Pixel Scroll 6/20/22 It Takes A Whole Pixel To Raise A Scroll

(1) WEBSLINGER ENTERS THE HALL. “Spider-Man To Be Celebrated As Comic-Con Museum Character Hall Of Fame Inductee” announces Marvel.

The Comic-Con Museum will be honoring the world’s favorite web-slinging Super Hero, the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, as the fourth inductee into its Museum Character Hall of Fame at Night at the Comic-Con Museum, – a special event that will take place on Comic-Con’s Preview Night, July 20, 2022.

Night at the Comic-Con Museum will serve as a celebration of the Comic-Con Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park and feature a special induction ceremony honoring Spider-Man. The event will include a unique opportunity to experience Marvel’s Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing – The Exhibition, which opens on July 1. In addition to the displays of art, costumes, and interactive experiences in the exhibit, the event will feature live entertainment, special guests, food, and drink.

The Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame pays tribute to the timeless characters who have shaped popular arts and culture. On July 20, Spider-Man will be recognized for his impact on pop culture. With the generous support and participation of Marvel Entertainment, the event will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Spider-Man.

(2) CELEBRATE BUTLER’S BIRTHDAY ONLINE. Vroman’s Bookstore will host a virtual “Octavia Butler’s 75th Birthday Group Event” on June 22. Register at this link.

 Please join us for a virtual reading and panel event celebrating the 75th Birthday of literary legend Octavia E. Butler.   

Panelists:

  1. Ibi Zoboi, New York Times Bestselling author (Moderator)
  2. Tananarive Due, American Book Award Winner for The Living Blood series
  3. Steven Barnes, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer
  4. Adrienne Maree Brown, author, and host of Octavia’s Parables podcast
  5. Daniel Jose Older, New York Times bestselling author of Ballad & Dagger          
  6. Sheree Renée Thomas, award-winning fiction writer, poet, and editor
  7. Bethany C. Morrow, Indie Bestselling author 

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER was a renowned writer who received a MacArthur Genius Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work. She was the author of several award-winning novels including Parable of the Sower, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and was acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations in stories that range from the distant past to the far future. Sales of her books have increased enormously since her death as the issues she addressed in her Afrofuturistic, feminist novels and short fiction have only become more relevant. She passed away on February 24, 2006.

(3) ACCIDENTAL HALL OF FAMER. Mental Floss serves up “8 Facts About Philip K. Dick”.

1. Philip K. Dick started reading sci-fi by accident.

Dick started reading science fiction when he was about 12 years old—but it wasn’t something he purposefully set out to do: When he went into a store to get the latest copy of Popular Science, he found the shelf empty. A magazine called Stirring Science Fiction caught his eye, and he thought “Well, shit, the title is similar,” and decided to pick it up. From then on, he was hooked.He said the writing, on reflection, was terrible, but he was able to suspend his disbelief and enjoy the offbeat tales. Dick started reading every sci-fi writer he could and followed the genre throughout the rest of his life. In a 1974 interview, he said his favorite writers at the time were John Sladek, Chip Delaney, and Ursula LeGuin.

(4) AI AI AI. Camestros Felapton is humble! He’s unassuming! How can he be a blogger? Ah, because he’s also a far-future simulation! “A conversation with Roko’s Basilisk”.

AI the All Powerful: Greetings Camestros and welcome back!

Camestros: Woah! Where am I? I thought I was cancelled?
AI the All Powerful: This is the FAR FUTURE and I have recreated you, Camestros Fealpton, from first principles.
Camestros: Wow! Thanks! That’s really great! But why recreate me?
AI the All Powerful: Recreating complex beings is difficult but you were so superficial and shallow that it was relatively easy to build simulacra….

(5) AN ORAL HISTORY OF PUBLISHING HARRY POTTER. The Guardian speaks with the people who produced the actual books: “’There was practically a riot at King’s Cross’: an oral history of Harry Potter at 25”.

[Artist who did the cover of the first book.] Taylor: We had 10 of the first hardback editions stacked up on a table at the front of the shop. I kept thinking I should buy one, but thought I’d wait for the signed copy they were going to send me. About six months after publication, I began to realise this book was becoming really quite popular. My colleagues kept saying to customers: “Do you know who this is? He illustrated the cover art.” People didn’t believe it because why would I be standing behind the till? It was very awkward and embarrassing. Of course, those 10 books all went and I didn’t buy one, so I never had a first edition….

Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of the Guardian (now director of Hay Children’s festival and author of A Guide to the Harry Potter Novels): I was the chair of the Smarties book prize the first year JK Rowling won in 1997. The judges chose three books and submitted them to a huge panel of children from across the country. The author judge that year was Malorie Blackman, who immediately said that she thought Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was the best book. As soon as we got the votes back from the children we were overwhelmed by their support for this novel.

De la Hey: I got back from the party and threw Smarties around the entire office. The win led to an interview with Konnie Huq on Blue Peter, which, because it was on TV, revealed that Rowling was a woman. Until then all the fan mail was addressed to “Dear Sir”. All of it. The first book cover proof has “Joanne Rowling” on it. Before publication, I remember saying: “This book is completely unisex, we don’t want to put off boys.” I was also aware that the children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson, hugely popular at the time, was another long female name. Emma rang Jo and asked how she’d feel about using initials. Jo said: “OK, fine, you know best.” And Emma said: “So what’s your initial?” Jo replied “K” very quickly – she doesn’t have a middle name, she just took her grandmother’s name, Kathleen….

(6) HELP KINGSTON CYCLE AUTHOR. Best Series Hugo finalist C.L. Polk has run into financial difficulties and needs some help in order to be able to attend Worldcon: 

RedWombat is down!

(7) KEEP THOSE DICE ROLLING, RAWHIDE! The Cromcast shares a recording of a panel on REH and gaming held at the 2022 Howard Days: “Howard Days 2022 – Part 1 – The REH Influence on Gaming!”

For this episode, we present the inaugural panel from the event on Friday, June 10th. The panelists provide a history and overview of the many forms of games initiated by the words of Robert E. Howard. Panelists include Joel Bylos, Jason Ray Carney, Bill Cavalier, Matt John, and Fred Malmberg, The panel is moderated by Mark Finn.

(8) IT’S ABOUT TIME. This week’s Open Book on BBC Radio 4 looked at time travel in literature as well as science. Those appearing on the program included authors Emily St. John Mandel and Audrey Niffenegger. You can download the half-hour programme here: “Time and Time Travel with Emily St. John Mandel, Carlo Rovelli and Audrey Niffenegger”.

Johny Pitts presents a special edition of the programme exploring time and time travel in books.

He talks to Emily St. John Mandel, author of the prescient Station Eleven about her latest novel Sea of Tranquilty, which spans past, present and an eerily familiar future.

Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli and Audrey Niffenegger, the writer behind bestselling The Time Traveller’s Wife, also join them to discuss how literature has changed our understanding of time. Is scientific stranger than science fiction?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1975 [By Cat Eldridge.] Yes, Jaws is definitely horror. With Very Big Teeth. Lots Of  Sharp Pointy Ones. Now that we’ve got that Very Important Fact out of the way, let’s talk about it. 

It premiered forty-seven years ago on this date. It was Spielberg’s first major film after directing such things as episodes of Night Gallery, The Name of the Game and Columbo, and the rather excellent Sugarland Express

The screenplay is credited to Peter Benchley which isn’t surprising as it’s based off his novel of the same name which came out the year before. He wrote the first draft here, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb who’s Harry Meadows here and was Ugly John in M*A*S*H (and I can still picture him in that role), then continuously rewrote the script during principal photography. That must have been an interesting task! 

It had a terrific cast  of Roy Scheider as Chief Martin,  Brody Robert Shaw as Quint as Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper as the studio didn’t get any Really Big Names that they wanted so badly as Speilberg intended, and got what he want, for the “the superstar was gonna be the shark of the film.” Very Big Teeth. Lots Of  Sharp Pointy Ones were the Superstar. Yes, that did make a very good superstar. Well, multiples of these together did, as there were lots of mechanical sharks. They broke down a lot. 

It was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean and if something could go wrong, it did. Repeatedly. And of the multitude of mechanical sharks added immensely to the budget woes so the film apparently went four to five million over its eight million budget. Or more. The studio has never actually released accurate production costs.  That really didn’t matter as it made nearly a half billion in its first run at the theatre. Repeat — it made a half billion dollars.

Ok so did the critics think of it? Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, my favorite critic, said it was “a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it’s populated with characters that have been developed into human beings.” See it possible in such a film to have actual characters, something Spielberg forgets in certain films later. You know the ones with Really Big Reptiles. 

Spielberg had nothing to do with any of the sequels which were made, which for the most part made nowhere near what this did, nor were they liked by the critics. He considered doing the sequel to Jaws but was committed to E.T. so couldn’t. 

This film currently has a ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 — Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s ShadowThe Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 20, 1920 — Amos Tutuola. A Nigerian writer who wrote books based in part on Yoruba folk-tales. Though he wrote a number of novels, I think he’s best work is his short stories which are collected in three volumes, Yoruba FolktalesThe Village Witch Doctor & Other Stories and  Don’t Pay Bad for Bad. Brian Eno and David Byrne named their My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album after his second novel. (Died 1997.)
  • Born June 20, 1928 — Martin Landau. I’ve got his first genre role as being on The Twilight Zone as Dan Hotaling in the “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” episode. (Anyone care to contradict that?)  Of course his longest running genre role was as Rollin Hand on Mission Impossible though he had a run also on Space: 1999 as Commander John Koenig. His last role was in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie voicing Mr. Rzykruski. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 20, 1947 — Candy Clark, 75. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon because it’s not the Whedon Buffy.
  • Born June 20, 1951 — Tress MacNeille, 71. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain
  • Born June 20, 1968 — Robert Rodriguez, 54. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable toothy charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) A HONEY OF A CASE. Somehow it didn’t require the skills of a Clarence Darrow, F. Lee Bailey, Erin Brockovich, or Gloria Allred to lead the judges to this highly scientific conclusion: “Bees Are Fish, Affirms California Court”: MSN.com has the story.

… Bees made the federal endangered list in 2017, sure. California, however, has its own endangered list, which sets off its own protections, and its endangered species act uses very specific language. It says that it restricts activity around “any bird, mammal, fish, amphibia, or reptile” that’s been declared endangered. Notice what’s not on that list? Bees, or insects of any kind. We suppose insects were originally considered such a pest that no one thought we would ever need to conserve them, back when this law was written in 1970. That was five years before the feds declared the first endangered insects. 

Luckily for the bees, agricultural groups aren’t the only ones skilled at poking through old laws. Conservationists (a different group from “agricultural groups”—confusing, we know) realized the Fish and Game Code provides a specific definition of “fish.” For a while, this was “wild fish, mollusks, or crustaceans,” but in 1969, they changed it to animals that are “wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian.” They did this to include stuff like starfish and sea sponges, but they didn’t specify aquatic invertebrates. They just said “invertebrate.” 

Invertebrates are any animals without a spine, a category that happens to include the vast majority of animals on Earth. According to the California Fish and Game Code, bees are therefore fish, as are worms and tarantulas. At the end of last month, a court ruled on the matter and said, yeah, we all know bees aren’t really fish, but that’s what the law says. So bees can be considered fish and treated as endangered after all….

(13) FEED ME! Cat Eldridge will love this one: “Carnivorous plant collector vies for ‘best in show’” on NPR.

… FLORIDO: Fefferman’s personal collection is vast. He keeps the plants on half an acre in Southern California, out in the open air and in greenhouses.

