Pixel Scroll 5/10/22 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls In To Mine

(1) RICK RIORDAN HURLS THUNDERBOLT. Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan today condemned the racist backlash against Leah Jeffries, the young actor who is set to play Annabeth Chase in the upcoming Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase”

This post is specifically for those who have a problem with the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase. It’s a shame such posts need to be written, but they do. First, let me be clear I am speaking here only for myself. These thoughts are mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect or represent the opinions of any part of Disney, the TV show, the production team, or the Jeffries family.

The response to the casting of Leah has been overwhelmingly positive and joyous, as it should be. Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.

If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame. Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now.

…You have decided that I couldn’t possibly mean what I have always said: That the true nature of the character lies in their personality. You feel I must have been coerced, brainwashed, bribed, threatened, whatever, or I as a white male author never would have chosen a Black actor for the part of this canonically white girl.

You refuse to believe me, the guy who wrote the books and created these characters, when I say that these actors are perfect for the roles because of the talent they bring and the way they used their auditions to expand, improve and electrify the lines they were given. Once you see Leah as Annabeth, she will become exactly the way you imagine Annabeth, assuming you give her that chance, but you refuse to credit that this may be true.

You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white.

Friends, that is racism.

And before you resort to the old kneejerk reaction — “I am not racist!” — let’s examine that statement too….

(2) SPECIAL COPYRIGHT OPERATION. “Bill Targeting Disney’s ‘Special Copyright Protections’ Introduced”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Disney, under siege by Republican lawmakers, may immediately lose its copyright for Mickey Mouse if a law slashing the duration of ownership is passed.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Tuesday proposed legislation that limits copyright protection to 56 years. According to the Copyright Clause Restoration Act of 2022, the law would retroactively apply to existing copyrights.

The move follows Florida lawmakers last month stripping Disney of special privileges of self-government that allowed it to independently oversee its sprawling theme park area. The feud started when the company vowed to push for repeal of the Parental Rights in Education Law, which bars discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in grades K-3 and allows parents to sue school districts if they think there’s been a violation.

…Gov. Ron DeSantis placed Disney front and center in a culture war against what he called “woke corporations.”

Hawley, employing DeSantis’ playbook, said in a statement, “Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists.”

Hawley’s mention of “special copyright protections” refers to Disney’s major role influencing the evolution of copyright law. Mickey Mouse was first introduced with the 1928 release of Steamboat Willie. At the time, Disney was afforded 56 years of protection for the character.

But with the copyright set to expire in 1984, Disney lobbied for reform and secured the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976. This allowed ownership of works by corporations for 75 years. In 1998, Disney was again able to delay the entry of Mickey Mouse into the public domain with the adoption of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. The law extended protection of copyrights by corporations for 95 years from their original publication, pushing the expiration of Disney’s copyright for Steamboat Willie to 2024.

Several Republican lawmakers have said that they won’t support an extension of copyright protections for Disney if a bill is introduced. In a letter to chief executive Bob Chapek, Jim Banks (R-In.) denounced the company for capitulating “to far-left activists through hypocritical, woke corporate actions” with its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Act….

Variety says the damage to Disney would be less than one might assume.

…But even if Disney’s copyright for Steamboat Willie expires, only the original design of Mickey Mouse will hit the public domain. There have been several iterations of the character over the past century….

(3) READ SFF FROM THE MARGINS. Anathema’s first issue of 2022 (#15) is live. The May 2022 issue features new fiction from Saswati Chatterjee, Choo Yi Feng, M.S. Dean, Wen-yi Lee, poetry from Rasha Abdulhadi and Folarin James, and cover art by Yu Ying. Read the entire issue free online: Anathema: Spec from the Margins Issue 15, May 2022

(4) KOJA Q&A. “’The Fringe Is Where the Fun Really Happens’: A Conversation with Kathe Koja”, conducted by Rob Latham at the LA Review of Books.

 When you moved into writing YA, I’m sure you confronted kneejerk assumptions about the field: that it had to pull its punches when dealing with contentious topics, that it couldn’t be as sophisticated as “adult” literature. Yet your YA novels are, if not as obviously transgressive as your horror fiction, quite bold and even worldly: they never pander, never assume their readers can’t grasp complex motivations or ambiguous desires. The young heroine of The Blue Mirror, for example, one of your more overtly supernatural stories, is as seduced by darkness as any of the protagonists in your horror novels. Can you say a bit about what drew you to the field? Did you find that you had to adapt your style or writing method at all? And I’m curious, have you had any response from young readers to your books? 

At my first meeting with my YA editor, the completely legendary Frances Foster at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, she cautioned me about that very thing. And there were some readers who mourned that I had “stopped writing” when they learned I was writing YA! It just floors me that anyone would think writing for young(er) readers is “easier” — writing YA demanded all the same skills I’d deploy in any novel, and even more stringent narrative drive: younger readers are wonderfully unforgiving, and if you bore them, they will straight up let you know.

It was one of the things I loved most about doing school and library visits: the kids would ask pointed questions, they’d confront me if they thought they found errors in the books. And they would question and debate with each other. During one especially remarkable visit, bleachers full of middle schoolers argued, passionately, over whether a book should show the world as it ought to be rather than as it is, “so we can see it and change it.” Writing YA asked of me a heightened level of intention: because younger readers know that they don’t know everything (older readers don’t either, but they might not believe that anymore), and a new idea, a new point of reference, can change a young reader’s point of view, change the way they view the world. There’s a responsibility inherent in that, and I took it very seriously….

(5) PALISANO MEDICAL UPDATE. Horror Writers Association President John Palisano announced last night on Facebook he has contracted Covid and will miss this weekend’s StokerCon in Denver.

It’s with a very heavy heart I’m sharing I will not be attending StokerCon this year. Over the weekend, I developed strong symptoms of Covid-19. A positive PCR test confirmed my worst fears just yesterday. For the record? I’m fully vaccinated and boosted. Obviously, the virus is still a serious threat.

With my bags packed, ready to celebrate years of hard work, to say I’m devastated at not being able to see friends new and old and see this come to life is an understatement.

(6) JANELLE MONÁE. Two interviews in synch with the release of Memory Librarian.

…The book’s five thematically linked stories, each co-written with a different author, all play off Monáe’s 2018 post-cyber-punk album “Dirty Computer,” which blended many sounds and styles — rap, pop, funk, R&B, rock and every subgenre imaginable — but felt more directly personal in its celebration of Black women and their sexuality than her earlier, more metaphorical albums.

Monáe felt the album was still resonating after she finished recording it. She made a 45-minute short film inspired by the album but even that wasn’t enough. “The themes were strong and I knew there were more stories to tell,” she explains.

“Memory Librarian” explores a futuristic world in which an organization called the New Dawn takes a Big Brother-esque approach to wiping out human desires deemed abnormal, seeking to create “their versions of what ideal citizens should be,” Monáe says. “They’ll strip people of their own selves.”

People in marginalized groups, especially in the LGBTQ community, are in danger of having their memory wiped out with a drug called Nevermind. Anyone who sympathizes with them or rebels against the system is also in danger….

What’s it like to share the space of Dirty Computer with collaborators?

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: community. Everything I’ve tried to do, I’ve tried to keep it rooted in community—like starting my arts collective, the Wondaland Arts Society, at the beginning of my career. It’s full of writers, it’s full of filmmakers, it’s full of actors, it’s full of musicians. And coming from a big family as well—I have like 49 first cousins—I don’t know how to not be communing. So it just felt right as I entered into the literary space to find other like-minded spirits, other dirty computers, whose work I admired and I knew admired my work. How can we make this innovative? What we’re doing is not common; what we’re doing is super special and I love it: being able to have the back and forth, to give character, to give plot point and say, OK, run wild! You read that first draft and you’re like, “OK, this is it! OK, let’s tweak this, let’s do that.” The writers feeling seen in the way they’re writing and me feeling seen in the vision I have, it’s amazing!…

(7) 2022 PULITZER PRIZES. No genre in the list of today’s 2022 Pulitzer Prize Winners & Finalists that I could see. There were a couple winners connected with areas we’ve followed in the Scroll: 

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

For coverage that revealed the complexities of building the James Webb Space Telescope, designed to facilitate groundbreaking astronomical and cosmological research. 

ILLUSTRATED REPORTING AND COMMENTARY

For using graphic reportage and the comics medium to tell a powerful yet intimate story of the Chinese oppression of the Uyghurs, making the issue accessible to a wider public.

(8) 1957-1958 HUGOS THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Rich Horton’s research into the early Hugos revealed something that inspired a Facebook post that begins —

Wandering through the history of the Hugos in the 1950s — a chaotic time, with no well established rules, with constantly changing award categories, with a con committee, in one case, refusing to give fiction awards at all … I realized that no stories from 1957 won a Hugo. (The 1958 Hugo for short story went to “Or All the Seas With Oysters”, by Avram Davidson (Galaxy, May 1958) and the Hugo for — get this — “Novel or Novelette” went to “The Big Time”, by Fritz Leiber, a novel (albeit very short) that was serialized in Galaxy, March and April 1958. In 1957, no Hugos for fiction were given.

So, what the heck — here’s my list of proposed fiction nominees from 1957….

(9) SERGEY DYACHENKO (1945-2022). Publishers Lunch reports Russian-Ukrainian sff author Sergey Dyachenko died in California on May 5 at 77. With his wife, Marina Dyachenko, he was the co-author of more than 30 books, including Vita NostraThe Scar, and Daughter from the Dark. A sequel to Vita Nostra will be published by Harper Voyager next year. Adam Whitehead has more at The Wertzone: “RIP Serhiy Dyachenko”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1975 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Monty Python and the Holy Grail premiered in the States. It would be nominated for a Hugo at MidAmericaCon (A Boy and His Dog which I’ve written up was the choice by Hugo voters.)

The film was written and performed by the Monty Python which course was Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, and was directed by Gilliam and Jones in their directorial debuts. It was done during a break between the third and fourth series of their Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So it was just another episode of that series in an extended format. Yes, it is but one skit, that of King Arthur, but it is a Python skit none-the-less. A really, really long one at ninety minutes. 

(Not wanting a good, or bad idea depending on which critic you were, to go to waste, the film was the basis for the Eric Idle’s Tony Award-winning Spamalot musical thirty-five years later.) 

It cost virtually nothing, somewhere around a half million dollars, to produce and made five million dollars in its first run. Not bad at all. 

Speaking of critics, and we should at this point, what did they think of it? 

Well Chicago-Sun Tribune gave Gene Siskel reviewing duties this time instead of Roger Ebert and he thought that “it contained about 10 very funny moments and 70 minutes of silence. Too many of the jokes took too long to set up, a trait shared by both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. I guess I prefer Monty Python in chunks, in its original, television revue format.” 

And Geoff Brown of The Monthly Film Bulletin says “The team’s visual buffooneries and verbal rigamaroles (some good, some bad, but mostly indifferent) are piled on top of each other with no attention to judicious timing or structure, and a form which began as a jaunty assault on the well-made revue sketch and an ingenious misuse of television’s fragmented style of presentation, threatens to become as unyielding and unfruitful as the conventions it originally attacked.” 

It currently has an extraordinarily good ninety-five rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As the authors of SFE put it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels, prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ‘mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these novels is available from the usual suspects. (Died 1920.)
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable.  Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both. Darkness and the Light was nominated for a Retro-Hugo At WorldCon 76 as was Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord at CoNZealand. He was the first recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2001 and voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2014. (Died 1950.)
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.)
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original  Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English-language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.)
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes, sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short lived BBC series that I’ve never heard of. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 59. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre, so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here.
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 53. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes. The Interdependency series is excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokey for my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of.

(12) S&S NEWS. If you sign up for the Thews You Can Use sword and sorcery newsletter, you now get a free sampler of contemporary sword and sword stories, including two by Cora Buhlert as well as fiction by Remco van Straten and Angeline B. Adams, Dariel Quioge, Chuck E. Clark, Nathaniel Webb, J.T.T. Ryder, Mario Caric and Michael Burke: Thews You Can Use.

(13) TOLKIEN AND UKRAINE. The Washington Examiner invites you to “Meet the publisher bringing JRR Tolkien and military manuals to Ukraine’s readers”.

It says something about modern Ukraine’s place in the world that an academic who takes “special pride” in publishing a Ukrainian translation of the complete works of J.R.R. Tolkien was determined also to print a series of manuals on military tactics and civilian survival in a war zone.

“This is a bestseller,” Astrolabe Publishing founder Oleh Feschowetz told the Washington Examiner during a recent interview in his office. “One hundred thousand copies.”

He was referring not to The Hobbit or The Silmarillion, but to Swiss army Maj. Hans von Dach’s mid-century guerrilla warfare manual, Total Resistance: A small war warfare manual for everyone — already in its seventh Astrolabe edition, just eight years after Feschowetz first printed the Ukrainian translation. “It was the first military book in the beginning of the war, [in] 2014.”…

“Because Russia always interpret[s] the culture just like a weapon,” he said in another conversation. “We must do the same. Culture is a weapon.”

So his team has published translations of works as ancient and various as the poems of Catullus, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The Old English epic Beowulf and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales were unavailable in the Ukrainian language before Astrolabe brought them forth. For Feschowetz, the study of “high literature” such as the works he has published (including Tolkien’s works, which he rates as “one of the best books” of Western civilization) holds a special resonance for Ukrainian readers who continue to labor to establish strong institutions within their civil society, beyond as it is the protection of Western allies.

“In other words, [Tolkien] speaks more of a man who relies not on an institution, procedures, but on ‘his own hands and his own ship,’ as in Beowulf,” Feschowetz, more comfortable writing in English than conversing, explained in a subsequent note. “In other words, it is not so much about institutionalized freedom, so important for the West, as about gaining and defense of it, that is, [in] fact, about the basis and origins of this freedom, about the real, internal mechanism of its functioning, from which we are so often removed by well-established institutions and procedures. This is, so to speak, the inner ‘West.’”…

(14) HUGO NEWS AUF DEUTSCH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The other local paper Kreiszeitung ran a great article about me and my Hugo nomination: Only in German alas: “Science-Fiction-Preis: Cora Buhlert auf der Jagd nach der Rakete”.

… Für Cora Buhlert sind solche postapokalyptischen Geschichten zurzeit kein Thema. „Die will ich nicht schreiben. Außerdem gibt es viele Möglichkeiten, die Welt untergehen zu lassen. Ich habe selbst eine Menge ausprobiert. Fiktional“, schiebt sie noch hinterher und lacht….

(15) JEOPARDY! [Item by Rich Lynch.] Going into tonight’s episode the current Jeopardy! champion Danielle Mauer is a costumer who attends Dragon Cons.

Andrew Porter adds that one of tonight’s new Jeopardy! contestants was editor-author Mallory Kass, profiled by Publishers Weekly.  

For the Daily Double, contestants, here’s your clue: she’s a senior editor at Scholastic who’s also a bestselling YA fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian author writing under the name Kass Morgan. Correct response: who is Mallory Kass? And on Tuesday, May 10 she makes her debut as a contestant on Jeopardy! on ABC at 7 p.m. ET. …The Monarchs—the second book in the Ravens duology she co-wrote with Danielle Page—came out in January.

We won’t blab about who came out on top. (There was a third contestant, too, without a genre connection anyone has mentioned.)

(16) HBCU CON. DCist reports that “Black Cosplayers Celebrate ‘Black Geek Homecoming’ At HBCU Con”. The event took place April 30.

Chauna Lawson, who cosplays by the name “CC the Geek,” thinks about the last time she felt truly embraced and acknowledged for all of who she was.

“That was when I was at Bowie State,” says Lawson, an alum of the historically Black university and founder of HBCU Con, a fandom convention held there April 30.

At her dorm in Alex Haley Residence Hall, she and her friends would play video games, watch anime like Sailor Moon and Digimon Adventure and talk about life.

“Nothing was off the table and everyone was respected in the room, regardless of where they came from,” Lawson says. “I just wanted to take that experience and recreate it and give it back to the people because it really got me through some really tough times in my life.”

Lawson, who graduated from Bowie State University in 2009, is the CEO of HBCU Con. It’s a convention where people dress up as their favorite characters from video games, anime, science fiction novels, comics or even their own creations, and celebrate both HBCUs and Black geeks.

At the three-day event, people meet other cosplayers, participate in panels on anything from life as a Black K-pop fan to the history of cosplay, participate in a gaming tournament, and attend events like a step show and fashion show put on by HBCU students….

(17) YAY? “Great News: An Autonomous Drone Swarm Can Now Chase You Through a Forest Without Crashing“ reports Core77.

If you have a deep passion for being surveilled, you probably dream of living in a city in the UK or China, festooned as they are with security cameras and face-rec. But what if you want to be spied on in a rural environment? It’s not feasible to install cameras on every tree in a forest. Autonomous tracking drones exist (thank you Skydio and Snapchat!) but they’re probably not progressing as fast as you’d like them to.

Well, help is here thanks to a team of researchers at Zhejiang University. As New Scientist reports, this research team has been working on drone swarms composed of ten tiny, fully autonomous drones that use off-the-shelf components, a camera and an algorithm to navigate through a forest without crashing into anything, or one another….

(18) CAMERON BLUE IT. The Guardian is every bit as skeptical about the Avatar 2 trailer as the critics at CinemaCon were impressed by it: “Avatar 2 trailer: prepare to be swept away by boredom”.

…Well, luckily for us the Avatar 2 trailer went online yesterday, giving us lowly non-exhibitors a chance to have our brains splattered out of the back of our skulls as well. And, upon watching it, there’s a good chance that we all had the same thought at the same time. Wait, are we watching the thing that they watched?

Because the trailer that dropped on YouTube really isn’t particularly spectacular. Some Na’vi jump across a tree. A sort of lizardy bird thing flies across some water. Some characters go for a bit of a swim. Sam Worthington’s character looks like he’s doing his best to hold in a fart. And, apart from the soundtrack – which is effectively the sound of Enya passing out from boredom and landing on a synthesiser – that’s about it….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] John Cleese and Michal Pailn discuss the difficulties making Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life in this clip from the BBC in December 1982 that dropped yesterday.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/25/22 In The Clearing Stands A Pixel And A Scroller By Its Trade

(1) WORLDWIDE CHANGE. Reuters Graphics explores how non-binary people identify themselves in highly-gendered languages around the world, using animated examples to explain the challenges to English-language readers. “Beyond pronouns: How languages are reshaping to include nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people”.

Not everyone identifies as a woman or a man. The movement to recognize gender identities beyond female and male is growing in places like Western Europe and the United States, and changing languages around the world.

In English, the pronouns people use — such as ‘she,’ ‘he,’ or ‘they’ — have come to the fore. In some languages, other parts of speech can also be feminine or masculine.

Modifying language to reflect a spectrum of gender identities is a fundamental change that stirs fierce debate….

(2) FIRST CHAIR. Actor Doug Jones will receive the inaugural The Chair Award from the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild (IATSE Local 706). Star Trek: Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green will present the honor during the guild’s awards ceremony on February 19 — The Hollywood Reporter has details.  

He’s known for roles such as the so-called Amphibian Man in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Waterwhich won 2017’s best picture Oscar, and Pale Man in del Toro’s Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth. He was the Silver Surfer in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the blue fish-man Abe Sapien in del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Jones is also the villainous title character in a remake of Nosferatu, currently in postproduction.

