Pixel Scroll 1/28/23 But Oh, Saberish Padawan, Beware Of The Day, If Your Scroll Be A Pixel

(1) COLUMBIA SHUTTLE TRAGEDY ANNIVERSARY. NPR is “Remembering the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy 20 years on”.

…SIMON: Twenty years later, what have we learned about that day? What happened there in the sky? And what might have prevented it?

DUGGINS: Well, you know, it’s funny. I mean, if you talk to historians, who are much better at this than I am, they’ll say, you know, the Titanic, it can’t sink. Challenger – routine launch and landing, no problems there. And that hubris always seems to catch up with us. And with Columbia, it was the piece of falling foam that hit the vehicle. And NASA asked the engineers, do you know it’s a problem? And they said, well, we can’t be sure. And so the manager said, fine, we’ll just keep going with the mission and not tell anybody about it. And it wasn’t until the very end that they informed the astronauts ’cause they figured it was going to come up in a press conference. And that was what ultimately doomed the crew….

(2) LE GUIN POETRY VOLUME COMING. The Library of America edition of Ursula K. Le Guin: Collected Poems will be released April 23.  See a PDF of the Table of Contents.

Throughout a celebrated career that spanned five decades and multiple genres, Ursula K. Le Guin was first and last a poet. This sixth volume in the definitive Library of America edition of Le Guin’s work presents for the first time an authoritative gathering of her poetry—from the earliest collection, 1974’s Wild Angels, through her final publication, So Far So Good, which she delivered to her editor a week before her death in 2018. It reveals the full formal range and visionary breadth of a major American poet.

Le Guin’s poems engage with themes that resonate throughout her fiction but find their most refined expression here: exploration as a metaphor for both human bravery and creativity, the mystery and fragility of nature and the impact of humankind on the environment, the Tao Te Ching, marriage, aging, and womanhood. Often traditional in form but never in style, her verse is earthy and playful, surprising and lyrical.

This volume features a new introduction by editor Harold Bloom, written shortly before his own death in 2019, in which he reflects on his late-in-life friendship with Le Guin and the power of her poetic gift. “For many years I have wondered why her poetry is relatively neglected,” he writes. “Her lyrics and reflections are American originals. Sometimes I hear in them the accent of William Butler Yeats and occasionally a touch of Robinson Jeffers, yet her voicing is inimitably individual.” The book also presents sixty-eight uncollected poems, a generous selection of Le Guin’s introductions to and reflections on her poetry, including a rare interview, and a chronology of her life and career.

(3) OH GOODY. Futurism assures readers, “By 2030, You’ll Be Living in a World That’s Run by Google”.

…By 2030, Google will have that World Brain in existence, and it will look after all of us. And that’s quite possibly both the best and worst thing that could happen to humanity.

To explain that claim, let me tell you a story of how your day is going to unfold in 2030.

You wake up in the morning, January 1st, 2030. It’s freezing outside, but you’re warm in your room. Why? Because Nest – your AI-based air conditioner – knows exactly when you need to wake up, and warms the room you’re in so that you enjoy the perfect temperature for waking up.

And who acquired Nest three years ago for $3.2 billion USD? Google did.

You go out to the street and order an autonomous taxi to take you to your workplace. Who programmed that autonomous car? Google did. Who acquired Waze – a crowdsourcing navigation app? That’s right: Google did….

(4) WISH WE COULD BE THERE. Dr. Phil Nichols will speak about “Literacy, Censorship and Burning Books: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451” at the Wolverhampton Literature Festival on February 3.

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the classic dystopian novel of book-burning firemen, is as relevant today as when it debuted seventy years ago. Its insights into censorship, television, drug abuse and the fall and rise of civilisation retain a freshness and plausibility rarely seen in other science fiction of that era.

Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury’s most successful novel. Ironically for a book which rages against censorship, it frequently shows up on lists of “banned books”. Adapted for the stage by Bradbury himself and twice filmed, it somehow doesn’t date, despite being seventy years old in 2023.

Phil Nichols is the editor of The New Ray Bradbury Review and Senior Consultant to the Ray Bradbury Centre at Indiana University. In this extensively illustrated talk, he explains the curious history of this classic science fiction dystopia. It’s a tale of diverse influences (Huxley and Koestler; but surprisingly not Orwell) and extensive re-writing, resulting in a work which Neil Gaiman calls “a love letter to books . . . a love letter to people.”

(5) DEFINITELY BELONGS TO THE SCIENCE FICTION CANNON. ScreenRant celebrates that “The First Science Fiction Movie Is Over 120 Years Old” and they’ll fight anyone who says it isn’t genre.

A Trip to the Moon is considered the first science fiction movie by most – but some say it is not science fiction, because it is not based on any realistic form of science, classing it more as a space fantasy. A Trip to the Moon features classic elements of the current sci-fi genre, such as aliens and sleek rockets, that would now be considered sci-fi because of how the genre has developed. However, some people do not classify films such as Star Wars as sci-fi because the science in it lacks plausibility, the same way A Trip to the Moon is not realistic with its science – highlighting how differently the genre is considered amongst audiences, as many would consider it a quintessential sci-fi series….

(6) QUITE A BUNCH OF CHARACTERS. Fonts In Use unravels “The Mystery of the Dune Font” and how devotees are keeping it alive.

… The liaison between Dune and Davison Art Nouveau started in September 1975, when the typeface was used by Berkley Medallion for a paperback edition of the first two novels. At the time, the Berkley imprint was owned by New York-based publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons. When Berkley Putnam published the first hardcover edition of the third novel, Children of Dune, in 1976, the new typographic identity was applied there, too. Later on, Putnam used the typeface on the jackets for hardback editions of other, unrelated books authored (or coauthored) by Frank Herbert…

 … In 2009, a Dune aficionado who goes by the moniker DuneFish (DFUK) and/or MEP made a digital font called Orthodox Herbertarian, “painstakingly traced from scans of the typeface that was used on the American Ace editions […] of Dune and many other Frank Herbert books”. This amateur digitization is freely available at kullwahad.com. The font is caps only (A–Z), with a basic set of punctuation characters and scaled-down caps in the lowercase. Because it’s based on the book covers (as opposed to the original typeface), it naturally adopts the narrowed proportions. Orthodox Herbertarian is a laudable effort, but it doesn’t include any of the alternates or the numerals. In 2020, Reddit user purgruv added lowercase letters and numerals to this freebie and offered it for download as Extended Herbertarian. The additions aren’t faithful to the original and unfortunately aren’t well drawn, either….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1923 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Following up on my essay yesterday, the quote tonight is from Agatha Christie’s “The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim”.  

It was first published in March of 1923 in Britain in the Sketch. The story was published in the States in the Blue Book Magazine in December of 1923 as “Mr Davenby Disappears”.  In 1924, the story appeared as part of the Poirot Investigates anthology. 

And yes, David Suchet got to perform the story here in which is Poirot wagers Chief Inspector Japp that he can solve the mystery of a missing banker without leaving his flat. 

And here’s the quote now…

Poirot and I were expecting our old friend Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard to tea. We were sitting round the tea-table awaiting his arrival. Poirot had just finished carefully straightening the cups and saucers which our landlady was in the habit of throwing, rather than placing, on the table. He had also breathed heavily on the metal teapot, and polished it with a silk handkerchief. The kettle was on the boil, and a small enamel saucepan beside it contained some thick, sweet chocolate which was more to Poirot’s palate than what he described as ‘your English poison’. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1910 Arnold Moss. Anton Karidian a.k.a. Kodos the Executioner in the most excellent “The Conscience of the King” episode of Trek. It wasn’t his only SFF role as he’d show up in Tales of TomorrowThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.The Alfred Hitchcock HourTime Tunnel and Fantasy Island. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 28, 1920 Lewis Wilson. Genre wise, he’s remembered for being the first actor to play Batman on screen in the 1943 Batman, a 15-chapter theatrical serial from Columbia Pictures. A sequel to the serial was made in 1949, but Robert Lowery replaced Wilson as Batman. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1965 Lynda Boyd, 58. Let’s start off with she’s a singer who starred in productions The Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Film-wise, she had roles in Final Destination 2, The Invader, Mission to Mars and Hot Tub Time Machine. She’s had one-offs in X-Files, Highlander, Strange Luck, Millennium, The Sentinel, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (where she had a recurring role as Darla Mohr), Outer Limits, Twilight Zone and Smallville.
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 42. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman in Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
  • Born January 28, 1986 Shruti Haasan, 37. Indian film actress known for the Telugu fantasy film Anaganaga O Dheerudu, and the Tamil science fiction thriller 7aum Arivu. She voiced Queen Elsa in the Tamil-dubbed version of Frozen II.
  • Born January 28, 1998 Ariel Winter, 25. Voice actress who’s shown up in such productions as Mr. Peabody & Sherman as Penny Peterson, Horton Hears a Who!DC Showcase: Green Arrow as Princess Perdita and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as Carrie Kelly (Robin). She’s got several one-off live performances on genre series, The Haunting Hour: The Series and Ghost Whisperer.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Six Chix shows how hardcover books have learned to play rough at the airport.

(10) CATZILLAS. “The Army Corps of Engineers Made a Glorious 2023 Cat Calendar” and Gizmodo has a slideshow of the whole thing.

It’s hard to believe that the mighty, stone-faced U.S. Army would ever adapt adorable cat babies as its representatives, but this is the internet in the year of our lord 2023. Anything is possible.

That’s certainly what I thought when I stumbled upon this glorious 2023 cat calendar made by the Portland District of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While it’s not the product of a Photoshop wizard, the calendar earnestly features gigantic cats being their amazing furry selves. They play, they scratch, they think about life, and they stretch—all the while interacting with the Army Corps’ various dams, jetties, and heavy machinery….

(11) PLAUDITS FOR NEWITZ. Paul Di Filippo reviews The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz in the Washington Post [Archive.is link].

… This generously overstuffed tale has enough ideas and incidents to populate half a dozen lesser science fiction books. But the reading experience is never clotted or tedious, never plagued by extraneous detours. The story — which begins nearly 60,000 years in the future and unfolds over more than a millennium — rollicks along at a brisk clip while allowing Newitz space to dig into characters and milieu, and pile on startling speculative elements….

(12) NUKE THE MOON. In the New York Times: “‘The Wandering Earth II’ Review: It Wanders Too Far”

Upon its release, “The Wandering Earth,” Frant Gwo’s 2019 film about a dystopia in which Earth is perilously pushed through space, was minted as China’s first substantial, domestic sci-fi blockbuster, with the box office returns to prove it.

The film was entertaining enough, but its ambitious scope had something of an empty gloss to it, partly because the story’s drama wasn’t grounded in anything beyond the showy cataclysm. Its audaciously messy sequel, “The Wandering Earth II,” seems to have taken note and sprinted, aimlessly, entirely in the other direction. Losing all of the glee of its predecessor, the movie instead offers nearly three hours of convoluted story lines, undercooked themes and a tangle of confused, glaringly state-approved political subtext….

(13) KEEP YOUR DRAWERS ON. The Takeout tells how “Fox News Fell for an A&W Joke About Its Pantsless Mascot”.