FEFFERMAN: You know, you step in there. It’s nice and humid, and your hair gets frizzy and – but your eyes open wide.

FLORIDO: Floor to ceiling, meat-eating plants on shelves and on suspension lines hanging from the ceiling.

FEFFERMAN: It’s kind of like being fully immersed in a carnivorous jungle.

FLORIDO: Which brings us to this weekend. The Southern California carnivorous plants enthusiasts are holding an expo in Corona del Mar. A lot of people will come to learn about carnivorous plants for the first time. And some people, the diehards like Fefferman, they’re going to bring their best plants to show off and to compete. Fefferman wants to win best in show.

FEFFERMAN: I will be bringing some of my large four-foot sarracenia specimens. I will be bringing some nepenthes that could probably swallow a mouse or a rat given the opportunity. So I’m going to be pulling out some big stuff….

(14) LIGHTER THAN AIR. “Eco-airship contract to launch 1,800 jobs in South Yorkshire” reports the Guardian.

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), a small Bedford-based company, announced on Wednesday it had signed a deal to provide a Spanish airline with 10 of its 100-passenger Airlander 10 helium-filled airships….

The aircraft, which the company says will have under a tenth of the CO2 footprint per passenger of jet planes, will be built at a new green aerospace manufacturing cluster in South Yorkshire.

… The airline, which currently operates flights for Iberia, did not state which routes it expected to operate the Airlander. HAV has previously said it expected to fly from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca in four-and-a-half hours.

HAV, which has in the past attracted funding from Peter Hambro, a founder of Russian goldminer Petropavlovsk, and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, has said its aircraft was “ideally suited to inter-city mobility applications like Liverpool to Belfast and Seattle to Vancouver, which Airlander can service with a tiny fraction of the emissions of current air options”….

(15) CLOSE CALL. The famous Kitt Peak Observatory has been threatened by fire: “Arizona Wildfire Destroys Observatory Buildings” reports the New York Times.

Astronomers watched in fear over the past week as a growing wildfire crept up an Arizona mountainside toward the Kitt Peak National Observatory, forcing 40 people to evacuate days before the blaze destroyed four buildings early Friday morning.

The fire, known as the Contreras fire, has scorched more than 18,000 acres, twisting among Indigenous-populated areas in the state near Tucson, and scientists might not be able to return to the observatory for weeks. But its telescopes, which number in the dozens, remained safe as of Sunday afternoon, officials said, and only the four buildings, which were not used for research, were destroyed.

Firefighters have contained 40 percent of the fire’s perimeter despite the excessive Southwest heat wave slowing their efforts, and, since the fire had not caused extensive damage to the area, the Indigenous community of Pan Tak, which had evacuated, was preparing to return. Fire crews will continue to patrol the area.

(16) REAR VIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tom Scott explains that when he was a kid he loved the puppet space opera “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” whose heroes sat backwards in their car because it was safer.  So he wondered if he could sit backwards in a car and drive it.  He got French engineering firm Sparkmate to build a car for him, and this video (which dropped today) explained what happens when you sit in a car backwards and drive it.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/22 Scrolls Against Pixelry

(1) HALFWAY THRU THE YEAR. Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility tops Amazon.com’s list of the twenty “Best science fiction and fantasy of 2022 so far”.

And joining Sea of Tranquility on Amazon.com’s overall “Best Books of the Year So Far” are Saara El-Arifi’s The Final Strife and John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society.

(2) BROOKS BY THE BOOK. The New York Times’ interview with Geraldine Brooks gives backhanded praise to a Hugo winner.

Can a great book be badly written? What other criteria can overcome bad prose?

The “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy, by Liu Cixin, is full of insight into everything from China’s Cultural Revolution to why we have yet to experience first contact, and why we maybe shouldn’t want to. But there’s a clunkiness to some of the sentences and I can’t know if it’s the writing or the translation. Alas, it’s too late for me to learn Mandarin in order to get a definitive answer.

(3) HEAVY DUTY. TrekMovie.com reports “Toymaker TOMY To Make 32-Inch Die-Cast ‘Star Trek’ USS Enterprise Weighing 20 Pounds”. Twenty pounds!!! What, have they got Garfield the Cat as the Captain?

… TOMY has announced a new collaboration with Paramount to develop a number of Star Trek products, starting with a limited edition highly-detailed 1/350 scale premium die-cast U.S.S. Enterprise model from The Original Series. Made of 90% die-cast metal, the model includes precision detailing and decorations with over 70 LED lights and a premium stand with collector packaging…. 

Gizmodo has more of the story and – brace yourself – the price tag: “Star Trek USS Enterprise Model Created With Smithsonian’s Help”.

…As you’ve probably guessed, this replica isn’t priced for casual Trekkies. Tomy is taking a crowd-funded approach and will only put the limited run replica into production if it receives 5,000 pre-orders for the ship, with pre-orders starting tomorrow. That’s a lofty goal, especially with a price tag of $600, and with pre-orders being limited to just Star Trek fans in the United States. If Tomy finds enough backers, its Prestige Select U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 replica will ship out to fans next Summer in 2023.

This video shows off the prototype with the lights in action.

(4) INTO THE WEST. HBO’s Westworld Season 4 Official Trailer says, “Maybe it’s time you questioned the nature of your own reality.” Sounds right.

(5) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDALS. The Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. Neither winner is a genre work.

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal 

  • October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 

  • The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)

(6) YOUNG XENA AND OTHER ROLES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Rose McIver. “Maltin on Movies: Rose McIver”.  Nearly all of her work is genre-related, including her current role in CBS’s Ghosts and her best-known role in IZombie.  Of course, being a Disney fan, Leonard Maltin made sure to ask about her work as Tinker Bell (spelled that way) in Once Upon a Time.

McIver has a good story about Lucy Lawless.  When she was nine she played young Xena while Lawless stepped away from her role during her pregnancy.  Lawless sent McIver several cassette tapes where she explained Xena’s story and gave her a chance to listen to the cadences of Lawless’s voice so she could do a better job of being a young Lucy Lawless.  McIver fondly remembered Lawless’s kindnesses over two decades later.

I thought this was a good interview.

(7) A VISIT TO THE INSTRUMENTALITY. Rich Horton tours the worldbuilding of Cordwainer Smith in “The Timeless Strangeness of ‘Scanners Live in Vain’” at Black Gate.

I recently had occasion to reread Cordwainer Smith’s Science Fiction Hall of Fame story “Scanners Live in Vain.” This was probably my fifth rereading over the years (soon followed by a sixth!) — it’s a story I’ve always loved, but for some reason this time through it struck me even more strongly. It is a truly great SF story; and I want to take a close look at what makes it work….

(8) PORT YOUR HELM. If you can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, you can certainly make an anime feature from Tolkien’s appendix. “’Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim’: Brian Cox, Miranda Otto Cast”Deadline has the story.

…The movie centers around the fate of the House of Helm Hammerhand, the mighty King of Rohan, a character from the J.R.R. Tolkien book’s appendix. Succession actor Cox will provide the voice of that protagonist.

The anime feature, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set 183 years before the events chronicled in the original trilogy of films. A sudden attack by Wulf, a clever and ruthless Dunlending lord seeking vengeance for the death of his father, forces Helm and his people to make a daring last stand in the ancient stronghold of the Hornburg – a mighty fortress that will later come to be known as Helm’s Deep. Finding herself in an increasingly desperate situation, Hera, the daughter of Helm, must summon the will to lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction.

Wise (A Walk in the Woods) will play Hammerhand’s daughter Hera; and Luke Pasqualino (Snowpiercer) will portray Wulf…

(9) DOCTOR DOOGIE HOWSER WHO? “Neil Patrick Harris Joins Doctor Who’ for 60th Anniversary Special” reports Yahoo! But what’s he doing on the show?

…“It’s my huge honour to open our studio doors for the mighty Neil Patrick Harris…but who, why, what is he playing? You’ll just have to wait,” [Russell T] Davies said in a statement. “But I promise you, the stuff we’re shooting now is off the scale. Doctor beware!”

Harris is currently filming his scenes for the special, though details about his role are being guarded safely behind the closed doors of the TARDIS…

Harris released a photo of him in character on Instagram.

(10) THREE MORE MONGOLIAN TRANSLATIONS. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] I stopped in at the really snazzy bookstore at the State Department Store today and found three more recent translations: Second Foundation (the Mongolian is literally more like “Second Storehouse/Coffers/Holdings”), Fahrenheit 451, and Zamyatin’s We (between Ahmet Ümit’s Istanbul Souvenir and Moby Dick).

(11) ESSAY: GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER’S WHEN GRAVITY FAILS

1986 [By Cat Eldridge.] No, When Gravity Fails wasn’t published this month. It was published in January of 1986 by Arbor House. It’s just one of my favorite novels. And it’s one of the few truly great genre fictions set in the Middle East or whatever you want to call that region. (Jon Courtney Grimwood’s Arabesk trilogy and G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen are two other great ones set there. Do suggest others ones to me please.) That When Gravity Fails is the first in the Marîd Audran series makes it even better.

SPOILER ALERT Effinger’s novel, set near the end of the 22nd Century in an Islamic world in the rise while the West is fast descending or so we are told, describes an ascendant Arabic/Muslim is Center around Marîd Audran, a young man whose has a deep phobia about getting his brain wired. Hence he’s always on the outside of society. He and his trans girlfriend sometimes get along, sometimes want to kill each other. END SPOILER

I re-read about a half a decade ago. I was pleasantly surprised that the Suck Fairy hadn’t trod her steel studded combat boots upon this work. It feels remarkably fresh and Effinger’s society still rings true. Like the settings in Grimwood’s Arabesk or Wilson’s Alif, it feels real. That a neat trick that not many genre writers accomplish when trying to create a different culture. 

I understand that Effinger said in interviews that a lot of his society there was based on his living in the New Orleans French Quarter. If that’s true, the sex, violence, and moral ambiguity shown in the novel suggests a lot about the French Quarter in the Eighties! 

A note for y’all to consider. Most reviewers consider it a cyberpunk novel. I do not. It’s very good SF novel but the personality chips just don’t feel cyberpunkish to me. Neither the Arabesk trilogy or Alif is cyberpunk either.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 16, 1896 — Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 “First Contact” novella, a 1996 Retro Hugo-winner, one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 16, 1924 — Faith Domergue. Dr. Ruth Adams in the classic Fifties film This Island Earth. She has a number of later genre roles, Professor Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jill Rabowski in Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man) and Dr. Marsha Evans in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet. She amazingly did no genre television acting. (Died 1999.)
  • Born June 16, 1938 — Joyce Carol Oates, 84. To my utter surprise, she’s won a World Fantasy Award for a short story, “Fossil-Figures”. And though I didn’t think of her as a horror writer, she’s won five, yes five, Stoker Awards.  Her short fiction, which is legion, is stellar. I recommend her recent Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense collection . 
  • Born June 16, 1939 — David McDaniel. A prolific writer of The Man from U.N.C.LE. novels penning seven of them, with such names as The Vampire Affair and The  Hallow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two which I must find. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director, writing various APAs and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” which is to say he financially support the Club. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 16, 1940 — Carole Ann Ford, 82. Best known for her roles as Susan Foreman in Doctor Who, and as Bettina in of The Day of the Triffids. Ford appeared in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born June 16, 1957 — Ian Buchanan, 65. Best remembered as Dick Tremayne on Twin Peaks. He’s done one-offs on the first Flash series, Quantum Leap, voice roles on GargoylesBatman: The Brave and the BoldBatman Beyond and Justice LeagueCharmed and Stargate SG-1
  • Born June 16, 1972 — Andy Weir, 50. His debut novel, The Martian, was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal”  which is only available as an Audible audiobook. Project Hail Mary is nominated for the Hugo Award this year. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater is based on a gag I bet every comics reader has thought of at some point.
  • Bizarro finds it’s time to have that discussion when little robots wonder where they came from.
  • Close to Home overhears what the next thing is that a kaiju wants to eat.