TV roles have included such series as Star Trek: Discovery, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Falling Skies….

(3) VILLENEUEVE TO MAKE RENDEZVOUS. Movieweb reports “Denis Villeneuve to Direct Rendezvous with Rama Adaptation”.

It seems as if Denis Villeneuve can’t keep his eyes from the stars. The director of 2021’s Dune has been signed on to direct another science fiction adaptation. This time the subject will be Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

The project was picked up by Alcon Entertainment, who previously worked with Villeneuve on Prisoners and Blade Runner 2049. The rights to the novel had previously been under the control of Morgan Freeman and his partner Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment. The film has been a passion project of Freeman since the early 2000s, but the project was stuck in development hell for many years.

It seems as if the film is finally going to get its wings with this new partnership at last. Alcon will be financing the project….

(4) WHEN NOT ONLY KANGAROOS HAVE POCKETS. At CrimeReads, “Juneau Black” (pen name of Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel) discusses how to write an animal fantasy where the animals have human characteristics: “How To Craft Non-Human Characters With Plenty of Personality”.

… Our problem in a nutshell: Foxes don’t own handkerchiefs. Well, that’s an obvious statement, isn’t it? Of course they don’t. They don’t have hands. Yet in the world of Shady Hollow, our civilized animal denizens do wear clothes and own accruements and if someone starts blubbering into their coffee, it would be downright rude to not offer a clean bit of cloth to soothe them.

But what to call that cloth? It has to be a word that instantly conveys the idea of handkerchief, without the human-centric assumption of hands. We could call it a pawkerchief…but that sounds too cutesy for a book with murders in it. So we looked for alternatives: Hankie? No, it’s a riff on “hand” and therefore isn’t a word that would exist in this world (and its logical equivalent “pawkie” is so twee it’s sickening). Snot rag is accurate but maybe too gross. Pocket square turned out to be our winner, since it describes the object in a way that the characters themselves would understand….

(5) THEY ASKED HIM ANYTHING. Hosted today at Reddit – “I’m Gideon Marcus, science fiction writer, publisher, space historian…and time traveler. Ask Me Anything!” In connection with Galactic Journey he said:

…Our coolest new project is watching the original Star Trek “as it comes out” on the original air dates (minus 55 years). And they’ve got the original commercial breaks in them! It’s been fascinating watching this classic in its original form, and with about a dozen young people who have never seen it before. We’ve also been reading the period trekzines and fanzines of the time, and that’s been a trip.

…Thank you! It’s been really neat. The show was designed with the traditional four act and teaser format, punctuated with little cliffhangers. The commercials give the show room to breathe and marinate. Plus, the period ads give context — you go from Kirk fighting a giant lizard to… cigarette ads.

Hey, they’re both killers!

(6) FANCAST Q&A. Cora Buhlert posted another Fancast Spotlight for GeekShock, a podcast run by several people who met while working at a Star Trek live show in Las Vegas: “Fancast Spotlight: GeekShock”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

GeekShock is a podcast about the week-in-geek. We like to think we’re a funny bunch, so we style ourselves as a comedy podcast. We approach geek topics of the day however they may strike us as humorous, but we get serious when serious subjects arise. We talk about movies and television of course, but we also cover subjects in comics, games of all types (video, board, tabletop rpg), geek accessories i.e., toys, collectables, curiosities, and genre literature.

(7) 17TH CENTURY SPACE EXPLORATION. The Huntington hosts a free Zoom lecture, “Blasting into Space: The Poetics of Faith and Astronomy in 17th-Century England”, by Wendy Wall on February 16, at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register at the link.

In this lecture, Wendy Wall, Professor of the Humanities at Northwestern University, describes how 17th-century woman Hester Pulter, while sick and confined to her bedroom after giving birth to her 15th child, sought solace in an unusual way: she wrote poems about taking off into space to explore planets in the heliocentric universe. While intellectuals of the day feared that new conceptions of astronomy undermined cherished religious beliefs, Pulter was exhilarated in incorporating cutting-edge ideas about space into a new type of devotional poem. How can this relatively newly discovered female poet enlarge our understanding of ways that writers used poetry to interconnect religion, science, and the imagination? How might Pulter’s poetry reveal previously unacknowledged ways that early modern women engaged in intellectual production and the mapping of the heavens, even from their remote estates or bedrooms?

(8) THE SCIENCE IN THIS FICTION. In “Malorie Blackman on seeing her sci-fi novel about a pig heart transplant come true”, the author tells Guardian readers that questions are the best place to start when writing a book.

What some call science fiction, I prefer to call science possible or sometimes science probable. One branch of sci-fi is based on imagined technological or scientific advances, and major social or environmental changes. It was that branch that I embraced when I wrote Pig Heart Boy. I loved the idea of exploring xenotransplantation through the eyes of Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with a bad heart who just wants to live. I found the whole notion of transplanting organs from one species into another fascinating and the perfect subject matter for a children’s book.

Now I hasten to add that I’m not a scientist or expert on xenotransplantation, nor do I claim to be. I’m a layperson with a love of science who occasionally reads science magazines. My approach was from an author’s angle, spending months on research before writing a single word…

(9) ANOTHER NAME FROM APPENDIX N. Ngo Vinh-Hoi profiles fantasy writer John Bellairs, one of the more obscure names listed in the Appendix N to the original D&D Dungeon Master’s Handbook: “Adventures in Fiction: John Bellairs” at Goodman Games.

… The modest success of The Face in the Frost was enough for Bellairs to turn to full-time writing, and his next work The House with a Clock in its Walls was also a dark fantasy. Supposedly Bellairs had difficulty selling the book until a publisher suggested rewriting it as a young adult (YA) book set in the fictionalized Michigan of Bellairs’s childhood. The House with a Clock in its Walls proved to be a huge critical and sales success, so much so that Bellairs became a full-time YA author for the rest of his career, completing a total of 15 books for young readers, most of which were illustrated by the great Edward Gorey….

(10) WILL THE REAL CONAN PLEASE STAND UP. Howard Andrew Jones explains which of the many Conan pastiche novels are worth reading: “The Best Of The Conan Pastiche Novels” at Goodman Games.

… You can fit the sum total of all the Conan that Howard wrote (including some fragments and rejected stories) into one large hardback. That’s not a lot of fiction about such a great character, and so for decades, people have been trying to create new tales of adventure starring Conan, mostly because they wanted MORE!

What makes those stories pastiche instead of fanfic, I suppose, is that many of these writers were paid to write it and the result was distributed widely. You would assume that meant that the work was well-edited and had some kind of consistency, but a lot of people, me among them, would tell you you’re wrong….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-one years ago, City Beneath the Sea premiered on NBC. It had a tangled history as it was originally a pilot for a series that Irwin Allen had pitched to that network several years earlier. The film itself was an expansion of a much shorter idea reel that Allen had shown to the network. 

The story was by Allen, but the screenplay was by John Meredyth Lucas who had written four Trek episodes, “Elaan of Troyius”, “The Changeling”, “Patterns of Force” and “That Which Survives” in addition to direction and production duties there. 

The primary cast was Stuart Whitman, Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Colbert, Burr DeBenning, Robert Wagner, Joseph Cotten and Richard Basehart. Irwin’s suggested cast for the series was Glenn Corbett, Lloyd Bochner, Lawrence Montaigne, Francine York, Cecile Ozorio and James Brolin.

I couldn’t, for love or money, find any critical reviews of the film. Rotten Tomatoes has none which is highly unusual.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes weren’t fond of it giving it a rating of just forty percent.  Here’s the trailer for it. City Beneath the Sea (1967).

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1905 Margery Sharp. Her best remembered work is The Rescuers series which concerns a mouse by the name of Miss Bianca. They were later adapted in two Disney animated films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. I’m reasonably sure I’ve seen the first one a very long time ago. Her genre novel, The Stone of Chastity, is according to her website, based on English folklore. Other than the first volume of The Rescuer series, she’s not really available digitally though she is mostly in print in the dead tree format. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. Jack Belicec in the original and by far the best version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Thirty years later, he’d be Lunartini Husband in Nothing Lasts Forever, a SF comedy film with a contentious history. His only other genre appearance was a one-off on Night Gallery. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1920 Bruce Cassiday. Under two different pen names, Con Steffanson and Carson Bingham , he wrote three Flash Gordon novels (The Trap of Ming XIIThe Witch Queen of Mongo and The War of the Cybernauts) and he also wrote several pieces of non-fiction worth noting, The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, co-written with Dieter Wuckel, and Modern Mystery, Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. The latter done in ‘93 is rather out of date and out of print as well. Checking the usual suspects shows nothing’s available by him for this genre though some of his pulp novels are available with appropriately lurid covers. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 25, 1950 Christopher Ryan, 72. He’s played two different aliens on Doctor Who. First in the Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp”, he was Kiv where he looked akin to Clayface from the animated Batman series. Second in the era of the Tenth Doctor (“The Sontarian Experiment” and “The Poison Sky”) and the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”), he was the Sontarian General Staal Commander Stark.
  • Born January 25, 1958 Peter Watts, 64. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower-linked short stories sound intriguing. He won a Hugo for Best Novelette at Aussiecon 4 for “The Island”.
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 59. Butler’s most important work is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 49. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him is on Batman: Gotham KnightsJustice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to notehis decade long run on the Green Lantern books. He’s the writer and producer on the most excellent Stargirl now streaming on HBO Max.
  • Born January 25, 1975 Mia Kirshner, 47. She was Amanda Grayson in Star Trek: Discovery. Her first genre was in the really not great The Crow: City of Angels as Sarah Mohr. (I editorialize, it is what I do.) she had another run as Isobel Flemming in The Vampire Diaries and one-offs in The War of The WorldsDracula: The SeriesAre You Afraid of the Dark? and Wolf Lake. She had a plum role in Defiance as Kenya Rosewater. 

(13) NOT JUST ANYBODY. Here they are! Screen Rant’s choices as the “10 Most Nonsensical World Domination Plans In Movie History”. Some of them have better musical accompaniments than others.

Help! (1965)

Given that this movie stars the Beatles and that it is intended as a comedy, it makes sense that its central world domination plan would be nonsensical.

However, even by that standard, the central plot strains the ability of the audience to make sense of anything of what is happening, much of which revolves around a seemingly magical ring. The fact that the movie moves along at a frantic pace makes its plot even more difficult to follow.

(14) SWORD & SORCERY’S ANCESTRY. At DMR Books, Brian Kunde chronicles his research into the life of Clifford Ball, Weird Tales contributor and probably the most obscure of the first wave of sword and sorcery writers: “Who Was Clifford Ball?”

…In this we are in a position similar to that of Shakespearean scholars, who on the basis of surviving records have also put together a threadbare sketch of an outer life while likewise failing to illuminate the inner man. As with them, our surest guides to our subject’s inner life and interests remain those we started with—in Ball’s case, his published works, together with what he and “W. C., Jr.” set down in their letters and notes in Weird Tales. Having left no descendants, whatever else Ball might have left of a personal nature likely perished with him or his near heirs. The who we already had may have led us to a more complete picture of the life he lived, but how that life was reflected in his thoughts, hopes and dreams remains elusive….

(17) TROLL SIGHTINGS. Jim C. Hines has updated the “Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing” webpage: “Among other things, JDA had a friend take pictures of Tomlinson at ConFusion, which JDA posted for mockery.” The screencaps are here.

(18) NEWBERY AT 100. In “The centennial of the Newbery Award: what publishers should do with older winners that don’t hold up”, Slate’s Sara L. Schwebel and Jocelyn Van Tuyl challenge the award winners’ status as canonical children’s books.

…Many of us are increasingly aware that American childhoods can look very different from one another, varying with race and ethnicity, geographic location, economic status, and many other factors. This has always been true, of course, but until very recently, the imagined child reader was monolithic. So your favorite Newbery from childhood may now seem out of touch, hopelessly uncool. Worse yet, it may feature offensive viewpoints and stereotypes.

Some readers may reject older titles for their objectionable content. But some people feel that recent medal books threaten a long-cherished vision of a universal American childhood experience—a vision they still hold dear. This was the case recently when schools in Katy, Texas, retracted (then subsequently reinstated) an invitation for author Jerry Craft to speak. Craft’s 2020 medal winner, New Kid, depicts a Black boy’s first year in a predominantly white prep school, where he faces frequent microaggressions. Concerned that some readers might experience white guilt, agitators claimed the book ran afoul of Texas’ ban on teaching critical race theory….

…The Newbery makes aspirationally high art for children into news.

This is what Newbery founder Frederic Melcher had in mind: Librarians’ professional neutrality would keep prizing above the taint of commercialism, benefiting publishers’ bottom lines and also, of course, children’s minds and spirits. The prize was about building a junior American canon, books that cultivated readers and inspired the highest ideals of democratic citizenship in the nation’s youth. But the result was a canon that is overwhelmingly white and often marked by a colonialist worldview. Today, the Newbery’s mission increasingly encompasses an awareness of past failures to think about all children as future leaders….

(19) SLICE OF THE DAY. “Icelandic pizzeria nods to pagan tradition by serving sheep’s head as special topping”CBC explains it all to you. Photo at the link. (Which I plan to leave at the link.)

On a bed of arugula and carrot slices, an Icelandic pizzeria has laid out an unusual topping for their new, seasonal pizza: a sheep’s head boiled in stout beer.

The head itself is laced with a smoked chili barbecue sauce that plays up the animal’s flavour — more than when it’s traditionally been served for Thorrablot, the midwinter food festival celebrating Iceland’s pagan history.

And that’s because the sauce includes another juicy ingredient — sheep dung.

“It’s really delicious. I mean, it has to be tasted to be able to describe it,” Laufey Sif Larusdottir, the owner of Olverk Pizza and Brewery in Hveragerdi told As It Happens host Carol Off.

(20) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH SAUSAGES. The Guardian has good news:  “Stranded dog saved from rising tide after rescuers attach sausage to drone”.

As the tide rose, it began to look perilous for Millie the jack russell-whippet cross, who had defied the efforts of police, firefighters and coastguards to pluck her from treacherous mudflats.

So the rescuers had to think imaginatively, and came up with the idea of attaching a sausage to a drone and hoping the scent of the treat would tempt Millie to safety. It worked gloriously and Millie has been reunited with her grateful owner after following the dangling sausage to higher, safer ground.

Millie disappeared after slipping her lead in Havant, Hampshire, and after frantic public appeals was spotted on the mudflats, in danger of being engulfed by the tide. She resisted efforts to encourage her to a safer spot until a drone pilot suggested attaching food to one of the unmanned aerial vehicles that had been used to track the dog….

(21) MYSTERY OF EARTH’S DIFFERENT MOON POSSIBLY SOLVED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Massive Moon strike could explain why its near-side and far-side are so different. Even the minerals on the near and far side are different: why does not the far-side have the lava seas seen on the near-side?  One theory has it that a huge object smashed into the early Moon; possibly its South Pole and the Aitken Basin. Whatever the impact researchers at Macau University have modelled what a huge impact would do.  Back then the Moon would have had a thin crust and a molten interior. The impact would have punched through the crust and made the molten interior even hotter and more fluid. Gravitational influences from its orbit about the Earth – and remember, in its early days the Moon orbited closer to the Earth – would have caused a more fluid type of magma to migrate to the near side where it erupted onto the surface. Nature has the abstract: “Lunar compositional asymmetry explained by mantle overturn following the South Pole–Aitken impact”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the chamber of Secrets Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that in the second Harry Potter movie, if you’re wondering how the pipes surrounding Hogwarts could be big enough for a giant basilisk, hey, kids eat a lot!”  Also, the producer wonders why Hogwarts has the Weeping Willow, which is “a tree that bludgeons kids to death.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/22/21 Snoopy’s Scrollmas

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb 2022 cover art by Kent Bash illustrates “Animale Dei Morti” by Nick DiChario. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder says the issue has just been printed and will be distributed soon.

(2) PEN LONGLISTS. The 2022 PEN America Literary Awards Longlists announcement shows these titles are up for the Pen/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000):

For a work that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience.

  • The Memory Thief: And the Secrets Behind What We Remember — A Medical MysteryLauren Aguirre (Pegasus Books)
  • This Is the VoiceJohn Colapinto (Simon & Schuster)
  • Holding Back the River: The Struggle Against Nature on America’s WaterwaysTyler J. Kelley (Avid Reader Press)
  • Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond EarthAvi Loeb (Mariner Books)
  • The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams DeferredChanda Prescod-Weinstein (Bold Type Books)
  • Fox & I: An Uncommon FriendshipCatherine Raven (Spiegel & Grau)
  • Second Nature: Scenes from a World RemadeNathaniel Rich (MCD)
  • Count Down: How Our Modern World is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human RaceShanna H. Swan (Scribner)
  • Believers: Making a Life at the End of the WorldLisa Wells (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be AliveCarl Zimmer (Dutton Books)

The Judges are: Jonathan Safran Foer, Michele Harper, and Lauren Redniss.

(3) WILL THEY REWRITE THE SENTENCE? Updating a story being followed here because Courtney Milan said she’d been on the jury: “Trucker’s 110-year sentence in fatal Colorado crash to be reviewed after outcry” in the Sacramento Bee.

Following an outcry by millions of people, including Kim Kardashian, Colorado prosecutors have filed a motion seeking for a second look at the 110-year prison sentence of a trucker convicted in a fatal 2019 crash.

“As Colorado law required the imposition of the sentence in this case, the law also permits the Court to reconsider its sentence in an exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances,” the motion filed by the Colorado First Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The motion says the court can review its sentence of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos based on new reports.

The move comes after more than 4.5 million people signed a Change.org petition asking Gov. Jared Polis to commute Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence….

(4) FRESH TRACKS. The Mary Sues have released a new album, Laser Printed Heroes. Hear all the tracks, including “A Thousand Lives” on Soundcloud. Band member Carol Dashiell – my daughter’s aunt! – told Facebook followers:

I’m super proud of this, it’s been a labor of love for a long time. Two of the songs are originals by Stu Venable (who also did our sound), plus some covers from various geeky properties, like Portal, The Witcher, Outlander, and others!

I’ve put the link the the comments so we don’t get throttled by Facebook, I hope you’ll check it out!

And if you like our album art, thank Sam Balcomb, who is a genius.

(5) REMEMBERING A FORGOTTEN CLASSIC. A new version of the original adventure game by Thomas M. Disch. Amnesia, a cult classic published by Electronic Arts 1986, is now available on the web for contemporary computers: AMNESIA : Restored.

Amnesia was envisioned as “bookware”—that is, a new kind of environment created specifically for the personal computer. Its two 5.25-inch floppy disks were packaged in a booklike folio that, when opened, resembled a newspaper with the author’s bio and game information presented as news about NYC. The game was also bundled with a 18-page manual, a command summary, map of Manhattan, x-street indexer, registration mailer, and newsletter subscription postcard.

When writing AMNESIA, Disch, an accomplished novelist, experimented with storytelling for the, then, new electronic environment. His 400-page manuscript laid out a narrative game that offers players 10 different endings. One sees players living out their days on a sheep station in Australia with a wife and a house full of children. In another, players are found guilty of a crime they do not remember committing and are given the choice of committing suicide or facing a firing squad. In some cases, they are allowed to meet St. Peter and provide the correct information about their identity to enter heaven. Depending on players’ ability to solve the puzzle, they may never leave The Sunderland Hotel. But if they are persistent, they get to explore the streets and places of NYC in search of who they really are….

