, including those involved in neurodevelopment. These differences translated into varying levels of synapse proteins and, ultimately, differences in firing patterns. In addition to firing more quickly, the neurons with the archaic variant of NOVA1 had less-orderly patterns of action potentials….

(14) A VERY EXOPLANET. Good old James couldn’t be expected to waste any time discovering boring ordinary planets! “James Webb Telescope Discovers Strange Alien Planet” at MSN.com.

… The alien planet known as VHS 1256 b is what is referred to as a “brown dwarf.” This is given to planets that are not big enough to ignite into the stars but are far too big to be considered a normal planet. In fact, this planet happens to be 20 times the size of Jupiter. Brown dwarfs don’t burn hydrogen like most other planets, but they do produce their own light and heat by burning deuterium. Astronomers believed that the reddish glow of the planet was because of the atmosphere, which has now been determined to be wild and turbulent, as various gases change on the planet. Astronomers have discovered water, methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sodium, and potassium all on the planet’s atmosphere….

(15) MEANWHILE, IN ORBIT AROUND RED DWARFS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Science journal reports, “Precise densities of red dwarf exoplanets help distinguish potential ‘water worlds’:  “Three types of planets orbit red dwarfs”.

Small planets orbiting faint red stars less than half the size of the Sun are numerous and could be the best places to search for signatures of life…

Luque and Pallé  present refined compositions of small planets orbiting around red dwarf stars. They find evidence that the planets fall into three main types: rocky, watery (including icy), and gassy. This result differs from most previous studies of small planets that have suggested only rocky and gassy types. Although the presence of watery small exoplanets is particularly enticing, all three types of planets around red dwarfs could present potentially habitable conditions for life.

Primary research paper here: “Density, not radius, separates rocky and water-rich small planets orbiting M dwarf stars”.

(16) BLACK ADAM. DC dropped this trailer for Black Adam. Only in theaters October 21.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Jamoche.]

Pixel Scroll 8/7/22 She Came In Through The Bathroom Pixel, Protected By Her Silver Scroll

(1) WSFS BUSINESS MEETING AGENDA UPDATE. Chicon 8 has released an expanded Business Meeting agenda — 2022-WSFS-Agenda as of 20220807. One of the many items added since the first draft came out in July is a motion to create a Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo.

(2) NEVALA-LEE’S LATEST. Pradeep Niroula deconstructs the figure at the center of Alec Nevala-Lee’s Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller, who “became a counterculture icon while entrenched in the very things that betrayed its spirit” in “The Making of a Prophet” for LA Review of Books.

HOW DO YOU write a biography of a man who lived like a demigod? A man for whom the vocabulary and syntax of the English language was so inadequate that he had to invent words, including “synergy,” “ephemeralization,” and “livingry” (a spiritual antithesis to weaponry, which, of course, leads to “killingry”), to articulate his ideas. A man who wore three wristwatches set to three different time zones to organize his day and who angrily banged his fists if you dared ask him for his address (“Young man, I live on Planet Earth!”). A man who believed that it fell to him to save the planet….

(3) ABOUT COSPLAY. Cora Buhlert posted another “Non-Fiction Spotlight” today. This one is for “Cosplay: A History by Andrew Liptak”.

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

In short, it’s a history of fandom as a community — not just the capital F literary traditions/community, but of the wider history of fandom and how it’s evolved and changed over the decades.

This was a particularly fascinating thing to watch as I interviewed folks or pored over documents from Fanac.org: how did the act of costuming become an institution within the worldcon scene, and how did it grow out and fracture as fandom expanded and Balkanized as science fiction and fantasy entertainment began to take over movie theaters, television sets, and video game consoles? It’s a really fascinating evolution, and one that I think is well worth paying attention to, culturally.

It’s a high-level overview of the larger fan world, one that touches on a bunch of these various tribes. I wanted to make sure that it was approachable to folks who have been fans for decades, long-time costumers/cosplayers/makers, and to folks who were just casual fans or who wanted to learn a little more. Hopefully, it’s a good entry point to understand the larger cosplay — and fan — world.

(4) FROM ORION TO APOLLO. The Compact Ella Parker is the latest addition to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s library of free downloads. And if you enjoy the book, a donation to TAFF is a fine way to express your appreciation:

Ella Parker was a prominent, London-based British fan of the 1950s and 1960s who published the highly regarded fanzine Orion from 1958 to 1962 and the later Compact in 1963-1964. Which should explain the ebook title The Compact Ella Parker. She was a founder member of the Science Fiction Club of London and of the British Science Fiction Association.

As a follow-up to his presentation of her 1961 North American trip report with third-party fannish commentary as The Harpy Stateside (2021), Rob Hansen has compiled this selection of Ella Parker’s other fan writing both before and after the famous excursion. As he writes in his Foreword, “I wasn’t sure that Ella – never the most prolific of fanwriters – had written enough to warrant such a volume but, happily, I was wrong. Taken together, the pieces she produced are the best account that we have of London fandom as it was in the first half of the 1960s. They also offer an interesting look into the larger fannish politics and convention issues of that period.” As a bonus there’s a long report, crammed with sense of wonder, of her attendance at the launch of Apollo 16 in 1972.

(5) EVOLUTION OF S&S. Brian Murphy shares “Some ruminations on sword-and-sorcery’s slide into Grimdark” at The Silver Key.

Sword-and-sorcery continues to show stirrings, and life. Outlets like Tales from the Magician’s Skull, DMR Books, new projects like Whetstone, New Edge, etc., are publishing new authors and new stories that embrace its old forms and conventions. Obviously the genre ain’t what it used to be circa 1970, but who knows what the future may hold for us aging diehards.

I speculate on some of the reasons why S&S died off in Flame and Crimson (which, by the way, just surpassed 100 ratings on Amazon—thank you to everyone who took the time to rate or review the book, as these help with visibility in some arcane, Amazon protected manner). I won’t rehash them all here, they are available in the book.

What I haven’t written as much about is why Grimdark filled the void, what makes that genre popular with modern readers, and what we might have to learn from this transition.

First, I am of the opinion that Grimdark is the spiritual successor to S&S. One of them, at least. I agree with the main thrust of this article by John Fultz. S&S has many spiritual successors, from heavy metal bands to video games to Dungeons and Dragons. But in terms of literature, the works of Richard Morgan, Joe Abercrombie, and George R.R. Martin, bear some of the hallmarks of S&S, while also being something markedly different…. 

(6) DIALOG ADVICE. Dorothy  Grant advises “Don’t serve sir sandwiches” at Mad Genius Club.

Or, advice for non-military authors when writing military.

“Sir, statement, sir.” “Sir, question, sir?” “Sir, blah blah, sir.” “Sir, yadda yadda, sir.” …NO. …

(7) ROLAND J. GREEN (1944-2021). Author Roland J. Green died on April 20, 2021. File 770 just became aware of his passing. Green wrote many books under his own name, and 28 books in the Richard Blade series published under the pen name “Jeffrey Lord.”

His first novel, Wandor’s Ride, was a sword & sorcery tale published in 1973

His alternate history short story “The King of Poland’s Foot Cavalry” from Alternate Tyrants was a Sidewise Award nominee in 1998.

The family obituary is here:

…Roland became an established science fiction/fantasy writer after his first novel was published in 1973, writing more than 60 works in his 30+ year writing career.

He was involved in historical re-enactments and could brilliantly spout off historical trivia. He enjoyed reading (favoring maritime history), drawing, and a good pun. When working or during leisure time you could always find one of his cats curled up next to him. Most of all he cherished and loved being a family man….

He is survived by his wife, Freida, a daughter, and a grandchild.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1981 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-two years ago on a very hot summer day not dissimilar to this one, I saw the Heavy Metal film which premiered today. I was familiar with the Heavy Metal magazine being an on-and-off reader of it. The illustrations were quite good and occasionally the stories were brilliant as well. 

The film was directed by Gerald Potterton who previously done animation on Yellow Submarine which was nominated for a Hugo at St. Louiscon. (Now there’s a film I hadn’t thought of as being genre.) 

As it was an anthology, a lot of folk were responsible for the source material: there was original art and stories by Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon (doesn’t he show up in the most interesting places?), Thomas Warkentin and Bernie Wrightson. 

It was produced by Ivan Reitman, known for his comedy work such as Stripes which I really liked and Ghostbusters II which I thought wasn’t nearly as good as the first film was, and Leonard Mogel who, well did pretty much this and nothing else. The screenplay was written by Daniel Goldberg, who also wrote the Stripes screenplay and Len Blum, who did the same. 

It had a big voice cast which frankly I don’t recognize outside of John Candy and Harold Ramis.

I’m not going to discuss the film itself as it has far too many stories to do so, nor will I talk about the more controversial aspects of it in the form of the nudity, sex, and graphic violence, though the critics below will. I liked some of it but thought most of it was just badly done. I certainly haven’t had any reason to go see it again. There was a sequel, Heavy Metal 2000, which I’ve no desire to see.