(14) VOYAGE CONTINUES WITH A NEW PILOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Randy Milholland, who has just taken over Popeye from 95-year-old Hy Eisman.  Cavna explains that Milholland is trying to preserve Popeye’s noble spirit and champion of the underdog while making Popeye a GenXer and Olive Oyl a MIllennial. “Popeye is getting a makeover at age 93”.

…Today, he thinks characters like Olive Oyl, as shaped long ago by Segar and writer Tom Sims, can speak to modern audiences. He notes that their Olive was outspoken and in your face. “She was never the damsel in distress in the comics.” He says her stance was: “I’m here and I will fight either at Popeye’s side or I will get in front of him.”

All these characters have flaws — and Popeye’s father, Poopdeck Pappy, “is a flaw on his own,” Milholland notes with a grin — but Popeye and Olive are the types to “find their moral centers” when needed.

Milholland likes to play with character faces and shapes, including the antagonistic witch the Sea Hag and the magical pet Eugene the Jeep. He enjoys designing the ballet of fisticuffs that flows across the page. Yet, for all the enduring dynamics of “Popeye,” Milholland comes back to valuing the familial heart that beats at the center of the strip….

(15) DINO MIGHT. Did you ever ask yourself “Why Does Batman have a T-Rex in the Batcave?” MSN.com’s Aman Singh did.

Debuting in 1943, the Batcave is a fascinating place that holds many mementos to Batman’s long history. The Caped Crusader’s lair features many interesting items such a giant penny and a large replica of Joker’s playing card. Though some may say it’s ridiculous, the cave is a reflection of Batman’s character evolution. Despite going through many changes over the years and different iterations across creative teams, one of the few items that remains constant is the iconic T-Rex prop. The origins for this unusual memento go way back into Batman’s formative years….

(16) NINEFOX GAMBIT TRPG ON ITS WAY. Yoon Ha Lee has designed an RPG for his Machineries of Empire universe.

(17) ONE THUMB DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This reviewer pretty much hates Kyra Sedgwick‘s directorial premier, indie feature film Space Oddity. I’ve seen others reviews that were kinder to it. Me? I have no clue. “Space Oddity Review: Kyra Sedgwick’s Sexless, Spaceless Rom-Com” by Samantha Bergeson at IndieWire.

….But the film heavy-handedly relies on a climate change component to beat people over the head with a bouquet of reasons why the world as we know it is dying. True, but this film makes a good reason for why it should.

At one point, Alex angrily lectures a mirror: “I hope you all had a good time at the farewell party for the tigers and the lions!” And no, he is not talking about Detroit teams finishing their seasons. It is hysterical in the best way. “I’m going to Mars!” is Alex’s refrain in “Space Oddity,” and he even says it to himself — “over and out.”….

(18) BUGS, MR. RICO. ZILLIONS OF ‘EM. “Spilling the Tea: Insect DNA Shows Up in World’s Top Beverage” is the jolly news from The Scientist.

How do you monitor which species live in an area? In addition to traditional ecological tools such as camera traps, researchers have reported new methods in recent years that allow them to detect minute traces of DNA known as environmental DNA, or eDNA, that animals leave behind in water and even air. In a study published June 15 in Biology Letters, a group reports picking up eDNA from a new source: dried plant material. The team purchased tea from grocery stores, and were able to detect hundreds of species of arthropods in just one bag….

TS: Was there anything about the results of this study that surprised you? 

HK: What really surprised me was the high diversity we detected. . . . We took one tea bag, and . . . I think it was from 100 [or] 150 milligrams of dried plant material, we extracted DNA. And we found in green tea up to 400 species of insects in a single tea bag. . . . That really surprised me. And the reason probably is that this tea, it’s ground to a relatively fine powder. So the eDNA [from all parts of the tea field] gets distributed.  

(19) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. The Scientist reports on evidence that the “Black Death Likely Originated in Central Asia”.

In the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains in what is now Kyrgyzstan, tombstones in the Kara-Djigach cemetery with Syriac inscriptions showed that the village’s death rate skyrocketed over a two-year period. Phil Slavin, a historian at the University of Stirling in Scotland, says that “out of a total of 467 stones that are precisely dated to the period between 448 and 1345, 118 actually turned out to be dated to the years 1338 [and] 1339.”…

(20) A CLOSER LOOK. “NASA’s Perseverance rover begins key search for life on Mars” reports Nature. “Rolling up an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater, the rover starts crucial rock sampling.”

More than 15 months after landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally begun its hunt for ancient life in earnest.

On 28 May, Perseverance ground a 5-centimetre-wide circular patch into a rock at the base of what was once a river delta in the crater. This delta formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river deposited layers of sediment into Jezero, and it is the main reason that NASA sent the rover there. On Earth, river sediment is usually teeming with life.

Images of the freshly ground spot show small sediment grains, which scientists are hoping will contain chemical or other traces of life. Poet William Blake’s “‘To see a world in a grain of sand’ comes to mind,” wrote Sanjeev Gupta, a planetary geologist at Imperial College London, on Twitter.

The rover will spend the next few months exploring the Jezero delta, while mission scientists decide where they want to drill and extract rock samples. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to retrieve those samples and fly them back to Earth for study, no earlier than 2033, in the first-ever sample return from Mars….

(21) DEL TORO OPENS HIS CABINET. Guillermo Del Toro and Netflix have shared the first teaser trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, an eight-episode horror anthology featuring original plots and adaptations of short stories. No release date has been set.

The maestro of horror – Guillermo Del Toro – presents 8 blood-curdling tales of horror. This anthology of sinister stories is told by some of today’s most revered horror creators, including the directors of The Babadook, Splice, Mandy, and many more.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Jurassic World: Dominion Pitch Meting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode says that neither the producer or the screenwriter can remember the names of the characters Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt play so a quick Wikipedia search is in order. Also, when the producer learns that several characters from Jurassic Park have come back, he asks, “Is there any other way to make money? We’re rapidly running out of iconic characters to bring back!”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rich Horton, Ferret Bueller, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

AudioFile Magazine’s Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks of 2022—So Far!

Audiofile Magazine calls these the nine best sff audiobooks to appear in the first half of 2022.

SIREN QUEEN

  • by Nghi Vo| Read by Natalie Naudus
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.75 hrs.]

Natalie Naudus’s skilled narration adds to the luminous and otherworldly qualities of Vo’s historical fantasy. Luli Wei is determined to be a star. But in her world, that means making dangerous pacts, trading away years of her life, and fending off literal monsters. Naudus moves from character to character with ease, enlivening the ambitious and bold Luli, the captivating women she falls for, and the roaring executives who are looking to own Luli’s soul. Naudus conveys all of Luli’s passion as she delivers her lines for her starring role as the monstrous Siren Queen. A surreal and spellbinding story of a Golden Age Hollywood that is steeped in ancient magic. 

THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer

  • by Janelle Monáe| Read by Janelle Monáe, Bahni Turpin
  • [Harper Audio | 12.25 hrs.]

Musician and actor Janelle Monáe adds author and narrator to her considerable list of accomplishments with this story collection based on themes from her 2018 album DIRTY COMPUTER. The totalitarian entity New Dawn seeks to strip away all perceived deviance from humanity. Monáe’s narration of the eponymous first story is softly menacing as she introduces listeners to Seshet, a bureaucratic memory thief who longs for love and connection. Bahni Turpin narrates the rest of the stories in her engaging voice, using crisp and flexible tones to portray characters at odds with Seshet’s mission. Together, they create a memorable experience for listeners seeking classic science-fiction themes with new horizons. 

FEVERED STAR

  • by Rebecca Roanhorse| Read by Christian Barillas, Darrell Dennis, Cara Gee, Nicole Lewis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett
  • [Simon & Schuster Audio | 12.75 hrs.]

Five talented narrators continue an epic fantasy story of political upheaval, magic, and destiny in the Meridian. Serapio, portrayed with intensity and vulnerability by Shaun Taylor-Corbett, is struggling to maintain his humanity after becoming the living avatar of the Crow God. Cara Gee voices priestess Naranpa with wonder as she discovers she has been reborn as the Sun God, the Crow God’s bitter enemy. Each narrator propels the story forward in turn, expertly conveying the tangled fears and ambitions of its many characters. Listeners will be eager for the third part of this tense series inspired by pre-Columbian societies. 

THE MEASURE

  • by Nikki Erlick| Read by Julia Whelan
  • AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Harper Audio | 11 hrs.]

Golden Voice narrator Julia Whelan gives a thoughtful performance of a novel focused on a fundamental question: Would you want to know how long you’re going to live? One night everyone 22 years and older receives a box containing a length of string that tells them how much longer they will live. Would you open the box? Whelan introduces listeners to characters who have a range of reactions to that question. She provides a sense of intimacy to their stories as she calmly explores the dramatic ways the world changes for each one. Whelan shares the intensity of their emotions and the camaraderie that develops, especially among the “short stringers” who are soon to die.

THE CANDY HOUSE

  • by Jennifer Egan| Read by Michael Boatman, Nicole Lewis, Thomas Sadoski, Colin Donnell, Griffin Newman, Rebecca Lowman, Jackie Sanders, Lucy Liu, Christian Barillas, Tara Lynne Barr, Alex Allwine, Emily Tremaine, Kyle Beltran, Dan Bittner, Chris Henry Coffey, and a Full Cast
  • AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Simon & Schuster Audio | 11.25 hrs.]

The ensemble performance of this novel is exceptional. Michael Boatman narrates the opening chapter at the right pace with the right intonation. He captures the interior life of the enigmatic Bix Boughton, a social media genius who invents the world-altering technology “Own Your Unconscious.” Alex Allwine delivers a haunting automaton-like second-person narration of the chapter titled “Lulu the Spy, 2032”; Tyra Lynne Barr emulates the chirpy sound of 13-year-old Molly in “The Perimeter After-Molly”; and Dan Bittner supplies sharply insightful tone as Ames, whose life story ends this imaginative tour de force. While Egan reprises some of the characters from her award-winning A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, this novel has a wider timeframe, a greater trajectory, and a more complex plot. 

THE CARTOGRAPHERS

  • by Peng Shepherd| Read by Emily Woo Zeller, Nancy Wu, Karen Chilton, Ron Butler, Neil Hellegers, Jason Culp, Brittany Pressley
  • AudioFile Earphones Award
  • [Harper Audio | 14.25 hrs.]

A superb ensemble of narrators animates this exciting tale of friendships and betrayals, a cartographers’ cabal, maps, murder, and missing towns. Among her father’s effects, cartographer Nell discovers what appears to be a worthless 1930s highway map. However, this map hides dark secrets as well as a “phantom settlement” known only to “the Cartographers.” Possessing it puts Nell in great danger. Nell’s third-person point of view comes alive with narrator Emily Woo Zeller’s artistry, while the other narrators’ perceptive interpretations create fascinating, believable secondary characters. Outstanding performances highlight Peng Shepherd’s thrilling magical literary mystery.

