Belfast Eastercon Explorations

By Tommy Ferguson: On Friday a group of Norn Iron fans visited The Hilton Lanyon Place and International Conference Centre (ICC) which is next door – (https://www.iccbelfast.com/), to consider the space that is available and whether, costs permitting, a Belfast Eastercon would be viable. 

Norn Iron fans

The venue was the site of the 2019 Eurocon, which ran successfully, but looking at additional space, in the ICC. 

This new group, with experience from a wide selection of Irish and international conventions, is entitled the ‘Preliminary Belfast Eastercon Assessment Team’ and we went to the Pub afterwards to consider what next steps should be taken and it was agreed that another pint would be a good idea. 

Hilton Pub

Following this, and other activities it was agreed we should communicate to Eastercon fans, here, there and elsewhere, that some activity, albeit very initial, is taking place. 

PBEAT would look to see if the venue is indeed suitable, and more importantly if it is affordable.

Initial reckoning is that we could accommodate an 800 to 900 person Eastercon, and given the extra travel is involved, this seems like a reasonable amount. 

By the end of the evening, there was much excitement about the prospect of a Belfast Eastercon, as evidenced in the images.

Further updates will occur. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

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

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

SPOLIERS ABOUND. GO AWAY NOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END SPOILERS. REALLY. 

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/18/22 You Get A File, I’ll Get A Troll, We’ll Head Down To The Pixel Scroll, Honey, Enemy Mine

(1) NEXT YEAR’S EASTERCON COMMITTEE PICKED. Conversation is the 2023 Eastercon – it will be held April 7-10. Where? “We don’t have a confirmed site yet,” they say. But somewhere in England. The convention website is here: Conversation 2023. And the guests of honor will be —

  • Zen Cho
  • Niall Harrison
  • Jennell Jaquays
  • Kari Sperring
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Ursula Vernon (T Kingfisher).

(2) EUROCON REPORT. Polish fan Marcin Klak writes about “Luxcon Eurocon 2022 – Convention From Behind the Mask” – a report that includes a photo of TAFF delegate “Orange Mike” Lowrey.

It was so good to see the people. I haven’t seen some friends for two and more years. Being able to greet them differently than on Zoom was great. Meeting some new people was also awesome. And last, but not least I had the opportunity to meet in person people whom I met online but haven’t yet seen in the real world – this was so cool. I had no idea how strongly I missed all of that. Don’t understand me wrong – virtual conventions are awesome. I appreciate them and think they were a blessing for those of us who attended them. Yet getting back to in-person conventioning was magical….

(3) SEPTEMBER SONG. Allen Steele told Facebook followers his email contained “A ROTTEN EASTER EGG”, and after being turned down as a Chicon 8 program participant he had much to say about the application process. He says he was “uninvited” after answering the questionnaire — because he claims they initiated the contact thus, in his view, issued an invitation. However, Chicon 8’s head of program says it was Steele who initiated things by filling in the form on the website requesting to be contacted.

When I opened my email this morning, here was what I found, printed verbatim. It came from a staff member for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, an annual event I’ve attended — albeit infrequently in recent years — as a fan since 1973 and as a professional SF writer since 1989. I hadn’t yet decided whether to attend this year’s worldcon, but if I had, it would’ve been the fourth time I’ve been to one in Chicago (including once as a writer with a story on that year’s Hugo ballot).

“Dear Allen Steele.

“Thank you for reaching out to us with your interest in being on Program at Chicon 8: The 80th World Science Fiction Convention. We’re sending this email to inform you that we will not be extending you an invitation to participate as a panelist for the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago.

“Deciding who to invite as panelists is an ongoing multistep process that includes reviewing your program survey answers and the input of many members of the Chicon Program Team. As we have received requests from well over 1500 people, we cannot accept everyone, and so some difficult choices have to be made.

“Best,

“[NAME DELETED}

Head of Program for Chicon 8

My Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs”

This has really floored me, in a number of ways and for a number of reasons. First: I didn’t “reach out” to them. Instead, they reached out to me, in email I received in early March asking whether I would be interested in attending this year’s worldcon. Perhaps it was not technically an invitation, but in the past when I’ve received letters of this nature from worldcon committees, I’ve always felt it safe to assume that I was being asked to attend (for those who don’t know: this kind of invitation doesn’t include a free membership or having any of my hotel or travel expenses paid; it simply asks whether you would like to participate in panels, book signings, readings, etc.). So when I received it, I gave a positive response, assuming this was another worldcon invitation, something I’ve done dozens of times for dozens of years….

Steele also “joked” about pronoun preferences such as they/them/theirs.

Artist Bob Eggleton, in comments, made a suggestion in the spirit of Jon Del Arroz:

Chicon 8’s process for becoming a program participant is explained in detail here. After someone contacts the committee, this is the first of several things that happen —

    • Within a few weeks we will send you the program participant survey. This tells us who you are, and gives us an overview of what you hope to contribute to the program. Among other things, this survey will include the opportunity to (optionally): Suggest panel topics that you would like to see run at the convention. Propose workshops and presentations that you would like to conduct as solo or duo presenters.
    • Potential participants will be put through a vetting process to make sure that they are aligned with the values and principles set out in the convention code of conduct and anti-racism statement….

(4) THAT’S NOT STREAMING, IT’S A FLOOD. Ask.com wants to know “When Did It Become a Job to Be a Fan?” You might wonder after reading the previous item. But conrunning is not the focus of this article.

I never watched episodes three and four of Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett. I read recaps and just tuned in for the juicy Mando-and-Baby-Yoda-filled episodes of the Star Wars show. I didn’t bother with HBO Max’s Peacemaker; James Gunn’s brand of humor and the absurdist violence in the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) The Suicide Squad wasn’t exactly my thing. And even though I have a soft spot for Oscar Isaac, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Moon Knight. 

There’s way too much stuff to watch to be able to stay on top of everything — just take a look at our selection of movie and TV releases for April — and yet I can’t help but feel like a failed pop culture writer and media critic for all the things I’m skipping. I should be watching — and probably enjoying — all of it. But, most of the time, these serialized shows and movies that are part of a larger universe feel like homework….

(5) CHINESE SF. The Shimmer Program has released New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction, a collaboration between Clarkesworld and Storycom, edited by Neil Clarke, Xia Jia and Regina Kanyu Wang , including eight stories from Chinese sf writers. Early bird copies of the anthology have been sent out to the Kickstarter backers and it will be made available for purchase in June.

Writers: Shuang Chimu, Liu Xiao, Yang Wanqing, Hui Hu, Congyun “Mu Ming” Gu, Liang Qingsan, Shi Heiyao, Liao Shubo

Translators: Carmen Yiling Yan, Andy Dudak, Rebecca Kuang, Judith Huang, Emily Jin

(6) LONG REMEMBERED THUNDER. “Prehistoric Planet” is a five-night documentary event coming to Apple TV+ May 23.

…This series is produced by the world-renowned team at BBC Studios Natural History Unit with support from the photorealistic visual effects of MPC (“The Lion King,” “The Jungle Book”). “Prehistoric Planet” presents little-known and surprising facts of dinosaur life set against the backdrop of the environments of Cretaceous times, including coasts, deserts, freshwater, ice worlds and forests. From revealing eye-opening parenting techniques of Tyrannosaurus rex to exploring the mysterious depths of the oceans and the deadly dangers in the sky, “Prehistoric Planet” brings Earth’s history to life like never before. 

(7) HALF A CENTURY OF SIMULTANEITY. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA has released the 50th episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Stories featured in this episode are:

  • “RealView”- by Liam Hogan (music by RedBlueBlackSilver), read by Jean-Paul Garnier & Robin Rose Graves
  • “Psionic Thread” by Sam Fletcher (music by Phog Masheeen), read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] On this date a quarter of a century ago on Canada’s Citytv (which is sometimes just called City), Lexx (also known as LEXX: The Dark Zone Stories and Tales from a Parallel Universe) premiered as a series of four films. The series follows a group of rather unique and sometimes dysfunctional individuals aboard the living craft Lexx as they travel through two universes and encounter various planets including an Earth that is decidedly not ours. 

It was created by Paul Donovan, Lex Gigeroff and Jeffrey Hirschfield, none of which had a background in the genre in any meaningful sense before this. Hirschfield wrote for three of the four seasons Lexx ran and voiced the character of the robot head 790. 

Now Lexx had a large cast including Brian Downey, Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Should you be so inclined, and I’m not saying saying that you should be, go ask Google for the uncensored versions of the City broadcast Lexx as regards Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Let’s just say that when it hit Syfy that network reduced it from a hard “R” to a very friendly “PG” rating in terms of both language and nudity. I’ve also heard that quite a bit of violence was also removed as well. Remember that I’ve mentioned previously that Syfy emasculated Fifties SF series when they ran there too.

It would run, including the original four films of ninety-three minutes in length, for five seasons with the four actual seasons ending with a total of sixty-one episodes with a conventional running time of between forty-five and forty-eight minutes. SyFy trimmed three to five minutes out of each of these episodes. 

Though the series was primarily filmed in Canada and Germany befitting it being a Canadian and German co-production, additional filming done on location in the British Virgin Islands. Iceland, Namibia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. I need a guide to which scenes were filmed where. Seriously I do. 

Reception was decidedly mixed. The New York Daily News reviewer said she “can only imagine that the great SciFi channel must have been captured by idiot monsters from outer space and Germany” but the Independent got it spot-on when they noted that it is “extremely gory, not a little nasty and rather fun”.  Finally the TV Guide summed it up by noting it is “a siren of distinction for its black comedy, skewed take on the human condition and open sexuality.” 

It currently has a ninety-two percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 18, 1884 Frank R. Paul. Illustrator who graced the covers of Amazing Stories beginning with this cover for April 1926, as well as Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories from June 1929 to October 1940 and a number of others.  He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (Stratford Company, 1925), published first as a 1911–1912 serial in Modern Electrics. He was the Guest of Honor at the very first WorldCon, Nycon, in July 1939. He was inducted into Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2009. Stephen D. Korshak and Frank R. Paul’s From the Pen of Paul: The Fantastic Images of Frank R. Paul published in 2010 is the only work I found that looks at him. (Died 1963.)
  • Born April 18, 1930 Clive Revill, 92. His first genre role was as Ambrose Dudley in The Headless Ghost, a late Fifties British film. He then was in Modesty Blaise in the dual roles of McWhirter / Sheik Abu Tahir followed by The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes playing Rogozhin. A choice role follows as he’s The Voice of The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back.  As for one-offs, he shows up in The Adventures of Robin HoodThe New AvengersWizards and Warriors in a recurring role as Wizard Vector, Dragon’s Lair, the second version of The Twilight ZoneBatman: The Animated Series in recurring role as as Alfred Pennyworth, Babylon 5Freakazoid in a number of roles, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Pinky and The Brain… that’s not even close to a full listing! 
  • Born April 18, 1946 Janet Kagan. Another one who died way too young, damn it. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects as everything else by her.  (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 18, 1965 Stephen Player, 57. Some Birthday honor folks are elusive. What I did find is awesome as he’s deep in the Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh, but that’s just a mere small taste of all he’s done, He also did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally, he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money.
  • Born April 18, 1969 Keith R. A. DeCandido, 53. I found him working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, AndromedaFarscapeFireflyAliensStar Trek in its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire SlayerDoctor WhoSpider-ManX-MenHerculesThorSleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Now I will admit that his Farscape: House of Cards novel is quite fantastic, and it’s available from the usual suspects. He’s also written quite a bit of non-tie-in fiction.
  • Born April 18, 1971 David Tennant, 51. The Tenth Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly and even reviewed over at Green Man.  He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
  • Born April 18, 1973 Cora Buhlert, 49. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and was a finalist for Best Fan Writer Hugo at CoNZealand and DisCon III, and has been nominated this year again at Chicon 8. Very impressive indeed! And of course she’s a member of our community here. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMICS FOR UKRAINE. Kurt Busiek is among the many stellar contributors to Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds, a benefit anthology edited by multi-Eisner Award-winner Scott Dunbier. The book will be full-color, 96 pages, 8×12 inches, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions.

Mark Evanier will be in the book, too:

Among the many writers and artists contributing to this effort are Sergio Aragonés and myself. We’re doing a new Groo story that will be included. You can see the whole list of contributors here and you can get your order in for a copy of this historic volume on this page.

There have been $28,808 of pre-orders, with 30 days to go. Order here.

A benefit anthology featuring an all-star lineup of comic book creators, with all proceeds being donated to Ukrainian refugees. Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds features an incredible roster of comics talent united under the mission of providing relief to the war-torn Ukraine, which has suffered attacks from neighboring Russia since late February. With the exception of hard costs (printing, credit-card fees, marketing) all of the funds raised by Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds will benefit the relief efforts in Ukraine in partnership with Operation USA. Since time of of the essence, if the campaign is successful, right after the campaign is over and payments have been collected by Zoop, all funds will be sent to Operation USA immediately.

(12) NO BRAINER? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s apparently been a burning question for almost 2 decades. Is 28 Days Later a zombie movie or not? I mean, the revening hordes are not technically undead – type zombies, but they do act pretty much like one & spread the infection by biting their victims.

So, what does screenwriter Alex Garland say? But what about director Danny Boyle?  “28 Days Later writer settles long-running debate” at Digital Spy.

…The premise of 28 Days Later follows a pandemic caused by the accidental release of a contagious virus named The Rage, but the infected don’t die and then come back to life like a typical zombie.

However, they do exhibit zombie-like aggressive behaviour and spread the disease by biting victims, though, so that’s where the debate comes in….

(13) HE’S A BLOCKHEAD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] News has broken that Jason Momoa will be trading in the ripped physiques of Aquaman and Duncan Idaho for the squared off physique of a lead character in a movie based on Minecraft. Or, at least, negotiations to that effect are nearing completion. “Jason Momoa to Star in ‘Minecraft’ Movie for Warner Bros.” says The Hollywood Reporter.

… Gaming movies have been on a hot streak in recent years, with 20th Century launching a hit franchise with Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy last year, and Paramount finding success with its Sonic sequel earlier this month.

Momoa and Warners have Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom due out in March 2023. The film is the sequel to the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film Aquaman

(14) DROPPING THE HAMMER. Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder opens in theaters July 8, 2022.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced – a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who – to Thor’s surprise – inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes discuss “Why Magical Realism is a Global Phenomenon”.

Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, magical realism in literature and other media combines fantasy elements with concrete realities to make statements about the world we live in. In this episode, we explore its roots, lay out the tenets of the genre, and discuss how it has flourished in Latin American Literature. Hosted by Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes, It’s Lit! is a show about our favorite books, genres, and why we love to read.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Bill, Will R., Nickpheas, 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 John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/22 Have Scroll Suit, Will Pixel

(1) 2022 OR 1942? LINDGREN FEATURED IN NASA POSTER. Astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who memorably presented a 2015 Hugo Award via video from the International Space Station, will soon be returning there as a member of SpaceX Crew-4. NASA recently released a new poster to celebrate the mission, inspired by the national parks posters produced by the Depression-era WPA.  

Lindgren tweeted thanks to Johnson Space Center graphic artist Cindy Bush for bringing the concept to life. 

Crew members shown in the poster are Jessica Watkins, Robert Hines, Lindgren, and Samantha Cristoforetti. You can download a high-res image here.