The reception among critics at the time was, to say the least, was mixed. Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune really liked it but criticized it for being sexist and overly violent. And Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times condemned it for its explicit sadism.  Reading through the reviews, a common note was that they thought the animation was really poor. And almost everyone criticized it for being overly sexist and way too violent.

It probably broke even as it cost very little to make, nine million, and made twenty million. It has, as many a site notes, a cult following now. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent sixty-seven percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 7, 1884 Billie Burke. This Birthday is new this year as she popped up on a list I subscribe to. Her best remembered role was as the Glinda the Good Witch of the North in oh-so-stellar The Wizard of Oz. But she did have some other genre roles. She is also remembered for her appearances in the Topper film series as Clara Topper, not altogether a favorable role but memorable none the less. She also starred in a version of “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” about a search for the Fountain of Youth on the TV’s Lights Out. (Died 1970.)
  • Born August 7, 1918 Jane Adams. Actress who showed in the Forties Batman and Robin film as Vickie Vale, Girl Reporter. (That’s how she’s listed at the time.) Other genre credits were House of DraculaTarzan’s Magic FountainMaster Minds (eat too much sugar and you can see the future — it was sponsored by a cereal company) and the Adventures of Superman series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 7, 1944 John Glover, 78. He’s got a wealth of genre roles, so I’m going to be highly selective. (Go ahead and complain.) He was Brice Cummings in the Bill Murray fronted Scrooged, and he voiced a great Edward Nygma who was The Riddler in Batman: The Animated Series, in Brimstone, he was both The Devil and The Angel, and he was Daniel Clamp in the second Gremlins film.
  • Born August 7, 1933 Jerry Pournelle. Some years ago, I got an email from a J. R. Pournelle about some SF novel they wanted Green Man to review. I of course thought it was that Pournelle. No, it was his daughter, Jennifer. And that’s how I came to find out there was a third Motie novel called, errrr, Moties. It’s much better than The Gripping Hand was. His best novel is of course The Mote in God’s Eye which he wrote with with Niven. And yes, I’ve read a lot of his military space opera when I was a lot younger. At that age, I liked it. I expect the Suck Fairy with her steel toe boots wouldn’t be kind to it now if I read any of it, so I won’t. I see though he hasn’t won any Hugos, that he has a number of nominations starting at Torcon II for “The Mercenary” novella followed by a nomination at DisCon II for his “ He Fell into a Dark Hole” novelette. The next year at the first Aussiecon, The Mote in God’s Eye got nominated and his Extreme Prejudice novel also got a nod. MidAmericaCon saw Inferno by him and Niven get nominated and his “Tinker” novelette also was on the ballot. Lucifer’s Hammer with Niven got on the ballot at IgunaCon II and his final nomination was at ConFederation for Footfall with Niven. Oh and at MidAmericaCon II, he got a nomination for Best Editor, Short Form. And yes, I was a devoted reader of his Byte column. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 65. First, he is largely responsible for the existence  of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes Duck Dodgers And Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. He’s responsible for the single best animated Batman film, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, as he wrote it. If you see it, see the R rated version. 
  • Born August 7, 1957 — Lis Carey, 65. A prolific reader whose reviews fill the shelves at Lis Carey’s Library. She is also a frequent Filer, contributor of numerous cat photos and even more book reviews. She is a longtime member of NESFA, and chaired Boskone 46 in 2009. (OGH)
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 62. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see that she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and four Lambda Awards, the first for Trouble and Her Friends, a second for Shadow Man, a third for Point of Dreams and a fourth for Death by Silver

(10) MUSIC TO HPL BY. Bandcamp has available for purchase “Nyarlathotep – A Tribute To Howard Phillips Lovecraft” by various artists.

Eighth Tower is proud to reprint the rare and long time out of stock compilation “Nyarlathotep – A Tribute To Howard Phillips Lovecraft”, originally released in 1997 by the label KADATH. With this remastered release Eighth Tower brings to light a jewel of the Portuguese post-industrial tape culture, featuring some of the most interesting projects from the late 90’s Portuguese, Italian and French underground.

(11) D&D&B. Chris Barkley passed this along with a comment that “This is fandom at its BEST.” Thread starts here.

(12) COMING TO TRANSFORMED SPACE. In October, “Star Trek Original Enterprise Model Returns to National Air & Space Museum” reports Collider.

The latest stage of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s renovations may have the museum temporarily closed, but Trekkies will have something to look forward to when it reopens on October 14: The Enterprise studio model used in Star Trek: The Original Series. The Museum is reintroducing the popular display as a part of its reopening later in the fall, unveiling 8 new galleries in the transformed space….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Steven H Silver, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Dominey.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/19 You Know Your Clicks Ain’t Bringing You Peace Of Scroll

(1) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. The LA Times profiles a published collection of stars’ correspondence: “‘Letters From Hollywood’ opens mail from Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford and more”. The image shows Bela Lugosi’s thank-you after being cast in Dracula.

…Neither realized how difficult it would be to find, acquire and get permission to use the letters.

They searched archives at UCLA, AFI, the academy, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Library at Boston University. They reached out to auction houses and families with personal collections.

Lang even hired private detective David Gurvitz to track down relatives for permission to publish the letters. “The copyright was with the writer, not the receiver,” he said.

(2) WE ASKED FOR IT. Saturday’s Scroll works hard for a living linked to The Guardian’s list of best books of the 21st Century, leading some of us to ask what a journalist would have picked in 1919 as the best books of the early 20th Century. The legendary Kyra took up the challenge —

Kyra’s Best Books List, 1900-1919

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Five Children and It
The Phoenix and the Carpet
Peter Pan
The Scarlet Pimpernel
I Am A Cat
The House of Mirth
The Story of the Amulet
The Enchanted Castle
A Room With a View
Anne of Green Gables
The Man Who Was Thursday
The Wind in the Willows

The Secret Garden
Howard’s End
O Pioneers!
The Valley of Fear
My Antonia

(3) YE OLDE DAYS. Fanac.org just scanned and posted 9 of the 12 issues of my genzine Scientifriction published between 1974 and 1983. I recommend Dave Locke’s column “Beyond the Shift Key” in issue #11 (1979) as perfectly illustrating the kind of faneditorial diplomacy I am known for and alluded to in comments yesterday…. and provoked Dave to yank my chain —

“What is your shtick this time” [Mike] queried me. “If I ask for fanhumor, what are you going to give me? Will you pretend to write a pain story while actually telling everyone why you think science fiction writers should be individually certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture?”

“I’ve never believed that SF writers should – “

He waved his hand again. “It was just an example,” he said. “And if I show a preference for something that will bring in a little discussion, what then?” He looked at me in a severe manner. “Will you draw a framework to support the philosophy that fandom has many direct parallels with the practice of cannibalism, and somehow use it to talk about the time you fell out of a rollercoaster into the cotton candy concession?”…

(4) DRINK TANK. Or if you prefer a really fresh fanzine, there’s The Drink Tank 413 – “Dublin 2019” edited by Chris Garcia and Alissa McKersie. Cover by Vanessa Applegate.

We take a look at the Dublin WorldCon through the eyes of Chairman James Bacon, Hugo nominee Chuck Serface, all-arounf good guy Fred Moulton, the photos of Jim Fitzpatrick, and a MASSIVE trip report by Chris! Cover is by Vanessa Applegate!

(5) INSIDE BASEBALL. Dorothy Grant raises a good question about fictional realism in “How long does recovery take?” at Mad Genus Club.

…In Science Fiction and Fantasy, we often employ handwavium – healing spells, regen(eration), nannites, divine favour, what have you. And that’s excellent, when needs must, the plot drives, and it’s worldbuilt in. (Who wouldn’t go to the clinic if they could?)

…Actually, that last sentence is an interesting source of complications. Who wouldn’t? Why would they be unable to get there, or to use it? What’s it like to be a person with more consequences for every risk than those around you, and how does that change their plans? As Brandon Sanderson put it in his Second Law of Magic, “Limitations are more interesting than powers.”

(6) MAIL EARLY FOR HALLOWEEN. The US Postal Service will release its Spooky Silhouettes stamp issue on October 11.

The Spooky Silhouettes stamps feature digital illustrations with Halloween motifs rendered as black silhouettes in eerily backlit windows. The images include a cat with an arched back beneath a raven perched on a bare tree branch, all against a yellowish-green background; two ghosts against an orange background; a spider and a web against a red background; and three bats against a purple background.

(7) COSMONAUT OBIT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Siegmund Jähn, the first German person in space, has died aged 82. Because he was from East Germany and went into space with the Soviets, his contributions to space explorations were sadly ignored in West Germany until the unification. I had never even heard of Siegmund Jähn until the 1990s, even though I shared the usual SFF geek’s interest in all things space.