…As you can see, the A&W tweet is simply parroting M&M’s tweet closely (the internet age is weird, everyone) and riding the same jokey wave. Rooty, typically pantsless, will wear jeans now. Funny gag! However, Fox News took A&W’s post as an opportunity to wage a culture war.

At first the outlet reported A&W’s Rooty announcement as a serious matter….

“First it was an M&M’s, now a bear has to wear [pants],” noted Fox Business anchor Cheryl Casone. “This is the woke police. Cancel culture has gone—ridiculous.”

Later, however, after all that lamentation, Fox realized the error, clarifying that A&W followed up its original tweet with another one that said, “Is now a good time to mention that this is a joke?”

(14) IT COULD HAPPEN ANYWHERE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It’s Saturday, I’m up early, had croissant and coffee and done work chores for today already 10.20. (I’m so hot it’s untrue…) So here is an extra from today’s Science. “Earth-like planets should readily form around other stars, meteorites suggest”.

Samples from space rocks suggest water and light elements are present in warm inner part of planet-forming disks

How hard is it to give birth to an Earth? To assemble the right mix of rock, metal, and water, in a balmy spot not too far from a star? For a long time, planetary scientists have thought Earth was a lucky accident, enriched with water and lighter “volatile” elements—such as nitrogen and carbon—by asteroids that had strayed in from the outer edges of the early Solar System, where those materials were abundant. But a series of new studies, including two published today in Science, suggests all the ingredients were much closer at hand when Earth was born…

Also Matt over at PBS Space Time contemplates Silicon based aliens

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Everything’s up to date on Ukraine’s farms.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #72

WORLDCON 80 – A PICTORIAL ESSAY 

By Chris M. Barkley and Juli Marr.

AUGUST 30, 2022 – TRAVEL DAY

My partner Juli and I set out on a beautiful morning for Chicago. One of our favorite sights is the immense Meadow Lake Wind Farm (which generates 801.25 megawatts of electricity) consisting of 301 turbines, just northwest of  Lafayette, Indiana. I have always been in awe of the size and scope of this modern marvel of engineering.

We arrived at dusk and were treated to the enchanting vista of Chicago at night by the river…

SEPTEMBER 1ST

Blues Brothers Cap

Since I was going to be dwelling in the hometown of the Blues Brothers, I thought it would be appropriate to be attired properly.

Galaxy ‘s Edge Editor Lezli Robyn and myself by Juli Marr

One of the first people Juli and I met at Chicon 8 was Galaxy’s Edge Editor and Arc Manor Assistant Publisher Robyn Lezli, who was a large display of books and magazines with her benevolent (and generous) boss, Shahid Mahmud.

Journey Planet

On my way to the Press Office, Christopher Garcia threw a copy of Journey Planet (paperboy style) as we passed each other. Here is a photo of it in mid-flight…

One of the first things I unpacked for the Press Office was this item. When the staff assembled that first morning, I told them in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that if they stepped out of line, I would not hesitate to blow the Illuminated Death Star Beach Ball up! Needless to say, it remained deflated during the duration of the convention.

SEPTEMBER 2

After several delays (and escapades) involving the United States Department of State and airline hijinks, Nigeria’s rising literary star (and double Hugo Finalist), Oghenechowe Donald Ekpeki finally arrived at Chicon 8. I greeted him at the Galaxy’s Edge table in the Dealer’s Room with two facemasks and an envelope with some valuable personal papers. Needless to say, everyone was overjoyed to see him…

Myself, Laura and Navia Moorman, photo by Juli Marr

Also on hand were my daughter, Laura, her husband Charlie (not pictured, unfortunately) and my granddaughter, Navia. They were here to witness my (possible) Hugo Award acceptance speech on Sunday. I may have felt the sting of disappointment by not winning but I was so incredibly happy they were all there.

 Chicago By Day…

Dan Berger, Juli Marr and Sushee Blat pondering

So here are my Press Office mates, Dan Berger, Juli Marr and Sooshe Blat Harkins, pondering where we should go for dinner along the Chicago Riverwalk. Rest assured, we did eat that evening…

Chicago After Dark…

SEPTEMBER 3RD

Day Three of Chicon 3, another beautiful morning.

The Chicon 8 Hugo Award

 On my way to the Press office, I made some time Saturday morning to stop by the Exhibit Hall and check out this year’s Hugo Award trophy. This magnificent award was handcrafted by the renowned Chicago artist and business entrepreneur Brian Keith Ellison of BKE Designs.

Chicon 8 Panelists

Ah, FINALLY, a photo from a Chicon 8 panel. Here are the panelists of “Movie Year in Review: A Curated Look at Genre Films (2021–2022)” moderated by yours truly.  From left to right are: Matthew S. Rotundo, Daryll Mansel, Joshua Bilmes and Deirdre Crimmins. We had fun. You should have been there.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and Seanan Maguire

I was checking up on how Mr. Ekpeki was getting along in the Dealer’s Room when up ZOOMED fellow Hugo Award Finalist Seanan Maguire on her scooter. They both knew of a photo opportunity when they saw it…  

Regency John Hertz

It’s Saturday Night so you know it’s time for another magnificent appearance by fandom’s favorite, and most regal, Masquerade Judge, John Hertz!  

Masquerade Ensemble

And here is a wide shot of all the Chicon 8 Masquerade contestants. I apologize for it being out of focus; I BLAME the three apparitions lighting up in the middle of the photo. I don’t recall who they are but let’s face it, they lit up the joint that evening.

SEPTEMBER 4TH

Breakfast of Champions

It’s THE BIG DAY! And that calls for a BIG BREAKFAST, courtesy of the Chicon 8 Staff Lounge. I hadn’t had a bowl of Rice Chex in AGES. (As a kid, I used to inhale whole boxes in a single sitting. Ah, those were the days…). Anyway, kudos to everyone who helped kept us fed during the convention.   

Juli and I are very sneaky. We knew in advance that Sunday was Lezli Robyn’s birthday so we planned something a little special for her. The day before we left, we packed and wrapped her gift specially for her. We have both known for years that Lezli is a bit, uh, accident prone. After the fifth or sixth incident we started threatening to just roll her in bubble wrap, for her own safety and protection. Well at Chicon 8, we decided on this preemptive strike before disaster struck again. As you can see, a nice birthday card was placed on top of the package. And you can see Lezli’s reaction as she realized that bubble wrap was all that was left in the box. All for her. We were later informed by sources that she used the bubble wrap as a pillow (in an appropriate place, mind you) when she needed to nap. You’re welcome, Lezli, anytime. 

Catherynne Valente

After delivering Ms. Robyn’s gift, I stole a few minutes from my Press Office duties to have a novel by Catherynne M. Valente signed. We met before when she had a signing at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati where I worked for many years. She remembered me and enthusiastically remarked that she had a great time and would love to return for a visit someday. I told her I would pass the word along.  

As the day wore on, the more nervous I became. Since there wasn’t much going on that afternoon, I turned my attention to writing a Hugo Award acceptance speech and a concession speech (which was published on File 770 that very evening). Everyone wished me luck but deep down, I knew that I was long shot to actually win. (And, as it turned out, I was right, finishing second in the nomination count and fifth overall in the vote standings.)

O. Donald Ekpeki and myself, photo by Juli Marr

At the Chicon 8 Hugo Award Reception, Mr. Ekpeki and I were recessed to the nines!

Hugo Award Fan Writer Finalists, photo by Juli Marr

Your 2022 Hugo Award Finalists in the Fan Writing Category; from left to right, Jason Sanford, myself, Paul Weimer and Bitter Karella. 

The Crowd gathers for the start of the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

My Date, My Love and My Partner, the lovely and vivacious Juli Marr.

My Fellow 2022 Hugo Award Finalist Steven H Silver and his partner, Elaine Silver. 

Chuck Serface

My Fellow 2022 Hugo Award Finalist Chuck Serface.

Our 2022 Hugo Award Ceremony Hosts, Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders.

Olav Rokne and Myself at the After Party, photo by Juli Marr

Two Hugo Losers commiserating, Olav Rokne and myself (being subtly photobombed by Vincent Docherty) at the Chengdu Hugo Reception.

Laura Moorman and myself, photo by Juli Marr

My daughter Laura and I at the Glasgow Bid Party.

My daughter Laura is seen here holding the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form for Dune (Part 1). The award was offered for photos by Chicon 8 Advisor Dave McCarty, whom we thank profusely for the opportunity.

SEPTEMBER 5TH AND 6TH

John Hertz and Myself, photo by Juli Marr

And it’s all over but the shouting. Here John Hertz and I are watching the proceedings, counting down until the dead dog parties start… 

Myself, Jonathan P. Brazee and Maurizio Manzieri, photo by Juli Marr

After Closing Ceremonies, Juli and I met author Col.Jonathan P. Brazee and Hugo Award Finalist (Best Professional Artist) Maurizio Manzieri outside the hotel on their way to an early dinner.   

Berger, Berger and Blat-Harkins

As we wind down a day after Chicon 8 has officially ended, we shared a final meal with Dan Berger, Terry Berger and Sooshe Blat Harkins, who were a tremendous help in the Chicon 8 Press Office. 

Your humble correspondents

A final portrait from Chicago of your humble correspondents, myself and Juli Marr. Until next time, Goodbye and Good Luck… 

Utopias

By Sultana Raza.

Seeking / Restoring Green Gardens of Utopias

As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions.

Mythic utopias

Most myths are about a loss of power and/or balance. The idea of creating a utopia, or for trying to recover a lost one goes back to mythic times. For example, in the great Indian myth, entitled the Ramayana, there’s a utopia of sorts within the kingdom of King Dasharatha. But his second queen asks him for a boon, which is to send the king’s heir-apparent, Lord Rama into exile in the forest for ten years. That’s where trouble begins, and though Lord Rama manages to recover his kingdom, and establish Ramaraj, or good governance, it’s not without a price.

Also, in the Mahabharata, there’s trouble and outright war between two sets of step-brothers the Pandavas (who are five in number) and the Kauravas (who are one hundred in number). Their ideal world is shattered, and never fully recovers. Lots of heroes on both sides lose their lives, and a lot of fantastical weapons are mentioned in it. Some authors think that the outcome of the war mentioned in these Indian myths was akin to nuclear devastation. The Mahabharata also describes different types of flying vessels, which even had the capability of travelling between places on earth, and also between stars. However, that technology was lost after the great war in the Mahabharata.

Greco-Roman Myths

In the Greek myths, the Hesperides and Elysium are ideal realms where not everyone is allowed to enter. Even heroes have difficulties to enter these spheres. For example, Mount Parnassus, home of the Nine Muses, is supposed to be an ideal, and sacred place in pagan myths.

The prosperous and flourishing city of Troy, which was a utopia of its kind, was lost in Greek myths. Odysseus ended up on the islands of Circe and Calypso respectively, and could have lived in these utopias, but had to leave to go back home. However, he didn’t find any peace at Ithaca after his return either. It wasn’t his utopia anymore.

Celtic Myths

In the Celtic Myths, the Tuatha Dé Danann (a race of supernatural beings) lose their homeland, which was their own utopia. They are obliged to go underground by the Milesians. There are many stories of paradise lost, also at the individual level in these myths. Lyonesse is an island thought to have disappeared beneath the seas off the coast of Cornwall. Though it was a fair land in the beginning with hard-working folks in it, due to a horrible crime committed by its inhabitants it was sunk beneath the sea by a storm, as a punishment to its people. It’s yet another land that disappeared.