Lindgren’s fanac has also included being a special guest (in person) at the Helsinki Worldcon in 2017 (see Daniel Dern’s photo here) and serving as Toastmaster of the Nebula Awards in Pittsburgh the same year.

(2) SUPPORT THE FAN FUNDS. [Item by Alison Scott.] The Fan Funds are having a silent auction at Reclamation, the 2022 Eastercon, this weekend (April 15-17), and also virtually.

You can view a range of fantastic and unique items (many of which will also be physically on or near the fan funds table at Eastercon), at our website at https://airtable.com/shrPFg2wPpJMqRdIU. This will change over the weekend as items are added. If you are not at Eastercon, we’ll need you to additionally cover the shipping on physical items, and we’ll let you know how much that will be.

If you’d like to contribute something for auction, you can do so at https://airtable.com/shryFBq6awqMraEr6.

Best way to bid is to let us know who you are by registering at https://airtable.com/shryFBq6awqMraEr6 (this is a very short form) and bidding at https://airtable.com/shrVNHTGk12KpLwWH (this is even shorter). 

The silent auction will end at 11pm BST (UTC 00:00) on Sunday 17th April, with a fuzziness as follows: items will end at that time or one minute after the last bid, whichever is later. So if there’s a last minute bidding frenzy, we’ll let that run out.  

If you’re at the con, come and stop by our table where we will also be having an amazing spin to win contest, Fan Funds Amazeballs. You pay a pound, we spin a bingo spinner, and you win the relevant numbered prize. Prize every time! Some of the prizes are great! For an extra pound, you can even give us back your unwanted prizes.

[I especially love that last sentence. Yes! Keep them from just going, “Redonate!” like people do in LASFS auctions. Bruce Pelz is sorry he didn’t think of it first.]

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Victor LaValle and Robert Freeman Wexler on Wednesday, April 20. The event is in person.

Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle is the author of seven works of fiction and three comic books. He has been the recipient of a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and a Shirley Jackson Award. His most recent novel, The Changeling, is in production at Apple TV.

Robert Freeman Wexler

Robert Freeman Wexler’s most recent book is short story collection Undiscovered Territories. His new novel, The Silverberg Business, is forthcoming from Small Beer Press in August 2022. Previous books include novel The Painting And The City, and The Visible Spectrum.

Where: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003; (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

When: April 20, 2022, 7:00 p.m. EDT.

(4) BY THE SEA. “Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel on creative recklessness, time travel and her favourite science fiction novels” at the Globe and Mail.

…Now with her latest book, Sea of Tranquility (HarperCollins), Mandel has fully immersed herself in the tropes of science fiction. There’s a moon colony, a dome city, simulation theory and time travel – a plot device and concept she’s always wanted to write about. She credits the pandemic for allowing her the “creative recklessness” to abandon any writerly anxieties.

“I felt like, you know what, everything’s terrible, I’m going to do this thing that’ll make me happy. I’m going to write whatever I want and not worry about being taken seriously or any of those other unhelpful ideas that can attach themselves to you as a writer.”…

(5) LEAP YEARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] You’ll have to click through to the article to see the video. Personally, I really enjoyed the original Quantum Leap. I’m of two minds about rebooting it. If they do a good job of updating it, it could still be a very good show. However, I’m afraid they may get sabotaged by too slavishly following types of stories portrayed in the original. “‘Quantum Leap’ Producer Teases ‘Ziggy Quantum Computer 2.0’ For NBC Sci-Fi Revival” at Syfy.com.

…“Everything that Star Trek could do, Quantum Leap can do,” Pratt said. “I think we should do a series of movies, I think we should do a series of series, and this is very much the first step into that world. They had a lot more money than we did, oh my God. So they got to play on a whole other level. That I think is beautiful in the sense that… and Ziggy is there. So that’s really cool. Ziggy Quantum Computer 2.0.”…

(6) DOCTORAL STUDIES. Slashfilm’s Fatemeh Mirjalili takes readers back in history to explain why “Doctor Who Could Have Been A Much Darker Sci-Fi Show”.

The “Doctor Who” 2005 reboot revitalized the sci-fi series, instilling modern audiences with a love for the legendary time traveler and his many adventures. But when the original series arrived on the BBC in 1963, it was a phenomenon unlike anything seen on television before. William Hartnell was the first actor to introduce the quirks and idiosyncrasies we’ve come to associate with the Doctor; he might have appeared as a frail, older man, but in reality, the First Doctor was more than capable — he played dangerous games with the Celestial Toymaker, persuaded a Roman emperor to burn down his own city, and gave the Daleks a run for their money.

Not much is known about the show’s early run because the BBC lost several “Doctor Who” episodes over the years; what we do know is that the sci-fi series wasn’t always going to be a fun time-traveling adventure. It was going to get dark … like really, really dark….

(7) DUMBLEDORE IS NOT GAY IN CHINA. Meanwhile, authorities in China found it was hardly an inconvenience to get Warner Bros. to straighten out that one little thing they don’t like about Dumbledore. “Fantastic Beasts 3 Gay Dialogue Removed in China, Warner Bros Explains”.

…References to a gay relationship in “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” were edited out of the movie by Warner Bros. for the film’s release in China. Only six seconds of the movie’s 142-minute runtime were removed. Dialogue that was edited out alluded to the romantic past between male characters Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen). “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling revealed Dumbledore was gay in 2009, but the movies had never explicitly referenced the character’s sexuality until this third “Fantastic Beasts” entry.

Warner Bros. accepted China’s request to remove six seconds from the movie. The dialogue lines “because I was in love with you” and “the summer Gellert and I fell in love” were cut from “The Secrets of Dumbledore” release (via News.com.au). The rest of the film remained intact, including an understanding that Dumbledore and Grindelwald share an intimate bond….

Only six seconds! You know, it took a lot less time than that for Booth to shoot Lincoln, yet think what a difference that made in the story.

The Guardian notes this is part of a trend in China:

…The news follows a string of similar cuts both for the big and small screen in China. In February, there was backlash when the re-release of sitcom Friends was stripped of its lesbian storyline, while the Sex and the City spinoff And Just Like That also aired with all gay references taken out.

In 2019, Bohemian Rhapsody was released with any mention of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality removed and in star Rami Malek’s Oscar acceptance speech, the subtitles on Chinese television changed “gay man” to “special group”.

While homosexuality was decriminalised in China in 1997 and removed from an official list of mental disorders in 2001, life under the rule of Xi Jinping has been more conservative and restrictive for many LGBTQ people. In January, gay dating app Grindr was taken off the Apple store and last year the country’s dominant social media service, WeChat, deleted many LGBTQ accounts.

(8) WINDING DOWN. The Orville probably isn’t going to be around to finish a five-year mission either: “‘The Orville’ Future Beyond Season 3 Uncertain As Seth MacFarlane & His Cast Focus On Other Projects” reports Deadline.

The Orville has been a passion project — and a big undertaking — for Seth MacFarlane who created, writes, directs, executive produces and stars in the space comedy-drama. As the series is preparing for the June 2 launch of Season 3 on Hulu, there are no current plans for a fourth season. I hear the cast of the series was released in August when their most recent options expired.

In addition to finishing Season 3 of The Orville, titled New Horizons, MacFarlane has been focusing on his development under the mega overall deal he has at NBCUniversal, including the upcoming Peacock series Ted, based on MacFarlane’s movie franchise, with him reprising his voice role as the title character. Ted just cast The Orville cast member Scott Grimes as a series regular, reuniting him with MacFarlane.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifteen years ago on Syfy, the Painkiller Jane series first aired. The character was created by Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada for Event Comics and originally appeared in Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides #1. The character would crossover with likes of Hellboy, the Punisher, the Teminator and Vampirella.

Gil Grant developed this series and he’d previously been responsible for The Powers of Matthew Star. Most of his work was definitely off genre such as NCIS: Los Angeles and the original NCIS series.

It starred Kristanna Loken as Painkiller Jane who previously had been T-X, an advanced Terminator, in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

It lasted but twenty-two episodes. It wasn’t well received by critics. The New York Times said of it that: “Decent scripts could make it work anyway, but the first two episodes at least don’t bode well; the stories are flat, and the repartee between Jane and her teammates isn’t zippy enough to amuse even the comic-book crowd.” And the L.A. Weekly wasn’t impressed either: “Not helping matters either are the wretched dialogue, indiscriminately moody lighting, stock characters (gruff boss, dweeby tech guy, ripped chauvinist colleague), and crushing lack of suspense. I felt the pain, believe me.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverly Cross. English playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. Yes librettist. He’s here because he wrote the screenplays for Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Not remotely genre related but worth mentioning, is that he worked uncredited on the script for Lawrence of Arabia although it is unknown if any of his material made it to the film we see. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 13, 1943 Bill Pronzini, 79. American writer of detective fiction. He’s the creator of the San Francisco-based Nameless Detective, who starred in some forty novels. Though he’s not quite nameless as the first novel, The Snatch, says his first name is Bill. The series ends in, appropriately, Endgame. He’s also the author of the the Carpenter and Quincannon mysteries, a gaslight era series that’s very entertaining as well. 
  • Born April 13, 1949 Teddy Harvia, 73. Winner of the Hugo for Fan Artist an amazing four times starting in 1991 at Chicon IV, then in 1995 at Intersection, next in 2001 at the Millennium Philcon and last at in 2002 at ConJosé. He won the Rotsler Award in 2015. He was honored with the Rebel Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation in 1997 at that year’s DeepSouthCon
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 72. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short which is elusive to find unfortunately). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno was followed quickly by being Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by the hard SF of being Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it. So who has watched it lately?) At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 71. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him that I never, ever liked. Ever. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. And let’s not forget he showed up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the Dish of the Day. I’m going to note that I first saw him in Tristan Farnon in the BBC’s adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small stories, a lovely role indeed. And I’m very fond of The Last Detective series where he played DC ‘Dangerous’ Davies. 
  • Born April 13, 1954 Glen Keane, 68. He’s responsible for all of the layout work on Star Trek: The Animated Series and also My Favorite Martians which I can’t say I recognize. As a character animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, he worked on Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 68. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His notable TV work includes work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape, Eerie, Indiana and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer. His latest piece of fiction was the “Aurora” novelette published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, March/April 2022. 
  • Born April 13, 1976 Jonathan Brandis. His longest role was on the Seaquest series as Lucas Wolenczak. He  also was Bastian Bux in The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter. Intriguingly his first genre role was the Voice-over at beginning of Pet Sematary. He died by suicide. (Died 2003.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy makes Star Wars a game the whole family can play.
  • Non Sequitur proves the aliens really did try to help us.
  • Dick Tracy visits Gasoline Alley — will this be the start of a plot arc? Who knows?
  • Rhymes with Orange introduces us to Shakespeare’s mother. “Another long-time writer problem! (But I guess at least she approves of his job!)” observes Rich Horton. “And anyway, that teenage stuff is still probably better than the Earl of Oxford’s poetry!”

(12) PODSIDE PICNIC. In episode 165, Podside is joined by Mattie Lewis, Kurt Schiller, and Chris Woodward to read and review the 2021 Nebula-nominated short stories.  “Nebula Predictions by Podside Picnic”.

(13) DINO CHOW. Felicia Lalomia invites us into her very B.C. kitchen: “I Cooked From ‘Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook’ And Relived The Movies” at Delish.

…In it, brother and sister Tim and Lex Murphy are left in an abandoned restaurant while Dr. Alan Grant goes to find the others. They chow down on a glistening array of cakes and other treats—including, critically, a wobbly bowl of lime-green Jell-O. That’s when Tim notices the look of fear in Lex’s eyes. The spoonful of Jell-O in her hand shakes. Then, the realization: Velociraptors can open doors. Cue panic! I haven’t been able to eat Jell-O since.

This is all to say that when I learned that Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook
was set for an April 12 release, I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. Naturally I had to wrangle an advance copy.

On first glance, the book looks like a souvenir you buy straight from Jurassic Park kiosk, complete with facts about dinosaurs, places to spot them at the park, and of course, lots of dino-themed recipes “from the chef’s most popular and guest’s most requested drinks and dishes.”

… Flipping through the pages, I found plenty of theme park-appropriate fare. There’s the T-Rex Kingdom Turkey Leg, a buttered-up, gigantic hunk of meat only fit for the most voracious of carnivores; sticky Amber Lollipops, complete with a preserved “mosquito” recreated with poppy seeds; and the Instagrammable Ceratops Pastry Crests, which are sweet, cinnamon-scented, apple-filled puff pastries molded into the shape of a Sinoceratop’s skull. (I can only imagine that Ceratops Pastry Crests would achieve Universal Studios’ Butter Beer-level cult status if Jurassic Park actually existed.)…

(14) PAY ATTENTION NOW. H&I introduces you to “11 Nifty Little Visual Details You Never Noticed In ‘Star Trek'”.

6.

“SPOCK’S BRAIN” IS THE ONLY EPISODE ASIDE FROM THE FIRST PILOT IN WHICH CHARACTERS WALK IN FRONT OF A MOVING STAR FIELD ON THE VIEWSCREEN.

The infamous third season opener remains much derided but it did feature a decent budget for effects. In this scene, Enterprise crew walk back and forth before moving stars on the viewscreen. This may not seem like much, but typically the viewscreen was added as a layered effect — or sometimes it was merely a static picture. This effect was achieved through rear projection.

(15) TRAILER #2. “The Man Who Fell To Earth” series premieres April 24 on Showtime.

An alien (Chiwetel Ejiofor) arrives on earth with a mission: to learn to become human and find the one woman (Naomie Harris) who can help save his species. Together they discover that in order to save his world, they must first save ours.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Kirby and the Forgotten Land,” Fandom Games says this latest installment of this series about a pink blob that likes to eat things is “a game designed for fetuses and zygotes” and “is as challenging as first-grade math.”  But if you want to see a loveable pink blob eat a car, this one’s for you!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/23/22 I’m a Pixel, and a Filer, and a Midnight Scroller

(1) TWIGGING TO IT. The Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid is running a community craft project at Reclamation, the 2022 Eastercon. “The Fantastic Tree of Life”. Full plan with ideas about various types of crafts and how to get them to the team can be found at the link. Reclamation 2022 is April 15-18.

The Tree of Life is a symbol found in many cultures and religions around the world. Showing variously the connection between Earth and Sky, the connection between all living things or the cycle of the seasons, there can be many different ways it is depicted. What would the tree look like if it were created by a bunch of SFF fans?

Our goal is to create a wall-hanging of a Tree of Life with all kinds of fantastic lifeforms on it. We will prepare a background cloth with the basic elements on it – earth/grass and sky and the outline of a tree. One of the defining features of the type of Tree of Life we’re envisioning is that it shows all kinds of different leaves, flowers and fruits on the same tree at the same time, often with added animals as well. So, we’re asking you to create something SFF-inspired for the tree – with sources as varied as fairy-tales and space opera, and to be honest, life on this here planet is often strange enough to qualify as well. I’m envisioning something highly stylized and drawing on naive and medieval art rather than realism.