 Here is an English language obituary: “A life for space: Sigmund Jähn, Germany’s first cosmonaut, dies aged 82”

 Siegmund Jähn was also the first and likely only person to officiate at a wedding in space. During his spaceflight in 1978, Jähn took along a doll of Sandmännchen (Little Sandman), star of a popular East German children’s program (though West German kids loved it, too, and I had a Little Sandman doll as a kid, courtesy of my Great Aunt Metel from East Germany). It just happened that his Soviet colleague Valeri Bykovski had also brought along a toy, a doll named Masha from some Russian children’s program. And on a lark, Jähn married the two dolls aboard Soyuz 31. The doll wedding was apparently filmed, though the footage was never broadcast, because East German television objected to Little Sandman getting married.

(8) EISENBERG OBIT. CNN reports “‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ actor Aron Eisenberg dies at age 50”. He played Nog, a character who appeared in 40 episodes.

In addition to “Deep Space Nine,” Eisenberg also had roles in the TV movie “Amityville: The Evil Escapes” and the features “The Horror Show,” “Playroom” and “Beverly Hills Brats,” all in the late 1980s.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

  • September 22 — Hobbit Day sponsored by the American Tolkien Society.  “Tolkien Week is observed as the calendar week containing September 22, which is always observed as Hobbit Day.  Tolkien Week 2019 will begin Sunday, September 22 and end Saturday, September 28.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash”,  the first episode of the series. Starring Gary Conway and Don Matheson, it would last two seasons.
  • September 22, 1973 — The Canadian-produced series The Starlost aired its first episode.  The program was originally conceived by Harlan Ellison, who changed his credit to “Cordwainer Bird” and ran away from it as fast as he could. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 22, 1917 Samuel A. Peeples. Memory Alpha says that he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek-lore, ‘[Gene Roddenberry] got “Wagon Train to the stars” from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, “Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?”’” (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 22, 1952 Paul Kincaid, 67. A British science fiction critic. He stepped down as chairman of the Arthur C. Clarke Award in April 2006 after twenty years. He is the co-editor with Andrew M. Butler of The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology. He’s also written A Very British Genre: A Short History of British Fantasy and Science Fiction and What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction.
  • Born September 22, 1954 Shari Belafonte, 65. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well-known genre performance. 
  • Born September 22, 1982 Billie Piper, 37. Rose Tyler, companion to the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. She later starred as Brona Croft/Lily in the  Penny Dreadful series. Not really genre, but she‘s in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North where she’s Sally Lockhart, a Victorian orphan turned detective. 
  • Born September 22, 1971 Elizabeth Bear, 48. I’ve enjoyed many of her novels down the years including Ancestral Nights. I’m also fond of her very early SF in the form of the Hammered, Scardown and Worldwired novels. And now you get you get to hear the very first time she read one of her stories, “The Chains That Refuse” as she let us put it up on Green Man.
  • Born September 22, 1981 Maria Ashley Eckstein, 38. She’s voice of  Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She also voices Dagger on the Ultimate Spider-Man series. Did we mention she’s 38? Not 27 or 37? 38!
  • Born September 22, 1985 Tatiana Maslany, 34. Performer of the multiple clones role in Orphan Black. Show won the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2015 for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” episode. She’s currently voicing in Aja & Queen Coranda in 3Below: Tales of Arcadia
  • Born September 22, 2001 Ghreat Revelation of Ghughle, age (if that’s really applicable) 17. As Fancyclopedia 3 puts it, Ghughle is a new and obscure fannish ghod whose Ghreat Revelation occurred to Steven H Silver on September 22, 2001 at a SMOFCon planning meeting. Within five minutes, the first schism happened when Erik Olson insisted on spelling the ghod’s name “Ghugle.” The Ghospel of Ghughle first appeared in Argentus 2 (2002).

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THE MAESTRO. CBS Sunday Morning interviewed “John Williams on reworking the classics – his own”.

In the hills of western Massachusetts, the mid-summer breeze carries the scent of honeysuckle and the sound of genius. This is Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and of its best-known artist-in-residence, John Williams.

The maestro actually lives in Los Angeles, but he says Tanglewood is where he’s done some of his best work. “Its effect on me is very spiritual and very exciting,” he said. “And I’ve written so much music here, so many film scores in this place. Right here, I come every summer – ‘Star Wars’ films, ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Schindler’s List,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ a great percentage of that work done physically here.”

And what astonishing work it is.

Williams is the most-honored movie composer of all time, with five Academy Awards (so far). And he has 51 Oscar nominations, more than any other living person. Only Walt Disney has more.

“I know you’re a very modest man…” said correspondent Tracy Smith. “But do you ever allow yourself that moment to step back and say, ‘Wow. Look what I’ve done!'”

… Fresh, indeed: Williams has recently reworked some of his movie music for violin, specifically for the instrument of Anne-Sophie Mutter, one of the greatest violinists ever to pick up a bow.

(14) X-FILES IMPACT. “Geena Davis just made children’s TV more feminist”, a piece by Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post about the efforts of the Geena Davis Institute to promote gender equity in Hollywood, has this paragraph quoting the institute’s president, Madeline Di Nonno:

Di Nonno recalls being commissioned by 21st Century Fox in 2017 to validate the ‘Scully effect,’ wherein Gillian Anderson’s character in ‘The X-Files’ inspired girls and young women to go into scientific fields.  ‘We found that 63 percent of the women who are working in STEM today attribute it to that character,’ Di Nonno says.

(15) ANCIENT MONUMENT. Gizmodo says the truth is out there – and for a change, not under water: Submerged for Decades, Spanish ‘Stonehenge’ Reemerges After Drought.

Receding water levels in Spain’s Valdecañas Reservoir has exposed a stone monument dating back to between 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.

Unusually warm weather produced drought conditions across much of Europe this past summer, including Spain. The lack of rain, while a headache for farmers and gardeners, has resulted in the complete re-emergence of an ancient megalithic site known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, as reported in The Local.

(16) GLASS BELL AWARD. Here is the official announcement:  “VOX Wins Glass Bell Award 2019”. Crime fiction news site SHOTS adds photos and a longer story: “Urgent, Timely’ Feminist Dystopian Debut VOX Wins 2019 Goldsboro Books Glass Bell”.

Debut novelist Christina Dalcher has been awarded The Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 2019 for her thought-provoking and suspenseful dystopian thriller VOX, which imagines a near future in which an evangelical sect has taken control of the US and women have been limited to speaking just a hundred words a day. 

(17) PASTURES OF PLENTY. A catalog of links to these book reviews can be found at Friday’s Forgotten Books: The name of the reviewer comes first, then the name of what they reviewed.

  • Patricia/Abbott: Beautiful Ruins by Jesse Walter
  • Stacy Alesi: The G List: Fiction Reviews 1983-2013
  • Angie Barry: New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith
  • Brad Bigelow: Angry Man’s Tale by Peter de Polnay
  • Paul Bishop: The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker
  • Les Blatt: Sealed Room Murder by Rupert Penny; The Case of the Fighting Soldier by Christopher Bush
  • Elgin Bleecker: Zero Avenue by Dietrich Kalteis
  • Joachim Boaz: Orbit 4, edited by Damon Knight
  • John Boston: Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories, October 1964, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli
  • Brian Busby: The Silver Poppy by Arthur Stringer
  • Joseph J. Corn: “The First Successful Trip of an Airship” by A. I. Root, Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1 January 1905
  • Martin Edwards: Dear Laura by Jean Stubbs
  • Peter Enfantino: Atlas (proto-Marvel) horror comics, September 1952
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: DC war comics, September 1975
  • Will Errickson: The Nightrunners by Joe R. Lansdale; Slob by Rex Miller
  • José Ignacio Escribano: Murder in the Maze by “J. J. Connington” (Alfred Walter Stewart); Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
  • Curtis Evans: Sudden Death by Freeman Wills Crofts
  • Olman Feelyus: The Girl from Nowhere by “Rae Foley” (Elinor Denniston); No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase
  • Paul Fraser: New Worlds SF, August 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock (Jeremiah Cornelius)
  • Barry Gardner: Down in the Zero by Andrew Vachss
  • Kathleen George: Scoundrels edited by Gary Phillips
  • John Grant: This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith; The Courilof Affair by Irène Némirovsky (translated by Sandra Smith)
  • Aubrey Hamilton: The Gourmet Detective by Peter King; The Defendants by John Ellsworth
  • Bev Hankins: Thrones, Donations by Dorothy L. Sayers and Joan Paton Walsh; The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North; False Scent by Ngaio Marsh; The Case of the Ill-Gotten Goat by Claudia Bishop
  • Rich Horton: Tanith Lee stories; Why Do Birds? and stories by Damon Knight; Wil McCarthy stories; Howard Waldrop stories; Steve Rasnic Tem stories
  • Jerry House: The Silent Death by “Maxwell Grant” (Walter B. Gibson); originally in The Shadow Magazine. 1 April 1933, edited by John Nanovic; Thriller Comics Library, 6 November 1956, “Dick Turpin and the Double-Faced Foe” written by Joan Whitford, story illustrations by Ruggero Giovanni
  • Kate Jackson: Stairway to an Empty Room and Terror Lurks in Darkness by Dolores Hitchens; Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie and Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making as edited by John Curran
  • Tracy K: More Work for the Undertaker by Margery Allingham
  • Colman Keane: Darwin’s Nightmare by Mike Knowles
  • George Kelley: The Great SF Stories 13 (1951) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Joe Kenney: Omerta by Peter McCurtin; Fire Bomb by “Stuart Jason” (James Dockery)
  • Rob Kitchin: Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum (translated by Felicity David); Tightrope by Simon Mawer
  • B. V. Lawson: Final Proof by Marie R. Reno
  • Evan Lewis: “Waterfront Wildcat” (text story) by Robert Turner, Crash Comics, November 1940
  • Steve Lewis: “Small Chances” by Charlaine Harris, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September/ October 2016, edited by Janet Hutchings; The Wiseman Originals by Ron Goulart; Wedding Treasure by David Wilson
  • Mike S. Lind: The Madhouse in Washington Square by David Alexander
  • John O’Neill: The Quiet Invasion by Sarah Zettel
  • Matt Paust: Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
  • James Reasoner: Stampede by “Yukon Miles” (Dan Cushman)
  • Richard Robinson: The Man in My Grave by Wilson Tucker
  • Sandra Ruttan: Sob Story by Carol Anne Davis
  • Gerard Saylor: Locked Doors by Blake Crouch
  • Steven H Silver: “The Button Molder” by Fritz Leiber, Whispers magazine, October 1979, edited and published by Stuart David Schiff; SF Commentary edited and published by Bruce Gillespie
  • Victoria Silverwolf: Worlds of Tomorrow, September 1964, edited by Frederik Pohl; Counterfeit World aka Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye
  • Kevin Tipple: Parker Field by Howard Owen
  • “TomCat”: Seeds of Murder by (F.) Van Wyck Mason; “The Case of Murder on D. Hill” aka “D zaka no satsujin-jiken” by “Edogawa Rampo” (Hirai Tar?), first published in Shin-Seinen, January 1925, and as translated by William Varteresian
  • Mike Tooney: Old-Time Detection, Summer 2019, edited by Arthur Vidro
  • David Vineyard: Prelude to a Certain Midnight by Gerald Kersh
  • Bill Wallace: The Day of the Monkey by David Karp; The White People by Arthur Machen; Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties & the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius by Gary Lachman