Paradise Lost

Biblical stories are about the fall of Man from legendary Eden, and the efforts of human beings to be allowed back into it. Consciousness in the Occident is filled with the idea that our paradise is lost, mainly due to Eve’s mistake. However, long before the advent of the three book-based creeds such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, all of which outline the story of the fall of man, these kinds of stories abound in myths.

Camelot as Utopia

In the Occident, Arthurian legends are about establishing or seeking utopias. Camelot was a utopia of sorts with its fabled Round Table. All the knights who were allowed to sit at this table were supposed to be equals. But all this was before trouble began. With the fall of King Arthur, the utopia at Camelot dissolved.

The Castle of the Holy Grail was a utopia of sorts for the questing knights. Sir Lancelot wasn’t allowed to go in that castle because of his ‘sin’ with Queen Guinevere. Sir Percival was allowed to go in the castle because he was pure of heart. The Isle of Avalon was also a utopia of sorts and not everyone was allowed to go there. It’s Arthur’s final resting place and he’s supposed to come back from there after being healed, since he’s the once and future king.

Camelot; excerpted from Castles. Artist: Alan Lee

Utopia in LOTR

Since Tolkien based his stories on myths and legends, it shouldn’t be surprising that the concept of a lost utopia can be found in his Legendarium as well. The new Amazon TV serial, Rings of Power (ROP) will touch upon how the utopia of the Elves was tampered with by Morgoth, and how the Elves spent a long time defending Middle Earth and ultimately their Blessed Realms against threats. Then they defeated Sauron at the end of the Second Age, and then again at the end of the Third Age

Photo above: Rivendell; Artist: Alan Lee

In Middle earth, the Elves founded some peaceful realms such as Doriath, and Gondolin, and later on Rivendell, and Lothlorien which were kept hidden from the enemy. The Shire was a utopia for its inhabitants before it was attacked by Saruman at the end of the Third Age. In a way Tolkien’s long saga can be seen as attempts to restore the peace of the utopia in the worlds of the Elves, the Blessed Realms.

Dwarves arrive at Rivendell:

Dwarves have dinner at Rivendell:

The Fellowship reaches Lothlorien:

A utopia of sorts was also restored in Middle-earth when Aragorn became king, with Lady Arwen by his side at the end of the Third Age. And finally all Elves led by Lady Galadriel were able to go back to their version of paradise, ie the Undying Lands.

Utopia in ASOIAF

The world of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF)is much darker and grittier than that of Middle Earth. Yet, it can also be interpreted as being that of a search for a lost paradise in a way. Winterfell for its problems was a utopia of sorts for the Stark children.

Feast at Winterfell:

Danaerys Targarayen thought King’s Landing and Westeros would become her own personal utopia, but at least in the TV show, that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Theon Greyjoy’s personal utopia was going to be his native Islands of Pyke, but that turned out to be just a pipe dream. He was pressured by his father to turn upon the Starks who’d treated him so well that he’d forgotten he was supposed to be a hostage there. In fact, once Theon helped turn the relative peace of Winterfell into a dystopia, he had cause to regret his actions very deeply.

Bran Stark thought he would find his own version of utopia beyond the Wall, but that didn’t work out for him quite as well as he’d imagined it. Although it’s arguable who is really the person on the Iron Throne at the end? Bran Stark or the three-eyed raven controlling him? The three-eyed crow was Ser Brynden Rivers, a Targaryen. So is a Targaryen sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the GOT TV series? Or are some parts of Bran Stark somewhere inside his own head too?

In the entire series, we’re rooting for the Stark children to go back to Winterfell. At last Sansa Stark becomes the ruler and Lady of Winterfell. At least in the Game of Thrones TV series.

Finale for the Stark children:

Utopia in the Percy Jackson series

In the YA Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Camp Hallf-Blood is a safe haven for all the half blood demi-gods. It’s located in a hidden place on the north shore of Long Island near NY. Though there’s plenty of competition and squabbling between the demi-gods, they all feel protected from monsters and threats from the outer world. The Golden Fleece keeps the place protected.

Training at Camp Half-blood:

Finding strength at Camp Half-blood:

After every adventure, the heroes come back safe and sound to this haven. In the Heroes of Olympus series, Camp Jupiter is another safe place near San Francisco for the demi-gods. These utopias serve as anchoring places for these young protagonists. It also gives them a purpose to defend these mini-utopias when they come under threat. And they have a place to look forward to returning to when their quest or adventure is over.

Search for equilibrium & survival in Dune

In Dune, after the Atreides family is destroyed when they first land on the desert planet, the whole arc of Paul Atreides (and his descendants) is to restore their house to its rightful place in their inter-planetary society. And at least in the beginning to help the Fremen get their independence too. Make Dune a utopia for its inhabitants. Since the series stretches over thousands of years and across many planets, things don’t always go according to any one character’s plans. However, the overall quest for most protagonists of this series is to restore some kind of balance in society, even if the story stretches across time and space. Things evolve in surprising ways. But at least humanity strives to find better conditions, and is saved from the threat of extinction in the end.

Conclusion

While dystopias may be very much in fashion, a stable and sustainable society can function in the long term in its own version of utopia. Therefore, it can be argued that utopias are more important than dystopias. In fact, if there wasn’t a balanced and sustainable society to begin with, then it couldn’t be distorted to form a dystopia. For example, in Star Wars, the Empire took over planets and societies which had been functioning independently for years. And the mission to overthrow the evil Empire is a bid to restore balance of power, and/or utopias of different kinds on the planets in its iron grip. Just escaping the oppressive regime of the Empire would be the beginning of a more steady and calmer society on most planets. Utopias also enable growth and evolution both at the individual and the macroscopic levels.

In a way dystopias are dependent on utopias (even distant ones) in order to come into existence. A social structure that is out of balance wouldn’t last too long anyway, as it would collapse one way or the other. Most stories are about restoring some kind of stability so that the protagonists can continue to live or exist in a sustainable world.

-The End-

Note: Some of these ideas were mentioned/discussed at the Utopias Panel, entitled ‘Better Worlds are Possible’ held at Chicon 8 in September 2022. ++ Sultana Raza

2022 Hugo Awards

The winners of the 2022 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and Astounding Award for Best New Writer were announced on Sunday, September 4 at Chicon 8. (Detailed statistics for the nominating and final ballots are available in this PDF.)

The winners are:

BEST NOVEL

  • A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Tor)

BEST NOVELLA

  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Tordotcom)

BEST NOVELETTE

  • “Bots of the Lost Ark”, by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, Jun 2021)

BEST SHORT STORY

  • “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather”, by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, Mar/Apr 2021)

BEST SERIES

  • Wayward Children, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY OR COMIC

  • Far Sector, written by N.K. Jemisin, art by Jamal Campbell (DC)

BEST RELATED WORK

  • Never Say You Can’t Survive, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tordotcom)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM

  • Dune, screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth; directed by Denis Villeneuve; based on the novel Dune by Frank Herbert (Warner Bros / Legendary Entertainment)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM

  • The Expanse: Nemesis Games, written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, and Naren Shankar; directed by Breck Eisner (Amazon Studios)

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM

  • Neil Clarke

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM

  • Ruoxi Chen

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

  • Rovina Cai

BEST SEMIPROZINE

  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers and editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas; managing/poetry editor Chimedum Ohaegbu; nonfiction editor Elsa Sjunneson; podcast producers Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

BEST FANZINE

  • Small Gods, Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story)

BEST FANCAST

  • Our Opinions Are Correct, presented by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, produced by Veronica Simonetti

BEST FAN WRITER

  • Cora Buhlert

BEST FAN ARTIST

  • Lee Moyer

LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

  • The Last Graduate, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey Books)

ASTOUNDING AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER

  • Shelley Parker-Chan

VOTING STATISTICS. There were 2235 valid final ballots (2230 electronic and 5 paper) received and counted from the members of Chicon 8. More information about the 2022 Hugo Awards, including detailed voting statistics is available on the Chicon website here.

ABOUT THE HUGO AWARDS. The Hugo Awards are the premier award in the science fiction genre, honoring science fiction literature and media as well as the genre’s fans. The Hugo Awards were first presented at the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia (Philcon II), and they have continued to honor science fiction and fantasy notables for nearly 70 years.

The physical Hugo Award consists of a rocket mounted on a base that is designed specifically for that year’s awards. The base for the 2022 Hugo Award trophy was designed and created by Brian Keith Ellison, while the 2022 Lodestar Award was designed and created by Sara Felix. More information on this year’s designs can be found here.

A full list of past finalists and winners can be found on the official Hugo Awards website here.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 8/29/22 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls Into Mine

(1) THE SECOND TIME AROUND? Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki tweeted that he went to a new visa appointment today. He had not posted about the outcome as of this writing.

(2) OFFICIAL SOCIAL MEDIA FOR CHICON 8 – ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES. The Worldcon committee warns that some people are now trying to spoof their social media accounts. Please remember the only official Chicon 8 social media links are @chicagoworldcon — for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you spot any others, please feel free to tell them at either [email protected] or [email protected] so they can follow up.

(3) STAR CHART: THE OFFICIAL CHICON 8 NEWSLETTER. The 2022 Worldcon newsletter is primarily online and is now starting to publish things. Find it here: https://chicon.org/star-chart/

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The August 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, published this past Saturday, is “The Only Innocent Man,” by Julian K. Jarboe (author of the Lambda Award–winning collection Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel), a story about digital communities, privacy, and the ghosts of our online pasts.

It was published along with a response essay, “The plight of the former fanfiction author” by Casey Fiesler, a professor of information science who specializes in ethics, law, and privacy online.

 I commonly start a lecture about online privacy by giving a room full of college students a task: In five minutes, who can find the most interesting thing about me on the internet?

Typically this exercise yields precisely what I intend—showcasing the variety of sources of information about all of us online. Someone once found the movie reviews I wrote for my college newspaper; a close family member’s obituary; my recipe for snickerdoodles that apparently once resulted in marriage proposals on Instagram. If it’s been a while since I’ve scrubbed it, my home address might appear on a public data website.

And one year, a student raised his hand and confidently announced, “Dr. Fiesler, I found your fanfiction!”…

(5) MIND TRICK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This “banned book list” fooled Mark Hamill: “Viral list of ‘banned’ books in Florida is satire” explains Politifact.

…Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted “books we have taught for generations,” alongside the list. She later said she should have “double-checked” before sharing. 

“Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill also shared a screenshot of the list on Twitter — amassing more than 100,000 likes and 24,000 retweets. 

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment. However, the governor’s office called the list “completely fictitious.”

“The image is fake,” said Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary. “There is no banned book list at the state level. The state sets guidelines regarding content, and the local school districts are responsible for enforcing them.”

Griffin also noted that the state’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking, or B.E.S.T., standards recommend several of the books included in the “anti-woke” list. 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” and Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” are recommended to eighth graders in Florida. George Orwell’s “1984” is a suggested book for ninth graders, while John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” is recommended for 10th graders….