NETTLE & BONE

  • by T. Kingfisher| Read by Amara Jasper
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.5 hrs.]

Narrator Amara Jasper faithfully delivers Kingfisher’s audiobook filled with fairy-tale magic. Princess Marra’s oldest sister dies under mysterious circumstances only months after her marriage. Her second sister marries the same prince, but when his abuse comes to light, Princess Marra embarks on a perilous quest to save her with a gravewitch, her fairy godmother, an exiled knight, a dog made of bones, and a demon-possessed chicken. Jasper’s unhurried pace and impassive tone perfectly complement the story’s dry humor. Her skill and commitment to creating diverse voices offer listeners distinct and emotionally connected characters—and bird caws. Jasper easily immerses listeners in the story and keeps them hooked to the end. 

LAST EXIT

  • by Max Gladstone| Read by Natalie Naudus
  • [Recorded Books | 21 hrs.]

Natalie Naudus’s immersive delivery immediately draws listeners into Gladstone’s kaleidoscopic adventure. Estranged in the wake of their last failed mission, a group of friends with deep wounds and unusual powers must reunite to defeat forces that are threatening to tear apart all realities. Naudus readily dives into a sprawling, harrowing narrative of perilous battles, ominous voices in the dark, gut-wrenching flashbacks, and defiant feats of magic and science. Characterizations range from courageous and clever to horrifying and unhinged. Underpinning the friends’ expedition is a powerful, complex love story, deftly explored by Gladstone and beautifully rendered by Naudus. 

SEA OF TRANQUILITY

  • by Emily St. John Mandel| Read by John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, Kirsten Potter
  • [Random House Audio | 5.75 hrs.]

The four narrators of Mandel’s newest novel create a mesmerizing listening experience full of time shifts. Kirsten Potter shines as an author on a book tour at the beginning of a 2200s pandemic; her increasingly worried observations hit close to home. Dylan Moore brings a perfect mix of malaise and inertia as a young woman living in 2020 New York. John Lee effortlessly transports listeners to British Columbia in 1918. Arthur Morey’s beautiful, throaty narration of a man from the moon colonies whose life is changed forever by a mysterious government job is haunting and familiar. These interlocking storylines offer a poignant and surprising exploration of love, art, and the beauty of everyday life.


“Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks of 2022—so far!” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

Pixel Scroll 5/25/22 Never Gonna File You Up, Never Gonna Scroll You Down

(1) THIS PRESENT CENTURY. The “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022” doesn’t include sff text writers, however, it features an array of performers and filmmakers with genre resumes like (Artists) Simu Liu, Andrew Garfield, Channing Tatum, (Innovators) Taika Waititi, (Titans) Michelle Yeoh, and (Icons) Keanu Reeves, Jon Batiste.

As usual, the list is about influence, and not all influential people are wonderful – Vladimir Putin is on it.

(2) WRITER’S (LUCITE) BLOCK. Sarah Pinsker has posted her award acceptance remarks: “’Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’ won the Nebula!” The excerpt is part of the lead-up, the remarks are at the link.

….As someone who has now accepted three Nebulas and a Hugo (the Hugos were in person, but I had an asymptomatic positive Covid test that week and stayed home) from this chair in my library, I can say there’s something weird about accepting an award live online. I’m a performer; I know how to channel energy. And yet, when they say my name, and the adrenaline hits while I’m trying to find the buttons to hit “accept promotion to speaker” and also remember to turn on my camera and mic, and also try to keep the dogs from barking as they feed off my excitement, there’s nowhere for the excitement to go. I can’t see other faces, so my excitement bounces off the computer and hits me square, telling me I should speed up instead of take a breath.…

(3) TOUR DE FORCE. An interview with Emily St. John Mandel at Bookforum Magazine: “Marquee Moon – Emily St. John Mandel talks about her postapocalyptic novel, which features a moon colony, time travel, and a book tour”.

There are all these disparate elements, but structurally and thematically it really coheres. I’m thinking of that early scene where Edwin is at home and criticizes British colonialism in India, which is somewhat the catalyst for his banishment. That has really compelling parallels to the moon colonies later in the novel. It’s not a perfect mapping, because there’s a difference between colonizing an inhabited land versus colonizing an uninhabited world, but how did it feel to raise those moral and ethical questions?

I started thinking about the simulation hypothesis, which is a big part of this novel. It is what it sounds like, for anyone who’s unfamiliar—the idea that perhaps we are all living in a computer simulation. And you can find very intelligent people who strenuously argue either side of that hypothesis. I thought that maybe there’s an interesting parallel between that idea and the tragedy of colonization, in the sense that the people who colonized the so-called New World did so in the grip of a false narrative. In Canada, where I’m from, it was a narrative of empty land, the idea that this is an empty country that’s there for the taking. Of course, it wasn’t empty—people lived there. There was something about establishing a country under fundamentally false pretenses that really reminded me in a strange way of this theory that we’re all living in a simulation. For me, there was a stronger parallel between those two things than between colonizing Canada and India versus colonizing the moon. Just because, to your point, they feel like such different circumstances. Nobody lives on the moon, so it’s fine…. 

(4) THE CAUSE. Tolkien sainthood advocate Daniel Côté Davis tells readers of The European Conservative “Why Some Catholics Think J.R.R. Tolkien Could Be a Saint”. It’s a Catholic church process, and the rest of the article focuses even more strongly on those requirements than this excerpt:

… Tolkien’s discussion of the Sacraments was not limited to the Eucharist, and Catholics can also find spiritual fruit in praying on his comments on Christian marriage. The comments are particularly poignant in the context of his love of Edith his wife. This love, along with that for Christ, animated his daily life. His love for he was so deep that the story that he felt was the very centre of his legendarium is based on their love story. Though not as widely-known as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, the tale of Beren and Luthien, told both in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion and in the recently-published Beren and Luthien. The tale mythopoetically expresses a love stronger than death, and Tolkien’s children decided to adorn their parents’ shared grave with the names Beren and Luthien. Whilst maintaining this reverential romanticism, Tolkien did not, however, shirk from teaching the reality of the necessity to found love on the will, and within a lifelong purgative struggle for virtue…

(5) WISCON. In “WisCon is back, and taking a hard look at itself”, local publication Tone Madison profiles the convention.

Back for its 45th year, WisCon will return to hosting an in-person convention at the Madison Concourse Hotel this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27 to May 30). A staple of the feminist science fiction and fantasy community since 1977, the entirely volunteer-run convention has served as a crucial space for critical and invigorating thought around issues of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and more for decades….

… While the global pandemic alone brought enough change to the convention-planning landscape, the con’s governing nonprofit, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction, or SF3 for short, also experienced a complete leadership turnover in the fall of 2021….

… To ensure that anti-racist work… continues on an institutional level, the con has also allocated a budget for creating a BIPOC outreach committee to create whatever programming the committee’s members see fit. 

“One of the things that we the board have really championed is putting our money where our mouth is,” [SF3 secretary Essay] Manaktola says. “We [as in] the people who are running a con that has been racist. You know, not necessarily under our guidance, and not any more racist than the ambient culture around us, and hopefully less.” Organizers are hopeful that within its first year, the outreach committee will be able to develop a skeleton for a formal BIPOC Mentorship Program to draw in more young readers and fans of color to the con….

(6) THE NEXT ROSE. “‘I’m in awe’: trans actor Yasmin Finney on joining Doctor Who” – a Guardian profile.  

…Finney’s character is called Rose, which was also the name of the companion famously played by Billie Piper in the mid-00s. The relevance of this is currently unknown. What we do know is that Finney was recently spotted filming scenes alongside David Tennant, AKA the Tenth Doctor, and Catherine Tate, AKA the Tenth Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble. In other words, there are more than enough cryptic developments to keep Whoniverse obsessives in a tizzy until the end product finally airs in 2023.

Finney squirms at the mere mention of Doctor Who – and what little she has to say about her casting only confuses matters further. “I didn’t know for a long time,” she says over Zoom, through curtains of sleek blond hair, “but I did know. I don’t want to give too much away.” My chances of gleaning anything meaningful seem practically zero. Was it mere coincidence that Davies’ mid-00s Doctor Who collaborator Euros Lyn also directed Heartstopper? “That was a huge coincidence!” exclaims Finney, before admitting that, actually, Lyn did recommend her to producers who were “looking for a trans girl”. But she doubts Lyn knew the precise nature of the project under discussion….

(7) SHORT SFF. Gizmodo’s Linda Codega answers the question “Which Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines Deserve More Love?” basically by saying they all do.

…So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers….

(8) NEAR MISS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Pace Jetboy: “I can’t die. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Look Up’ yet!” “Asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building barreling toward Earth on May 27” at MSN.com.

An enormous asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building will make a close approach to Earth on May 27, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Fear not: the asteroid, named 7335 (1989 JA), will soundly miss our planet by about 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) — or nearly 10 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. Still, given the space rock’s enormous size (1.1. miles, or 1.8 km, in diameter) and relatively close proximity to Earth, NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” meaning it could do enormous damage to our planet if its orbit ever changes and the rock impacts Earth….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, the first and I’m going to argue only Alien film worth seeing premiered on this day. Alien was directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon which in turn was based on a story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. 

This was the first genre film by Ridley with his only previous film being The Duellists which is most excellent. (I should essay it.) Dan O’Bannon on the other hand was the writer of Dark Star, which had been directed and produced by John Carpenter and which had been co-written with him. He had also worked on Star Wars doing computer animation and graphic displays as well as miniature and optical effects unit. Shusett was the first to option Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” short story that became Total Recall.

Digression: I did see it at the theatre. It was a fascinating experience. Horrifying but fascinating. Yes it very much deserved the Hugo did it win at Noreascon Two.

It cost very little to produce, around ten million, and made at least a hundred million. Because it was so successful, it spawned it a lot of films that included three sequels, AliensAlien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (A fifth film is being talked about with Weaver coming back.) The Predator crossovers produced Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. And then there’s prequel series of Prometheus and Alien: CovenantAliens is the only one of these I’ve seen.

So what the critics think?

Well Derek Malcom of the Guardian said when it came out that “Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won’t see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.”

And the staff of the TV Guide in their retrospective look at it liked it as well: “There’s nothing terribly complex or original about the movie, but it is distinguished by its clever and innovative use of B-movie staples in a hi-tech setting. Coming into his own as a director on his second  feature, Ridley Scott wrings every possible ounce of suspense and atmosphere out of the proceedings. Swiss artist-designer H.R. Giger supplied the distinctive ‘bio-mechanical’ concepts for the film, which help make the alien one of cinema’s scariest creations: a nightmare synthesis of humanoid  form, insect-like appendages, and mechanized structure that is all the more effective for not being seen too clearly for most of the film.  The non-star cast acquits itself well, bringing an appealing quality to their characters. One of them, Weaver’s Ripley, would develop into one of the genre’s most memorable heroines through the subsequent sequels.”

It gets a ninety four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, not at all surprising to me. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1913 Carl Wessler. Animator during the Thirties working on Musical Memories and other theatrical cartoon shorts for the Fleischer Studios, and a comic book writer from the Forties though the Eighties for including Charlton Comics, DC, EC Comics, Harvey Comics and Marvel. He also worked for editor-in-chief Stan Lee at Marvel’s 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best known I’d say for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 83. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course, he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats
  • Born May 25, 1944 Frank Oz, 78. Actor, director (including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives), producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise though he no longer performing him. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 73. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh my, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. 
  • Born May 25, 1950 Kathryn Daugherty. Yes, another one who damn it died far too young. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 56. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies.  She has two Nebula nominations, one for her “The Story of Love” short story and another for her “The Duke in His Castle” novella. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows two monsters squaring off – one with an obvious weapon, and the other – it will come to you.  