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Alive at the Autoplex” on Vimeo, Zachary Loren Jones explains how bingewatching “Survivor” can help you survive a cosmic catastrophe!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Darrah Chavey, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, James Bacon, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories.  Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chip Hitchcock.]

Pixel Scroll 3/22/19 Dial P For Pixel

(1) LABORS OF LOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club has completed its series of articles on the depiction of labor unions in science fiction. Olav Rokne sent the links with a note, “I welcome any feedback, and appreciate being informed of any omissions.” 

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out atWorldCon76, the major contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

Cory Doctorow has been one of the leading lights of the genre’s reappraisal of the role of employment in society and the relationship between workers and employers. Tackling such subjects as employment precarity, labour mobility, and income inequality, Doctorow’s work consistently shows a strong understanding of the labour union world.

Of particular note is his 2010 novel For The Win which depicts a unionization drive amongst workers who are paid to gather resources in a World Of Warcraft-style online game. This depiction shows the necessity of worker organization in the face of capital overreach, and is informed by knowledge of the systemic flaws in traditional labour organizing.

The first unmistakable labour union in science fiction cinema that we were able to find is the Textile and Garment Workers Union depicted in the 1951 Ealing Studios comedy The Man In The White Suit. The film revolves around the invention of an indestructible fabric by a mild-mannered chemist played by Sir Alec Guinness, and the subsequent attempts by business and labour unions to suppress the invention. The depiction of unions in this movie is broad and largely inaccurate, depicting them as collaborating with management and encouraging industrial sabotage.

Despite these inaccuracies about how unions operate, we will be endorsing The Man In The White Suit for 1952 Retro Hugos, . It is in most ways a superb and thoughtful piece of science fiction about the introduction of a new technology, and is elevated by witty dialogue and star-worthy performances (Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award that year for a different comedy from the same studio).

(2) COLD READING. Wil Wheaton has done a free audiocast of a 1931 story from Astounding, “The Cave Of Horrors” by Captain S.P. Meek at Soundcloud.

I needed to get out of my comfort zone, so I went to Project Gutenberg, clicked through a few bookshelves until I got to classic Science Fiction, and decided to do an unrehearsed, essentially live narration of a story that was published in Astounding Stories of Super Science in 1931.

It’s not the greatest story I’ve ever read (if I’d read it before I narrated it, I wouldn’t have chosen it), but it’s a fine representative of that era’s genre fiction writing. I had some fun doing my best impression of someone reading it in 1931, and I recorded it to share with any of you who are interested in this sort of thing.

(3) DAYS OF YORE. Rob Hansen has added reports, photos, and publications from “Brumcon 2 – The 1965 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory site THEN. Charlie Winstone’s conreport sets the stage:

It all started some fifteen months ago, – the Brummies, in a fit of derring-do, talked Ken Cheslin into standing up and calling for the 1965 Convention venue to be Birmingham. This he did, not without some misgivings. After all the British Science-Fiction Association’s Committee was also centred upon Birmingham. Still, there were plenty of Brummies (Easter Brummies, as they were christened by Archie Mercer) around – it was surely not an impossible task to put on a Convention.

(4) THE FINAL COURSE. Scott Edelman welcomes you to dig into dessert with Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle in Episode 91 of Eating the Fantastic

Colin Coyle

This episode of Eating the Fantastic almost didn’t happen, and not just because it was recorded somewhat spontaneously. No, the reason this episode almost didn’t happen was because instead of digging into dessert, we were afraid we might be spending the night being interrogated by the Secret Service. And if that had occurred, the blame would be entirely on Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle.

It was all due to his afternoon mission to visit the White House and fulfill Kickstarter rewards relating to his recently released anthology If This Goes On, edited by Cat Rambo. And because that title contains my short story “The Stranded Time Traveler Embraces the Inevitable,” I decided to tag along. We had an off-the-record lunch at Jaleo, but once we we’d completed our mission, we debriefed what we’d just done over dessert at Art and Soul.

We discussed the reason we were glad we got to record the episode rather than spend the night in jail, how the tragic events of Charlottesville inspired him to hire Cat Rambo to assemble the If This Goes On anthology, why he switched over to the Kickstarter model for this book and what surprises he discovered during the process, the reason his company isn’t publishing horror even though he’d like to, the surprising shared plot point slush pile writers used to indicate future American culture was failing, what an episode of West Wing taught him about launching Parvus Press, what he isn’t seeing enough of in the slush pile, the acting role of which he’s proudest from back in his theater days (hint: you’ve probably seen Danny DeVito do it), the advice he wishes he could have given himself when he started out as a publisher, and much more.

(5) RIGHTS GRAB. Peter Grant flags “Another Attack on Author Rights” at Mad Genius Club. He points to an Authors Guild report that the “Los Angeles Times Wants Rights to Books Written by Staff”, which begins –

One of the nation’s leading newspapers is attempting an unprecedented rights grab, according to its writers. In the midst of contract negotiations with its newsroom staff, the Los Angeles Times, purchased last year by biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shionghas proposed that its journalists, as a condition of employment, cede control of any books or other creative works made outside of their daily journalistic duties.

The Los Angeles Times Guild, a trade union representing some 400 newsroom staffers, has called the proposal “a new low in the newspaper industry,” pointing out that no other major newspaper has such strict copyright restrictions. “If we have a book idea related to our work,” according to the Times Guild, “the company wants unfettered power to claim control over whether it gets written, who owns the copyright and what we might get paid for it.”

 In a comment Dorothy Grant asks whether the AG complaint should be taken at face value:

Several thoughts on that: first, we’re not seeing the actual contract clause, we’re seeing what one party to the negotiations has taken public in an attempt to pressure the other side. Which means that the ratio of truth to hyperbole is… unknown.

(6) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. “Many of the short stories that inspired Love, Death + Robots are free online” says The Verge’s Andrew Liptak in a post that supplies the links.

(7) PUNCHING IN. Charlie Martin touts “The Power of Pulp” at PJ Media.  

But have you read any “quality” fiction recently? Between making sure that all the right demographics are presented in the exact right way, and the tendency of “quality” fiction to still be about nothing, most of it is not much fun. In fact, there’s even a technical term for reading that’s supposed to be fun: it’s called ludic fiction. It’s characterized by a particular experience: you get lost in it. You forget you’re reading and you’re engrossed in the vicarious experience.

