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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, David Goldfarb, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/17/22 In Five Years, The Pixel Will Be Obsolete, Said The Salesman

(1) MORE AMAZON SHENANIGANS. Nick Cole says Galaxy’s Edge had its account nuked by Amazon over the weekend. The action has since been undone. “CTRL ALT Revolt FLASH REPORT”. He plays it the way his readers like to hear it.

Spent all weekend dealing with a situation on Amazon. Saturday night we got a letter saying our Galaxy’s Edge account was terminated and we were permanently banned.

This morning the books are back up. Was it a purge, a hacker running amok, the AI screwing up… I have thoughts.

But for now this is my official statement :

“We don’t know anything concrete. This happened on Saturday night on a 3 day weekend.

That sounds suspiciously like a hacker got into Amazon. Also, a few other people have had it happen to them.

But the times are crazy due to the leftists strangling everyone’s small business and acting like some kind of woke mafia within major corporations and so it must be considered, that until Amazon says different, this was some kind of Purge.

We are hoping Tuesday morning sees a resolution. Until then our cash flow has been destroyed, our customers are upset, and potential new customers are being lost forever….

(2) LIFE INFLUENCES ON LEM. [Item by Tom Becker.] Two recent books by Polish authors make clear how much Lem’s wartime experience weighed on him. In Agnieszka Gajewska’s deeply researched “Holocaust and the Stars,” translated by Katarzyna Gucio (Routledge) … and “Lem: A Life Out of This World,” a lively, genial biography by Wojciech Orlinski, which has yet to be translated into English. “A Holocaust Survivor’s Hardboiled Science Fiction” in The New Yorker. [Note: The Latin “l” is used in Lem’s first name because WordPress does not support the special character.]

In “His Master’s Voice,” a 1968 sci-fi novel by the Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, a team of scientists and scholars convened by the American government try to decipher a neutrino signal from outer space. They manage to translate a fragment of the signal’s information, and a couple of the scientists use it to construct a powerful weapon, which the project’s senior mathematician fears could wipe out humanity. The intention behind the message remains elusive, but why would an advanced life-form have broadcast instructions that could be so dangerous?

Late one night, a philosopher on the team named Saul Rappaport, who emigrated from Europe in the last year of the Second World War, tells the mathematician about a time—“the year was 1942, I think”—when he nearly died in a mass execution…..

Privately, Lem told people that he had witnessed the executions described by his fictional character. “Dr. Rappaport’s adventure is my adventure, from Lwów 1941, after the German army entered—I was to be shot,” he wrote to his American translator Michael Kandel. When Orlinski asked Lem’s widow which elements in the scene were drawn from life, she replied, “All of them.”…

(3) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. You knew it all along – the creators of the term “squeecore” graduated from the “I made you look! I win!” school of clickbaiting. Whose graduates always try to get John Scalzi to say their names, or failing that, they announce to the world he paid some attention to them. Yay them.

And here’s that big, succulent dose of attention:

That was it. Show’s over.

(4) THE SOUND AND THE FURY. Or is it? Camestros Felapton is convinced there’s more candy left in that piñata, as he argues in “Yeah, but”.

I was going to write something else today but as squeecore arguments are still raging on my social media I wanted to pull out some of my own views on where the discussion is, partly because there’s a lot of directions the arguments are going.

      1. Is there’s a dominant style in SFF in the sense of the works that critical buzz and award nominations? Yes, so long as we a generous with both “dominant” and “style” but it is fairly nebulous (as was New Wave for example.
      2. Is there a dominant style in SFF (in the sense above) that is so ubiquotous that is pushes out nearly everything else? No unless you define “style” so expansively that it can’t not to be true i.e. the claim becomes tautological.

He reaches number eight before he’s done.

(But wait! If you use a sufficiently high-powered vacuum, there might be more candy yet! Camestros reacts to Reddit’s discussion of the topic: “A log entry in the voyage of genre name looking for a genre”.)

(5) I SEE A LITTLE SILHOUETTO.  Meanwhile, Doris V. Sutherland has interesting points to make in “’Squeecore’ and the Cartoon Mode in SF/F” – thoughts that deserve to be discussed without the handicap of being attached to this arbitrary term.

…There’s an old rule in animation that a cartoon character should have a readily-identifiable silhouette — think of Mickey Mouse’s ears or Bart Simpson’s spiky hair. In the strongest examples these silhouettes incorporate not only the character’s body and/or clothes but also a posture that tells us something of their personality: Bugs Bunny casually leaning back as he chomps on a carrot; Spongebob excitedly waving his arms about. This is a visual counterpart to the old rule in writing that says you should hook the reader with the first line.

With that in mind, take a look at the opening line to Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, the novel about the teenage lesbian necromancer who likes comic books and porn mags:

In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!— Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.

Succinct, funny, comprehensible in a flash — this is the prose equivalent of a cartoon character’s silhouette.

Can these stories, as wholes, be described as cartoonish? That’s more debatable. The purest examples of the aesthetic I’m talking about are in short stories like Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s “Fandom for Robots” and “A Guide For Working Breeds” or Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please”, each of which uses its cartoon-character-silhouette as the basis for its entire narrative trajectory. This is harder to sustain in a full-length novel. There are novels built wholly around the cartoon mode, but they fit into a narrow genre of giddy, goofy comedies (David Wong’s Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick is a good example)….

(6) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. In case you were still wondering what hopepunk is: “The sci-fi genre offering radical hope for living better” at BBC Culture.

…In the midst of current political, economic and environment uncertainty, many of us may have noticed a tendency to fall into cynicism and pessimism. Could hopepunk be the perfect antidote?

If you feel wary of optimism, you are far from alone. Writers and philosophers across human history have had ambivalent views of hope. These contradictory opinions can be seen in the often opposing interpretations of the Pandora myth, first recorded by Hesiod around 700 BC. In his poem Works and Days, Hesiod describes how Zeus created Pandora as a punishment to humanity, following Prometheus’s theft of fire. She comes to humanity bearing a jar containing “countless plagues” – and, opening the lid, releases its evils to the world. “Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within the rim of the great jar,” Hesiod tells us….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty years ago this day, the musical Chicago premiered. I just rewatched it on HBO Max which is why you are getting it as the Anniversary piece tonight. Well that and that Mike is extremely generous in what I can cover in this feature. Extremely generous. You are forewarned as to what the future might hold. 

I first saw this film at the theater when it came out. It’s based off the 1975 stage musical of the same name which had music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. That in turn was based off Chicago, a very successful 1926 play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins. 

This film was directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Martin Richards from the screenplay by Bill Condon.  Fosse was contracted to direct this but died before he could do so. The film marked the directorial debut of Marshall, who also choreographed the film, with music by Kander and lyrics by Ebb, both had worked on the Fosse musical. Marshall would later direct Into the Woods and Mary Poppins Returns.

Chicago was primarily set in Cook County Criminal Court Building and Jail. And this is a musical which means we get to a stellar cast sing including performers I swear I never knew could do so —  Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore and Dominic West.  Gere in particular is very, very impressive though the women performers are great in part because they pass the Bechdel test in that much of the script is dialogue between women smartly done without men present. 

Reception for Chicago was almost unanimously positive. I think Robert Ebert summed it up best when he called it “big, brassy fun” which it definitely is.  It gets a most excellent eighty-six rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.  Oh, and though costly to produce at almost fifty million, it made over three hundred million. 

And yes we can tie the film into the genre as Mike pointed out to me that “?Chicago is the source of a tune Maytree used to create one of the best-ever Puppy satire filks” — here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957.  It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories in 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks here remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 91. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, and Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. Did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1949 Donald Palumbo, 73. Well someone has to take us seriously. In this case, it’s this scholar. He’s done such studies as Chaos Theory, Asimov’s Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: the Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science FictionEros in the Mind’s Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film and Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. He has an interesting essay, “Reiterated Plots and Themes in the Robot Novels: Getting Away with Murder and Overcoming Programming” in Foundation, #80 Autumn 2000 . His latest work is A Dune Companion: Characters, Places and Terms in Frank Herbert’s Original Six Novels. Huh. I’d like to see that. 
  • Born January 17, 1952 Tom Deitz. He’s best remembered for the David Sullivan series which ran for nine novels, plus The Gryphon King, which technically isn’t part of that series. The Soulsmith is quite excellent as well. He was founding member of the SCA’s Barony of Bryn Madoc, and he won the Phoenix Award for lifetime achievement in promoting Southern fandom. Fitting for a lifelong resident of Georgia. He’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 60. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name and which get a mere thirty-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I rather liked, then there’s the The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled several years ago that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think that I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 52. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated  Hotel Transylvania franchise. You can see a sample of his Clone Wars animation here.
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 33. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series. She also voiced Raya in Raya and the Last Dragon and Dawn Betterman in The Croods: A New Age

(9) FAMILY FAREWELL. Christopher Rice wrote a long Facebook post about Anne Rice’s funeral in New Orleans, including the text of his eulogy.

Dearest People of the Page. We have brought Anne home. On Saturday January 15th, as we rolled to a stop on the tarmac at New Orleans International Airport, the heavens opened, and the thunder rolled, and it was as if the spirit world had heralded her return to the city of her birth, the city that always held her heart. The service was quiet and private, and a chance for close family to express their grief. The public celebration of life we will hold later in the year will be open to all of you, and it will be loud enough for Anne to hear us in heaven. She has now joined my father in the tomb in Metairie Cemetery she designed for him after his passing; their marriage, unbroken for decades, has entered immortality. My sister resides with them as well. I share with you now a portion of the eulogy I read graveside as the rain drenched our tent and a flock of blackbirds took to the sky behind me….

(10) DEL TORO’S HISTORY. “Guillermo Del Toro: ‘I saw real corpses when I was growing up in Mexico’” – the director is profiled by the New York Times.