(6) SLEAZY PUBLISHER NEWS. A YA fantasy novelist chronicles her encounters with a sleazy publisher for Literary Hub: “What Five Years with a Predatory Vanity Press Taught Me About Art and Success”.

…In truth, I did nothing so wrong, over a decade ago, when I signed the contract with the Oklahoma-based press that promised to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a published author. It wasn’t my fault that the company went bankrupt after the CEO was discovered embezzling funds from the writers who paid to have their books poorly edited, cheaply bound, and narrowly distributed. It was probably my fault that I hadn’t done thorough research into the industry, but I was seventeen and couldn’t detect a scam tastefully disguised under a pretty contract and alleged Christian values….

(7) WHAT FILERS THRIVE ON. The Millions knows you will be looking for their mistakes after you read “How Many Errorrs Are in This Essay?”, an article about typos.

…A 1562 printing of the sternly doctrinaire translation the Geneva Bible prints Matthew 5:9 as “Blessed are the placemakers” rather than “peacemakers;” an 1823 version of the King James replaced “damsels” in Genesis 24:61 with “camels,” and as late as 1944 a printing of that same translation rendered the “holy women, who trusted God… being in subjection to their own husbands” in 1 Peter 3:5 as referring to those pious ladies listening to their “owl husbands.”…

(8) NECRONOMICON. The New York Times probably doesn’t run a con report very often, I bet. “A Festival That Conjures the Magic of H.P. Lovecraft and Beyond”.

There’s bacon and eggs, and then there’s bacon and eggs at the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. Named after the cosmically malevolent and abundantly tentacled entity dreamed up by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the event, among the most popular at NecronomiCon Providence 2022, filled a vast hotel ballroom at 8 a.m. on a recent Sunday.

To the delighted worshipers, Cody Goodfellow, here a Most Exalted Hierophant, delivered a sermon that started with growled mentions of “doom-engines, black and red,” “great hammers of the scouring” and so on.

Then the speech took a left turn.

“​​I must confess myself among those who always trusted that a coven of sexless black-robed liches would change the world for the better,” said Goodfellow, who had flown in from the netherworld known as San Diego, Calif. “But the malignant forces of misplaced morality have regrouped from the backlash that stopped them in the ’80s, and the re-lash is in full swing.”…

(9) HUCK HUCKENPOHLER (1941-2022). [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] J.G. “Huck” Huckenpohler died on August 26 in Washington, D.C. He was born in 1941.  He was a major figure in Edgar Rice Burroughs fandom, had a substantial collection of Burroughs material and attended many Burroughs conventions, as well as staffing tables promoting Burroughs fandom at Balticon and Capclave.  He was an active member of the Panthans, the Burroughs Bibliophiles chapter in Washington, and the Silver Spring Science Fiction Society.

(10) JOSEPH DELANEY (1945-2022). Author Joseph Delaney died August 16 at the age of 77. The English writer was known for the dark fantasy series Spook’s, which included several arcs, The Wardstone Chronicles, The Starblade Chronicles, and The Spook’s Apprentice: Brother Wolf. And he wrote many other works.

(11) MEMORY LANE.  

1947 [By Cat Eldridge.] All good things must come to an end and thus it was with the Thin Man film series that concluded with its sixth installment, Song of the Thin Man, which premiered this weekend in 1947.  

There was of course no Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name as Hammett never wrote a sequel, so everything here was up of made up of whole cloth. Steve Fisher and Noel Perrin were the scriptwriters who based it off a story by Stanley Roberts who had done, to put it mildly, a lot of westerns before this. 

William Powell is Nick Charles and Myrna Loy is Nora Charles. The chemistry between the two is quite charming and is befitting what Hammett created in the original novel.

This story is set in the world of nightclub musicians, so naturally we see such performers as Jayne Meadows, Gloria Grahame and Phillip Reed. 

Nick and Nora’s son shows up twice in the series. The first time has Richard Hall being credited as Nick Jr.; here an eleven year old Dean Stockwell is Nick Charles Jr.  Surprisingly (to me at least) he had done eight films already. 

The film cost cost $1,670,000 to make and grossed only $2,305,000.  It lost $128,000. Those figures by the way came from Eddie Mannix who had a ledger in which he maintained detailed lists of the costs and revenues of every MGM film produced between 1924 and 1962, an important reference for film historians. Fascinating as a certain Trek officer would’ve said. 

(In the next decade, The Thin Man television series aired on NBC from 1957–59, and starred Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk. It ran for seventy episodes.)

The Song of the Thin Man gets a rather stellar seventy one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 29, 1854 Joseph Jacobs. Australian folklorist, translator, literary critic and historian who became a notable collector and publisher of English folklore. Many of our genre writers have use of his material. “Jack the Giant Killer” became Charles de Lint’s Jack Of Kinrowan series, Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon, to give an example. (Lecture mode off.) Excellent books by the way. (Died 1916.)
  • Born August 29, 1904 Leslyn M. Heinlein Mocabee. She was born Leslyn MacDonald. She was married to Robert A. Heinlein between 1932 and 1947. Her only genre writing on ISFDB is “Rocket’s Red Glare“ which was published in The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I.  There’s an interesting article on her and Heinlein here. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best-known as General Arkady Orumov in GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Dian Crayne. A member of LASFS, when she and Bruce Pelz divorced the party they threw inspired Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?” She published mystery novels under the name J.D. Crayne. A full remembrance post is here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 71. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not.
  • Born August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder, 69. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain.
  • Born August 29, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 68. A filker, which gets major points in my book.  And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well which was most excellent. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him. I’m getting old. 
  • Born August 29, 1959 Rebecca de Mornay, 63. May I note she made a deliciously evil Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers (1993)? She’s Clair Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Wendy Torrance in The Shining miniseries (no, I never heard of it) and Penelope Decker in several episodes of Lucifer. Oh, and she was Dorothy Walker in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series

(13) ROBOSECURITY. [Item by Francis Hamit.] Any resemblance to a certain Dr. Who character is unintended. You note it does not have arms.  I’ve owned shares in this company since 2017 and will security jobs going begging I think the company has a great future.  Knightscope is listed on the NASDAQ as KSCP.  Right now the shares are at an all-time low.  They won’t be for long. Full disclosure:  Finding new accounts is my side hustle. “Robot helps Northeast Portland hotel cut down on vandalism” reports KATU.

…General Manager Mike Daley says they got him because they were having a lot of issues with vandalism from homeless encampments in the area.

They tried hiring human security but had a lot of staffing issues, so they explored the robot as an option and say it’s work out really well.

Daley says that while the robot isn’t cheap, he provides a lot of security 24 hours a day for less money than it would cost to pay a human to do the same job.

“He patrols a lot, constantly, as you’ve seen,” he said. “He’s got 360-degree cameras, scans license plates. He’s got thermal imaging, so if he sees a guest or somebody that’s at a car, he will gravitate over to that person to check them out. He’s got a noise factor, so people know where he is and know he’s coming.”

Anytime he encounters someone, he immediately alerts the front desk. That person can then see what the robot sees, talk through the robot to anyone in the parking lot and can determine if further action is needed, such as calling 911.

He’s also popular among hotel guests. Daley says people like to get their picture taken with him.

(14) PIGS IN SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport explains why the politics of funding NASA ensured that Artemis was incredibly difficult to build, with “SLS” standing for “Senate Launching System” because NASA projects have to have pork for every district. “NASA SLS moon rocket readied for first launch as Artemis program begins”.

The rocket was late, again. The initial launch date, the end of 2016, was long gone. And in the spring of 2019, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator at the time, was told it’d be another year or more before NASA’s Space Launch System would be ready.

He was furious and threatened to replace the rocket with one built by the fast-growing private space sector, such as SpaceX. But Bridenstine’s attempt to bench NASA’s rocketwas quickly rebuffed by the powerful interests, including Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the appropriations committee. Those interests had shepherded the SLS through thickets of controversy since its inception more than a decade ago.

Now, after years of cost overruns and delays, damning reports by government watchdogs and criticisms from space enthusiasts and even parts of NASA’s own leadership, the SLS endures, as only a rocket built by Congress could….

(15) ONE HELL OF A PICTURE. “An AI Was Asked To Draw What Hell Looks Like — The Results Are Naturally Disturbing” warns MSN.com

Come on, folks, what do you expect when you ask an artificial intelligence to draw what hell looks like?

That’s right, you get some seriously disturbing stuff to look at. In fact, one of the images riffs on classic paintings of Satan that somehow look even scarier now.

This is the link to the video: “AI generated image of hell” on TikTok.

(16) PLAYING IN THE SANDBOX. This trailer for a new Dune game dropped last week at gamescom: Dune: Awakening.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/22 When A Pixel’s Not Engaged In Its Enscrollment

(1) BIG GREEN NUMBERS. Brandon Sanderson shares a lot of information about his successful Kickstarter and his progress on other projects in “Some FAQs You Might Enjoy”. Also includes a long analysis of Amazon’s effect on his business.

How Are You Going to Spend the Money?

I got this question from the journalist from the Associated Press who interviewed me.  He gave an excellent interview, and we had a really great conversation.  But this question stopped me for a moment.  It’s a valid question, but it took me by surprise, as I haven’t been looking at this the way that some people seem to be.  I didn’t hit the lottery, any more than any other business hits the lottery when they have a product that connects with their market.

I will spend the money as I spend the rest of my money.  Part into savings, part into paying salaries (along with nice extra bonuses because the Kickstarter did well), part reinvested into the company.  (We’re still planning on building a physical bookstore, and this will help accelerate those plans.  Also, it’s not outside of reason that as I move into doing more film and TV, I will want to partially fund some of the projects.)

While this Kickstarter is an incredible event, and (don’t get me wrong) is going to earn me a good chunk of money, it’s going to be comparable to other projects I’ve done.  Also, don’t underestimate how much money it costs to maintain the infrastructure (like a warehouse–or in this case, probably more than one) it takes to be able to ship several hundred thousand books.  It will likely be years before we can be certain how much this actually earned us after all expenses.  More than we’d get from New York on the same books, but potentially not that much more.

That said, I will almost certainly buy myself some nice Magic cards.  Still have a few unlimited duals in my cube that could use an upgrade to black border.

Did You Anticipate This Level of Success for the Kickstarter?

I did not.  I knew the potential was there, but I didn’t think it (getting to this astronomical number of backers) would happen.

My guess was that we’d land somewhere in the 2–4 million range, though I really had no idea.  My team can attest to the fact that in the lead-up, I was very conservative in my estimates and expectations.  This was an experiment from us that I’d been wanting to try for a while.  (I’ll talk more about that below.)  I didn’t have any idea how well it would go.

…How many of those potential 250k–800k people who normally buy a Sanderson book in the first year could be convinced instead to move and preorder it through Kickstarter?  Our guesses, it turned out, were way low.  But at the same time, it is interesting that (not disregarding our huge success, which I’m not at all complaining about) even this huge Kickstarter breaking all records is only grabbing a fraction of my normal audience.  So maybe you can see why we knew we had potential, but were conservative in our estimates. … 

There is also much inside baseball about what indie authors have to face:

…These days, according to some of my indie author friends, you have to spend a great deal to sell on Amazon.  Not everyone’s experience is the same, but I hear this time and time again.  To make it as an indie author, you need to shell out for expensive advertising on the very website selling your books.  I have indie author friends who are spending a good portion of their income on these advertisements–and if they don’t, their sales vanish.  Amazon has effectively created a tax where indie authors pay back a chunk of that glorious 70% royalty to Amazon.  (And this is for the authors lucky enough to be allowed to buy those advertising spots, and therefore have the chance at selling.)….