(6) DECLINE BUT NOT FALL. John Crowley writes about “Learning to live with my aging mind in “The Old Imperium” at Harper’s.

…In July 2016, after taking the battery of tests that constitutes a neuropsychological evaluation, I was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Some months before then, my wife, L., had begun to notice and point out to me some signs: wrong word choices or failures to come up with a common name began to happen more than occasionally. Then came instances of fumbled choices or misunderstandings in daily activities. Some of these incurred serious if momentary risks. L. was puzzled. I wasn’t in denial about these incidents; I was, though, in a state of disbelief. Each one could be dismissed as random; I could perceive no pattern; it seemed that my thought processes remained sound. I was also pestered by the sort of slips that unnerve the old and can seem comical to the young and the unimpaired—forgetting where the car is parked, opening the closet or refrigerator door and standing immobile, unable to remember what was wanted, often something not kept there. I was seventy-two years old, and it became clear that I needed help. My wise doctor—my primary care provider—found my symptoms as I described them doubtful as indications of impaired cognition, but agreed to prescribe a neuropsychological evaluation, to create a baseline against which future tests, if needed, could be compared…

He spends several paragraphs discussing what it was like to take the tests.

(7) DSC 60. DeepSouthCon 60 will be held in Huntsville, AL from October 21-23, 2022. Our Mike Kennedy and Sam Smith are co-chairs.

  • Master of Ceremonies: Norman Cates, Co-Chair, 2020 New Zealand WorldCon, the first Virtual WorldCon
  • Fan Guest of Honor: Bill Plott, who attended DSC 1, at David Hulan’s house, in Huntsville Alabama

Both Norman and Bill will be appearing in person.

(8) THE FLOW. Rich Horton reviews “A Newly Discovered Avram Davidson Novel: Beer! Beer! Beer! for his blog, Strange at Ecbatan.

… In among Davidson’s papers there were some completely or nearly completed pieces — for instance an account of a trip to Belize — and at least one novel. This novel has now been published, by Seth Davis’ imprint Or All the Seas With Oysters Publishing. Seth was kind enough to send me a copy.

This novel is set in Yokums, NY, in 1930. (Yokums, of course, is a stand-in for Yonkers.) In one sense it is a fictionalized retelling of a locally famous incident: a sewer-cleaning crew encountered a mysterious rubber pipe — and from its open end beer came pouring out….

(9) RINGING IN THE MILLENNIUM. The New York Times traces “How ‘Lord of the Rings’ Became ‘Star Wars’ for Millennial Women”.

…For a certain subset of Millennial women, the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy occupies the same role that “Star Wars” might for those who grew up from the late ’70s into the ’80s: It’s become a treasured part of the comfort-watch genre for women in their late 20s and 30s.

In the years after the films came out, rewatching them felt like a ritual only my sister and I observed. (My parents saw them with us in theaters, then never watched them again.) Through college, I met the occasional “Lord of the Rings” girl — a few friends in graduate school, and strangers on drunken nights out. And, of course, there were the memes and the accompanying meme accounts.

Then a few years ago, I began to notice the articles on The Cut and elsewhere. “What of the Boromir Woman?” “I’m Always Horny for Sauron.” “The Greatest Christmas Movie Is ‘The Lord of the Rings.’”

“We all loved ‘Lord of the Rings,’” said Gabriella Paiella, 32, a culture writer for GQ and former staff writer at The Cut. “That definitely did heighten my sense that there was a specifically female interest in these movies that I hadn’t necessarily thought of before because I think the world of ‘Lord of the Rings’ is sort of thought of as a nerdy male interest.”

“I was absolutely obsessed with reading gay hobbit erotica,” said one fan, Chelsea McCurdy.Chelsea McCurdy

Jokes and memes remained a fantastic way fans could bond, but Paiella and other women who came of age in the era of “Lord of the Rings,” say their passion for the movies is much deeper and more emotional. It’s an attachment that grew alongside the films’ most poignant, Howard Shore score-backed moments: “Don’t you know your Sam?” “I know your face” and “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king.”…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1961 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an Army major – a collection of question marks. Five improbable entities stuck together into a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation; just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness, and the unexplainable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment, we’ll start collecting clues as to the whys, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we’ll only explain it – because this is the Twilight Zone

Sixty years ago this evening, The Twilight Zone‘s “Five Characters In Search of an Exit” first aired on CBS. It was fourteenth episode of the third season. It was written of course by Rod Serling and directed by Lamont Johnson. It was based of Marvin Petal’s “The Depository” short story.  The title, and the story itself, is a variation on Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” play. It’s far more entertaining than you’d think given the source material. 

The premise is that uniformed Army major wakes up to find himself trapped inside in a large metal cylinder, where he meets a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpiper, and a clown. None of them have any memory of who they are or how they became trapped. 

The cast here is William Windom, Murray Matheson, Susan Harrison, Kelton Garwood, and  Clark Allen. The last shot of the episode, in which the five characters are seen in doll form, does not feature the actors; rather, specially made dolls were crafted that closely resembled the five actors who played the parts, and these are shown. 

All of the Twilight Zone episodes are available on Paramount+. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Other than showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 22, 1943 Michael Summerton. One of the original Dalek operators, his work would show up in three First Doctor stories, “The Survivor”, “The Escape” and “The Ambush”. He’s interviewed for “The Creation of The Daleks” documentary which is included in the 2006 The Beginning DVD box set. According to his Telegraph obit, he was he was the last survivor of the original four operators of the Daleks. So, you don’t need to get past their paywall, here’s the Who part here: “After a lean period, he was excited to be offered a part in a new BBC science fiction series. His agent told him he would not need to learn any lines for the casting, and when he arrived at the BBC workshops he was asked to strip down to his underpants and sit in what appeared to be a tub on castors. Summerton (who was one of the four original Daleks) was instructed in how to move this apparatus about, the director saying: ‘We want to test this prototype for maneuverability. We want you to move forwards, backwards, sideways. Quickly, slowly.’ Presently the director lowered a lid over him with a plunger sticking out of it. Summerton found himself in total darkness. He would later relate: ‘When the lid went on I knew my career as an actor was over.’” (Died 2009.)
  • Born December 22, 1954 Hugh Quarshie, 67. First genre role was as Sunda Kastagirin in Highlander followed by being Detective Joyce in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and Lieutenant Obutu In Wing Commander. He’s Captain Quarsh Panaka in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. He’s got a long tv history starting with playing Philostrate in A Midsummer Night’s Dream along with being Professor John Galt in the pilot for The Tomorrow People and Solomon in the Doctor Who episodes of “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 70. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning Who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to include him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics who’s played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series.
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 70. I’ve personally known him for twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer, so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here.
  • Born December 22, 1955 David S. Goyer, 66. His screenwriting credits includes the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark CityMan of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well, there’s there’s Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForwardConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, KryptonBlade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 59. Perhaps best-known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films that just wrapped up starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann, 43. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. The Affinity Bridge, the first in Newbury & Hobbes series, was nominated for a Sidewise Award. The Revenant Express is his latest novel.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton suggests Macanudo could be interpreted as evidence that maybe Chewbacca wasn’t along for the Kessel Run!

(13) A NEW BROOM SWEEPS CLEAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Molly Roberts says that quidditch leagues are changing the name of the sport because of their views on J.K. Rowling’s comments on transgendered people and to  avoid the trademark Warner Bros. has on “quidditch,”  but they don’t know what the new name will be or how to attract people to the sport without a Harry Potter connection. “Quidditch’s new name might teach J.K. Rowling a surprising lesson”.

…US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch declared last week that they would change their names — partly because they believe ditching the trademark will allow the sport to expand, and partly because they believe ditching its inventor will avoid any nasty association with her public bigotry.

The move is meaningful and meaningless at the same time — and could show Rowling what she’s been missing all along. But let’s back up a second to help out those who can’t tell a bludger from a quaffle. (Ouch.)

Quidditch is the made-up sport of Rowling’s universe, in which witches and wizards fly around on brooms hurling some balls into hoops, hitting other balls with bats at other players, and trying to snatch one last little winged golden ball out of the air. Quidditch is also the real-life version of that sport, in which decidedly non-magical humans run around with brooms between their legs, hurling slightly deflated volleyballs into hoops and slightly deflated dodgeballs at opponents, and trying to snatch a tennis ball dangling in a sock from someone’s shorts….

(14) TOP TV. The New York Times television critics named “The Best TV Episodes of 2021”. They picked a number of episodes from genre programs – here are two examples.

Love, Death & Robots’ (Netflix)

‘The Drowned Giant’

In just 13 minutes, this elegant short about a giant’s corpse that washes up on a beach one day captures, in a perfect snapshot, humanity’s tendency to desecrate marvels, to behold a world-changing event and decide simply to carry on. Based on a short story by J.G. Ballard, “The Drowned Giant” is rendered here in mostly realistic animation, with the giant’s clean-shaven cheeks, tidy fingernails and muscular chest shown in aching detail. In an era when so many shows just blend together, this episode stands out for its light touch and sad imagination. (Streaming on Netflix.) MARGARET LYONS

‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (FX)

‘Casino’

“Shadows” is one of the funniest shows on TV right now, and “Casino,” where the gang heads to Atlantic City, was my favorite episode this season. Nandor (Kayvan Novak) becomes entranced by a “Big Bang Theory” slot machine — “‘bazinga’ is the war cry of Sheldon,” he explains — and in perfect, cascading horror, this leads to the total dissolution of his understanding of the universe. “Shadows” is its best when the vampires’ grandiosity clashes with their vulnerabilities, especially their excitability, and I’ll never see another in-house ad on a hotel TV without thinking that it’s Colin Robinson’s favorite show. (Streaming on Hulu.) MARGARET LYONS

(15) BEST BAD GUYS. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna and David Betancourt dsicuss their six favorite Spider-Man villains, in a spoiler-filled article. “Top 6 Spider-Man movie villains ranked, from Electro to Green Goblin”.

[The latest film’s] Lizard, Rhino and Harry Osborn’s New Goblin, among others, can’t crack our list — keep trying, fellas. Here are our top six villains across this Spider-Man franchise’s eight live-action solo movies….

(16) AI: A FUTURE FOR HUMANS. BBC Radio 4 concludes the annual Reith Lectures series, “Stuart Russell – Living With Artificial Intelligence”, with the fourth and final episode now online here

Stuart Russell suggests a way forward for human control over super-powerful Artificial Intelligence. He argues for the abandonment of the current “standard model” of AI, proposing instead a new model based on three principles – chief among them the idea that machines should know that they don’t know what humans’ true objectives are.

Echoes of the new model are already found in phenomena as diverse as menus, market research, and democracy. Machines designed according to the new model would be, Russell suggests, deferential to humans, cautious and minimally invasive in their behaviour and, crucially, willing to be switched off. He will conclude by exploring further the consequences of success in AI for our future as a species.

Stuart Russell is Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley.

(17) DRONES, GUNS, AND BOMBS THAT CALL THEIR OWN SHOTS. “Killer Robots Aren’t Science Fiction. A Push to Ban Them Is Growing” reports the New York Times.

It may have seemed like an obscure United Nations conclave, but a meeting this week in Geneva was followed intently by experts in artificial intelligence, military strategy, disarmament and humanitarian law.

The reason for the interest? Killer robots — drones, guns and bombs that decide on their own, with artificial brains, whether to attack and kill — and what should be done, if anything, to regulate or ban them.

Once the domain of science fiction films like the “Terminator” series and “RoboCop,” killer robots, more technically known as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, have been invented and tested at an accelerated pace with little oversight. Some prototypes have even been used in actual conflicts.

The evolution of these machines is considered a potentially seismic event in warfare, akin to the invention of gunpowder and nuclear bombs.

This year, for the first time, a majority of the 125 nations that belong to an agreement called the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, or C.C.W., said they wanted curbs on killer robots. But they were opposed by members that are developing these weapons, most notably the United States and Russia.

The group’s conference concluded on Friday with only a vague statement about considering possible measures acceptable to all. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a disarmament group, said the outcome fell “drastically short.”

(18) MAKE IT SO. Learn “How to Pronounce ‘Omicron’ the Star Trek Way”.

(19) A HOLE IN ONE. PBS Space Time host Matt O’Dowd asks “What Happens If A Black Hole Hits Earth?”

The possibility that a black hole could actually impact Earth may seem straight out of science fiction, but the reality is that microscopic primordial black holes could actually hit Earth. If one did, it wouldn’t just impact like an asteroid, it’d pass straight through the entire Earth and exit the other side. Perhaps craziest of all, this may have already happened!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/31/21 I’m At The Godstalk, The Death Star, The Second Fifth Hotel, The Pixels Keep On Scrolling And Rolling Files As Well

(1) HANSEN BOOK FREE FROM TAFF. Another ebook is available from the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, #60 in the free library, Rob Hansen’s Faan Fiction 1930-2020: an exploration. Cover artwork adapted from Rob Hansen’s cover for his fanzine Epsilon #7, July 1981. Approximately 61,000 words. (TAFF hopes you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please.)

In this combined critique and anthology, Rob Hansen discusses the phenomenon of fan fiction (in the fannish fanzine sense) with a particular focus on the UK. His commentary is interspersed with many examples from such diverse fan writers as John Berry, C.S. Youd (John Christopher), Leroy Kettle, David Langford, Mark Plummer, Bob Shaw, Ian Sorensen, James White, Walt Willis – and Rob Hansen himself, including previously unpublished work. There are several surprises.

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword:

One aspect of fandom only lightly touched on by me in Then was fan fiction. By which, of course, I mean fiction about fans and/or fandom. This is a thread that has been woven through SF fandom since it began, enduring almost to the present day, and so is worthy of consideration in that light. I’ll be looking at the people who wrote it and all its various forms and the purposes to which they were put. Inevitably, the quality of the writing varies wildly, with that of those who later went on to write professionally usually being a cut above the rest.

…Where possible the pieces of fan fiction reprinted herein to illustrate various types and forms – all by UK fans – were specifically chosen from those not already available. As a result, most will be things the majority of readers won’t have encountered before.

(2) SF ART COLLECTORS WILL SPEAK. Tomorrow on Comic Art Spotlight Doug Ellis joins a panel with three friends — Glynn Crain, John Davis & Victor Dricks — discussing SF/fantasy art.  All four have large collections of vintage SF art. They’ll be highlighting and discussing various artists and pieces in those collections, including creators like Virgil Finlay, Frank Kelly Freas, Ed Emshwiller, Wally Wood, Ed Valigursky, George Barr and many more.  The panel kicks off June 1 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern:

(3) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. The Haffner Press’ two-volume edition of The Complete John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman is available for pre-order.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Haffner recently posted this photo of artist Tim Kirk’s dropcaps for the book.

(4) FEELIN’ GROOVY. John Coulthart has a gallery of “groovy” sf covers in “The art of Mike Hinge, 1931–2003” at { feuilleton }.

Back in March I ended my post on the psychedelia-derived art style that I think of as “the groovy look” with the words “there’s a lot more to be found.” There is indeed, and I’d neglected to include anything in the post by Mike Hinge, a New Zealand-born illustrator whose covers for American SF magazines in the 1970s brought a splash of vivid colour to the groove-deprived world of science fiction. This was a rather belated development for staid titles like Amazing and Analog whose covers in the previous decade wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Gernsback era. Opening the door to someone like Mike Hinge, a graphic designer as well as a general illustrator, was probably a result of both magazines having undergone recent changes of editorship.

(5) HEVELIN COLLECTION UPDATE. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]Just found out the University of Iowa’s “Hevelin Collection” Tumblr account, which posted pics of items from Rusty Hevelin’s collection of fanzine and other SFnal material (but has been inactive for the last several years), announced about ten days ago they’re officially suspending the Tumblr. (But past posts will remain online for the foreseeable future.)

But you can still see over 700 fanzines, etc., from the Hevelin Collection in the Iowa Digital Library: Hevelin Fanzines — The University of Iowa Libraries.

And rather than single pictures like the Tumbler account did, the IDL archive leads to scans of the full contents, so far as I’ve tested it. Probably a fair amount of overlap with Fanac.org and eFanzines.com, but always good to have fannish history backed up in multiple places.

(The IDL archive may, it occurs to me, be old news to those who keep up with fanzines past and and present more than I do. “Slight” is a polite way to describe my level of involvement these days. Still, news to me.)

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • May 31, 1990 — On this day in 1990, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall premiered. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. It’s rather loosely based on Philip K. Dick‘s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” story. Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman wrote the screenplay. It finished second at Chicon V for Best Dramatic Presentation to Edward Scissorhands.  Most critics liked it well-enough though a number of feminist critics thought it excessively violent towards women. It currently holds a seventy-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 31, 1893 – Elizabeth Coatsworth.  Newbery Medal for The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930).  Four “incredible tales” for adults; four books of poetry; ninety in all; memoir Personal Geography.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1895 — George R. Stewart. As recently noted in the Scroll, his 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. They were a British award and the first one, this very one, was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1910 – Aubrey MacDermott.  Possibly the first fan.  He always said he was. Unfortunately, the supporting evidence is thin.  He may well have founded the Eastbay Club in the San Francisco Bay area around 1928.  Anyway, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXXX (Oakland, 1987).  Here is his Origin Story as of 1990.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1921 – Arthur Sellings.  Six novels, fifty shorter stories, in Fantastic, Galaxy, Imagination, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, NebulaNew WorldsNew WritingWorlds of Tomorrow. Antiquarian, book & art dealer.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1930 — Gary Brandner. Best remembered for his werewolf trilogy of novels, The Howling, of which the first was very loosely made into a film. He wrote the script for Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf. The fourth film of the series, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, is actually almost an accurate adaptation of the first novel. He wrote a lot of other horror and penned the novelization of Cat People. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born May 31, 1942 – Brian Burley.  Active fan in Ohio and New York.  Co-founded Marcon.  In 1979 he was in FISTFA (Fannish Insurgent Scientifictional Ass’n); here he is (with S.H. Craig and Pat O’Neill) on “Fandom in New York” for the Lunacon XXII Program Book.  Co-founded the Beaker People Libation Front, which Fancyclopedia III mildly calls “not entirely serious”; see here.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1948 — Lynda Bellingham. She was The Inquisitor in the Sixth Doctor Story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”.  Other genre appearances include the Landlady in Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale, and one-offs in Blake’s 7Robin Hood and Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born May 31, 1950 — Gregory Harrison, 71. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought it has. He was Logan 5 in the Logan’s Run TV series which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object and that series actually lasted awhile), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1961 — Lea Thompson, 60. She’s obviously best known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1977 – Cat Hellisen, age 44.  Fantasy for adults and children; free-lance editing; also archery, aikidô, figure skating.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories.  “The Worme Bridge” won the Short Story Day Africa award.  More recently in Fife she likes the forests and the fields and the Forth.  Has read Giovanni’s RoomFlatlandHerland, five plays by Aeschylus, Peter Pan, both Alice books, Les liasons dangereusesThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1979 — Sophia McDougall, 42. She has a very well crafted alternative history series,  the Romanitas series, In which Rome did not fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novels —Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds of a Heinlein YA novel. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1995 – Jeremy Szal, age 26.  One novel, thirty shorter stories.  Fiction editor at StarShipSofa 2014-2020 (Episodes 360-600).  Collects boutique gins.  See his review of Predestination at Strange Horizons here.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full could be making a combined Alice in Wonderland and Simon & Garfunkel joke. Or not.