Guillermo Del Toro used to describe Hollywood as “the Land of the Slow No”. Here was a place where a director could die waiting for a project to be greenlit. “The natural state of a movie is to be unmade,” he says over Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. “I have about 20 scripts that I lug around that no one wants to make and that’s fine: it’s the nature of the business. It’s a miracle when anything at all gets made.”

Nevertheless, Del Toro has established himself as this century’s leading fantasy film-maker, more inventive than latter-day Tim Burton and less bombastic than Peter Jackson (with whom he co-wrote the Hobbit trilogy). From the haunting adult fairytale Pan’s Labyrinth and the voluptuously garish Hellboy romps to his beauty-and-the-fish love story The Shape of Water, which won four Oscars, he is the master of the glutinous phantasmagoria….

(11) LENSMAN LOVE. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Parody ranks somewhere in there, too.“Foist Lensman: Early Fan Pastiche From the Works of Edward Elmer Smith, Ph.D.”First Fandom Experience has scans of a half dozen examples.

Fans love to pay tribute to the authors they love most. This takes the form of flattery and at times, its most sincere cousin: imitation. Imitation can stray accidentally or venture boldly into parody. The works of Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith, Ph.D. attracted all of this.

The earliest instances of fan pastiche based on Smith’s Skylark and Lensman novels appeared in fanzine that have largely been lost to history. Spurred by an inquiry from the Online Science Fiction Book Club, FFE has endeavored to make these works available. For Smith enthusiasts, we hope this is fun.
Click any image for a full-screen view.

“The Skylaugh of Space” by “Omnia”
Fantasy Magazine, v3n3, May 1934 and v3n4, June 1934
(The identity of “Omnia” is unclear. The author is described in the July 1934 issue of Fantasy Magazine as “a young chap who has shown promise in the science fiction field, having already sold stories to Wonder and Amazing. Besides, he is editor of his college humor magazine…”)

(12) WSFS. Kevin Standlee tells LiveJournal readers he has finished “Updating WSFS Documents” with changes from DisCon III. (The Business Meeting minutes are still in progress.)

The WSFS Rules website is now mostly updated. The 2021-22 WSFS Constitution and Standing Rules are updated, as is the Resolutions and Rulings of Continuing Effect, a cumulative list of resolutions passed by the WSFS Business Meeting that are likely to have an ongoing effect and rulings made by the Chair (or sometimes rulings made that were overturned on appeal) on various procedural matters.

The Minutes of the Business Meeting and the Business Passed On to the 2022 WSFS Business Meeting are nearing completion, and when they’re finished and certified by the 2021 meeting officers, I’ll update those as well.

(13) THE SHOW MUST GO ON. The New York Times says thanks to omicron “Now Is the Winter of Broadway’s Discontent”. Includes this item of genre interest —

… Now, producers have figured out how to keep shows running, thanks mainly to a small army of replacement workers filling in for infected colleagues. Heroic stories abound: When the two girls who alternate as the young lioness Nala in “The Lion King” were both out one night, a 10-year-old boy who usually plays the cub Simba went on in the role, saving the performance.

…And then there was “The Lion King,” where the young Simba went on as young Nala (uncostumed, and after a preshow explanation to the audience).

“I didn’t want the show to close,” explained the child actor, who performs as Corey J. “I was nervous at first, but then the person who plays Shenzi winked at me, and I wasn’t nervous anymore.”

In the wings between scenes, cast members cheered him on, and at the end of the show, the cast gave him the honor of the show’s final bow….

(14) BIGBUG. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s next film is going to be released by Netflix next month.

A group of bickering suburbanites find themselves stuck together when an android uprising causes their well intentioned household robots to lock them in for their own safety.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/22 If Pluto Is Not A Planet, Then Mickey Mouse Is Not A Star

(1) DAVE FARLAND MEDICAL UPDATE. Dave Farland’s son, Spencer, has corrected reports of his father’s death, but Farland remains on life support after a fall.  

This Dave’s Son Spencer.

Thank you for all the messages and people reaching out. We wanted to provide an update on how Dave is doing.

Dave suffered a fall down the stairs this morning, and hit his head. He has suffered a hemorrhagic stroke with bleeding around his brain steam. He is comatosed and on life support. To put it simply he is not doing well at the moment. We are waiting for immediate family to be able to come and see him before making decisions on how to proceed.

We appreciate all the notes and messages, and love for Dave. I will post an update as things change.

(2) CHANGING STAR TREK’S STRIPES. Michael Okuda shared a bit of set decorating lore with Facebook readers:

I used to have a lot of fun at Paramount, adding last-minute tech-ish detailing on Star Trek sets and props using Chartpak pinstripe graphic tape and an X-acto knife. Judicious use of thin stripes implied access panels, circuits, controls, safety markings, and more.

When I first described the idea to Star Trek: TNG producer Bob Justman early in the show’s first season, he was skeptical and he told me not to do it. The problem was that I had only described the process to him, so he didn’t have a chance to see what it would look like.

Several weeks later, during prep for the second episode, I decided to try it anyhow. I figured even if Bob hated the finished product, it would be easy to remove…

(3) BIPOC SFF QUIZ. Strange at Ecbatan’s Rich Horton has posted “Another Quiz: BIPOC SF and Fantasy”. I got 15/18 – which surprised me!

I’ve written another quiz for the trivia league I’m a member of. The subject this time is SF (and Fantasy and Horror) by Black people, indigenous people, and people of color. The quiz ran on Tuesday, so the results are in at the site. I figured, as with my previous quizzes, I’d post it here on my blog for anyone who is interested to try. I’ll post the answers in a couple of days.

Here’s one of the questions:

12. A key text highlighting the tremendous contributions of African-descended writers to speculative fiction throughout the 20th Century is Dark Matter: A Century of Science Fiction from the African Diaspora,which won the World Fantasy Award in 2001. The editor won another World Fantasy Award for Dark Matter: Reading the Bones in 2005, and was nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award (now the Otherwise Award) for a collection of her own fiction in 2016. She is now the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionWho is she?

(4) IT’S NOT A PARADOX AFTER ALL. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers “Five More Reasons Aliens Are Avoiding Planet Earth”.

I once pointed out to Fred Pohl that if FTL is possible and if it does (as the math says it would) facilitate time travel, then the paucity of alien visitors suggests that not only is Earth not interesting to aliens of the current era, but it is also not interesting to aliens of any era.

Pohl said that was the most depressing thing he’d ever heard. I am happy to have enriched his life….

(5) NOT THE WORST CASE, BUT BAD ENOUGH. Charles Stross gives his predictions for 2031 – some of you will probably survive til then, but no guarantees: “Oh, 2022!”

…In space … well, SpaceX seem likely to fly a prototype Starship stack to orbit in early 2022. Whether or not they go bust the next day, by so doing they will have proven that a designed-for-full-reuse two-stage-to-orbit design with a payload greater than a Saturn V is possible. I don’t expect them to go bust: I expect them to make bank. The next decade is going to be absolutely wild in terms of human spaceflight. I’m not predicting a first human landing on Mars in that decade, but I’d be astonished if we don’t see a crewed moonbase by 2031—if not an American one, then China is targeting crewed Lunar missions in the 2030s, and could easily bring that forward.

Climate: we’re boned. Quite possibly the Antarctic ice shelves will be destablized decades ahead of schedule, leading to gradual but inexorable sea levels rising around the world. This may paradoxically trigger an economic boom in construction—both of coastal defenses and of new inland waterways and ports. But the dismal prospect is that we may begin experiencing so many heat emergencies that we destabilize agriculture. The C3 photosynthesis pathway doesn’t work at temperatures over 40 degrees celsius. The C4 pathway is a bit more robust, but not as many crops make use of it. Genetic engineering of hardy, thermotolerant cultivars may buy us some time, but it’s not going to help if events like the recent Colorado wildfires become common….

(6) PICARD SIDE ADVENTURE. Simon & Schuster is taking pre-orders for the fully dramatized “Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land Audiobook” by series co-creator Kirsten Beyer.

Discover what happens to Raffi and Seven of Nine following the stunning conclusion to season one of Star Trek: Picard with this audio exclusive, fully dramatized Star Trek adventure featuring the beloved stars of the hit TV series Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan.

Star Trek: No Man’s Land picks up right after the action-packed season one conclusion of Star Trek: Picard. While Raffi and Seven of Nine are enjoying some much-needed R&R in Raffi’s remote hideaway, their downtime is interrupted by an urgent cry for help: a distant, beleaguered planet has enlisted the Fenris Rangers to save an embattled evacuation effort. As Raffi and Seven team up to rescue a mysteriously ageless professor whose infinity-shaped talisman has placed him in the deadly sights of a vicious Romulan warlord, they take tentative steps to explore the attraction depicted in the final moments of Picard season one.

Star Trek: Picard: No Man's Land

(7) SHUTTLE BOP. Meanwhile, back in 1967, Galactic Journey’s Janice L. Newman is still adjusting the rabbit ears on her television set tuned into The Original Series: “[January 12, 1967] Most illogical (Star Trek: ‘The Galileo Seven’)”.

…On the planet Spock takes command, only to find his orders questioned and challenged at every turn. McCoy’s needling is typical, though it feels inappropriate in the midst of the crisis. In fact, he starts the whole thing off by prodding Spock and saying that “you’ve always thought that logic was the best basis on which to build command”. This assertion is already suspect, given that Spock has reacted to Kirk’s more inspired gambles (see: “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “The Menagerie”) with respect and acknowledgement that they were clever, even if they were unorthodox or unexpected….

(8) LOVE AT FIRST BITE. Keith Roysdon commemorates the 50th anniversary of The Night Stalker at CrimeReads: “Vampire noir came into its own 50 years ago with The Night Stalker”.