Have you noticed that the people who stress the importance of “fun” rarely sound like they’re having any?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 22, 1920 Ross Martin. Best known for portraying Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. I watched the entire series on DVD one summer some decades back include the films in less than a month from start to finish. Now that was fun! It looks like Conquest of Space, a 1955 SF film, in which he played Andre Fodor was his first genre outing. The Colossus of New York in which he was the brilliant Jeremy ‘Jerry’ Spensser came next, followed by appearances on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, Zorro, The Immortal, Night Gallery, Invisible ManGemini Man (a far cheaper version of Invisible Man), Quark (truly one of the worst SF series ever), Fantasy Island and Mork & Mindy. (Died 1981.)
  • Born March 22, 1930 Stephen Sondheim, 89. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply into both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. 
  • Born March 22, 1931 William Shatner, 88. Today is indeed his Birthday.  I could write a long, detailed Birthday entry but y’all know everything I could possibly say here. Suffice it to that I did enjoy him on Trek for the most part and actually found his acting on TekWar where he was Walter H. Bascom to be some of his better work. Now the short-lived Barbary Coast series featuring his character of Jeff Cable was the epitome of his genre acting career. 
  • Born March 22, 1946 Rudy Rucker, 73. He’s certainly best known for the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which, Software and Wetware, both won Philip K. Dick Award. Though not genre, I do recommend As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel.
  • Born March 22, 1950 Mary Tamm. She’s remembered for her role as Romana, the companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” story. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season. This actress was soon to be married to Tom Baker. She also appears briefly in the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors through the reuse of footage from the uncompleted story Shada. Tamm had only one other genre gig, to wit as  Ginny in  “Luau” on the Tales That Witness Madness series. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 22, 1969 Alex Irvine, 50. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. He’s also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse.  For research purposes. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.  
  • Born March 22, 1978 Joanna Page, 41. Queen Elizabeth I in the first episode of “The Day of the Doctor” on Doctor Who in which the Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor and the War Doctor all make appearances. Other genre appearances are scant but she did play María on Bedlam, a British supernatural series, she was Gladys in a film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and she also played of Ann Cook in  the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s From Hell.  

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In Baldo someone has come up with a good trick for increasing their reading time.
  • Cats’ fascination with laser pointers is the basis for the science fictional humor in Grimmy.
  • Arctic Circle has a gag inspired by Chang’e-4.
  • A retro tech joke in Bizarro. (How many Filers remember when these were sold in the backs of comic books?)
  • BBC’s article “How a bookshop wolf handles awkward customers” includes lots of illos.

We’ve all heard of the saying “the customer is always right” but when you work in service industries, what can you do to vent your frustration when the customer is rather annoying?

Whether it’s children running riot, requests for the most obscure information, or just plain rude customers, Australian bookshop worker Anne Barnetson has faced it all. But she’s come up with a rather novel way of dealing with such awkward situations.

Anne is the creator of Customer Service Wolf, a comic found on Instagram and Tumblr. It gives a humorous anthropomorphic take on life dealing with strangers turning up in bookshops with strange requests.

(10) PLAYING IN OVERTIME. Tolkien and Hubbard are not the only prolific deceased authors in our midst. See “Isaac Bashevis Singer from Beyond the Grave” in The Paris Review.

As if in fulfillment of his own prophecy, Isaac Bashevis Singer has been astonishingly prolific in death. An untranslated magnum opus, Shadows on the Hudson, was translated into English in 1998, followed by a sequel collection of reminiscences of pre-1914 Jewish Warsaw, More Stories from My Father’s Court, followed by a steady, enviable beat of short stories, either unpublished or published in Yiddish but never translated, stories steadily adding to and enriching Singer’s great twin themes: the magical Yiddishkeit cosmos wrecked in World War II and the scattered, wandering survivors of that wreckage. In the past two years, Singer’s stories have been published in Harper’s and The New Yorker. Another, “The Murderer,” appears in the current spring issue of The Paris Review. Every few months, it seems, there is a Singer dispatch from beyond the grave, another unlabeled bottle floating in on the tide. Reading his bibliography, one would never guess he has been dead nearly three decades. And there will be more Singer for the foreseeable future, as the editor of his estate told The New Yorker: “There are novels, short stories, memoirs, even plays—some of which appeared in Yiddish and some of which … exist only as handwritten manuscripts.” Heaps of Singer’s words are wheeling blindly about in library archives, at the bottoms of desk drawers, manuscripts translated by hand on magazine tear sheets, unilluminated microfilm vibrantly uncollected and unclassified. He and his oeuvre refuse to be still. They seem to wend their way to the surface with something like the residue of Singer’s consciousness, or rather with the uncanny pseudoconsciousness of an automaton, set in motion by a now-dead hand.

(11) GAME IN THE WORKS. Rad Magpie’s mission is to “Support underrepresented creators and radical interactive media.” Their first in-house studio is working on the first Sri Lankan fantasy game to exist called Sigiriya with Mary Anne Mohanraj

Sigiriya is a mobile game set in the ancient Sri Lankan fortress of the same name. Our interactive experience marries heart-centered, narrative-driven gameplay with both fantastical and historical elements.

Our team is working to bring this game to life, and we are currently in the early production phases.

(12) YOU ASKED FOR IT, WE GOT IT.  “Toyota to Help Develop Moon Rover” says the headline, though Daniel Dern comments, “In my initial glimpse I thought it said “Moon River” and wasn’t sure if it was about the song, or they were going ‘Lunar Duckboats!’”

Toyota will be adding some depth to its development prowess when it partners with Japan’s space agency to create a manned lunar rover powered by fuel cell technologies.

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), though Japan has no plans to send humans into space at this time, the rover could serve as a building block to eventually get them there.

(13) DRAGON LADY. In her New Yorker article “A Battle for My Life”. Emilia Clarke, TV’s Daenerys Targaryen, reveals she had two surgeries for brain aneurysms after season 1 and season 3 of Game of Thrones, and discusses that people should be urgently treated if they have brain or stroke problems.

Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life. I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time.

(14) ABOVE THE STORM. BBC admires this photo taken by Juno: “Planet Jupiter: Spectacular picture of Jupiter’s storms”.

This beautiful picture of Jupiter was assembled from three separate images acquired by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft as it made another of its close passes of the gas giant.

The probe has a colour camera onboard and citizen scientists are encouraged to play with the data to make their own views of the planet.

This one, which is colour-enhanced, was produced by Kevin M Gill.

The US space agency has dubbed it “Jupiter Marble” – a reference to the full disc pictures of Earth captured by satellites down the years that have been called “Blue Marble”.

(15) LOOK OUT, IT’S A JUGGERNAUT! From BBC we learn – “Autonomous shuttle to be tested in New York City”.

A self-driving shuttle service is to be deployed in New York City by the middle of the year.

Boston start-up Optimus Ride will run vehicles on private roads at the Brooklyn Navy Yard site located on New York’s East River.

The shuttle will help workers get around the large site.

(16) CALL FOR A VERDICT. The question is: “Can you murder a robot?” The BBC story covers a lot of ground.

Back in 2015, a hitchhiker was murdered on the streets of Philadelphia.

It was no ordinary crime. The hitchhiker in question was a little robot called Hitchbot. The “death” raised an interesting question about human-robot relationship – not so much whether we can trust robots but whether the robots can trust us.

The answer, it seems, was no.….

Hitchbot is not the first robot to meet a violent end.

Dr Kate Darling, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), encouraged people to hit dinosaur robots with a mallet, in an workshop designed to test just how nasty we could be to a machine.

She also conducted an experiment with small bug-like robots.

Most people struggled to hurt the bots, found Dr Darling.

“There was a correlation between how empathetic people were and how long it took them to hit a robot,” she told BBC News, at her lab in Boston.

“What does it say about you as a person if you are willing to be cruel to a robot. Is it morally disturbing to beat up something that reacts in a very lifelike way?” she asked.

The reaction of most people was to protect and care for the robots.

“One woman was so distressed that she removed the robot’s batteries so that it couldn’t feel pain,” Dr Darling said.

(17) MERGER MASHUPS. Chris Hemsworth on Instagram celebrated the Disney-Fox merger by wearing a Deadpool outfit with a Viking helmet.  Ryan Reynolds marked the merger by wearing mouse ears on his Deadpool outfit on his Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

Our love child #thor #deadpool @vancityreynolds

A post shared by Chris Hemsworth (@chrishemsworth) on

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Feels like the first day of ‘Pool.

A post shared by Ryan Reynolds (@vancityreynolds) on

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Why Do Flat-Earth Believers Still Exist?” on YouTube, John Timmer of Ars Technica shows the increasinly flimsy evidence flat earth followers have for claiming the earth is flat.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/17/18 Come Away, O Meredithed Book, To The Kindle And The Nook

(1) ADVICE AND DISSENT. When Elon Musk described himself as “…a utopian anarchist of the kind best described by Iain Banks” on Twitter he got plenty of pushback. Soon Lee and Rob Thornton report that the pushers included Charles Stross, Hal Duncan, Cory Doctorow, and —

For those who need an introduction, Edward Champion’s 2013 essay “The Culture Novels of Iain M. Banks” looks promising:

When not committing his considerable energies to such intense Bildungsromans as The Wasp Factory or bleak-humored narratives like The Crow Road, Banks inserts an M into “Iain Banks” and writes science fiction novels. Most of these speculative volumes concern the Culture, a utopian-anarchist society that extends across a sizable cluster of the universe. These Culture vultures gambol across the galaxy in ships with such eccentric names as Don’t Try This at Home and Serious Callers Only. Culture citizens live for centuries, and can even change their appearances if they grow discontent with their corpora. These conditions encourage these civilized sybarites to have more fun than a flighty Dalmatian discovering a chiaroscuro sea of spotty companions. Never mind that there’s always an intergalactic war going on.

