Pixel Scroll 5/12/22 We Will Always Have Pixels

(1) IS IT WASTED ON THE YOUNG? At Young People Read Old SFF James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on Joe Haldeman’s “Tricentennial”.

This month’s selection has an unusual history for a Hugo finalist, having been commissioned to accompany an already completed cover….

Generally speaking, this sort of exercise does not result in notable fiction1. Haldeman managed to deliver a story that wasn’t simply a finalist but a Hugo winner. Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that even though his career as an SF writer was still in its early days, he had by this point racked up two Hugo nominations2, a Hugo win, a Nebula win, a Ditmar win, and been a finalist for the Locus six times. 

Tricentennial stuck a chord with readers way back in the mid-1970s. Will it be as successful with the youth of today? Let’s find out!…

(2) THAT NEW LAFFERTY STORY. Meanwhile, at Galactic Journey the Traveler is reading the latest Galaxy – back in time, when the stories themselves were young! “[May 12, 1967] There and Back Again (June 1967 Galaxy)”.

Polity and Custom of the Camiroi, by R. A. Lafferty

A three-person anthropological team investigates the highly libertarian planet of Camiroi.  Society there is highly advanced, seemingly utopian, and utterly decentralized.  Sounds like a Heinleinesque paradise.  However, there are indications that the Terrans are being put on, mostly in an attempt to just get them to leave.

The result is something like what might have happened if Cordwainer Smith and Robert Sheckley had a baby.  That’d be one weird tot…but an interesting one.

Four stars.

(3) HE’LL GIVE YOU AN EARFUL. In “An Observation on Audiobooks” John Scalzi discusses his experience with the medium.

…As an author, I was not initially in love with audiobook versions of my books because it was an interpretation, and because the narration was not the way I heard the book in my own head — the narrative beats would sometime be different; a word would be given a different emphasis; a character who I heard one way in my head would sound different (and sometimes would feel like they had a different personality entirely).

Two things got me over this. The first was that audio increased my annual income from writing by about a third, which smoothed over quite a lot. The second thing was that I realized that audiobook narration is a performance and that, like one can appreciate the myriad of ways that actors have approached the “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy in Hamlet, one can equally look at the choices the narrator makes in their performance and see how they are in conversation with the text, often in ways that are a surprise to me, the author. So the necessary fact of the interpretation stopped being an annoyance and became a thing of interest….

(4) POINT OF DO RETURN. “Once more with feeling: why time loop stories keep coming back”, according to the Guardian’s Gillian McAllister.

If you die, what’s the plan for the next life?” This is the question posed in the opening scene of the recent BBC adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life, in which the protagonist, Ursula, repeatedly dies and starts over from birth. It’s a fascinating idea: what would you do differently, and what would remain the same? It is one explored in another hit TV show that has just returned for a second season, Russian Doll, the first season of which saw the main character, Nadia, return endlessly to the night of her 36th birthday party, suffering a different death each time.

Mainstream film and television have a long history of playing with time loops. But while Groundhog Day was a huge success in the early 1990s, narratives about ordinary people caught in this speculative twist have been harder to pull off in literature. Perhaps this is because there tends to be an earnestness to such stories that doesn’t translate into fiction, and a tendency towards repetition that readers may not tolerate as well as viewers. It is trickier to create a montage in fiction: part of what makes Groundhog Day so compelling is the ability to only show the differences in Bill Murray’s repeating days….

(5) ORVILLE THIRD SEASON. “Our return is imminent.” The Orville: New Horizons arrives June 2 on Hulu.

(6) THE MOON THAT SOLD ITSELF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “A Twenty-First Century Moon Race Is Kicking Off A New Era of Lunar Exploration” reports Nature. These six countries are about to go to the Moon — here’s why.

Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States aim to send missions to the Moon in the next year. But will they all make it?

NASA’s US$93-billion Artemis programme might be stealing most of the limelight with its maiden launch this year because it’s the first step towards sending astronauts to the Moon. But the United States is just one of many nations and private companies that soon plan to launch missions, heralding what scientists say could be a new golden age of lunar exploration.

Science isn’t the only driving force. The flurry of missions also signals the growing ambition of several nations and commercial players to show off their technological prowess and make their mark, particularly now that getting to the Moon is easier and cheaper than ever before….

(7) MUSK CONTRADICTED. Shannon Stirone says let the record reflect that “Mars Is a Hellhole” in The Atlantic.

There’s no place like home—unless you’re Elon Musk. A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship, which may someday send humans to Mars, is, according to Musk, likely to launch soon, possibly within the coming days. But what motivates Musk? Why bother with Mars? A video clip from an interview Musk gave in 2019 seems to sum up Musk’s vision—and everything that’s wrong with it.

In the video, Musk is seen reading a passage from Carl Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot

…Musk reads from Sagan’s book: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.”

But there Musk cuts himself off and begins to laugh. He says with incredulity, “This is not true. This is false––Mars.”

He couldn’t be more wrong. Mars? Mars is a hellhole. The central thing about Mars is that it is not Earth, not even close. In fact, the only things our planet and Mars really have in common is that both are rocky planets with some water ice and both have robots (and Mars doesn’t even have that many)…

(8) CURIOSITY SNAPS A PHOTO. Mars may be a hellhole, but it’s a hellhole with a door. “’Secret doorway built by aliens’ spotted in picture taken by rover on Mars”. Picture at the link.

Recent pictures from Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover show an intriguing feature which looks like a doorway nestled in the rocks on the Martian landscape.

It looks so convincing that it can almost tempt you to believe that it leads to a Martian hideaway – or a gateway to another Universe entirely.

While the internet seems to be having a field day with conspiracy theories about the mysterious doorway, some Reddit users aren’t buying it.

Many party poopers have pointed out the door is likely just a shear fracture — the result of some kind of strain on the rock, breaking part of it off….

(9) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe 57 is out now! Listen here! “Back Bacon is Best”.

John is a muppet bilby, Alison is actively drinking, and Liz MURDERS OWLS. We discuss Reclamation 2022 and the COVID that ensued, before talking about Horizon Forbidden West a whole bunch. Also other things.

Below, the Octothorpe cast are depicted as Australian mammals in muppet form. John is a bilby, Alison is a quokka, and Liz is an echidna. John has a glitter octothorpe on his forehead.

(10) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Gustav Hoegen.  Hoegen is Dutch, and when he was 6 he went with his father to the Tuchinski Theatre (an old-school picture palace) in Amsterdam to see Return of the Jedi, and he decided he wanted a career in the movies.  He worked his way up through British special effects shops in 2013 and now runs his own company, Biomimc Studio.  His creatures have appeared in four recent Star Wars movies, one of the Jurassic World pictures, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.  He says that Ridley Scott, J.J. Abrams and Tim Burton were the best directors to work with, and he gets work because directors realize that actors do a better job reacting with an actual object on screen rather than doing the entire film via green screen. “Maltin on Movies: Gustav Hoegen”.

(11) SOMETHING FISHY. Radio Times spoke with the showrunner: “Russell T Davies confirms he planted Doctor Who red herrings”. But he won’t tell which ones.

…”There’s been a few false stories and false tales and we placed a few posts ourselves, a couple of misleading things, and we’re very pleased that that kind of worked.”

However, Davies clarified that the rumour James Corden might be taking on the role wasn’t one of his red herrings, adding: “We didn’t plant that one, so that caught me frankly.”

While Davies did not expand on which names he’d planted in the press, a number of actors associated with the award-winning screenwriter were rumoured to be Jodie Whittaker’s replacement

(12) ANN DAVIS (1934-2022). The Guardian paid tribute to the late Ann Davies as an “actor admired for her many roles in TV drama series including Z Cars, EastEnders and in 1964 an appearance in Doctor Who.” She died April 26 at the age of 87.

…Television immortality came early on when when she joined forces with the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell, in 1964 in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. As Jenny, a determined and capable freedom fighter, Davies was a cold and efficient co-combatant with the series regular Barbara (Jacqueline Hill, in real life Davies’s friend and neighbour).

The action required them to encounter the Daleks in arresting scenes filmed at London landmarks. At one point they smashed through a patrol with a van, which required early morning shooting in the capital to avoid the crowds. Although it was just one guest role in her long career, Davies remained in demand for Doctor Who interviews and signings.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Samuel Delany’s Nova was nominated for a Best Novel Hugo at St. Louiscon fifty three years ago, the year that Stand on Zanzibar won. Two amazing novels; in this Scroll I’m here just to talk about Nova though I won’t deny that Stand on Zanzibar is an amazing novel as well. 

Nova came at a point in Delany’s career after he had just won three Nebulas, two for novels, Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection, plus one for his short story, “Aye, and Gomorrah..” The first novel was nominated for a Hugo at NYCon 3, the short story and the latter novel at BayCon. BayCon would see him get also nominated for “The Star Pit” novella, and St. Louiscon the next year would see his “Lines of Power” novella get nominated. It was a very fecund time for him. 

And then there was Nova, a fantastic novel that was first published by Doubleday in August 1968. Is it space opera? Is it really early cyberpunk? Of course it also had strong mythological underpinning and the tarot figured prominently into the story as well, so it couldn’t be nearly put into any categories, could it? All I know is that I really liked reading it. 

Reviewer Algis Budrys said in the January 1969 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction that it was “highly entertaining to read” and a later review on the Concatenation site said, “Though a novel, this runs like a string of tangled short stories fused and melted through one another, with fantastic concepts, but making its preposterous mission sound utterly credible for its extraordinary characters.” 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 12, 1937 George Carlin. Rufus in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. He also showed up in Scary Movie 3 and Tarzan II. I once met him many decades ago at a Maine summer resort. He was really personable and nice. (Died 2008.)
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best-known for the Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well (novelized by Longyear in collaboration with David Gerrold.) An expanded version of the original novella, plus two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy, make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. 
  • Born May 12, 1973 Mackenzie Astin, 49. His major genre role was in The Magicians as Richard/Reynard but he’s also appeared in I Dream in Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later (who knew?), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Outer LimitsLost and The Orville.
  • Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 72. His greatest genre role was obviously Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5. (Yes, I loved the show.) Other genre appearances being Alan T. Bradley in Tron and Tron: Legacy, and voicing that character in the Tron: Uprising series. He has a recurring role on Supergirl as President Baker.
  • Born May 12, 1953 Carolyn Haines, 69. Though best known for her Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series at twenty books and counting, she has definite genre credits having two orbs in her Pluto’s Snitch series, The Book of Beloved and The House of Memory, plus the rather excellent The Darkling and The Seeker though you might not recognize them as being hers as she wrote them as R.B. Chesterton. Her genre books are on Kindle. 
  • Born May 12, 1958 Heather Rose Jones, 64. Member of our File 770 community.  She received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for the Mother of Souls, the third novel in her Alpennia series which has now seen four novels published, quite an accomplishment. For six years now, she has presented the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast subseries of the Lesbian Talk Show.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) WALK THIS WAY. “How far did Sam and Frodo walk in Lord Of The Rings?” Yahoo! Movies found someone who thinks they know the answer.

They might have big feet, but with those little legs Hobbits Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins had their work cut out trekking from Bag End to Mount Doom in JRR Tolkien’s seminal The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One thing that has always enthralled fans when picking up Tolkien’s books is the attention to geography and the maps of Middle Earth.

Well now, thanks to one brilliantly thorough Imgur user called Mattsawizard, we can see how far those little legs had to go.

Better still he’s contextualised them with the UK….

(17) QUITE A HANDFUL. James Davis Nicoll directs us to “Five SFF Stories That Are Much Funnier Than They Sound”. First on the list:

The Night Life of the Gods by Thorne Smith (1931)

At first glance, Hunter Hawk seems to have been served the same dismal gruel as any other Thorne Smith protagonist. His home is inhabited by a swarm of grasping relatives, each one more feckless than the last. Other Smith protagonists require some external impetus to jar them out their conventional rut. Not Hunter Hawk, for long before the reader meets him, Hawk has energetically embraced mad science.

Having invented a petrification ray, Hawk’s immediate impulse is to turn it on his disappointing relatives. This leaves the inventor free for a meet-cute with Megaera, a 900-year-old fairy. It happens that Megaera has a trick that mirrors Hawk’s: she knows how to turn stone to living flesh. The couple could use this to de-petrify his relations. Instead, they transform statues of Roman gods into living deities.

The gods demand entertainment. Fortuitously, Jazz Age America is more than able to provide it.

(18) CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Chris Holm, author of a near-future sf novel where antibiotics have failed, offers eight recommendations for movies where disease is amok and creatures are covered with goo. “Eight Biological Horror Movies Guaranteed to Make Your Skin Crawl” at CrimeReads.

…Since [my novel] Child Zero seems to be scaring the bejesus out of everybody, I thought a fun way to celebrate its release would be an alphabetical roundup of my eight favorite biological horror movies.

Why biological horror rather than, say, body horror? Because even though the latter is an accepted horror subgenre, I’m not convinced everything on my list qualifies. Besides, I’m here to hype a biological thriller, not a body horror novel—so, y’know, synergy!…

(19) SAY CHEESE. What else do you say when you photograph something with a big hole in it? From the New York Times: “The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light”. (Photo at the link.)

Astronomers announced on Thursday that they had pierced the veil of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of “the gentle giant” dwelling there: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity, leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.

The image, released in six simultaneous news conferences in Washington, and around the globe, showed a lumpy doughnut of radio emission framing empty space. Oohs and aahs broke out at the National Press Club in Washington when Feryal Ozel of the University of Arizona displayed what she called “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy.” She added: “It seems that black holes like doughnuts.”…

 … Black holes were an unwelcome consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which attributed gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, much as how a mattress sags under a sleeper.

Einstein’s insight led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could quiver, bend, rip, expand, swirl and even disappear forever into the maw of a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that not even light could escape it.

Einstein disapproved of this idea, but the universe is now known to be speckled with black holes. Many are the remains of dead stars that collapsed inward on themselves and just kept going.,,,

(20) NOVA FIREBALL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover of the latest Nature is inspired by the article, “Chance discovery sheds light on exploding stars” (which is behind a paywall.) Here’s the introduction:

Nova explosions occur when a runaway thermonuclear reaction is triggered in a white dwarf that is accreting hydrogen from a companion star. The massive amount of energy released ultimately creates the bright light source that can be seen with a naked eye as a nova. But some of the energy has been predicted to be lost during the initial stages of the reaction as a flash of intense luminosity — a fireball phase — detectable as low-energy X-rays. In this week’s issue of NatureOle König and his colleagues present observations that corroborate this prediction. Using scans taken by the instrument eROSITA, the researchers identified a short, bright X-ray flash from the nova YZ Reticuli a few hours before it became visible in the optical spectrum. The cover shows an artist’s impression of the nova in the fireball phase.

(21) DEEP SUBJECT. Terry Pratchett talks to Leigh Sales of Australian Broadcasting about his Alzheimer’s and his support for right-to-die legislation in this 2011 clip: “Sir Terry Pratchett on life and death”.

(22) LEGO MUPPETS. IGN invites everyone to “Meet the LEGO Muppets Minifigures”.

On May 1, LEGO will release a series of Muppet Minifigures depicting Jim Henson’s most iconic creations: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo the Great, Animal, Janice, Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Statler, and Waldorf. LEGO sent IGN a preview set of all 12 minifigures, and we took a few photos (see below) to show off their details….

Part of what makes the Muppets lovable is their scruffiness; they’re cute, but not cloying in appearance or mannerism. And LEGO captures this quality by customizing each head distinctively–to be rounded, or conical, or exaggerated as need be.