(9) WRITING PROMPT. From Agatha Chocolats:

Popehat suggests: “Cthulhu fhtagn exact change only.”

(10) SHAVER MYSTERY MAGAZINE ADDED BY FANAC. “If you’ve been hearing the words ‘Shaver Mysteries’ bruited about, now’s your chance to see what all the fuss is over,” says Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari. Check here: Shaver Mystery Magazine, by Richard S. Shaver. There are 7 issues of this semi-pro, related zine. 

Siclari further says, “Some might not consider this a fanzine because rumor has it that it was paid for by Ray Palmer and Ziff-Davis. However the Shaver Mystery stories were a subject of great controversy in fanzines. So it is of related interest. It definitely was not a money-maker. It seems to fit into the category we later called a semi-prozine. And the art! McCauley, Finlay…”

(11) JUMPING IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Pepe The Frog creator Matt Furie who is trying to recapture his character from the alt-right by creating non-fungible tokens featuring Pepe and other of Furie’s characters that have sold for up to $1 million. “Matt Furie is trying to reclaim his famous cartoon Pepe the Frog — through NFTs”.

To Furie, the NFT realm is about more than coin. During the era of Donald Trump, extremist social media users adapted Pepe so often that the Anti-Defamation League deemed it a hate symbol. But the exploding world of crypto-art is allowing the cartoonist to reclaim a character who was never meant to stand for much beyond love, peace, hedonism and altered-state chillaxin’.

“The NFT world is new, and there are a lot of optimistic people creating cool things,” Furie says of his interest in exploring non-fungible tokens — unique digital files whose origins and ownership can be verified.“Pepe does not have the baggage here that he does in the ‘real world,’ and I like working with utopians and optimistic freethinkers. There are so many possibilities.”

(12) A SCHULZ CURIOSITY. Cavna has also written: “Three ‘lost’ Charles Schulz strips have been rediscovered. Do they show the adult Lucy Van Pelt?”To some, they resemble “Peanuts” characters — if Charlie Brown and the gang had ever grown up.

These rare curiosities intrigue and baffle even the experts. “They’re a puzzle to me,” says Jean Schulz, wife of the late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who drew them.

They are the seven black-and-white works of comic art from the mid-’50s collectively called the “Hagemeyer” strips. Four of them have appeared in books. The three other “lost” strips were found and purchased at auction in May 2020— but have never been widely published, according to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

(13) IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] From this week’s Nature: “First Nuclear Test Created Impossible ‘Quasicrystals’”.

SF is full of exotic substances from Cavorite to Corbomite. Now it has been discovered that the world’s first nuclear bomb test created ‘impossible’ quasicrystals.

The previously unknown structure, made of iron, silicon, copper and calcium, probably formed from the fusion of vaporised desert sand and copper cables. Quasicrystals contain building blocks made up of arrangements of atoms that — unlike those in ordinary crystals — do not repeat in a regular, brickwork-like pattern. They have symmetries that were once considered impossible.

Materials scientist Daniel Shechtman first discovered such an impossible symmetry in a synthetic alloy in 1982. He won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery. In subsequent years, materials scientists synthesised many types of quasicrystal,
expanding the range of possible symmetries. In the aftermath of the Trinity test — the first detonation of a nuclear bomb in 1945 researchers found a field of greenish glassy material that had formed from the liquefaction of desert sand. They dubbed this trinitite. The bomb had been detonated on top of a 30-metre-high tower laden with sensors and their cables. As a result, some of the trinitite had reddish inclusions: it was a fusion of natural material with copper from the transmission lines. The quasicrystal recently found from this trinitite has the same kind of icosahedral symmetry as the one in Shechtman’s original discovery.

(14) NOW IN 3-D. Nature also reports on “The most detailed 3D map of the Universe ever made”.

A survey of the southern sky has reconstructed how mass is spread across space and time, in the biggest study of its kind. The data provide striking evidence that dark energy, the force that appears to be pushing the Universe to accelerate its expansion, has been constant throughout cosmic history.

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration revealed its results in an online briefing on 27 May and in several papers posted online1.

…The researchers grouped the galaxies by colour, to get a rough indication of each galaxy’s distance from our own: as the Universe expands, galaxies that are further away appear redder because their light waves have stretched out to longer wavelengths. That way, the team was able to add a third dimension to its map.

Looking further away also corresponds to looking to the past, so a 3D cosmic map provides a record of the Universe’s history. By tracking how galaxies spread out over time, cosmologists can then indirectly measure the forces at play. These include the gravitational pull of dark matter, the invisible stuff that constitutes some 80% of the Universe’s mass and dominates the formation of galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

(15) DRONE WARFARE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s not exactly a Terminator-style HK-VTOL, but the first autonomous wartime kill by a robot might have happened last year in Libya. Gizmodo reports on the story: “The Age of Autonomous Killer Robots May Already Be Here”.

…“The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability,” the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya wrote in the report.

It remains unconfirmed whether any soldiers were killed in the attack, although the UN experts imply as much. The drone, which can be directed to self-destruct on impact, was “highly effective” during the conflict in question when used in combination with unmanned combat aerial vehicles, according to the panel. The battle resulted in “significant casualties,” it continued, noting that Haftar’s forces had virtually no defense against remote aerial attacks.

The Kargu-2 is a so-called loitering drone that uses machine learning algorithms and real-time image processing to autonomously track and engage targets. According to Turkish weapons manufacturer STM, it’s specifically designed for asymmetric warfare and anti-terrorist operations and has two operating modes, autonomous and manual. Several can also be linked together to create a swarm of kamikaze drones.

(16) CLOCKING IN. CBS Sunday Morning did a segment about “Exploring the boundaries of time travel”.

Breaking the bonds of time has been a timeless pursuit in science fiction stories and movies. Will it ever become science fact? Correspondent Faith Salie explores the possibilities of taking a journey to the future, or the past, even without a souped-up DeLorean.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Cruella Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spolier-filled episode, says that the only way to get viewers interested in Cruelle DeVil’s backstory–“How does she become the person who wants to skin puppies?”–is to have her work for a boss even more evil than her.  Also the screenwriter warns the producer that if he wants all those groovy hits of the 1970s in the movie, he’d better have plenty of money for the rights.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, David Langford, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/21 Who Am I To Scroll Against The Wind?

(1) ALT-FACTS. The Hugo Book Club Blog contends “Alternate facts make bad alternate history”.

… Even one of the better Alternate History works written by a very conservative author, Another Girl, Another Planet by Lou Antonelli, only really works when it avoids history altogether. When it is a big outer space adventure, it’s relatively engaging. But the version of history depicted in the novel involves weird depictions of Barack Obama as a feckless Marxist ideologue; not so much a counterfactual as a motivated smear job….

(2) NETFLIX TRAILER. Sweet Tooth is “a post-apocalyptic fairytale about a hybrid deer-boy and a wandering loner who embark on an extraordinary adventure.” All episodes of Sweet Tooth premiere on June 4, only on Netflix.

(3) #FINISHINFINITYTRAIN TRENDING WORLDWIDE. There’s an avalanche of tweets from people calling for a studio to finish the Infinity Train series.

Rose has an entire thread that starts here.

Fan art, too!

(4) THREE’S COMPANY. Kevin Standlee has some extended comments about the new Winnipeg bid and the rules governing whether it should appear on the published site selection ballot in “And Then There Were Three” on his Livejournal.

…Speaking theoretically, there are probably only about six cities in Canada that have the facilities to host a Worldcon. Two of them are in the east (Toronto and Montréal), and they’re both within 800 km of DC, which makes them ineligible to file (even as a write-in bid) under WSFS Constitution Section 4.7. (I’ve not looked at Ottawa or Quebec City’s facilities; if they have enough, then there might be eight potential sites rather than six. Also, any city I name includes anything in that city’s general area.) There’s little point in bidding for a site that’s ineligible in all but the most highly-unlikely scenarios — even more unlikely than the combination of circumstances that crashed the site selection at the 2011 Westercon, because Westercon’s rules are subtly different from Worldcon’s, and anyway, it seems unlikely to me that the existing bids would drive away so many supporters that None of the Above would win.

There are two plausible sites in western Canada (Vancouver and Calgary), but they have a somewhat less obvious political flaw, in that they’re less than 800 km from Seattle, which is bidding for 2025, The 2025 Worldcon will be selected at the 2023 Worldcon. A Worldcon selected for one of those cities would automatically disqualify Seattle’s bid. Bidding is hard enough without borrowing trouble by creating a group (Seattle’s supporters) that automatically would be biased against voting for you.

That leaves only two significant sites: Edmonton and Winnipeg. CanSMOF selected Winnipeg’s proposal, but I’m sure that Edmonton (and Calgary, and Vancouver) would make good places for a Worldcon someday….

(5) ELLISON WONDERLAND. Dread Central eavesdropped on Mick Garris’ podcast and learned “How Clive Barker Found Inspiration in Harlan Ellison’s House”.

…“[Harlan] had such an incredible collection of fantastic paintings,” Barker says on a new episode of Post Mortem with Mick Garris. “They were classics—covers of Weird Tales and all that wonderful ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s stuff.” 

Garris recalls his own visit to “Ellison Wonderland” just as fondly. He didn’t, however, get a look inside Ellison’s bomb shelter, as Barker did when he was there. (“I do know that you had to go through a hobbit door to get into it,” Garris says.)

“Behind [the door] was a locked room which he said would survive three atom bombs,” Barker says. “This is all very Harlan, right? Maybe if that’s true, then you’re just saying ‘Hello’ to the cockroaches when you get out! But it was an incredible room, because in there, he had the books that he’d collected over the years that he would want to survive the apocalypse. I don’t have a bomb-proof room, but I’ve got those books, too—the books that I feel bespeak our culture.”

(6) EASY MONTHLY PAYMENTS. Vox’s Terry Nguyen dissects the changing attitude in favor of multiple subscriptions to creators and entertainment streams: “Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+: Why we might never reach subscription fatigue”.

…A self-described avid budgeter, Mason currently spends about $120 per month on 11 subscriptions, from streaming services to Substacks and artist Patreon accounts — up from last year’s average of $94 per month.

Quarantine and the demise of digital media were driving factors in Mason’s decision to support more independent artists and writers. The pandemic is partly responsible for facilitating a subscription boom over the past year, but it’s also contributed to the growth of the creator economy, as more people make things from home. “I’m 32 with no kids, no student loans, and no plans to buy a house again,” Mason, the editorial director for the New York Times’s Games team, said. “I’m very much someone who will pay an artist for a thing that they’ve made.”

The monthly $5, $10, and $15 credit-line charges add up, though. When the subscription business model was pioneered by news publishers in the 17th century, there was little competition. Within the past two decades, all sorts of businesses have begun clamoring for a slice of the subscriber pie, from consumer product startups and retailers like Dollar Shave Club to media organizations and internet personalities.

A few major players have become so integral to people’s buying or streaming patterns, like Netflix or Amazon Prime, that consumers approach them almost as a sort of utility….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 29, 2005 –On this day in 2005, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film premiered in the USA after premiering a day earlier in the U.K. it was based loosely off the series by Douglas Adams, and it was directed by Garth Jennings with production by a not insignificant multitude of individuals. The screenplay was credited to Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick which is a neat trick indeed given that he’d died some years before. It had a rather stellar cast of Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Anna Chancellor and John Malkovich. Critics mostly liked it and it scores an excellent sixty five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It did not figure in the Hugo nominations the following year. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 29, 1880 – Lillian Jones.  Her one novel I know of is the first (1916) Utopia published in America by a black woman.  A century later came Karen Kossie-Chernyshev ed., Recovering “Five Generations Hence” (2013) with the text, annotations, and essays.  Here is a note from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t really recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him either in hard copy or digitally. A quick bit of research suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best when I was reading him. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1919 – Elmer Perdue.  One story in Stirring.  Founding member of the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  Long before aluminum cans and even Country Club malt liquor – ahem – he could crush a tomato-juice can in one hand.  Active in FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n). Fan Guest of Honor at Quakecon.  More here.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1924 – Paul S. Newman.  A novel and a shorter story; beyond that, or besides, or something, Guinness World Record for most prolific comic-book writer: 4,100 stories, 36,000 pages.  Comic-book version of Yellow Submarine.  Tom Corbett, Space cadet.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1943 Russell M. Griffin. Author of but four novels as he died far too young of a heart attack. The Makeshift God, his first novel, I remember that novel as being a rather decent dystopian affair, and Century’s End was even bleaker. He wrote but nine stories. He alas has not made it into the digital realm yet. (Died 1986.) (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; he also did the editing of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. He also wrote the engaging Mr. Majeika children’s series which is most decidedly genre. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1955 Kate Mulgrew, 66. Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager and she’ll be voicing that role again on the animated Star Trek: Prodigy.  Other genre roles include voicing Red Claw on Batman: The Animated Series, the recurring role of Jane Lattimer on Warehouse 13 and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia 2.0 at the Signature Theatre Company. Finally she voiced Titania in a recurring role on Gargoyles. (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1956 – Alexander Jablokov, age 65.  Six novels, four dozen shorter stories.  Contributor to NY Review of SF.  John Clute says AJ’s first novel has darkly suave competence, the most recent is exuberantly gonzo.  AJ innocently says “In my work, I like good prose, interesting details, and as much humor as I can comfortably fit in.” [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1960 Robert J. Sawyer, 61. Hominids which is quite excellent won the Hugo for Best Novel at Torcon 3, and The Terminal Experiment won a Nebula as well. Completing a hat trick, he won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan too. Very impressive.  And then there’s the FlashForward series which lasted for thirteen episodes that was based on his novel of that name.  Interesting series that ended far too soon. (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1969 – Julia Knight, age 52.  Eight novels, a couple of shorter stories.  Has read The Great GatsbyGone with the WindTales of the Dying Earth. “When not writing [likes] motorbikes, watching wrestling or rugby….  incapable of being serious for more than five min –” oops.  [JH]
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 51. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film alongside Time Bandits), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood film that starred Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin. (CE) 
  • Born April 29, 1976 – Micol Ostrow, age 45.  Five novels, one shorter story for us, also a book (with Steven Brezenoff) classified as nonfiction being The Quotable Slayer i.e. Buffy.  Fifty books all told.  Earlier, ten years a children’s-book editor.  “I live and work in Brooklyn, NY, alongside my Emmy Award – winning husband and our two daughters.  It’s pretty much the best.”  [JH]

(9) VISIT TO THE COMIC SHOP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Marvel (and, I presume, DC) are seriously younger-izing some of their characters/stories… I took a pic of the back of the book, because IMHO it’s funnier in context of other titles.

(10) FANTASTIC COLORS. WIRED explains “How Pixar Uses Hyper-Colors to Hack Your Brain”: “But at Pixar the virtual cameras can see an infinitude of light and color.”

… In a way, every filmmaker is really just playing with moving light and color on surfaces. That’s the whole ball game, a filmic given. But Pixar takes it further, or perhaps just does it more self-consciously and systematically. Its emotionally weighty, computer-generated animated films deploy precisely calibrated color and light to convey narrative and emotion—from the near-total absence of green in WALL-E (until postapocalyptic robots find the last plant on Earth) to the luminous orange marigolds that symbolize Miguel’s trip to the magical Land of the Dead in Coco through the contrast between the cool blue luminosity of the afterlife with the warm, snuggly sepia of New York City in last year’s Soul.

In fact, almost every Pixar movie works within a specific color palette, a story-specific gamut that filmmakers like Feinberg pull from and use to plan the look of each scene, a road map known as the color script. But Coco complicated that process. When its story moves to the Land of the Dead, it cranks up all the dials, colorwise. Those scenes look made out of neon, like a bio-organic version of Tokyo’s Shinjuku District at night. “When it came time to do the color script, it was like, ‘The Land of the Dead has every color. All of it takes place at night, so we can’t use time of day to elicit emotion. There is no weather in the Land of the Dead, so we can’t use weather to elicit emotion.’ Those are three pretty typical things we use to support the story,” Feinberg says….

(11) OCTOTHORPE. In Episode 30 of the Octothorpe podcast “Try to Always Use Chaps in a Gender-Neutral Way”, “John Coxon can’t make a poll, Alison Scott knows the religious forms, and Liz Batty has one more games thing (sorry). We chat about Swancon, DisCon III, FIYAHCON and the Hugo Awards.”

(12) GOOD CAT. “Kid’s Science Fair Project Answers the Eternal Question: ‘Do Cat Butts Really Touch All the Surfaces in Your Home?’” at Popsugar. Highly scientific answer at the link.

…For his homeschool science fair project, Kaeden [Griffin] tackled one of the most perplexing questions stumping pet owners: “Does your cat’s butthole really touch all the surfaces in your home?”

Kaeden, like many others out there, assumed that if his cat sits on a surface, then their “butthole will also touch said surface,” and to test his hypothesis, he and his mom, Kerry, applied nontoxic lipstick (bright red lipstick, in fact!) to the buttholes of their two well-behaved cats. The cats were then given a series of commands — including sit, wait, lie down, and jump up — and were compensated with praise and treats. The lipstick was removed with a baby wipe once they collected the necessary data, which took place in less than 10 minutes….

(13) BAD DOG. Or so the narrative goes. “The NYPD is sending its controversial robot dog back to the pound”The Verge has the story.

The New York Police Department has canceled its trial of a robot dog made by US firm Boston Dynamics after receiving fierce criticism regarding the “dystopian” technology.

“The contract has been terminated and the dog will be returned,” a spokesperson for the NYPD told the New York PostJohn Miller, the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told The New York Times that the machine was “a casualty of politics, bad information and cheap sound bytes.” Said Miller: “People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil.”

The NYPD began leasing the machine nicknamed Digidog last year. “This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” said the NYPD’s Frank Digiacomo in an interview with ABC7. The robot was deployed roughly half a dozen times during its tenure, mostly acting as a mobile camera in potentially hostile environments…

(14) SPACE AS SEEN FROM THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE. A high-tech project is“Hunting ghost particles beneath the world’s deepest lake” says DT Next.

A neutrino-spotting telescope beneath the frozen Lake Baikal in Russia is close to delivering scientific results after four decades of setbacks. A glass orb, the size of a beach ball, plops into a hole in the ice and descends on a metal cable toward the bottom of the world’s deepest lake.

Then another, and another. These light-detecting orbs come to rest suspended in the pitch-dark depths down as far as 4,000 feet below the surface. The cable carrying them holds 36 such orbs, spaced 50 feet apart. There are 64 such cables, held in place by anchors and buoys, two miles off the southern coast of this lake in Siberia with a bottom that is more than a mile down.

This is a telescope, the largest of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere, built to explore black holes, distant galaxies and the remnants of exploded stars. It does so by searching for neutrinos, cosmic particles so tiny that many trillions pass through each of us every second. If only we could learn to read the messages they bear, scientists believe, we could chart the universe, and its history, in ways we cannot yet fully fathom.