…Regardless, this has been bothering me for over a decade.  I feel that the current system has a gun to my head.  Heck, all that has to happen is for someone at Amazon read this blog post or see my Kickstarter and decide they just want to make an example out of me.  Poof.  85% of my sales gone.  And while some people might go to another vendor to get my books, the painful truth is that many would not.  Time and time again, studies of contemporary tech media consumption have shown that the person who controls the platform is the one who controls the market. …

(2) MAIL CALL. In “An Open Letter to the 2022 Hugo Finalists, Whoever They May Be”, Cora Buhlert once again shares her experience and advice.

… Right now, no one except for possibly the Hugo administrators knows who those finalists will be. However, sometime in the next two weeks or so, some of you will receive an e-mail from Chicon 8, informing you that you are a finalist for the 2022 Hugo Award and asking you whether you want to accept the nomination. Some of you will have received such e-mails before, for others it will be the first time.

But whether it’s your first or your twentieth nomination, congratulations! That’s awesome.

As a first time recipient of such an e-mail in 2020, here are a few things I’ve learned…

(3) UNIVERSE WILL KEEP EXPANDING. Sharon Lee’s biggest news in “Liaden Universe® Updates” is that she and Steve Miller have accepted an additional three book contract with Baen for Liaden novels.

…The contract’s call-name is Traveler’s Trio, and we have no idea where those novels will take us, yet, but we do have delivery dates.  Those are:

Traveler’s Trio ONE:  September 2024
Traveler’s Trio TWO:  September 2025
Traveler’s Trio THREE:  September 2026

Note A:  In September 2026, I will be 74 years old.  Steve will have celebrated his 76th birthday three months prior.  This by way of reassuring those folks who have been worrying about our retirement that, err — writers don’t retire.  At least, writers at our level of the game don’t retire.

Here ends the Updatery.

(4) GUNN CENTER EVENTS. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF has posted the selections and dates for the next several meetings of their virtual book club, and another event. Zoom info and further details at the links. 

Discussion of Colson Whitehead’s first novel, The Intuitionist. This choice anticipates Whitehead’s visit to Lawrence for the Paper Plains Literary Festival in early April! https://www.paperplains.org

Discussion of Angelline Boulley’s young adult thriller, Firekeeper’s Daughter. More aligned with conversations about Indigenous belief systems and spirituality than conventional science fiction; also in anticipation of the Paper Plains festival. Co-sponsored with Haskell Indian Nations University, KU’s First Nations Student Association, and others. Teens welcome!

Discussion of Franny Choi’s Soft Science. In celebration of National Poetry Month!

  • Friday, MAY 20th* @ noon (CT) – [no link yet] Discussion of Sarah Pinsker’s Two Truths and a Lie

Winner of the 2021 Nebula Award & 2021 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. (*) Please note that this is not the last Friday of the month, which falls on Memorial Day Weekend.

(5) ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT YOU? The Silmarillion Writers’ Guild seeks the meaning of it all in “A Sudden Outcry: The Tolkien Estate and Fanworks”.

…When the Tolkien Estate recently presented their newly revamped website, it did not take fans long to see past the new artwork and other features to find that the Tolkien Estate has a policy on fanworks. The past several days have seen a whirl of discussion about what it all means that can be distilled down to a single burning question:

Did the Tolkien Estate just ban fanworks?

In short, no, the Tolkien Estate did not just ban fanworks. The fanworks you have posted, are in the middle of creating, or are even thinking about creating are not affected by what the Estate says on their website.

The longer answer depends on if you’re interested in the just or the ban part of that question (or maybe both!). While the following is not legal advice, we hope it will lessen the worry that the existence of fanworks is in jeopardy.  As always, bear in mind that laws vary from country to country. If you have specific concerns, the Organization for Transformative Works’ legal committee, while unable to give legal advice, can answer questions you might have.

The article contains an extensive history of the Estate’s policies towards fanworks. The writers come to this paradoxical conclusion:

…The Tolkien Estate is anti-fanwork and always has been. For all that the “other minds and hands” quote gets tossed about by fans eager to believe that Tolkien would have condoned their activities, Tolkien himself was anti-fanwork when it came to his books,2 unless it was something that he liked. This has neither changed nor prevented Tolkien fanworks from being made in the almost seven decades since The Lord of the Rings was published…

(6) OMELAS. The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog tweeted a crusher yesterday. There are nine tweets in the thread, which starts here.

(7) THE SAND OF MUSIC. Hans Zimmer tells Vanity Fair about the score for Dune in a video that dropped today: “How ‘Dune’ Composer Hans Zimmer Created the Oscar-Nominated Score”.

“Something I wanted to always do. Invent instruments that don’t exist. Invent sounds that don’t exist.” Hans Zimmer, ‘Dune’ composer, gives his in-depth analysis and insider’s look at how the score was created for Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film.

(8) MORE FROM DISCON III. Morgan Hazelwood posted her notes from the DisCon III panel “Ask An Editor: Longform Writing” with participants George Jreije, Katherine Crighton, Navah Wolfe, and Trevor Quachri, plus Joshua Bilmes as moderator. (The material is also presented in a YouTube video.)

The description for this panel was as follows:

What makes a good novel? How do you know it’s ready? Where should you send it and how should you respond to comments? This is your chance to ask burning questions to a panel of respected agents and editors.

(9) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share deep-fried wontons with Library of Congress curator Sara Duke in episode 167 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sara Duke

Library of Congress curator Sara Duke and I were supposed to have lunch two years ago, way back in March of 2020, but then … something happened. I suspect you can guess what that something was. We finally managed to break bread — or rather, share Pad See Ew — last week at D.C.’s Young Chow Chinese restaurant.

Sara Duke has been at the Library of Congress for more than 30 years, the past 23 as the curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in the Prints and Photographs Division. She’s in charge of cartoons, documentary drawings, and ephemera. Starting with Blondie Gets Married in 2000, she’s been responsible for curating many exhibits relating to popular culture, including Comic Art: 120 Years of Panels and Pages, and most recently, Geppi’s Gems.

We discussed the first piece of artwork she longed to get her hands on after a 13-month pandemic absence, our joint loathing of slabbed comics, the misconceptions many people have about the Library of Congress, the things most people no longer remember about Blondie, her comic book exhibit cancelled by COVID, the serendipitous way a PhD in 17th century Irish history led to her becoming a curator, her early (and continuing) love of MAD magazine, and much more.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge] On this evening forty-one years ago, the show that Warner Bros. sued for copyright infringement in Warner Bros. Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. premiered on ABC. The Greatest American Hero starred William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley in a suit that allowed him to fly and which looked sort of like that Super-Hero. The Court ruled, “as a matter of law, The Greatest American Hero’ is not sufficiently similar to the fictional character Superman.” 

It was created by producer Stephen J. Cannell and was his only genre undertaking.

The rest of the regular cast consisted of just Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson. ABC wasn’t going to deal with a bloated salary line here.  Culp of course had been Kelly Robinson on I Spy, but more importantly was in The Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand”, written by Harlan Ellison. Sellecca played Pamela Edwards in a recurring role in the Beyond Westworld series.

It would last three seasons and have a proper conclusion in which the story was wrapped up. That conclusion lead to the pilot for another series which was not picked up by another network. A reboot with a female lead was in the works at ABC several years back but not even a pilot was shot.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliche Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible, which if you not seen it you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J.G. Hertzler, 72. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap sac Weathers Farrington in the  “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 63. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and comments leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less.
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. Another way too young death on Babylon 5 as he appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney.  (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 61. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group reads and comments on prior-to-Eighties SF and fantasy.

(12) SENDING UP DISNEY. “This Young Artist Successfully Wows Disney Fans With Hilarious Disney Fanarts” at Aubtu.

Disney fans tend to redraw Disney characters with their unique ideas, but Jorge D. Espinosa has taken it to another level. As a talented artist, Jorge has recreated several famous Disney characters with different settings. They can be about Aurora’s hangover or Jasmine as a dancer enjoying Beyonce’s song. There is no doubt that these unique and funny drawings can make even The Beast laugh….

(13) IDIOMATIC ACCESSION. I need one of these. Don’t I? Archie McPhee’s “Murder of Crows”.

(14) SQUEEZING OUT THE WATER. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Wonderfully Concise SFF Books”.

Olden-time SF authors, limited as they were to pen and paper, typewriters, and other now archaic methods of production, and trying to sell to markets uninterested in purchasing lengthy works, often delivered works that seem startlingly concise and to the point by modern standards. There’s nothing like not having a choice to urge people to make the right choices.

However, even in this age of word processing software and publisher enthusiasm for meandering series of enormous story-fragments, there are authors who deliver short, effective books that contain within them all of the necessary narrative elements. They even include that most elusive ingredient—an actual ending. Consider these five comparatively recent examples of books that are wonderfully short and to the point….

(15) THAT OTHER JAMES. ScienceAlert says “Webb Just Sent Back Its First-Ever Sharp Image of a Star, And It’s Breathtaking”.

…To demonstrate its capabilities, Webb focused on a single star, named 2MASS J17554042+6551277, more commonly known as TYC 4212-1079-1.

This bright object, around 2,000 light-years away, is just over 16 times intrinsically brighter than the Sun – a nice, clear target for Webb. A red filter was used to optimize visual contrast; and, although the telescope was just looking at the star, its instruments are so sensitive that background stars and galaxies can also be seen.

“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science,” said Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA Goddard….

(16) PARADOX RESOLVED. “Scientists claim hairy black holes explain Hawking paradox” reports BBC News. I have nothing to say about that headline at all.

Scientists say they have solved one of the biggest paradoxes in science first identified by Prof Stephen Hawking.

He highlighted that black holes behave in a way that puts two fundamental theories at odds with each other.

Black holes are dead stars that have collapsed and have such strong gravity that not even light can escape.

New research claims to have resolved the paradox by showing that black holes have a property which they call “quantum hair”….

(17) ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS. “’Muppets Mayhem’ Series a Go at Disney+”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Disney+ is taking another swing at a Muppets TV series.

The streamer, following a lengthy development process, has handed out a series order to comedy The Muppets Mayhem, with Lilly Singh set to star.

The comedy will follow the Electric Mayhem Band as it records its first-ever album. Singh will star as the human lead, Nora, the junior A&R executive who is tasked with managing and wrangling the band that originally debuted in the pilot for The Muppet Show in 1975. (Watch the band’s debut below.) Sources say the 10-episode comedy will begin filming in April.

The series — which will feature Dr. Teeth, Animal, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot and Lips — is described as a music-filled journey in which the 45-year-old band comes face to face with the current-day music scene as they attempt to go platinum….

(18) ALIEN SCHOOL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or, how to be a Thermian in six “easy“ lessons. 

Digg.com has, um, dug up a short docu-feature on how the Thermans came to be so wonderfully quirky in Galaxy Quest. It’s a Class A lesson in the collaborative nature of filmmaking – where the screenwriter, director, actors, and everyone else contribute to what is eventually seen on the screen.