Gonzo’s nose is huge. Beaker’s head is narrow. Honeydew’s eyes are non-existent. The Muppets are not subsumed by the LEGO aesthetic; if anything, LEGO compromised its design boundaries to ensure these figures retained that intangible ‘Muppet-ness’ they all possess….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another conversation between Lewis and Tolkien (from Eleanor Morton): “JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis realise something about dwarves”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Andrew (Not Werdna), Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 4/27/22 It Was The Time Of The Pixel, In The Year Of Scroll One

(1) ZAGREB CON’S SPECIAL DEAL. Croatia’s SFeraKon 2022, taking place May 13-15, is offering free admission to Ukrainians taking temporary shelter in the country.

Given the current situation in Eastern Europe, we decided to invite Ukrainians who are currently in Croatia to SFeraKon without paying a registration fee.

Free SFeraKon 2022 attendance for citizens of Ukraine If you are a citizen of Ukraine who came to Croatia to find temporary shelter from war, and are interested in science, science fiction, fantasy, horror literature, films or series, or borderline geeky activities such as board or computer games, cosplay or stuff like that, we would love to help you drop your worries for at least one weekend: come to SFeraKon for free. We offer three days of programme, but more importantly, an opportunity for you to take part in a gathering with a lot of fun and friendly people who may share some of your interests. Unfortunately, we cannot offer any translation into Ukrainian language, but if you speak English, then you already have something in common with 90% of the population at SFeraKon. Even of you don’t speak English, Ukrainian and Croatian have some similarities so most likely you will be able to communicate with others with a moderate amount of good will and a bit of hand waving SFeraKon is taking place from 13th till 15th of May (Friday evening till Sunday evening) at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (If you are in Zagreb, simply look for FER). We will be glad to meet and hang out with you.

(2) AMERICAN WRITERS FESTIVAL. [Item by Steven H Silver.] The American Writers Festival, sponsored by the American Writers Museum, will take place on May 15 at the Chicago Cultural Center.  It will include a panel discussion moderated by Chicon 8 Special Guest Dr. Eve L. Ewing (“The Future of Black”), and a talk between Ewing and Ashley C. Ford, and a discussion between Chicon 7 Toastmaster John Scalzi and Michi Trota.

The inaugural American Writers Festival on May 15, 2022 in Chicago coincides with the American Writers Museum’s fifth anniversary. The free literary festival will be held at four stages inside the Chicago Cultural Center and one stage at the American Writers Museum, and feature more than 75 beloved contemporary authors, artists and playwrights. Participating writers will address their perspectives on many of today’s most timely and controversial topics including immigration, book censorship, racism and equality through themes within their literature.

As a special bonus, the AWM will waive museum admission fees on Sunday, May 15 and Monday, May 16 – AWM’s fifth anniversary – to encourage more people to experience the literary works of the greatest American writers.

Proof of vaccination and masks are required to enter the American Writers Museum and all event spaces at the Chicago Cultural Center.

(3) CHARITY STREAM. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Twitch streamer Keffals will be having a charity stream to help Alabaman trans kids and their parents. Lilly Wachowski, Anthony Fantano, and Chelsea Manning are confirmed guests!

(4) AVATAR SEQUEL LEAVES DRYDOCK. Variety was there as “’Avatar 2′ Footage Debuts at Cinemacon”.

Avatar 2” is real, and it’s here — naysayers be damned.

After at least seven delays in the last eight years (the film was originally supposed to open in 2014), director James Cameron is finally ready to show audiences his otherworldly, underwater vision for “Avatar’s” long-awaited sequel. It’s newly titled as “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Disney, which inherited the franchise after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, unveiled new footage of the highly anticipated film at CinemaCon, the annual gathering of movie theater owners that’s currently unfolding at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

CinemaCon attendees were given 3D glasses to watch the minutes-long trailer, which contained almost no dialogue. Instead, exhibitors were immersed into different regions across the dazzling world of Pandora through sweeping visuals of the planet’s crystal blue oceans and lakes. The footage also shows the local tribe of Na’vi interacting with various species resembling whales and pelicans, some of which flew through the screen and into audience member’s faces thanks to the three-dimensional technology.

(5) COME FROM AWAY. Sarah Gailey responded to the angst about Twitter’s future by encouraging writers and artists to use her comments to tell where to find their newsletters. Thread starts here.  

(6) KAREN GILLAN INTERVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Karen Gillan, which is the first time I’ve heard Gillan speak in her normal Scottish voice (she’s from Inverness). Much of Gillan’s work is genre-related, ever since she was Matt Smith’s companion for three seasons on Doctor Who, a part she enjoyed because the cast bonded as a family through nine months of shoots where they worked 11 days out of every 14. She talks about what it is like being behind a table at media conventions, where fans pepper her with really arcane trivia questions about her roles, most notably as Nebula in the MCU. (Fans, Leonard Maltin says, “are a wily lot.”)  But she also talks about promoting MCU films in giant press conferences where the stars have two goals:  Not saying anything about the movie and making sure that Tom Holland doesn’t blurt out spoilers.

Gillan is currently developing Conventional, based on a short film she wrote and starred in in 2018 about a horror film star who meets fans who dress as the serial killer in her movies.  The film is on YouTube and would be rated R if it had a rating.

(7) ESSAY: JACK KLUGMAN ON THE ORIGINAL TWILIGHT ZONE.

By Cat Eldridge: Only three individuals did four or more appearances on Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and Jack Klugman was one of them. 

Let’s discuss his appearances. He was in “A Passage for Trumpet,” “A Game of Pool”, “Death Ship” and “In Praise of Pip”. 

In “A Passage for Trumpet” he’s Joey Crown, a hopeless NYC trumpeteeer with no money, no friends, and no job prospects due to being an alcoholic. He ends in Limbo talking to an Angel. 

Next he’s Jesse Cardiff in “A Game of Pool,” where we get told the story of the best pool player living and the best pool player dead. No points for guessing which he is. 

Now this episode was remade in the eighties Twilight Zone. That version featured Esai Morales as Jesse Cardiff and Maury Chaykin as Fats Brown. This version used the original alternate ending that Johnson intended for the original version. (Nope in keeping with the File 770 policy of not having spoilers if at possible, I’m not telling you what that ending was. After all it’s only been sixty years and some of you might not have seen it yet.) 

The next episode he’s in is definitely SF and based on a Richard Matheson short story with the same title, “Death Ship”. (It was first published in Fantastic Story Magazine, March 1953.) Matheson wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. Only Serling wrote more. In this episode, a spaceship crew discovers a wrecked replica of their ship with their own dead bodies inside. Klugman plays the Captain Paul Ross.

The model used in this episode of the hovering spaceship is that of a C-57D Cruiser, a leftover prop from Forbidden Planet. It would also be used in the episodes “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and “Third from the Sun”. The crashed ship is a model created for this episode.

The final appearance by him is in “In Praise of Pip” where his role is Max Philips,  a crooked bookie, who after learning that his soldier son has suffered a mortal wound in the Vietnam War, apparently encounters a childhood version of his son.

The Twilight Zone streams on Paramount +. 

From “Death Ship”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. Yes, I know he’s written some genre fiction but I’m interested this time in his mysteries. He wrote The Maltese Falcon which was turned into the film you remember and another film a decade earlier. And, of course, there are Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series that got turned in a six film series. Now my favorite character by him is the Continental Op in Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. And let’s not forget the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip which artist Alex Raymond  of Flash Gordon fame illustrated. (Died 1961.)
  • Born April 27, 1899 Walter Lantz. Cartoonist, animator, producer and director who founded Walter Lantz Productions. He created the Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy characters among others. He received an Academy Award “for bringing joy and laughter to every part of the world through his unique animated motion pictures”. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 27, 1901 Frank Belknap Long. John Hertz says that he should be singled out for the “To Follow Knowledge” novelette which John lovingly discuses here. Let me add that Long received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 27, 1920 Doris Baumgardt. Well-known and loved fan, illustrator and writer under the name of Leslie Perri. She was a member of the Futurians, and a founding member of FAPA. She was also a member of the CPASF and the Science Fictioneers. She was one of five members of the Futurians allowed into the first World Science Fiction Convention by Sam Moskowitz  with the other four were Isaac Asimov, David Kyle, Jack Robinson and Richard Wilson. She wrote three pieces of short fiction that were published in the Forties and Fifties; she contributed artwork to fanzines. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 27, 1962Rachel Caine. She had two series, the Weather Warden series which is most excellent and the superb Great Library series. I can’t speak to the Morganville Vampires series as I don’t really do vampires. She’s got a number of other series, far more than can detailed here. She won the Nebula Solstice Award last year, given for significant impact on speculative fiction. Ben Bova and Jarvis Bernard Sheffield also were given the Award that year. (Died 2020.)
  • Born April 27, 1963 Russell T. Davies, 59. Responsible for the 2005 revival of the BBC One of Doctor Who. A Whovian since the very beginning, he thinks “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” has the best dialogue in the entire series, an opinion I concur with. Of course he’s also responsible for Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures as well. (Need I note that the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was his idea?) Oh, and a few years back, he produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And that hardly covers everything that he’s done. Hugo nominations and awards? Oh yes. Starting at Nippon 2007, where he was nominated for Doctor Who’s “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”, then at Anticipation both “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” and “Turn Left” were nominated. At Aussiecon 4, he finally won a Hugo for “The Water of Mars”. “The Next Doctor” and “Planet of the Dead” were also nominated.  And y’all know he’s the new Who showrunner. That should be interesting. 
  • Born April 27, 1986 Catherine Webb, 36. She’s writes under a number of names but I only know her under her Kate Griffin name where she wrote the extraordinary London set Matthew Swift series which one of the best urban fantasy series I ever read. Hugo worthy indeed. I’ve not read any of her fiction written as Claire North which is major other name, so if you have, do tell me how it is. As North, her book The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August won the Clarke Award and Campbell Memorial Award, and The Sudden Appearance of Hope won a World Fantasy Award. Now go read the Matthew Swift series! 
  • Born April 27, 1986 Jenna Coleman, 36. Clara Oswald, Companion to the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors.  She remains the longest serving companion since the series was revived. Genre wise, she was also Connie in Captain America: The First Avenger, and did voice work on the animated reboot of Thunderbirds Are Go. And yes, she showed up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot which deserves to be annotated. 

(9) SAGA IS BACK. NPR’s Mallory Yu tells how “Radical pacifism and violence collide in the ‘Saga’ comic series”.

There’s a frog playing drums, an alien on guitar, and a humanoid creature with a television for a head on vocals on the cover of Saga‘s Issue 58.

It’s a collection of characters that’s par for the course for the award-winning science fiction epic, which pretty quickly amassed a legion of fans after its first issue in 2012. Then, in 2018, creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples announced their saga would be going on hiatus.

Their series returned this year, in February, and Vaughan was ready to get started.

“I can’t stop thinking about it,” he said. “I think most of my hiatus was really spent still focused on Saga and sort of plotting out the next several years of these character’s adventures.”

If you call running for your life while dangerous assassins shoot lasers at you “adventures.”…

(10) WHO – OR WHAT? – WILL EXPLORE SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jeff Foust reviews a new book that argues that we don’t need astronauts anymore and can just rely on unmanned missions. “The End of Astronauts” at The Space Review.

…For the last couple of decades, there has been a truce between advocates of robotic and human space exploration, with an acknowledgement that the two can and should work together: robots serving as precursors and assistants for later human missions. But in The End of Astronauts, Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees—a veteran science writer and the UK’s Astronomer Royal, respectively—argue that exploration beyond Earth orbit should be left to robots, a case that is certainly controversial but not necessarily compelling.

…Of course, governments don’t send astronauts into space exclusively or even primarily to do exploration: it’s one rationale of several, like geopolitics and national prestige. Goldsmith and Rees appear to acknowledge this, expecting the US and China to land humans on the Moon in the next decade or so, with Mars missions possibly by the 2040s but perhaps later….

(11) HOW ANCIENT DNA HIT THE HEADLINES; [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The origins, politics and motivations of the people who sequence age-old genomes dance with science fiction In tomorrow’s Nature….

In 1993, the day after the film Jurassic Park premiered in Washington DC, Nature reported the sequencing of DNA from a weevil encased in amber more than 120 million years ago. Then, in 2015, days before the global premiere of a sequel, Jurassic World, Nature Communications published evidence for the preservation of red blood cells and proteins in a 75-million-year-old dinosaur sample. Coincidence? The authors of the 1993 paper (R. J. Cano et al. Nature 363, 536–538; 1993) insisted it was, notes historian of science Elizabeth Jones. One of the co-authors of the 2015 paper https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8352.pdf (S. Bertazzo et al.Nature Commun. 6, 7352; 2015) told me theirs was, too: “100%”. These tantalizing parallels between life and art open Jones’s book Ancient DNA, a fun and thought-provoking introduction to the origins, politics and motivations of research into age-old genomes…

...Will the ancient-DNA big-hitters go back in time once more? The latest film in the franchise, Jurassic World Dominion, premieres in June; perhaps we’ll find out.

(12) THE GANG’S ALL HERE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum chat with Vanity Fair about Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Dominion, which they are all in, in this video that dropped today.

(13) ON THE HORIZON. Snopes.com expects “Musk’s Twitter Ambitions to Collide with Europe’s Tech Rules”.

A hands-off approach to moderating content at Elon Musk’s Twitter could clash with ambitious new laws in Europe meant to protect users from disinformation, hate speech and other harmful material.

Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” pledged to buy Twitter for $44 billion this week, with European Union officials and digital campaigners quick to say that any focus on free speech to the detriment of online safety would not fly after the 27-nation bloc solidified its status as a global leader in the effort to rein in the power of tech giants.

“If his approach will be ‘just stop moderating it,’ he will likely find himself in a lot of legal trouble in the EU,” said Jan Penfrat, senior policy adviser at digital rights group EDRi.

Musk will soon be confronted with Europe’s Digital Services Act, which will require big tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook parent Meta to police their platforms more strictly or face billions in fines….

(14) YOU’LL WANT TO RUSH TO YOUR NEAREST THEATER 45 YEARS AGO! “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Gets a Modern Trailer Makeover” and ScreenRant admires it greatly.

1980’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back gets a brand new, modern trailer that doesn’t give away any of the film’s surprises. As one of the true blockbusters, the release of 1977’s original Star Wars movie marked the beginning of one of the most influential franchises of all time. For its first sequel, creator George Lucas stepped back from directorial duties, handing off the role to his former film school professor Irvin Kirshner. With a story by Lucas and a script by Lawrence Kasdan, The Empire Strikes Back took a much darker tone than its predecessor and was all the better for it.

(15) FOR THEIR FANS. This trailer explains what happens when a character “has CGI surgery,” shows Chip and Dale going to cons, and hopefully will not have kids ask, “What are the Chippendale dancers?” Coming to Disney Plus in May!

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Honest Game Trailers: Tunic,” Fandom Games says this game first asks “What if Zelda were a furry?” but then goes on to be a game where all the rules and plot mechanics are hidden, so the game “captures the feeling of being a lost child in Costco.” But as you repeat actions over and over, “It’s like having OCD–but the fun kind!”

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Borys Sydiuk, Steven H Silver, Ben Bird Person, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/25/22 Mrs. File You’ve Got A Lovely Pixel, Scrolls As Sharp As Her Are Something Rare, But It’s Sad, She Doesn’t Read My Books, I’d Give Her Free Copies, But It’s No Good To Beg

(1) SALE OF TWITTER PROMPTS RESPONSE. It was announced today that Elon Musk will buy Twitter. Cora Buhlert tweeted her reaction to the news. Thread starts here. Here are excerpts.