So, what exactly do we want, and what should it be created from? We’re taking the name of Reclamation seriously and are going to reclaim and reuse all the bits and pieces lying around from previous projects – leftover yarn, felt and leather scraps, pretty paper. For example, I’ve been collecting gift wrapping paper that I found too pretty to throw out, as well as a bunch of small pieces that were left over from when I was wrapping the gifts. Those make great sources for origami and other paper crafts!

(2) KICK CANCER’S BUTT. Author John Barnes’ wife has pancreatic cancer and the family needs financial help. A GoFundMe has been launched.

“Fundraiser by Orion Rodriguez : Help Diane Kick Cancer’s Butt!” Full medical details at the link. The appeal’s introduction asks —

A few words from Orion

Whether you’ve worked with her as a teacher or tutor, collaborated with her as an artist, or simply known her as a neighbor or friend, there’s one thing everyone notices about Diane Talbot – she’s dedicated her life to helping others. Now, let’s all step up to help her!

(3) FALLING OFF THE EDGE? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Hugo Book Club Blog is delving into the potential issue with the Hugo Award’s 25 percent rule and how some categories are in danger of not being awarded at all, because not enough people vote in them: “The 25 per cent solution”. They suggest how the rule could be revised.

… This rule also comes from a time in which there was far more parity between the number of votes in various categories. In 1980 (the first year that we have full voting statistics on the Hugos for), the category which received the fewest votes was Best Fan Writer. In that year, 884 out of 1,788 Hugo voters voted for Fan Writer, giving that category a participation rate of 49 per cent.

Four decades later, the number of people voting in the Fan Writer category has not substantially changed, but the numbers voting in the prose fiction categories has drastically increased. Thus, the percentage of voters engaged with this category has decreased. This means that these Hugo Award categories are being endangered not due to declining interest in those categories when counted by number of voters, but rather by the enthusiasm and growth of other categories.

Fundamentally, the decision about whether or not the Best Editor – Long Form award is worth running should not be contingent on how many people voted in the Best Dramatic Presentation category….

(4) BORYS IN A BIT OF FINANCIAL DIFFICULTY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  Ukranian fan Borys Sydiuk (immediate family and couple of elderly dependents) is in a bit of financial difficulty.  He is in Kyiv but normal means of earning a living have stopped because some idiot keeps chucking shells and missiles at the city.

If anyone wishes to send him a few quid then Borys Sydiuk’s PayPal is info@ngo.org.ua Small amounts gratefully received.  This is not for a huge medical bill or some grand project, but some cash for living basics. (The economy in Ukraine has gone very peculiar.)

(5) SAYING FOR THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie,] “Science Fiction can only be created by a free mind.” Igor Likhovoi, Ukraine’ s Minister for Culture & Tourism in 2006 at the 2006 Eurocon.

(6) RATHBONE FOLIO PRIZE. The Rathbones Folio Prize 2022 winner is a non-genre novel by Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, The Magician (Viking), a “haunting, intimate portrait of the exiled German Nobel winner Thomas Mann.” He will receive a £30,000 prize,

(7) RICHARD LABONTÉ (1949-2022). Canadian fan, writer and editor Richard Labonté died March 20.

In 1967 he started ACUSFOOS, A Carleton University Speculative Fiction Organization, Of Sorts. He was the one who introduced Susan Wood to fandom as she later recalled: “Too late, I realized that that shy, mild-mannered, clean-shaven, white-shirted young gentleman in the corner of our newspaper office, who did all the work and never spoke to anyone, was the infamous Richard Labonte, Secret Master of Canadian Fandom. I was enslaved…” He soon was part of the community around Susan and Mike Glicksohn’s Hugo-winning fanzine Energumen. He even was once a department head of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, in charge of Round Robins. 

In later years Labonté became well-known professionally as the editor or co-editor of numerous anthologies of LGBT literature and won the Lambda Literary Award three times.

Daniel Lynn Alvarez paid tribute to him on Facebook.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1976 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-six years ago at MidAmeriCon where Ken Keller was the Chair and Robert A. Heinlein (pro) and George Barr (fan) were the Guests, A Boy And His Dog won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. (Also, a pre-release cut was shown at the 1974 Worldcon.)

It was directed by L.Q. Jones who also wrote the screenplay which was based on the novella by Harlan Ellison. A novella nominated for a Hugo at Heicon ’70 – a category won that year by “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones“. 

The cast was Don Johnson, Susanne Benton, Alvy Moore and Jason Robards. It’s a small ensemble but it fit the story.

So how was the reception for it at the time? Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times mostly liked it: “The movie’s about eccentrics (especially the dog, who turns out to be very eccentric), and Jones seems to have a feel for that: The movie doesn’t look or sound like most s-f tours of alternative futures. It’s got a unique . . . well, I was about to say charm, but the movie’s last scene doesn’t quite let me get away with that.”  

The New York Times in an unsigned review (apparently no one wanted to take credit for the review) wasn’t as kind: “’A Boy and His Dog,’ a fantasy about the world after a future holocaust, is, more or less, a beginner’s movie. It has some good ideas and some terrible ones. The good ideas are marred by awkwardness; the terrible ideas are redeemed somewhat by being, at least, unpredictable.”

Despite costing only four hundred thousand to produce, it was a box office disaster. It has, not unsurprisingly, become a cult film. You can watch it on Amazon Prime and a lot of other streaming services as well. Though not quite a Meredith moment, it is available to purchase on Amazon and iTunes. 

It has an excellent sixty-three percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. Was there ever a more fun writer to read? I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are as I said damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? Not a Hugo to be had by Piper, amazingly, but Little Fuzzy was nominated at the first Discon when The Man in the High Castle won. (Died 1964.)
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction, actually still a damn fine read, which is unusual for this sort of material which can tend towards being rather dry.  (It picked up a Hugo nomination at NolaCon II.) If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. He did win an International Horror Guild Award for Fantasy and Horror: A Critical and Historical Guide to Literature, Illustration, Film, TV, Radio, and the Internet . (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 23, 1937 Carl Yoke, 85. One of those academics that I stumbled upon when I was looking for information on Zelazny. His 1979 study of him, Roger Zelazny, is quite excellent, as is his essay, “Roger Zelazny’s Bold New Mythologies” which is in Tom Staicar’s Critical Encounters II: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. He also wrote “What a Piece of Work is a Man: Mechanical Gods in the Fiction of Roger Zelazny” which you’ll find in Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Yoke does have two genre stories to his credit, they’re called The Michael Holland Stories.
  • Born March 23, 1947 Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, 75. Though her only award was a Nebula for The Healer’s War, I remember her best for a three book series called The Songkiller Saga which was wonderful and the Acorna series that she did with Anne McCaffrey which they co-wrote all but two as the first two were written by McCaffrey and Margaret Ball. She wrote a tribute to McCaffrey, “The Dragon Lady’s Songs”, that appeared in Dragonwriter.
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 70. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say I have liked everything he writes, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel for the two in the Mars trilogy at ConAdian and LoneStarCon 2 (the first novel got nominated at ConFrancisco but did not win), BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work! 
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 64. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born March 23, 1959 Maureen Kincaid Speller, 63. Former editor of Matrix, and former Administrator of the British Science Fiction Association. Senior Reviews Editor at Strange Horizons and Assistant Editor at Foundation. Also reviews for Interzone and Vector among others; a collection of her reviews appeared as And Another Thing … (2011, chapbook). Co-editor (with husband Paul Kincaid) of The Best of Vector Vo.1 (2015). Fanzines include Steam Engine Time (with Bruce Gillespie and Paul Kincaid) and Snufkin’s Bum. Founder of Acnestis apa. Four-times judge of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, has also served as a judge of the Otherwise Award (formerly known as the James Tiptree Jr. Award) and the Rotsler Award. TAFF delegate in 1998. Joint Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 1996 (Evolution) with Paul Kincaid. Winner of the Nova Award for Best Fanwriter 1998. [Birthday done by by Ziv Wities.]
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 45. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think that there’s a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally  she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater’s joke becomes more grotesque every moment you think about it.
  • Bizarro finds inspiration by adding a comma to the first line of a classic.

(11) BRADBURY’S EC STORIES. Fantagraphics will release Home to Stay!: The Complete Ray Bradbury EC Stories on October 25. Surely this belongs under your Halloween tree?

Between 1951 and 1954, EC Comics adapted 28 classic Ray Bradbury stories into comics form, scripted by Al Feldstein and interpreted and illustrated by all of EC’s top artists: Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, Will Elder, George Evans, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, Bernard Krigstein, Joe Orlando, John Severin, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, and Wallace Wood. This special companion collection to our EC Comics Library series features all 28 stories with stunning art reproduced in generously oversized coffee table dimensions!

(12) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Leslie Felperin of the Guardian reviews the rotoscoped fantasy film The Spine of Night, though she seems to believe it’s steampunk, when it’s really a sword and sorcery film: “The Spine of Night review – a heady concoction of steampunk and flower power”

… The Spine of Night is set in a world that seems to be going through an historical period roughly analogous to our late medieval/early Renaissance era of colonialism and discovery, when better armed conquistadors with better weapons and fewer scruples conquer the native occupants of a swampy land. However, the indigenous people, who go about mostly naked all the time, have magical blue flower power, in the literal shape of a botanical tech that shamanistic priestess Tzod (voiced by Lucy Lawless) can control with her mind and do cool stuff with, like making lethal blue flames…

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/22 Credentials On Your Knee, Pixel, Scroll And Ray

(1) EASTERCON WANTS YOUR DRABBLES. The UK’s national science fiction convention, Eastercon, aka Reclamation 2022, is running April 15-18 at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre London Heathrow. Guests of Honor are Mary Robinette Kowal, Phillip Reeve, Tasha Suri and Nicholas Whyte. Here’s how you can join in the fun, wherever you may be.

We wanted to do something a little different with Reclamation and so are resurrecting an age-old fannish tradition of drabbling. Depending on how many we receive, we may make posters to display round the convention, and publish them in the convention readme booklet. We’re looking for tiny, standalone speculative fiction tales, of exactly 100-words each.

What is a drabble?

A drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly 100 words long, excluding its title. If you imagine a novel to be a full three-course meal, a drabble is more of an amuse-bouche: a single, bite-sized delight that gets your taste buds primed for the next course.

For more information, go to: https://reclamation2022.co.uk/drabbles/

(2) YOUR NEXT TBR. Amal El-Mohtar is back with a batch of reviews in “Otherworldly” at the New York Times.

…Delilah S. Dawson’s THE VIOLENCE (Del Rey, 498 pp., $28) takes place in a post-Covid Florida, on the cusp of a very different pandemic. It’s 2025, and Chelsea Martin lives an apparently idyllic life in a gated community with her wealthy husband, two daughters and small fashionable dog. In reality, Chelsea’s husband is physically and emotionally abusive, and has systematically cut her off from any friends or support systems apart from her cruel and self-absorbed mother. But as a new disease called the Violence spreads — causing brief, individual episodes of amnesiac rage during which the infected beat the nearest living thing to death — Chelsea sees an opportunity to free herself and her daughters….

(3) ROLL ‘EM, ROLL ‘EM, ROLL ‘EM. Head ‘em up and move ‘em out! The Hollywood Reporter says Paramount is determined to have a Star Trek movie for Christmas 2023 but they don’t have a script and no stars are attached to the project. “Why Paramount’s ‘Star Trek’ Sequel Reveal Surprised Its Own Stars”.

On Feb. 15, Paramount (nee ViacomCBS) announced that it would boldly go where it hasn’t managed to go before — a fourth iteration in a stalled 21st century feature strategy for the Star Trek franchise. During the Paramount investor day, producer J.J. Abrams — who rebooted the sci-fi franchise for the big screen in 2009 — revealed that the USS Enterprise was being readied for a new flight. “We are thrilled to say that we are hard at work on a new Star Trek film that will be shooting by the end of the year that will be featuring our original cast,” Abrams said.

The proclamation came as a surprise, not just to observers who have been watching the movie studio haltingly try to revive Trek on the big screen for years but to the actors and their representatives as well.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that most, if not all, teams for the franchise’s primary players — who include Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldaña and John Cho — were not aware that an announcement for another film was coming, much less that their clients would be touted as a part of the deal, and certainly not that their clients would be shooting a movie by year’s end. Insiders say that Pine, who plays Captain Kirk, is the first to enter into early negotiations as he is the lynchpin to the project.

The hope is to begin filming in the fall in order to make the Dec. 22, 2023, theatrical release. The script is still being worked on, according to sources, and there is no green light or budget in place. In fact, the budget will now likely have to account for talent deals that may be supersized. Industry insiders say that Paramount let go of negotiating leverage in order to have a key chess piece as it courts Wall Street investors.

(4) CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR. On the Jeopardy! National College Championship, Friday, Andrew Porter witnessed a contestant miss this one:

Category: Science Fiction

In this “colorful” author’s “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” alien sculptures called the Carls pop up all over the Earth.

Wrong question: Who is John Green?

Correct question: Who is Hank Green?

(5) THE INVENTOR OF BOOKS ON TAPE. The Los Angeles Times paid tribute to the late Duvall Hecht, whose daily grind to L.A. led to Books on Tape – he died February 10 at the age of 91.

Duvall Hecht was somewhere between his banking job in Los Angeles and his home in Newport Beach when he realized he’d heard the same song for the third or fourth time. On the news stations, the daily report had grown stale and repetitive. The commercials were numbing and endless.

It was, he told The Times years later, the most “deadly two hours” in his day, a grinding commute devoid of any intellectual stimulation.

In a flurry of entrepreneurial magic, he sold his 1965 Porsche, hired a college drama coach and created what would become volume No. 1 in the soon-to-be-massive Books on Tape catalog, a recording of George’s Plimpton’s football tale, “Paper Lion.”

“It never once seemed like a wacky idea to me,” he said in 2001, shortly after selling his startup to Random House for an estimated $20 million.

Hecht, a man of varied interests, died Feb. 10 at his home in Costa Mesa, his wife, Ann Marie Rousseau, said. He was 91.

… Customers would rent book tapes for 30 days, and since Hecht didn’t charge a deposit, they were on an honor system to return them. For the most part, he said, customers held up their end of the bargain and mailed back the tapes.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1993 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  

Babylons one, two and three were sabotaged and destroyed. Number four vanished without a trace twenty-four hours after becoming operational. To this day no one knows what happened to it. — John Sinclair to Lyta Alexander in Babylon 5: The Gathering 

Twenty-nine years ago on PTEN, Babylon 5: The Gathering aired, the first of six feature length films that would happen in the franchise. And thus J. Michael Straczynski’s vision of this SF series came to be. This was written by him and directed by Richard Compton who had minor acting roles in Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Enterprise Incident”.  Really minor acting roles. 

It was executive produced by Douglas Netter and Straczynski. Netter would between the third and fourth seasons of Babylon 5 found Netter Digital, a CGI special effects company. Unfortunately Straczynski was his only client, so the end of the Babylon 5 related projects such as Crusade meant the end of the company. 

Actual production was by Robert Latham Brown and John Copeland. The former has worked with Mel Brooks, George Lucas, Paul Verhoeven and Steven Spielberg. The latter really hasn’t done anything interesting outside of the Straczynskian universe. 

Babylon 5 always had a sprawling cast and this was no exception — here we had Michael O’Hare, Tamlyn Tomita, Jerry Doyle, Mira Furlan, Peter Jurasik, Andreas Katsulas and Patricia Tallman as the principal performers. 