We know this story: A hard-bitten, oft-fired reporter, looking for a fast track back to a big-city newspaper job, hopes to milk a sensational story for everything it’s worth. In the process, he shakes things up in a tough desert town.

Yep, that’s the plot of Ace in the Hole, the 1951 classic directed by Billy Wilder and starring Kirk Douglas as the unethical reporter.

But of course, as you know from the headline, we’re here to talk about The Night Stalker, which has everything Ace in the Hole has, plus police corruption and vampires.

The basic premise—a hard-luck loser, whether he’s a reporter or cowboy or private eye or drifter, runs up against the powers that be in a one-horse town—is a familiar one and really lends itself to noir films….

…From the time it aired on Jan. 11, 1972—about a half a century ago—The Night Stalker made history. The movie might not have been intended to be a genre fusion film of noir and horror, but it was and it’s still the best of the rare sub-genre.

(9) SUNDAY MORNING TRANSPORT. “There’s a new Substack for speculative fiction and it looks great” says Thom Dunn at Boing Boing.

Email newsletters are obviously the cool new thing, and there are a lot of great (and not-so-great) journalists and opinion writers making serious money through Substack. But I’ve wondering for a while now how a successful fiction outlet might work1.

Fortunately, I don’t have to wonder any more, because the Sunday Morning Transport now exists, with the goal of delivering one commute-sized short story to your inbox every Sunday2. Award-winning fantasy writer Fran Wilde (Riverland) serves as managing editor, with Serial Box / Realm.fm founder Julian Yap as the editor-in-chief — two people who absolutely know the ins-and-outs on every side of the sci-fi/fantasy fiction publishing community.

… All stories on the Sunday Morning Transport will be free for the month of January; after that, free subscribers only get one story a month, while paid subscribers get a new one every week. 

(10) NEW AND IMPROVED. Nerdist says fans are having fun with mashups in The Batman trailer. “The Batman Fan Edit Adds Jim Carrey’s Campy Riddler to Trailer”.

The trailer and some released images for The Batman have got some fans bewildered. Specifically, because it seems Paul Dano’s version of the Riddler has more in common with the real-life Zodiac killer than the guy in the green suit from the comics. And it has some fans really longing for the days of the goofy version of Edward Nygma, played by Jim Carrey in Batman Forever.

So naturally, someone out there used their editing skills to make a few changes to The Batman trailer. They replaced Dano’s version with some 1995 vintage Jim Carrey Riddler. Bright green jumpsuit and all. The video comes from comedian and filmmaker Matt Highton (via Geeks Are Sexy). And you can watch the whole thing right here. We think Joel Schumacher would be proud.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2008 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fourteen years ago this evening on Fox, the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles premiered. It was directed by Josh Friedman whose sole genre work previously was H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  The top cast was Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau. In addition, the narrator was Headey. 

Though it would last but two seasons and only thirty-one episodes, as the first season was abbreviated, it was the highest-rated new scripted series of the ’07 to ‘08 television season. And yes, it started in the ‘07 television season even though its first episode was in January. 

Reception among critics was generally quite fine. Gina Bellafante of the New York Times said that it was “one of the more humanizing adventures in science fiction to arrive in quite a while.” And Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune exclaimed of the second season that the “season’s opener is much clearer and more sheer fun than anything that aired last spring.”

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

Despite numerous ongoing fan efforts to revive the series, Josh Friedman has dismissed the possibility of crowdfunding a third series unlike say the recent Veronica Mars series due to issues involving holder rights. I suspect the Terminator rights are hellishly complex.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 Clark Ashton Smith. One SFF critic deemed him part of “the big three of Weird Tales, with Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.“ This is while some readers found him to excessively morbid, as  L. Sprague de Camp said of him in noting “nobody since Poe has so loved a well-rotted corpse.” If you’ve not read his work, Nightshade has collected it in The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, five volumes in total. They’re all available in Kindle editions. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 13, 1919 Sam Merwin, Jr. An editor and writer of both mysteries and science fiction. In the Fifties, he edited, Fantastic Story Quarterly, Fantastic Universe, Startling StoriesThrilling Wonder Stories, and Wonder Stories Annual. As writer, he’s best remembered for The House of Many Worlds and its sequel, Three Faces of Time. At L.A. Con III, he was nominated for a Retro Hugo for Best Professional Editor for Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 13, 1933 Ron Goulart, 89. First I must acknowledge that he is very prolific, and uses many pseudonyms, to wit: Kenneth Robeson, Con Steffanson, Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and Joseph Silva. (Wow!) You did the see Doc Savage one in there, didn’t you? I’m reasonably sure that the I’ve read a lot of his fiction including the Flash Gordon series, his Avenger series, maybe a bit of the Vampirella novels, the Incredible Hulk definitely, not the Groucho Marx series though it sounds fun, and, well, damn he’s prolific. So what have you have read by him that you like? 
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 84. His best-remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes he’ll show in the DS9 episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations”, that repurposed this episode to great effect. (It was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2.) He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer SpaceThe Munsters TodaySlidersThe Incredible HulkWonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 77. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of Red Moon and Black MountainThe Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes.  Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely amazing as well, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her stellar retellings of the legends.  I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone read it?
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 59. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, is The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “The Wings We Dare Aspire” for METAtropolis: Green Space
  • Born January 13, 1980 Beth Cato, 42. Her first series, the Clockwork Dagger sequence beginning with The Clockwork Dagger novel, is most excellent popcorn literature. She’s done a considerable amount of excellent short fiction which has been mostly collected in Deep Roots and Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. Her website features a number of quite tasty cake recipes including Browned Butter Coffee Bundt Cake. Really, I kid you not. 

(13) THE DOUGHNUT MAN. First Fandom Experience answers the question “How Did E.E. Smith Become ‘Doc’?”

Recently FFE received an inquiry from John Grayshaw. John runs the Online Science Fiction Book Club on Facebook, which is associated with the Middletown Public Library in Middletown, PA. The group has worldwide membership and has hosted interviews with a number of science fiction and fan luminaries.

John’s group has an interest in E.E. Smith, and asked if we’d be willing to respond to a number of questions posed by his folks. Since we’ve just completed a deep-dive on Smith’s early history as a fan, we were happy to take up the challenge. The list of questions the group compiled is wide-ranging, and we’ll be working through them over the next several weeks.

The first query on the list was immediately intriguing:
“How did Smith get his famous nickname “Doc”?

In one sense, the answer is obvious: Smith held a Ph.D. in Chemistry from George Washington University and spent his primary career as a research chemist in the food industry. But in his earliest appearance in pulps, this wasn’t apparent….

(14) TODAY’S STAR WARS NATURE LESSON. (Beware spoiler.) The Star Wars Underworld shares an insight with The Book of Boba Fett viewers.

Writer Kieron Gillen can confirm:

(15) SAM I AM. “Quantum Leap Reboot Pilot Greenlit by NBC” says The Hollywood Reporter, and there are hints Scott Bakula may be involved.

The possible return of Quantum Leap is taking a big step forward at NBC. The network has greenlit the sequel pilot to the 1989 time travel adventure which ran for five seasons….

In September, Bakula teased “significant conversations” about a revival were happening. “There’s very significant conversations about it right now going on,” said Bakula, who played a physicist who involuntarily time travels and fixes mistakes of the past by leaping into the body of others. “I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know who would have it. The rights were a mess for years. I don’t know if they’re even sorted out now. That’s always been the biggest complication.”

(16) PUSHME PULLYU. “Star Trek has tractor beams. So do we” contends Experience Magazine.

The “tractor beam” has been a reliable narrative device in science fiction for nearly 100 years, deployed whenever the plot requires seizing a runaway spaceship or manipulating objects at a distance. Author E.E. “Doc” Smith is credited with coining the term in 1931 with his novel Spacehounds of IPC, serialized in the pulp sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories. The language is old-school delicious: “Brandon swung mighty tractor beams upon the severed halves of the Jovian vessel….”

…We already have tractor beams here on Earth, more or less. Well, emphasis on less. Scientists have been generating small-scale tractor beams for several years now, using tightly focused light and sound waves. These devices can’t move spaceships but they can move tiny things, from microscopic particles to lightweight materials around a half-inch in diameter. It doesn’t seem like much, but these tiny tractor beams could have profound practical applications. More on that in a bit.  

The first thing to know about real-life tractor beams is that they work more like another sci-fi concept: force fields….

(17) CLI-FI. Claire Holroyde promotes her first novel, about a comet threatening the Earth, by praising novels by Gish Jen and Rebecca Roanhorse in “The New Killers in Climate Disaster Thrillers” at CrimeReads.

The usual killers are easy to spot. They can be uninhabitable, dystopian futurescapes of planet Earth: deserts with salt flats, unbreathable air, or submerged ruins of cities. These settings could become a reality in our lifetimes, but tomorrow’s threats are not always today’s concern. Killers of the present can take the shape of extreme weather: superstorms, tornadoes, and tsunamis. They act like deadly assassins sent by vengeful mother nature—but was she miscast in this role?  What if the killers in a climate change/disaster thriller were also the architects of their unsustainable circumstance—us?…

(18) THE DEVIL MADE THEM DO IT. “’After-School Satan Club’ planned at Illinois elementary school. District explains why”Yahoo! took notes.

…“This actually isn’t a club that’s meant to proselytize Satanism or even engage in discussions about religious opinion,” Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves told WQAD. “This is an educational program meant to focus on critical thinking and just basic education skills.”

Because of a 2001 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School, schools are not allowed to discriminate against religious speech if a religious organization offers a club on their premises.

After School Satan Clubs have already been offered in other schools. Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington, began offering the controversial club in 2016, but it was put on hold a year later due to a lack of resources, the News-Tribune reported…

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Robert J. Sawyer, Rich Horton, David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon DeCles.]