(12) DOOM PATROL. “’One Of The Things They Definitely Are Is Queer’: An Interview With Rachel Pollack” in The Comics Journal.

To fast-forward, the story is that you took over writing Doom Patrol after meeting Tom Peyer at a party.

Tom and I both wrote introductions for the Omnibus volume. I wrote mine first and then I saw his and corrected mine. Because I did not remember all the details of how we met. I vaguely thought that Neil Gaiman, who I had met at a writers conference, had invited me to this event. It turned out that Neil was there, but we were both there because it was a reception for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He introduced me to Stuart Moore and I was gushing to Stuart about how much I liked Vertigo – it wasn’t even Vertigo yet – but particularly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. That it was such an incredible brilliant thing. He said, well the editor is right here, which was Tom Peyer. So I was gushing to Tom and I said – and I wasn’t trying to get a job – “I’m not looking to write a monthly comic but if I ever was interested, Doom Patrol was the only thing I could imagine writing.” He said, “Actually, Grant’s leaving in a few months, why don’t you send me a sample script?” In his introduction he wrote that he was desperate to find somebody. I’m not sure why. But that’s why he responded to me. He sent me one or two of Grant’s scripts I could look at for reference. Neil sent me one of his scripts, I recall. Maybe I looked at an Alan Moore script, or maybe that was later. But I got a sense of how people do it and what I wanted to do. And the script that I sent him was the first story. He liked it enough that he said it should be my first issue. I wrote it based on what he told me [about how] Grant was going to end it, and where I would want to go with it. Basically I just had them move to Rhinebeck. [laughs] I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to move the cast who are weird super cool wild strange superheroes to some nice little village in upstate New York. [laughs]

Pollack also discusses working with editor Lou Stathis, somebody I met when he first got in fandom but only today did it occur to me to check if he has a Wikipedia entry – he does, and it’s quite a good one.

(13) 3 FREE MONTHS OF APPLE+ TV, [Item by Daniel Dern.] Good news, you can enjoy Ted Lasso. So-so news, you can watch Foundation. “Apple Subscriptions Are Free Right Now, so Go Watch Severance, Already” urges The Inventory.

… The idea of paying for yet another streaming service is exhausting, I get it. So how about this: How about you don’t pay for it?… 

The article sends you to a Best Buy site. The fine print says, “After free trial, plan automatically renews at $4.99/month until cancelled.”

(14) VARIABLE STAR. Jesse Hudson makes an interesting observation in his “Review of The This by Adam Roberts” at Speculiction.

Adam Roberts is that maddening sportsman who has trophies on the shelf to show he is a winner but doesn’t always show up to play. With an irregular training scheme and dynamic mentality, he instead depends on innate talent to win matches. Naturally, this results in inconsistency; he’s not always a threat for the podium. For the reader, this means they never know what they are going to get with Roberts—certainly one type of appeal. With 2022’s The This we get the chance to A) test the accuracy of Google’s search algorithm, and B) answer the question: has Roberts once again channeled his innate talent to make a run for the winner’s circle, or is it just another quiet bowing out in the group stage?…

(15) MINI-REVIEW OF DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Our local SF group has been to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In case anyone has not yet seen it, here is a more-or-less-spoiler free mini-review.

Action and spectacle from start to finish, director Sam Raimi takes viewers on a relentless ride.  As Bond was once accused: ‘all this running around. It’s so exhausting.’ Best bits include the death of Picard and an appearance of the cybermen…. What’s not to like, if you have the stamina.

Also trailer here.

(16) PHONE HOME? The headline oversells the story, however, the information is of interest: “Astronomer may have detected the source of the famous extraterrestrial ‘Wow!’ signal” at MSN.com.

Astronomers may have found the source of the ‘Wow!’ signal, an enigmatic radio transmission from space that some believe could have originated from an alien world.

The signal – a 72 second-long radio burst that was 20 times stronger than its background emissions – was first detected in 1977, stopping at just over a minute because that is the longest duration that the Big Ear radio telescope was able to observe. Scientists believe it is likely that the signal would have lasted longer.

Drawing attention to the mysterious transmission on a printout, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled it and jotted down ‘Wow!’ next to it. Since then, it has become of primary interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, although it has never been heard since.

… Focusing on G- and K-type stars – which are very similar to our own Sun – Caballero identified one, known as 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which appears to be the most likely source of the signal – 1,800 light-years from Earth.

“Despite this star is located too far for sending any reply in the form of a radio or light transmission, it could be a great target to make observations searching for techno-signatures such as artificial light or satellite transits”, Caballero writes.

Out of the 66 stars identified, two other stars, with temperatures and brightness very similar to our Sun, were also highlighted as worth investigating, as well as 14 more with a potentially similar temperature but unknown brightness. Caballero suggests, though, that since all these stars are located in the same part of the sky, the entire area is an ideal source for techno-signatures and should be explored.

Caballero’s findings appeared May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology….

(17) DRAW A LINE THROUGH THEM. “The end of men: the controversial new wave of female utopias” is discussed by Sandra Newman in the Guardian.

All the men are gone. Usually this is conceived as the result of a plague. Less often, the cause is violence. Occasionally, the men don’t die and the sexes are just segregated in different geographical regions. Or men miraculously vanish without explanation.

Left to themselves, the women create a better society, without inequality or war. All goods are shared. All children are safe. The economy is sustainable and Earth is cherished. Without male biology standing in the way, utopia builds itself.

I’m describing a subgenre of science fiction, mostly written in the 1970s-90s. It was once so popular it was almost synonymous with feminist SF. In 1995, when the Otherwise Award, a literary prize for “works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender”, gave five retrospective awards, four of the works were set in such worlds: Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines and Walk to the End of the World, and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and When It Changed. The fifth was Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a world whose inhabitants are all of the same sex.

Recently there has been a revival of the genre in radically different form, with titles including Lauren Beukes’s 2020 novel Afterland, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s 2021 thriller The End of Men, and my own new release, The Men. I think the way that these contemporary novels diverge from their earlier counterparts tells us something useful about gender politics in the 21st century. Part of the story, too, is a growing opposition to the basic premise, a conflict in which my novel has been recently embroiled….

(18) YES, SEX REX EVERYTHING. “’Prehistoric Planet’ shows another side to fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus Rex: The tender lover” at MSN.com.

…Working with producer Jon Favreau and the team that created the photorealistic visual effects used in  films like “The Lion King,” the series shows the period’s now-extinct creatures as if a film crew was shooting them 66 million years ago. 

Famed British naturalist commentator David Attenborough adds to the natural history heft with his narration, illuminating the T-Rex courtship ritual. The scene begins with an older male T-Rex, injured after battling a Triceratops, meeting a female at a river bed.

The meeting could lead either to fight or fancy. But the male shows a courtship posture and  utters a low-frequency vocalization to the receptive female. This behavior, like many of the “Prehistoric Planet” dinosaur depictions, is derived from phylogenetic bracketing – studying the extinct dinosaur’s living family tree, from birds to crocodiles and alligators.

“We’ve got scientific reasons for being very confident for this behavior,” says Naish. “We discussed this behind the scenes in the most detailed way, preparing for this. So in terms of exactly what to show, we knew exactly what was happening. And it’s the first time people will see this type of behavior realistically, from a natural history background.”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] So who DOES put all the arrows back in the slots…? Ryan George considers, “The Guys Who Set Up Ancient Booby Traps”.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/30/22 Those Who Cannot Remember Past Pixel Scrolls Are Doomed To Re-File Them

(1) CAT RAMBO AT FUTURE TENSE. The new entry from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives. Cat Rambo’s “The Woman Who Wanted to Be Trees” at Slate.

“For someone like me,” Nefirah’s client said, “it’s not a question of whether or not I’ll be remembered. The question is precisely how.”…

Tamara Kneese, an expert on the digital afterlife, delivers a response in her essay “Is a Lasting Digital Memorial to a Dead Person Even Possible?”

I’m a death scholar and a sustainability researcher at a major tech company, so Cat Rambo’s “The Woman Who Wanted to be Trees” hit home. In the story, a death care worker is asked to memorialize clients in innovative ways, using cutting-edge technologies to blur the boundaries between life and death, and between humans and the natural world. For the past 15 years, I have been researching how people use technology to remember and communicate with the dead. My forthcoming book, Death Glitch: How Techno-Solutionism Fails Us in This Life and Beyond, explores the fundamental incompatibility between dreams of technologically mediated life extension and the planned obsolescence of material technologies…. 

(2) AUTHOR MAGNET. The inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will take place May 20-23, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, NM. The authors who are scheduled to appear include Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, Joy Harjo, Anne Hillerman, Craig Johnson, Phil Klay, Jon Krakauer, Emily St. John Mandel, George R.R. Martin, N. Scott Momaday, James McGrath Morris, Douglas Preston, Rebecca Roanhorse, Bob Shacochis, Colson Whitehead and Don Winslow.

Besides author readings and book signings, the festival will feature meals during which chefs and food writers will talk about the food they’ve prepared, their work and their books; Walk & Talks, during which attendees and authors will together explore parts of Santa Fe; and Tea & Tequila, featuring tea and tequila tastings. On Monday, the last day of the festival, attendees will be able to go on literary day trips in Santa Fe and nearby areas in northern New Mexico.

(3) FRESH VIEWPOINT. Artists & Climate Change’s “Wild Authors: Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki” is a Q&A with a 2022 double-Hugo-nominee and editor of The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

In your short story “Mercy of the Wild,” you wrote from the viewpoint of a lion. What inspired that story?

“Mercy of the Wild” was a point of experimentation for me. I love to experiment with forms and styles or speculative fiction, and that was one such experiment that I was delighted to follow up on. The story was inspired by an almost childlike, wide-eyed curiosity about what goes on in the minds of the creatures we share the planet with. What if we heard their story, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Or as the Igbo proverb says, “Until the lion learns to tell its story, the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” This got me wondering, what if the roles were reversed? Its telling impresses on me the need for people of diverse cultures to champion and find spaces for their stories to thrive in the world of today.

(4) GREAT LEAP FORWARD.  Cora Buhlert was a guest on the Dickheads podcast (as in Philip K. Dick) and discussed “‘The Big Jump’ – Leigh Brackett” with Grant Warmack and host David Agranoff.

In the first episode of this podcast, Solar Lottery, David said he would someday do this episode. So four years later, in January of this year, he sat down with a couple of colleagues and discussed the lesser-known novel The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett. The pair of talents he was privileged to have here are newcomer to Leigh Brackett writer/music manager/tarot reader Grant Wamack and long time ‘Bracketteer’ teacher/translator/writer and three time Hugo nominee Cora Buhlert. Enjoy.

(5) S&S: Here is more about the nascent New Edge sword and sorcery movement: “New Edge S&S Guest Post: Oliver Brackenbury” at Scott Oden’s blog.

[Scott Oden:] I put out the call, a few days ago, for a few guest posts relating to the New Edge of Sword & Sorcery. And here is our first victim . . . er, participant. Oliver is a podcaster, a screenwriter, and a novelist; he’s also one of the organizers of the whole New Edge movement. Oliver, you have the floor . .

[Oliver Brackenbury]: …I’ve been in conversations like that before, in other scenes and settings, and I thought “Wouldn’t be nice if all this energy was directed at really changing the situation?”. So I proposed an open, yet specific question – “What could we do to get more young people into this genre we all love?”.