Meanwhile, John Scalzi noticed a disturbance in the Force:

(2) LITFEST 2022. LitFest Pasadena runs from April 30-May 14. The science fiction/fantasy related programming is on April 30 – see the graphic below. (Yes, in the Mountain View Mausoleum – what could be cheerier?)

(3) NOT IN MY BACK YARD. The New Yorker reports local angst about “The Plan to Make Michigan the Next Space State”. And the monied entrepreneurs who might want to carry out the project.

…I had come to visit… because Granot Loma had been selected as the location for a proposed rocket-launch site, as part of a plan called the Michigan Launch Initiative. If built, the site, along with two other facilities, would constitute the first spaceport in the Midwest. The site planned for Granot Loma would host vertical launches, through which rockets carrying satellites and other payloads—not human passengers—would be sent into low-Earth orbit. The second facility is a horizontal-launch site at the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport, about two hundred miles north of Detroit, where aircraft carrying satellites would take off from runways. Operations for both sites would be supported by the third facility, a command-and-control center, which would be situated in the Upper Peninsula, in Chippewa County, east of Marquette.

The spaceport plan is the brainchild of the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (mama), a trade association founded in 2007. mama estimates that the command-and-control center will be operational by 2023, and that all three sites of the spaceport will be up and running by 2026. Their initiative has been polarizing: some locals believe that the spaceport will benefit the economy and attract more talent to the state, while others, particularly those who live close to Granot Loma, worry about the potential disruption of having rocket launches in their back yards….

(4) CRUSH HOUR. Commuters, SYFY Wire can tell you where the dino traffic will be heaviest: “Colin Trevorrow Jurassic World Dominion map”.

America has a little dinosaur infestation problem in Jurassic World Dominion. How bad is this prehistoric predicament? Director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow made it quite plain with a nifty map of all the once-extinct animals now running loose across the United States in the upcoming blockbuster (out in theaters this June). “It’s a problem,” tweeted the filmmaker, 

(5) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] As we know, James Earl Jones and Carrie Fisher were in a series of movies together, Star Wars.  Until they appeared on an episode of the TV series, Big Bang Theory, they had never met.  Since Jones’ Star Wars performance was as a voice actor he was never on-set.

(6) JAMES BAMA (1926-2022). Artist James Bama died April 24 at the age of 96 reports DeathObits.com. He was inducted into the Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2000.

James Bama, a legendary and super talented American Artist/Painter, who painted Doc Savage, Frankenstein, the crew of the Enterprise and so many other fantasy/sci-fi subjects, has sadly and unexpectedly passed away on Sunday, April 24, 2022, leaving his entire family, close relatives, and groups of friends in total devastation and sadness.

… Beginning with The Man of Bronze (1964), he created a powerful set of 62 Doc Savage Bantam Books paperback covers, frequently employing actor Steve Holland, star of TV’s Flash Gordon (1954–55), as a model. He also created the box art for Aurora’s monster model kits, such as King Kong, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy. His work is collected in The Western Art of James Bama (Bantam Books, 1975) and The Art of James Bama (1993). Brian M. Kane’s James Bama: American Realist (Flesk, 2006) has an introduction by Harlan Ellison.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge] Twenty-three years ago on this evening on FOX, the David Duchovny-written-and-directed X-Files’ “The Unnatural” episode first aired. It is not connected to the underlying mythology of series, and thus is one of their Monster of the Week stories.

We’ve aliens (as in Roswell), baseball and the KKK. Well, only the latter are the monsters here if you ask me as the aliens definitely aren’t. We would have had Darren McGavin here too but he suffered a stroke after he was cast as one of the principal characters, but after the stroke, he was replaced by M. Emmet Walsh whom you’ll recognize as Bryant in Blade Runner. McGavin never filmed anything again. 

It had a notable cast, so I’ll list it: Frederic Lane, M. Emmet Walsh, Jesse L. Martin, Walter T. Phelan, Jr.  Brian Thompson and Paul Willson.

Reception for this episode is exceptionally good. Them Movie Reviews said of it that, “It is truly a credit to Duchovny that The Unnatural works at all, let alone that it turns out as a season highlight. There are any number of memorable and striking visuals in The Unnatural. The sequence where Dales discovers Exley’s true nature is one of the most distinctive shots in the history of The X-Files.”

While Doux Reviews stated “Think about it for a minute. This is an episode about baseball players in the 1940s. They are not only black in a time when being so could be life threatening, they are aliens. Our two heroes are, for the most part, nowhere to be seen throughout this hour. This story should never have worked. It did and it does on every subsequent re-watch. Written and directed by David Duchovny, this is an earnest hour of television. Duchovny took a premise that could have been silly and inane beyond the telling of it and chose to take the whole thing seriously. Because he does, we do as well.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give the series as a whole an outstanding eighty-six percent rating. 

The X-Files are free to steam on Amazon Prime. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 25, 1897 Fletcher Pratt. He’s best remembered for his fiction written with L. Sprague de Camp, to wit, Land of Unreason, The Carnelian Cube and The Complete Compleat Enchanter. I’m rather fond of The Well of the Unicorn and Double Jeopardy. I see that he and Jack Coggins were nominated for International Fantasy Award for their Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships, a non-fiction work published in 1951. Anyone known about this? He got nominated for two RetroHugos, the first at MidAmericCon II for “The Mathematics of Magic” novella, the second there for another novella, “The Roaring Trumpet”.  (Died 1956.)
  • Born April 25, 1907 Michael Harrison. English writer of both detective and genre fiction. He wrote pastiches of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin. His most remembered work is In the Footsteps of Sherlock HolmesThe London of Sherlock Holmes and The World of Sherlock Holmes. He was also a noted Sherlock Holmes scholar, being a member of both the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, and the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. He wrote three genre novels — The Bride of FrankensteinHigher Things and The Brain. (Died 1991.)
  • Born April 25, 1915 Mort Weisinger. Comic book editor best known for editing  Superman during the Silver Age of comic books. He also served as story editor for the Adventures of Superman series. Before that he was one of the earliest active sf fans, working on fanzines like The Planet (1931) and The Time Traveller (1932) and attending the New York area fan club known as The Scienceers. (Died 1978.)
  • Born April 25, 1950 Peter Jurasik, 72. Ambassador Londo Mollari on Babylon 5 who would be Emperor one day and die for his considerable sins. (Yes spoiler, but there can’t be anyone here who hasn’t seen Babylon 5.) He has also very short genre credits other than Babylon 5— Doctor Oberon Geiger for several episodes on Sliders and Crom, the timid and pudgy compound interest program, in the Tron film.
  • Born April 25, 1952 Peter Lauritson, 70. Long involved with the Trek franchise starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He became the producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and supervising producer for Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. He directed three episodes of those series, including the Hugo Award-winning (at ConFrancisco)  “The Inner Light”, as well as being second unit director for two Trek films.
  • Born April 25, 1969 Gina Torres, 53. The first thing I remember seeing her in was Cleopatra 2525 where she was Helen ‘Hel’ Carter. (I really liked that series.)  Her first genre was in the M.A.N.T.I.S. pilot as Dr. Amy Ellis, and she actually was in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as a character named Cas but I’ll frankly admit I remember almost nothing of those films. She’s had a number of DC voice roles including a recurring Justice League Unlimited run as Vixen / Mari McCabe. And of course Zoe in the Firefly verse. Lastly anyone remember her on the Angel series as Jasmine?
  • Born April 25, 1981 Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 41. She’s the publisher of Innmouths Free Press , an imprint devoted to weird fiction. Not surprisingly, she co-edited with Paula R. Stiles for the press the Historical Lovecraft and Future Lovecraft anthologies. She won a World Fantasy Award for the She Walks in Shadows anthology, also on Innsmouth Free Press. She was a finalist for the Nebula Award in the Best Novel category for her Gods of Jade and Shadow novel, which won a Sunburst and Ignyte Award. And finally with Lavie Tidhar, she edits the Jewish Mexican Literary Review. Not genre, but sort of genre adjacent. Canadian of Mexican descent.
  • Born April 25, 1988 Jonathan Bailey, 34. Here for being Psi on the Twelfth Doctor story, “Time Heist”,  the best story I think that they did. He, in what I think was his only other genre role, was Lewis is Alice Through the Looking Glass.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro – a comic that consistently lives up to its name. Today’s joke is about vampires.

(10) CLASSIC CAR FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. If this vehicle was in LA they could re-enact the famous photo of the shuttle driving by the big donut on the roof of Randy’s Donuts. “Drive to the airport in your own Endeavour Space Shuttle” in the NZ Herald.

Consultant John Powell and his friend dairy worker Paul Mulligan have converted a 2006 Nissan Presage station wagon into the Endeavour Space Shuttle to raise money for Starship children’s hospital.

They said this is an ideal vehicle for Kiwis “to the airport and beyond”.

The “shuttle” has clocked just under 200,000km on its wheels but as for flight time, it’s still brand new with less than a minute on air.

“Other than some split-second flight along the bumpy New Zealand highway, it’s brand new,” he said.

“It’s very hard to find a spaceship with less than 200k on the clock,” Powell said.

it has three rocket engines driven by a fire extinguisher generating incredible but unmeasurable thrust.

… However, the downside is the vessel does use unleaded 91 petrol as a fuel source, the price of which seems to be flying higher than the Endeavour but this fuel type is a whole lot cheaper than the liquid hydrogen which retails roughly for about $10 per kg.

(11) STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION ANIMATED SERIES CLASSIC STYLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A fan-made animation has surfaced of the ST:TNG scene where the Borg kidnap Picard. It’s made in the style of the Filmation Star Trek: The Animated Series. Spot on. 

(12) THINKING BIG. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] OK, this is unashamedly sciencey but is also the metaphysical stuff of science fiction: Greg Egan’s Quarantine for example, but then you’d expect me to say that, my being a Science Fact & Fiction Concateneer.  One of my favourite YouTube channels is PBS Space Time: always good to start the week with a bit of physics before moving on to the serious stuff of bio- and geoscience. This channel has a few million followers so quite a few do like its hard science.

Sometimes episodes have maths and sometimes the maths is a tad heavy. But equally, some episodes are maths free. This week’s episode is one such.  Further – while some say biology is the most amorphous of the four core sciences (maths being the fourth) – physics too can have its unquantifiable moments even if part-spurred by real experimentation. This week’s episode of PBS Space Time looks at such an area of fuzzy physics when asking the question “Does the Universe Create Itself?”…  Apparently, we could be living in a universe that is playing Reverse 20 Questions with itself.

(13) WAYBACK TO THE FUTURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Barry Norman reviews Back To The Future on the BBC in December 1985, and said while he liked the film, “If you give more money to Steven Spielberg, that can’t be helped.  It’s already been established that he’s a descendant of King Midas.”

(14) SOCK IT TO MOMA. Stephen Colbert interviews Oscar Isaac and we learn a Dune movie relic is now part of the MOMA Collection: “Oscar Isaac Gifted His Modesty Sock To “Dune” Director Denis Villeneuve”.

(15) ROLLING ROLLING ROLLING. From three years ago, OK Go’s music video “This Too Shall Pass” is staged around an epic Rube Goldberg Machine.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Andrew Porter, Anne Marble, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie. Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall. We’ve done the short version of this title; today we’re going all the way!]

Pixel Scroll 3/31/22 There’s No Way To Delay, That Pixel Scrolling Every Day

(1) LASFS IN THE FIGHTING FORTIES. [Item by David Langford.] As a direct result of comments at File 770, I’ve made Bixelstrasse generally available in paperback from Lulu.com — by agreement with Rob Hansen – with all proceeds going to TAFF. It’s a pretty hefty volume at 429pp, and there’s a map on the back cover!

Rob Hansen has compiled this substantial (194,000 words) history of the 1940s Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society from contemporary fanzine accounts, so the story emerges from the participants’ own words. Besides such famous or notorious fans as Forrest J Ackerman, Charles Burbee, Claude Degler, Francis Towner Laney, “Morojo” and “Tigrina”, we meet several well-remembered professionals including Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Harryhausen, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Fritz Lang, Fritz Leiber and A.E. van Vogt. As Rob himself puts it: “… there have been other occasions on which fans have shared premises in varying degrees, but to have a community of fans centred around a clubroom and living in nearby rooming houses on the same street gave rise to all-week, around-the-clock fanning of a sort not seen before or since. […] This set-up, the whole ’fannish village’ they established, was immensely appealing to me in my twenties (though seeing so much of each other inevitably exacerbated personality clashes, of course). Add in the large numbers of fans from around the country who passed through Los Angeles thanks to the war, many of them processed via the Induction Center at nearby Fort MacArthur before being sent off to fight, and you have something unique in the history of fandom, a saga featuring fans and pros, communists and homosexuals, madmen and mystics, Hollywood stars and spies.”

(2) BURBEE: MORE COMPLEAT THAN EVER BEFORE. In Ansible on April 1, David Langford will announce another TAFF free ebook — The Incompleat Burbee Volume 2 — expanded from the 1996 version with further previously uncollected material. Cover art by Bill Rotsler. As always, a donation to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund is welcomed.

Charles Burbee’s earlier fanwriting was collected as The Incompleat Burbee in 1958, but he carried on being grumpy, acerbic and funny (though with longer and longer gaps between appearances) for further decades. Terry Carr planned this second volume in the 1970s and typed many stencils for a duplicated (mimeo) edition that never appeared. The stencils were passed from fan to fan until finally Jeff Schalles published The Incompleat Burbee Volume 2 as a photocopied fanzine in 1996.

This ebook contains the complete text of that 1996 edition, plus a number of further Burbee articles and stories not included either then or in 1958. These begin with an early piece for Francis Towner Laney’s The Acolyte (1946), include several classics such as the legendary “I Had Intercourse with a Glass of Water” from Terry Hughes’s Mota (1974), and end with material first published in Robert Lichtman’s Trap Door after Burbee’s much-lamented death in 1996.

(3) CANCELLED FLIGHTS. Camestros Felapton follows his series of Firefly episode reviews by speculating where it would have gone next had it stayed on the air: “Firefly Friday: Riding off into the sunset part 2”.

… I also want to talk about some of the elements that either surprised me or, I believe, would have changed if the show had lasted longer. With a show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (to pick on the near-contemporary Whedon show) neither the first season nor the final season are the best examples of what the show is like. If Firefly had lasted three or four seasons it would have evolved and advocates of the show would probably be pointing to the ‘best’ episodes as ones from season 2 or 3. Star Trek: The Next Generation really improved sharply from Season 3 onwards, the most Doctor-Whoey Doctor Who is arguably Tom Baker, the FOURTH iteration of the character and multiple years into the show….

(4) STORYTELLING DECISIONS. Maryann Corbett’s review argues that Maria Dahvana Headley didn’t translate Beowulf but adapted it, and thoughtfully compares the book with the work of other translators. “The Monsters and the Translators: Grappling with Beowulf in the Third Millenium” at Literary Matters. Her review concludes:

…That narrator of Headley’s, along with a few other elements of her retelling, can make me grimace the way Professor Kendall did at my old comic book. But Headley’s book is not the comic I feared it would be after reading reviews that emphasize bro and dude; it’s an effective and enjoyable poem. I debate with myself: are my reservations fair, or are they biases built on too much early exposure to Old Stuff? I’m pleased to have read Headley. I’m more pleased to have been invited back to old books and notes and blasted forward to marvelous new ways of learning.

(5) THE HOBBITS MEN DON’T SEE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Tolkien Estate updates website with previously unseen content” reports The Bookseller.