(2) DOLLAR BLAST. Just as you’d expect superheroes to do: “‘Incredibles 2’ crushes animation box office record”.

The Disney and Pixar film premiered to an estimated $180 million at the domestic box office this weekend. The sequel to the popular 2004 computer animated film soared past the record for biggest animated film opening in box office history by $45 million.

That record belonged to another Pixar film, “Finding Dory,” which opened to roughly $135 million two summers ago.

So far the film brought in $231.5 million around the world.

(3) BIG CAT. Should an owner discourage the ambitions of an SJW credential?

(4) HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED LEX. Some fantastic beasts who practice law in Hollywood are sowing darkness across the land: “Warner Bros. Crackdown Puts Dark Mark Over Harry Potter Festivals”.

Warner Bros. is cracking down on local Harry Potter fan festivals around the country, saying it’s necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity. Fans, however, liken the move to Dementors sucking the joy out of homegrown fun, while festival directors say they wll transfigure the events into generic celebrations of magic.

“It’s almost as if Warner Bros. has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town,” said Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch tournament that has coincided with an annual Harry Potter festival in suburban Philadelphia.

Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill’s business district director, said Warner Bros. reached out to his group in May, letting them know new guidelines prohibit festivals’ use of any names, places or objects from the film series. That ruled out everything from meet-and-greet with Dumbledore and Harry to Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.

(5) WELL ABOVE MINIMUM WAGE. Owen King tells readers of The New Yorker about “Recording Audiobooks For My Dad, Stephen King”.

My father gave me my first job, reading audiobooks on cassette tape. He had caught on to the medium early, but, as he explained later, “There were lots of choices as long as you only wanted to hear ‘The Thorn Birds.’ ” So, one day, in 1987, he presented me with a handheld cassette recorder, a block of blank tapes, and a hardcover copy of “Watchers,” by Dean Koontz, offering nine dollars per finished sixty-minute tape of narration.

This was an optimistic plan on my father’s part. Not only was I just ten years old, but when it came to reading aloud I had an infamous track record. My parents and I still read books together each night, and I had recently begun demanding an equal turn as narrator. Along our tour through Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped,” I had tested their love with reckless attempts at a Scottish accent for the revolutionary Alan Breck Stewart, whom the novel’s protagonist, David Balfour, befriends. Even as they pleaded for me to stop, I made knee-deep haggis of passages like the following:

“Do ye see my sword? It has slashed the heads off mair whigamores than you have toes upon your feet. Call up your vermin to your back, sir, and fall on! The sooner the clash begins, the sooner ye’ll taste this steel throughout your vitals.”

Despite this, my father enlisted me to narrate “Watchers.”

(6) WHAT A RUSH. It’s not going to take long for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 to fill up –

(7) ARCHEOVIDEOLOGY. Echo Ishii returns to the history of TV sff in “SF Obscure: Ace of Wands.

Ace of Wands is an ITV fantasy show broadcast in 1971 to 1972. It’s technically a children’s/ family show, but it’s fairly sophisticated and one that held my interest. Ace of Wands ran for three series, however, only the third series remains. At the time, ITV wiped old series due to the high cost of production materials and storage.

(8) CATCHY TITLE. Anna-Marie Abell gave her novel an irresistible name — Holy Crap! The World is Ending!: How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth. For the next couple of days it’s a 99-cent special on Amazon. If somebody reads it they can tell the rest of us whether it lives up to the promise of the cover.

Anna-Marie Abell grew up in a trailer park. Well, several actually. Her trailer was on wheels so she got to experience the Pacific Northwest’s vast array of mobile home parks as her parents moved her from one to the other. Somewhere along the way, she got totally into UFOs. Probably because she was hoping extraterrestrials would come and abduct her. But they never did. Luckily for her she was smart, because her only hope of escaping trailer life was college and a full scholarship. Moving to sunny California on her almost full ride to Chapman University, she was well on her way to her new life. Two bachelor degrees later (Film and Television Production and Media Performance), and several honors and awards for her accomplishments, she managed to start working in an almost completely unrelated industry from her majors: infomercials.

It was in college that she got bit by the “ancient alien” bug after listening to Zecharia Sitchin on Coast to Coast AM. In her pursuit to uncover the truth, she has spent the last twenty years researching the ancient Sumerian culture—in particular their “gods” called the Anunnaki—and their connection to the creation of the human race. What she found changed her life, her beliefs, and her understanding of the universe and everything beyond. Her humorous science fiction trilogy, The Anunnaki Chronicles, is a culmination of all her research, her borderline obsession for all things paranormal, and approximately 2,300 bottles of wine.

(9) FRONT, PLEASE. Dorothy Grant’s “Cover caveats” at Mad Genius Club is a great introduction to the process.

So where do you find your cover art and cover designer? Well, you can search the premade options put together by artists and designers, so you know exactly what it’ll look like when you get the “Your Title” swapped out for your actual title, and “Author Name” swapped for your pen name or real name.

Or you can get one designed for you. If you have no idea what you want or need, this can involve writing up a short description of the book or sending the book to the designer. Be aware that a busy professional designer probably will not read your entire book, but is skimming for worldfeel, character descriptions, possibly an iconic scene.

Or, if you’re a little more artistically inclined, you’ll send the designer / artist basically three sets of URLs.

First, links to bestselling books in the same subgenre that have covers similar to what you want. (send 3, so they can get a feel for what’s standard to that subgenre vs. particular to that single cover.)

Second, Send them URLs from stock photo sites that say “models like this”

Third, URLs from stock photo sites saying “backgrounds like this”

Artists think in pictures, not words, so communicate in visuals as much as possible.

(10) IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. I watched the first part of Live Slush Session 2 and was intrigued to hear Baen’s publisher and a contributing editor give candid reactions to authors’ manuscripts.

Baen Books’ Publisher Toni Weisskopf and “Slushmaster General” Gray Rinehart read the openings of volunteer submissions to give writers some insight into the evaluation process.

 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw how Deadpool celebrates Father’s Day at Brevity.
  • And Ben Solo’s dad featured in yesterday’s Brevity.
  • Mike Kennedy sent along Pearls Before Swine’s suggestion for how to get people to read. (He didn’t say it was a good suggestion….)

(12) ALDEBURGH FESTIVAL. The Stage’s George Hall reviews the opera based on a Silverberg story: “To See the Invisible review at Britten Studio, Snape – ‘a musical patchwork’”.

New at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival, Emily Howard’s chamber opera To See The Invisible has been freely adapted by playwright Selma Dimitrijevic from a taut and distinctly Kafkaesque short story by the American sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg.

The central character has been found guilty of the crime of coldness and is sentenced to a year’s invisibility, during which he is completely ignored by (almost) everyone he meets.

In Dimitrijevic’s libretto the character’s isolation remains severe, though he now has a family consisting of a mother, father and sister. His encounters with them and other individuals – in court, in a public gardens and a brothel – ameliorate his plight while also allowing some of Silverberg’s focused purity to dissipate.

In the opera he also has a kind of shadow in the shape of what the libretto describes as The Other Invisible – Anna Dennis’ female soprano regularly in synch with Nicholas Morris’ baritonal male. The character’s dual vocality is undoubtedly one of the more successful features of Howard’s score….

(13) IT’S NOT EASY BEING MEAN. Olga Polomoshnova analyzes the villain who gave evil a bad name — “On Sauron’s motives” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

Being the chief villain of the Second and Third Ages, Sauron sparks numerous questions concerning his motives. How did he become the evil figure we know him to be? Why did he run the risk of transferring a great amount of his inherent power into the One Ring knowing that it could lead to his destruction? Let us look at his downfall and motives through Tolkien’s own stories and letters.

Having risen like the shadow of Morgoth, Sauron was nevertheless different from his former lord. His downfall arose out of good motives, nor was he the beginner of discord. Sauron belonged to the Maiar — spirits created from Ilúvatar’s thought. He came into existence before the physical world took shape. Originally Sauron, who was known as Mairon (the Admirable) at that time, was associated with the people of Aulë, so he was a very skillful smith….