“You should never miss the chance to ask nature any question,” said Grigori V. Domogatski, 80, a Russian physicist who has led the quest to build this underwater telescope for 40 years. After a pause, he added: “You never know what answer you will get.” It is still under construction, but the telescope that Dr. Domogatski and other scientists have long dreamed of is closer than ever to delivering results. This hunt for neutrinos from the far reaches of the cosmos, spanning eras in geopolitics and in astrophysics, sheds light on how Russia has managed to preserve some of the scientific prowess that characterised the Soviet Union.

The Lake Baikal venture is not the only effort to hunt for neutrinos in the world’s most remote places. Dozens of instruments seek the particles in specialised laboratories all over the planet. But the new Russian project will be an important complement to the work of IceCube, the world’s largest neutrino telescope, an American-led, $279 million project that encompasses about a quarter of a cubic mile of ice in Antarctica….

(15) THE GOTHA OF DELIVERY DRONES. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown reports on a new drone by the German company Wingcopter that can deliver three packages on one flight whereas existing delivery drones can only deliver one package at a time. “Wingcopter is mass producing ‘triple-drop’ drones to deliver more packages, faster”.

… “Today, in order to deploy three packages at one time, companies would have to buy or lease three drones,” Plümmer said. “Price-wise, you’re not going to want to have three of them when you can have one. And no one wants thousands of drones flying above their heads.”

The start-up’s new device is central to its broader vision of providing drones to firms seeking ways to distribute hot meals, groceries, medical supplies or other lightweight goods. It was created to “power logistical highways in the sky,” Plümmer said.

The company says the eight-rotor air vehicle is capable of level-four autonomy, which means it is mostly autonomous but requires a human for some tasks.

It has a 5.8-foot wingspan and measures under 4.5 feet from nose to tail…. 

(16) AVOIDING THE END. The original attempt to stop global warming! “Did Vikings Host Ragnarök Rituals at Surtshellir?” in Smithsonian Magazine.

…The team’s findings, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, show that the eruption that formed the cave, known as Surtshellir, occurred in the late ninth century A.D., soon after the first Viking settlement of Iceland.

Per the paper, this incident was probably the first major volcanic eruption witnessed by people in northern Europe since the end of the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years prior. The explosion covered about 90 square miles of fertile land in volcanic rock.

“[T]he impacts of this eruption must have been unsettling, posing existential challenges for Iceland’s newly arrived settlers,” write the authors in the study.

According to Owen Jarus of Live Science, the Vikings entered the newly formed cave soon after the lava cooled. They constructed the boat structure, placing ritual offerings inside and burning the bones of animals, including sheep, goats, cattle, horses and pigs. Historical records show that the Vikings associated the cave with Surtr, a giant responsible for battling the gods during Ragnarök and bringing about the end of the world in Norse mythology….

(17) BOOK TRAILER. An appetizer to get you interested in Einstein – The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Time and Space by Torben Kuhlmann. More about the book as well as a sneak peek here.  

Time is relative! Award-winning, illustrator Torben Kuhlmann’s brilliant new book bends time and imagination! When an inventive mouse misses the biggest cheese festival the world has ever seen, he’s determined to turn back the clock. But what is time, and can it be influenced? With the help of a mouse clockmaker, a lot of inventiveness, and the notes of a certain famous Swiss physicist he succeeds in traveling back in time. But when he misses his goal by eighty years, the only one who can help is an employee of the Swiss Patent Office, who turned our concept of space and time upside down….

Suppose Albert Einstein’s famous theories first came into being through an encounter with a little mouse.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/5/20 It’s A Flamin’ Platypus!

(1) WORLDWIDE SFF. The editor makes his pitch: “Celebrating International Speculative Fiction: Lavie Tidhar on The Best of World SF Anthology.

…I spent the past decade trying to pitch a simple idea to publishers: a mass market anthology of international speculative fiction for the bookstore shelf. The responses varied from, well, no response at all to an under-an-hour rejection (that one still hurts).

The idea is simple and, to me, both logical and necessary. I am of that new generation of writers who grew up in a language other than English, and who decided at some point that our way in is to write in this peculiar, second language. Somehow, we reasoned, against all odds and common sense, we’ll break through into that rarefied Anglophone world, maybe even make a go of it. After all, how hard could English be?

Many of the writers in The Best of World SF do indeed write in English as a second language. Others are translated, thanks to the tireless effort of passionate translators from around the world. As a sometimes translator myself, I know how rarely translators get acknowledged or, indeed, paid, and I made sure that they were paid the same for these stories as the authors themselves.

(2) CHILLING TRAILER. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina returns for Part 4 on December 31.

(3) FIND FANNISH PHOTOS. Carl Andor has a new site up with SF convention photos from 1973 through 2018 at thepacificoceanspeaksforitself.com

Hello and welcome! I initially created this website because costume.org’s “International Costumer’s Gallery” has been down for quite a while, and they only allowed me to post my costume photos. My convention photos include props, displays, celebrities, and sets, as well. Here, I’m able to post them all.

The gallery is accessible from this page.

This archive is a collection of convention and costume event photos going back to 1973. It includes Science Fiction conventions, Costume conventions, Costume College, and other events and exhibits. It will be added to over time, as the digitizing of negatives continues. The currently displayed photos are those that have been previously published on costume.org’s website, as well as photos not previously published. Since costume.org’s site is down for an indeterminate period of time, this will allow you access to my collection.

(4) BLOOM SINCE BRADBURY. The Guardian has an interview with 2011 Hugo finalist Rachel Bloom: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom: ‘Ten years ago, no one talked about a cultural problem in comedy’”.

On the day in April that Rachel Bloom finally took her newborn daughter home from the hospital, one of her best friends died. Her daughter had arrived with fluid in her lungs, into a maternity ward that was rapidly filling with furniture as other wards were transformed into Covid wards. Bloom, tired and elated to be home, had a nap. Her husband woke her with the news: Adam Schlesinger – the well-loved musician and one of Bloom’s closest collaborators on the musical-dramedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – had died from Covid-19 in a New York hospital, aged 52.

For a wild and strange period, it was unclear how to grieve. Schlesinger, like so many of this year’s dead, had no funeral. Jack Dolgen, the third part of the songwriting trio behind the TV show, came to mourn with Bloom, standing 15ft from her fence. Aline Brosh McKenna, the showrunner, stood in the street. “We didn’t know anything, there was no testing, we didn’t know how this thing spread,” Bloom says. “Now we have a Crazy Ex Zoom, where we all talk. But there’s nothing natural about it.”…

… Bloom was only 23 when her parody song Fuck Me Ray Bradbury went viral on YouTube, and just 26 when Brosh McKenna approached her for Crazy Ex. But she was already weathered enough by experience to know what she wanted on the set, particularly in the writers’ room. It “had to be nice”, she says. “People can’t be creative if they feel threatened. You need people saying random weird shit without feeling their boss will yell at them. And it worked. I think there has been an awakening of compassion, since, a reckoning with privilege.”

(5) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. “This Video Calculates How Huge STAR TREK’s Enterprise-D Is”Nerdist believes you want to know. And maybe you do! After all, I once figured out how tall a real-life Hugo rocket would be.

…EC Henry posted the video to YouTube, noting that even though everyone knows the Enterprise-D is big, it is, in fact, massive. And while that is, of course, a subjective assessment, relatively speaking it has to be true. In the video, EC says he used the enormous amounts of available data on the fictional ship to make his estimates. In fact, the nerdy artist (our description), used “comprehensive” blueprints of all 42 decks of the Enterprise-D. Which, while not canonical, still apparently provide realistic measurements.

(6) LANDER OBIT. Actor David Lander, best known as Laverne & Shirley’s “Squiggy,” died December 4 at the age of 73 reports Variety. He voiced many genre roles.

…As a voice actor, Lander was the voice behind Smart Ass in the 1988 Disney movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” and was credited as Stephen Lander in “Boo” and “Zino and the Snurks.” He also voiced Ch’p in the DC Comics animated movie, “Green Lantern: First Flight” in 2009.

Lander most recently voiced Rumpelstiltskin in Disney’s children’s show, “Goldie & Bear,” and Donnie the Shark in an episode of “SpongeBob Squarepants” in 2016.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

  • In 1986, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s The Illuminatus Trilogy consisting of The Eye in the PyramidThe Golden Apple and Leviathan would be selected for the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. All three novels were originally published eleven years earlier by Dell as separate novels with the trilogy coming out in 1984. It is his only win of six nominations for Prometheus Awards to date with The Illuminatus Trilogy being nominated twice.  The Schrödinger’s Cat trilogy has not been nominated to date. (CE)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

December 5, 1945 “Aircraft Squadron Disappears in the Bermuda Triangle”.

…Two hours after the flight began, the leader of the squadron, who had been flying in the area for more than six months, reported that his compass and back-up compass had failed and that his position was unknown. The other planes experienced similar instrument malfunctions. Radio facilities on land were contacted to find the location of the lost squadron, but none were successful. After two more hours of confused messages from the fliers, a distorted radio transmission from the squadron leader was heard at 6:20 p.m., apparently calling for his men to prepare to ditch their aircraft simultaneously because of lack of fuel.

By this time, several land radar stations finally determined that Flight 19 was somewhere north of the Bahamas and east of the Florida coast, and at 7:27 p.m. a search and rescue Mariner aircraft took off with a 13-man crew. Three minutes later, the Mariner aircraft radioed to its home base that its mission was underway. The Mariner was never heard from again. Later, there was a report from a tanker cruising off the coast of Florida of a visible explosion seen at 7:50 p.m….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 5, 1830 – Christina Rossetti.  A novelette, a short story, two dozen poems for us, best known “Goblin Market”; much other work.  Applauded by Hopkins, Swinburne, Tennyson.  “In the Bleak Midwinter” set to music as a Christmas carol by Holst, later by Darke; “Love Came Down at Christmas” by many.  (Died 1894) [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1890 Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. (Died 1976.) (CE) 
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), PinocchioFantasia (both 1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950) and Mary Poppins (1964), the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT). I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And, of course, there’s “The Three little Pigs” with the weird note about the father of the little pigs. (Died 1966.) (CE) 
  • Born December 5, 1936 James Lee Burke, 84. This is one of the listings by ISFDB that has me going “Eh?” as to it being genre. The Dave Robicheaux series has no SFF elements in it and despite the title, In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, neither does that novel. The character makes it clear that it’s very, very likely he’s hallucinating. Great novel. (CE) 
  • Born December 5, 1941 – Jon DeCles, age 79.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories; “Haiku Portraits” (under another name, with David McDaniel) reprinted in A Tolkien Treasury.  Portrayed Mark Twain, whom I thus met and conversed with, at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  Knew Ben Bova at Milford.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1954 Betsy Wollheim, 66. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers. (CE)
  • Born December 5, 1961 – Nicholas Jainschigg, age 59.  A hundred covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Here is the Feb 89 Asimov’s.  Here is the Dec 91 Amazing.  Here is Bears Discover Fire.  Here is Northern Stars.  Here is the Jul-Aug 99 Analog.  Here is an interior for “Still Life with Scorpions”.  Also card games, comics, landscapes, digital paleontology.  Gaughan Award.  Professor at Rhode Island College of Design.  “Amazing beauty can be found … between parking lots, between buildings.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1969 – Erec Stebbins, Ph.D., age 51.  Microbiologist and SF author.  Three novels for us.  Mostly occupied as Head of the Division of Structural Biology of Infection and Immunity at the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg.  [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 47. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures. (CE) 
  • Born December 5, 1980 Gabriel Luna, 40. He plays Robbie Reyes who is the Ghost Rider rather perfectly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Rather much better I’d say than Nick Cage ever did in the films. He was also Terminator Rev-9 in Terminator: Dark Fate, and he did voice work for the Black Site: Area 51 video game. (CE)
  • Born December 5, 1986 – Amy DuBoff, age 34.  Ten novels, plus more with co-authors; a dozen shorter stories.  Norton finalist last year.  Proudly says some readers call her the modern Queen of Space Opera.  [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1988 Natasha Pulley, 32. She’s best known for her debut Victorian steampunk novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street which won a Betty Trask Award. She has two other novels, Her second novel, The Bedlam Stacks, was published in while her third, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, is the sequel to her first novel. (CE)
  • Born December 5, 2002 – Caroline David, age 18.  With Peter David wrote Fearless, sequel to his Tigerheart.  She was 11 at the time but got full co-author credit.  Later she began sculpting (the word should really be sculping, but never mind for now) things like these.  [JH]

(10) FORGET SHERLOCK. Who was his favorite character? The Guardian has unearthed a photo of Arthur Conan Doyle cosplaying Professor Challenger: “The photo is the clue: Arthur Conan Doyle’s love for his Lost World hero”. See the photo at the link.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger, the fictional scientist and explorer who discovers a forgotten land of dinosaurs, went on to inspire a string of adventure films, including Jurassic Park. He was a headstrong and irascible antihero, but there is now proof he also served as his creator’s literary alter ego.

The evidence of handwritten notes and amendments, laid out this week with the first publication of the full manuscript of Conan Doyle’s original and most famous Challenger story, The Lost World, show the author not only posed for a photograph of himself dressed as the professor, but also initially gave the character his own age and address.

Conan Doyle spent much of his writing career distancing himself from his best-known creation, Sherlock Holmes, and his family later spoke of the great detective as “a curse”. Yet it seems Conan Doyle was happy to be confused with Challenger….

… Conan Doyle even persuaded his friends to join him in posing for a mocked-up photograph of the story’s imaginary expedition team. They appear grouped around a table before they set off for a hidden mountain plateau above the Amazon river in search of creatures from the Jurassic age. Conan Doyle hoped the image of himself in a fake beard and bushy eyebrows would give his story an air of authenticity, but the editor refused to print it.

(11) MAY IN DECEMBER. Arthur Conan Doyle wasn’t the only 19th century author cosplaying his own characters. Karl May did it, too: “The Life of Armchair Adventurer Karl May”, a photo gallery at Der Spiegel.

Karl May, who died 100 years ago, was an impostor, a liar and a thief — and one of Germany’s most widely read authors. He embellished his own biography with as much fantasy as the scenarios in his adventure novels, and when the deceit was finally exposed, he never recovered. But his legend lives on. Here, May dressed as his cowboy character Old Shatterhand.

(12) FULL OF STARS. “The Astronomical Beadwork of Margaret Nazon” at WCC Digest.

…But it wasn’t until 2009, when Nazon’s partner showed her images sent back from the Hubble Space Shuttle Program, that she reached her astronomical epiphany: what if she beaded the stars? Turns out, the different sized and colored beads were the perfect medium to depict the twirls, swirls, and clouds of supernovas, galaxies, black holes, and other out-of-this-world phenomena.

(13) SALAD AD ASTRA. NASA Harvested Radishes on the International Space Station” reports Food & Wine.

…On Monday, American astronaut Kate Rubins plucked 20 radish plants from the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) on the International Space Station (ISS), wrapping them in foil and placing them in cold storage until it’s time for their return trip home on SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission in 2021. According to a NASA fact sheet, 11 experiments have been completed growing veggies for human consumption as part of this program—from ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce in 2015 to Mizuna mustard last year. NASA says radishes made for a logical next step as they mature in less than a month and have a “sensitive bulb formation” which allows for analysis of CO2 effects and mineral acquisition and distribution.

(14) DRONING OVERHEAD. “Police Drones Are Starting to Think for Themselves” – don’t take the New York Times’ headline literally – yet.

…Each day, the Chula Vista police respond to as many as 15 emergency calls with a drone, launching more than 4,100 flights since the program began two years ago. Chula Vista, a Southern California city with a population of 270,000, is the first in the country to adopt such a program, called Drone as First Responder.

…Shield AI, a start-up in San Diego that has worked with police departments, has developed a drone that can fly into a building and inspect the length and breadth of the premises on its own, with no pilot, in the dark as well as in daylight. Others, including Skydio and DJI, a company in China that makes the drones launched from the roof of the Chula Vista Police Department, are building similar technology.

The Chula Vista department treats drone video much as it does video from police body cams, storing footage as evidence and publicly releasing it only with approval, Capt. Don Redmond said. The department does not use drones for routine patrols.

For privacy advocates like Mr. Stanley of the A.C.L.U., the concern is that increasingly powerful technology will be used to target parts of the community — or strictly enforce laws that are out of step with social norms.

“It could allow law enforcement to enforce any area of the law against anyone they want,” Mr. Stanley said.

Drones, for instance, could easily be used to identify people and restrict activity during protests like those that have been so prevalent across the country in recent months. Captain Redmond said the Chula Vista department did not deploy drones over Black Lives Matters protests because its policies forbade it.

(15) THE BIRDS. “The beauty of starling murmurations – in pictures” – a photo gallery in The Guardian.

Copenhagen-based Søren Solkær , best known for taking photographic portraits of big names in music and film such as Björk and David Lynch, has spent the past four years capturing starling murmurations. Inspired by traditional Japanese landscape painting and calligraphy, these stunning photographs are collected in a new book, Black Sun.

“The starlings move as one unified organism that vigorously opposes any outside threat. A strong visual expression is created, like that of an ink drawing or a calligraphic brush stroke, asserting itself against the sky,” says Solkær.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “I’m Flying” from the 1960 TV Version of Peter Pan is an excerpt from a musical broadcast on NBC featuring Mary Martin as Peter Pan, with choreography by Jerome Robbins and a song by Carolyn Leigh and Moose Charlap.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Jeff Smith, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Carl Andor, Cath Jackel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/15/20 To Clickfinity And Beyond!

(1) RECONVENE REPORT. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ReCONvene, the one-day virtual con of NESFA, was this afternoon, so I paid my ten dollars and attended via Zoom. 

It was worth devoting much of the afternoon to it for just one conversation, the Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction panel which had Ellen Kushner as moderator with P. Djèlí Clark, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Carlos Hernandez and, to my utter delight, Aliette de Bodard. I learned much about the writers and their worlds that I didn’t know. Like all items it allowed conversations among the fans as a text feed — I didn’t listen in too very much of that but they were getting a lot of participation. 

Earlier on, Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths with Adam Stemple as moderator had Victor Lavalle, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne Valente and Rebecca Roanhorse as panelists. Like the other Zoom groups I listened to, it was flawless in its sound and video. Lots of personal ethnic background here as basis for storytelling — most excellent.

The panels were good and they used Discord for follow up chats which I’ll admit I skipped. There was a tour of the art show which is less interesting than being there, but the writers were the reason to be there and they even did Kaffeeklatsches, solo conversations with authors, so I listened to Justina Ireland who I was hearing of for the first time and turned out to be fascinating.

All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. If Boskone is virtual next February (and I wouldn’t count against it being so), I’ll certainly pay for a virtual membership based on his trial run which was organized well and easy to use.  

(2) THE ANSWER. Robert J. Sawyer has a piece in The Star today: “Robert J. Sawyer: We’re all living in a science-fiction novel now”.

As soon as Toronto let customers eat on restaurant patios again, I made a beeline for Orwell’s Pub — best dang chicken wings in the city. The indoor restaurant was closed, and Chris, the guy who usually tends bar, was serving. When he came by my table, he quipped, “Seems like we’re all living in a Robert J. Sawyer novel now.”

I was surprised he knew who I was. Despite Orwell’s being a cosy “Cheers”-style “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” place, as a non-drinker, I’m usually invisible to bartenders. But Chris was right: we are living in a science-fiction novel now, and a dystopian one at that.