The singsongy, pitchy, sound of the aliens was originated by character actor Enrico Colantoni, who absolutely nailed his audition for the Thermian leader when he broke out that voice. Then they had to develop the walk, their native speech when the translator box breaks, and mannerisms for all sorts of situations. And the whole alien ensemble had to nail all of it. 

Just watch the video. You’ll love it. 

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Dr. Giselle Anatol, Steve Miller, Danny Sichel, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/17/22 If You Can’t Handle Me At My Pixel, You Don’t Deserve Me At My Scroll

(1) PLEASE, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE? “Editorial Resignations At Big Houses Spark Reckoning” reports Publishers Lunch. Of the four departed editors, one worked for Tor and two for Orbit.

Multiple resignations from the editorial departments at two big houses caused an online reckoning on Friday. Four editors, Angeline Rodriguez and Hillary Sames at Orbit, Erin Siu at Macmillan Children’s, and Molly McGhee at Tor all announced their resignations, leading to a discussion about the workload of junior and mid-level employees and the difficulty of advancement across the industry. The online exchange brought into the open the frustrations of increased workload, burnout and turnover that have been brewing as the pandemic continues. Those feelings are intensified as big publishers report record sales and earnings, even as multiple people report on Twitter they believe their employers are not sufficiently reinvesting those proceeds in additional staff, systems and raises.

At the heart of the discussion was McGhee’s resignation letter which she posted on Twitter….

McGhee’s interview with the New York Times ran under the headline “When Will Publishing Stop Starving Its Young?”

… On March 11, McGhee joined a group of junior and midlevel employees who exited the publishing industry, blaming low pay, unrealistic workloads and burnout. For context: It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to live in or near New York City (epicenter of bookmaking) on an entry-level publishing salary. Add school loans, subtract a second job or additional subsidy and you risk being factored out of a career in letters before the ink on your college diploma has had a chance to dry.

“As some of you may have heard, today is my last day at Tor Books,” McGhee wrote in the resignation letter she shared on Twitter. “My promotion request was denied, and as such I am leaving as my first acquisition (the marvelous THE ATLAS SIX by Olivie Blake) debuts at number three on The New York Times Bestsellers List.” She goes on, “Making the NYT is a career high for an editor. It is rare for an assistant to do so and, by all accounts, this should be ‘a great beginning’ and not a heartbreaking end.”

McGhee also cites “the invisibility of the junior employee’s workload” as one of her reasons for leaving Tor. As Blake writes in her novel, “We are the gods of our own universes, aren’t we?” Indeed we are. But gods cannot live on ramen alone….

The text of McGhee’s March 11 message follows:

(2) ESA AND ROSCOSMOS BREAKUP. The European Space Agency has suspended the ExoMars rover after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ESA ruling council “acknowledged the present impossibility of carrying out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover mission with a launch in 2022” – “ESA – ExoMars suspended”.

As an intergovernmental organisation mandated to develop and implement space programmes in full respect with European values, we deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine. While recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States.

ExoMars

ESA’s ruling Council, meeting in Paris on 16-17 March, assessed the situation arising from the war in Ukraine regarding ExoMars, and unanimously:

  • acknowledged the present impossibility of carrying out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover mission with a launch in 2022, and mandated the ESA Director General to take appropriate steps to suspend the cooperation activities accordingly;
  • authorised the ESA Director General to carry out a fast-track industrial study to better define the available options for a way forward to implement the ExoMars rover mission.

Space Transportation

Following the decision by Roscosmos to withdraw their personnel from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, all missions scheduled for launch by Soyuz have been put on hold. These concern essentially four institutional missions for which ESA is the launch service procurement entity (Galileo M10, Galileo M11, Euclid and EarthCare) and one additional institutional launch.

Consequently, the ESA Director General has initiated an assessment on potential alternative launch services for these missions, which will include  a review of the Ariane 6 first exploitation flights.  A robust launch manifest for ESA missions’ launch needs, including for spacecraft originally planned for launch by Soyuz from Kourou, will be submitted to Member States.   

Likewise, “Russia’s War in Ukraine Threatens Joint Missions to Mars, Venus and the Moon” reports Scientific American.

… The strife is impacting otherworldly missions as well: Consider Russia’s nascent Venera-D mission, a proposed orbiter and lander meant to blast off for Venus in 2029. The U.S. had been considering allowing NASA to collaborate on Venera-D, perhaps by contributing scientific instruments. But, citing retaliatory sanctions, Russia’s space leadership deemed continued U.S. participation in the project “inappropriate.”…

(3) RUNAWAY SUCCESS. Brandon Sanderson’s record-breaking Kickstarter, “Surprise! Four Secret Novels by Brandon Sanderson by Dragonsteel Entertainment”, had raised $29,710,529 when I checked today. With 14 days remaining it will obviously break $30 million and then some.

(4) MS. PRESIDENT. “Stacey Abrams makes surprise appearance on Star Trek as president of Earth”Yahoo! has the story.

Stacey Abrams just boldly went where no Georgia gubernatorial candidate has gone before.

Abrams, the Georgia politician who’s running for governor of the state this year, had a surprise cameo in the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, appearing as the president of United Earth.

A scene at the end of the season four finale, “Coming Home,” introduces the United Earth president, and Abrams gets several lines, announcing that “United Earth is ready right now to rejoin the Federation, and nothing could make me happier than to say those words.” She also has a discussion with Discovery‘s main character, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), about Earth rejoining the Federation, and this scene closes the episode….

(5) MOFFAT’S NEXT SHOW. “The Time Traveler’s Wife shares trailer for new Steven Moffat series”Radio Times sets the frame.

Sky has released the official teaser trailer for Steven Moffat’s adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife, which will air on Sky Atlantic and NOW in May.

… The six-episode series is the second major adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s popular novel of the same name, following the 2009 film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, once again telling the story of a marriage that threatens to be torn apart by time travel. Alongside Leslie and James, the cast also includes Desmin Borges, Natasha Lopez, Kate Seigel and Michael Park.

Of course, it’s not Moffat’s first time dealing with time travel – following his hugely successful stint as Doctor Who showrunner between 2009 and 2017 – but he’s been on record to explain that the two shows share little in common beyond that superficial similarity.

(6) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Well, this will certainly be out of the price range of us mere mortals… Virgil Finlay’s “Portrait of Robert A. Heinlein” will be up for auction on April 15. “This lot is accompanied by a letter signed by the artist and dated August 5, 1953.”

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2006 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Doctor Who ended back in 1989 when the Seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy had his final story, “Survival.” No indication was given beforehand that the show was being cancelled. 

A year after the BBC revived by the show in the UK, Doctor Who returned in the U.S. “Rose” was broadcast in the States on March 17, an episode named for the Billie Piper character who was the first modern companion. Christopher Eccleston played the Ninth Doctor.  Briefly. Note that there is no regeneration scene here. Of course as we know there were other Doctors between the Seventh Doctor and this Doctor. Indeed the numbering is suspect, isn’t it? 

So how was the reception for this new Who? The New York Times liked it: “In most previous versions of the show, so little was going on between the Doctor and his female companions that fans took to making up sex scenes on the Internet, much the way ‘X-Files’ buffs tried to fantasize a little action between Scully and Mulder. But between the Doctor and Rose there is genuine, old-fashioned chemistry, and their interaction, which occasionally takes on the aspect of screwball comedy, is much the best thing in the show.” 

And Radio Times succinctly put it, “Think big. Think bold. Think fantastic! For the very first time, Doctor Who achieves a perfect blend of big screen and small screen.”

Season One over at Rotten Tomatoes holds a near perfect ninety-six percent rating among audience reviewers. 

The entire new series is streaming on HBO Max. The older series is on a number of streaming services of a British nature.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 17, 1846 Kate Greenaway. Victorian artist and writer, largely known today for her children’s book illustrations. So popular was she and her work that the very popular Kate Greenaway Almanacks appeared every year from 1883 to 1895. Among her best-known works was her edition of Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rosa Mulholland’s Puck and Blossom and Bret Harte’s Pirate Isle. (Died 1901.)
  • Born March 17, 1906 Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. Her first role as an actress, she played Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch, plus several uncredited roles as well.  She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and antisemitic. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 17, 1945 Tanya Lemani, 77. Iranian-born actress who is one of the victims of Star Trek’s “Wolf in the Fold” as the dancer Kara. She has appeared on the original Fantasy IslandGet Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, The Bionic Woman, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in one-offs.
  • Born March 17, 1933 Penelope Lively, 89. I’ve actually mentioned her before as Catherine Butler did a work in part on her, Four British fantasists: place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. She’s here because I’m very fond of one of her novels, The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, having a great liking for fiction about that story. She’s won the Booker Prize for Moon Tiger and the Carnegie Medal for British children’s books for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe.
  • Born March 17, 1941 Paul Kantner. A founder of Jefferson Airplane which would become Jefferson Starship. The Dragonfly album, particularly “All Fly Away” and “Hyperdrive” is very genre as well as much of the Jefferson Airship output is genre. “Hyperdrive” would be used in the opening ceremonies at MidAmeriCon (1976). (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 17, 1947 James Morrow, 75. Author of the most awesome Godhead trio whose first novel, Towing Jehovah, won a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award and was nominated for a Hugo at Intersection. I’m also impressed by The Last Witchfinder as it’s told by a sentient book, Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica
  • Born March 17, 1948 William Gibson, 74. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. He won a Hugo at Aussiecon Two for Neuromancer, his only such win, though he had other nominations including for the other two novels in the Sprawl trilogy.
  • Born March 17, 1951 Kurt Russell, 71. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good and he’s fantastic in it.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) YOU BE THE JUDGE. All Squaxx dek Thargo may want to know there’s going to be a “Star-studded online convention to celebrate 45 years of 2000 AD”. It’s free and happening on March 26-27.

Featuring celebrity fans and legendary creators, The Galaxy’s Greatest will stream online and for free on 26 and 27 March on 2000 AD’s social media channels and YouTube, and Rebellion’s dedicated Twitch stream.

The two-day show will feature top flight guests on more than a dozen panels, all discussing the impact of 2000 AD on comics and culture over almost half a century, as well as announcements and new merchandise.

… The event will throw a spotlight on the people who have helped make 2000 AD the galaxy’s greatest comic, with creators both new and legendary sharing their stories and insights on the comics-making process — including a feature interview with the co-creator of Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog, John Wagner, as well as panels with Garth Ennis (The BoysPreacher), Rob Williams (Suicide Squad), Alex de Campi (Archie vs Predator), Sean Phillips (Criminal), Anna Morozova (Judge Anderson), John McCrea (Hitman), Dan Cornwell (Rok of the Reds), Aleš Kot (Zero), and more to be announced.

The next 45 years of 2000 AD will also be discussed with owners and publishers Chris Kingsley OBE and Jason Kingsley OBE, and current editor Matt Smith – now the longest serving editor in 2000 AD history….

(11) SQUELCH THAT RUMOR. Radio Times eavesdrops while “Catherine Tate addresses Doctor Who return rumours”.

…The Donna Noble star has been heavily linked with a return to the sci-fi show in recent months, with rumours that she might rejoin the cast for the upcoming 60th anniversary special.