Pixel Scroll 1/7/19 Pixels For My Men, Scrolls For My Horses

(1) MARVEL AT 80. The company will be celebrating all year —

Eighty years ago, the Marvel Universe roared into existence with the publication of the now-historic MARVEL COMICS #1.  Over the years, the company expanded mightily under the guidance of legends Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and countless other industry titans. Today, Marvel is one of the most exciting and recognizable brands shaping pop culture, modern mythology and entertainment around the world – and this year, you can join millions of fans in celebrating MARVEL’S 80TH ANNIVERSARY!

For all of 2019, Marvel will be honoring its iconic characters and stories across every decade of the company’s rich history – from the early years as Timely Comics, to the latest adventures in the Marvel Universe fans know today. Whether you have been following Marvel since the beginning or you’ve just discovered The House of Ideas, you won’t want to miss this year-long celebration across publishing, animation, new media, collectibles, games, and more!

… Visit marvel.com/marvel80 or follow #Marvel80 for more information.

(2) SFF RESPONSE TO TRUMP. WIRED Magazine’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy interviews some of the authors with stories in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy “Sci-Fi Writers Are Grappling With a Post-Trump Reality”.

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley notes that many of the stories, such as Samuel R. Delany’s “The Hermit of Houston,” have a clear political message.

“In his author’s note Delany says this is his attempt to write a post-Trump science fiction story,” Kirtley says. “And there were at least two other authors—E. Lily Yu and Charlie Jane Anders—who explicitly say in their author’s notes that their stories were somehow a response to Trump being president.”

Charles Payseur, whose story “Rivers Run Free” leads off the book, agrees that the Yu and Anders’ stories will make readers think hard about current political realities. The Yu story, in which humanity declines to aid extraterrestrial refugees, and the Anders story, in which a trans woman’s consciousness is forcibly transferred into a male cadaver, both grapple with the issue of morally-compromised bystanders.

“I think that both of them do an excellent job of challenging the perspective of not taking action, or being complicit with evil,” Payseur says.

Listen to the complete interview with John Joseph Adams, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Charles Payseur in Episode 342 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above)….

(3) WHAT AUTHORS MAKE. John Scalzi analyzes an Author’s Guild survey in “Author Incomes: Not Great, Now or Then” at Whatever.

What’s being passed around among authors in the last few days: The latest Authors Guild survey, which shows that the median income for all authors (from their books) is $6,080, while the median income for full-time authors is $20,300. That $6k median figure is down significantly from previous years. So if you made more than $6k from book earnings last year, congratulations, you made more than half of your authorial compatriots.

Before everyone panics about the declines too much, please note: “The Authors Guild’s prior surveys were focused on Authors Guild members. For our 2018 survey, we greatly expanded the number of published authors we surveyed to provide a much larger, highly diverse pool and wider perspective,” i.e., the comparing the results this year to previous years isn’t apples to oranges, but might be comparing a Honeycrisp to a Red Delicious….

(4) TREATMENT IN PROGRESS. Sad health update from Jim C. Hines’ house – “Family Health and Ongoing Hiatus”.

I’m back home for the first time in a while, and I’ve been given permission to talk more about what’s going on. Last month, my wife Amy was diagnosed with cancer — an aggressive form of lymphoma, to be specific.

Aggressive, but treatable. We’ve done the first round of chemo, and the last scans showed some tumor shrinkage, which is a good sign.

(5) LIPTAK’S NEWSLETTER. Andrew Liptak, whose contributions to The Verge are often linked here, launched his own newsletter last year, and just published the 6th installment. Liptak says —  

The goal is to talk about SF/F, storytelling, as well as reading and writing. I’m hoping to grow it a bit, and to use it as a platform to talk about stuff that isn’t necessarily newsworthy — a bit more commentary driven about the content of SF, but also to chat a bit about the general broader SF/F community at some point. 

You can find it here: here. 5 of the 6 issues are archived: a 6th is subscriber-locked, which I’ll be using to publish short stories. 

…A while ago on Twitter, I asked for suggestions for standalone SF novels — nominally for this list — but also because I was generally interested in finding something different to pick up. One story that came up a lot was Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time. Orbit recently released the book in the US for the first time — it originally came out in the UK in 2015 and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. I picked up both the book and the audiobook, which we listened to on the drive down to PA and back between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

It’s a fantastic novel, and I can see where all the praise is coming from I’ll write up a proper review of it at some point in the coming week, but something stood out for me that’s notable: Tchaikovsky’s use of suspended animation for his characters to play out a story that stretches thousands of years.

He’s not the first to do this by a long shot, but the use here reminded me of Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest, and Peter Watts’ Freeze-Frame Revolution, in which several characters drop in and out of suspension, again, over decades and hundreds of years. Both stories use the technology not just as a convenient tool for the characters, but it’s also a neat literary instrument that allows both Cixin and Tchaikovsky to frame their story from one, unwavering perspective….

(6) JAPAN’S ADAPTATION OF E.E. “DOC” SMITH. The Skaro Hunting Society answers the question “Why is the Lensman anime so rare?”.

… According to Frederik Pohl, after years of lobbying and proposals a major studio bit and decided it was going to produce a series of big-budgeted Lensman films. Deals were made, contracts were written, millions of dollars were going to be invested – and the Smith family stood to profit greatly from the entire endeavor.

Then, a video tape showed up on the Smith family doorstep.

Back up. Up until the 1980s, Japan (and much of Asia) worked on a different system of copyright and licensing rights than the Western world; if a Japanese publisher bought the publishing rights to something, under Japanese law they bought the rights to EVERYTHING – including the rights to exploit that property in movies, tv, comics, or whatever. This is one of the reasons why you ended up with things like Batman manga, two different adaptations of Captain Future, etc. Western publishers knew this but worked with it anyway, reasoning that even if someplace like Japan made a TV or movie adaptation of a property it was highly unlikely that copies of it would make their way back to the west, and even if they did, who would want to watch them anyway? (Remember, this was all before the advent of the VCR, and the subsequent tape trading/collecting culture of SF/F media fandom). So when Japanese publisher Kodansha bought the rights to publish E.E. Doc Smith in Japanese in the 1960s, they considered themselves the owners of all the Japanese rights to Smith’s oeuvre. Meaning, they could make TV series or movies of any of it if they chose to, so long as it stayed in Japan….

(7) KGB.  Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Victor LaValle and Julie C. Day on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, 7pm at the KGB Bar in New York.

Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle is the author of seven works of fiction and one graphic novel. His most recent novel, The Changeling won the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel. His novella, The Ballad of Black Tom, won the Shirley Jackson Award, the British Fantasy Award, the This is Horror Award for Novella of the Year, and was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards.

He lives in New York City with his family, and teaches writing at Columbia University.

Julie C. Day

Julie C. Day has published over thirty stories in venues such as Black StaticPodcastle, and the Cincinnati Review. Her genre-bending debut collection, Uncommon Miracles, was released by PS Publishing in October 2018. Julie lives in a small New England town with her family and various pets. You can also find her on twitter at @thisjulieday or on her blog stillwingingit.com 

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar,85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(8) SHEPPARD OBIT. “William Morgan Sheppard death: Star Trek and Doctor Who actor dies aged 86”The Independent has the story.

British actor and voice actor William Morgan Sheppard has died aged 86. 

He is best-known for his work on Star Trek across the years, playing the Rura Penth commandant in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the chief Vulcan Science Council minister in 2009’s Star Trek, Data’s “grandfather” Ira Graves in The Next Generation episode “The Schizoid Man,” and as Quatai in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Bliss.” 

He appeared in the opening episode of series six of Doctor Who, in an episode titled “The Impossible Astronaut”. In it, he played the older version of the character Canton Everett Delaware III, while his son, Mark Sheppard, played the younger version.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 7, 1899 F. Orlin Tremaine. He was the Editor of Astounding Science Fiction and Fact from 1933 to 1937. It said that he bought Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness without actually reading it. Later as Editor at Bartholomew House, he brought out the first paperback editions of Lovecraft’s The Weird Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Dunwich Horror. He wrote a dozen or so short stories that were published in the pulps between 1926 and 1949. (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. Illustrator best known for the Addams Family which he first drew in 1932 and kept drawing until his death. Needless to say there has been a number of films using these characters of which The Addams Family is my favorite. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 7, 1913 Julian S. Krupa. Pulp cover and interior illustrator from 1939 to 1971 who graced Amazing Stories and Fantastic.(Died 1989.)
  • Born January 7, 1928William Peter Blatty. Novelist and screenwriter best known for The Exorcist though he was also the same for Exorcist III. The former is by no means the only genre work that he would write as his literary career would go on for forty years after this novel and would include Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable which he renamed Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Hollywood Christmas Carol and The Exorcist for the 21st Century, his final work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 7, 1955Karen Haber, 64. Wife of Robert Silverberg. Author Of the Fire In Winter series (first co-written with Robert) and the War Minstrels series as well. With Robert, she edited three of the exemplary Universe anthologies that Terry Carr had created. Her Meditations on Middle Earth, her essay collection on J.R.R. Tolkien is quite superb. And of course her  prequel Thieves’ Carnival to Leigh Brackett’s The Jewel of Bas is stunning.
  • Born January 7, 1961 Mark Alan Shepherd, 48. The bar patron Morn in Deep Space Nine. His character appeared once in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager
  • Born January 7, 1982 Lauren Cohen, 37. Best known  as Maggie Rhee on The Walking Dead. She is also known as Bela Talbot on Supernatural, Rose on The Vampire Diaries, and Vivian McArthur Volkoff on Chuck. And she was in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as Martha Wayne. 
  • Born January 7, 1983 Ruth Negga, 36. She was Raina in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but she left that show as she got a leading role Tulip O’Hare in Preacher. She was also Nikki in Misfits, Queen Taria In Warcraft and a WHO Doctor In World War Z
  • Born January 7, 1988 Haley Bennett, 31. First role was Molly Hartley in The Haunting of Molly Hartley. She was also Julie Campbell in The Hole, Stella in Kaboom and Justine Wills In Kristy

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit illustrates a little laundry problem aboard the Death Star.