…The relaunch date, 26th February, is significant in Tolkien lore because 26th February 3019 was the date in the Third Age when the Fellowship of the Ring was broken at Amon Hen and Frodo and Sam set out on their journey to Mordor. 

The newly launched website, tolkienestate.com, will exhibit the literary and artistic works created by J R R Tolkien and to provide further insights into his life and times. The website includes sections on his writing, painting and calligraphy, his scholarship and letters and a timeline of his life, together with numerous family photographs. It also features an audio-visual section containing recordings and clips featuring both the author and his son, Christopher Tolkien. 

(6) A FINE TIME WAS HAD BY ALL. “The Library Ends Late Fees, and the Treasures Roll In” — the New York Times is there to admire the returning relics.

…Some items, checked out decades ago, arrived with apologetic notes. “Enclosed are books I have borrowed and kept in my house for 28-50 years! I am 75 years old now and these books have helped me through motherhood and my teaching career,” one patron wrote in an unsigned letter that accompanied a box of books dropped off at the New York Public Library’s main branch last fall. “I’m sorry for living with these books so long. They became family.”

Three DVD copies of “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,” a 2009 action film about Irish Catholic vigilantes in Boston that has a 23 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, were returned to three libraries in three different boroughs.

When New York’s public library systems announced last October that they would be eliminating all late fines, the goal was to get books and people back to the more than 200 branches, as well as research centers, across the city after a year and a half of limited hours and access.

The goal was achieved: A wave of returned overdue materials came crashing in, accompanied by a healthy increase (between 9 and 15 percent, depending on the borough) of returning visitors.

Since last fall, more than 21,000 overdue or lost items have been returned in Manhattan…

(7) REMEMBERING STEVE STILES. Michael Dobson put together a computerized slide show as a tribute to Steve Stiles’ artwork, first shown at DisCon III in conjunction with the table sales of Steve’s posthumous collection. It’s now viewable on YouTube: “Steve Stiles – An Appreciation”. The soundtrack includes music by Ted White’s band Conduit.

(8) THIRD MAN THEME. Ally WIlkes discusses “Encounters with the Supernatural in Antarctica: A Brief History” at CrimeReads.

… The benevolent third man—which John Geiger dubs the ‘saviour’ presence—appears to be something distinct from our traditional understanding of ghosts. It appears in crisis situations and interacts with the observer, even if only to provide a sense of comfort. However, the Antarctic also contains stories of encounters with a less benevolent presence. This second type of encounter, again, doesn’t fit neatly into the category of ‘ghost’, if by that we mean the spirit of a human person who has died (and often at the place in question—Antarctica poses a bit of a conundrum on this front, as although it’s certainly seen its share of deaths, its footprint of human occupation is far later and far sparser than most other places on the planet)….

(9) FILET MINION. Illumination Entertainment’s Minions: The Rise of Gru will be released in July.

Long before he becomes the master of evil, Gru (Oscar® nominee Steve Carell) is just a 12-year-old boy in 1970s suburbia, plotting to take over the world from his basement. It’s not going particularly well. When Gru crosses paths with the Minions, including Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto—a new Minion sporting braces and a desperate need to please—this unexpected family joins forces. Together, they build their first lair, design their first weapons, and strive to execute their first missions. When the infamous supervillain supergroup, the Vicious 6, oust their leader—legendary martial arts fighter Wild Knuckles (Oscar® winner Alan Arkin)— Gru, their most devoted fanboy, interviews to become their newest member. The Vicious 6 is not impressed by the diminutive, wannabe villain, but then Gru outsmarts (and enrages) them, and he suddenly finds himself the mortal enemy of the apex of evil. With Gru on the run, the Minions attempt to master the art of kung fu to help save him, and Gru discovers that even bad guys need a little help from their friends.

(10) RICHARD LABONTÉ. The family obituary for Richard Labonté has been published by the Toronto Globe and Mail: “Richard LABONTE Obituary (2022)”.

As an editor of gay anthologies, co- founder of the A Different Light bookstore chain, and mentor to many authors, he was one of the most influential advocates of queer culture and literature in North America. …Throughout the 1990s, A Different Light became a centre of queer culture in California and New York, places where authors and fans met for readings and informal receptions. Over 22 years, Richard combined his bookselling career with his editorial expertise to connect authors with thousands of new readers…. 

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-seven years on ABC, Max Headroom premiered. That however was not the beginning of the phenomenon known as Max Headroom. The story is based on the Channel 4 British TV film produced by Chrysalis, Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. That short film is largely similar to the pilot of ABC series. 

The British film consisted of material intended to be broken into short segments for a music video program, The Max Headroom Show, which did premiere two days later. Max Headroom served as veejay, and its first episodes unusually featured no introductory title sequence or end credits, just Max as done by Matt Frewer in that amazing makeup blabbing away. It was a hit and several interactions were done including for the American cable network Cinemax.

Now back to Max Headroom. The dystopian series was set, as it said twenty minutes in the future in a city, if not a world dominated by media networks. Y’all know the story so I won’t say more than that. It did a splendid job of depicting a future of what was very obviously a limited budget. 

Matt Frewer, Amanda Pays and William Morgan Shepherd are the only performers that carry from the Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future version of this story. And several characters such as Dominique, Blank Reg’s Companion, don’t exist in that bleaker version of the story. No idea if that version is available on DVD. 

Max Headroom I consider to be every bit as good as Farscape or any of the better genre series. It would last but two seasons and a mere fourteen episodes before being cancelled. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 31, 1926 John Fowles. British author best remembered for The French Lieutenant’s Woman but who did several works of genre fiction, The Magus which I’ve read a long time ago and A Maggot which I’ve not read. Some works which are not genre such as The Collector just make me shudder. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 31, 1927 William Daniels, 95. He’s the voice of KITT on the Knight Rider series on the movie came afterwards. He also has genre appearances in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, the original Kolchak: The Night StalkerThe Incredible HulkGalactica 1980Faerie Tale TheatreTouched by an Angel and a fantastic “appearence“ on Star Trek: Voyager where he’s the voice of Hospital Ship 4-2, Allocation Alpha in the “Critical Care” episode. 
  • Born March 31, 1932 John Jakes, 90. Author of a number of genre series including the Brak the Barbarian series.  Dark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968. 
  • Born March 31, 1934 Richard Chamberlain, 88. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all  Musketeer films to be genre.) Some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He’s listed as voicing the Jack Kirby-created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBoris Karloff’s ThrillerChuck and Twin Peaks.
  • Born March 31, 1936 Marge Piercy, 86. Author of He, She and It (published outside the UK as Body of Glass) was shortlisted for the Otherwise Award and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. She also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) doomed to be called a “classic of utopian speculative sf”. Woman on the Edge of Time was nominated for a Retrospective Otherwise Award (1996).
  • Born March 31, 1943 Christopher Walken, 79. A performer whose first role was in The Three Musketeers, as a minor character, John Felton. He has a minor role in The Sentinel, a horror film, and a decidedly juicy one in Trumbull’s Brainstorm as Dr. Michael Anthony Brace followed up by being in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone as Johnny Smith. Damn, I’d forgotten he was Max Zorin, the villain in A View to a Kill! H’h, I didn’t know he was in Gibson’s New Rose Hotel but then I haven’t actually seen it yet. Is it worth seeing? And let’s wrap this up by noting his appearance in The Stepford Wives as Mike Wellington.
  • Born March 31, 1960 Ian McDonald, 62. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — the aforementioned Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the India in 2047 series and The Dervish House  are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) THE GAME’S AFOOT. Annalee Newitz was referenced on Jeopardy! last night.

(15) BEUKES ADAPTATION. Shining Girls premieres on Apple TV+ on April 29.

Based on Lauren Beukes’ best-selling novel, Shining Girls follows Kirby Mazrachi (Moss) as a Chicago newspaper archivist whose journalistic ambitions were put on hold after enduring a traumatic assault.Years after a brutal attack left her in a constantly shifting reality, Kirby Mazrachi learns that a recent murder is linked to her assault. She teams with veteran reporter Dan Velazquez (played by Wagner Moura) to understand her ever-changing present—and confront her past.

(16) BLOWN TO MORE THAN 8 BITS. “A retro computer museum in Mariupol was attacked by Russia”NPR’s news item will probably interest Chris Garcia, who used to work in a computer museum, and it will probably make him sad, too.

Nearly two decades ago, Dmitriy Cherepanov started a collection of retro computers in Mariupol, Ukraine, that grew into an internationally known assemblage of historic machines, housed in a private museum he called IT 8-bit.

Russia’s campaign to take over his city in southeast Ukraine has killed at least 2,000 civilians, destroyed most of the city’s homes and turned Cherepanov’s beloved computer museum into rubble.

“I’m very upset,” Cherepanov, 45, told NPR. “It’s been a hobby of my life.”

IT 8-bit held more than 120 examples of computer technology and game consoles from the last century. Cherepanov estimates that up to 1,500 people visited the free museum every year before he closed it at the start of the pandemic.

Cherepanov knows the small building housing the museum was bombed, like many other structures in the city, sometime after March 15. He believes that any machines that weren’t destroyed by the blast were likely taken, given the desperate circumstances in the city now.

(17) MOON RISE. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Oscar Isaac about Moon Knight and his previous roles in Marvel movies as the villain in X Men: Apocalpyse and his voice work in Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse. “Oscar Isaac, with ‘Moon Knight,’ finally rises to the Marvel A-list”.

…To prepare for the role, Isaac said, Robert Oxnam’s “A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder” became his bible. The book is a deeply personal account of the author’s struggles and eventual acceptance of the multiple lives taking place in his mind.

“It felt like that was the orienting principle for this, because it was a real journey into this guy’s discovery and healing, which is the integration that had to occur for him to be able to live with [multiple personalities] as a functioning human being,” Isaac said….

(18) TWO CHAIRS TALKING. David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss have an excellent adventure is episode 72 of Two Chairs Talking, “A Dangerous Kind of Vision”.

We take the Hugo Time Machine back to 1968, when Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology dominated the short fiction categories. Perry and David argue about the Best Novel winner, Lord of Light.

(19) WAS CODA THE ONLY UNDERDOG TO WIN AN OSCAR? It’s well known that CODA was an underdog in the Oscar race for Best Picture, which is further proven below. The JustWatch Streaming Guide graphic shows this trend continued in other categories as well, with winners Encanto and Drive my car being less popular than other nominees in their respective categories. 

JustWatch is an international streaming guide that helps over 20 million users per month across 100 countries to find something great to watch on Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+, etc.

(20) HERE’S THE BEEF. “We Must Live in a Horrid Simulation, Because Joe Rogan Just Offered to Train Elon Musk to Fight Vladimir Putin” declares Futurism.

Sometimes it feels like our overlords are phoning it in with the stuff they’re programming into our simulation.

Exhibit A: Former UFC color commentator turned “Fear Factor” host turned notoriously dubious podcaster Joe Rogan is now offering to help Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk train so that he can fulfill his goal of kicking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ass, presumably in retaliation for the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

No, this isn’t the world’s dumbest round of “Cards Against Humanity” — it’s actually something the Rogan said on a recent episode of his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” in response to Musk challenging Putin to single-hand combat earlier in March.

“I offered my services,” Rogan told his guest, Aussie comedian Monty Franklin. “I texted him. I said, ‘Dude I will arrange all of your training.’ ‘If you really do fight Putin,’ I said, ‘I will arrange all your training,’”…

(21) BRAINY VIDEO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tom Scott tosses off 14 story ideas involving brains in under six minutes!

(22) “NOVEL” IDEA: DOWSE FOR THE DEAD. [Item by Dave Doering.] It never ceases to amaze me how “reality” can be waaayyy stranger than fiction. The Marshall Report tells about cops being trained to use dowsing rods to find buried remains. “Can ‘Witching’ Find Bodies? Police Training Alarms Experts”. Surely there’s a novel idea in there…

One student asks about dowsing rods.“You want to use some?” replies Arpad Vass, an instructor at the National Forensic Academy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where law enforcement officers come to learn how to use science to solve crimes — at least in theory. “I use them on everything.”

[Vass] teaches students the proper way to dowse and some of “the 17 scientific principles that make the rods work, which took me years to figure out.”

TechDirt’s Tim Cushing is beyond skeptical: “Cops Are Being ‘Trained’ To Use Literal Witchcraft To Find Dead Bodies”.

… Alarmed? They should be apoplectic! This is insanity. That this has gone longer than Vass’ first attempt to introduce dowsing into forensic science is an indictment of both the University of Tennessee and the law enforcement agencies that still pay to have officers and investigators subjected to cop-washed black arts by a “scientist” deep in throes of self-delusion. Dowsing “works” like a Ouija board “works.” It’s an illusion that relies on self-deception. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, science.

It does not magically become a science just because Vass is capable of using science-y words or has a background in actual science….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Triangle Strategy,” Fandom Games says this game is so dull it drags “more than a mandatory Zoom meeting”: and is equivalent to George RR Martin writing “a visual novel while on Ambien and not knowing what a visual novel was.”  As for gameplay, the narrator complains that “I don’t want my poor decision making to come to a logical conclusion.  I do that by existing.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rob Thornton, David Langford, Chris Barkley, StephenfromOttawa, Daniel Dern, Dave Doering, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The text of McGhee’s March 11 message follows:

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

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

ExoMars

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

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

Space Transportation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/22 The Naming Of Scrolls Is A Difficult Matter. It Isn’t Just One Of Your Pixel-File Games

(1) BONDS OF EUROCON. The editors of SF2 Concatenation are mindful of the fans affected by the Russian invasion:

(2) REALITY CHECK OR CHECK ON REALITY? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Pulp scholar Jason Ray Carney talks about the value of escapist reading and sword and sorcery at the LA Review of Books“Reading Sword-and-Sorcery to Make the Present Less Real”. (For some reason, the LA Review of Books felt the need to illustrate the essay with a Weird Tales cover that’s not for a sword and sorcery story.)

 …Whether we read to engage or to escape reality, we continue to read fiction because it provides us with an experience that cannot be satisfied by other means. Additionally, as a cultural practice, reading fiction has taken on a quasi-spiritual aura; it has become a secular ritual, not unlike mindfulness meditation, that is robustly encouraged by its proponents. One recalls the Orwellian “READ” posters that have been published by the American Library Association since 1985, the most recent a rendering of Channing Tatum, holding a copy of Peter Pan, standing in front of a glittering star field. Evoking the imperious command of alien billboards in John Carpenter’s They Live — obey, marry, reproduce, consume — these posters celebrate reading as an activity of unquestionable social value and say nothing about what is real. Why not read fiction to escape the real?…

(3) LIVING BY THE SWORD. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Dariel Quiogue, a Filipino author of Asian based sword and sorcery or sword and silk, in episode 34 of the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with Dariel Quiogue – So I’m Writing a Novel…”

…Their discussion covers portrayal of war elephants in history and stories, Alexander the Great being a war criminal to some, Carter & De Camp (and Nyburg) Conan tales, Howard Lamb’s Khlit the Cossack stories (a huge influence on Robert E Howard), drawing from Asian history for his stories – including an intriguing alternate path for Genghis Khan, wanting to write more fiction based in where you’re from, being anxious about a lack of experience to the world limiting your fiction, how late in history Dariel feels you can set a story and still have it feel like sword & sorcery, the “Sword & Sorcery attitude”…

(4) APPENDIX N(ORTON). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The good people of Goodman Games continue their series of profiles of classic SFF authors. Jim Wampler profiles Andre Norton: “Adventures in Fiction: Andre Norton”.