It is said that following the success of the movie, Warner Bros. Television commissioned the series for production in May of that year, as part of its Prime Time Entertainment Network. The series would go on the air the next air in January. 

The pilot was quite different from the series. For example, Patricia Tallman who played Lyta Alexander here was replaced by Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters but would return later in the series, first as a recurring character and then as a regular. And the First Officer who was Laurel Takashima as played here by Tamlyn Tomita was replaced for the series by Claudia Christian who played Susan Ivanova. 

Straczynski later rejiggered it into a different version which is longer and adds footage that was obviously not seen in the original version including Kosh briefly speaking to Sinclair.

Reception by critics at the time was not overwhelming. The Boston Globe reviewer who saw it said that “Great special effects do not make for great science fiction. Writing is what makes TV series cook. Unfortunately, writing is the single biggest problem haunting Babylon 5.” And Variety said “It’s going to be a close call whether to make “Babylon 5” a series or just leave it as this one-shot telefilm. As a stand-alone, “Babylon 5” falls short of the mark, but it’s a serviceable first episode.”

It currently holds a sixty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1917 Reed Crandall. Illustrator and penciller best known for the Forties Quality Comics‘ Blackhawk (a DC property later) and for stories in myriad EC Comics during the 1950s.  In the late Sixties, he did the illustration work on King Features Syndicate’s King Comics comic-book version of the syndicate’s Flash Gordon strip. He’s been inducted into Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I’m reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok if he’s not genre but if he’s still fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929 James Hong, 93. Though not quite genre, he became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee in Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize Colossus: The Forbin Project where he’s Dr. Chin but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. It’s back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng and he’s Che’tsai in Tank Girl.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1930 Edward Hoch, The lines between detective fiction and genre fiction can be awfully blurry at times. ISFDB listed him but I was damned if I could figure out why considering he’s known as a writer of deceive fiction who wrote several novels and close to a thousand short stories. It was his Simon Ark character who was the protagonist of Hoch’s first published story and who was ultimately featured in thirty-nine  of his stories that made him a genre writer as Ark is the cursed by God immortal doomed to wander forevermore and solved crimes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best known work suggest my question really isn’t  relevant as there may be no difference between the two. She was for a long time an influential reviewer for Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 22, 1953 Genny Dazzo, 69. She attended the first Star Trek Convention in New York. She was later involved in the local SF con, Lunacon. Moving out to LA, she was on the committee for all of the LA Worldcons as well as many Westercons, Loscons, and AnimeLA. Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 31 and Loscon 27 (with husband Craig Miller).
  • Born February 22, 1972 Duane Swierczynski, 50. Though a mystery writer by trade, he’s also worked as a writer at both DC and Marvel on some very impressive projects. He did writing duties on the second volume of time traveling soldier Cable, penned the Birds of Prey as part of The New 52 relaunch and wrote an excellent Punisher one-off, “Force of Nature”.

(8) REMEMBER THE BOSS. Last November, a Mark Twain Signed Copy of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court went for $68,750 at auction. Interestingly, bidding started at only $2,400 – there’s a video but it’s not a very visual experience.

Signed on front pastedown, “Taking the pledge will not / make bad liquor good, but it will improve it. / Mark Twain / Oct / 06.”

(9) SUBGENRES. At CrimeReads, Richard Thomas explains what “New Weird and “hopepunk” fiction are all about in “Time to Discover Your New Favorite Sub-Genre of Fiction”, which you might not have guessed are areas of expertise for an author whose forthcoming collection is titled Spontaneous Human Combustion.

As a reader, and viewer, of contemporary dark stories, I’m most drawn to work that does not sit nicely in the middle of a major genre. I’m drawn to the periphery, the edges, the shadows, and cobwebbed corners. And these three subgenres—neo-noir, new-weird, and hopepunk—all have those traits in common. They are looking to pull us in with techniques, tropes, rules, and histories that are familiar–so we’ll know how to access these works, how to set up our expectations. And then…they subvert those expectations. Not with deus ex machina twists that come out of nowhere, but with unique moments, surprises that feel fated, and endings that are earned. And I think it’s okay to be polarizing, too. As a writer, I’d rather have half my audience hate what I did and the other have love it, then have 90% think it was just okay. And I think the films coming out from A24 and Neon, television shows like Squid Game and Midnight Mass, and books being written by award-winning authors such as Stephen Graham Jones, Usman T. Malik, A. C. Wise, Brian Evenson, and Kelly Robson are doing the same thing. They are honoring the past, pouring themselves into the work, and then taking us someplace new, inspired, and unsettling. And isn’t that why we’re here?…

(10) STAPLEDON ON FILM. Chicago Reader’s Maxwell Rabb praises “Last and First Men”.

Before his untimely death, the prophetic Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhansson completed his first and final film, exploring a delicate space between the literary and the cinematic for a science fiction classic. Last and First Men is the composer’s reimagined narrative of Olaf Stapledon’s triumphant sci-fi novel by the same name. Jóhansson’s haunting adaptation facilitates a chilling link between two distinct humanities spanning across two billion years…. 

(11) HOME IMPROVEMENT. “Now Witness the Power of This Armed and Fully Operational Space Toilet” – John Scalzi explains his bathroom upgrade at Whatever. How can you not read a post that has such a perfect headline?

Last year Krissy decided that she wanted to upgrade our bathroom suite, and not in just a “new hand towels and shower curtain” way — a whole revamp. I was fine with this, I said, if I got what I wanted out of it: a supercool space age “intelligent toilet” with all the bells and whistles. It took a while, because 2021 was The Year of Supply Chain Issues, but the new bathroom is 90% completed and the Space Toilet is now installed and operational….

(12) THE STARS MY DETONATION. “A supernova could light up the Milky Way at any time. Astronomers will be watching” promises Nature.

Masayuki Nakahata has been waiting 35 years for a nearby star to explode.

He was just starting out in science the last time it happened, in February 1987, when a dot of light suddenly appeared in the southern sky. This is the closest supernova seen during modern times; and the event, known as SN 1987A, gained worldwide media attention and led to dramatic advances in astrophysics.

Nakahata was a graduate student at the time, working on what was then one of the world’s foremost neutrino catchers, the Kamiokande-II detector at the Kamioka Underground Observatory near Hida, Japan. He and a fellow student, Keiko Hirata, spotted evidence of neutrinos pouring out of the supernova — the first time anyone had seen these fundamental particles originating from anywhere outside the Solar System.

Now, Nakahata, a physicist at the University of Tokyo, is ready for when a supernova goes off. He is head of the world’s largest neutrino experiment of its kind, Super-Kamiokande, where upgrades to its supernova alert system were completed late last year. The improvements will enable the observatory’s computers to recognize when it is detecting neutrinos from a supernova, almost in real time, and to send out an automated alert to conventional telescopes worldwide….

(13) THEY CAN DIG IT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] At The Space Review, John Strickland looks at the logistics of Elon Musk’s Mars plans, including Musk’s claim that he will have to take one million tons of stuff to Mars to make the mission work and how large Martian farms would have to be to supply enough food for the mission. “Building Musk’s path to Mars”.

…Partial self-sufficiency depends heavily on two issues: energy production and food production, which itself depends on energy production. In addition, both depend on the ability to build industrial facilities to make fuel and materials, and to construct pressurized habitats to house crew and provide growing areas for food plants.

Most people greatly underestimate the effort it will take to build growing areas and grow food crops on Mars or in space. On Earth, a one-square-kilometer (247-acre) farm gets a maximum of about a one gigawatt of sunlight on a clear day, at noon in midsummer. Much less than this gets to the plants due to clouds, etc., and the plants only use about 1% of what they get to make plant tissue, only part of which is actually edible food. To create one square kilometer of pressurized growing space will require a huge amount of structural materials, and most of that will need to be made locally. Even so, Elon Musk estimates that he will need to transport one million tons of cargo to Mars before a settlement is relatively self-sufficient.

It is important to realize how large the SpaceX cargo capacity to an operating Mars development base will be. Most NASA concepts envision barely enough mass—typically a few tens of tons—to support a crew for one short mission. The high SpaceX mass transport capacity will allow a large amount of industrial equipment to be sent. This would include equipment designed to smelt Mars minerals into metals, alloy them, and then to turn the structural metals into pressurized habitats, drill rigs, and other kinds of equipment. Large amounts of other artificial materials, such as plastics and polymers, will also be produced. Tunnel boring and lining equipment would also be included. Operations will be limited more by manpower than by lack of equipment and supplies.

Musk has a goal of building the large fleet of Starships needed to carry the required amount of equipment and supplies to get a settlement going. If an advanced Starship stage can carry 200 tons of cargo to the surface of Mars, 5,000 trips of such vehicles to Mars would be able to carry the one million tons. Ignoring the prior build-up phase, if he had 500 Starship stages with the tankers to support them, he would be able to transport that much during just ten Mars launch windows or in about 22 years. In actuality, the number of flights would be increasing from year to year, as the 500 stages could carry 100,000 tons during each window, and the existing crew would not be able to handle such a large volume of materials without a carefully planned ramp-up sequence….

(14) BIG BIRD. “Scottish fossil of flying reptile leaves scientists ‘gobsmacked’” says Yahoo!

A fossil jawbone peeking out from a limestone seashore on Scotland’s Isle of Skye led scientists to discover the skeleton of a pterosaur that showed that these remarkable flying reptiles got big tens of millions of years earlier than previously known.

Researchers said on Tuesday this pterosaur, named Dearc sgiathanach, lived roughly 170 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, soaring over lagoons in a subtropical landscape and catching fish and squid with crisscrossing teeth perfect for snaring slippery prey.

Its scientific name, pronounced “jark ski-an-ach,” means “winged reptile” in Gaelic.

With a wingspan of about 8 feet (2.5 meters), Dearc was the Jurassic’s largest-known pterosaur and the biggest flying creature that had inhabited Earth to that point in time. Some pterosaurs during the subsequent Cretaceous Period achieved much greater dimensions – as big as fighter jets. But Dearc shows that this scaling up had its origins much earlier….

(15) RELIEF PITCH ON THE WAY. Ryan George came out with his first Pitch Meeting in a month for a film that isn’t genre (Uncharted Pitch Meeting) and says at the end that he is leaving Screen Rant – but it’s barely an inconvenience! He’s starting his own channel on March 10.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Encanto,” the Screen Junkies say the newest Disney animated film has “so many characters that even the characters can’t keep up with the characters” and at least the fifth villain in a Disney cartoon named Bruno.  And how did it take Disney this long to find out that capybaras are adorable?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chris Barkley, 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 Brown Robin.]

Pixel Scroll 2/15/22 The Silver Mithril Playbook

(1) OSCAR FAN VOTING OPENS. “Oscars to recognize fan favorite film at 2022 ceremony” reports Entertainment Weekly.

…AMPAS announced Monday that beginning now through March 3, audiences can vote on Twitter for their favorite movie of 2021 using the #OscarsFanFavorite hashtag or by casting a ballot on the Oscars Fan Favorite website. The winning fan-favorite film of the year will then be announced live during the 2022 Oscars ceremony….

In addition to the fan-favorite vote, the Academy is asking audiences to use Twitter to vote for an #OscarsCheerMoment spotlighting moments that made them “erupt into cheers in theaters” while watching. Five winners selected from the pool of participants will win a package, including tickets to a full year of free movies in a theater of their choice, streaming subscriptions, and exclusive items from the Academy Museum shop.

(2) TRUNK MUSIC. And in relation to the previous announcement, CBR.com says the logrolling has begun in earnest: “Snyder Cut Fans Mobilize to Win Justice League an Oscar in the Fan-Voted Category”.

… The passionate fanbase surrounding Zack Snyder’s Justice League is back at it again, this time calling for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give an Oscar to Snyder’s film.

… Following the film’s release, Justice League formed a wide and vocal fanbase, who spent years demanding Warner Bros. to allow Snyder to complete his version of the film. Some of the film’s stars joined in on the #ReleasetheSnyderCut movement, confirming that his version was already near completion and only needed visual effects work to be completed.

(3) 2022 RHYSLING AWARD CHAIR UPDATE: The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association today announced that due to unexpected medical reasons, Kimberly Nugent has had to step down from serving as the 2022 Rhysling Award Chair.

In her absence, SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra has appointed Webmaster F.J. Bergmann and Secretary Brian Garrison to finish out the Chair duties this year.

(4) BATTLING AMAZON KDP. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has written a long catch-up post for Facebook readers, published yesterday, which covers many topics, including news that Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing restored his royalties, and that The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) anthology has consequently been turned into a free download. Here is a brief excerpt:

…Amazon KDP did eventually pay my complete royalties, about $1500 which I got using Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s US account. Jason Sanford helped send the Gofundme money & I finished paying all the authors with it & donated all the Amazon royalties to the African Speculative Fiction Society as I promised. The money is being used to help set up a fund that will help African writers navigate institutional barriers to entry & participating in international SFF activities like the ones Amazon & other bodies have thrown up.

I withdrew the book from Amazon completely cuz the evil they’ve done is enough. & I just can’t trust em as a platform anymore.

…I have made the anthology, which is the first ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology entirely free in all formats as I promised.

You can download the file at Jembefola: The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

(5) ERIC FLINT MEDICAL UPDATE. Eric Flint told his Facebook followers yesterday that he’s in the midst of a long hospital stay for a staph infection.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and the reason is simple: I’ve been in the hospital for the past three weeks, sicker than the proverbial dog. I came down with a staph infection that caused me to collapse getting out of bed — and then I couldn’t get up, I was so weak. (Trust me, this is a a really scary experience.)

I’d always known staph infections could be rough, but I had no idea just how bad they could be. Happily, I’m over the worst of it and my recovery is coining along well. I’ll probably be released from the hospital in ten days, although I’ll still have to do home rehab for a while longer.

(6) BUTLER Q&A REVISITED. “Octavia Butler imagines a world without racism” on NPR’s Book of the Day podcast.

During Black History month, Book of the Day is bringing you some interviews from the archives, including this one with author Octavia Butler. Butler wrote many sci-fi classics, like the Parable series and Kindred, so she’s accustomed to imagining different worlds. NPR’s Scott Simon asked her back in 2001 to imagine a world without racism. Butler believed that in racism’s place we would have to have absolute empathy. But she told Simon that this would most certainly present its own challenges – and we would probably just find something else to fight about.

(7) BLACK HISTORY MONTH CONTINUES. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its “Black Heritage HWA interview series” –

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been a writer. One of my earliest memories is folding white paper in half, drawing stick figures and captions, and titling the book “Baby Bobby.” On the back, I wrote “Baby Bobby is a book about a baby. The author is Tananarive Due.” I spelled a bunch of the words wrong, but BOOM. I came into this world understanding that I was a writer.

Do you make a conscious effort to include African diaspora characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

I do. I have several projects with my agent and every one of them has an African American protagonist. Each character has obstacles to overcome, which they do despite the deck being stacked against them. All of these are based on real life people. My intent is to put forth to the African American Community, especially the younger generation, that it is possible to overcome obstacles and not to be deterred from their final objective, goals, and dreams in life.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

You know, I didn’t tend to think of a lot of it has horror going in, but certainly see how the label fits. I believe that we get through things, not over them. Sometimes the way through involves terror and tribulation—also that hope can be a twisted thing and at times you find flecks of it in the most unexpected places.