(14) EATON PHOTOS ONLINE. Andrew Porter labors on, identifying people in Jay Kay Klein’s photos. At the 1967 Worldcon, NYCon 3, this shot of a panel audience showed Walt Liebscher, Ray Fisher, Arnie Katz, Lee Hoffman, and Bob Tucker:

(15) A PENNYFARTHING FOR YOUR THOUGHTS. Ninety years ago, when Frank R. Paul painted his cities of the future, he didn’t include any bicycles at all. Now the BBC is asking — “Tomorrow’s Cities: Will the bike become an urban must-have?”

Fifteen years ago there were just four bike-sharing schemes in cities around the world, but now there are close to 1,000.

Most require you to pick up and leave a bike at a designated area, but new “dockless” schemes from China are coming to cities around the world – and proving controversial.

(16) THE MUMMY DIET. There’s a blog devoted to mummies, and Michele Brittany’s Musing on Mummies is up to “Episode 11: Sokushinbutsu and the Mummification Method Not Often Discussed”.

Ii-wey! Natural or intentional is usually what comes to mind when discussing the process of mummification. Certain environments, deserts, high altitudes or arid cold for example, will naturally dry the deceased, arresting the process of decay as a result. Intentional mummification requires human intervention after a person has died and most often, the Egyptian mummies come to mind. However, there is a third process that is not as well known.

Sokushinbutsu is a Japanese term that refers to a Buddhist mummy that remained incorrupt, or without decay after death….

(17) RADIO FREE BRADBURY. Listen to Ray Bradbury’s Tales of the Bizarre on BBC Radio 4. Four episodes are available online, with three more to come.

(18) NOT THIS WAY. “Astronaut Chris Hadfield says the rockets from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin won’t take people to Mars” — Hadfield told Business Insider why he’s skeptical.

…NASA’s Space Launch System, which is slated to debut in the 2020s, will power its engines with a combination of liquid hydrogen and solid chemical fuels. Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, is also looking to use liquid hydrogen. SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is staking its future on burning liquid methane, which the company believes it can generate on the Martian surface.

Like other experts, Hadfield doesn’t doubt that any of the vehicles could actually get to Mars; his issue is about the safety of any humans on board. Explosions, radiation, starvation, and other problems would constantly threaten a mission.

“We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk,” he said. “The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn’t make it. They’d die. Because the technology is still quite primitive.”

(19) EMMY TREK. Star Trek: Discovery submitted a long list of material to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in over 20 categories. The full list is available at the linked GoldDerby story: ”’Star Trek: Discovery’ Emmy Submissions: How Many Will it Win?”.

That post also links to a separate story showing Trek Emmy winners from the past series.

The original “Star Trek” series ran from 1966-1969 and didn’t win any Emmys, but it was nominated 13 times, including twice for Best Drama Series (1967-1968). “Star Trek: The Next Generation” followed two decades later and aired for seven seasons from 1987 to 1994, during which time it won a whopping 19 Emmys, all in Creative Arts categories. “TNG” struggled in top races, however, and wasn’t nominated for Best Drama Series until 1994 for its final season.

(20) DON’T QUIXOTE. Terry Gilliam’s tragedy-plagued project is still plagued but it may not be his anymore. Io9 reports: “Terry Gilliam Has Lost the Rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”.

Well, this is a strange new chapter in one of the strangest stories in modern film. For decades, famed genre director (and former Monty Python, uh, snake) Terry Gilliam struggled to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, his own surreal take on the classic Spanish novel. He succeeded, finally, with a rendition starring Adam Driver, and the film premiered this year at Cannes Film Festival.

Except, uh, apparently Terry Gilliam just lost the rights to it. Yes, that’s correct: as reported by Screen Rant, the Paris Court of Appeal just ruled in favor of the film’s former producer, Paulo Brancho, who sued for rights to the project on the grounds that Gilliam made the film illegally.

(21) OH NOOO…. When will they make an end? Comicbook.com is spreading the alarm, er, the — “Rumor: ‘Star Wars’ Actor Claims 9 Movies in Development, Including More ‘Story’ Stand-Alones”. Voice actor Tom Kane is said to have claimed there are nine Star Wars movies in some stage of development. Kane has provided voices for Star Wars video games (starting with Shadows of the Empire in 1996), TV shows (Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels), and several of the more recent movies (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi).

Only six of the projects are known:

Disney-owned Lucasfilm also has plans for fan-favorite Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and famed bounty hunter Boba Fett, who will reportedly receive his own stand-alone from 3:10 to Yuma and Logan director James Mangold.

Lucasfilm is also said to be developing an all-new trilogy under The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson, which will be unconnected to the Skywalker saga depicted in the episodic installments and set in an unexplored corner of the galaxy.
Johnson’s producer, Ram Bergman, recently gave an update on the “completely new trilogy,” saying, “It’s all new characters. Everything is new.” The project, he added, is “just in the early stages.”

Abrams’ Episode IX, Johnson’s planned three-movie series, and two new anthologies in Obi-Wan and Boba Fett make six, leaving three supposed projects on the docket.

[Thanks to Dann, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rob Thornton, Soon Lee, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Kevin Standlee, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 8/13/17 The Filers On The Hill See The Scroll Going Down, And The Eyes In Their Heads See The Pixels Spinning Round

(1) MUNSTER REVIVAL. “Who will play Marilyn?” John King Tarpinian wants to know. Variety reports “‘Munsters’ Reboot in Development at NBC With Seth Meyers Producing”.

The planned reboot is inspired by the original series and will follow an offbeat family determined to stay true to themselves struggles to fit in in hipster Brooklyn. Jill Kargman will executive produce and write the script, with Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker also executive producing. Universal Television (UTV) will produce along with Meyers’ and Shoemaker’s Sethmaker Shoemeyers Productions, which is set up with a first-look deal at UTV.

The development “The Munsters” reboot keeps Meyers in business with NBC, where he currently hosts the late-night series “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” In addition, the network recently ordered the Meyers-produced comedy “A.P. Bio” to series.

(2) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Gregory Frost and Rajan Khanna on August 16. The evening begins at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York.

Gregory Frost is the author of Shadowbridge, Lord Tophet, Fitcher’s Brides, and The Pure Cold Light and a whole mess of short stories of the fantastic. His collaboration with Michael Swanwick, “Lock Up Your Chickens and Daughters, H’ard and Andy Are Come to Town” won an Asimov’s Readers’ Award for 2015. That worked out so well that he and M. Swanwick are currently engaged in writing another collaboration. Greg is the Fiction Workshop Director at Swarthmore College, and with Jonathan Maberry founded the Philadelphia branch of The Liars Club, a collective of semi-deranged and often inebriated authors. Greg is working on a collaborative series with Jonathan Maberry based upon their novella “Rhymer,” published in the anthology Dark Duets.

Rajan Khanna is an author, blogger, reviewer, and narrator. His post-apocalyptic airship adventure series starting with Falling Sky and Rising Tide concluded in July 2017 with Raining Fire. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in Brooklyn where he’s a member of the Altered Fluid writing group.

(3) ABOUT THE CANCELLED ALZHEIMER’S LARP. Worldcon 75 published a “Statement on the Cancellation of LARP ‘A Home for the Old’”, a planned item that had drawn a lot of criticism in social media after people at the con saw the description in the schedule.

On Friday 11 August Wordcon 75 cancelled one of our programme items. A Nordic Freeform Event entitled “A Home for the Old” by Frederik Berg. The statement that we released in relation to this cancellation was neither a fair nor a full report of the facts and we would like to correct this.

Worldcon 75 believes that the event facilitator, Massi Hannula Thorhauge, would have guided the players with due regard for a subject as serious as Alzheimer’s. The convention asked her to run this event and we know she would have made sure those who signed up did not make light of the disease. She is a valued member of Worldcon 75 staff and we thank her for her time and enthusiasm throughout the con.

The description of the event published in the Worldcon 75 Programme was not a fair representation of the game. It was written for a specific audience and as presented to Worldcon lacks vital context and frameworks.

Both the convention and the event facilitators acknowledge more care should have been given to this, in light of the very sensitive subject and the cultural differences between many Worldcon members.

These cultural and contextual differences were at the root of the decision to cancel the item. While this freeform event has been extremely successful elsewhere we felt that it was not acceptable to the Worldcon members as presented. We were also concerned that some possible players may not have appropriately engaged with the material, given how different Worldcon is from Nordic gaming events.

We would also like to highlight how important gaming is as part of the genres we all love. Games such as “A Home for the Old” have helped those who have lost friends and relatives to Alzheimer’s and given them a greater understanding of the pressures put on those who care for people with the disease.

While playing games purely for fun is vital, they can also be used to teach, to explore even difficult subjects and themes, and to inspire. They are a hugely important part of a Worldcon programme and we are thrilled we have had so many people playing games in Helsinki this August.

(4) TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Dorothy Grant shares a warning about click farms at Mad Genius Club.