… Norton’s influence on adventure gaming and its creators was not accidental. She often employed a recurring motif in her books in which the protagonist begins as an outsider or “other”, and through dedicating themselves to a perilous journey in the wilderness, eventually becomes a fully-realized heroic figure. The parallels to the level advancement and experience point systems of early role-playing games is obvious….

And Michael Curtis profiles Margaret St. Clair — “Adventures in Fiction: Margaret St. Clair” – focusing almost exclusively on those two novels by her which are listed in the Appendix N of the original D&D Dungeon Master’s guide, even though St. Clair wrote so much more. But Goodman Games is an RPG company, so I guess that’s fair.

…Margaret St. Clair is an interesting figure, one whose work is largely overlooked in the present age. St. Clair was one of only three women authors who appeared on Gygax’s list of influential writers and their works. During both the Golden and Silver Ages of fantasy fiction, the field was dominated by white males, so much so that the now-often derided pronouncement on the back cover of the Bantam Books 1963 printing of The Sign of the Labrys (“Women are Writing Science Fiction!”) was actually somewhat shocking. The fact that Appendix N includes three women authors is a testimony to the breadth of Gary’s reading….

(5) HOW WORLDCON GOHS ARE CHOSEN. Esther MacCallum-Stewart of the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon Bid has written a thoughtful post about the committee’s process for picking their prospective GoHs: “From the Chair: Selecting Our Guests of Honour”.

5. The selection team and the chair’s team then met to decide a Short List, based on the recommendations of the committee, but also considering several other criteria which allowed flexibility in looking at the list:

  • Who will represent Glasgow in 2024’s vision of Inclusion, Caring and Imagination best?
  • Who could present an indicative picture of science fiction and fantasy in 2024?
  • Who might make an interesting Guest of Honour, able to participate to the best of their ability and help create a fun, exciting contribution to a Worldcon in Glasgow 2024?
  • What other elements, like involving local voices, varied perspectives and contemporary discussions, should these Guests represent?
  • How might the Guests of Honour look as a group? (more on this later)

6. Phew! This seems like a lot, but at last there is a short list, and since this process is still happening, I’m expecting it to be about 30 names. We’re ready to start making the decision.

(6) ATWOOD ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Margret Atwood was on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour this week with a 15 minute interview. Topics included when did women’s status fall and how
the right purloins left tools.

The programme is downloadable from here for a month after which it will be available on BBC Sounds.

Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of essays, Burning Questions, gathers together her essays and other occasional non-fiction pieces from 2004 to 2021. She is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her novels include Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin which won the Booker prize in 2000. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, was followed in 2019 by a sequel, The Testaments, which was also a Booker Prize winner (with Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other). Margaret joins Emma to talk about culture wars, free speech, feminism, grief and being in your 80’s.

(7) CLONE ARRANGERS. Edward Ashton names books by Tiptree, Simak, and Mur Lafferty while recommending books about clones and replicants at CrimeReads: “Eight Books About What It Means to be Human”.

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

It’s probably a lucky thing that I didn’t read this book until after I’d finished writing Mickey7, because Six Wakes begins in a very similar place—clones, mind-mapping, immortality, an interstellar colonization mission—but then takes off in a wildly different direction….

(8) CLOTHES FOR THE OCCASION. Hypebeast shares a fashion display as “Disney Launches Official ‘Star Wars’ Galactic Starcruiser Merchandise”.

…Offered by the boutique located just off the Atrium of the Halcyon, “The Chandrila Collection” will allow you and your family and friends to fully embrace the world of science-fiction and fantasy with futuristic garments inspired by some of the most iconic characters and factions from the epic franchise. From hooded black dresses and saber-training tunics to mechanics’ jumpsuits and starship captains’ jackets, the collection carries something for every fan. You’ll also find the classic white Princess Leia dress as well as a cloak inspired by Padmé Amidala’s royal wardrobe….

There’s a video here of The Chandrila Collection – some philistines would call it a commercial, I’m sure.

(9) JEOPARDY! As usual, the wrong Jeopardy! questions are the most entertaining. Andrew Porter saw this one tonight.

Final Jeopardy: Fictional Families

Answer: Introduced in the 1930s in The New Yorker, they’ve appeared on TV & Broadway & in live action & animated films.

Wrong question: Who are the Von Trapps?

Correct question: Who is The Addams Family?

(10) KELLERMAN OBIT. Actress Sally Kellerman, whose many roles included a Star Trek appearance, has died at the age of 84. The New York Post profiled her career.

…Kellerman is also rooted in “Star Trek” history. Fans of the original series will remember her role as a psychologist in the third episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — which actually was originally filmed as one of two pilots for the sci-fi series….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2010 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  Jack Vance who I think I can say without fear of contradiction is beloved by all here won three Hugos. The first was at the first DisCon for “The Dragon Masters” which was originally published in the August 1962 issue of Galaxy, the second was at NyCon 3 for “The Last Castle” published in Galaxy in the April 1966 issue, and the third, and this one surprised me, was Best Related Work at Aussiecon 4 (2010) for This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”)

His first Hugo nomination that didn’t result in a win was at Detention for “The Miracle-Workers”, published in Astounding in July 1958, his other nomination was a Retro Hugo at Millennium Philcon for The Dying Earth novel. 

His I-C-a-BeM novelette was longlisted at Seacon. His Ecce and Old Earth novel was likewise at MagiCon. If we’re being completists… Queen of Air and Darkness, I love databases! 

Dick Lupoff delivers Jack Vance’s 2010 Hugo.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not at all like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 89. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 77. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2. He also won a Tony Award for his role in The Robber Bridegroom, a play based off the Eudora Welty novella.
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 75. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was Blade Runner as Detective Gaff, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He has made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka.
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 71. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. Though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer LimitsAmazing StoriesRay Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a excellent series indeed. 
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 56. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 54. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(13) ARTHURIANA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Molly Roberts says very few people were asking for the PBS animated series Arthur to end after 25 years with their characters aging two decades and the beloved cartoon aardvark turning into “a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee.” “Arthur grew up in the finale of his PBS show. It’s a betrayal.”

… PBS’s sendoff of his namesake show after a quarter-century of seasons unexpectedly age-accelerates its characters two decades or so. It’s a move undoubtedly designed to offer closure to fans from preschooler to professional. But maybe closure is exactly what we didn’t need.

To recap, for those too busy living adult life to dip back into the old days for the finale of the longest-running animated children’s series in history: The (non-)boy the New York Times dubbed “the world’s most popular student aardvark” has apparently become a fledgling graphic novelist with an even less fledged goatee. His sister, the perennial pest D.W., has become … a cop? Buster the bunny is a drably dressed teacher; self-proclaimed tough guy and secret softie Binky Barnes the bulldog is a journalist….

(14) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with director Ken Kwapis, which is worth listening to for one very good anecdote about Jim Henson.  Kwapis directed Henson as a puppeteer in Sesame Street Presents:  Follow That Bird (which Leonard Maltin thinks is an underrated musical).  Jim Henson only had one request.  Before the shoot began, Henson asked everyone–cast and crew–to hold one arm high in the air for a minute. The reason: to give everyone a sense of what puppeteers had to do during a movie.

This is an entertaining hour, but most of what Kwapis directed is not genre.  Even though he directed all seven episodes of the second season of Space Force, he doesn’t have much to say about the show. “Maltin on Movies: Ken Kwapis”.

(15) THE WINTER OF THEIR DISCONTENT. “Patton Oswalt Slams Comixology Changes as Fans Call Out Amazon” reports Screen Rant.

…As Oswalt makes clear, with the changes, ComiXology has gone from being a dedicated hub for comics to just another tab for digital content in Amazon’s Kindle storefront. Whereas before the change, in addition to being a place where subscribers could “collect” and “curate” their digital collections, ComiXolgy provided a way for fans to explore the wonderful world of comics, manga, graphic novels in efficient and enjoyable manner.

Oswalt wasn’t the only one to find fault with the changes. Indeed, from hardcore fans to casual readers, from writers to gamers, the change seems to have struck a chord everywhere….

(16) JEFFERSONIAN STARSHIP. Politico tells “Why Musk’s biggest space gamble is freaking out his competitors”. “Starship is threatening NASA’s moon contractors, which are watching its progress with a mix of awe and horror.”

Elon Musk is planning yet again to rocket beyond the status quo. And if he succeeds, the aerospace giants that won the first space race may never catch him in this one.

Standing in front of the towering Starship rocket at Space X’s southwest Texas “Starbase” on Thursday night, Musk pledged that his most ambitious spaceship yet will make its first journey in the coming months….

Starship is designed to be the first all-purpose space vehicle: a reusable and refuelable spacecraft that can take scores of people and millions of tons of cargo from Earth directly to the moon and eventually Mars — and do it over and over again.

If he can pull it off, Musk’s previous breakthroughs — electric cars, reusable rockets for launching satellites, the first commercial space capsule to dock with the International Space Station — might seem, by comparison, to be modest achievements….

(17) DUSTING OFF HISTORY. Pollen leads to a picture of “The Uneven Sweep Of Black Death’s Assault On Europe” in a Nature article.

The historical pandemic known as the Black Death might not have been as devastating as was previously thought, an analysis of ancient pollen suggests.

Historians estimate that a wave of bubonic plague in the mid-1300s killed about half of the people in Europe, at a time when most lived in rural areas. To investigate the Black Death’s true toll, Alessia Masi at the Sapienza University of Rome and her colleagues analysed ancient pollen from 261 lakes and wetlands across Europe (pictured, a sampled bog in Poland). By assessing the varieties of pollen, the team determined whether fields and pastures had been abandoned after the plague and eventually replaced by forests.

Levels of pollen from species common in agricultural lands were much lower in many places, including France and central Italy, between 1350 and 1450 than during the previous 100 years. This suggests high mortality rates. But in other regions, including Ireland and much of eastern Europe, agricultural activities were stable and even expanded, suggesting that populations there were growing.

Factors such as weather and local economies might have caused the pandemic’s course to vary, the authors say.

(18) FELL WEAPON. Nature discusses a “Gift From Above: The Meteorite Origins Of King Tut’s Dagger”.

Chemical analysis of an iron dagger found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb has identified the type of meteorite from which the metal was derived — and suggests the knife might have been a gift from another ruler.

Tut reigned in the fourteenth century bc, before iron working was common in Egypt. Previous research identified an iron– nickel meteorite as the probable
source of the blade’s metal, but little was known about how the dagger was manufactured.

Tomoko Arai at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Narashino, Japan, and her colleagues mapped the metal’s elements by shining X-rays along the blade and analyzing the resulting fluorescence. They found that the nickel was distributed in a crosshatched pattern typical of a group of meteorites called octahedrites. The blade must have been forged at a relatively low temperature to retain the pattern and other meteorite specific features, they say….

(19) GALAXY CHEX QUEST. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece based on the 1996 computer game Chex Quest. According to Wikipedia, Chex Quest was included as a cereal prize in boxes of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and Wheat Chex. “Daily bunny no.1676 is fighting for a balanced breakfast (A Patreon reward for @DrWho42!)”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, 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 Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 12/28/21 Journey To The Center Of The Ringworld

(1) LINDSAY ELLIS LEAVES TWITTER. Hugo-nominated video essayist and Astounding-nominated author Lindsay Ellis has announced her departure from Twitter as a result of dogpiling and other forms of internet abuse.

Newsweek connects some of the events leading up to this decision in “Lindsay Ellis ‘Omelas’ Meaning As Vlogger Quits YouTube Over ‘Raya’ Controversy”.

YouTuber Lindsay Ellis has quit social media months after she was at the center of a Twitter controversy over her criticism of the film, Raya and the Last Dragon.

On March 26 of this year, the film critic and content creator ignited a frenzy among movie fans when she compared the Pixar movie to Avatar: The Last Airbender.

A month after the controversy began Ellis discussed it in “Mask Off”.

Ellis explained her decision to leave Twitter in a post available to her Patreon subscribers. Newsweek has seen the post and says, “in it, Ellis discusses her difficult year following the Raya controversy and how she is exhausted by the barrage of criticism she faces online.”

While Ellis’ Patreon post is not for public quoting, one resource she repeatedly cites in it is Porpentine’s “Hot Allostatic Load” from 2015 at The New Inquiry, which is available online (excerpt below).

… This is in defense of the hyper-marginalized among the marginalized, the Omelas kids, the marked for death, those who came looking for safety and found something worse than anything they’d experienced before.

For years, queer/trans/feminist scenes have been processing an influx of trans fems, often impoverished, disabled, and/or from traumatic backgrounds. These scenes have been abusing them, using them as free labor, and sexually exploiting them. The leaders of these scenes exert undue influence over tastemaking, jobs, finance, access to conferences, access to spaces. If someone resists, they are disappeared, in the mundane, boring, horrible way that many trans people are susceptible to, through a trapdoor that can be activated at any time. Housing, community, reputation—gone. No one mourns them, no one asks questions. Everyone agrees that they must have been crazy and problematic and that is why they were gone.

I was one of these people….

Meredith also recommends reading Joreen’s 1976 article “Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood”.

… What is “trashing,” this colloquial term that expresses so much, yet explains so little? It is not disagreement; it is not conflict; it is not opposition. These are perfectly ordinary phenomena which, when engaged in mutually, honestly, and not excessively, are necessary to keep an organism or organization healthy and active. Trashing is a particularly vicious form of character assassination which amounts to psychological rape. It is manipulative, dishonest, and excessive. It is occasionally disguised by the rhetoric of honest conflict, or covered up by denying that any disapproval exists at all. But it is not done to expose disagreements or resolve differences. It is done to disparage and destroy….

Today Kiva tweeted a thread on the theme that “social media is inherently unjust.” Thread begins here.

(2) ON THE WAY. “The Bat and The Cat Trailer” dropped yesterday. The Batman comes to theaters March 4.

Vengeance equals justice for both the Bat and the Cat.

(3) SOCKET TO ME. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] “How the AIpocalypse begins” or “I Always Do What Teddy Says” updated: “Alexa tells 10-year-old girl to touch live plug with penny” at BBC News.

Amazon has updated its Alexa voice assistant after it “challenged” a 10-year-old girl to touch a coin to the prongs of a half-inserted plug.

The suggestion came after the girl asked Alexa for a “challenge to do”.

“Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” the smart speaker said.

Amazon said it fixed the error as soon as the company became aware of it.

The girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, described the incident on Twitter.

She said: “We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier. Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one.”

That’s when the Echo speaker suggested partaking in the challenge that it had “found on the web”.

The dangerous activity, known as “the penny challenge”, began circulating on TikTok and other social media websites about a year ago….

(4) POWER POLL. Ursula Vernon polled Twitter readers about a question that may have been inspired by a discussion of editorial power making the rounds. (Or not!) There’s also plenty of comments from writers that follow this tweet.

(5) TWO-DIMENSIONAL SPACE. BoardGameGeek tells how you can “Bring Star Trek and Heroes of Might and Magic III to Your Tabletop” next year. Full game descriptions at the link.  These cards are from Missions.

U.S. publisher WizKids has been releasing Star Trek-themed games for years, and it will release two more such titles in 2022, both being themed editions of previously released games. Star Trek: Super-Skill Pinball makes that connection clear right in the title…

Star Trek: Missions uses the same game engine as Bruce Glassco‘s Fantasy Realms, with players building a hand of cards that will score points based on the composition of that hand….

(6) TRIBUTES TO TWO SCIENTISTS. The New Yorker is “Honoring the Legacy of E. O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy”, two scientists who died very recently.