Since my latest novel, “The Oppenheimer Alternative,” is about the Manhattan Project, I often get asked what should be the next big-science undertaking with an all-but-unlimited budget bringing together our brightest minds.

My answer: developing a general antiviral technique, rather than an endless succession of vaccines targeting one, and only one, specific virus. The old method is why our annual flu shots are sometimes ineffective; we’d guessed wrong about which strain of flu would become prevalent. It’s also why we’ve never had a vaccine against the common cold, which is caused by a vast, ever-mutating range of coronaviruses.

Viruses aren’t even alive. They’re just bits of genetic code encased in a protein shell, sometimes (as with the novel coronavirus plaguing us now) slicked down with a fatty coating. And that’s it.

(3) FREEDOM AT MIDNGHT. Somtow Sucharitkul will give away free eBook versions of three of his YA novels from August 17-19, starting at midnight Pacific time.

(4) FUTURE FREE READS. Ellen Datlow told HWA today about the dark fantasy reading coming out for free on the Tor.com website in the next few weeks:

  • “Wait for Night” by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror story -September 2 (which is when his novella Night Of The Mannequins will also be out).
  • “The Little Witch” by M. Rickert, a dark fantasy novelette-October 28
  • “On Safari in R’lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera” by Elizabeth Bear, a dark fantasy novelette-November 18

(5) THE REINVENTED COUNTRY. “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism” – an NPR Morning Edition transcript.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here’s the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That’s something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book “A Princess Of Mars” and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.

JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don’t get to put a ex in front of that.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.

DEGGANS: That could be something of a mission statement for the “Lovecraft Country,” a series based on the recent novel of the same name. The book and series reference the work of renowned horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, known to have racist views about African Americans. The show compares the work of Lovecraftian (ph) supernatural beings which could have sprung from his books to the racism Black people faced in 1950s-era America.

Atticus Freeman, played by “Da 5 Bloods” costar Jonathan Majors, is a Korean War veteran who returns home to find his missing father. Before long, he’s enlisted help from his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, and his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett. They must travel across the country from Chicago to follow a clue. And along the way, they run into a not-too-helpful police officer who informs them Black people aren’t allowed in the area after dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

JAMIE HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Any of y’all know what a sundown town is?

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Yes, sir. We do.

HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Well, this is a sundown county. If I’d have found you after dark, it would have been my sworn duty to hang every single one of you from them trees.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) It’s not sundown yet.

DEGGANS: But when the police officer and his buddies try to lynch the trio, everyone is attacked by huge, teethy, flesh-eating monsters who chase them into a cabin. Uncle George, who’s just as much of a bookworm as Atticus, has an idea of what they might be facing.

…At a time when the world is still reeling from seeing a Black man die with a white policeman’s knee on his neck, there is no better moment for HBO’s gripping “Lovecraft Country” to reinvent a supernatural tale.

(6) FLOURISHNG MAGIC. Rebecca Roanhorse tells the New York Times: “‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi”. Tagline: “Long underrepresented in genre fiction, Native American and First Nations authors are reshaping its otherworldly (but still often Eurocentric) worlds.”

When Cherie Dimaline was growing up near Penetanguishene, a small town on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, her grandmother and great-aunts told her stories about a werewolf-like monster called the rogarou. It wasn’t spoken of as a mythical creature but as an actual threat, the embodiment of danger in a place where Indigenous women face heightened risk of violence.

“This wasn’t like, here’s a metaphor,” she said. “They would say, ‘The rogarou’s out, and he’s really hungry.’”

Decades later, Dimaline, a member of the Métis Nation in Canada, was working on a novel about a woman whose missing husband reappears with no memory of her, seemingly under a spell. She needed a charismatic villain, and when the rogarou — a wily trickster figure in Métis oral traditions — popped into her head, she realized the creature had never been given its due in popular culture.

That flash of inspiration turned into “Empire of Wild,” a genre-bending novel whose modern Indigenous characters confront environmental degradation, discrimination and the threat of cultural erasure, all while battling a devious monster….

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you all will accept his invitation to polish off prawn pizza with Stephen Dedman on Episode 125 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This episode I have breakfast while Australian writer Stephen Dedman has dinner 12 hours in my future.

Stephen has published more than 100 short stories, some of which I was privileged to publish back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine. You can find many of those stories in his collections The Lady of Situations (1999) and Never Seen by Waking Eyes (2005). His novels, which include The Art of Arrow Cutting (1997), Foreign Bodies (1999), Shadows Bite (2001), and others, have been Bram Stoker, Aurealis, William L. Crawford, and Ditmar Award nominees. He’s also written role-playing games, stageplays, erotica, and westerns. And he at one time worked as a “used dinosaur parts salesman,” a job which had me extremely curious — and as you listen to us chat and chew, you’ll find out all about it.

We discussed how the Apollo 11 moon landing introduced him to science fiction, what his father told him which changed his plan to become a cartoonist, the huge difference the Internet made in the lives of Australian writers, his creative trick for getting his first poem published, what acting taught him about being funny in the midst of tragedy, his former job as a used dinosaur parts salesman, the way page one tells him whether he’s got a short story or novel idea, how Harlan Ellison became the first American editor to buy one of his stories, and much more.

(8) MIND’S EYE. At LitHub, Kathleen Rooney discusses “How Fiction Allows Us to Inhabit Animal Consciousness”.

For centuries, human thinking—at least in the West—has been dominated by the notion, said to have originated with Aristotle, of the Scala Naturae, or the Ladder of Life. Also known as the Great Chain of Being, this concept establishes a hierarchy in which all life forms can be arranged in ascending degrees of perfection with humans, conveniently, at the topmost rung. Even after Darwin came along and replaced this model with his considerably less vertical Tree of Life, the idea of the human mind as the apex of biological consciousness has persisted.

Increasingly, in the face of climate catastrophe, more humans are beginning to question their hubris. In the introduction to their 2017 book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, the editors note: “Some scientists argue that the rate of biological extinction is now several hundred times beyond its historical levels. We might lose a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.” This, the arguable point of no return, affords a chance to examine the received belief in human exceptionalism. Science writing in particular and nonfiction in general have much to say regarding the similarities between human and non-human minds, but fiction offers opportunities to explore this interconnectedness as well. After all, if fiction has the power to show us another individual’s private and interior uniqueness, then why not depict animals possessing such interiority?

(9) YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR BONES. Skeleton Hour is a new monthly horror literature webinar series presented as an Horror Writers Association event in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.

Each panel will be an hour long and bring together 3-5 authors to discuss a specific topic in horror with a moderator guiding the discussion. Panels will take place on Zoom, with the audience able to ask questions in the chat window. The series launches Friday, August 28th, with the first panel focused on 70s-90s throwback horror including authors of novellas from the Rewind or Die series published by Unnerving Press: Mackenzie Kiera, Stephen Graham Jones, Lisa Quigley, and Jessica Guess, as well as noted subject matter expert Grady Hendrix!

Register for the Zoom webinar here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2C6hfS-ARoGvvNontWmiqg. The event will also be live streamed by HWA on Facebook and YouTube.

(10) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Be sure to consult NASA’s Guide to Near-light-speed Travel before blasting off.

So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on upgrades to your spaceship, and now it can fly at almost the speed of light. We’re not quite sure how you pulled it off, but congratulations! Before you fly off on your next vacation, however, watch this handy video to learn more about near-light-speed safety considerations, travel times, and distances between some popular destinations around the universe.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 15, 1984 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension premiered. Directed by and produced by W.D. Richter (with co-production by Neil Canton), the screenplay was by Earl Mac Rauch who did nothing else of a genre nature. Primary cast was Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd. Initial critical response was generally negative with a few claiming the script was unintelligible. More than one said it was too hip for its good. No, it didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent 70% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 15, 1771 – Sir Walter Scott, Bt.  Lawyer, reviewer, antiquarian, poet, novelist; in the last three, fantastic elements recur; in the last two, by his doing; his reputation has soared, fallen, soared again.  He may yet prove timeless.  He wrote “Breathes there the man with soul so dead” and “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive!”  RossiniDonizettiSchubertBeethoven set his words to music.  His baronetcy became extinct upon the death of his son.  (Died 1832) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1907 – Jack Snow. Wrote Who’s Who in Oz (1954), rightly praised by Anthony Boucher (“Recommended Reading”, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar 55).  By then JS had written two Oz novels of his own, five darker short stories for Weird Tales.  When Frank Baum, the first and arguably best Oztorian, died in 1919, JS offered to succeed him – age 12; he was turned down.  Matching or at least harmonizing with Baum’s style has been elusive ever since; Who’s Who which could neither treat at length nor argue is masterly, as Boucher noted.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1917 John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for TexansHunter PatrolCrisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1933 – Bjo Trimble, 86.  (There should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”, but the software won’t allow it.)  Omnifan preceding Bruce Pelz.  Her vitality and wit sparked LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) out of a slump, authored SF con Art Shows (for which she still refuses credit), led a letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek from being scrapped (see On the Good Ship “Enterprise”), flourished in fanart, concocted cons and costumes.  Received the Big Heart (our highest service award) in 1964, possibly the youngest ever; Inkpot, 1974 (its first year); Fan Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con 1995 the 6th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  She and husband John have the Life Achievement Award from the Int’l Costumers Guild.  They were early Baroness and Baron in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she has the Order of the Laurel (arts & sciences), both the Order of the Pelican (service).  Together co-chaired Westercon 23; were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1934 – Darrell K. Sweet.  Three hundred fifty covers for us, seventy-five interiors; perhaps 3,000 images all told.  Here is Space Cadet.  Here is Beyond the Blue Event Horizon.  Here is The Dictionary of SF Places.  Here is The Eye of the World.  Here is “The Gap Dragon and Princess Ivy”.  Artbook, Beyond Fantasy.  Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Tuckercon the 9th NASFiC; World Fantasy Con 2010; LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon which had to celebrate him posthumously.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 77. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Did 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1952 – Louise Marley, 68.  A score of novels (some under other names) including both a Glass Harmonica and a Mozart’s Blood, as many shorter stories.  Interviewed in FantasyLocusStrange HorizonsTalebones.  Two Endeavour Awards (note spelling; named for Captain Cook’s ship).  Before authoring, sang with the Seattle Opera.  See this autobiographical note.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1958 Stephen Haffner,  62. Proprietor of Haffner Press which appears to be largely a mystery and genre reprint endeavor though he’s published such original anthologies as Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett Day, October 16, 2010 and the non-fiction work Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship which he did with Patric Caldwell. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1964 – Carla Sinclair, 56.  Editor of Net Chick.  Author of Signal to Noise.  Co-founder of bOING bOING.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 48. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best know role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on the  2013 Star Trek into Darkness where he was the surviving sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. (CE)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SETTING DOWN THE S.H.I.E.L.D. “‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Behind the Scenes of the Emotional Series Finale” – a New York Times Q&A with showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.

…The resulting series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” went on to have a successful seven-season run on ABC, which ended Wednesday with a complex two-hour series finale. That didn’t seem especially likely after its rough debut in 2013. Some critics wanted flashier connections to Marvel cinema — where was Iron Man? — and the show had to operate in the shadow of the movies: The existence of magic couldn’t be acknowledged until it was first revealed by the 2016 film “Doctor Strange” first; “life-model decoys,” a kind of android, weren’t permissible until an android character appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

But about halfway through its run, the show began reinventing itself, with characters ping-ponging through space, time and alternative realities. Once the writers freed themselves of the timeline and narrative restraints established by the movies (and even ignored a few), the series started to soar.

“We could just make up our own stories,” said Jed Whedon. “It was liberating.”

In the final season, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hopped around different decades, with a pit stop in the 1980s that provided pure pop-geek joy. (Agent Coulson as Max Headroom? Check.)

But the show never lost its emotional core: the relationship between Agents Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who crossed the galaxy more than once to be together, only to be repeatedly pulled apart. In the finale, they reunited, as Fitz helped the ragtag team save both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Earth from a takeover by an alien android race.

(15) IT ONLY MAKES HIM MAD. “Bald Eagle Sends Government Drone Into Lake Michigan” reports the New York Times.

… A squabble in the sky over Lake Michigan left one bald eagle victorious and one government drone mangled and sunken.

Hunter King, a drone pilot at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was surveying an area of the lake near the state’s Upper Peninsula last month when the drone started “twirling furiously” after it indicated that a propeller had been torn off.

“When he looked up, the drone was gone, and an eagle was flying away,” said the department, whose name is abbreviated E.G.L.E.

A couple who regularly spends time watching eagles go after sea gulls in the area witnessed the battle but were surprised when they learned that it was a drone that had been downed in the fight, the department said….

The department speculated that the eagle could have attacked because of a territorial dispute, because it was hungry “or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”

(16) THE WORM TURNS. NPR asks“Could Giving Kids A 50-Cent Pill Massively Boost Their Income Years Later?”

It’s one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.

To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.

It was the mid-1990s and Kremer was visiting Kenya. “I mean I was on vacation. I wasn’t there for a research trip or something,” he recalls.

Kremer, who had spent a year after college teaching at a school in Kenya, decided to look up a friend from that project. And at their get-together, the friend mentioned to Kremer that he was about to start a new aid program to help elementary school children — including by giving them deworming pills.

The parasites aren’t just bad for kids’ health. They can make a child too listless to pay proper attention in school or so sick she misses many school days.

Kremer, who had recently gotten his doctorate in economics, says he was struck by an idea: “I suggested that if he chose twice as many schools and then they initially started working in half of them and then later expanded [the deworming to the other half], I could measure the impact of what they were doing.”

…The experiment, which involved about 32,000 children, also turned deworming into a popular form of aid. That’s because the first set of results, released in 2004 by Kremer and a collaborator, Edward Miguel of University of California, Berkeley, showed that giving the kids the pills reduced absenteeism and dropping out of elementary school by a fourth — from 28% to 21%.

(17) WE INTERRUPT THIS DESSERT. Serious Eats reminds people of “The History of Astronaut Ice Cream”.

There may be no novelty sweet more polarizing than astronaut ice cream. Those who adore it praise its light, crunchy texture, and a flavor that is still unmistakably creamy and sweet. Its detractors will say biting into it is akin to chomping down on a piece of chalk: powdery and unnatural. And for those who have never tried it, the entire concept of eating ice cream stripped of all liquid may seem downright bizarre. But even though so-called astronaut (or to be more precise, freeze-dried) ice cream isn’t the most popular of novelty treats, its longevity proves that it has found a small, but fiercely loyal fan base.

Even its creator has been a little surprised at the product’s staying power….

[Thanks to amk, Andrew “Eagle Eye” Porter, Somtow Sucharitkul, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Dan Bloch, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 6/14/20 To Follow Pixels Like A Sinking Star,
Beyond The Utmost Bounds Of Human Scrolls

(1) DROPPING THE PILOT. “Harry Potter Fans Reimagine Their World Without Its Creator” – the New York Times listened to some fans who are trying to make the division.

…Over the past week, some fans said that they had decided to simply walk away from the world that spans seven books, eight movies and an ever-expanding franchise. Others said that they were trying to separate the artist from the art, to remain in the fandom while denouncing someone who was once considered to be royalty.

“J.K. Rowling gave us Harry Potter; she gave us this world,” said Renae McBrian, a young adult author who volunteers for the fan site MuggleNet. “But we created the fandom, and we created the magic and community in that fandom. That is ours to keep.”

The essay was particularly gutting for transgender and nonbinary fans, many of whom found solace in the world of “Harry Potter” and used to see the series as a way to escape anxiety.

(2) ONE MINNEAPOLIS SFF BOOKSTORE BACK IN BUSINESS. Greg Ketter’s DreamHaven Books has reopened.

(3) TINY THEOLOGY. The Small Gods series by Lee Moyer (icons) and Seanan McGuire (stories) reported here last month has assembled quite a pantheon in the past few weeks. See them all here.

View this post on Instagram

Sometimes education isn’t enough. Sometimes you can study and study and try and try, and never quite cross the last bridge between where you are and your heart’s desire. Sometimes you need to tell the perfect little lie to get there. Once upon a time there was a small god of goldfinches named Yucan who wanted nothing more in the world than to be a god of toucans, to manifest himself as a big, beautiful, tropical bird that people would stop to ooo and ahh over when they saw it in the trees, something impressive. It was a good thing to be a god of songbirds. There weren’t as many of them as there had been before cats became quite so popular as house pets, and the ones remaining needed all the divine intervention they could get their wings on. He appreciated their attention and their worship, but he wanted, so very badly, to be more than his nature was allowing him to be. So he hatched, over the course of several slow decades, a plan, and one night, with no warning whatsoever, his faithful woke and found him gone. He had abandoned his divine duties, flown the coop, left the nest, and no one could find a single feather left behind! All the little birdies were distraught…but not for very long, as little birdies have short memories, and there were other gods of songbirds around to serve. If it wasn’t quite the same, well, nothing ever is, not even following the same god from one day to another. They adjusted. They adapted. And far away, a very small god with a very big dream put his plans into action. He donned a false face, he told everyone who met him that he was the god of endangered tropical birds, and if no one had ever seen him before, well, some of those birds were very endangered. Deforestation and poaching, don’cha know? So many dangers to evade. So many fledglings to protect. So he lied, and lied, and pretended, and did his best to live up to his own lies. He protected those who came to him, he spread his wings over the nests of species unknown to science, and he tried, and he lied, and he tried. (Continued in comments)

A post shared by Small Gods (@smallgodseries) on

(4) ESTATE SALE. There are 209 items up for bid in Everything But The House’s “Resnick Estate: Sci-Fi Writer’s World”. Sale continues through June 18.

Born in Chicago in 1942, Mike Resnick always wanted to be a writer. During his prolific career he wrote over 40 science fiction novels, 150 stories, 10 story collections, and edited more than 30 anthologies. Mike’s list of awards and recognitions is lengthy as well; they include 5 Hugo Awards, a Nebula Award, and more than 30 other awards. He was the Guest of Honor at Chicon 7, the 70th Worldcon.

Mike met his soul mate Carol, married at 19, then spent nearly 58 years side by side. In fact, when it came to his writing, Mike once said that “Nothing goes out without Carol (my wife) seeing it, editing it, and making suggestions.”

Please enjoy perusing this unique estate featuring otherworldly art, sci-fi collectibles, books and a peek into Mike & Carol Resnick’s wonderful world.

(5) Q&A & BAGELS. Scott Edelman had a vision – that fans should binge on bagels while he finishes answering listeners’ questions at Eating the Fantastic.

It’s been more than three months since I met with Michael Dirda to record the last — though it would be more accurate to instead call it the most recent — face-to-face episode of Eating the Fantastic. Since then, I also shared two episodes recorded remotely — with Sarah Pinsker and Justina Ireland — each with its own special reason for allowing me to step beyond this podcast’s meatspace culinary mandate.

But because it still seems unsafe out there for a guest to meet with me within the walls of the restaurant, you and I are now about to sequester together, just as we did four episodes ago, when we sheltered in place, and two episodes back, when we practiced social distancing.

Thirty questions remained from my original call to listeners and previous guests of the show, and this time I managed to get through all of them. 