And she addressed those rumours during an appearance on The One Show to promote her new film The Nan Movie, telling Jermaine Jenas that she “probably started a lot of them” herself.

“What can I tell you? No, I wish it was [true],” she said. “Well, no one’s been in touch.”

But she added: “I’m on the same number, I’d just like to say. So, if you’ve got the money, I’ve got the time.”

(12) OCTOTHORPE.  John Coxon has COVID, Alison Scott wanted to do a podcast, and Liz Batty had no better offers. So it’s a short episode of the hosts answering Cora Buhlert’s questions. Listen to Octothorpe 53  here: “It Was John’s Idea”.

(13) BREAKFAST IS SERVED ON ARRAKIS. The New York Times was initiated into “The Secret Sounds of ‘Dune’: Rice Krispies and Marianne Faithfull”.

…We were at Zuma Beach on the kind of warm March afternoon that New York readers would surely prefer I not dwell on, and Villeneuve’s Oscar-nominated sound editors Mark Mangini and Theo Green were nearby, pouring cereal into the sand. This wasn’t meant to provoke any sea gulls; Mangini and Green wanted to demonstrate the sound-gathering techniques they used to enliven Arrakis, the desert planet where the “Dune” hero Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) discovers his destiny.

 “One of the most compelling images in the film is when Paul first steps foot onto the planet,” Mangini said. Since the sand on Arrakis is laced with “spice,” a valuable and hallucinogenic substance, the sound designers had to find an audible way to convey that something special was underfoot.

By way of explaining it to me, Mangini ground his work boot into the soft patch of sand that he had dusted with Rice Krispies. The sand produced a subtle, beguiling crunch, and Villeneuve broke out into a big smile. Though he’d heard it plenty of times in postproduction, he had no idea what the sound designers had concocted to capture that sound.

“One of the things I love about cinema is the cross between NASA kind of technology and gaffer tape,” Villeneuve said. “To use a super-expensive mic to record Rice Krispies — that deeply moves me!”…

(14) FLY LIKE AN EAGLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future… At least that’s what the Steve Miller Band assured me in their 1976 hit Fly Like an Eagle. Perhaps they assured Elon Musk the same thing (though he’d only have been 5 at the time).

In 2016, Musk told us that humanity would land on Mars by 2024. In late 2020, he revised the landing date to 2026. Now he’s telling us 2029. This is hardly the first time that Musk has been forced to change projections for one of his ventures. Nor is it the first time a targeted date for anyone’s space launch has slipped.

To me, 2029 still seems ambitious given where we are. But, if Musk (or someone else) does manage to hit that date, it’ll be 60 years after the Eagle landed on the Moon. Assuming I live that long (and am still compos mentis), it’d be extraordinary to witness both landings in one lifetime. “Elon Musk Has New Estimate for When Humans Might First Step on Mars” at CNET.

… Starship, which SpaceX is designing to take astronauts to the moon for NASA and eventually to Mars, has made some successful high-altitude flights, but has yet to make it to space.

Musk has made noise over the past two years about federal launch regulations slowing the process of reaching Mars and recently even floated the specter of bankruptcy if SpaceX isn’t able to produce Starship’s raptor engines more rapidly.

Unsurprisingly, getting to Mars takes planning. As Mars and Earth move around the sun, the two planets move closer to one another and then farther away again. To take advantage of the times when the trip between the two worlds is shortest requires launching during certain windows. The ideal Mars launch windows for this decade are later this year, late 2024, late 2026 and late 2028/early 2029. 

It’s looking as though Musk’s initial ambitions may have been overly optimistic. If his target date slips much further, into the 2030s, it will be more in the ballpark of when NASA has always been aiming in terms of sending the first astronauts to Mars…. 

(15) BEHIND THE LINES. Enjoy Greener Grass a Star Wars short film made with Unreal Engine 5.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Pitch Meeting” Ryan George says in the third Harry Potter movie, Voldemort isn’t around but Dumbledore still gets to give his annual address on the many ways Hogwarts students can die.  And when asked why Hogwarts could produce a book of monsters that is an actual monster, the writer answers, “It’s clear wizards don’t have any consumer protection laws.”

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

2022 BAFTA Awards

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts presented the 2022 BAFTA Awards on March 13 at the Royal Albert Hall.

Genre filmmaking was well-represented by Dune, which took Original Score, Cinematography, Production Design, Sound, and Special Visual Effects. (Any component that didn’t involve acting or writing, they loved it!)

Encanto was named Best Animated Film.

The full list of winners follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 2/7/22 Head Like A Scroll, Pixeled Like Your Soul

(1) SFWA VOTING ON NEW MEMBERSHIP QUALIFICATIONS. At The World Remains Mysterious, Cat Rambo encourages SFWAns to support these “Possible Upcoming Changes to SFWA Membership”. SFWA members have until February 15 to cast their votes.

…An interesting development for SFWA that seems to have been flying under most people’s radar is that the organization’s members will be voting on whether or not to change the membership requirements in a way that the organization has not previously done. This may be one of the biggest changes made to the membership yet in the organization’s 50+ years of history.

The new qualifications: a writer can join as an Associate member once they have earned $100 over the course of their career, and as a Full member at the $1000 level.

That’s a huge and very significant change from the current, somewhat arcane membership requirements of $1000 over the course of a year on a single work to become a Full member. Particularly when you think that one of the most contentious propositions on the discussion boards in the past has been the idea of re-qualification, of making people prove they qualify on a yearly basis. Moving away from a system so complicated SFWA had to create a webform to walk people through whether or not they qualified to something like this is a big win in so many ways.

Cat follows up with six reasons SFWAns should vote for the change.

Meanwhile, she notes that the SFWA Board has already implemented another tool which did not require a membership vote:

One other change from the board meeting answers the question of how this affects the idea of “SFWA qualifying markets,” which has in the past been used as a way to make sure fiction markets increased their rates every once in a while. We’re going to see a fiction matrix that looks at a number of factors, including pay, but also response time, quality of contract, etc. It’s very nice to see this long overdue project finally manifest, and I bear as much guilt as anyone in the long overdue part, since I was around when it was first proposed and should have kicked it along significantly harder than I did. I’m very happy to see this and ten thousand kudos to the people who made it happen.

An email sent to SFWA members in January (which I did not receive from Cat) explains the new matrix:

Short Fiction Matrix: The Short Fiction Committee has developed a plan to replace the current Market Qualifying list with a Short Fiction Matrix that will better evaluate the professionalism of short fiction markets and model best practices. This is not contingent on the bylaws vote; the Board has already approved this plan to respond to changes needed to the membership criteria to admit newly voted-in categories of SFWA members. As a result, the current Market Qualifying list is less useful to prospective members, many of whom are deterred from applying by mistakenly assuming that only works sold to markets on the Market Qualifying list make them eligible to apply.  

The move to a matrix will better fulfill SFWA’s mission to promote and educate on writer-friendly practices in our industry. It will also aim to correct misperceptions that SFWA’s minimum professional rate is the only benchmark that a publisher must meet to be considered professional. SFWA will continue to fight for fair and equitable conditions across SF/F and related-genre markets via a minimum professional per-word rate, but additional metrics will give us more tools to use to achieve that goal. We are not abandoning the minimum professional rate at all, but reinforcing it with this matrix. SFWA recognizes the importance that this rate has served in the industry and plans to preserve that outside of the membership qualification criteria. 

The rate is meant to encourage better pay for creators, not limit their chances to participate in their professional organizations.

Ten categories have been proposed to comprise the matrix, including wordcount payment rate, payment procedures, good contract practices, audio and translation rights, and promotional efforts, among others. Precisely how each category is evaluated and the points assigned are still in discussion…. 

(2) THEY ASKED. Marlon James did an Ask Me Anything session for Reddit’s r/Books community today: “I’m Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and the forthcoming MOON WITCH, SPIDER KING!”

Marlon James

LElias2784: Hi Marlon! So excited that you’re doing this! Can you tell us how you developed the maps that are printed in the books?

MJ: The great thing about writing say, New York is that the city is there. Make up a place and you need a world for the characters to move around. I have to bear in my two things, which might seem at odds. 1. The world is new to the reader, so a lot of world building needs to happen, but 2. it’s not new to the characters and they can’t move through it like a tourist, which means I can’t move around like a tourist. So I sketch a rudimentary map before I even write a word. And it helps to define the place. But as the book gets deeper, the maps gets more detailed, until I reach the point where the book is following the map, not the other way around. This creates challenges, for example, by adding up the distance travelled by a character you might realize that they weren’t gone a week, but a year. Or instead of reaching a new destination, they merely circled back to the old. Which means constant modifications. OR you get to the point where the map IS the standard and the prose is what has to change. I appreciate that part actually, because I can say nope, can’t write that because that’s not in the map….

(3) NEW INTERVIEW SERIES LAUNCHES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I have decided to interview authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books in a probably futile attempt to restore Best Related Work from “Best response to whatever annoyed us at last year’s Worldcon.” Here’s the introductory post: “Introducing Non-Fiction Spotlights”.

… So I want to shine a spotlight on works of long form non-fiction that came out in 2021. The main focus of this series will be on non-fiction books, whether academic or popular, though I will also feature the occasional documentary or blog series. And indeed the first installment of this series will feature a non-fiction book which started out as a series of blogposts. I am not looking for essays, articles, poems, Twitter threads, virtual cons, podcasts, archives, databases, recommendation lists and similar projects at the moment, no matter how worthy….

And here is the first interview: “Non-Fiction Spotlight: The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War by Camestros Felapton”. Cam was kind enough to act as my guinea pig, so I can hopefully persuade more authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction to take part.

What prompted you to write your book?

I’d been thinking of a project like this for some time but the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol was a specific impetus. I wanted to talk about how a section of the US population had become entranced by ideas that seemed so sharply at odds with reality. The overlap between the thinking of some of the key figures in the Sad/Rabid Puppy campaigns and issues such as Covid-denial and election-fraud conspiracy theories was substantial. One key personality from that time had become a major promoter of Qanon, another had been an early proponent of anti-covid-lockdown protests and yet another had been an active proponent of election-fraud conspiracy theories. I really wanted to trace the journey that people went through and how the earlier (fairly minor) conflict foreshadowed later events.

(4) LEDE GENERATOR. Rodolfo Ocampo extended an invitation to the internet: “As part of my PhD, I’m researching human-AI creative interaction. I created a little tool where you can write two themes and see the beginning of a story come alive.” You can try it here: Narrative Device.

I was asked to enter two themes. I gave the AI “hamburger” and “moon.” Here’s what I got back:

The moon was full and shining brightly in the sky. The stars were out, and it was a beautiful night. A family of four was out eating a hamburger at a local burger joint. They were all enjoying their meal, when the father said, “I love hamburgers. They’re such a classic.” His children agreed, and the mother said, “I love moon pies. They’re so yummy.”

(5) SUPER BOWL RINGS. Usually a few Super Bowl commercials have genre elements. This year one will be about a major genre production: “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV Show Trailer to Air During Super Bowl” on February 13.

… The official first look video of the most expensive TV series ever made (the first season costs at least $465 million) will debut during Super Bowl LVI.

The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon releasing tease-y character posters showing merely the torsos and hands of its cast.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power follows the forging of the original rings of power that allowed the Dark Lord Sauron to spread darkness across Middle-earth….