Over the weekend, two of the country’s leading naturalists, E. O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy, died a day apart. Wilson, who was perhaps best known for his work on ants, was a pioneer in the field of conservation biology; Lovejoy was one of the founders of the field. The two men were friends—part of an informal network that Wilson jokingly referred to as the “rain-forest mafia”—and there was something eerie about their nearly synchronous passing. “I’m trying very hard not to imagine a greater planetary message in the loss of these biodiversity pioneers right now,” Joel Clement, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, tweeted on Monday….

The Scientist ran this tribute to Wilson: “E.O. Wilson, Renowned Ant Researcher, Dies at 92”.

… In other work, Wilson performed a mass extinction study by removing insects from six mangrove islands in Florida via fumigation and documenting species recolonization and repopulation over two years. The observations, published in Ecology in 1970, provided insights into species extinction and conservation science.

Wilson is also credited with developing the field of sociobiology, which addresses the biological underpinnings of animal behavior, according to the Post. When he extended this thinking to humans in his 1975 book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, which argues that people’s behavior is genetically determined, he incited much controversy, reports Reuters.

In the 1980s, Wilson pivoted his efforts to conservation biology, continuing to travel around the world and arguing that only by preserving half the Earth as wild will biodiversity be saved and mass extinction avoided, according to the Times…. 

(7) ANDREW VACHSS. The Official Website of Andrew Vachss reports he has died: “The loss cannot be measured and the debts can only be paid forward.” Vachss’ genre work includes some supernatural noir, the Cross series, and a Batman story.

Some of his most important work (non-sff) included writing about the realities about CASAs (“Court Appointed Special Advocate” volunteers), a program that wants to be “the child’s voice in court.”

Joe R. Lansdale mourned the death of Vachss, who felt like a brother to him. Lansdale linked to a published conversation they had about writing:

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty years ago, K-9 And Company: A Girl’s Best Friend first aired. It was a pilot for a proposed spin-off of Doctor Who. It features former Who series performers Sarah Jane Smith, an investigative journalist played by Elisabeth Sladen, and K9, a robotic dog voiced by John Leeson. Both characters had been companions of the Fourth Doctor, but they had not appeared together before. 

It was broadcast by BBC1 as a Christmas special long before the traditional Doctor Who Christmas specials which didn’t start until the Tenth Doctor, and it did not become a continuing series. It was created by John Nathan-Turner as written by Terence Dudley who had the Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” and three stories for the Fifth Doctor. 

Despite not being picked up as a series, it had very good ratings as eight point four million viewers watched it. Under a different production team some twenty-six years later, the overall concept of a Sarah Jane and K9 series did eventually come to be as The Sarah Jane Adventures which would last five seasons. Though K9 would be used sparingly in the new series.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story. (My opinion of course, yours may differ.)  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island which he was largely uncredited for. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in a way that company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in a way that DC isn’t thought of as having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list. I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards and he won a Hugo at Anticipation for Iron Man. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 89. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon.
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 87. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films.
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 79. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a WisCon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 George Zebrowski, 76. He won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Brute Forces. He’s married to Pamela Sargent with whom he has co-written a number of novels, including Trek novels. 
  • Born December 28, 1970 Elaine Hendrix, 51. I found a Munsters film I didn’t know about (big fan I am, yes) and she’s Marilyn Munster in it: The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas. She later is Gadget Model 2 (G2) in Inspector Gadget 2. (Anyone watch these?) And she’s Mary in the animated Kids vs Monsters. 
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 40. The Baroness in one of the endless G.I. Joe films I’ve no attention ever of seeing, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to be precise. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SKY FIE. “Elon Musk sparks China fury as space station takes emergency measures to avoid collision” reports the UK publication Express.

SPACEX CEO Elon Musk faced the ire of Chinese citizens online after their space station was reportedly forced to take evasive actions to avoid collision with satellites.

Chinese citizens lashed out against the tech billionaire’s space ambitions on Monday after satellites from Starlink Internet Services, a division of Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company, had two “close encounters” with the Chinese space station. According to a document submitted by China to the UN space agency, the incidents occurred on July 1 and October 21.

In the papers, Beijing complained about how the near-miss incident “constituted dangers to the life or health of astronauts aboard the China Space Station”.

It said: “During this period, Starlink satellites launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of the United States of America have had two close encounters with the China Space Station.

 “For safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control on 1 July and 21 October 2021, respectively.

“For safety reasons, the China Space Station took the initiative to conduct an evasive manoeuvre in the evening of that day to avoid a potential collision between the two spacecraft.”…

(12) HE LOOKED. John Scalzi’s “Brief Review: Don’t Look Up” is at Whatever. Just quoting the first line here – don’t want my excerpt to bogart the post.

I liked it a lot, which is not surprising as it combines two of my favorite things — astronomy and satire — into one movie, and then also gives me an excellent cast and a pretty good script…. 

(13) ALTERNATE APOLLO. Jeff Foust reviews Chris Hadfield’s alternate-history novel: “Review: The Apollo Murders” at The Space Review.

… Such a book could easily go disastrously bad, but Hadfield pulls it off. He manages to find a balance between the narrative tension involved in a thriller, with multiple characters and plot lines coming together for the climax, with the technical details space enthusiasts will be looking for. Hadfield offers plenty of such details, whether it’s flying a Cessna or a high-performance jet or a lunar lander. He also mixes in actual historical figures among the fictional ones, like Gene Kranz, Alan Shepard, Sam Phillips, and Vladimir Chelomei (an author’s note at the end lists those actual figures.) Hadfield pays great attention to such details and others throughout the book; it might be overlooked or simply underappreciated by some readers, who simply want to get on to the next part of the plot, but such details never really drag the pace of the action….

(14) GILGAMESH GOES HOME. “Ancient Gilgamesh tablet returned to Iraqi National Museum”The National News has the story.

A rare antique clay tablet that bears a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh was returned to Iraq from the US on Tuesday in a victory for the war-torn nation in its long-running struggle to repatriate stolen artefacts.

The 127mm by 152mm fragment dates back 3,500 to 4,000 years. It was part of a group of more than 17,000 artefacts smuggled from Iraq decades ago and illegally imported to nations around the world. The tablets and other objects were seized from the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby company.

The chain of arts and crafts shops was forced by the US government to relinquish the items in 2017 and fined $3 million for failing to act on expert advice that the objects may have been looted or to declare their provenance to the authorities….

(15) RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. “Dave Eggers Created the Google-Amazon Mash-Up of Your Nightmares” – the New York Times’ Kara Swisher interviews the author of The Every.

kara swisher: One thing about this book, which is — it’s a little funnier than “The Circle,” which was a slightly more malevolent and menacing, although it’s the same company. Right? You seem to have gotten a little more of a sense of humor about it. One of the quotes was, “You’re disobedient and we strive to be too. Disobedient was a recently favored word replacing mutinous, which had replaced insurgent, which had replaced disruption, disruptor, which is, of course, the one they use now.”

david eggers: Yeah, I love the language of Silicon Valley. There’s always a word that is the word of the month or the word — and I can’t believe “disruption” is still out there. It’s been there for six, seven years or something and people are still using it. And everything for that period of time is measured against that word. Is it disruptive or is it not disruptive? Is this taco that I’m ordering, is that disruptive? I don’t know. And so — I had a lot of fun trying to think of not just the words that exist now but what would they invent or use in the future. And if you’re on the bleeding edge of that next word, the next “disruption,” you are seen as, I guess, a visionary in some way. But the words are kind of, they’re always — nouns used as verbs is always an easy thing to go for. But they’re always kind of awkward words. A little bit muscular but awkward and ungainly. And so it makes conversations so clunky and strange, almost like you’re talking in a second language in translation. Because so often you’re like, well, that word doesn’t at all belong there. It never meant that before, but here we are using it….

(16) THUMBS DOWN. Of course you want to know: “5 Worst Sci-Fi Movies Of 2021 (According To Rotten Tomatoes)”.

… Looking back at the 2021 releases, there were plenty of new sci-fi features released to keep audiences entertained. While some fantastic movies were offering fresh and fun takes on robot uprisings, anti-hero carnage, and anime endings, many fell short of the mark. This list looks back at the 5 worst sci-fi releases of the year according to Rotten Tomatoes featuring lackluster demonic possessions, bored Bruce Willis, and contrived romances….

Bliss (28%)

Directed by Mike Cahill and starring Owen Wilson as Greg and Salma Hayek as Isabel, Bliss follows recently divorced, Greg who happens to meet the strange and enigmatic Isabel at a bar. Isabel seems to know Greg and believes that the world they inhabit is a simulation. What follows is a messy mix of attempted mind-bending as Greg and Isabel begin to lose sight of what is real and what is fantasy. Bliss misses the mark with both its sci-fi and romance elements, leaving viewers wishing for an escape back to reality….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Matrix Resurrections Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, had the writer say that the first three Matrix movies told a story that “was over.  It was done with.”  So in the fourth film,  Keanu Reeves plays a video game developer who has told the story of the Matrix in three video games and is forced to make a fourth one.  The film basically retells the story of the first Matrix movies with additions that are so confusing that the producer asks at the end of the pitch, “What was that about?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Meredith, Todd Mason, amk, Jeffrey Jones, Anne Marble, Andrew (not Werdna), Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/5/21 Pixelo And Scrolliet, A Play In 3 Acts By Filiam Scollspeare

(1) NO CHANGE ON DISCON III / WECHAT STATUS. DisCon III announced on November 29 they had to remove WeChat as a payment option. “Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time.” Their tech team was trying to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. Today File 770 checked in with Tim Szczesuil, DisCon III’s Site Selection Administrator, and asked if they’d had success. He said no:

Our Tech person has been working with WeChat to resolve the situation, but our WeChat Pay account is still locked. The lockout is on their end, not ours. We haven’t given up hope that this will be resolved, but time is running out.

Many people in China are buying memberships and paying for the voting fee via credit card. Currently, there is nothing much we can do.

(2) AROUND THE BLOCK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik notes that “language development” software GPT-3 has become open source which has led Sudowrite to develop a tool that could help blocked writers complete their articles.  So Zeitchik interviews Gay Talese about his famous article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (which, remember, has an appearance by Harlan Ellison) and film critic Katie Walsh, and has Sudowrite come up with synthetic completions of their articles which he asks Talese and Walsh to grade.  He concludes that software can help writers but not yet replace them. “Sudowrite and GPT-3 imitate Gay Talese in this test of artificial intelligence”.

…I asked Walsh what she made of the fact that a computer program could, with her raw material, come up with something that sounded like a professional review.

She replied: “This is way better than I expected from it! It’s pretty good! I can see this now not as ‘taking my job’ (because the machine can’t watch the movie … yet), but as a tool for a writer/editor to evade writers block.” She continued, “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to take the AI paragraph and rework it, because it did successfully guess where I was going most times.”

Oddly, Gupta hasn’t optimized Sudowrite yet for nonfiction; it’s more for novelists. But he saw GPT-3 as very adaptive to journalism.

“Ultimately, it’s a tool that will move things up the chain,” he said. “As a writer, you may not need to crank out words anymore. You’re more of an editor, choosing the best versions.”

This seemed pretty scary to me, and I spent the rest of the day wondering if it was too late to enroll in trade school….

(3) TRIFFID TALK. A BBC Radio 3 panel discusses John Wyndham’s classic: “Free Thinking, The Day of the Triffids”. Listen at the link.

Killer plants, a blinding meteor shower, the spread of an unknown disease: John Wyndham’s 1951 story explores ideas about the hazards of bioengineering and what happens when society breaks down. Matthew Sweet is joined by writers Amy Binns and Tanvir Bush, broadcaster Peter White and New Generation Thinker Sarah Dillon to look at the novel which spawned film, TV and radio adaptations and discuss what resonance it has today.

Amy Binns has written a biography of John Wyndham – ‘Hidden Wyndham: Love, Life, Letters’. Tanvir Bush is a writer and photographer whose most recent novel is ‘Cull’. Peter White is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent and presents You and Yours on Radio 4.  Sarah Dillon is Professor of English at Cambridge University and a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. Her most recent book is ‘Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning’.

(4) BLINDNESS IN SFF. Meanwhile, you can still hear a Triffid-referencing episode of BBC Radio 4’s program Seriously… about “Sci-Fi Blindness”:

From Victorian novels to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, sci-fi regularly returns to the theme of blindness.

Peter White, who was heavily influenced as a child by one of the classics, sets out to explore the impact of these explorations of sight on blind and visually impaired people.

He believes a scene in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham imbued him with a strange confidence – and he considers the power of science fiction to present an alternative reality for blind readers precisely at a time when lockdown and social distancing has seen visually impaired people marginalised.

He talks to technology producer Dave Williams about Star Trek The Next Generation’s Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen talks about Birdbox and world-building from a blind point of view in James L Cambias’s A Darkling Sea. Professor Hannah Thompson of Royal Holloway University of London takes us back to 1910 to consider The Blue Peril – a novel which in some ways is more forward thinking in its depiction of blindness than Hollywood now.

And Doctor Who actor Ellie Wallwork gives us her take on why blindness is so fascinating to the creators of science fiction.

(5) HOT WINGS. The Penguin will celebrate 80 years as a Batman villain in an uncharacteristic way: “Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story” in the Guardian.

Batman’s least intimidating foe the Penguin, usually seen plotting the heist of Gotham City’s priciest jewels, has a somewhat less dastardly plan up his sleeve in his latest outing: he’s out to vaccinate the world.

The feathered supervillain’s latest storyline was dreamed up by the actor Danny DeVito, who played the character in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Working with artist Dan Mora, DeVito has written the story Bird Cat Love for an anthology celebrating Batman’s enemies, Gotham City Villains, published on Tuesday by DC Comics to celebrate the 80th anniversary year of the character’s creation.

Rather than depicting the Penguin up to his usual tricks, however, DeVito has him stealing all the world’s vaccines from the pharmaceutical companies who are hoarding them, according to an early report from comics site Bleeding Cool News – and then forcibly vaccinating everyone on the planet.

(6) A STAKE IN FUTURE WHO. “Sony officially acquires Doctor Who series 14 producer Bad Wolf” reports Radio Times.

Sony Pictures Television has officially bought Bad Wolf, the company set to produce Doctor Who series 14.

Sony purchased a majority stake in the indie production company, which is behind shows such as His Dark Materials and I Hate Suzie, while the deal also includes the Wolf Studios Wales facility in Cardiff and a minority stake in Bad Wolf America.

Russell T Davies, who will return as showrunner for Doctor Who’s 60th year, will be enlisting the help of Bad Wolf to produce the next season, set to air on BBC One in 2023 with a brand new Doctor.

The company was founded by former BBC executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter back in 2015 and while Sky, HBO and Access Entertainment did hold stakes in it, Sony has now taken them over….

(7) NOT OF THIS MIDDLE-EARTH. Yahoo! says “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Show Will (Majorly) Break From Tolkien’s Canon”. Well, how could it not, when did showrunners ever follow the books? But if you’re interested in speculations about the exact departures from the books, read on. Here are two short excerpts:

What’s young Aragorn got to do with anything?

Turns out, nothing. Early reports about the series speculated that it would follow the adventures of young Aragorn, whose path prior to his introduction in The Fellowship of the Ring was long and winding. However, when Amazon tweeted, “Welcome to the Second Age,” which took place thousands of years before Aragorn’s birth, speculation was debunked….

Who’s attached to the series?