What inspired you to start writing?

Hands down, it was my father, Chris Acemandese Hall. He was a songwriter, artist, activist and author. As a songwriter, he penned the jazz classics, “So What” and “Bitches Brew” sung by vocalese great, Eddie Jefferson. As an artist, you may have seen his works from Let’s Celebrate Kwanza, Melanin and Me, the Lost Books of the Bible and Budweiser’s Great Kings of Africa promo where he did the Hannibal poster, the Ethiopian who led a Carthaginian army and a team of elephants against Rome in the Second Punic War. As an author, he was responsible for creating Little Zeng, a character I’m now developing in my new horror novel. Little Zeng was the first published African Griot superhero. He was published three years before Black Panther who Marvel introduced in July, 1966.

Dad also co-founded an activist group called AJASS (African Jazz Art Society & Studio), along with Elombe Brath and others. Among starting the Black is Beautiful ideology with the Black Arts Movement, featuring the Grandassa Models, AJASS’s influence in the African-American diaspora not only affected civil rights leaders, as well as poets, musicians, photographers, models, artists and singers, it influenced every cell in my body.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Bring your personal brand of weirdness to the page. I want to meet your demons. I want to be made to feel uncomfortable about how much you love vampires and werewolves. I want to see the monsters that frightened your great grandparents and the cultural superstitions that haven’t been white washed by American society. Tell me about the thing that scared you the most when you were a kid and why it still haunts you to this day. Write about race and sex and class and trauma and politics and religion and don’t pull any punches. I want to laugh, cry and clutch my pearls while you’re trying to scare me.

(8) HWA ON MAUS. The Horror Writer Association’s Officers and Board of Trustees issued a statement on a Tennessee school district’s decision about Maus.

The Horror Writers Association condemns banning books in no uncertain terms. We believe authors need to be able to tell their stories without fear of reprisal.
 
The banning of “Maus” in a Tennessee school district, which was done on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is nothing less than censorship and anti-Semitism.
 
“Maus” is not the first text to be excluded from school libraries. Recently, LGBTQ+ texts have been banned in a Washington state school district, and many other books by authors of color have been censored in districts across America. These are chilling examples of censorship, racism, anti-Semitism, and white washing. We all need to be more vocal each and every time this happens.

These actions set a dangerous precedent in a free society. They cannot and should not be tolerated. The HWA condemns all attempts at censorship, particularly these obvious attempts of the establishment to silence marginalized voices. We urge you to speak out in your local communities against such autocratic tactics that not only threaten our creative community but also make our world less safe.

(9) CALL ME UNRELIABLE. A guest feature by S. A. Barnes – “The Curse of Being an Unreliable Narrator” at Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup.

I remember clearly the first time someone else referred to Claire Kovalik, the main character in Dead Silence, as an unreliable narrator. My emotional response took me aback—first, surprise and then a sudden surge of defensiveness.

She’s doing the best she can, I wanted to say. I mean, come on, she’s locked up in what amounts to a mental institution at the start of the story, after a head injury and a traumatic incident that she doesn’t quite remember involving her crew and a mysterious ghost ship. What do you want from her???

The funny thing is, the statement wasn’t meant as a critique, not at all. It was simply a fact—Claire Kovalik is an unreliable narrator. Of course she is. She must be, for all the reasons listed above and more. And I’d done those things very intentionally, so why the strange and powerful reaction?

It took me a bit to step back from that moment and deconstruct what was going on in my mind….

(10) SF AUTHORS ANTICIPATE GENE EDITING. Fanac.org has posted video of the Tropicon 6 (1987) panel “Future Evolution” with Joe Green, Jack Haldeman II, Vincent Miranda and Tom Maddox.

Tropicon 6 was a small local convention, held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1987. This panel discussion about gene editing and the Future of Future Evolution is worth watching for several reasons. Thanks to author Joe Green, the panel focuses in very quickly on gene editing, and the issues it brings to confront humanity, both technically and ethically. The insightful comments by the panelists, and the issues and choices discussed are still very much with us, despite the panel having been recorded in 1987. One warning – there is loud background air conditioning noise for the first 15 minutes or so, but the sound is perfect for the remainder of the recording. The recording also provides a view into the dynamics of small, local conventions, where the writers are part of the community, know each other, and are not adverse to arguing with the audience. Everyone knows everyone, and no one is shy about asking questions. This panel was held at 10PM on Friday night, and there is silliness in the beginning. Some of the audience questions have been cut due to sound issues. Joe Siclari, now Chairman of the Fan History project, introduces the panel and the panel ending is signalled by me, Edie Stern, now FANAC.org webmaster.

(11) EASTERCON MEMBERSHIPS. Reclamation 2022 is this year’s Eastercon, the annual British national science fiction convention, being held April 15-18 at Radisson London Heathrow.

Membership is £70 until the end of February, after which it will £80. (And it will cost more on the door). Book here.

(12) HORROR WORKSHOPS. HWA’s Horror University Online is offering a series of workshops. Registration is $65 for non-HWA-members, $55 for HWA members, and four- and ten-course bundles are available. Here are the next few —

Jason Henderson, host of the Castle of Horror Podcast, publisher at Castle Bridge Media and best-selling writer of Night of the Book Man and the Alex Van Helsing and Young Captain Nemo series gives you a two-hour course in getting from idea to launchable manuscript in six weeks, covering: Choosing your sub-genre; Making Your Familiar Monsters Different; Outlining your novel; Forcing Yourself to Draft; Editing; and The Basics of Publishing- Traditional and Non-Traditional.

  • March 7: A Writer Prepares: Techniques for Character Development for Fiction Writing with John Palisano.

How does one develop compelling characters? What happens when you hit a wall in a scene and you’re not sure what to do or where to go? What if you just can’t hear the character’s voice? How do you create several characters within a story that all seem to be distinct and memorable?

In my class A Writer Prepares: Character development for fiction writing attendees will gain several useful tools as well as handouts they can use into the future for developing characters for their stories.

Using experience I gained while in Acting and Drama school, as well as real world experience in putting on plays, working on big Hollywood feature films with A-level talent, as well as in multi-award winning fiction of my own, this class A Writer Prepares: Character development for fiction writing is a riff on the famous Konstantin Stanislavsky book and method … but taken into the here and now! Get ready to have some fun!

What makes an agent, editor, or publisher interested in a pitch and how do you prepare to give one? What are the things a pitch should cover and how can you avoid basic mistakes in the process? This workshop is all about the pitches (two verbal, two written) you will need as a writer and the different times when you will use them. This workshop will include hands-on verbal and written pitching of stories with immediate feedback in a safe environment.

(13) FORBES OBIT. Author Lani Forbes died February 3 at the age of 35 reports Rediscovered Books, which invites fans to join them for Lani’s Book Birthday and a Celebration of Life and Literature on February 17. Full details and registration here.

 Young adult author Lani Forbes, whose critically acclaimed Age of the Seventh Sun series won multiple Realm Awards, died on February 3, 2022, in Boise, Idaho, after a nine-month battle with neuroendocrine cancer. She was 35….  

Lani Forbes was the daughter of a librarian and a surfer, which explained her passionate love of the ocean and books. Forbes was born May 6, 1987, in Huntington Beach, California. She grew up in California, and attended high school at Huntington Beach High School. In 2009, Forbes received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Hope International University. She then received her teaching credentials from Cal State University. After 10 years of teaching, Forbes went on to become a trauma counselor, serving women who had been abused by their spouses through addiction.

Her young adult book series, the Age of the Seventh Sun, premiered in 2020 with the release of The Seventh Sun, followed by The Jade Bones in 2021 and The Obsidian Butterfly in 2022. The Seventh Sun was a finalist for the Realm Awards Book of the Year and won Best Debut, Best Young Adult, and Best Epic Fantasy. Forbes’s passion was showing readers the transformative and encouraging power of story on the human experience….

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1988 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-four years ago, the Red Dwarf series first aired on BBC Two. It was created by Doug Grant and Rob Naylor who based it off their Dave Hollins: Space Cadet that aired in the BBC Radio 4 series Son of Cliché show also produced by them.

As of two years ago, seventy-four  episodes of the series have aired, including one special, concluding the twelfth series. The cost has had myriad changes with only Chris Barrie as Rimmer, Craig Charles as Lister, Danny John-Julesas as Cat and Robert Llewellyn as Kryten being there for the entire series. 

Because Grant and Naylor not only directed the series but wrote the material and frequently changed everything as the series went along, critics came to be sharply divided on the series. The changes often caused them to loathe Grant and Naylor. Or love them. No middle ground at all. Grant and Naylor didn’t care one fuck. That’s a direct quote. 

BBC gave them two hundred fifty thousand pounds per episode, about three hundred thirty thousand dollars currently. Not a big budget but enough. It’s now broadcasting on Dave which is a British free-to-air television channel owned by UKTV, a joint venture of the BBC and Thames TV.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubtless best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu, I’ll also single out The Romance of Sorcery, as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” had a lead villain who looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Sixties Batman TV series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film, with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get SmartFantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1939 Jo Clayton. Best remembered for the Diadem universe saga which I’m reasonably sure spanned twenty novels before it wrapped up. Damned good reading there. Actually all of her fiction in my opinion is well worth reading. Her only award is the Phoenix Award given annually to a Lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas  Hofstadter, 77. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, ISFDB notes he wrote “The Tale of Happiton “, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker-edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 77. Dreaming Down-Under which he co-edited with Janeen Webb is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction. It won a Ditmar Award and was the first Australian fiction book ever to win the World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. As for his novels, I’m fond of High Steel written with Jack C. Haldeman II, and The Man Who Melted. He’s not that well-stocked digitally speaking though Dreaming Down-Under is available at the usual suspects.
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 74. Author and illustrator of Maus which if you’ve not read, you really should. He also wrote MetaMaus which goes into great detail how he created that work. (Discussed here at Green Man Review.) And yes, I know he had a long and interesting career in underground comics but I’ll be damned if I can find any that are either genre or genre adjacent. I know if I’m wrong that you’ll correct me. 
  • Born February 15, 1958 Cat Eldridge, 64. He’s the publisher of Green Man Review. He’s retconned into Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen as an enthomusicologist in exchange for finding her a rare volume of fairy tales.
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 51. Gabrielle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably sure that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Quite fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt and she’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse. She’s also played Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of Macbeth

(16) FROM DEEP POCKETS TO DEEP SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport interviews billionaire Jared Isaacman, who went into space last year on the first private spaceflight.  Isaacman says he is launching another four-person private spacelight later this year, and the Polaris Dawn mission will have the first private astronaut performing a spacewalk. “Jared Isaacman to fund 3 SpaceX flights, including first crewed launch of Starship”.

…In addition to the first commercial spacewalk, Isaacman said the first Polaris mission would endeavor “to go farther than anyone’s gone since we last walked on the moon — in the highest Earth orbit that anyone’s ever flown.” The record was set in 1966 by the Gemini 11 crew, which flew to 853 miles, the highest altitude for any non-lunar crewed mission, according to NASA.

The flight, which would take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, would require a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. But the FAA considers only the safety of people and property on the ground in granting such approval and not the risks their activities in space might pose to the crew.

The crew would also test SpaceX’s Starlink laser-based satellite communications technology in space. While Starlink satellites now beam Internet signals to rural areas on Earth, SpaceX is hoping to use the system for human spaceflight missions to the moon and Mars. 

(17) ENTERPRISE: SKELETON WAR. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Fan artist Marieke (@Spacelizart) did this piece based on Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005) and the 2013 meme Skeleton War:

(18) HASBRO MAKES THE RUN TO MARKET IN 13 PARSECS. That Hashtag Show turns thumbs down on this action figure: “Hasbro Fails Miserably With Star Wars Black Series Krrsantan”.

Well folks, The Book of Boba Fett Season 1 is in the books. One of its unquestionable highlights was Black Krrsantan leaping from the comic book page to live-action. Carey Jones perfectly brought the gladiator-turned-bounty-hunter to life, ably joining the late Peter Mayhew and Joonas Suotamo as Star Wars Wookiee mainstays. Hasbro, of course, is now looking to seize on Krrsantan’s popularity. The toy maker just announced a Black Series figure for the character, and frankly, it couldn’t be a bigger fail.

… Sorry, Hasbro, but the “new” Black Series Krrsantan is, in a word, awful. As many across social media have pointed out, the figure is nothing more than a repainted retread of an old Chewbacca figure from almost a decade ago. The only difference is the head sculpt. That, at least, features the Wookiee’s braids and scars. Unfortunately, the differences pretty much end there. Even the bowcaster weapon is the same. You can’t look at the Black Series figure and not think “black Chewbacca.” Plus, the monochrome accessories (while true to the comics) just look, well, cheap….

(19) GAME TO MOVIE. “’BioShock’ Movie in the Works at Netflix” says The Hollywood Reporter.

…The streaming giant [Netflix] has partnered with Take-Two Interactive, the game’s parent company, to develop a potential cinematic universe. Vertigo Entertainment and Take-Two will serve as producers.

No writer or filmmaker is on board at this time. The partnership deal has been in the works for almost a year.

Released in 2007 from 2K Games, a subsidiary of Take-Two, the first-person shooter game featured a crumbling underwater city named Rapture, its society fragmented in a civil war with many inhabitants addicted or using a genetically enhancing serum that gives people powers while also living in fear of Big Daddies, mutated humans who have been merged with diving suits. Into this world is dropped the game’s protagonist, Jack, a survivor of a mysterious plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean….

(20) FOR THOSE OF YOU KEEPING SCORE AT HOME. The New York Times has an update: “China, Not SpaceX, May Be Source of Rocket Part Crashing Into Moon”.

The developer of astronomy software who said that Elon Musk’s company would cause a new crater on the moon says that he “had really gotten it wrong.”

…Part of a rocket is expected to crash into the far side of the moon on March 4. Initially thought to be a SpaceX rocket stage, the object may actually be part of a Long March 3C rocket that launched in 2014….

(21) SITH OF ONE, HALF A DOZEN OF THE OTHER. Lucasfilm Games dropped this trailer today: “Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Legacy of the Sith”.

Legacy of the Sith will send players to the darkest depths and farthest reaches of the galaxy and unlock the ability to choose your personal combat style.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the Screen Junkies say that the newest Ghostbusters movie “invites you to remember how great the original was and — that’s it. That’s the whole movie.”  The film “gives the loudest people what they want…Easter eggs the size of Denver omelets.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Ed Fortune, Rob Thornton, Chris Barkley, Ben Bird Person, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/25/21 I Am The Pontiff Of Pixel, Scroller Of All I Survey

(1) I’D LIKE TO MEET HIS TAILOR. James Davis Nicoll is “Asking the Tough Questions About Superheroes and Public Nudity” at Tor.com. Don’t tell me this hasn’t troubled you, too!

…If [the superhero is] prone to turning into living flame? Clothes go up in flame. Super-cold? Cloth turns brittle when frozen. Change size? Clothing shreds. Or a teeny-tiny size-changer can slip between the weave of the cloth. Then change back to normal human and oops, no clothes.