(6) DEEP DIVE INTO HOBAN. Evelyn C. Leeper invites Russell Hoban fans to enjoy her webpage of “Russell Hoban Reviews”. “Hoban’s style is (to me) quintessential magic realism, and incredibly poetic, and I wish his adult books were not so hard to find.”

(7) IAN KENNEDY (1932-2022). Comics artist Ian Kennedy died this month – 2000 AD has a profile: “Ian Kennedy 1932-2022”.

…It is no hyperbole to describe Kennedy as a legend of British comics. With a career spanning more than seven decades, his meticulously detailed but dynamic work graced dozens of titles, from Hotspur to Bunty, from Commando to 2000 AD.

… As tastes changed, so did the audience for his work. His style adapted perfectly to the new generation of science-fiction comics like 2000 AD, for which he worked for on strips such as ‘Invasion’, ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘M.A.C.H.1’, as well as on ‘Ro-Busters’ for stablemate Star Lord. One of his most covers featured the perfect intersection of his changing career – Messerschmitt 109s from World War Two transported to the skies over Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One, with one pilot screaming “Himmel! This isn’t Stalingrad!”.

His richly coloured art, with his particular skill for sleek, dynamic and functional machines and spacecraft, was perfect for the relaunch of ‘Dan Dare’ in Eagle in the 1980s as well as Blake’s 7M.A.S.K., the short-lived IPC title Wildcat….

(8) ANGÉLICA GORODISCHER (1928-2022). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Argentinian author of SFF and many other things Angélica Gorodischer has died at the age of 93. For some reason, there have been almost no obituaries in the English language world, not even from places like The Guardian, where you might expect to find them. Locus had a brief item and here is a longer tribute from an obscure news site: “Angélica Gorodischer, the woman who imagined universes” at Then 24.

…She knew from a very young age that she would dedicate herself to writing. Perhaps she did not imagine that she, as a declared feminist writer since the 1980s, would leave a singular mark on literature written in the Spanish language. The true homeland of Angélica Gorodischer, who died at her home in Rosario at the age of 93, was books: the books she read and those she wrote, among which Trafalgar (1979) and the stories of Kalpa Imperial (1983) stand out. The latter was translated into English by none other than Ursula K. Le Guin, the greatest figure in Anglo-Saxon science fiction.

Gorodischer’s best novel, Prodigies, is not sff but was translated into English by Sue Burke, another noted sff author.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty years ago at  ConJosé where Tom Whitmore and Kevin Standlee were the Chairs and Vernor Vinge was the author guest,  David Cherry the artist guest, Bjo & John Trimble fan guests and Ferdinand Feghoot was the imaginary guest (ok, would someone explain that choice please), Neil Gaiman wins the Best Novel Hugo for the best excellent American Gods

Five novels made the final nomination list: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, Connie Willis’ Passage, China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, Robert Charles Wilson‘s The Chronoliths and Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep.

It would also win the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and be nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, a BFA for the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy for Best Novel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 7, 1908 Larry “Buster” Crabbe. He played the lead roles in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do all three, though other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)
  • Born February 7, 1941 Kevin Crossley-Holland, 81. Best known for his Arthur trilogy consisting of The Seeing StoneAt the Crossing-Places, and King of the Middle March. I really liked their perspective of showing a medieval boy’s development from a page to a squire and finally to a knight. Highly recommended. 
  • Born February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 73. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 72. Michael Toman in a letter to our OGH asked we note her Birthday as she has a “A Good Word for one of his favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection, a World Fantasy Award winner, and The Jane Austen Book Club novel, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and “The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. 
  • Born February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey  and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 7, 1955 Miguel Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in  RoboCop who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World.  Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voicing Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 7, 1960 James Spader, 62. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova and Julian Rome in Alien Hunter.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

From Bestie:

(12) FCBD 2022. Titan Comics unveiled artist Piotr Kowalski’s cover for their  Bloodborne Free Comic Book Day edition, which will be given out at participating comic shops on May 7.

Enter the city of Yharnam through the eyes of its citizens, when new hunters take to the streets to fight against the cruel and unusual epidemic that has gripped the city. In the black of night, families and faith will be tested… Based on the critically-acclaimed Bloodbourne video game!

(13) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Open Culture reviews some century-old predictions: “In 1922, a Novelist Predicts What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wireless Telephones, 8-Hour Flights to Europe & More”.

…In the Paris-born-and-raised George’s ancestral homeland, George Orwell described him as an author of what G.K. Chesterton called “good bad books,” singling out for praise his 1920 novel Caliban amid the “shoddy rubbish” of his wider oeuvre.

Still even authors of rubbish — and perhaps especially authors of rubbish — can sense the shape of things to come. For its edition of May 7, 1922, the New York Herald commissioned George to share that sense with their readers. In response he described a world in which “commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace,” reducing the separation of America and Europe to eight hours, and whose passenger steamers and railroads will have consequently fallen into obsolescence. “Wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system,” resulting in generations who’ll never have seen “a wire outlined against the sky.”

That goes for the transmission of electricity as well, since George credits (a bit hastily, it seems) the possibility of wireless power systems of the kind researched by Nikola Tesla. In 2022, coal will take a distant backseat to the tides, the sun, and radium, and “it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed.” As for the cinema, “the figures on the screen will not only move, but they will have their natural colors and speak with ordinary voices. Thus, the stage as we know it to-day may entirely disappear, which does not mean the doom of art, since the movie actress of 2022 will not only need to know how to smile but also how to talk.”…

(14) SOMETHING WAGNERIAN. The Rogues in the House podcast (which will be featured as a fancast spotlight soon) discusses Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane: “Some like it Rough – Karl Edward Wagner and Kane”.

The Rogues are joined by Whetstone Magazine editor Chuck Clark as they journey into the depths of esoteric time on a quest for a deeper understanding of the Sword & Sorcery mainstay, Kane the Mystic Swordsman and his creator, Karl Edward Wagner. Is this mysterious, flame-haired immortal a friend? Perhaps a foe? And what’s this about World Domination? Hang on to your fur-diapers and winged helms, it’s gon’ get rough!

(15) THEY DIDN’T START THE FIRE. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Jason Ray Carney, editor of Whetstone Magazine, Witch House Magazine and The Dark Man Journal at So I’m Writing a Novel… — “Interview with Jason Ray Carney of Whetstone Magazine”.

Oliver and Jason get to some INTERESTING places in their far-reaching discussion, including subjects like: writing workshops, working class literature, modernist literature, R.A. Salvatore as a literary gateway drug, starting a literary magazine & the origin of Whetstone, why he feels you shouldn’t send your best work to Whetstone, “mid-list exposure”, submitting for ultra low acceptance rate magazines, elevated language, Clark Ashton Smith, grading English papers by engineers, Jason’s role as academic coordinator for the Robert E. Howard foundation, Walter Benjamin, how a genre rooted in our past like sword & sorcery can give people an inspiring vision of something new…

(16) BOBA BATHOS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian interviews Jennifer Beals of Flashdance fame who’s currently in The Book of Boba Fett as well as a long time Star Wars fan: “’I’ve had letters from klansmen’: Jennifer Beals on Flashdance, The L Word and fighting to get diverse stories told”.

… Now, she has entered a franchise with a fractionally longer Hollywood pedigree than her own, as Garsa Fwip in The Book of Boba Fett, a spin-off of The Mandalorian – itself, of course, a spin-off of Star Wars. It takes a while to get your ear in to her natural register, which is playful, very literary and full of bathos. “It’s so exciting to be part of the lineage,” she says of Boba Fett. “It feels like a calling, like there’s some reason that the universe has decided that you’re going to enter into these stories.”…

(17) GENRE ON STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times, behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews  A Number, a 2002 play by Caryl Churchill that is playing at the Old Vic (oldvictheatre.com) through March 19 and is about a father and son.

The son has just discovered that he is one of ‘a number’–a set of identical humans cloned from an original.  Every shred of their relationship is being reconfigured in his mind.  More shocking still, he’s not even number one:  Somewhere out there is another, older him–a son five years his senior who grew up in care.  Before long, Bernard 1 is in the kitchen too, with his own set of questions…

…Its genius as drama is that it (the play) relies on the skill of the actors to scope out the minute shifts in body language that bring these questions (about the purpose of life)) alive.  In (Lyndsey) Tuirner’s deftly calibrated staging, (Paapa) Essiedu is mesmerising as multiple iterations of one person.  As Bernard 2, he pads about the living room, apparently at ease.  But his hands, either buried in the cuffs of his overlong sweater sleeves or nervously flexing and grasping the air, tell a story of deep-set insecurity.  As Bernard 1, the original, abandoned son, he is tighter, sharper, angrier.  But as he listens to his father explain why he gave him up, he becomes entirely still–we see a man sunk in deep, bewildered pain.  It’s a superbly detailed performance.”

Sarah Hemming also reviews Alistair McDowall’s play The Glow, which is playing at the Royal Court Theatre (royalcourttheatre.com) through March 5.  The play is about a Victorian spiritualist named Mrs Lyall.

Here Mrs Lyall’s instinct to cheat death and reach into eternity proves key as the play slips its moorings and roves across time, rolling form glimpses of pre-history and Arthurian legend to the 1970s and 1990s and even the heat death of the universe.

Our woman (Mrs Lyall)  is a constant throughout:  a time-travelling stranger or spirit, permanently in search of a home.  She becomes symbolic of humanity’s nagging sense of profound loneliness:  the root of legend, myth and religion,  McDowall has said of this play, ‘I want it to feel like there’s a vast, undulating network of stories that you only get a sliver of,’ and he works to give the audience the same bird’s eye view as the woman, stepping outside linear time, allowing patterns to emerge and overlap.

(18) SPACE FOR A MEMORY. An asteroid has been named after trans electronic/pop music icon SOPHIE reports Nylon: “SOPHIE Is Forever Memorialized As An Asteroid”.

A little over a year since the sudden passing of avant-garde pop star and producer SOPHIE, she’s officially part of the solar system as an asteroid memorialized in her honor.

Back in February 2021, SOPHIE fan Christian Arroyo began a petition to dedicate the planet TOI-1338 b in honor of the late pop star, noting that the pale lavender, cloudy atmosphere of the planet (discovered in the summer of 2019 by Wolf Cukier) looked similar to the ethereal album cover art of SOPHIE’s debut record Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. “I am requesting that TOI-1338 b be named in honor of SOPHIE, in honor of a great LGBT+ influence,” wrote Arroyo. “I want her name to be remembered and her influence to continue to flourish for many years to come.”…

(19) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. Be careful out there.

(20) ARRAKIS STREET. A.V. Club is there when “Elmo, young Muppet, overcomes Dune’s Gom Jabbar test”.

Fresh off the heels of his career-invigorating feud with a rock that wants to take his oatmeal raisin cookie, Elmo has returned to the spotlight yet again to prove that he’s a thinking, feeling organism who deserves to be treated with greater respect than both inanimate objects and the world’s animals.

Since there is no better way for him to prove such a thing than to look to an ordeal devised by Frank Herbert in the novel Dune, Elmo has now been made to prove himself through an edit of the 2021 film adaptation’s take on the Gom Jabbar test….

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