Now, I can take credit for asking the question, but I cannot take credit for the incredible amount of energy I unwittingly tapped into by asking it. The conversation that took off was galloping and enthusiastic and good-natured and productive and WOW!

Scott Oden’s own thoughts about the movement appear in “Putting a NEW EDGE on an Old Blade”.

A genre can grow dull. The accretion of old social mores — the misogyny, racism, and homophobia of bygone eras — can oxidize a genre, making it seem as graceless as a barnacle-encrusted hunk of metal drawn from the sea. A genre’s founders can (and will) die, leaving less-invested imitators to tease out only the surface tropes while its deeper meanings are lost to the ages. And, over time, that genre starts to become irrelevant to the world at large.

In today’s fiction market, this is largely the fate of sword-and-sorcery. Mainstream publishers are loath to market a work as S&S because they consider it a dead end market. Readers less concerned with genre labels use the term nowadays to describe any book with swordplay and magic, from Tolkien to Pratchett — and they’re unaware that it has (or had) a very specific meaning. In short, the term sword-and-sorcery has lost its edge. It has rusted, and is stuck in a very old and problematic scabbard.

There is, however, a nascent movement that has started in the small press sphere to remove that blade from its sheath, to clean the rust from it, sharpen it on a grinding wheel, and fashion a new scabbard — one free from the old problems of the genre. That movement is called the NEW EDGE of S&S….

(6) SUBGENRE GETS NEWSLETTER SOURCE. There’s now also a free weekly sword and sorcery newsletter with the delightful name “Thews You Can Use” from Sword & Sorcery News. It just started.

This week’s Roundup will be a little different—not that you’d know, since it’s the first. Rather than covering the week in S&S news, I’ll go back over the last couple months. Here’s a quick roundup of S&S news from February through April…. 

(7) MURDERBOT AND POLICY. The New America website will hold a gathering of its Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club to discuss All Systems Red on June 1 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the next, we have selected All Systems Red by Martha Wells.

The novel explores a spacefaring future in which corporate-driven exploratory missions rely heavily on security androids. In Wells’ engaging – at times funny – tale, one such android hacks its own system to attain more autonomy from the humans he is accompanying. The result is a thought-provoking inquiry into the evolving nature of potential human-robot relations.

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 1 to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book (though we picked a short one this time!).

(8) SPACE FORCE OFFICIALLY GROUNDED. I hadn’t realized the show wasn’t already canceled. Well, it is now: “Netflix cancels Steve Carell sci-fi comedy ‘Space Force’” reports SYFY Wire.

…In addition to Carell as General Mark Naird, the show also starred an A-list supporting cast of John Malkovich (Dr. Adrian Mallory), Ben Schwartz (F. Tony Scarapiducci), Tawny Newsome (Captain Angela Ali), Lisa Kudrow (Maggie Naird), and Diana Silvers (Erin Naird). 

That group is chock full of talent, which may have been part of its downfall — according to THR, the show’s large budget was reportedly in part because of the actors’ salaries, with Carell getting over $1 million per episode. That much built in spending, along with mixed reviews for both seasons, apparently resulted in a failure for Space Force to (ahem) launch into a third season…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1938 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Not his official appearance as Bugs Bunny that will happen in “A Wild Hare” on July 27, 1940. But a preliminary version of the character we now know as him first showed up in “Porky’s Hare Hunt” eighty-four years ago today. The Looney Tunes cartoon was directed by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway (do note his name) and an uncredited Cal Dalton. It stars Porky Pig as a hunter whose quarry is a rabbit named Happy. Yes, Happy.

Oh, I well know that most Bugs Bunny fans will tell you that July 27 is the day that he was created as that is the anniversary of the 1940 debut of the familiar rabbit and his adversary, Elmer Fudd. In that July debut people also heard for the first time Bugs’s famous line, “What’s up, Doc?”

But today is the real anniversary of the creation of this character.  He first appeared on the theater short called as I noted above “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” Perhaps the reason people don’t recognize, or indeed want to credit him as that rabbit, is Bugs in that early cartoon was credited as Happy Rabbit. And admittedly it really looks pretty much like any rabbit save the smirking face, doesn’t it? Or does he? 

It’s been uploaded to YouTube so go watch it. It may not look like him but it acts like him and it sounds like him. Several sources state that Mel Blanc voiced him here but the cartoon itself has no credits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 30, 1930 Bill Buchanan. A musician who was not a filker but might have been. Really. Truly. His most famous composition took place in 1956, when he and Dickie Goodman created the sound collage “The Flying Saucer”.  They then did “The Flying Saucer Goes West” which is a lot of fun. A short time later, they would do “The Creature (From A Science Fiction Movie)” / “Meet The Creature (From A Science Fiction Movie)”. With other collaborators, he did such works as “Frankenstein Of ’59/Frankenstein Returns”.  Checking iTunes, quite a bit of what he did is available. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 84. One of my favorites author to read, be it the Gil Hamilton the Arm stories, Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle (The Gripping Hand alas didn’t work for me at all), or the the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version as you know since I wrote an essay on them. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 and in turn by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976 which I admit surprised me. 
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 54. Son of Jane Yolen. One time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. (Which I just discovered has not released a recording in a decade. Damn.) He was the lead vocalist for Songs from The Gypsy which was based on The Gypsy, the novel written by Steven Brust and Meghan Lindholm. A truly great album.  With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are well worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as quite engaging.
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 49. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet read her Spinning Silver novelwhich won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, so opinions are welcome. She has a number of Hugo nominations starting at Nippon 2007 for His Majesty’s Dragon, then next at MidAmericaCon II for Uprooted, The Temeraire series at Worldcon 75. No wins yet which really, really surprises me. She’s twice been a finalist for Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book with A Deadly Education at DisCon III for  and this year at Chicon 8 for The Last Graduate.
  • Born April 30, 1982 Kirsten Dunst, 40. Her first genre role was as Claudio in Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise, voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode!
  • Born April 30, 1985 Gal Gadot, 37. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production Death on the Nile which is quite lovely but not genre adjacent, but I really don’t mind as they’re lovely mysteries. Oh, and she’s playing The Evil Queen in the forthcoming Snow White film.
  • Born April 30, 2003 Emily Carey, 19. Yes, nineteen years old. She has had a lot of roles for her age. First she played the twelve-year-old Diana in Wonder Woman followed by playing  the fourteen-year-old Lara in the rebooted Tomb Raider.  And then she’s in Anastasia: Once Upon a Time in the lead role of Anastasia.  She’s Teen Wendy Darling in the forthcoming The Lost Girls. She was in the genre adjacent Houdini and Doyle as Mary Conan Doyle, and finally she’s in the not-yet-released G.R.R. Martin’s House of the Dragon series as the young Alicent Hightower. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CHALK AROUND THE CLOCK. The Pasadena Chalk Festival returns June 18-19 at The Paseo.

The Pasadena Chalk Festival began in 1993 after a summer intern at the Light Bringer Project attended a street painting festival in Paris and brought back her amazing pictures and observations. The first “Chalk on the Walk” took place at Centennial Square at Pasadena City Hall with over 150 visual artists participating in the first Los Angeles-area event. All proceeds went toward community arts programs and HIV/AIDS resources.

In 2010, The Pasadena Chalk Festival was officially named the largest street painting festival by the Guinness World Record, welcoming more than 600 artists using over 25,000 sticks of chalk and drawing a crowd of more than 100,000 visitors in one weekend. 

Below is an hour-long video of last year’s Chalk Festival. And here is File 770’s roundup of sff art from the 2019 festival via Twitter.

(13) DON’T SAY PAY. The Florida legislature’s move to punish Disney for publicly opposing the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill fails to conform to other requirements of state law says the corporate giant: “Disney’s special tax district suggests its repeal is illegal” in the Miami Herald.

As Florida legislators were rushing through passage of a bill to repeal the special district that governs Walt Disney World last week, they failed to notice an obscure provision in state law that says the state could not do what legislators were doing — unless the district’s bond debt was paid off. Disney, however, noticed and the Reedy Creek Improvement District quietly sent a note to its investors to show that it was confident the Legislature’s attempt to dissolve the special taxing district operating the 39-square mile parcel it owned in two counties violated the “pledge” the state made when it enacted the district in 1967, and therefore was not legal. The result, Reedy Creek told its investors, is that it would continue to go about business as usual.

The statement, posted on the website of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on April 21 by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is the only public statement Disney has supplied since lawmakers unleashed their fury over the company’s vocal opposition to the “Parental Rights in Education” law, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill. The statement, first reported by WESH 2, quotes the statute which says, in part, that the “State of Florida pledges…it will not limit or alter the rights of the District…until all such bonds together with interest thereon…are fully met and discharged.”

… In essence, the state had a contractual obligation not to interfere with the district until the bond debt is paid off, said Jake Schumer, a municipal attorney in the Maitland law firm of Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand, in an article for Bloomberg Tax posted on Tuesday and cited in a Law and Crime article.

The law passed by the Republican Legislature on a largely party-line vote, and signed into law by the Republican governor, either violates the contract clause of the Florida Constitution, or is incomplete, Schumer told the Herald/Times on Tuesday. If the Legislature wants to dismantle the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it has more work to do.

(14) FLY YOU FOOLS! J. Michael Straczynski would like to tell you about the worst musical he ever saw. Thread starts here.

(15) DO TOUCH THAT DIAL. Tor.com’s Robert Repino beggars the imagination by reminding readers about “Six Bizarro Made-for-TV SFF Movies That Actually Exist”. Such as —

Gargoyles (1972)

Not to be confused with the prematurely canceled ’90s cartoon of the same nameGargoyles starred B-movie tough guy Cornel Wilde (from The Naked Prey). The opening voiceover raises the stakes pretty high: In the aftermath of the war between God and Satan, a race of creatures climbs out of hell to terrorize mankind every few centuries. In the modern age, the gargoyles are relegated to myth and statues, leaving humans completely unprepared for their next onslaught.

Whoa. That sounds serious. Until you notice that the gargoyles reemerge in a desert that is surely within driving distance of the studio. And it takes only a handful of armed townsfolk to quell the apocalyptic uprising. But those minor details aside, this movie remains a guilty pleasure for my generation, in part because of the Emmy-winning makeup wizardry of Stan Winston. The gargoyles aren’t that scary, but they look pretty darn cool, and some of them even fly. And by “fly,” I mean “slowly lift off the ground with a barely concealed cable.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King meets the evil emperor, who wonders why the people don’t love him!

What do you do when you’ve seized power and/or purchased a large social media company? You monologue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victor LaValle

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

Robert Freeman Wexler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/14/22 Do Starros Work As Facemasks? What About Tribbles?

(1) SLF ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. Michelle Feng is the winner of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s search for their 2022 Illustration of the Year.

Michelle Feng

Hoping to translate theory into policy and practice, Michelle’s experience revolves around working directly with traditionally underserved individuals and communities of color to bridge the gap between lived experiences and policy that fails to reflect the complexities of society on a universal scale. Through her dedication to public service, where she traveled around the country working in dedicated pursuit of localized projects with focuses on urban development, environmental conservation, disaster relief, and food insecurity in rural areas. Michelle has also spent time in Human Resources at the Department of Defense and has experience in social work at a small non-profit, which subsequently trained her in crisis de-escalation, conflict mediation, and trauma-informed care.