Three lead actors have been announced: Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones) will star as Beldor, an “experienced fighter”; Markella Kavengeh (Picnic at Hanging Rock) will play Tyra, an “empathetic” individual who’s likely an elf; and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones‘ Uncle Benjen) will star as Oren, the lead villain. It’s worth noting that none of these characters are Tolkien characters—all are new, original characters. Moryfdd Clark will follow in Cate Blanchett’s footsteps as Galadriel, suggesting that other familiar roles, like Elrond, may be recast….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-four years ago on CBC, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas first aired. It would premiere a year later in the States on HBO.  It was based off of the children’s book of the same name by Russell Hoban and his wife Lillian Hoban. Russell Hoban you’ll no doubt recognize as the author of Riddley Walker which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It was directed and produced by Jim Henson off the script by Jerry Juhl who was known for his work on The Muppet ShowFraggle Rock and Sesame Street.

The Muppets voice cast was Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Marilyn Sokol and Eren Ozker. Paul Williams, who I was surprised to learn wrote Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” among quite a few other songs, composed the music and several songs here. This would not be his last such Muppets work as he would be involved in The Muppet Movie several years later among other of his Muppets projects. 

Reception was very positive with the New York Times comparing it to The Wind in The Willows saying and “These really are the nicest folk on the river.” And AV Critic said that “it was “The kind of Christmas special you could wrap in tissue when the season’s over and store carefully in a box in the attic.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-four percent rating. 

Oh, and Bret McKenzie is writing the script and songs for a film adaptation of it which will be produced by The Jim Henson Company. You fans of The Hobbit films might recognize him. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. It’s most excellent I think. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchioFantasiaDumbo, and BambiCinderella and Mary Poppins, the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT).  I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And of course there’s “The Three Little Pigs” with the weird note about the father of the little pigs. (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones, A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 70. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  at Chicon 7 for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers.
  • Born December 5, 1961 Nicholas Jainschigg, 60. Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 48. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries of such things of cringe-causing violence. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures

(10) SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT BANKS. Grimes, a female pop musician who had a two-year relationship and a son with Elon Musk, Tesla baron and Iain M. Banks fan, has released the song “Player of Games” off of her new album Book 1. Observers guess that she is punning off the Banks book of the same name. “What Does Grimes New Song Mean, Player Of Games & Elon Musk” at Kotaku.

Apparently, Musk really loves the game and is the greatest gamer, but not much of a lover or boyfriend, assuming the song is indeed about him. (Which it super, probably is.)

(11) READING RED. Mike Thorpe, a sedimentary geochemist contracted to NASA and a Towson University grad, is interviewed about the analysis of samples gathered by the Mars rovers: “Reading the Story in Red Soil” in Towson University Magazine.

Just because it will take years for the samples taken by Perseverance to return to Earth doesn’t mean Thorpe is idle.

“Right now, I’m busy collecting and curating reference materials from the Mars 2020 rover with the team here at NASA JSC as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ultimately helping build a history of sample collection through the course of the mission,” he says.

“All this work leading up to Mars sample return is to make sure we know that what’s in these samples is truly Martian. Perseverance was made here on Earth and we want to keep Earth, Earth and Mars, Mars. We need to analyze every step of the way, including every part of making the rover, to understand what sources of contamination there might be.”

Another of his responsibilities requires him to consider things that may not exist yet: what tools are going to be used to analyze the samples when they come back.

“Some of the instruments that we may be analyzing these samples with haven’t even been built yet,” he says. “We may have some newer technology with capabilities that we aren’t even familiar with yet. So it’s understanding what is state of the art now and also projecting what it is going to be in the future and how we can improve that to handle some of the most precious geological samples we’ll ever have in our lifetime.”

But to have materials to handle, they have to be extracted from the surface of Mars first….

(12) FEELINGS. The goal of this technology is to create the sensation of touch for VR users. “Meta haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets” at The Verge.

You cannot pet a dog in Meta’s new, high-tech virtual reality gloves. But researchers are getting closer.

Meta (formerly Facebook) is known for its high-profile moves into virtual and augmented reality. For seven years, though, it’s been quietly working on one of its most ambitious projects yet: a haptic glove that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. While Meta’s not letting the glove out of its Reality Labs research division, the company is showing it off for the first time today, and it sees the device — alongside other wearable tech — as the future of VR and AR interaction….

(13) KUDOS. A customer who bought LEGO’s Mos Eisley Cantina set, which has over 3,000 pieces and costs $350, was halfway through building it when he realized the box was missing a bag of pieces. Fast Company praises the company’s response email (which you can read at the link): “A Customer Discovered Their $350 Lego Set Was Missing Pieces”.

… I mean, if you’re not a Star Wars fan, the email doesn’t really seem like much, but that’s the point. The person who wrote the email clearly understood that anyone who buys this set isn’t just a loyal LEGO fan, they’re a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Whoever wrote the email clearly knows their audience and took the time to make it fun. With what is arguably very little effort, they turned a disappointing situation into something delightful….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you’re a rat, strange things happen to you in the alchemist’s lab!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, 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 Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 11/28/21 I Have Squandered All My Pixels

(1) CASTAWAY. BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs hosted “Neil Gaiman, writer” who shared the eight tracks, book and luxury item he would take with him if cast away to a desert island. Listen to the program at the link.

Or, let BBC Radio 4 blab it to you in a post: “Nine things we learned from Neil Gaiman’s Desert Island Discs”.

Neil Gaiman is a multi-award winning author whose work includes the novels Stardust, American Gods and The Graveyard Book and the comic book series The Sandman. His first novel, Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett, was published in 1990, and Neil recently adapted it as a TV series starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen. He specialises in creating fantastic alternative realities which exist under the nose of the world as we know it. He recently told his 2.8 million Twitter followers that he wore his ‘lucky Batman underpants’ for his Desert Island Discs recording – and here are nine things we learned from the programme…

5. A furious child inspired his first book for younger readers

Neil published The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish in 1997.

“The idea, like most of my children’s books, was stolen from one of my children,” explains Neil. “In this case from my son, Mike, and he would have been four, maybe five years old. I’d said something to him that he didn’t like, like possibly suggesting to him that it was actually his bedtime.”

“And he looked up at me with a fury that only a small boy can generate, a special kind of fury and he just said, ‘I wish I didn’t have a dad’. He said, ‘I wish I had….’ And then he paused because he hadn’t thought that through and, and then he said, ‘I wish I had goldfish!’ And he stomped off while I just thought ‘That is brilliant!’”

(2) HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS, DISCON 1. Andrew Porter received this postcard after reserving his room for Discon, the 1963 Worldcon in Washington DC. “Back when I was still Andy Silverberg…” – his name at the time.

(3) QANTAS PHYSICS. Fanac.org’s next “FanHistory Project Zoom Session” will be “Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Aussiecon – Part 1, 1936 to 1960” featuring Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. According to your time zone, it starts December 4 at 7PM Dec 4 EST, 4PM Dec 4 PST, or December 5 at 11AM in Melbourne AU. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org to get the Zoom link.

From the 1930s to the 1950s sf fandom in Australia was active and buoyant. Centred mainly around the city of Sydney their activities included fanzine production, club meetings and feuding. Yet by the beginning of the 1960s it had nearly all withered away. How did this vibrant community survive the Second World War and yet somehow fail to make it through peacetime? This, and many other questions, will be addressed by Dr Leigh Edmonds, sf fan and professional historian, in his FANAC talk titled “Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Aussiecon – Part 1, 1936 to 1960.”

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? The Los Angeles Times reports on Comic-Con Special Edition: “Comic-Con returns to San Diego amid COVID-19 pandemic”.

They say not all superheroes wear capes. But they do all now wear masks.

This weekend, thousands of people flocked to San Diego for the city’s first in-person Comic-Con — the beloved geekfest for all things science fiction, superhero and fantasy — in two and a half years.

The cosplayers squeezed into their spandex, strapped on their plastic weapons and secured their brightly colored wigs.

But with great power comes great responsibility. So, in a pandemic twist, they all donned face masks and red wristbands after proving they had either been vaccinated against or had recently tested negative for the greatest villain of all: COVID-19….

(5) COMIC-CON MUSEUM. The Times of San Diego takes its “First Peek Inside Comic-Con Museum, Revealing Exhibits Amid Soft Opening”.

…Local dignitaries, Comic-Con officials and volunteers were the first to see the 250,000 square feet of exhibits as a “special edition” San Diego Comic Convention opened Friday at the San Diego Convention Center.

The former San Diego Hall of Champions sports museum will be a destination for Comic-Con attendees, who can take a free shuttle between to the venue. The shuttle goes every 30 minutes….

This is the link to the Museum website where these six theme exhibits are now on display:

  • Gene Roddenberry: Sci-Fi Visionary as creator of “Star Trek.”
  • Chas Addams…Family and Friends as cartoonist of darkly humorous and macabre characters.
  • Eight Decades of Archie: a new pop-up exhibition that explores the storied history of America’s typical teenagers
  • Cardboard Superheroes: the art of teenage brothers Connor (17) and Bauer (14) Lee, this exhibit features life-size cardboard models of superheroes such as Hulkbuster, Groot, C-3PO, and Baby Yoda.
  • Out of the Darkness: Comics in the Times of COVID featuring artwork by San Diego young people.
  • The PAC-MAN Arcade on the 2020 Museum Character Hall of Fame Inductee.

(6) COMICS EXHIBIT IN WASHINGTON, DC. There’s news about what the Library of Congress is doing with Steve Geppi’s collection of comics. Geppi Gems is on view in the LOC’s Graphic Arts Gallery through March 2022. A second rotation, with a completely different selection, is intended for the Spring of 2022. “Geppi Gems Exhibit: Highlights from the Stephen A. Geppi Collection at the Library of Congress”.

…Stephen A. Geppi opened the Geppi Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2006, with the intent of showing how artistic creations from the pages of newspaper comic strips and comic books permeated popular culture. Over time, he expanded his collecting interests to reflect such comic book themes as superheroes, westerns, science fiction, horror, sports, music and entertainment. When the Geppi Entertainment Museum closed its doors in 2018, Mr. Geppi generously donated a large portion of its contents to the Library of Congress, with a desire that thousands of people share his excitement for comic books….

There’s also an online version of the exhibit: “Geppi Gems”.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1972 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-nine years ago this evening, Via Galactica, a SF rock musical, premiered on Broadway. Critics all hated it. Audiences really weren’t fond of it either. It lasted but seven shows before being cancelled. Yes, it was that bad. The story by Christopher Gore and Judith Ross, lyrics by Gore, and music by Galt MacDermot. It marked the Broadway debut of actor Mark Baker who went on to far better things. (Raul Julia was in the cast.) The storyline was so difficult to follow that at the very last moment producers inserted a plot synopsis in Playbill, but audiences still had no idea what they were witnessing unfolding on stage which involved, among other things, a clamshell-shaped garbage ship called the Helen of Troy. No, I’m not kidding. It would be one of the very first Broadway plays to lose a million dollars. That’s over six million dollars today. 

Jennifer George, daughter of the producer George W. George, has a look at it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 28, 1930 William Sargent, 91. He played Dr. Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”, a first season episode of Star Trek. He also shows up in Night Slaves (really don’t ask), Mission: ImpossibleShazam!Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock Presents and The Invaders. He was in the pilot for The Immortal series but wasn’t in the regular cast.
  • Born November 28, 1939 Walter Velez. His agent and fellow artist Jill Bauman wrote, “Walter created illustrations for most of the major book and gaming companies. He has been long known for his cover art for such popular books such as the Thieves World series and the Myth Adventures series, both edited by Robert Asprin; and the EbenezumWuntor, and Cineverse Cycle series, all by Craig Shaw Gardner. Walter illustrated for TSR games extensively. He applied his multi-faceted talents to trading cards for the Goosebumps series for the Topps Company, and a series of Dune trading cards. In the early 80’s he worked with Random House to create art for several Star Wars books that were licensed from George Lucas.” (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 28, 1944 Rita Mae Brown, 76. Author of the Sister Jane mysteries which features foxes, hounds and cats as characters with voices which in my mind makes them genre novels. Not to mention her creation of Sneaky Pie Brown who “is a New York Times best-selling writer and cat who co-authors the Mrs. Murphy series of mystery novels with her owner, Rita Mae Brown.” And who she has an entire series devoted to. 
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 75. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece even if the second has its moments, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, he’s done a lot but the only one I can say that I recall and was impressed by was his Legends of Tomorrow’s “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As a Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day.  
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 69. Best remembered as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on Law & Order appearing in 395 episodes of the series. Since Dick Wolf also is responsible for Chicago Med, she’s now playing Sharon Goodwin there. Both of her major SF roles involve robots. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse which I believe the consensus here is that it’s genre. 
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 59. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder. 
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 40. Her main SFF film is as the title character of Adèle Blanc-Sec in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec as directed by Luc Besson. Anybody watched the uncensored English version that came out on Blu-ray? It’s on my list To Be Watched list. She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short.
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 34. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in the Guardians of The Galaxy and in the later MCU films, Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” and “The Doctor’s Wife”, the first at Renovation and the latter at Chicon 7. 

(9) FORTY WHACKS. The New Yorker enumerates “The Lessons of ‘The Lorax’”.

In 1989, the year that Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, for writing “The Satanic Verses,” American parents in Laytonville, a small town in Northern California, demanded that their children’s elementary school take Dr. Seuss’s 1971 book, “The Lorax,” off its list of required reading for second graders. The book is “Silent Spring” for the under-ten set. “I speak for the trees,” the Lorax says, attempting to defend a soon to be blighted forest, its tufted Truffula trees chopped down and knit into hideous thneeds—“a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need”—until there is nothing left but one single seed.

…“I drew a Lorax and he was obviously a Lorax,” Geisel said. “Doesn’t he look like a Lorax to you?” But, in 1989, to Bill and Judith Bailey, the founders of a logging-equipment business in Laytonville, the Lorax looked like an environmental activist. “Papa, we can’t cut trees down,” their eight-year-old son, Sammy, said after reading the book, in which a “Super-Axe-Hacker” whacks “four Truffula Trees at one smacker.” Townspeople were caught up in the so-called “timber wars,” when environmentalists camped out in trees and loggers wore T-shirts that read “Spotted Owl Tastes Like Chicken.” Logging families took out ads in the local newspaper. One said, “To teach our children that harvesting redwood trees is bad is not the education we need.”…

(10) ONE DAM THING AFTER ANOTHER. “Ian Frazier Wishes Somebody Would Write About the World’s Largest Beaver Dam” in the New York Times. He avoids SF…but we’ll skip that quote.

Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

I don’t know — how about the world’s largest beaver dam? It’s in northern Alberta, Canada, and very hard to get to. Supposedly it’s the largest animal-made structure visible from space. I would like to write about it myself, but no editors are interested. (Write about it, that is, without actually going there.)

(11) ELON MUSK NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post.  Isabelle Khurshudyan and Mary Ilyushina discuss the popularity of Elon Musk in Russia.  Among his fans is Pavel Antonov, who wants to be the first bartender in space, with his role model being the android Michael Sheen played in Passengers. “Why Russia’s mania for Elon Musk just keeps on growing”.

…Pavel Antonov’s life goal can be traced back to the 2016 movie “Passengers,” a sci-fi romance that takes place on a luxury spaceship. One character in the movie is Arthur, an android bartender played by Michael Sheen. Arthur provides smiling relief amid the chaos.

“I immediately thought Musk will definitely need such a person who would distract from all problems,” Antonov said. “For at least one hour, you can sit at the bar, forget about everything and talk about neutral topics. From then on, I decided that I want to be the first bartender on Mars.”…

He’s developed “a signature cocktail for Mars” which is bright blue and a red cherry for the Red Planet…

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mr. Sci-Fi” Marc Scott Zicree is roaming the aisles at San Diego Comic-Con — Special Edition.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/12/21 The Old File-Hidden-In-The-Pixel-Scroll Trick

(1) THE TROUBLE WITH KIBBLES. With Camestros Felapton 63 chapters into Debarkle, a chronicle of how the Sad/Rabid Puppies were the sff genre’s reflection of broader right-wing movements, John Scalzi shares his own retrospective “Thoughts on the ‘Debarkle’” at Whatever.