In the old days, the Comics Code Authority guaranteed a certain level of protection from power-induced nudity. The Hulk’s pants size might go from M to XXXXXXXL but somehow his trousers always stretched enough to provide him with shorts. Similarly, Doctor Phosphorus’ skin incinerated everything it touched, despite which he somehow always had enough of his trousers left to avoid being charged with indecent exposure (well, in addition to terrorism and murder)….

(2) RECLAMATION 2022 VENUE ANNOUNCEMENT. The Reclamation 2022 committee today announced that next year’s UK Eastercon venue will be the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre London Heathrow. The con will run April 15-18, 2022.

The hotel, formerly known as the Park Inn, is a venue that will be familiar to regular science fiction convention goers and is easily accessed via various transport links. In addition to the hotel, there are local pubs and restaurants and central London is a tube ride away.

The committee would like to thank the community for their enormous patience. The current global situation made the process far more difficult than we’d hoped. It has taken over two years of searching to find a suitable venue for a convention of our size that will accommodate non-corporate gatherings.

We did want to announce the venue much earlier in the year. We had hoped to bring Eastercon to Brighton for 2022. Sadly, the venue required more extensive renovations than they, and we, first anticipated and it’s no longer available at this time. We hope to see an Eastercon there in the future.

To attend Reclamation, the 72nd Eastercon, you need to purchase membership for the convention. All information can be found on the website at https://reclamation2022.co.uk/membership/ . Membership can also be purchased at Eastercon fan tables, which can be found at various forthcoming fan conventions….

(3) MISSING CREDITS. The Irish Times’ John Connolly contends women writers of genre fiction are doubly ignored: “Pulp friction: Irish women’s place in genre writing should be rescued from ignominy”.

… The assault on genre writing in Ireland began as early as 1892, when Douglas Hyde, eventually to become the first president of the Irish Free State, gave a speech to the Irish National Literary Society in Dublin in which he urged his listeners to set their faces “sternly against penny dreadfuls, shilling shockers”. To Hyde, genre writing was not only “garbage” and “vulgar”, it was also “English”, which made it undesirable in the extreme. It had no relevance to his conception of Irishness, which was limited to everything “most smacking of the soil, most Gaelic”. If it was genre fiction, it wasn’t Irish literature. In fact, it probably wasn’t literature at all….

(4) PODCASTER Q&A. Cora Buhlert has posted a new “Fancast Spotlight” for Light On Light Through, a podcast by Paul Levinson: “Fancast Spotlight: Light On Light Through”.

 … Today, I’m pleased to feature Light On Light Through, a podcast run by Paul Levinson, who’s a science fiction author, singer/songwriter, media critic and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University.

Paul Levinson is clearly a very busy man, so I’m thrilled to welcome him to my blog today to talk about Light On Light Through….

(5) SUBGENRE CHALLENGES. Cora Buhlert, who sent this link, notes she’s not the only one who’s interviewing semiprozine editors. Bobby Derie just interviewed Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris, editors of the new magazine of Starward Shadows Quarterly“Editor Spotlight: Interview with Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris of Starward Shadows Quarterly”.

“We’re interested in exploring the wicked, strange places that walk the line between reality and nightmare—the alien, the absurd, and above all else, the weird.” —Starward Shadows Quarterly Submissions page

Aside from Lovecraft, other thematic inspirations cited for Starward Shadows Quarterly include J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. How do you handle the historical racism and colonialist tropes inherent in fantasy and sword & sorcery?

DRH: This is a tricky topic. The best I can explain it is that we always look for ways to bring fresh, modern insight on those topics, and we deliberately seek out authors who provide that. If a story doesn’t have a new, enlightened viewpoint that shatters racism and colonialism and instead falls back on addressing those grief-ridden topics in the same, tired, old ways, then we simply won’t publish the story—no matter how good it is otherwise. It isn’t enough for something to be “not that problematic.” It needs to actively counteract the social impact that previous authors have had in these difficult areas in order for us to accept it….

(6) THE DUNES ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The New York Times tells “How Hans Zimmer Conjured the Otherworldly Sounds of ‘Dune’”.

…For “Dune,” by contrast, Zimmer wanted to conjure sounds that nobody had ever heard before.

“I felt like there was a freedom to get away from a Western orchestra,” he said recently, speaking in the Warner Bros. offices overlooking Hudson Yards in New York. “I can spend days making up sounds.”

The resulting soundtrack might be one of Zimmer’s most unorthodox and most provocative. Along with synthesizers, you can hear scraping metal, Indian bamboo flutes, Irish whistles, a juddering drum phrase that Zimmer calls an “anti-groove,” seismic rumbles of distorted guitar, a war horn that is actually a cello and singing that defies Western musical notation — just to name a few of its disparate elements.

The score combines the gigantic, chest-thumping sound of Zimmer’s best known work of the last decade with the spirit of radical sonic experimentation. The weirdness is entirely befitting the saga of a futuristic, intergalactic civilization whose denizens are stalked by giant sandworms and revere a hallucinogenic substance called spice….

(7) IT’S NOT JUST A SURPRISING IDEA – IT’S THE LAW! “Pablo Escobar’s Cocaine Hippos Are Legally People, Court Rules”Gizmodo has the story.

Pablo Escobar’s hippos have a lawyer. And a good one at that. In a U.S. first, a court recognized the animals as legal persons. That could be the hippos’ salvation in the ongoing fight about what to do with one of the world’s most rotund and dangerous invasive species.

… Now, there are up to 120 hippos roaming around Colombia, and they are considered one of the top invasive species in the world. Authorities have weighed a plan to kill the hippos off and on since 2009, and its recently gained steam.

Last July, Colombian attorney Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado filed a lawsuit on the hippos’ behalf to save them from being euthanized. Instead, the case recommends sterilization. Colombian officials announced a plan to use a chemical contraceptive developed by the U.S. Agriculture Department to sterilize “the main group” of the hippos, and the region’s environmental agency Cornare began to implement the plan on Friday, darting 24 hippos. 

… “The Colombian legal system can’t compel someone in the U.S. to provide testimony or to produce documents, but we have this federal law that allows interested persons in Colombia to go to the U.S. and obtain that ability to obtain documents and testimony.” Christopher Berry, the attorney overseeing the U.S. case who also serves as managing director at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said. “So we applied for the hippos’ rights to compel their testimony in order to support the Colombian litigation, and now the [U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio] has granted that application, recognizing that the hippos are interested persons.”…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1968 – Fifty-three years this evening on NBC, Star Trek’s “Spectre of the Gun” first aired. It was written by former producer Gene L. Coon (under the name of Lee Cronin) and directed by Vincent McEveety.  It had one of the larger guest casts — Ron Soble  as Wyatt Earp, Bonnie Beecher as  Sylvia,  Charles Maxwell  as Virgil Earp, Rex Holman as Morgan Earp,  Sam Gilman as Doc Holliday,  Charles Seel as Ed the bartender, Bill Zuckert  as Johnny Behan,  Abraham Sofaer as the Melkotian Voice and Ed McCready as Barber. You know the premise, so I won’t detail it here.  I will note that the budget wasn’t available to shoot on location on a full set, so instead a Western street of false building fronts and no sides was used. It’s considered one of the finest episodes of the original though Keith R.A. DeCandido of Tor.com inexplicably decided to criticize the episode for its historical inaccuracies. Huh? And I’ll note that the First Doctor had done an Old West story two years previously, “The Gunfighters” and the Eleventh Doctor will have his own such story as well, “A Town Called Mercy”.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 25, 1909 Whit Bissell. You most likely know him as Station Manager Lurry on “The Trouble With Tribbles”,  but his major contribution to the SFF genre was being in all thirty episodes of The Time Tunnel as Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk. He also did one-offs on The InvadersI Dream of JeannieThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaScience Fiction TheaterThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. And yes, in the Time Machine film. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 25, 1940 Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties.  Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also know for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its long including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 25, 1955 Gale Anne Hurd, 66. Her first genre work was as Corman’s production manager on Battle beyond the Stars. (A decent forty-two percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) From there, we’ve such films as Æon Flux, the Terminator franchise, AliensAlien NationTremorsHulk and two of the Punisher films to name just some of her genre work. We’ll forgive her for the latter. 
  • Born October 25, 1955 Glynis Barber, 66. Soolin on Blake’s 7 for a series. She also appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles (Ian Richard and Donald Churchill were Holmes and Watson) and a Sherlock Holmes series I didn’t know about, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson starring Geoffrey Whitehead and Donald Pickering. 
  • Born October 25, 1963 John Gregory Betancourt, 58. Writer best known most likely for his work In Zelazny’s Amber universe but who has written quite a bit of other franchise fiction including works in the Star TrekHerculesRobert Silverberg’s Time ToursDr. Bones and The New Adventures of Superman. Most of his original fiction was early in his career. He’s also edited in a number of magazines including Weird TalesAmazing StoriesH. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of HorrorAdventure Tales and Cat Tales. He even co-edited with Anne McCaffrey, Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey. His Wildpress Press has been nominated three times for World Fantasy Awards. 
  • Born October 25, 1971 Marko Kloos, 50. Author of two MilSF series, Frontlines and The Palladium Wards. His Lines of Departure was nominated for Hugo Award for Best Novel at Sasquan on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. Four of his books have been Dragon Awards nominees in the Best Military SF or Fantasy category.
  • Born October 25, 1971 Elif Safak, 50. Turkish writer not currently under arrest though considered an opponent of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as she’s lived in the U.K. for eight years. She’s got three genre novels, one written originally in Turkish (Mahrem), The Gaze in its English translation, and two written in English, The Architect’s Apprentice (which was translated into Turkish as Ustam ve Ben)  and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
  • Born October 25, 1989 Mia Wasikowska, 32. She’s Alice in Tim Burton’s creepy Alice in Wonderland and equally creepy Alice Through the Looking Glass. Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a fifty-three percent rating and the second a twenty-nine percent rating.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mutts warns us about what can go wrong with your magic spells. (A re-run of an earlier strip, but fans of puns won’t mind seeing it again.)
  • Frank and Ernest find out the Tooth Fairy has issues.
  • Off the Mark shows a truly terrifying Halloween costume for dinosaurs.
  • Batch Rejection demonstrates an efficient pet’s name.
  • And for the record, the current Dick Tracy team did a sign-off strip, as in, the current creative team is (apparently) moving on.

(11) A LEGEND IN HER OWN TIME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Ruthie Tompson, who met Walt Disney in 1918, worked for Disney animation for nearly 50 years, became a Disney Legend in 2000, and passed away recently at 111. “Ruthie Tompson, who died at age 111, was a Disney trailblazer in ‘a man’s world’”.

Ruthie Tompson, whose hand helped paint early Mickey Mouse, was the very picture of humility — even as she turned 110.

Tompson became an animation trailblazer in 1937, working among the scores of other young women in Disney’s famed Ink & Paint department — for long hours, relatively low pay and no screen credit — on the landmark feature “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”“We worked into the night, day after day, until we got it exactly right!” she told the Hollywood Reporter last year, from the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s retirement community in Woodland Hills, Calif., while enduring the second global pandemic of her lifetime….

(12) SOMETHING TO DREAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the lasting appeal of Nintendo’s sf game Metroid, whose 2021 extension, Metroid Dread, was recently released.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps in 2021, Metroid has been a victim of its own success.  Back in 1997, a game called Castlevania: Symphony of the Night borrowed elements from Super Metroid and set the mould for a genre unimaginatively dubbed the ‘metroidvania.’  These are titles united by their contiguous 2D maps and gameplay that juggles tense combat with exploration.  In recent years indie developers have followed in Metroid‘s footsteps to create modern classics such as the graceful Ori series, the haunting Hollow Knight, or the pixel art gauntlets of Dead Cells and Axiom Verge….

…These games have innovated to thoughtfully elevate Metroid‘s blueprint.  Hollow Knight and Ori And The Will Of The Wisps are among the most beautiful games I’ve played in years; Metroid Dread doesn’t quite deliver the same charm.  It’s certainly taut, engrossing, and slick, but I can’t help wondering if it might feel more revelatory if the original Metroid not been quite so influential in the first place.

(13) KEEPING UP WITH MILTON DAVIS. Oliver Brackenbury, whose podcast So I’m Writing a Novel… Cora Buhlert featured awhile ago, interviews Milton J. Davis in episode 20:  “Interview with Milton Davis about Sword & Soul”.

Milton J. Davis also has an interesting Kickstarter for an animated movie based on his Steamfunk novel From Here to Timbuktu“From Here to Timbuktu: A Steamfunk Action Adventure by MVmedia, LLC”.

… MVmedia has teamed up with Avaloy Studios to bring you this story as an animated series.  Milton Davis, the novel author, will write the script, with animation duties done by Avaloy Studios. The pledges from this Kickstarter will allow us to create the first five episodes of the series…. 

(14) GET AN EARFUL. The Cromcast posts its annual Halloween episode, where they discuss three vampire stories by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and Bram Stoker: “A Weird Fiction Podcast: Cromtober 2021 – A Trio of Vampire Tales”.

Listen here as we discuss ‘Dracula’s Guest’ by Bram Stoker, ‘A Rendezvous in Averoigne’ by Clark Ashton Smith, and ‘The Horror from the Mound’ by Robert E. Howard!

(15) KITCHEN APPLIANCE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] First there is a credential, then there is no credential, then there is. The Schrödinger Drawer, or, the credential that walks through credenzas. (Via Steven J Vaughan-Nichol’s Facebook page.)

(16) WHAT’S UP D&DOC? Boing Boing reminds us “Bugs Bunny’s Official D&D Character Sheet Is A 15th-level Illusionist”.

Dragon Magazine #41 was published in April 1981. And it was in the pages of this official Dungeons & Dragons tome that the immortal deity known as Bugs Bunny was finally given its due as a playable character in the game, along with several other cartoon characters — or rather, “Saturday morning monsters.”…

(17) BLUE SKY. Space.com reports  “Blue Origin unveils plans to build a private space station called Orbital Reef by 2030”.

Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Space and several other partners announced today (Oct. 25) that they plan to build a commercial off-Earth outpost called Orbital Reef, which is scheduled to be up and running by the late 2020s.

Orbital Reef’s envisioned customers include national governments, private industry and space tourists, project team members said. The outpost will initially complement but eventually take the baton from the International Space Station (ISS), which is expected to be retired in the 2028 to 2030 timeframe….

(18) MONEY IS THE CUBE ROOT OF ALL EVIL. “Star Trek beams up 2021 advent calendar themed to iconic villains”Digital Spy tells where you can buy one.

Star Trek is assimilating its 2021 advent calendar.

The iconic sci-fi franchise is turning to the dark side this festive season for an advent calendar designed to look just like the Cube ship used by the Borg alien race.

Any Stark Trek fan knows that a Borg Cube on the radar means serious trouble for the Federation because the cybernetic alien race will stop at nothing to conquer and assimilate their enemies….

Digital Spy will also tell you where to buy the Doctor Who 2021 advent calendar shaped like the TARDIS.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A guy who watched Star Trek IV too many times asks: Can you really fit two humpback whales on a Klingon ship? To answer that, first you have to deduce the size of a Bird of Prey.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Lowrey, Cora Buhlert, Dan’l, Chris Barkley, Darrah Chavey, Rob Thornton, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/12/21 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Pixel

(1) MUIR’S PROGRESS. Bence Pintér conducted a “Q&A with Tamsyn Muir” for the Hungarian magazine Spekulatív Zóna. (You can find the Hungarian version of the interview here.)