(11) PROHIBITION. Camestros Felapton saw Wikileaks had issued a general prohibition to the media against saying certain things about their leading light and decided to share his own list of “40 Other Things You Shouldn’t Say About Julian Assange”.

Wikileaks has sent a list of 140 thing that the news media should not say about Julian Assange (which you can read here https://hillreporter.com/leak-read-wikileaks-list-of-140-things-not-to-say-to-julian-assange-20413 )

As a major news organisation Felapton Towers has a confidential memo listing 40 other things we are not to say about Julian Assange which at great risk to myself I am leaking to the public.

At the top of his list is —

It is false and defamatory to say that Julian Assange is or ever has been a member of Slytherin House or ever shouted “I’ll get you Potter!” across the Hogwarts dining hall.

(12) SWIRSKY’S 2018 RESUME. Rachel Swirsky has compiled a “Writing Round-up and Eligibility Post for 2018”.

…I’m really glad to be writing more again. I mean, for one thing I’m writing at least twelve pieces of poetry and/or flash fiction a year, because of Patreon. (Obligatory plug: You can get one new piece of my work each month for $1!) Some of my work has been noveling, and some isn’t out yet, so it’s not all visible in this list– but I am really happy to enjoy prose again….

(13) MODERN ARCHEOLOGY. Remembering what these were for: “The concrete blocks that once protected Britain”. Includes photos.

More than 100 years ago acoustic mirrors along the coast of England were used to detect the sound of approaching German zeppelins.

The concave concrete structures were designed to pick up sound waves from enemy aircraft, making it possible to predict their flight trajectory, giving enough time for ground forces to be alerted to defend the towns and cities of Britain.

Invented by Maj William Sansome Tucker and known as sound mirrors, their development continued until the mid-1930s, when radar made them obsolete.

Joe Pettet-Smith set out to photograph all the remaining structures following a conversation with his father, who told him about these large concrete structures dotted along the coastline between Brighton and Dover.

(14) BIG CATCH. BBC shares “Incredible ‘sea monster’ skull revealed in 3D”.

Some 200 million years ago in what is now Warwickshire, a dolphin-like reptile died and sank to the bottom of the sea.

The creature’s burial preserved its skull in stunning detail – enabling scientists to digitally reconstruct it.

The fossil, unveiled in the journal PeerJ, gives a unique insight into the life of an ichthyosaur.

The ferocious creature would have fed upon fish, squid and likely others of its kind.

Its bones were found in a farmer’s field more than 60 years ago, but their significance has only just come to light.

Remarkably, the skull is three-dimensionally preserved and contains bones that are rarely exposed.

(15) DEEP UNCOVERED. Undersea mining was once a mere cover story for Howard Hughes’ Glomar Explorer (intended to retrieve a Soviet submarine) – now it’s a real thing: “Japan’s grand plans to mine deep-sea vents”.

Off the coast of Okinawa, a slim stretch of land among Japan’s southern Ryuku islands, thousands of metres below the surface, there are the remains of extinct hydrothermal vent systems scattered about the ocean floor.

The minerals at these long-dead former vent sites are now gaining attention due to increasing international interest in deep-sea mining. Just one of these deposits is thought to contain enough zinc to supply Japan’s demand for a year. For a country that imports the vast majority of its mineral resources, seafloor sulphide deposits are seen as a tantalising potential domestic alternative. But there is a high price: disrupting these sites through mining could put unique and fragile ecosystems at risk.

(16) AMERICAN GODS RETURNS. Here’s a sneak peek.

Mr. World (Crispin Glover) and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) deal with the ramifications of the Season 1 finale in this exclusive clip from Season 2.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rachel Swirsky, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 7/21/18 Number Five: Where Am I? Other Number Five: In The File.

(1) THE MAN WHO LOST THE MOON. Where do you hide something this big? “Giant moon artwork goes missing in post on way to Austria”.

A giant replica of the moon which is displayed all over the world has gone missing in the post.

The 7m (23ft) orb, covered in detailed imagery of the lunar surface, has been created by Bristol-based Luke Jerram and was en route to a festival in Austria.

Mr Jerram said the disappearance of the structure, titled Museum of the Moon, was “really annoying and upsetting.”

Courier firm TNT said it was looking into the issue.

Mr Jerram said the artwork has been booked for a series of public events across Europe over the summer.

 

(2) FUTURICON. Rijeka, Croatia is going to host Eurocon 2020, which will be called Futuricon. Their bid was accepted this week at Eurocon in Amiens. Their site has been home to Rikon for almost two decades.

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka
October 2-4, 2020

Rijeka, the coastal city in Croatia in which the annual convention Rikon has already been held nineteen times, has won the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture 2020. As part of the ECoC nomination, the SF society 3. zmaj, is announcing Futuricon, our bid for Eurocon 2020, for which we will combine the most important things the city of Rijeka has to offer – centuries of culture, diversity and tolerance, and a fresh glimpse into a positive future created by the people who live and breathe culture. With the support of the City and University of Rijeka, as well as other Croatian SF societies, we are confident that we can create a unique European experience for everyone.

(3) ALWAYS IN STYLE. Debra Doyle, novelist and editor, makes a statement “With Regard to the Recent Email to Nominees for the Hugo Awards”.

Science Fiction’s Hugos would not be what they are without accompanying periodic outbursts of controversy. This year’s topic is the email sent out to nominees for the award, “encouraging” them to dress professionally for the awards ceremony. The backlash from the sf/fantasy community was, shall we say, vociferous and overwhelmingly negative.†

As well it should be. To quote my elder daughter, on an occasion some time ago when I was fretting about the advisability of going out in public with my hair pulled back using a kid’s Snoopy-the-Flying-Ace hair tie:

“Don’t worry, Mamma. You’re a science fiction writer. You can wear anything.”

(4) THE MORE THINGS STAY THE SAME. You may not have thought the question of what Worldcons want people to wear to events was a new controversy. But would you have expected E.E. “Doc” Smith to be the person complaining about it? In 1962? Here’s a letter the author of the Lensman Series wrote to Chicon III chair Earl Kemp before the con.

(5) ONE BIG CHECK. That’s what you’ll be writing if you want any of his stuff — “One giant sale: Neil Armstrong’s collection goes to auction”. ABC News has the story.

Admirers of Neil Armstrong and space exploration have a chance to own artifacts and mementos that belonged to the modest man who became a global hero by becoming the first human to walk on the moon.

The personal collection of Armstrong, who died in his native Ohio in 2012, will be offered for sale in a series of auctions handled by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, beginning Nov. 1-2 and continuing in May and November 2019.
The collection includes a variety of artifacts from Armstrong’s 1969 lunar landing and private mementos that include pieces of a wing and propeller from the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer that the astronaut took with him to the moon.

The article names several other flown artifacts that will be in the auctions.

(6) ACCLAIMED SHORT FANTASY. Rocket Stack Rank lists 46 outstanding stories of high fantasy from 2016-2017 that were either finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction (see Q&A). That’s 46 out of 166 high fantasy stories from those two years, and out of 470 outstanding SF/F stories from 2016 and 2017.

For our purposes, we define “high fantasy” as a fantasy story that takes place in a secondary world. That is, something like Lord of the Rings, where Middle Earth is clearly not in the past or future of our world.

(7) ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN. There was just one problem with choosing John Crowley as the winner: “Maine Literary Award withdrawn because of ineligibility; new winner named”….

The winner of a 2018 Maine Literary Award was found ineligible because he is not a resident of Maine, and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, which gives the awards annually, has named a new winner of its speculative fiction prize.

The award, which had gone to Massachusetts resident John Crowley for his book “Ka,” since has been given to Unity College writing instructor Paul Guernsey, who had come in second place for his book “American Ghost.”

“Ka” was nominated by the editorial director of Saga Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, whose marketing manager told the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance that Crowley owned a home in Maine and lived here part time. Crowley, who was born in Maine, was named the winner of the award in a June ceremony.

According Joshua Bodwell, executive director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, Crowley notified the group that he did not live in Maine. While the award can go to seasonal or part-time residents, it is open only to people who live in Maine. Crowley reached out to say that he was unaware that his publisher had nominated him or that his publisher and his editor had said he met the eligibility requirements.

(8) STOPPING FOR ICE. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard tells about the latest trend in fiction 55 years ago: “[July 21, 1963] Ice Cold Spies”.

I marvel at how quickly SF concepts have gone mainstream. With so many SF ideas transitioning into mainstream fiction, one of the current trends I see is the fascination with the Cold War and spies. Who as I’ve alluded to earlier, are it seems to be found everywhere.

The result is the creation of a new genre that blend SF with contemporary thriller to create what is being called a “techno-thriller.” A techno-thriller will use many of the ideas that were once purely science fictional, but set them within a conventional world that’s recognizable as our own.

A new novel by Allister MacLean called Ice Station Zebra has caught the public’s imagination. Whether this is as a result of all the stories of spies in the news I don’t know. MacLean is well known as a writer of action-adventure stories, but this new novel sees him move into a new genre.

Maclean is not the first author to do so. Fellow Scottish writer Ian Stuart wrote a similar techno-thriller, which came out last year called, The Satan Bug….

(9) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. SYFY Wire’s SDCC story “Guillermo del Toro confirmed to guest on The Simpsons in season 30” that confirms the celeb writer/producer/director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water, The Hobbit trilogy, the Hellboy movies and games, and many more) will guest star on The Simpsons this coming season. He joins Gal Gadot (the Wonder Woman movies and others in the DC Cinematic Universe) in the “confirmed” column. There was apparently no indication the two would be on the same episode. The season’s first episode of their 30th season will will air September 30.