1. It really does seem like so long ago now. The nonsense the Sad/Rabid Puppies (henceforth to be referred to as “the Pups”) perpetrated is largely contained in the years of 2014 – 2016, and while that’s not actually all that long ago — a mere five years since MidAmericon II, where new Hugo nomination rules were ratified to minimize slate nominating, and NK Jemisin won the first of her three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards — it feels like a distant memory now, a kind of “oh, yeah, that happened,” sort of event.

There are reasons for that, but I think the largest part has to do with the fact that the Pups, simply and bluntly, failed at every level that was important for their movement. The bifurcated goals of the Pups were to champion science fiction with a certain political/cultural point of view (i.e., largely white, largely conservative), and to destroy the Hugos by flooding the nominations with crap. They did neither very well. Toward the former, the material they slated was largely not very good, and with respect to the latter, the Hugos both still persist and remain a premier award in the field.

Their strategy was bad because it was addressing a problem that largely did not exist and was arrived at in a backward fashion, and their tactics were bad because they exploited loopholes and antagonized everyone who was not part of their clique, activating thousands of dormant Hugo voters against them. They were routed through a simple mechanism for which they had not accounted (“No Award”), and once their slating tactic was blunted by a nomination rule change, they flounced entirely.

When your only track record is that of complete failure, it’s not surprising you don’t have much of an impact….

John Lorentz says in a comment there:

As the 2015 Hugo Administrator, I can tell you that five years (or six years since it affected me directly), is not nearly enough to for me to forget it.

I used to enjoy administering the Hugos (I’ve done it four times)–2015 was a shit show that destroyed any joy I had regarding the Hugos. in the long run, the Puppies didn’t affect the field, but they sure affected me.

Also:

It was, however, the only thing I’ve ever been involved with that has show up both as a question on Jeopardy and a song on Doctor Demento.

So there’s that.

(2) WHOSE FAULT? Paul Weimer finds more than he expected, as he explains in his review for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings”.

…Like that original story, and like the other stories in that anthology by other authors, the central characters in the universe that Jennings has constructed here and the central characters are women (and note the name of Velocity’s ship). Given the preponderance of men as leads of a lot of space opera to this day, Jennings’ work is a refreshing rebalancing of that. The novel is a two-hander, with Velocity Wrachant, captain and owner of the Susan Calvin, and Brontë, a young woman who is far more than she first appears.

The story’s point of view focus on both Velocity and Brontë, although we do not see the latter’s point of view until her hijacking, and even then, it is initially months in the past. I didn’t like her at first: after all, she HAD hijacked Velocity’s ship, and I thought at first that the flashbacks from her point of view were merely to flesh her out and give us perspective and point of view to sympathize with her, however grudgingly so. As the back half of the narrative continued to build and events in the present continued, I saw the careful crafting of plot, and the central mystery at the heart of Fault Lines….

(3) HANNA MEMORIES. Joseph Nicholas penned The Guardian’s “Judith Hanna obituary”.

During her 30 years of working for a range of campaigning bodies and NGOs, my wife, Judith Hanna, who has died aged 67 of liver cancer, saw concern about the environment go from a fringe issue for community activists to a mainstream subject with a professionalised career structure.

Her life and career embodied the principle of “being the change you want to see”, through such local activities as organising annual seed swaps, promoting community gardens, calling for traffic calming measures in residential streets and, at national level, working for nuclear disarmament and better public transport. In her final role, as a social evidence principal specialist at Natural England, she promoted the now widely accepted health benefits of everyday contact with the natural world….

(4) BOLTS FROM THE BLUE. In the Future Tense newsletter, Torie Bosch says “We need a Muppet version of Frankenstein”.

On Aug. 30, my heart broke a tiny bit.

That day, the Guardian published a remarkable interview with Frank Oz, Jim Henson’s longtime collaborator and the puppeteer behind Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and other classic Muppets. Oz hasn’t been involved with the Muppets since 2007, three years after Disney purchased the franchise. He tells the Guardian: “I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me, and Sesame Street hasn’t asked me for 10 years. They don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the kind of Muppets they believe in. He added of the post-Disney Muppet movies and TV shows: “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.” As a lifelong Muppets fan, I have to agree: There were delightful moments in the Muppet reboots of recent years, but they were a little too pale, the chaos and the order a little too calculated.

But I think that there’s a way to bring the Muppets back, one that could also—and here comes the Future Tense agenda—help spark smart  discussions about scientific ethics, especially around what it means to be human and how to approach innovation responsibly. We need Frank Oz to helm a Muppet Frankenstein….

(5) I AM THE FIRE. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova discusses “Einstein’s Dreams: Physicist Alan Lightman’s Poetic Exploration of Time and the Antidote to the Anxiety of Aliveness”.

“When you realize you are mortal,” the poet, painter, and philosopher Etel Adnan wrote while regarding a mountain, “you also realize the tremendousness of the future.” A decade earlier, shortly before a heart attack severed her life-time, Hannah Arendt observed in her superb Gifford Lectures lectures on the life of the mind that our finitude, “set in an infinity of time stretching into both past and future, constitutes the infrastructure, as it were, of all mental activities.” While Arendt was composing these thoughts and silent cells were barricading one of her arteries, Ursula K. Le Guin was composing her novelistic inquiry into what it means to live responsibly, observing: “If time and reason are functions of each other, if we are creatures of time, then we had better know it, and try to make the best of it.” A generation before her, Borges had formulated the ultimate declaration of our temporal creatureliness, declaring: “Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”…

(6) SCANNERS IN VAIN. Tony Lewis, reporting on behalf of the NESFA Press in Instant Message #979, told about some problems encountered with their republication of Zenna Henderson’s Ingathering: The Complete People Stories collection.

An Amazon customer who bought our Ingathering ebook reported 58 typos in it. Amazon took down the book, which had been on sale for a year, until we could fix the typos. A number of NESFA Press proofers have spent the past three weeks going over the Ingathering ebook. We have found more than 400 typos, nearly all caused by unproofed OCR used to create the ebook. We also found that approximately 20 of those 400+ typos existed in the original hardcover. This proofing project is expected to be finished the week after the August Business Meeting.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1976 — Forty-five years ago at MidAmeriCon where Wilson Tucker was the Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny would win the the Best Novella Hugo for “Home is The Hangman”. It was published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, the November 1975 issue. The other nominated works were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. It’s in one of the three stories in My Name is Legion which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1897 — Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his work creating and being the main writer of the pulp character The Shadow. He used the pen-name Maxwell Grant, wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 12, 1914 Desmond Llewelyn. He’s best known for playing Q in 17 of the Bond films over thirty-six years. Truly amazing. Live and Let Die is the only one in the period where Q was not in it. He worked with five Bonds, to wit Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Other genre appearances include The Adventures of Robin Hood, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeThe Curse of the Werewolf and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 12, 1921 Stanislaw Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. The latest film made off a work of his is the 2018 His Master’s Voice (Glos Pana In Polish). The usual suspects have generous collections of his translated into English works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.) [Note: In three instances “L” has been substituted because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.]
  • Born September 12, 1922 John Chambers. He’s best known for designing Spock’s  pointed ears, and for the prosthetic make-up work on the Planet of the Apes franchise. Some of those character creations, including Cornelius and Dr. Zaius from the Planet of the Apes series, are on display at the Science Fiction Museum. He worked on the MunstersOuter LimitsLost in SpaceMission Impossible, Night Gallery and I-Spy along with uncredited (at the time) prosthetic makeup work on Blade Runner. (Died 2001.)
  • Born September 12, 1940 John Clute, 81. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read in digital form) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) that I use every day for these Birthdays, and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction. And I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.
  • Born September 12, 1942 Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror”. Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” story garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye novella. It would also be nominated for a Hugo at SunCon. And the “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”.  The usual suspects have an outstanding selection of his works including Nightmare Seasons and Shadows, another excellent  collection. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 12, 1952 Kathryn Anne Ptacek Grant, 69. Widow of Charles L. Grant. She has won two Stoker Awards. If you’re into horror. Her Gila! novel is a classic of that genre, and No Birds Sings is an excellent collection of her short stories. Both are available from the usual suspects.  
  • Born September 12, 1962 Mary Kay Adams, 59. She was Na’Toth, a Narn who was the aide to G’Kar in the second season of Babylon 5, and she would show up as the Klingon Grilka in the episodes “The House of Quark” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” in Deep Space Nine. Her first genre role is actually an uncredited role in The Muppets Take Manhattan. No idea what it is. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SHORTS SUBJECT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a piece about the “masterpieces” John Oliver is lending to museums in return for a $10,000 grant.  He talks to the heads of the Judy Garland Museum and the Cartoon Art Museum and how the Garland Museum said they could only accept the paintings if the mousehood of the “vermin-love-watercolor-on-paper” drawing by Brian Swords of nude cartoon mice was covered up. “John Oliver is helping museums through the pandemic — by lending them rat erotica”.

Melanie Jacobson was on the hunt for covid-relief cash in October when she happened to flip to HBO. As fortune would have it, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver was announcing a contest to offer financial help to museums in need. The catch was, they had to be willing to exhibit his freshly acquired collection of three “masterpiece” paintings: a still-life of ties,a portrait of TV host Wendy Williams eating a lamb chop, plus— his “pièce de résistance” — amorous rats in the buff.Jacobson is a board member for theJudy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. — right where a star was born. Her catch was, the institutionshares a building with the very G-rated Children’s Discovery Museum, which meant that “I knew we would not be able to show the rat painting with certain private parts,” she said by phone this week.

So with blessing from board leadership, Jacobson submitted a proposal to the “Last Week Tonight” contest with one stipulation, she recalled: “I’m going to have to put pants on the rat.” ….

(11) NOT FOR MUGGLES. Thrillist wants to be sure you’re getting enough genre-related calories. “Dairy Queen Secret Menu: You Can Get a Butterbeer Blizzard Inspired by Harry Potter”.

We’re still flying high off the news of Dairy Queen’s fall Blizzard lineup. After all, the Pumpkin Pie is back, folks. But it’s not the only flavor on our radar as of late. In fact, DQ employee-slash-TikToker @thedairyqueenking shared a secret menu item that’s going to wow Harry Potter fans.

The soft serve insider took to the video-sharing platform with the chain’s hush, hush Butterbeer Blizzard, which boasts vanilla syrup, butterscotch syrup, Butterfinger pieces, and a healthy swirl of whipped cream topping, mirroring the fan-favorite beverage from the books….

(12) A SCRAPBOOK OF CASES. In an article composed of various incidents and testimonies, The Guardian wonders whether it is time to take reports about UFOs and aliens more seriously: “’What I saw that night was real’: is it time to take aliens more seriously?”

…But Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator for the Ministry of Defence, is not convinced and thinks that Godfrey is genuine. “He had a lot to potentially lose by coming out with this and yet stuck to his guns.”

Doesn’t a hallucination explain what he saw? “I get that people do have hallucinations, but they tend to be the result of either mental illness or some sort of hallucinogenic substance, and this guy was on duty and was, by all accounts, rational. And so those explanations don’t seem to apply – I’m stumped when it comes to that particular case. Ask yourself: how many times have you been tired and come to the end of a long day? We’ve all been in that situation, and we don’t suddenly construct bizarre narratives about spacecraft and aliens.”

Is it time to start taking these stories more seriously? “I’m not saying that I believe it’s literally true that these are alien spaceships,” says Pope. “But at the very least, these people who were previously disbelieved and ridiculed should be listened to and given a hearing….

(13) SWORD & SOUL. Flecher Vredenburgh takes “A Look at Milton Davis’ Changa’s Safari and the rest of the series at Goodman Games.

I started my blog, Stuff I Like, nearly eleven years ago with a plan of writing about swords & sorcery. When I reviewed “The City of Madness” by the late and greatly-missed Charles Saunders, I discovered he had co-edited a new story collection called Griots (2011). I bought it and found it to be one of the best batches of fantasy stories I’d read in years. It introduced me to the term sword & soul, as well as some very good writers, such as Carole McDonnell, P. Djeli Clark, and Milton Davis himself….

(14) CLASH OF THE TITANS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says the battle between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos over NASA contracts is getting increasingly personal, with Musk’s SpaceX ahead on technical issues but Bezos fighting back not only on NASA contracts awarded to Space X but also trying to block Space X’s plan to build thousands of small satellites for Internet communications. “Elon Musk is dominating the space race. Jeff Bezos is trying to fight back”.

For years, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have sparred over the performance of their rockets and space companies in a simmering feud that flared during a fight over who could use a NASA launchpad and which company was the first to successfully land a rocket.

But now the two billionaires, among the world’s richest men, are waging an increasingly bitter battle that pits two enormous business empires in clashes that are playing out in the courts, the Federal Communications Commission and the halls of Congress in what’s become one of the greatest business rivalries in a generation….

(15) THE MEANING OF NONLIFE. The New York Times’ Brian Ng considers, “Could Robots From Boston Dynamics Beat Me in a Fight?”

…Boston Dynamics has uploaded videos like this for more than a decade, cataloging the progress of its creations as they grow more lifelike, and more unsettling. One of its models is a robotic dog called Spot, with four legs and, sometimes, a “neck” topped with a camera “head” — an android’s best friend.

Although the company maintains that its creations are research projects, it does sell Spot and has leased one to the N.Y.P.D. It could have been used to accomplish tasks too risky for a living being, such as delivering food in a hostage situation or checking areas with high amounts of radiation. But its appearance accompanying police officers during an arrest in public housing sparked enough public backlash for its trial to be prematurely terminated. People found the robodog both wasteful and chilling, especially in the possession of the institution most likely to use force against them. It surely didn’t help that the robodog looked quite similar to the horrific killer machines in an episode of the show “Black Mirror” called “Metalhead” — probably because the show’s creator Charlie Brooker, who wrote the episode, was inspired by previous Boston Dynamics videos.

We can ask the same question of the Atlas: What is it for? The video only shows us what it can do. For now, the robots don’t want anything; apart from not falling over, they await a reason for being. The company says the goal is to create robots that can perform mundane tasks in all sorts of terrain, but the video contains no such tasks; we see only feats of agility, not the routine functions these robots would be back-flipping toward. Through this gap enter the tendrils of sinister speculation…..

(16) BOOKS IN SIGHT. Marie Powell’s adventures in castle-hopping across North Wales resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series, Last of the Gifted. Spirit Sight (Book 1) and Water Sight (Book 2). An omnibus volume of the two books is coming out in October. And the audiobook of Spirit Sight is available from Kindle, Amazon.ca, Audible, and Apple.

Two siblings pledge their magic to protect their people from the invading English, with the help of the last true Prince of Wales—after his murder.

Welsh warrior-in-training Hyw can control the minds of birds and animals.

His sister Catrin can see the future in a drop of water.

Now Hyw and Catrin must stretch their gifts to stand between their people and the ruthless army of Edward I (a.k.a. Longshanks). When the prince is slain, Hyw’s gift allows him to meld with the prince’s spirit, to guide them in fighting back against the English invaders.

This award-winning medieval fantasy combines magic, mythology, and historical legends with the realities of 13th Century Wales.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Joyce Scrivner, Cora Buhlert, Ruth Berman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]