The Locked Tomb Trilogy seems like a pretty hard one to pitch to a publisher. How have you pitched it?

I never really pitched the trilogy as a trilogy. I pitched Gideon as more or less a murder mystery, because to me that’s still its most fundamental DNA: it’s the classic And Then There Were None set-up, a group of people in an isolated location start getting killed off one by one. I think I said it was a locked-room murder mystery with necromancers. But I was also deeply confused about a lot of things and thought it might be a Young Adult book, because I understood ‘young adult’ as a tag to mean ‘older teenagers would enjoy it’ and I firmly believed that older teenagers would enjoy Gideon! Someone I showed the story to at an early stage had to break it to me gently that this was not a Young Adult book, and never would be without very major re-writing and taking out 90% of the swearwords….

You signed a six-figure deal with Tordotcom Publishing. What will you work on after finishing Alecto the Ninth?

Lots of stuff. Next up is a novella about a gunslinger in a near-future dystopia, which is going to be a massive relief to write as it contains neither swords nor bones, thank God. Then I’ve got to start on the next full-length novel, which will probably have some swords and some bones but not at anywhere near the concentration Locked Tomb did, and will leaven the mixture by also having some motorbikes. And at some point I need to fit in the sequel to Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower, my novella from last year, which I’ve decided I’m not quite done with. Now if I could just get an extra four or five months added in to the year, maybe in summer when the weather’s OK, that would be fantastic.

(2) PRO TIPS. Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews Guest Lecturer Sheree Renée Thomas, now editing F&SF.

Congratulations on recently becoming editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction! What are the most common problems in the manuscript submissions you receive?

I just revised our submission guidelines to address that, because after reading 2,400 stories our first month in January, I noticed some patterns, particularly for people who have submitted work to the magazine in the past, and they probably don’t know that they’re doing some of these things.

The main thing I revised our submission guidelines to address is pacing. If you spend a long time setting up your story, or throat clearing, or giving us a long narrative exposition before we even get to the characters we’re supposed to be following and experiencing, you’re going to lose your readers’ interest right off the bat. One of the things people can do when they go back and look at the story is see if they started in the right place. As a writer, it’s not always easy to know that immediately. Sometimes we have to write the thing in order to know the thing; we have to write that first scene to get to the other one.

The other thing that a lot of writers do give us too much information that’s not naturally integrated into the storytelling, and so that becomes a little wearisome to read and hard to follow. People are not telling the story from the POV of the character who has the most to lose in the situation.

I don’t want to read about misogyny, whether it’s conscious or not in the story. I don’t particularly care for rape stories where rape is just a plot device and it’s not handled in a human way, where you don’t have the characters respond to it in a way that humans might. And F&SF is not the best market for super erotic work.

(3) TV DINNER. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Science Fiction TV Dinner series is going virtual for 2020-2021, and they’ll  Zoom the next event on Tuesday, April 27 at 6 p.m. Pacific time. It features The Mailbox, a short film about time travel and Chinatowns. They’ll be talking with the director, Louis Yin, a writer and filmmaker based in Beijing, and Diane Wong, a professor at Rutgers University who studies the Asian diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. The event is free, and open to everyone. Register at the link.

We’re shifting the format slightly, presenting Science Fiction TV Small Bites: short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.

…Each Small Bite event will also feature an exclusive segment on cuisine and cooking by Corey S. Pressman, an author, educator, anthropologist, visual artist, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.

We would like to thank Storycom for their support and collaboration on this event. Storycom is the first professional story commercialization agency in China, and is dedicated to bringing excellent Chinese SF stories to domestic and global audiences in various formats. Storycom also presents The Shimmer Program to introduce new audiences to Chinese SF. Learn more at https://twitter.com/ShimmerProgram.

(4) ACE ON THE CASE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber looks at video games that combine the supernatural with detective stories.

…The first detective games I loved were the Ace Attorney trilogy, in which you play Phoenix Wright, an impossibly earnest lawyer who solves a trio of outlandish murders.  The tone is decidedly zany, with anime-style graphics and supernatural story beats. But the sharp characterisation makes them deeply affecting.  Each complex case is split into two parts:  the first has you talking to witnesses and gathering evidence from the crime scene, while the second takes you to court, where you cross-examine witnesses and poke holes in testimony…

…Perhaps the secret ingredient to a successful detective game is allowing players freedom to find the solution by themselves.  These qualities re best exemplified in last year’s indie hit Paradise Killer, which sets its supernatural mystery across an open world, allowing you to investigate at your own pace.  The game never tells you where to go next and you can set the final trial at any point, no matter how much evidence you’ve gathered.  Newcomers may be alarmed by the game’s high-concept fantasy, which tells of a group of social elites constructing a utopia by sacrificing the working classes to resurrect a pantheon of vanished gods.  Yet once you find your footing, the story resolves into a fantastically imaginative, richly compelling narrative with a superb soundtrack to boot.

(5) WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM CONFUSION. Ian Moore’s “ConFusion: Eastercon 2021” report at Secret Panda offers a lot of coverage of the panel programming.

… Many of the academic presenters at ConFusion seemed to be from creative writing rather than literary criticism programmes, which changed the focus somewhat: when they were examining a particular theme within science fiction, it was with a view to ultimately creating something in that area themselves, with several then presenting us with some of their own creative work in progress.

I enjoyed Hester Parr’s presentation on fanfic, though at times it did tend towards more of a stirring defence of fan fiction than an academic analysis of it. Particularly interesting was the discussion of how some fanfic writers use their writing to work out things about themselves and the revelation that the My Fair Lady musical is closer to the original Pygmalion myth than the George Bernard Shaw play it is adapted from. I did find myself thinking about whether there is a difference between something like Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and other retellings of myths or sequels to others’ work by novelists on the one hand and fan fiction proper on the other hand. Part of Parr’s argument seemed to be that there is not really a difference, with the human tendency to retell and adapt stories meaning that fanfic is a universal thing with its origins in the mists of time. I have the nagging sense though that there is something different between a novel written by a professional writer and something a hobbyist has posted to an online fanfic platform. To me the fannishness of fanfic is what distinguishes it from non-fan writing drawing on pre-existing stories, though further investigation may be required here….

(6) GAGARIN AND THE POTATO FIELD. Sixty years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Here’s the CNN story:

…Khrushchev’s answer came 60 years ago, on April 12, 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth aboard a spacecraft called Vostok 1. After parachuting from the craft near the Russian village of Smelovka, Gagarin landed a hero — and a major embarrassment for the United States, already stung by the Soviet first-in-the-race launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite four years earlier….

And what goes up must come down – however unexpectedly that might be if you happen to be standing where they land.

(7) JOURNEY INTO SPACE. And the Journey Planet team bids everyone a Happy Cosmonautics Day. Ann Gry co-edited their “Russian Space – ” theme issue which came out in December.

Cover by Sara Felix

This unique issue of Journey Planet comes in two languages in parallel text, Russian and English. With bi-lingual text on every page we look at the Science, Engineering, Science Fiction, Films, Comics and poetry that the theme of Russian Space has to offer.

Muscovite Co-Editor Ann Gry (Anna Gryaznova) was committed to ensure the issue was as accessible as possible to the readers, interested in the subject and spent a tremendous amount of time working on translations as well as seeking out new voices, and hearing from voices who may be very new to Journey Planet readers. This issue is a curated glimpse into the creative realms mostly inaccessible due to the language barrier and is an attempt to give an idea of how space theme connects us all.

You can find the issue here:

(8) WE’LL MEET AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll extols “Five Stories Built Around the Threat of Nuclear Blackmail” to Tor.com readers. Not all of them are grim:

The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)

The tiny principality of Grand Fenwick had no intention of blackmailing the world with atomic doom. Faced with economic calamity (Americans had successfully copied Grand Fenwick’s principal export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine), they came up with a simple but brilliant plan: declare war on the United States of America, lose, capitulate, and then wait for US to expend billions of dollars rebuilding Grand Fenwick (shades of the Marshall Plan). Since Grand Fenwick had not upgraded its military toolkit since the Hundred Years War, there was no way this cunning scheme could go wrong. Or so it seemed.

The handful of men-at-arms dispatched to New York City find a city abandoned thanks to a Cold War-era Civil Defense exercise. Hunting for someone to whom they might surrender, they stumble across Dr. Kokintz and his Q-bomb demonstration model. Both Kokintz and his device are carried off to Grand Fenwick, whereupon the astounded Grand Fenwickians discover to their alarm that they are now in possession of a weapon that could, if detonated, depopulate a continent. Still, having the eyes of the world on them has possibilities…provided nobody jostles the delicate Q-bomb.

(9) HAND MADE. The Dwrayger Dungeon makes a post from clips from a 1939 short in “13: PARAMOUNT Presents POPULAR SCIENCE”. See how a Popeye cartoon was made in the days of hand-painted animation cels.

Today we go behind the scenes of the making of the Popeye cartoon “Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp” at the Fleischer Studios in Miami….

Here are the guys working on the storyboards for their upcoming Popeye cartoon. I swear, there are like 500 drawings pinned up on the wall….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, Black Friday premiered. It was directed by Arthur Lubinfrom from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (who won a Retro Hugo last year for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and Eric Taylor. Though Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi were co-billed, Lugosi only has a rather small part in the film and does not appear on screen with Karloff.  Universal had cast Lugosi as the Doctor and Karloff as the Professor, but Karloff insisted on playing the Doctor. So Lugosi was given the minor role of a rival gangster, while Stanley Ridges was brought in to play the Professor. Reception was mixed with some critics loving the double billing, but the NYT noted that “Lugosi’s terrifying talents are wasted”.  Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the audience reviewers give it a rating of forty nine percent.  It is in the the public domain now, so you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 12, 1884Bob Olsen. He wrote twenty-seven poems and stories that were published in Amazing Stories in the late 1920s early 1930s. He’s one of the first authors to use the term “space marines”. A search of both print and digital publishers does not show any indication that any of his genre or mystery fiction is now in-print. (Died 1956.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1908 – Janie Lamb.  Edited the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) National Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam.  Inspiring spark of Southern Fandom (southern U.S., not e.g. the Republic of South Africa, or London, or Spain despite Roses from the South, these other regions not typically so calling themselves); chaired DeepSouthCon 7.  Kaymar and Rebel service awards.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1915Emil Petaja. He considered his work to be part of an older tradition of ‘weird fiction.’  He published thirteen novels and some one hundred fifty short stories. His Otava series, published by Ace Books in the Sixties, is based on the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1921Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement award from the World Fantasy Awards Administration. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend? Novel wise, she’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects but her collections are largely not there. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1936Charles Napier. Adam in Star Trek’s “The Way to Eden”. He had one-offs, and this is not a complete list, on Mission ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkKnight Rider, Tales of The Golden MonkeyThe Incredible Hulk ReturnsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanDeep Space Nine and voiced Agent Zed in the animated Men in Black series. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1947 – Tom Clancy.  Regardless of whether Jack Ryan becomes President, and the author’s politics which as it happens I never liked much, I defiantly assert The Hunt for “Red October” – TC’s first novel! he’d been an insurance salesman! Deborah Grosvenor had to persuade the Naval Inst. to publish it! – is SF, and good SF too.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1952 – Pierre Stolze, Ph.D., age 69.  Dissertation at École Normale Supérieure on SF.  Seven novels, a score of shorter stories.  Will Francophone translators kindly address this man’s work?  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1958 – Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, age 63.  Canadian living in Los Angeles.  Active particularly with Art Shows; board member of the Southern Calif. Inst. for Fan Interests (yes, that’s what the initials spell, pronounced skiffy).  Her high-tech expertise permitted the annual Rotsler Award display at Worldcons to rise above the personal handicraft of one man in a propeller beanie, however helped by volunteers (hello, Murray), and thus reach Dublin (77th Worldcon) and Wellington (78th Worldcon, virtual-only).  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1968 – Marah Searle-Kovacevic, age 53.  Head of Exhibits at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, credited by con chair with extra help at N4’s elaborate and successful First Night, see this detailed report.  Chaired SFContario 4-5.  Was assigned as head of Social Media for Westercon LXXIII.  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1969 – Mike Jansen, age 52.  Ran Babel Publications for ten years with Roelof Goudriaan (hello, Roelof).  Three novels, fourscore shorter stories, a dozen poems, many available in English e.g. collection Ophelia in My Arms.  Website in eight languages including Arabic, Chinese, English. [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1979Jennifer Morrison, 42. Emma Swan in the Once Upon a Time series, and Winona Kirk, mother of James T. Kirk in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. She also paid her horror dues in Urban Legends: Final Cut as Amy Mayfield, the student videographer whose film goes terribly wrong. I’m intrigued to see that she’s the voice actor for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman in the Batman: Hush, a film that needs a R rating to be told properly and indeed did so. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo reveals the ancestry of a certain popular character from The Mandalorian.

(13) THE ARRIVAL OF THE FUTURE. Eric Diaz analyzes “How the Year 1986 Changed Comic Books Forever” at Yahoo! Life. Here’s the first pair of reasons:

… Let’s get this double-whammy out of the way. 1986 saw the release of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. So much has been said about both of these comics already. Although much about them is different, each is a deconstruction of the superhero concept; and each elevated the medium to new levels of respectability.

Yes, their success has sown definite downsides. Too many creators take the wrong lessons from their popularity, veering “dark and edgy” for the sake of it. But this aside, both of these remain towering achievements in comic book storytelling…. 

(14) WONDER WOMAN WRITER REMEMBERED. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Mark Evanier and author/editor Anina Bennett about Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly’s appearance at the 2018 Comic-Con and how she enjoyed the recognition she got for her Wonder Woman work when she was 94. “She was the ‘secret’ Wonder Woman writer in the 1940s. Here’s how she finally got her due at 94”.

…“In all my years of Comic-Conning, I can’t recall another moment when the audience was so eager to give someone a long, loving ovation,” Evanier said Wednesday, “and the recipient was so delightfully surprised to be at an event like that receiving one.

“Joye told me it was the best weekend of her life, and I thought, ‘Imagine having the best weekend of your life when you’re 94!’”

(15) BIRD IS THE WORD. Jeff VanderMeer, in his essay “Hummingbirds and the Ecstatic Moment” for Orion Magazine, explains how birds provided comfort to him when he was sick in bed with asthma as a child and why birds play a crucial role in Hummingbird Salamander.

…I am not going to complain about my childhood—it was worse than some and better than many. But it was a sickly time for me. Transplanted to the Fiji Islands from Pennsylvania when my parents joined the Peace Corps, I discovered I was allergic to many flowering trees and also developed acute asthma. The practical effect of this meant that some mornings I would wake to birdsong hardly able to breathe or open my eyes.

Yet we lived in the cliché of a tropical paradise, a nature-rich country in which nothing separated you from the outdoors. An island nation that knew the limits of its resources and thus, at that time, treasured them.