I answered questions about whether my early days in fandom and early writing success helped my career, which anthology I’d like to edit if given the chance, what different choices I wish I’d made over my lifetime, what I predict for the future of food, how the pandemic has affected my writing, if anything I’ve written has ever scared me, whether writer’s block is a reality or a myth, which single comic book I’d want to own if I could only have one, how often I’m surprised by something a guest says, the life lessons I learned from Harlan Ellison, and much more.

(6) CLARION ALUMS ARE ZOOMING. You are invited to register for the 2020 Clarion Summer Conversations. The first two are —

Join the Clarion Foundation for conversations with writers from the Clarion alumni community about writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

This week, our guests are Catherynne M. Valente, Alyssa Wong, and Ashley Blooms, moderated by Karen Joy Fowler.

Join the Clarion Foundation for conversations with writers from the Clarion alumni community about writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

This week, our guests are Eileen Gunn, Ted Chiang, Lilliam Rivera, and Sam J. Miller, moderated by Kim Stanley Robinson.

(7) FIRST CONTACT. Yesterday, Bill reminded us that the premiere of Forbidden Planet at a 1956 SF convention. The attached photo is from the local news coverage of that event – and includes Bob Madle, whose hundredth birthday we celebrated earlier this month.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • June 1965 – Fifty-five years ago this month, Arthur C. Clarke’s Prelude to Mars was published by Harcourt, Brace & World. A hardcover edition of 497 pages, it would’ve cost you $4.95. You got two novels, Prelude to Space and Sands of Mars, plus a novelette, “Second Dawn.” You also got a lot of stories, sixteen in total, many of them from his Tales from The White Hart series.
  • June 1973 — This month in 1973, Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love was first published. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama would beat it out for the Hugo for Best Novel at Discon II. It was given a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. It’s the life of Lazarus Long told in exhaustive detail. Critics including Theodore Sturgeon loved it, and John Leonard writing for the NYT called it “great entertainment”. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 14, 1908 Stephen Tall. His first published  work was “The Lights on Precipice Peak“ in Galaxy, October 1955. Not a prolific writer, he’d do about twenty stories over the next quarter of a century and two novels as well, The Ramsgate Paradox and The People Beyond the Wall. “The Bear with the Knot on His Tail” was nominated for a Hugo. He has not yet made into the digital realm other than “The Lights on Precipice Peak“ being available on iBooks. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1914 Ruthven Todd. He’s here for his delightful children’s illustrated trio of Space Cat books — Space Cat Visits Venus, Space Cat Meets Mars and Space Cat and the Kittens. I’m please to say they’re available at all the usual digital suspects. He also wrote Over the Mountain and The Lost Traveller which are respectively a lost world novel and a dystopian novel. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1917 – Maeve Gilmore.  British author, painter, pianist, sculptor, notable to us for helping her husband Mervyn Peake, generally and with Titus.  After Titus Groan and Gormenghast MP’s health was declining; she halted her own career to give him a hand; he barely finished Titus Alone, published without its final polish.  Notes for a fourth book largely illegible.  After his death she wrote a memoir A World Away and worked on the notes, then she too was gone.  For MP’s birth-centennial in 2011 his children and grandchildren published one of several versions as Titus Awakes.  Michael Moorcock said it “successfully echoes the music of the originals, if not the eloquent precision of Peake’s baroque style”.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1917 – Arthur Lidov.  Illustrator, inventor, muralist, sculptor.  Did the first cover for The Martian Chronicles.  Had already done representational work; here is a 1942 mural Railroading in the Post Office of Chillicothe, Illinois.  Here is his work in a 1950 television ad.  Also real things in a way that might be called fantastic; here and here are paintings for “How Food Becomes Fuel” in the 7 Dec 62 Life.  He still did SF; here is his illustration for “The Cathedral of Mars” (by W. Sambrot; Saturday Evening Post, 24 Jun 61).  Here is a 1982 painting Alpha Universe.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1919 Gene Barry. His first genre role was in The War of the Worlds as Dr. Clayton Forrester. He’d have a number of later genre appearances including several on Science Fiction TheatreAlfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Devil and Miss SarahThe Girl, the Gold Watch & Dynamite, multiple appearances on Fantasy Island and The Twilight Zone. He’d appear in the ‘05 War of The Worlds credited simply as “Grandfather”. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1921 William Hamling. Author and editor who was active as an sf fan in the late 1930s and early 1940s. His first story “War with Jupiter”, written with Mark Reinsberg, appeared in Amazing Stories in May 1939. He’d write only short stories, some nineteen of them, over the next twenty years. Genre adjacent, his Shadow of the Sphinx is a horror novel about an ancient Egyptian sorceress. He would be the editor of two genre zines, Imagination for most of the Fifties, and Imaginative Tales during the Fifties as well. He published four issues of the Stardust fanzine in 1940, and contributed to the 1940 Worldcon program. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1923 – Lloyd Rognan.  After discharge from World War II (Purple Heart in the Normandy landing; served on The Stars and Stripes) and freelancing in Paris he worked for Hamling’s Greenleaf Publications, thus Imagination and Imaginative Tales; a score of covers, a dozen interiors.  Here is a biography, with a 1956 cover.  Here is a cover from 1957.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1939 Penelope Farmer, 81. English writer best known for children’s fantasy novels. Her best-known novel is Charlotte Sometimes, a boarding-school story that features a multiple time slip. There’s two more novels in this, the Emma / Charlotte series, The Summer Birds and Emma in Winter. Another children’s fantasy by her, A Castle of Bone, concerns a portal in a magic shop. (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1948 – Laurence Yep.  Twenty novels, thirty shorter stories for us; forty more novels; picture books; plays. Ph.D. in English.  Newbery Medal; Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Fiction; Woodson, Phoenix Awards; Wilder Medal (as it then was; career contribution to American children’s literature).  Golden Mountain (Chinese immigrants’ name for America, particularly San Francisco) Chronicles, though not ours, valuably tell that story from 1849.  “I was too American to fit into Chinatown, and too Chinese to fit in anywhere else.”  Married his editor and wrote books with her.  Note that dragons, which he writes about, although fantasy in China are quite different there and in the West.  Memoir, The Lost Garden.  [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1949 – Harry Turtledove.  Ninety novels, a hundred eighty shorter stories, translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, under his own and other names, and with co-authors.  Famous for alternative history; three Sidewise Awards.  Best-Novella Hugo for “Down in the Bottomlands”.  Toastmaster at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  Forry Award.  Guest of Honor at – among others – Loscon 23, Deepsouthcon 34, Rivercon 23, Windycon XXII and XXXII, Westercon 55, Eastercon 53 (U.K. nat’l con).  Perfectly innocent Ph.D. in Byzantine history which he then used for more fiction.  Once while I was moderating “Twenty Questions for Turtledove” audience questions ran out so I made up some; afterward I said “You should thank me”; he said “Certainly; why?” and I said “I didn’t ask Why did Byzantium fall?”  [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1958 James Gurney, 62. Artist and author best known for his illustrated Dinotopia book series. He won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at L.A. Con III for Dinotopia: The World Beneath, and was twice nominated for a Hugo for Best Professional Artist. The dinosaur Torvosaurus gurneyi was named in his honor. (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1972 – Adrian Tchaikovsky.  Born Czajkowski, living in England.  Instead of spelling his namelike any reasonable Pole he agreed to Tchaikovsky for the convenience of English-language readers; then when his books were going to Poland he was stuck with it (“this tale of Frankish ignorance”).  Clarke and British Fantasy awards.  Honorary Doctorate of the Arts.  Nine novels in Shadows of the Apt series, two in Children of Time, three in Echoes of the Fall, five more; eighty shorter stories.  Amateur entomologist.  [JH]

(10) OFFENSIVE WEAPONRY. ScreenRant made a list to laugh at: “The 10 Most Hilariously Lame Sci-Fi Weapons In Movies, Ranked”.

Sci-fi films have weapons of all sorts and many of them might seem to be impractical or unrealistic but they still continue to fascinate us….

The absolute worst is —

1. Bat-Shark Repellent- Batman: The Movie (1966)

Adam West’s Batman gave a lighthearted avatar to the caped crusader, giving viewers some priceless ‘so bad that it’s good moments’. In 1966’s Batman: The Movie, Batman is escaping from an ocean while Robin pilots the Bat-Plane above. Robin drops a ladder for Batman to climb but right then, a shark charges at the dark knight.

In a calm and composed tone, Batman asks his accomplice to throw him a can of Bat-Shark Repellent. This random item has no match in terms of lameness and creativity.

(11) BAEN PUBLISHES JANISSARIES SEQUEL. The fourth book in Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries series has been completed posthumously. Baen has a three-part dialog between the writers who finished t.

David Weber and Phillip Pournelle discuss Mamelukes, by Jerry Pournelle. When the late, great Dr. Jerry Pournelle passed away, he left behind the nearly completed manuscript for science fiction novel Mamelukes. Now Pournelle’s son, Phillip Pournelle, and Honor Harrington series creator David Weber have completed the book. This is an entry in Jerry Pournelle’s legendary Janissaries series;

Part I:

Part II:

Part III: The third segment is only in podcast form at this writing:

(12) NEWS TO ME. Puffs “is a stage play written by Matt Cox as a transformative & transfigured work under the magic that is US Fair Use laws.”

Puffs is not authorised, sanctioned, licensed or endorsed by J.K Rowling, Warner Bros. or any person or company associated with the Harry Potter books, films or play.

Here’s the brief description:

For seven years a certain boy wizard went to a certain Wizard School and conquered evil. This, however, is not his story. This is the story of the Puffs… who just happened to be there too. A tale for anyone who has never been destined to save the world.

(13) NEW HORIZONS. “As California Trains 20,000 Contact Tracers, Librarians and Tax Assessors Step Up”.

After more than two months at home, Lisa Fagundes really misses her work managing the science fiction book collection of the San Francisco Public Library. She feels like she’s in withdrawal, longing to see new books, touch them, smell them. “It’s like a disease,” she says, laughing.

But recently, she’s been learning how to combat a different disease: COVID-19. While libraries are closed, Fagundes is one of dozens of librarians in San Francisco training to become contact tracers, workers who call people who have been exposed to the coronavirus and ask them to self-quarantine so they don’t spread it further.

Librarians are an obvious choice for the job, says Fagundes, who normally works at the information desk of the San Francisco Main Library. They’re curious, they’re tech savvy, and they’re really good at getting people they barely know to open up.

“Because a lot of times patrons come up to you and they’re like, ‘Uh, I’m looking for a book –’ and they don’t really know what they’re looking for or they don’t know how to describe it,” Fagundes says.

Or they’re teens afraid to admit out loud that they’re looking for books about sex or queer identity. Fagundes is used to coaxing it out of them in an unflappable, non-judgmental way. Similar skills are needed for contact tracing, which involves asking people about their health status and personal history.

“Talking about sensitive subjects is a natural thing for librarians,” she says. “It’s a lot of open ended questions, trying to get people to feel that you’re listening to them and not trying to take advantage or put your own viewpoint on their story.”

Fagundes is part of the first team of contact tracers trained through a new virtual academy based at the University of California – San Francisco. The state awarded the university an $8.7 million contract in May to expand the academy and train 20,000 new contact tracers throughout California by July — one of the largest such efforts in the country.

(14) CASE SETTLED. Possibly the final word on a Pixel from 18 months ago: “Gatwick drone arrest couple receive £200k payout from Sussex Police”.

A couple arrested over the Gatwick Airport drone chaos that halted flights have received £200,000 in compensation.

Armed police stormed the home of Paul and Elaine Gait in December 2018, and held them for 36 hours after drones caused the airport to close repeatedly.

The couple were released without charge, and sued Sussex Police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

On Sunday, their legal team announced the force had agreed to an out-of-court settlement package.

Sussex Police confirmed it has paid the couple the £55,000 owed in damages, and law firm Howard Kennedy said it has billed the force an additional £145,000 in legal costs.

Flights were cancelled in droves over a three-day period, as police investigated multiple reported drone sightings.

No-one has ever been charged, and police have said that some reported drone sightings may have been Sussex Police’s own craft.

Twelve armed officers swooped on Mr and Mrs Gait’s home, even though they did not possess any drones and had been at work during the reported sightings.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “More Creative Writing And Tips From Stephen King” on YouTube is a 2016 compilation by Nicola Monaghan of writing advice Stephen King has given in lectures at the University of Massachusetts.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/20 The Galileo Sevateem

(1) INCOME INEQUALITY. In “#PublishingPaidMe and a Day of Action Reveal an Industry Reckoning”, the New York Times does a roundup of Monday’s Twitter exchange, leading with a focus on Jesmyn Ward. Other authors quoted include N.K. Jemisin and John Scalzi.

…Hand-wringing over diversity is nothing new in publishing — its work force is more than three-quarters white, according to a survey released earlier this year by the children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books — but over the weekend, conversations that have been occurring for years took a turn into public protest.

Using a hashtag, #PublishingPaidMe, that quickly began trending on Twitter, authors shared their advances, which is the amount of money they receive for their books before any royalties, typically based on copies sold, start coming in. The young adult author L.L. McKinney, who is black, started the hashtag on Saturday, hoping to highlight the pay inequality between black and nonblack writers.

“These are conversations black authors have been having with each other and trying to get the industry engaged on for a long time,” she said. While she wasn’t surprised by the disparities that were revealed, she was hurt, she said, by “how deep it went.”

Jesmyn Ward, a critically acclaimed novelist, said on Twitter that she “fought and fought” for her first $100,000 advance, even after her book “Salvage the Bones,” for which she said she received around $20,000, won a National Book Award in 2011. After switching publishers, she was able to negotiate a higher advance for “Sing, Unburied, Sing” — for which she won a second National Book Award, in 2017 — but, she said, “it was still barely equal to some of my writer friends’ debut novel advances.”

…A Google spreadsheet that collected the advances of authors also went viral, amassing nearly 1,200 entries by midday Monday. Its contents were self-reported and could not be independently verified, but many entries were detailed with the genre of book, the race, gender and sexual orientation of the author, as well as what the authors were paid. Of the 122 writers who said they earned at least $100,000, 78 of them identified as white, seven as black and two said they were Latin American.

(2) TOP LGBT SF. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual list of “Outstanding LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy short fiction from 2019”. These 30 stories are finalists for major SF/F awards, included in year’s best SF/F anthologies, and recommended by prolific reviewers. Here are some of their observations about the list.

(3) ROWLING CRITIC. At LitHub, “How JK Rowling Betrayed the World She Created. Gabrielle Bellot on Transphobia and Growing Up with the Harry Potter Universe”. One of many pieces responding to Rowling’s tweets of a few days ago.

Time and time again, I’ve become accustomed to having to defend my womanhood when public figures declare that transgender women are not “real” women. Sometimes, I want to quietly sit back, avoiding the stress of having yet another prolonged argument with people who will call me “sir” at best and a rapist who should be euthanized at worst—for all trans women, the argument goes, are just men who want to sneak into women’s locker rooms to do nefarious things. It’s emotionally and spiritually exhausting to debate your identity; sometimes, you just want to log off social media and take a walk or hug someone you love for support, curling up in your own small safe harbor, where, at least for a bit, no one is accusing you of being a freak, a pervert, an abomination who does not belong in the annals of this Earth….

(4) ROWLING REPLIES TO CRITICS. On her website today, “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues” a 3,600-word explanation of her views that also includes a previously undisclosed personal history of sexual assault.

….But endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it. I stand alongside the brave women and men, gay, straight and trans, who’re standing up for freedom of speech and thought, and for the rights and safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay kids, fragile teenagers, and women who’re reliant on and wish to retain their single sex spaces. Polls show those women are in the vast majority, and exclude only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is….

(5) DOOM PATROL TRAILER. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the second season.

The Doom Patrol isn’t done with the weird just yet! See what the team’s been up to in Season 2, starting with 3 new episodes on June 25.

(6) COLORADO CON CANCELLED. COSine, Colorado Springs’ annual convention, has joined the ranks of the postponed. What’s unusual is – this was a January 2021 event, and it’s being bumped to 2022.

Fortunately, all of our guests have agreed to come in 2022! You can read the official announcement here.

(7) THE GLUE THAT HOLDS IT ALL TOGETHER. Frank Catalano says “It’s weird to cross streams between education conferences and the Nebula Conference, but I did it. With a photo, in EdSurge.” — “Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Remote Education Conference Woes and Wows”. Frank’s wide-ranging review of virtual conference techniques includes these notes of praise for SFWA’s recent Nebula Conference.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America moved its annual Nebula Conference for professional writers in late May online. Yes, it had good moderators, snappy sessions and well-oiled combinations of online tools over its three days. But it also had something that helped replicate the physical experience.

In advance of the event, paid registrants received an unexpected package in the mail containing a four-page color schedule, a printed name badge and a short tumbler glass etched with the name of the event. To make those post-session Zoom happy hours more … happy.

Now that’s an organization looking to the future of virtual conferences.

(8) POD PERSON. Michael Dirda confesses: “All the books in my 300 boxes sparked joy. The lockdown made me rethink why I was keeping them” in the Washington Post. He really did end up giving some of the books away. A few.

… It was clear to my lightning brain — I’m not a Sherlockian for nothing — that I needed to free up space in the storage pod before I could put more boxes into it. There was, I deduced, just one way to accomplish this: I would have to start selling or giving away some of my books right now rather than later. But which ones should go? Obviously, I would keep personal favorites such as James Salter’s “A Sport and a Pastime,” Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping,” Frederick Exley’s “A Fan’s Notes” and John Crowley’s “Little, Big,” as well as books I still hoped to read (Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa,” Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene,” Cao Xueqin’s “The Story of the Stone”) or reread (Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall,” Boswell’s “The Life of Samuel Johnson,” Stendhal’s nonfiction, Macaulay’s essays, dozens of ghost-story collections, lots of P.G. Wodehouse, Edmund Crispin and Evelyn Waugh). I’d also retain material need for writing projects — mainly that popular fiction in the attic — and, not least, the first or special editions worth more than $100, including signed books by Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and Hunter Thompson.

So, picture me two weeks ago, as I sat on a white plastic lawn chair inside a gigantic metal oven, picking up book after book and only occasionally feeling a Kondoesque spark of joy amid many spasms of regret. 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 10, 1950  — Dimension X aired “The Green Hills of Earth”. Based on Robert Heinlein’s short story which originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on February 8, 1947, the title refers to a song that Heinlein wrote fragments of here and the filk community has filled out the lyrics down the years. It was adapted here by Ernest Kinoy who also did the same task at X Minus One. You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 10, 1918 Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, and he also appeared on the Twilight ZoneOuter Limits, The InvadersTekWarThe Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury TheaterSpace Island OneMemory RunThe Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton.   He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage,  but he illustrated them excellently.  We in fandom know about Mipple-Stipple; his stippled style defies us to call it mundane.  Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doomhere is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors.  Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki.  Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text).  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland.  For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz – winning her only Academy Award.  I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right; and otherwise, as a law school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.  The rest of her career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1935 – Yoshiro Tatsumi.  He coined geika for a development of manga he preferred; see here.  I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan.  Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about geika and mangahere is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1937 Luciana Paluzzi, 73. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1942 Jürgen Prochnow, 78. I thought he was a rather good Duke Leto Atreides in Dune. It certainly was the best of the genre films he did around that time as The KeepTerminus and The Seventh Sign were pretty awful horror films.  Much better was Robin Hood where he was  Sir Miles Folcanet. Then there’s Judge Dredd where he’s Judge Griffin… I’ll end his genre with his role as Cdr. Paul Gerald in Wing Commander. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1951 Charles Vess, 69. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1952 Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern and sold various sales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz.  Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, ten Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal.  Two art books, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of Don Maitz Fantasy Art Trading Cards.  Guest of Honor at – among others – Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon (1997).  Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road.  Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1962 – Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D.  Author, physician, Professor of Medicine at Tanta University.  Two hundred books in both Egyptian Arabic and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines.  Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures.  In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls; translated into English, Finnish, French, German.  Cheryl Morgan interviewed him in Locus 614.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1964 Andrew M. Niccol, 56. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also was involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it is still in development.  (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard.  In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers.  Independent Publisher‘s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TO PUT A POINT ON IT. James Davis Nicoll curates “Five SFF Works Inspired by RPGs”.