(10) FRONT ROW TO A SHARKNADO. Syfy Wire reports from SDCC: “Sharknado will return next year… with a live stage show!” Mike Kennedy says, “The article title pretty much says it all. I expect next we’ll have <engage echo effect> Sharks [arks… arks… arks] On [on… on… on] Ice [ice… ice… ice] !!!! <disengage echo effect>.”

You can’t keep a good Sharknado down. On Friday, at San Diego Comic-Con, the cast and crew held a panel on The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time. Yes, as you might imagine, this is the sixth and final in the Sharknado film franchise. But Sharknado will live on…

… with a live stage show.

Indeed, there is going to be a live stage version of Sharknado. No details were offered at the panel, other than it is expected to premiere at a resort/casino in 2019, and will be a sensory overload, if you will. An official announcement is expected later this year.

(11) HELL WARMED OVER. You may recall that Lucifer, canceled by Fox at the end of this past season, was picked up by Netflix for a 10-episode 4th season. At SDCC, star Tom Ellis dropped a few hints about what might be coming up after the major season 3 cliffhanger. SYFY Wire wraps up stories from other sources in “Lucifer’s Tom Ellis Teases Season 4 on Netflix”.

“We get straight back into it,” Ellis told TV Line of the start of Season 4, and teases that Lucifer was unaware that he had the devil face on at the time, so Chloe’s likely shock will come as a surprise. The pair are “apparently” still working together, but Ellis added that “The weird thing this year about coming to Comic-Con is that I can’t talk about the show and what’s going to happen so much, because I don’t know.” The scripts haven’t been written yet, and production begins August 13. Netflix has yet to announce a premiere date….

And he’s in no hurry to have Lucifer and Chloe embrace a romantic relationship. “I think it’s the heartbeat of the show, Chloe and Lucifer’s relationship,” he told [Entertainment Weekly]. “It wouldn’t be very wise to get these two characters together now… When you get the characters together, ultimately that’s kind of resolution. And you don’t want resolution till the very, very end.” But if/when that finally happens, “I am all for it.”

There were hints that Ellis could drop trou on Netflix, something that would have been Right Out on Fox.

(12) SHAZAM! Let’s catch up on our comic history before watching the trailer:  “DC’s ‘Shazam!’ Makes a ‘Big’ First Impression in Comic-Con Trailer”.

And for those of you asking, yes, he really is the first hero called Captain Marvel, debuting 20 years before Marvel Comics existed as a brand. Fawcett Comics was sued by DC in the early 1950s over claims that “Captain Marvel” ripped off “Superman,” and went temporarily out of business after it agreed never to publish the character’s comics again. However, in 1972 DC licensed “Captain Marvel” from Fawcett and brought the character into the DC universe.

But during the intervening decades, Marvel realized the trademark on the name “Captain Marvel” had lapsed, and introduced its own character of the same name. Which is why, to avoid legal problems, DC called its re-launched comic book “Shazam” and eventually changed the character’s name outright.

 

(13) SDCC TRAILERS. Here are several more trailers that got released this weekend.

(14) GRAND BOOK THEFT. These weren’t books he checked out. Now he may be checking into the pokey: “Men accused of stealing $8M in rare books, items from Pittsburgh library”.

Two men are facing charges of stealing or damaging more than $8 million in rare books and materials from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh over more than two decades.

Investigators on Friday charged Greg Priore and John Schulman with the crimes, alleging the two men worked together to remove the items from the Oliver Room.

According to the criminal complaint, Priore worked as the manager and sole archivist of the library’s Oliver Room, which houses rare books and items, for 25 years before being fired in June 2017. Schulman is the co-owner of Caliban Book Shop in Oakland, which specializes in rare books.

The Oliver Room closed more than a year ago once authorities discovered the thefts.

Priore first contacted Schulman about the scheme in the late 1990s, according to the criminal complaint. Priore allegedly told police he made between $500 and $3,000 for items he stole and gave to Schulman to sell.

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Lou Antonelli, who was slated onto the Hugo ballot in 2015, mourns his “Lost Rockets” [Internet Archive link].

…I decided I’d start wearing my pins this year, and I took them with me when I went to SoonerCon in Oklahoma City June 22. After I checked in and got my badge, I took them out and I was going to stick them on.

I took the first one out, and as I tried to stick it on, I fumbled it. I never saw it land. It disappeared. I never saw it again. I put the second one back in its bag. The next day, I realized I’d lost it also.

After I told this story to one colleague at Libertycon, he said, “Well, you can always ask WorldCon for a replacement.”

I laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding! They didn’t want us to have them in the first place! Do you think they would ever give me a replacement!”

(16) JANELLE MONAÉ. Rolling Stone lets you “Watch Janelle Monae Perform ‘Americans,’ Talk Science Fiction on ‘Colbert’”. Video at the link.

Twice during Monáe’s Late Show appearance, the singer danced atop Colbert’s desk: Once to close out the interview portion – where she and the host talked about first meeting at Barack Obama’s 55th birthday party at the White House – and again to kickstart “Americans.”

During the 10-minute interview, Colbert and Monae also discussed their shared love of science fiction, which heavily influenced the singer’s new LP Dirty Computer.

“I loved being able to see these different worlds that were different from mine, that allowed me to kind of escape from where I was,” Monáe said of the genre. “It just stayed with me. I started to write science fiction as a teenager… It stayed with me throughout my work.”

(17) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. I ran this link yesterday before seeing Mike Kennedy’s take, which I think Filers will enjoy seeing just the same.

[Item by Mike Kennedy.] Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana

In 2016. the British Antarctic Survey asked the public to pick the name for their new survey vessel. They picked Boaty McBoatface. Well, the BAS was not particularly happy with that, and named the craft the RRS Sir David Attenborough, though they did relent and name an autonomous underwater vehicle Boaty McBoatface (the lead vehicle of its class).

Jump to the present.

The European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency are asking the public for help naming an upcoming Mars rover to be launched in 2020 (and land in 2021).

You get three guesses what the public wants so far (and the first two don’t count). Yep, Time Magazine notes that Rovy McRoverface is already trending on Twitter. Gizmodo throws in Marsy McMarsface and Spacey McSpaceface as their suggestions.

But apparently ESA and UKSA did learn at least a little from the Boaty McBoatface incident, since they say that they’ll be using a panel that they appoint to make the final choice. Or, at least they do if you dig deep enough into their 5-page PDF of Terms and Conditions. With no mention of this on the page where you make your recommendation, it would be easy enough for someone to misunderstand and think this was a straightforward popular vote.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Fired on Mars” on Vimeo, Nick and Nate ask, “What happens if you’re a corporate drone who gets fired–except your bosses are on earth and you’re on Mars?”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Eric Wong, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/16 Second Pixelscroll To The Right

(1) LATEST MOWATT RHINO RUN CUT SHORT BY INJURY. Jim Mowatt tried to follow his London Marathon triumph by running the Edinburgh Marathon but midway through his knee gave out.

At around 15 miles Steve asked me for his Lucozade bottle. I dig around in his back pack and hand it to him. My leg is hurting so I cadged some ibuprofen gel from him. His tendons were hurting and he asked me to rub some gel on his knee also.

Steve ran on, I stepped out to try and catch up and found the knee pain had increased dramatically. I gritted my teeth and tried to carry on and then suddenly discovered that I could no longer put any weight on my left leg without it buckling from the pain. I staggered over to the side of the road and found a tree to prop myself upon with one leg held in the air. A marshall came to help, asked if I needed medical assistance and I said yes.

While we were waiting I heard various exchanges on his radio. Not everyone was as willing to stop and receive assistance. Someone else apparently was weaving all over the road in considerable distress, bumping into other runners. Marshalls had asked him to stop but he didn’t seem to hear them and carried on. Someone was shouting over the radio, “stand in front of him, it’s the only way to stop them when they are like this.” I had no such problems stopping myself running. Putting any weight on that leg at all sent huge rolling waves of agony flashing out sharply from my knee. I wasn’t keen on the notion of letting that foot touch the ground anytime soon.

….Carrie pointed me at the train station and we began our long slow walk up the hill. A very tall man appeared from nowhere and asked if we wanted a lift up to the train station. “Yes, absolutely!” yells I, “that would be brilliant”. He vanishes for several minutes and then reappears in a car and drives us to the train station. I think he must have seen us from his living room window and made the decision to help. Just a downright wonderful thing to do. Thank you tall man from Longniddry. You are a damn fine chap.

(2) TIE UP YOUR BOAT TO IDAHO. Steve Fahnestalk recalls his “Moscon Memories” at Amazing Stories.

As I mentioned we asked Robert A. Heinlein to be our GOH, but he demurred at first, saying his health would not allow him to commit to any convention (Figure 5); he later said he would commit to coming as long as his health would allow. Later, closer to the con, he suggested Verna Smith Trestrail as a GOH instead, because her father, E. E. “Doc” Smith, had attended the University of Idaho in Moscow. None of us, of course, had known this. (And if you don’t know who Doc Smith was, your reading is sadly behind the times. Check out the Wikipedia article.) I corresponded with Verna, and she gave us an enthusiastic “yes!” Figure 6, the Kelly Freas convention badge, is a portrait of Verna leaning out of the back of a train—don’t ask me why; I’ve forgotten—and holding out her arms to Worsel of Velantia, one of Doc’s non-human Lensmen. Verna and Al, her husband, trekked out to Moscow from the wilds of Leesburg, Indiana, and we were all hooked. Verna on us, and we on Verna. (Al wasn’t into all this stuff, being more of a Western kind o’ guy, but he bore up really well.) Verna bustled around MosCon, buttonholing anyone who stood still for five minutes, and gave them the lowdown on Doc; she also gave a talk on Doc at the con. Because Heinlein couldn’t attend, he wrote a short article about Doc, which I put in the program book; being a thrifty sort, Heinlein recycled it and reprinted it in Expanded Universe; we PESFANs, of course, are proud of printing it first.