  1. Speaking of click farms, several indies have recently reported their accounts being locked / books taken off sale after buying “advertising” with a “guaranteed number of readers.” You know that picture of Batman slapping Robin? Yeah, picture that. Here’s how NOT to get your account locked and books delisted:

A.) You cannot guarantee buyers ethically. If buyers or readers are guaranteed, that means you’re paying a click farm to run a program on a laptop slaved to a bunch of stolen iphones, each loaded to an Amazon account, “borrowing” and “reading” them. Unless you’re paying a click farm in North Korea, in which case it’s a poor schmuck pacing down a table, manually finger-swiping every iphone.

B.) If you can’t sign up for their mailing list, it’s a click farm. Real promoters want everybody to sign up for their lists, so they can grow. Click farms say they have a list, but if it’s not obvious and easy to find, then it’s a lie.

C.) If they don’t have a website, it’s a click farm. ESPECIALLY if their only presence is a “closed facebook group.” Again, if they’re not soliciting more people to join them, they’re not right.

D.) If it’s too good to be true, it ain’t true. It’s more likely to be this: https://kotaku.com/inside-chinese-click-farms-1795287821

(5) NEBRASKA. Have a twofer: Carhenge is in the totality path: “As Eclipse Madness Sweeps U.S., A Stonehenge Made Of Cars Prepares”.

The ancients who built Carhenge back in 1987 didn’t know about this eclipse. Carhenge was the brainchild of a local named Jim Reinders, a petroleum engineer who spent years working in England. While there, he became acquainted with the prehistoric site of Stonehenge. It was built of giant rocks that people dragged for miles from the quarries. Archaeologists think the original Stonehenge was built to mark celestial events, such as the solstice.

Reinders wanted to build a version of Stonehenge as a memorial to his dad, who had passed away a few years earlier. But stones seemed heavy and cumbersome.

“So he decided if we build it out of cars, the wheels on it would greatly simplify the logistics,” says Howard. “And besides that, there’s not a stone in Nebraska that would work.”

(6) BR0K3N. “Password guru regrets past advice” – BBC has the story.

Bill Burr had advised users to change their password every 90 days and to muddle up words by adding capital letters, numbers and symbols – so, for example, “protected” might become “pr0t3cT3d4!”.

The problem, he believes, is that the theory came unstuck in practice.

Mr Burr now acknowledges that his 2003 manual was “barking up the wrong tree”.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 13, 1899 — Alfred Hitchcock

(8) KEEP HORROR OUT OF THE KITCHEN. Get your own copy of Mary and Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes 1965 – 2015.

A Treasury of Great Recipes has come to be regarded as “one of the most important culinary events of the 20th century” (Saveur Magazine) and was recently named the eighth most popular out-of-print book of any kind by Booklist. It has inspired countless chefs, garnered fans from around the world, and recently spawned many supper clubs who have been “cooking and eating Vincent” around the world.

(9) BY JOVE, I THINK HE’S GOT IT. Camestros Felapton offers a good, precise description of the phenomenon: “Parallels between minor SF kerfuffles & real world politics are both trite & true”.

My interest here was not the Brian Niemeiers of the groups but others, less inclined to create an SJW conspiracy out of nothing. In several cases, you could see them correctly reasoning that if they want the Dragon Awards to have any status then they would need authors like John Scalzi and N.K.Jemisin involved. However, they would always return to the idea that it was up to people like John Scalzi to, therefore, fix the problem by participating. Commenting here, author David Van Dyke took a similar tack – the Dragons need broad based participation, therefore can authors that the SF right calls “SJWs” (whether they are or not) please participate. This despite the fact that the reasons WHY authors didn’t want to participate were clear and unambiguous – they didn’t want to get caught up in the culture war that other on the SF right want the Dragons to be.

What is particularly interesting is this. When the right that is adjacent to the more belligerent alt-right NEED somebody to be reasonable, to compromise in WHICH direction do they turn? Note how it is the LEFT? This is more than just the modern conservative dictum of not-shooting-right/no-enemies-on-the-right but a tacit acknowledgement that they themselves have no capacity to control their allies.

The alt-right want the Dragons Awards to be a culture-war shitstorm because culture-war shitstorms help them recruit small numbers of extremists via radicalization and the comradery of a conflict. It’s a tactic anybody on the left will recognise from many micro-Trotskyist groups in the past, whose expectation of a conflict (e.g. a labour dispute) was that making hyper-strong demands (not necessarily EXTREME demands but essentially shitty negotiating positions) would not lead to a successful outcome but would lead to a better struggle and new recruits.

(10) THE YEAR IN RABIDITY. Jason Sanford leafs through the Hugo voting stats and concludes he is “Measuring the slow Hugo Award death of the rabid puppies”.

These numbers back up previous estimates of the weakness of the rabid puppies and give more evidence that 80 to 90 Hugo voters at most support Vox Day’s ballot stuffing. These are extremely small numbers compared to the more the 2,000 people who cast nominating ballots, or the 3,319 people who voted in the final Hugo ballot.

The reason the rabid puppies were able to cause so much trouble with the Hugo Awards in recent years is because the awards were easily gamed by a small group of slate voters. Only cultural constraints within fandom prevented this from happening previous to the rabid puppies.

The results of this year’s Hugo voting shows that making an award resistant to slate voting is a must in today’s genre.

Perhaps the Dragon Awards, a new SF/F award which is now being ravaged by slate voting from the pups, will learn from the Hugo experience. Or perhaps not.

(11) THE POINTS. Camestros Felapton also looks at the Rabid numbers in “Hugo Stats Time Some More”.

So a mean in the low 70s and a median of 83 votes. Which looks to be irrelevant because those votes are probably all from 2016 members. The Rabid vote drops precipitously in the final numbers.

(12) HELP WANTED. There’s a lot of money to be made looking for aliens, if you’re the right person — “The Reason China Can’t Find Anyone to Operate Its Alien-Hunting Telescope”.

China continues to up its game in space sciences, including one particularly ambitious project, the world’s largest radio telescope. There’s just one problem: they can’t find anyone to operate it.

The country’s government is looking to hire a foreigner as chief scientist to oversee the telescope’s daily operation, reports the South China Morning News, and it’s even offering free housing and a $1.2 million salary to boot. But no one has been hired, presumably because of challenges associated with the job and the high level of requirements needed to even apply.

The “Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope”, or FAST, is a $180 million, 1,600 foot-long radio telescope that’s capable of receiving radio signals from as far as 1,000 light years away; making it a leading instrument in the search for alien life. To give you an idea of its scale, FAST is roughly the size of 30 soccer fields.

(13) THE SUMMER OF HUH? Hippy disinformation? The BBC explains the accidental invention of the Illuminati conspiracy.

The Illuminati that we’ve come to hear about today is hardly influenced by the Bavarians at all, as I learned from author and broadcaster David Bramwell, a man who has dedicated himself to documenting the origins of the myth. Instead, an era of counter-culture mania, LSD and interest in Eastern philosophy is largely responsible for the group’s (totally unsubstantiated) modern incarnation. It all began somewhere amid the Summer of Love and the hippie phenomenon, when a small, printed text emerged: Principia Discordia.

The book was, in a nutshell, a parody text for a parody faith – Discordianism – conjured up by enthusiastic anarchists and thinkers to bid its readers to worship Eris, goddess of chaos. The Discordian movement was ultimately a collective that wished to cause civil disobedience, practical jokes and hoaxes

The text itself never amounted to anything more than a counter-culture curiosity, but one of the tenets of the faith – that such miscreant activities could bring about social change and force individuals to question the parameters of reality – was immortalised by one writer, Robert Anton Wilson.

According to Bramwell, Wilson and one of the authors of the Principia Discordia, Kerry Thornley, “decided that the world was becoming too authoritarian, too tight, too closed, too controlled”. They wanted to bring chaos back into society to shake things up, and “the way to do that was to spread disinformation. To disseminate misinformation through all portals – through counter culture, through the mainstream media, through whatever means. And they decided they would do that initially by telling stories about the Illuminati.”

At the time, Wilson worked for the men’s magazine Playboy. He and Thornley started sending in fake letters from readers talking about this secret, elite organisation called the Illuminati. Then they would send in more letters – to contradict the letters they had just written.

“So, the concept behind this was that if you give enough contrary points of view on a story, in theory – idealistically – the population at large start looking at these things and think, ‘hang on a minute’,” says Bramwell.  “They ask themselves, ‘Can I trust how the information is presented to me?’ It’s an idealistic means of getting people to wake up to the suggested realities that they inhabit – which of course didn’t happen quite in the way they were hoping.

… British electronic band The KLF also called themselves The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, named after the band of Discordians that infiltrate the Illuminati in Wilson’s trilogy as they were inspired by the religion’s anarchic ideology. Then, an Illuminati role-playing card game appeared in 1975 which imprinted its mystical world of secret societies onto a whole generation.

Chip Hitchcock, who found the link, assures everyone, “Yes, I’ve sent in a complaint about the incorrect date for the card game.”

(13) WHEN DEATH IS ON THE LINE. I was surprised to learn he’s still alive.

(14) FLICKER OF TIME. Anti Matter trailer #2.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]