… Herewith, some works with RPG DNA: works that you may not know and may like, featuring the now familiar teams of skilled adventurers—don’t call them murder hobos—using their diverse skill set to solve problems. Usually by stabbing them.

(13) BATWOMAN POST RUBY ROSE. Entertainment Weekly explains that Batwoman is replacing Ruby Rose’s Kate Kane with a new character”.

Just because Batwoman plans on introducing a brand new character to pick up the titular hero’s mantle in the wake of Ruby Rose’s exit doesn’t mean the CW superhero drama will forget about Kate Kane. In fact, Kate’s absence will baked into the show’s second season in the same way that Bruce Wayne’s was in the first season.

[…] “To be honest with you, I did consider the ‘soap opera version’ [of recasting] for a hot minute, because selfishly we already had a couple episodes written, and transition-wise it would be seamless,” [showrunner Caroline Dries] said, according to TVLine. “But upon further reflection — and I think [Arrowverse EP] Greg [Berlanti] helped me make this call — he’s like, ‘I think we should just reboot Batwoman as a different character.’” She went on to explain that this decision allowed them to honor Rose’s work in season 1 while also not forcing the audience to put a new face to a character they’d already spent time getting to know.

(14) IT’S A BIRD…IT’S A PLANE. Well, it’s a very small one. Gizmodo informs us “Google’s Drone Delivery Service Now Dropping Library Books to Kids”.

Book-loving kids in Christiansburg, Va., are about to get a special delivery to ease the boredom of summer quarantine (and months of being stuck at home). Google will soon start dropping books to kids via its drone delivery service, Wing, according to the Washington Post. Now they can get their hands on a copy of The One and Only Bob (if they don’t already own it).

… Google’s book delivery service is an extension of the company’s drone service, which first partnered with FedEx and Walgreens to deliver over-the-counter medicines and other items to Christianburg residents last October. That pilot program has continued throughout the pandemic. Wing also partnered with local restaurants to deliver meals to residents; that service also saw an increase in demand during quarantine. Google has been testing Wing since 2014, when the drones made their first test flights in Queensland, Australia.

(15) STANDING DOWN. NPR reports: “IBM Abandons Facial Recognition Products, Condemns Racially Biased Surveillance”.

IBM will no longer provide facial recognition technology to police departments for mass surveillance and racial profiling, Arvind Krishna, IBM’s chief executive, wrote in a letter to Congress.

Krishna wrote that such technology could be used by police to violate “basic human rights and freedoms,” and that would be out of step with the company’s values.

“We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies,” Krishna said.

The nationwide demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd already have led to changes to police departments around the country – over use of force policies, police misconduct and police contracts.

The moment of reckoning over the country’s relationship with law enforcement also comes as artificial-intelligence researchers and technology scholars continue to warn about facial recognition software, particularly how some of the data-driven systems have been shown to be racially biased. For instance, the MIT Media Lab has found that the technology is often less successful at identifying the gender of darker-skinned faces, which could lead to misidentifications.

People interviewed by the BBC expressed doubts:

Privacy International’s Eva Blum-Dumontet said the firm had coined the term “smart city”.

“All around the world, they pushed a model or urbanisation which relied on CCTV cameras and sensors processed by police forces, thanks to the smart policing platforms IBM was selling them,” she said.

“This is why is it is very cynical for IBM to now turn around and claim they want a national dialogue about the use of technology in policing.”

She added: “IBM are trying to redeem themselves because they have been instrumental in developing the technical capabilities of the police through the development of so-called smart policing techniques. But let’s not be fooled by their latest move.

“First of all, their announcement was ambiguous. They talk about ending ‘general purpose’ facial recognition, which makes me think it will not be the end of facial recognition for IBM, it will just be customised in the future.”

The Algorithmic Justice League was one of the first activist groups to indicate that there were racial biases in facial recognition data sets.

(16) ANOTHER RWA REFORM. Romance Writers of America, in “Dreamspinner Advocacy”, admits they didn’t adequately pursue the missing author payments from this publisher under the previous regime. They’re gathering statements to work on it now.

As we lay the foundation for RWA 2.0, one of the Board of Directors’ priorities is to strengthen RWA’s professional relations advocacy. To this end, we are reviving our advocacy efforts with respect to Dreamspinner Press and its missing author payments. Previous advocacy on this matter did not properly or fully address the issues, leaving many members unsupported. This is unacceptable and antithetical to our mission, and the Board and staff are committed to doing everything we can to support our members now to the greatest extent possible.

We will be reaching out to Dreamspinner Press to demand payments due to our members on behalf of our members who request that we do so. We also will be working with RWA’s attorney to explore all of our options in this matter. We will keep the membership updated on this process.

We would like to hear from any member who is a Dreamspinner Press author about your situation and what you would ideally like to see from our advocacy efforts. Also, if any members would like to contribute accurate, verifiable statements about their experiences with Dreamspinner Press to be used both in outreach to the publisher and in a potential public statement to better inform both members and non-members about the situation, we are collecting those by June 30, 2020.

(17) A CLOSER LOOK. “Planet’s satellites aim for still sharper view of Earth” — examples, and one picture just for drama.

When SpaceX puts up another batch of its Starlink satellites in the coming days, there’ll be three spacecraft from the Planet company catching the same Falcon rocket ride to orbit.

These companies – SpaceX and Planet – now operate the largest commercial constellations above our heads. SpaceX at over 450 satellites; Planet at more than 150.

SpaceX is targeting broadband communications; Planet is all about Earth observation, and this next launch marks a big milestone in the San Francisco outfit’s plans.

These next three platforms that go up with SpaceX will go into Planet’s SkySat network.

Already this comprises 15 spacecraft. The satellites were lowered in recent months from 500km in altitude to 450km, to increase their resolution. They now see any feature on the Earth’s surface larger than 50cm.

With the addition of the soon-to-launch threesome, and a further three about a month later, Planet will then have 21 of the high-resolution imagers circling the globe. At that point, the SkySats will be able to see any spot on the ground (cloud permitting) on average up seven times a day.

(18) MORE ON THE ANDROID BLIT. “‘How my photo ended up breaking Android phones'”.

Gaurav Agrawal, a scientist and amateur photographer living in San Diego, couldn’t believe it when he suddenly started seeing a photograph he took last summer popping up on the news.

He took it at St Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana, one “magical evening” in August 2019.

He shared the snap on photo platform Flickr and thought no more about it.

However, a glitch meant that when the image was set as wallpaper, it caused some Android phones to fail.

The handsets would switch on and off repeatedly, requiring a factory reset which meant all data on them was wiped.

Last week, a tweet about the bug went viral – and Mr Agrawal contacted me.

…”It was a magical evening,” Mr Agrawal told the BBC of the night he took the photo, in the park with his wife. It was their third trip there, in pursuit of the perfect picture.

“It was gloomy and cloudy, and we thought there wasn’t going to be a great sunset. We were about to leave when things started to change.”

He grabbed the shot on his Nikon camera, and later did a small edit using the editing software Lightroom.

And that’s where the bug crept in.

Lightroom gives three colour-mode options for exporting the finished result – and the one he picked is the one that seems to confuse some Android handsets.

(19) MM-MM-GOOD. “Italian woman prepares olives during brain tumour operation”.

Brain operation patients have been asked to play the violin or the guitar during surgery, but until now there is no record of anyone stuffing olives on the operating table.

A 60-year-old Italian woman did just that during a procedure to remove a tumour from her left temporal lobe.

The neurosurgeon at Ancona’s Riuniti hospital said the two and a half hour procedure “went very well”.

His patient is said to have prepared 90 olives in the space of an hour.

Awake brain surgery, as it is known, is used to treat some neurological conditions such as tumours that affect the areas of the brain responsible for vision, movement or speech. To help the surgeon try to inflict minimal damage on healthy tissue, the patient can be asked questions or engaged in an activity during the operation.

As the left temporal lobe controls speech, memory and movement of the right part of the body, neurosurgeon Roberto Trignani told Ansa news agency the method “allows us to monitor the patient while we work on their brain functions and to calibrate our action”.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Seven of Nine And The Doctor Singing ‘My Darling Clementine'” on YouTube is another clip of Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo singing from Star Trek: Voyager.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/20 Pixelo And Scrolliet – A Play In Three Acts By Filiam Scrollspeare

(1) NEBULA NOMINATIONS DEADLINE. It’s today, and only a few hours away.

(2) VET BILL APPEAL. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has launched the “Bo the Wonder Dog Medical Fund” at GoFundMe.

My wife and I adopted Bo nearly 17 years ago.  

He’s been a great friend and companion, helping me through the loss of my wife to cancer and being a “great guy”.

Bo has some issues:  he’s had chronic pancreatitis and has been diagnosed with Chron’s disease.

…With the loss of my wife a couple of years ago, my personal financial picture has changed dramatically (loss of one entire income, health care, etc) and, while I’ve kept up with the bills (barely) and gotten some help from the family, I anticipate that expenses for treatment will continue for a while and I simply can not afford them.

At the current time, the outstanding balance on his bill is approximately $1300.00 – and that does not include the bill for emergency vet care when I had to bring him in at 11:30 pm on 2/16/20 [sic].  I expect that we are currently looking at around $2500 all told, and that’s just going to increase with additional office visits, tests and medications.

Bo is an extremely intelligent, vibrant, engaged silky terrier; the image shown here appeared on the cover of the Sunday Concord Monitor (NH) showing his involvement with Amazing Stories magazine.  

And Bo is the last remaining connection I have with my wife as we adopted him together and he is in many ways the child of our marriage.

I simply don’t want him to suffer, regardless of what the eventual diagnoses ends up being and I don’t want him to suffer simply because the bills can’t be paid.

(3) HWA INTERVIEW SERIES. Horror Writers of America is celebrating Women in Horror Month by interviewing some of the top women in the horror field in a series called Females of Fright. Here’s what’s online so far —

(4) BUTLER’S PARABLE ON STAGE. There will be a performance of the stage adaptation of “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower” on Saturday, March 7 in UCLA’s Royce Hall. See details at the link.

Based on the novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler, this genre-defying work of political theater featuring a powerhouse ensemble of 20 singers, actors and musicians harnesses 200 years of Black music to give musical life to Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel. Parable of the Sower, set in 2024 and published in 1993, presciently grapples with many of the same issues we face today—global warming, corporate influence over government, a destabilized economy, water scarcity, food scarcity, the privatization of social services, homelessness, public safety, a return of long forgotten diseases and the profit-making machine that runs the medical industry. Written by singer, composer and producer Toshi Reagon in collaboration with her mother, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon (song leader, composer, scholar, social activist and founder of Sweet Honey In the Rock), Parable Of The Sower is a mesmerizing theatrical work of rare power and beauty that reveals deep insights into gender, race and the future of human civilization.

(5) STILL NO CIGAR. “Sonic the Hedgehog movie: Critics put the brakes on” – a BBC survey of the media response.

The reviews are in for the new-and-improved Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and the critics have been getting their (human) teeth stuck in.

The trailer was out last May, but Sonic went back to the drawing board after fans reacted badly to how he looked.

Variety said he “has been redesigned to satisfy fans, but no-one figured out how to make him as fun as he is fast”.

And IndieWire declared that “fixing Sonic’s terrifying face hasn’t made this movie any less of a nightmare”.

Jim Carrey plays Dr Robotnik, who – as well as the US government – is chasing the supersonic Sega hedgehog, portrayed in voice and facial motion capture by Ben Schwartz.

The Guardian gave the film two stars, noting how “dastardly Jim Carrey gives Sonic the blues”.

The paper’s critic Steve Rose wrote: “Carrey’s moustache-twirling villain is more fun and far more animated than the charmless hero in this derivative caper.”

(6) NOODLING AUDIBLY. Scott Edelman invites fans to nibble fried noodles with John Edward Lawson in Episode 115 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My latest lunch on which you get to eavesdrop is with John Edward Lawson, the author of 16 books of fiction and poetry, plus numerous chapbooks. His short stories have been collected in such titles as Pocketful of Loose Razorblades, Discouraging at Best, and most recently Devil Entendre, while his poetry can be found in multiple titles, including The Plague Factory, The Scars Are Complimentary, Bibliophobia, and the Bram Stoker Award finalist The Troublesome Amputee.

He’s the founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press, which was given a Specialty Press Award by the Horror Writers Association in 2019. He currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction, and also manages the Broadkill Writers Resort, which he founded in 2016.

We met for lunch recently on a rainy day in Washington D.C. at Dolan Uyghur restaurant. It was my first taste of Uyghur cuisine, and I was quite impressed, particularly by the hand pulled noodles in my Laghman.

We discussed the birth of the bizarro horror subgenre (and the surprisingly democratic way in which it was named), the reason Alien both repelled and attracted him, how trying to sell screenplays led to him publishing his first short fiction instead, the story of his which was the most emotionally difficult to write, how he won a poetry award only after giving up on poetry, the unexpected gift he was given when starting his own publishing company, his initial doubts about naming his press Raw Dog Screaming, how he survived the 2008 financial meltdown which sank so many small presses, why he loves watching people bicker, the reason he became known as “the forgotten black man of horror,” and much more.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubtless best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu, I’ll also single out The Romance of Sorcery as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Batman TV series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film, with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1914 Kevin McCarthy. Best remembered as Dr. Miles Bennell in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He would later have recurring roles in Twilight Zone and is in the Twilight Zone movie as well having a cameo in the Seventies remake of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Other SF credits include The Howling, Innerspace, Addams Family Reunion and Looney Tunes: Back in Action in which he had a cameo as Dr. Miles Bennell. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1917 Meg Wyllie. She was the Talosian “Keeper” in the Trek pilot episode, “The Cage”. She would show up later in Batman as Grandma in the “Black Widow Strikes Again” episode and earlier in her career, she was in Twilight Zone episode “The Night of the Meek” as Sister Florence. She’s Granny Gordon in The Last Starfighter. (Died 2002.)
  • Born February 15, 1935 Paul Wenzel, 85. Disney illustrator responsible for such works as the Mary Poppins posters, the Walt Disney commemorative stamp and concept art of The Haunted Mansion. For those of you asking why he’s here, I’ll note that during the Sixties, he did both covers and interiors for Fantastic Stories of ImaginationIf ,Galaxy, Space Travel and Worlds of Tomorrow
  • Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 75. Dreaming Down-Under which he co-edited with Janeen Webb is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction. It won Ditmar Award and was the first Australian fiction book ever to win the World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. As for his novels, I’m fond of High Steel written with Jack C. Haldeman II, and The Man Who Melted. He’s not that well stocked digitally speaking though Dreaming Down-Under is available on Kindle. 
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 72. Author and illustrator of Maus which if you’ve not read, you really should. He also wrote MetaMaus which goes into great detail how he created that work. And yes, I know he had a long and interesting career in underground comics but I’ll be damn if I can find any that are either genre or genre adjacent. 
  • Born February 15, 1958 – Cat Eldridge, 62, is the publisher of Green Man Review and Sleeping Hedgehog. Cat, who’s had some severe health problems, likes to remind people, “Technically I died in 2017 and was revived in the same year.”
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 49. Gabrielle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Quite fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt andshe’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse. She’s also played Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of Macbeth.

(8) PEAK TELEVISION IS HERE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Watching television in the modern era is like trying to drink from a fire hose: According to Nielsen, there were 646,152 unique programs available to view on television in 2019. This is the first time that there’s been a full survey done of available content, but they also ran numbers for the previous few years, and found that 2019 saw 10 per cent more content available than any previous year. From WIRED: “There Were 646,152 Things to Watch on TV Last Year”  

From the report: “We are at the flash point of the “streaming wars,” with an array of new subscription and ad-supported platforms seeking to capitalize on what is a massive global opportunity for consumer attention and value.”

(9) ANOTHER BRANCH IN THE TREE. “‘Ghost’ DNA In West Africans Complicates Story Of Human Origins”NPR has the story.

About 50,000 years ago, ancient humans in what is now West Africa apparently procreated with another group of ancient humans that scientists didn’t know existed.

There aren’t any bones or ancient DNA to prove it, but researchers say the evidence is in the genes of modern West Africans. They analyzed genetic material from hundreds of people from Nigeria and Sierra Leone and found signals of what they call “ghost” DNA from an unknown ancestor.

Our own species — Homo sapiens — lived alongside other groups that split off from the same genetic family tree at different times. And there’s plenty of evidence from other parts of the world that early humans had sex with other hominins, like Neanderthals.

That’s why Neanderthal genes are present in humans today, in people of European and Asian descent. Homo sapiens also mated with another group, the Denisovans, and those genes are found in people from Oceania.

The findings on ghost DNA, published in the journal Science Advances, further complicate the picture of how Homo sapiens — or modern humans — evolved away from other human relatives. “It’s almost certainly the case that the story is incredibly complex and complicated and we have kind of these initial hints about the complexity,” says Sriram Sankararaman, a computational biologist at UCLA.

(10) ONE OF THESE DAYS… “Wanted: New astronauts for Nasa Moon mission”

Going into space is a dream shared by children and adults around the world.

Although humans have not stepped foot on the Moon in almost half a century, Nasa hopes to change this. It plans to land the first woman – and the next man – on the lunar surface by 2024.

And now the US space agency is looking for candidates to take part in its future missions.

So with applications opening from 2 to 31 March, what does it take to become an astronaut?

Nationality matters

Since the 1960s, Nasa has selected 350 candidates to train as astronauts, with 48 currently in the active astronaut corps.

But as it is a US federal agency, the first requirement to join Nasa is American citizenship, although dual nationals are also eligible to apply.

This rule has not put everyone off: late British astronaut Piers Sellers left the UK and became a US citizen as part of his dream to become an astronaut, and later flew on three space shuttle missions.

(11) AND HOW. BBC video — “Record-breaking astronaut: ‘Do what scares you'”.

Christina Koch spent 328 days on the International Space Station and was part of the first all-female spacewalk.

The astronaut also surpassed the previous female record reached by Peggy Whitson in June 2017 for time spent in space.

She touched back down to Earth on 6 February.

(12) DRONING AWAY. PetaPixel invites you to “Watch an Anti-Drone Laser Literally Fry a Bunch of DJI Drones from Miles Away”.

Israeli defense technology company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd recently released a demo of their special “Drone Dome” counter-drone defense system. A car-mounted anti-drone solution that can fry unwelcome drones from miles away using a high-powered laser beam.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]