(3) BUSBY RITES. The Memorial Service for James M. Busby will be held on Tuesday, June 14 at The Church of Latter Day Saints 2000 Artesia Blvd., Torrance. Service begins at 11a.m.

The family requests no flowers instead please make a donation in Jim’s memory to continue his life’s passion to educate and preserve space to the Aerospace Legacy Foundation.

(4) THE WINNER. Black Gate’s John O’Neill’s choice as “The Most Successful Anthology of 2015 [is] Meeting Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan”. Why?

It’s beginning to look as if Jonathan Strahan’s Meeting Infinity is the most successful SF anthology of 2015… at least if you use story reprints as your yardstick (which I kinda do).

Nine of the anthology’s stories were picked for year’s best collections by Horton, Clarke and Dozois.

(5) ROOMMATE NEEDED. A female reader has just had their MidAmeriCon roommate withdraw, and if there’s a female reader who’d be interested in sharing, e-mail a message to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will forward it. (Or if you prefer to work it this way, communicate to me and I will have the person write a message to be forwarded via email to you.)

(6) SPEAR OF LIGHT AUTHOR. SFFWorld interviews Brenda Cooper.

Are strong female characters important for you?

Thanks for the lovely leading question! Of course they are. And even more important, strong female characters that are complete with brilliance and challenges.  I’m not impressed when “strong female characters” translates to “women who act like men.”  I also like balance – I have strong men and strong women, and sometimes weak men and weak women.  Not so much in this book as Lym and the Glittering are placed that reward strength rather deeply. But still, characters should be complex, interesting, and they should grow. Women should be at least as strong as men, and just like in our current world, sometimes they need to be a little stronger.

(7) FIRST PITCH. Patrick Redford asks “What the Hell, Japan?” at Deadspin.

All sorts of people throw out first pitches before baseball games. Old guys, dinosaurs, washed rappers—you name it, they’ve done it. But this week, Nippon Professional Baseball—ever the innovators—went and put every quirky MLB first pitch into the toilet with this bizarre, unsettling play-within-a-play first pitch faceoff between Sadako from The Ring and Kayako from The Grudge.

The post has lots of GIFs of the action.

(8) PORTALS. Jonathan Thornton reviews Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire at Fantasy-Faction.

The story is set in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. It is set up by Eleanor West after she returned from her own magical world to help other children who’ve been through the same thing as her adapt. The novella follows Nancy, a girl who’s just returned from the Halls of the Dead, where she has spent decades pretending to be a statue and is promised to the Lord of the Dead, as she joins the school and begins to adapt to her new life. Nancy’s parents are thrilled to have her back and just want to give her their love and help her, but they are unable to understand her experience, or what she’s going through now. This has obvious parallels with the experiences of those who suffer from mental health problems or victims of trauma – indeed, Eleanor tells the parents of the afflicted children that her school is a sanitarium.

The children’s experiences also have parallels with those whose sexual orientation or gender identity comes between them and their family. Nancy is asexual, and her parents are having difficulty understanding this aspect of her life. Kade is a trans man who is living as an intelligent and productive young man at the school while his parents still want their little girl back. More generally still the children’s condition could also be read as a metaphor for the transition from childhood to being a young adult, the point when you grow away from being your parents’ child into your own identity as an individual member of society. McGuire explores all these themes and ideas in the novella, and throughout it all treats her characters with respect and sensitivity, whatever aspect of their pain or personal history she is exploring.

(9) FOOTAGE FROM THE CULTURE WARS. Jason Ahlquist’s About Tomorrow is a feature-length documentary in progress “about the intersection of science fiction and politics told through the 2015 Hugo Award balloting controversy.” He plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in July.

Also known as “Puppygate,” the controversy revolved around the efforts of two right-wing groups and their use of coordinated voting blocs to influence the outcomes of one of science fiction’s most prestigious awards…..

“I want this film to be a vehicle for exploration of the larger depths of sci-fi’s role,” said Ahlquist, “not only in how we see our future, but how we’ll act on our hopes and fears.” Ahlquist went on to say that production on the film is nearly complete, and that, “production will wrap at the 74th World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City before we move into post-production.”

 

(10) X-MEN. “Meet the Underappreciated Woman Who Invented X-Men’s Apocalypse” – a profile at Vulture.

Her name is Louise Simonson, and she co-created Apocalypse (his look came courtesy of artist Jackson Guice) in the pages of Marvel Comics’ X-Factor, in 1986. Simonson — “Weezie” to her friends — is one of the better superhero-comics writers of the past 40 years, a person who crafted beloved stories about the X-Men and DC Comics’ Superman, just to name a pair of the more famous properties she has worked on. The 69-year-old was also a pioneer: She did much of her most famous work when women writers were a rarity in the comics industry. Despite all that, she’s never gotten her due in mainstream media outlets. But within the comics world, her name reverberates.

(11) NEWS, WEATHER AND SUPERMAN’S DEATH ON THE TEN. From Gamespot I learn “Superman Is Dead Again – What That Now Means”.

Back in 1993, Superman died while fighting Doomsday. In the comics, the world mourned the death of the Man of Steel, and soon saw other Supermen rise to take his place. The real Superman eventually returned to life, and his adventures continued. That was in the previous comic continuity. In the current continuity, which started in 2011, Superman is dying again. This time, his death and return is something different.

Yeah, sure it is. Excuse me while I don’t give a damn. Superman’s life status has become as routine as the weather report.

(12) APPERTAINING YOUR OWN CON. Alexandra Erin explains in considerable detail that just because a Helsinki Worldcon co-chair hopes Erin will be at next year’s con it doesn’t mean they’re paying her way. Apparently not everyone immediately understands that.

This is probably the last time I’ll bother qualifying something neat like “a WorldCon head personally told me she’d be jazzed if I were there” by explaining the real world to dedicated denizens of a carefully constructed artificial reality, for the simple reason that I know it doesn’t work. It’s more my fascination with the disconnect between actual reality on the ground and the stories that swirl based on a few glimmers of that reality and much speculation that prompts this post.

What a different world we live in than the one that is ascribed to us.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/16 Guardians of the Fallacy

(1) SF BEER. Poul Anderson used to set great store by Heineken beer. This billboard ad from the 1970s claims Mr. Spock did, too.

Spock-744x419

(2) SYFY PROTOTYPE. Deadline tell us “Cote de Pablo Poised To Star In Syfy Pilot ‘Prototype’”.

EXCLUSIVE: NCIS alumna Cote de Pablo is nearing a return to series television. I have learned that the fan favorite is in negotiations to play the female lead opposite Jack Davenport in Prototype, Syfy’s sci-fi thriller drama pilot written by Tony Basgallop (24: Live Another Day). It centers on three unlikely cohorts  — two of them played by de Pablo and Davenport — who inadvertently stumble upon an invention that challenges the very nature of quantum physics – a discovery which in turn puts their lives in grave danger.

De Pablo would play Laura Kale, a driven, extremely intelligent mother of two. Excited about a potentially world-changing machine being developed by herself and two partners, she is certain that she is on the brink of something history-making. Propelled by a shot at glory, she is not about to give up despite numerous setbacks.

(3) AUTOGRAPHED LENSMAN. Heritage Auctions is already taking bids for items in its “April 6 Rare Books Grand Format Auction”.  The chair J.K. Rowling sat in to write a couple of Harry Potter books is on the block. So is an autographed boxed set of the Fantasy Press edition of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series – they’re looking for an opening bid of $2,000.

Edward E. (“Doc”) Smith. The History of Civilization, including: Triplanetary, First Lensman, Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensman, Children of the Lens. Reading: Fantasy Press, 1955. First edition, limited to seventy-five numbered sets, of which this is number twenty-four. Each volume signed by the author and volume one additionally warmly inscribed to Smith’s “friend and fellow-toiler in the vineyard of SF,” Ben J[—]. Six octavo volumes. Publisher’s special binding of quarter reddish-brown leather over brick red cloth-covered boards, spines lettered in gilt, in publisher’s original box. Books very nearly fine with only minimal rubbing to spine ends and light soiling. Box edges worn, some lid edges split with tape at corners. From the collection of Dr. Stuart David Schiff.

(4) ANOTHER REASON MCDEVITT ROCKS. Locus Online reports the International Astronomical Union has approved a proposal to name an asteroid after sf writer Jack McDevitt:

The asteroid, now known as “Jackmcdevitt,” is designated 328305, and was discovered in 2006 by astronomer Lawrence Wasserman at Kitt Peak observatory in Arizona.

(5) WHY BATMAN STINKS ON ICE. ScreenRant will happily tell you the “13 Worst Things About Batman & Robin”.

11. Bat Ice Skates

Again, in a continuation of the bizarre ‘60s Batman mythos, Joel Schumacher’s take on the Dynamic Duo is filled with a collection of oddly specific bat-gadgets. Considering that Batman had no idea that Mr. Freeze would turn out to be the big villain of the movie, it’s strange that he had already prepared a collection of ice-themed accessories, including a jet ski and special ice-themed costumes.

In their first run-in with Mr. Freeze, upon discovering that the floor has been frozen solid, Batman and Robin activate their “bat ice skates,” which appear out of the bottom of their boots with a click of the heels. The convenience of this gadget takes the silly accessories of Batman’s utility belt from the ‘60s show to a cinematic extreme, adding fuel to the fire of the joke that Batman’s true superpower is his magic utility belt which can produce anything the plot requires it to.