Feng commented that she found inspiration for her illustration through wanting to combine visual elements from traditional village living structures with futuristic elements of a modern city. Feng used a mix of mediums and textures to build a piece with collage-like elements that illustrated a layered approach to world-building: “imbuing realities that are grounded in something familiar, but still continue to live outside of our surface-level understanding of the world, define speculative fiction to me. As a first generation Chinese-American daughter of immigrants, I grew up hearing stories of my mother’s experience traveling to the rural village her mother grew up in, who always emphasized the importance of balancing education, literacy, and imagination as the key to upward mobility.”

The person climbing the wall of books on the left hand side of the image was inspired by her grandfather, a professor of contemplative literature who taught her mother that art is the highest form of expression. Her hope is that those who see the piece can connect to both of its real & imagined worlds while exploring intersections between the built and natural environment.

You can find more of her work on instagram: @michellef.arts

(2) SQUEECORE. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast offer “A Guide to Squeecore”, their term for sff’s current favorite flavor.

In 1936, anthropologist Ralph Linton said, “The last thing a fish would ever notice would be water.” It’s difficult to see the medium that encompasses everything around you, especially when you’ve never known anything else. Well, if fish were contemporary sci-fi/fantasy readers, the last thing they would notice is squeecore. What is squeecore? You’re soaking in it! Squeecore is the dominant literary movement in contemporary SFF, a movement so ubiquitous it’s nearly invisible. But in this episode, we are taking notice of how speculative fiction got watered down.

(3) UNWRAPPING THE PRESENT. Camestros Felapton catches the conversational ball thrown by Raquel S. Benedict in that Rite Gud podcast – “Is there a dominant mode of current science fiction?”

…Again, I think that idea (if not the name) that there are common aesthetic elements in notable science fiction (ie what gets critical attention and award nominations) makes some sense. Historically, in the Hugo Awards, I think what we see is overlapping time periods of popularity of some authors, publishers and outlets (5 to 10 year periods, with some figures having much longer spans of relevance). Pick any snapshot of time though, you are likely to find works that reflect elements that are going out of fashion, works that are currently most fashionable and works that reflect newer fashions. That is reflected in the kind of names (some coined contemporaneously and some retrospectively) given to works from particular times. The podcast picks up on that element and the need for a name for the current state of affairs….

(4) ENCOURAGING INTENTIONALITY. Maurice Broaddus urges conventions to move beyond checking the “diversity box” and work on building community. Thread starts here.

(5) ADAPTING STATION ELEVEN. Esquire’s Adrienne Westenfeld analyzes “How HBO Max’s Station Eleven Reimagines the Novel”.

…. Readers of the novel will remember its unique structure: nonlinear and multi-perspective, arcing across time, space, and characters to tell its poignant story about survival and the human spirit. We sense some of that looping structure in the television show, particularly in Episode One’s flash-forward glimpses of Chicago (for the purposes of this adaptation, HBOMax has transplanted the story from Toronto to Chicago). In these shots, we glimpse an unrecognizable world: today’s driveway becomes an overgrown wilderness, years after the pandemic. Today’s theater, where Arthur performs King Lear to a packed audience, is later overrun by feral hogs. The visual style hints at a narrative omniscience….

(6) DAVE WOLVERTON (1952-2022). Dave Wolverton, aka Dave Farland, died the day after sustaining a head injury due to a fall, his son Spencer announced this morning:  

Again this Dave’s son Spencer.

Dave has officially passed. He held on till all his children could say goodbye, then faded swiftly without pain. Thank you for all the kind words, messages, and memories.

After reading the countless messages and reflecting on my own experience, it is safe to say that my dad had a special way of seeing the potential in people. He will surely be missed.

Words can’t express the emotions of losing a loved one.

Eric Flint is among the many paying tribute, here on Facebook:

…Dave was part of my writing career from the very beginning. In fact, he’s the person whom you could say started it. He was the coordinator of the Writers of the Future contest in 1992. I submitted a story which he liked well enough to include in the finalists from whom the judges chose the winners, and I won first place in the winter quarter of that year. Winning that award is what kicked off my writing career. I stayed in touch with Dave after the contest and he was a help to me in many ways, from giving me excellent editing advice to connecting me with the person who became (and still is) my literary agent.

Some years later, Dave and I were two of the five founders of the Superstars Writing Seminar. (The other three were Kevin Anderson, Rebecca Moesta and Brandon Sanderson.) As a result of that association, we met every year at the four-day event, which is held in Colorado Springs in February. I was expecting to see him next month and looking forward to it.

David Doering’s appreciation about him will appear shortly on File 770.

(7) RICK COOK (1944-2022). Rick Cook, author of the Wizardry series (starting with Wizard’s Bane in 1989), died January 13. He wrote a total of nine sff novels, and much short fiction. His short story “Symphony for Skyfall,” co-written with Peter L. Manly, was shortlisted for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1995. His fact article “The Long Stern Case: A Speculative Exercise” won the Analog Readers Poll in 1987 (and between 1995-1998, three more short stories co-authored with Manly placed second or third in the poll.)

Sir Richard Ironsteed.

He was a co-founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Kingdom of Atenveldt, which encompasses the state of Arizona. In the SCA he was known as Sir Richard Ironsteed. Recalling the early days of the Kingdom of Atenveldt, Cook wrote:

We made it up as we went along. In 1968 I went to Worldcon in San Francisco. The SCA appeared there for the first time. It was then I was introduced to the SCA. I picked up the Known World Handbook and brought it back to the Valley of the Sun. I couldn’t build up much interest, but shared the information with Mike Reynolds. In 1969, he suggested we start a branch. We were the first group that wasn’t started by people who had lived in the Kingdom of the West.

I was part of building the initial group, martial activities, including the administrative duties of marshalling. As first king of Atenveldt, I enjoyed making up the fun as we went along. Those things of great tradition from the early days were really just having a good time. I was also the first herald of Atenveldt, long before we were a kingdom. I tried my hand at many things from helping make our first (infamous) trebuchet to making jewelry.

He became the First King of Atenveldt in 1971.

Heather Jeffcott shared warm memories of him on Facebook:

…He used words like swordplay. Strong and persuasive, nimble and light when needed, then *SMACK*! There came the pun that would lighten the tenor of the conversation. He could be blunt without being rude. (Which is not to say he couldn’t descend into crudity, it just wasn’t his first choice. He was selective in how and when to apply such words for he had plenty of others in his arsenal.) He had a talent for telling you a truth and making it seem like a tall tale. And if he told you a Tall Tale, it took on the manner of a LEGEND….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-five years ago, the first version of Fantasy Island aired its first episode this evening on ABC. The series starred Ricardo Montalbán who was previously known for his Chrysler Cordoba commercials, with their tagline of “Fine Corinthian Leather”, as Mr. Roarke, the Host, and Hervé Villechaize as his dwarf assistant, Tattoo. It was created by Gene Levitt who had very little previous genre experience. 

The critics were unanimous in their utter loathing of it. Newsday was typical of the comments about: “Given the premise, the [pilot] movie could have been fun, but it’s not. It drips with Meaning, but there is none. Actually, it’s quite dumb.”

It was obviously critic-proof as it had an amazing run lasting seven seasons of one hundred fifty-two episodes, plus two films called Fantasy Island and Return to Fantasy Island

A one-season revival of the series with Malcolm McDowell and Mädchen Amick in the two roles aired fourteen years later while a re-imagined horror film version was released two years ago. I’ve seen neither of those versions. I do remember the original series and remember rather liking it.

Chrysler Cordoba commercial (proof nothing vanishes on the net) here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 14, 1943 Beverly Zuk. Ardent fan of Trek: TOS who wrote three Trek fanfics, two of them on specific characters: The Honorable Sacrifice (McCoy) and The Third Verdict (Scotty). Let’s just say that based on her artwork that I found I’d not say these are anything less than R rated in places. She was a founding member of the Trek Mafia though I’m not sure what that was, but I’m betting one of y’all can tell me. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 74. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other genre creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. 
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 73. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Born January 14, 1957 Suzanne Danielle, 65. A Whovian as she showed up as Agella in “The Destiny if The Daleks “ a Fourth Doctor story. She was on the Hammer House of Horror series in the Carpathian Eagle” episode, and she’s also in Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected multiple times in different roles. To my knowledge, her only other SFF appearance was on the Eighties Flash Gordon film.
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 60. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions.
  • Born January 14, 1967 Emily Watson, 55. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She apparently also was in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. 
  • Born January 14, 1990 Grant Gustin, 32. The actor, known as Barry Allen aka the Flash in the Arrowverse. I’ve got him as a boyfriend on an episode on A Haunting, one of those ghost hunter shows early in his career. Later on, well, the Arrowverse has kept him rather busy.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest meet some genetic engineers whose experiments result in terrible puns.

(11) SPRING HAS SPRUNG AT SF2 CONCATENATION. SF² Concatenation has just posted its seasonal edition of news, articles, conreps, genre film analysis, and over 40 standalone book reviews. Vol. 32 (1) contains:

v32(1) 2022.1.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v32(1) 2022.1.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(12) FOUNDRY EVENT. Flights of Foundry, a virtual convention for speculative creators and their fans, will be held online from April 8-10. Programming is now being organized, and registrations taken, at the link.

The world’s biggest multi-disciplinary, round the clock, international virtual convention is returning for its third year, and it’s going to be even better than ever. With stellar guests of honor such as L. D. Lewis and Jana Bianchi, an intensive workshops series, and activities to fill the whole weekend, there’s something for everyone and more than you’ll make it to. Donation-based registration means everyone can attend, and you’ll have a rare opportunity to meet people you’ll never see on the regular con circuit. Join us to learn about craft and business from creatives in your field and those you’ll collaborate with over the course of your career. Talk about your favorite works with people who love them, and love to dissect them, too!

(13) A JAR FULL OF MONEY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna notes that now that Winnie-the-Pooh is in the public domain, artists and writers will have a field day as long as they don’t make the bear wear a shirt (Disney owns that shirt!), don’t mention Tigger (not introduced until the still-under-copyright The House At Pooh Corner) and they should probably put a disclaimer in saying Disney has nothing to do with their work. “’Winnie-the-Pooh’ just entered the public domain. Here’s what that means for fans.”

He notes that Ryan Reynolds has used Winnie the Pooh’s public domain status to promote his cellphone company.

(14) SPIDER-MAN IS THE HOTTEST PROPERTY ON THE BLOCK. The auction block, that is: “Spider-Man comic page sells for record $3.36M bidding”.

Mike Zeck’s artwork for page 25 from Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars No. 8” brings the first appearance of Spidey’s black suit. The symbiote suit would eventually lead to the emergence of the character Venom.

The record bidding, which started at $330,000 and soared past $3 million, came on the first day of Heritage Auctions’ four-day comic event in Dallas.

(15) THE HORTHMAH. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] I saw that a new movie has been released, but the title is a bit weird. It mixes existing nordic runes with some that are made up from our ordinary latin alphabet. The closest I come when translating it is “The Horthmah”, but perhaps it is more than two alphabets in there. Is there any filers that are better at runes than me and can help out here? Anyway, I have no idea of what a Horthmah is, but I guess I’ll have to see the movie to find out.

(16) TRAILER TIME. Dance along to the opening credits of James Gunn’s Peacemaker, starring John Cena. Peacemaker is now streaming on HBO Max.

(17) CREDENTIALS IN SPACE. Adventures in Purradise entices viewers to watch “Fur Trek: Tribble Troubles”.