At recess at school, in our drab gray uniforms, we would run across the road to the black sand beach at low tide and look for mudskippers, or walk along the edge of the reef, searching for starfish. I would stare into the alien eye of a sea turtle as my mother captured the detail in her biological illustrations. We would pile into a boat so my father could go to an outer island and observe the damage to coconut trees from rhinoceros beetles, for his research. Along the way, I would keep a birding journal and identify what I saw using a black-and-white stapled booklet showing the local Fijian species.

There could be no greater contrast between the beauty of that place and the realities of my condition…. 

(16) RESNICK ON SALE. There’s a Bundle of Holding with a flock of novels by Mike Resnick. It’s available for the next 21 days.

Adventurer! This Mike Resnick Bundle presents space opera and alternate-history fantasy ebook novels by Mike Resnick published by Pyr BooksMike Resnick (1942-2020) wrote more than 70 wide-ranging science fiction novels and hundreds of short stories that won many awards. This all-new fiction offer gives you DRM-free ebooks (in both ePub and Kindle formats) of a dozen Resnick novels: the four Weird West steampunk fantasies, the three Dead Enders adventures of interstellar espionage, and the five Starship military space operas. These three series showcase Resnick’s gift for fast pacing, engaging characters, snappy dialogue, and headlong action.

For just US$6.95 you get all three novels in our Mike Resnick Sampler (retail value $58) as DRM-free ebooks. Each of these novels — The Buntline Special, The Fortress in Orion, and Starship: Mutiny — launched a series.

And, if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.36, you’ll also get our Complete Collection with all the later books in each series — nine more novels worth an additional $180…

(17) DON’T DO IT. From an interview in The Guardian: “String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’”.

You believe that within a century we will make contact with an alien civilisation. Are you worried about what they may entail?

Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.

(18) IT’S A THEORY. “Prehistoric cavemen starved themselves of oxygen to induce hallucinations and inspire their ancient paintings, study finds”Yahoo! News has the story.

Prehistoric cave dwellers living in Europe purposefully starved themselves of oxygen to hallucinate while creating their decorative wall paintings, a groundbreaking new study has found.

Researchers have been questioning for years why so many of the world’s oldest paintings were located in often pitch-black tunnel systems, far away from cave entrances.

But a recent study by Tel Aviv University now reveals that the location was deliberate because it induced oxygen deprivation and caused cavemen to experience a state called hypoxia.

Hypoxia can bring about symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, confusion, and rapid heartbeat, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, near-death experiences, and out-of-body sensations. The team of researchers believes it would have been “very similar to when you are taking drugs”, the Times reported.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Alien:  Covenant Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, both the producer and the screenwriter agree that the film’s plot is so ridiculous that the screenwriter says “the movie falls apart if any character stops being dumb” and the producer asks, “do all the characters have brain damage, or what’s up?”

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Rich Horton, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]

ConFusion 2021 Eastercon Report

By Jo Van Ekeren:

This past weekend, ConFusion 2021 (Eastercon) was held as a virtual convention. Guests of Honour were author Dan Abnett, author and editor Nik Vincent-Abnett, and fan Dave Lally. The online environment was primarily in an application called Gather Town, with some aspects of the con also available through the ConFusion 2021 website.

I had volunteered to staff a Virtual Fan Table for the Memphis in 2023 Worldcon bid at ConFusion 2021. Prior to the con, the Dealers Room head Melissa Taylor gave me a demo of the Gather Town environment so I’d have an idea what to expect. Melissa was really responsive to my requests for customisation to the fan table setup, which I greatly appreciated. The Memphis Fan Table area had a link to the website at a little kiosk on either side, a pop-up of the Memphis Q&A PDF (in the vending machine), and a whiteboard where people could write questions or messages (“back in 1/2 hour”, etc.). [N.B.: I wasn’t planning on writing this report until someone (ahem!) twisted my arm, and I didn’t think to take screenshots of the various rooms, so some of the images below are mockups.]

Confusion 2021 Eastercon Member Badge, with the ConFusion logo, member name, and member number

Right before the con, I received an e-mail with a virtual con badge, which was cool, even though I didn’t do anything with it. Members had the option of printing their badge off and wearing it, putting it in their virtual background, and/or posting it on social media.

Before dropping you into the environment, Gather Town required you to select an avatar from a variety of avatar choices and attire choices (some of the “attire” choices were wheelchairs, which was great). You also had the ability to add a line of text to your Profile with pronouns and/or bio info. After selecting their avatar, each person appeared in their current location in Gather Town with a small version of their avatar labeled with their badge name and membership number.

I was able to be present for around 6 hours each day Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon (since I live Down Under, the UK was 12 hours off from me, which made a pretty skewed schedule for me, but the fact that we have a 4-day Easter holiday weekend down here really helped). I spoke with people who stopped by the table in the Dealers Room, but I also took the opportunity on several occasions to go out and explore the VR environment and chat with other members I encountered. I had nice conversations with Leife Shallcross who was “next door” with the Australia in 2025 bid, and with David Stokes from Guardbridge Books on my other side.

I don’t know what the con’s membership total was (my membership, bought right before the convention, was number 438), but there was a small “people online” counter down in the corner on the Gather Town screen, and the highest number I noticed was 169 – which may or may not be close to the actual max usage of that environment during the convention.

There was a user profile bar at the bottom of the screen, which you could click on to toggle your green/red Status, change your text line, access a map to the entire Gather Town layout, change your video and audio hardware settings, and add an emoji to your profile. Unfortunately, though I tried it periodically, I could never get the map to load; the “loading” indicator just sat there, grinding. However, the designer, Alex Storer, posted a copy of the “spaceship” map on Facebook, and it’s really a clever design.

I liked the Gather Town virtual-reality environment much better than that of some other virtual conventions I’ve attended in the past year. It was simpler, very much like walking around at a real con inside a video game. There were potted trees and plants and chairs and couches. There was a large “Hangar” room where the Registration and Information Desk was located, with a bunch of shuttle-sized space vehicles parked in it. There were Easter Eggs like a fountain in the Arboretum having an unmarked entrance at one specific point which led to an observation deck.

There was an “invisible maze” accessed via an unmarked doorway (which I messed with for a bit, but I could not figure out how to get through it without being continually kicked back to the start). They did a Scavenger Hunt in the Dealers Hall which involved having to visit each dealer’s area and get a single pop-up word which you had to collect to form sentences and win a prize. There was a Gaming room which had a bunch of little stations where you could play video games, but I tried one and it appeared that the functionality was poor because it made an already resource-intensive application even more resource-intensive.

There was a virtual Art Show, which was viewable either through Gather Town, or through the browser from their website in an app called “Kunstmatrix”. I thought this was really well done. It’s available to the public for a couple more days, and you should go see it!

There was a nice variety on the Programme Schedule, with panels, readings, kaffeeklatsches, virtual author “signing” sessions, and presentations by various Dealers. Programming ranged across the gamut of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, for both printed and visual media – with even some cuisine-related events!

SMOFcon 2021 (SMOFcon Europe in Lisboa) presented a panel on “Managing the Crisis”, with Elizabeth McCarty, Marguerite Smith, and Matt Calvert, moderated by Vincent Docherty. The speakers talked about how to manage con-related crises in an age of instantaneous, fast-moving social media, and discussed some real-life examples. This was a really useful panel, and I hope that it can be put up on YouTube, or otherwise made available to conrunners outside of this convention. (Elizabeth McCarty and Colin Harris have authored a great resource document entitled “Social Media Response Guide“, which is publicly available to conrunners and other interested parties.)

When you got close to someone in Gather Town, a little video window for them would pop open at the top of your screen, and you could see and talk to each other (your own video screen was on the lower right side). If that person’s video was turned off, you could click a “Ring” button on their little video window, and it would ring like a telephone on their side so they knew you wanted to talk. You could set the video screen of the person with whom you were speaking to full-screen mode and see a larger image of them during your conversation.

People walking by too closely, or walking up to you, would cause their little video window to pop up and they could jump in on your conversation, but there were also private spaces you could go into and talk, where random passersby wouldn’t trigger interruptions. You also had the ability to turn your green Status light to red to indicate that you were not around or were doing something privately; this also tightened your proximity bubble and prevented interruptions from random passersby.

ConFusion 2021 Gather Town Chat Bar, where the message log can be read, and messages can be sent

ConFusion 2021 Gather Town Member List of all members currently online, ability to search for a member, follow a member, or message a member

There was a left-side menu which included a pop-up list of all attendees, showing their green/red Status and their text (pronouns, bio, etc.). You could do a search by Badge Name to find a specific attendee, or browse the whole list. You could click on an attendee’s name and Message them, or Follow them (which would “physically” take you to wherever their avatar was located). The system also included a “Block” function which you could use if there was someone you didn’t want to be able to see you or talk to you; it made you invisible to the blocked person.

There was also a popup menu item for a Discord-type Chat message feed, which included all messages to Everyone, People Nearby (if they were in the same room as you), and your exchanges with individual members. But you had to scroll back through it to read messages; there was no Search or Filter function by keyword or member.

Now for an in-depth discussion of the drawbacks:

1) Gather Town required a desktop device; you could use it in a browser or in the desktop app, but there was no functionality for mobile devices.

2) Gather Town was a resource hog and I had to pretty much shut everything down on my computer to keep it from periodically losing connection and having to reconnect (and even that didn’t always prevent glitching). I actually have a pretty powerful desktop device; I suspect people with basic laptops and desktop devices would have had a really poor experience. I’m guessing that the Gather Town developers and testers all have hardcore gaming tech hardware setups; I don’t think Gather Town will ever make it as a successful virtual venue unless they can resolve these high CPU usage problems.

3) The environment was laid out like a real convention space, which meant you had to use your left/right and up/down arrow buttons to travel through long empty hallways to get somewhere. (When I refer to “travel” in this summary, I mean holding down the arrow keys and navigating around obstacles.) This seemed like the result of an inability to re-imagine a virtual con as anything other than being the same layout as a physical con. Getting from one place to another could often take at least minute or two of using your keyboard to navigate to get there (and that was assuming you had a good idea of the route to take to get where you wanted to go). I think it would have been an especially difficult adjustment for people who have never played video games.

4) The interface needed the ability to click a specific room on a list of rooms and immediately be taken there. There were teleportals in the larger areas which would take you to a central teleporter hall with all of the main area teleportals labeled, so there was a bit of a shortcut by that method. But a way to instantly get from one Programming Panel to the next was sorely needed. And a setup where new entrants were deposited into the central registration area hub, with many labeled doors each leading immediately to different sections and not requiring travel time and extensive keyboard manipulation, would have been much better (and would have still permitted the ability to have “fun” exploration rooms like the Arboretum and the Gaming Room).

5) I went to a reading early on in one of the programming rooms. There were a dozen or so attendees, and it was set up so that video windows showed only for the person/people up front. You could also “attend” sessions outside of Gather Town by going to a section of their website and clicking on the video feed you wanted to see. But a lot of people reported having so many issues trying to attend panels in Gather Town that they just chose instead to access the video streams via the website. However, there were lots of problems with that, too, with things getting started very late, or the streaming not working during the actual panel, and the panels were only viewable later on as a recording, which prevented in-session Q&A interaction with the audience.

6) Programming sessions were recorded, and were available for later viewing via the convention’s website. The quality of these recordings was pretty good, but I had to set the video playback quality to the lowest level to avoid “hiccupping”. And strangely, though I tried several things, I was never able to route the audio from these recordings through headphones, either through an audio jack connection or through a USB headphone connection (although both of these worked just fine for me in Gather Town). There was no automated captioning on anything, and no transcripts for the panels. (Members still have access to these recordings until midnight [GMT+1] on 12 April.)

7) I think that the environment design for the convention was done with a goal of cleverness, cuteness, and “real-world emulation in a video game” – and there’s something to be said for that, parts of it were rather fun. But I’m very vision, hearing, and hand-dexterity abled, so it was easy for me. I thought the environment showed a real lack of awareness of the accessibility issues which accompany such an interface for those with impaired vision, hearing, or hand/finger dexterity. Labels on person icons were quite small, and navigation was by keyboard keys. (The accessibility problems with Gather Town are well known; ACM’s Ubicomp had to apologise after using it for their convention in September 2020.)

8) I saw someone somewhere say that Gather Town costs $1 per person for 2 hours (which would be $24,000/£12,300 for 500 people for 4 days). This meant that it was so expensive that everything was set up only right before the convention started, and there was no ability to do a “shakedown cruise” and revise things based on user feedback in the days leading up to the convention. Aside from the expensive cost and the poor performance quality, the inability to do that shakedown cruise without any additional cost would seem to me to be a real deal-breaker for using Gather Town.

Based on all of these considerations, my recommendation for a virtual convention would be for the environment to be something that is mainly text and menu-based with a little bit of artistic embellishment, but with the primary emphasis on functionality and accessibility, rather than on impressive visuals or virtual-reality effects.

I “attended” the Eastercon Bid session which was done over Zoom and moderated by Vincent Docherty. There was one bid for 2022 by Phil Dyson, to be called “Reclamation“, which they expect to be in-person but with some virtual aspects for members who can’t attend. It was selected in a vote by 98% of the members at the session. They then announced their Guests of Honour: Authors Zen Cho and Mary Robinette Kowal, Artist Philip Reeve, and Fan Nicholas Whyte.

There were two bids for the 2023 Eastercon. One, for “Persistence”, was by the current chair, who is understandably wanting to put on a real convention in 2 years because their convention last year had been cancelled at the last minute due to the burgeoning pandemic, and they’d been forced to do this one (its replacement) virtually. The first bid presentation lasted about 3 minutes and amounted to “I want to put on an in-person convention, and I promise to do a good job, but I don’t have any specifics yet”.

The second presentation was a spur-of-the-moment “bid” by Alison Scott, who wanted to speak at length regarding the other bid, but was told that she was required to be an official bid to do so. Scott’s presentation was civil but quite impassioned regarding the lack of consideration shown in the planning of the current convention, saying that it called into question whether the other bid was really a good choice without first being forced to address the problems with the current convention as part of their bid planning presentation, and without being willing to commit to at least planning for a partially virtual convention, because she thinks that will be necessary. She said the convention was incredibly expensive for what it actually delivered, due to lack of planning, poor choices (some of which were strongly opposed by committee members who resigned after being overruled), and no testing or feedback.

Scott made the case that the Eastercon convention should not be a fancy show, but rather a community-building and sharing enterprise with much better communication than had been done this year, and that members should either vote for her bid (with the promise that she really would put together a well-run convention should she be selected) – or more preferably, vote to defer the awarding of the 2023 convention to next year, so that the bid(s) presented could make use of the feedback and lessons learned from this convention to really do an excellent job of planning (and that bid might very well be the bid of the current chair, if they showed a marked improvement in their planning a year from now). There was a vote of the members attending the session, and the result was 16% for the current chair’s bid, 10% for Alison Scott’s “bid”, and 69% to defer to next year the selection of the 2023 bidcom.

Farah Mendlesohn and Pat McMurray announced they would be presenting a bid for the 2024 Eastercon at next year’s convention, with team members David Cooper, Fiona Scarlett, Jude Roberts, and John Coxon. Their slideshow and the audio of their presentation are available on Dropbox.

Further information on ConFusion 2021

In spite of the issues, I really enjoyed getting the chance to interact with European fans at ConFusion 2021, and even though I won’t be able to attend in person, I’m hoping that Reclamation 2022 will have a virtual component in which I can participate.