(6) GRAPHIC MARCH MADNESS. Comic Mix is getting ready to run webcomics brackets — “Announcing the 2016 Mix March Madness Webcomics Tournament”

Yes, it’s that time of year again, the time where bracketology reigns supreme and the cry around the nation is “Win or Go Home!” Last year’s Mix March Madness Webcomics Tournament was incredibly popular, and so we’re doing it all over again– and raising money for the Hero Initiative in the process!

We’re giving you a list of over 300 webcomics, and we want your votes . We’re taking the top 128 and putting them in a single elimination tournament where we whittle down the contestants down to one. The top 128 vote getters make it into the tournament, with the biggest getting top seeds. The voting ends Sunday, March 13 at 11:59 PM EDT, and brackets go up on Monday, March 14!

Simply check off the strips you want to see in the tournament below. If there are webcomics you don’t see, check “Other” at the end and include the strip name AND THE URL. We’ll add them to the main list periodically for higher visibility.

(7) FREE AUTOGRAPHS. The West Australian has a story on the Australian national convention — “Perth fandom unites for 41st Swancon”. It’s funny what you have to explain to people nowadays.

Beasley said Swancon welcomed the increase interest in fandom these nationally-run conventions bought but he hoped the local version could always retain its more intimate, community feel.

“You will most likely see our guests wandering around the hotel interacting with anyone who buys them a coffee,” he said.

“The membership fee covers everything contained in the convention and our guest signings are also free.”

(8) WILL BLOOM AGAIN. Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend series will get a second season.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 11, 1818 Frankenstein published.
  • March 11, 1971: George Lucas makes his feature debut with THX-1138.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 11, 1952 – Douglas Adams

(11) DYEING OUTSIDE. Cat Rambo’s “Pink Hair Manifesto” at Medium.

The first time I dyed it, I was about to head off to my first Wiscon?—?a large feminist science fiction convention held yearly in Madison, Wisconsin. As I’ve found the case at sf conventions since then, I wasn’t the only person there with an odd hair color; I glimpsed rainbows of pink, blue, and green. And I realized it was becoming. Complete strangers would lean over and whisper, “I like your hair,” including two flight attendants on the way home.

After the con the color faded, softer and softer, until finally, when I went to get a haircut, the hairdresser was cutting away dusty rose tips. I looked in the mirror and saw a middle-aged woman with a short, practical cut.

I bought a new kit on the way home and re-pinked my hair that afternoon….

That’s another reason why I dye it pink. People talk to me. There’s something about the color that draws them to ask about it or say that they like it. The only person I’ve ever found who disapproved outright was a relative’s girlfriend. She didn’t last. My hair color has.

But more than that, the pink forces me to talk to people as well. I’ve habitually toed the line between introvert and extrovert, depending on which Meyer Briggs results you look at, and I like the fact that the pink pushes me outside myself, makes me be socially brave in a way I’ve sometimes retreated from.

(12) RABID PUPPIES. Vox Day moves on to the novella category of his slate — Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novella.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novella category.

  • “Fear and Self-Loathing in Hollywood”, Nick Cole
  • “Penric’s Demon”, Lois McMaster Bujold
  • “Hyperspace Demons”, Jonathan Moeller
  • “The Builders”, Daniel Polansky
  • “Slow Bullets”, Alastair Reynolds

(13) HOW DEADPOOL BEGAN. Steve Fahnestalk’s latest “Second Looks” column at Amazing Stories includes two reviews — “Marvel’s Deadpool & Ant-Man and Some Words on Writing”.

And now we come to Deadpool. I was vaguely familiar with the character—I think I’d read a recent Spiderman with him in it (one of the ones after Miles Morales became Spiderman). I knew he was called “The Merc With The Mouth,” and that he apparently couldn’t be killed, but I knew little else about him. Now I know that he’s been around for—wait for it!—25 years! (Thanks, Wikipedia!) I also found out, courtesy of the Wiki, that he was played by Ryan Reynolds already in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and that he was the dude who had everyone’s powers including Cyclops’s, and whose head was cut off and destroyed the atomic cooling tower! Whoa! Looks like I needed a crash course! (So I got some fairly recent Deadpools, like Deadpool – Dracula’s Gauntlet and Deadpool’s Secret Wars [both 2015], and read up a bit.) And from what I can tell, by casting Ryan Reynolds in this movie, Marvel (or whomever did the casting) really, really nailed the character. He’s profane, obscene, funny, athletic, heroic and antiheroic, mouthy, sexy, and a whole lot more.

(14) HOW DEADPOOL SHOULD HAVE ENDED. Yes, the How It Should Have Ended team has fixed Deadpool for ya.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Glen Hauman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Marty Gear (1939 – 2013)

Marty Gear at 2009 Arisia. Photo by Daniel P. Noé.

Marty Gear at 2009 Arisia. Photo by Daniel P. Noé.

Legendary costuming fan Marty Gear, whose fanac spanned six decades, died in his sleep on July 18 at the age of 74.

Marty and his wife, Bobby (who predeceased him in 2005), won many awards in masquerade competitions. He founded The Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers’ Guild, a forerunner of the International Costumers’ Guild, was the ICG’s first Executive Director, and was honored with the ICG’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.

One of Marty’s earliest fannish experiences, when he was 14, was traveling from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia for the 1953 Worldcon. Marty was unprepared for what he found there, felt overwhelmed and said he would have gone back to his hotel room to hide but for “a tall, white-haired man [who] came over and began to talk to me about what I liked to read. I had just bought a copy of Skylark of Valeron in the dealers’ room… and began enthusing about this ‘new’ writer that I had just discovered, E.E. Smith, Ph.D.” He soon discovered it was Smith himself he was telling this to, and Doc and his wife took Marty in tow, introducing him to other authors and artists. “For the remainder of the weekend, whenever either of them saw me alone they made a point of checking to see if I was enjoying myself, and of somehow including me in whatever was going on.”

Despite this friendly encounter with one of the field’s most loved writers, Marty did not attend another SF con until 1977 when Page Cuddy and David Hartwell “conned” him into going to a Balticon in order to meet Philip Jose Farmer.

After that Marty rapidly developed into a fannish leader. He ran programming for Balticon 13 in 1979 and became a regular fixture as the con’s masquerade director beginning in 1981. He chaired CostumeCon 3 (1985) and Balticon 21 (1987).

He held major committee posts on 4 Worldcons. Michael J. Walsh, chair of the 1983 Baltimore Worldcon where Marty ran the masquerade, likes to tell the story – “In 1981 when I called him from Denvention to let him know we had won: ‘Marty, bad news!’ [He answered] ‘We won?’”

Marty was famous for presiding over masquerades in costume as Count Dracula. And he was infamous for filling time with terrible vampire jokes such as —

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

Frostbite!

One of his most challenging moments came while directing the 1998 Worldcon (Bucconeer) masquerade — at the start he stumbled against a table of awards and took a four-foot fall off the stage. Quite the trouper, Marty got right back up and did his job without visible problems. He even looked in pretty good shape the morning after at the masquerade critique where he had nothing to say about his mishap except an apology for detracting from the costumers. He did use a cane for awhile afterwards, though.

Marty was a fiery advocate for his beloved event. Even at a Worldcon he refused to concede first place to the Hugo Ceremony, protesting during the Bucconeer masquerade post-mortem, “To the Worldcon committee the Masquerade is not the most important event…. It’s just the best-attended, and has the most people involved, but to the committee it’s a secondary event.”

When he was feeling more mellow he’d deliver the message humorously, saying things like, “Costuming is the second oldest tradition in sci-fi fandom. The first is drinking beer.”

Marty remained an active member of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and at the time of his death was parliamentarian of the BSFS Board of Directors, coordinator of the Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest, and liaison to the school for the BSFS Books for Kids program.

Over the years he was a guest of honor at Unicon 87, Disclave 34, Sci-Con 8, Genericon 2, Arisia 9, and Balticon 30.

Professionally, Marty managed his own company Martin Gear Consulting Ltd.

Other than dressing as a vampire, Marty said one of his favorite costumes was “Cohen the Barbarian” a prize-winner at the 2004 Worldcon as “Best DiscWorld Entry.” His Cohen wore a fur diaper, a very long white beard and an eyepatch — and not much else. In one hand he carried a sword and in the other a walking cane.

To the end Marty continually mentored costumers and passed on his enthusiasm for the costuming arts. He told an interviewer, “I probably won’t stop costuming until I am dead, and maybe not even then.”

***

See Marty in his Dracula garb start the 2008 Balticon masquerade with a horrible joke.

In this interview at Anime USA 2012 Marty explained how he judges anime and reproduction costumes in terms that would be at home on Project Runway — “Clothes have to fit.”

Saying Bleep Nicely

“To the men I write about profanity is adornment and ornament and is never vulgar and I try to write it so,” John Steinbeck wrote to his godmother in 1939.

If we didn’t already know that the author of Grapes of Wrath wasn’t writing in the science fiction genre at the time, that line would tell us.

Today everyone feels free to sprinkle those unspeakable (on TV anyway) words throughout a novel – Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” stories are my latest reminder.

In 1939, however, the saltiest language E. E. Smith could put in print was something like Kimball Kinnison swearing by “Klono’s brazen hoofs and diamond-tipped horns!”   

And, of course, swearing by any generally-recognized deity would have been out of the question. So in Gray Lensman our hero fills us in on the theology:

“By the way, Kim,” she asked idly as they strolled back toward the ball-room, “who is this Klono by whom you were swearing a while ago?  Another spaceman’s god like Noshabkeming, of the Valerians?”

“Something like him, only more so,” he laughed.  “A combination of Noshabkeming, some of the gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans, all three of the Fates, and quite a few other things as well.  I think, originally, from Corvina, but fairly wide-spread through certain sections of the galaxy now.  He’s got so much stuff—teeth and horns, claws and whiskers, tail and everything—that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of.”