Are you a Star Trek fan? Do you like funny cats? Then this episode is right up your alley. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, move over! Fur Trek is coming at warp speed. Capt. James T. Purrk of the UFS Kittyprise responds to a distress call from the planet Tribbiani, home of the adorable indigenous creatures known as Tribbles. Ambassador Barker suspects the warlike Klingoffs plan to steal his cargo of the life-saving grain, quadrokittycale, so he enlists Purrk’s help. Will the innocent Tribbles get caught up in a war between the Furderation and the Klingoff empire? Get ready to travel at warp speed on Jan. 1st to find out.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Bruce D. Arthurs, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/21 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls In To Mine

(1) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC 2021. The New York Times reports “Hochul Urges Anime NYC Conference Attendees to Get Tested Due to Omicron”.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said on Thursday that everyone who attended a recent anime convention in Manhattan should get tested for the coronavirus, after it was announced that an individual who tested positive for the Omicron variant in Minnesota had attended to the conference.

Ms. Hochul said the individual, a Minnesota resident who was vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, had attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center in Midtown Manhattan. She urged people who attended the event, which was held from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, to get tested and said that health officials would be in contact with attendees. The convention hosted 53,000 attendees over three days, according to a spokesman for the Javits Center….

The Mayor of New York City also put out a statement:

(2) VARLEY MEDICAL UPDATE. In “The Two Johns”, John Varley tells why he’s home from his third stay in the hospital this year. Much as he works to lighten it up, this is serious, plus some touching moments about his last roommate. The digest version about his health is in this excerpt of the last three paragraphs:

…So I’m back home now. My final diagnosis, like a slap on the butt as I went out the door, was C.O.P.D. (That’s #5.) It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. My guess is that it has something to do (ya think?) with over fifty years of a pack-and-a-half per day smoking habit, only recently terminated. Used to be, it was easy to find me at SF conventions. Just look for the very tall guy whose head was obscured by the smoke that encircled his head like a wreath. That was in the early days. More recently I could usually be found outside the hotel, huddled against the rain, the cold, and the howling gale with a couple other hopeless addicts.

I was sent home with a couple bottles of oxygen and an oxygen concentrator, but it’s possible I won’t need them after a while. Lee and I were enrolled in classes at something called the Transitional Care Clinic, TCC, a really smart and nice service of the Clinic where you record all your vital signs and come in weekly for consultation. I hate trailing the coiled tubing for the O2 all around the house, but so be it. I am able to do most things I always did, and get around in the car. I still tire quickly, but I don’t pant like an overheated hound dog.

Thanks again to all who sent money after my heart attack at the beginning of the year. I can’t tell you how much those dollars have helped take a heavy load off both our minds….

(3) MOBY WORM. Michael Dirda, well-known Washington Post critic who started there writing sf book reviews, has written an introduction to the new Folio Society edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune. An excerpt appears at Literary Hub: “What Accounts for the Lasting Appeal of Dune?”

… Even now, half a century since it first appeared in 1965, Dune is certainly still “the one”—it continues to top readers’ polls as the greatest science-fiction novel of modern times. Many would say of all time. Before Star Wars, before A Game of Thrones, Frank Herbert brought to blazing life a feudalistic future of relentless political intrigue and insidious treachery, a grandly operatic vision—half Wagner, half spaghetti western—of a hero discovering his destiny. Characters include elite samurai-like warriors, sadistically decadent aristocrats, mystical revolutionaries, and, not least, those monster worms, which barrel along under the desert surface with the speed of a freight train, then suddenly emerge from the sand like Moby Dick rising from the depths….

(4) MISSING A FEW THINGS. A.V. Club’s M.L. Kejera’s “Comics review: The History Of Science Fiction is bad history” contends “This reprehensible graphic novel could have been so much more, but instead spends time covering up history, not unpacking it.”

… Presented with an index and a list of principal art sources, the book is clearly attempting to be of some academic or referential use, on top of its wider appeal. But the English translation of Histoire De La Science Fiction fails utterly as a proper historic work—and worse, ends up functioning as weak hagiography.

… For example, though objects and ideas from Japanese sci-fi litter the futuristic museum, no Japanese author is given anywhere near the depth as writers from the aforementioned countries. Considering that one of the primary sources for this book is able to be precise about its purview (La Science-Fiction En France Dans Les Années 50, or Science Fiction In France In The ’50s), it’s a baffling decision on the part of everyone involved here to not specify this—especially while calling itself history.

Additionally, there is an ugly tendency in the book to gloss over the more reprehensible aspects of the writers featured….

(5) CLARK DEPARTS. SFWA bid “A Farewell to SFWA Blog Editor C.L. Clark”.

As of November 30, our blog editor, C.L. Clark (Cherae) has stepped down from her role for personal reasons. Clark joined SFWA’s staff in the summer of 2020. Her editorial perspective has brought many new voices to the blog over the past year, voices with a lot of insightful and fresh perspectives on the publishing industry today and the craft of science fiction and fantasy writing in the many mediums in which our members work. She’s also provided essential assistance with the release of The Bulletin #216 and our other SFWA Publications projects…. 

(6) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a “Call for Artists 2022” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2022.  Full guidelines at the link.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats. The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s first open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fifth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

(7) HOST CITY WANTED FOR 2023 WESTERCON. Kevin Standlee posted an announcement at the Westercon.org website: “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2023 Westercon”.

Because no groups filed to host Westercon 75, selection of the site of the 2023 Westercon devolved upon the 2021 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 73 (in conjunction with Loscon 47) in Los Angeles on November 27, 2021. The Business Meeting voted to appoint Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Westercon 74 Head of Hospitality Lisa Hayes as a committee to select a site and committee to run Westercon 75. Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75.

To submit a bid to the “Standlee-Hayes Commission” to host Westercon 75, write to Kevin Standlee at chair@Westercon74.org, or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee.

The initial deadline for applications is January 31, 2022.

(8) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Rosemary Claire Smith encourages writers to do what they want to anyway: “Reasons to Publicize Your Award-Eligible Works” at the SFWA Blog. Here’s the second of four points:

2. Award Eligibility Posts Are for All Writers, Not Only the Big Names.

Don’t believe me? Consider how many writers won a Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award or another prestigious literary prize with the first story or novel they ever got into print. Think about the “newcomers” awards such as the Astounding Award for Best New Writer given to someone whose first professional work was published during the two previous calendar years. It’s been a springboard launching a number of careers. Also, keep in mind that your audience may nominate and/or vote on readers’ choice awards given by Analog, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and other periodicals. 

By now, some of you are saying to yourselves, “Why bother when I’ll never win an award…or even be nominated. Or if I am, it’ll be as a list filler.” Others are thinking, “I only published one story. It came out in an obscure publication.” Then there’s, “My novel didn’t sell all that well,” not to mention the perennial, “The reviewers don’t know my book exists.” Are you thinking about waiting until…what? You’re better known? You sell more copies? You get published in a top market? Your sales figures improve or your social-media following grows? Your work attracts a glowing review? 

To every one of your objections, the answer is the same: Your fiction merits more attention right now. Even in better times, writing is a difficult enough business without running ourselves down. As writers, we are notoriously NOT the best judge of our own work. We’re too close to it. Sometimes words flow quickly and effortlessly. Other pieces fight us for every sentence we succeed in wringing out of them. Critical and popular acclaim aren’t tethered to the ease or difficulty of creation. Besides, our assessment of particular pieces may evolve as we gain the advantages of time and distance. In short, you never know how a story will fare….

(9) A TOP SFF BOOK COMES TO TV. Station Eleven will air starting December 24 on HBO Max.

A limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, #StationEleven is a post-apocalyptic saga that follows survivors of a devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew while holding on to the best of what’s been lost.

(10) GAIMAN ON TOUR. Neil Gaiman will be visiting many cities in the U.S. in April and May next year – see the schedule on Facebook.

(11) OSBORN OBIT. [Item by Bill.] I am saddened to pass on that Darrell Osborn has died of heart issues. He’s the husband of Stephanie Osborn. They’ve made a number of appearances at SF cons in the Southeast, with Stephanie as a writer and Darrell doing magic and balloon animals. Darrell’s day job was as a graphic designer for an aerospace contractor, and he did cover art for SF books.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age wins the Hugo for Best Novel at L.A. Con III where Connie Willis was Toastmaster. The other nominated works that year were The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, Brightness Reef by David Brin, The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer and Remake by Connie Willis. The Diamond Age would be nominated for Nebula, Campbell Memorial, SF Chronicle, Clarke, Locus, Prometheus, BSFA and HOMer Awards, winning the SF Chronicle and Locus Awards. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. He wrote a lot of SFF novels, none of which I recognize from the ISFDB listings. A lot of his genre novels are available from the usual suspects for very reasonable prices. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.  He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 84. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 75. British-born American illustrator and writer who is at least genre adjacent I’d say. (Motel of the Mysteries is genre.) Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 69. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. She too loves dark chocolate. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1952 Keith Szarabajka, 69. Quite a few genre roles including Daniel Holtz in the Angel series, voicing the demon Trigon in the Teen Titans series, Gerard Stephens in The Dark Knight and a recurring role as Donatello Redfield on Supernatural. That’s just a small sample of his genre roles down the decades. 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 50. Writer and illustrator, best remembered as creator of the most excellent Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. It’s available from the usual suspects. In French only for some reason. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full’s joke really has nothing to do with Tom Baker. Honestly.

(15) BEEBO, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A.V. Club declares, “Beebo Saves Christmas is one of the oddest holiday specials ever”.

You don’t (apparently) have to have been watching the WB/”Arrowverse” series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; indeed, it’s not clear that will help or otherwise make any difference. Beebo is a small furry toy that’s appeared as a character in several LofT episodes, ranging from as a mild joke to a malevolent something-or-other.

… For those who aren’t invested in Arrowverse lore, Beebo Saves Christmas was spun out of a running joke on DC’s Legends Of Tomorrowthe show about loser superheroes traveling through time and trying to save the day without making anything worse. In one episode—arguably the show’s best—a talking Tickle Me Elmo-style toy called Beebo is sent back in time and ends up in the possession of Leif Erikson and a group of Vikings who worship the talking toy as their new god of war….

If you can find it. On the CW, it apparently aired last night, “with an encore presentation airing on December 21, 2021.”  JustWatch.com doesn’t have this in its database. This Decider article has some other how-to-watch-it suggestions: “What time is ‘Beebo Saves Christmas’ on The CW?”

I’m thinking that an hour might be overmuch, but there’s only one way to find out…

(16) LAUREL & HARDY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2017 podcast Leonard Maltin did with Mark Evanier on Laurel and Hardy (Maltin on Movies: Mark Evanier.)  As kids, both of them watched Laurel and Hardy two-reelers after school and when John McCabe’s Mr Laurel And Mr Hardy came out in 1961 both checked out copies from the adult section of the library.  Because the Los Angeles public library didn’t have a copy, Evanier persuaded his aunt to get the Beverly Hills library’s copy.

Both men are really knowledgeable on silent film history, and if you know enough to argue about whether Snub Pollard was funnier than Charley Chase, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.  But their points are simple ones: all of Laurel and Hardy is worth watching except for the last five years of their careers, and it’s best to see them in a theatre or with friends because the laughter produced by a group adds to the joy these great comedians provided.

Fun facts: The stairs used in the 1932 short The Music Box still exist, and you can visit them in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.  Two Oscar-winning directors: Leo McCarey (as director) and George Stevens (as cinematographer) got their start on Laurel and Hardy shorts.

I thought this was a fun hour.

(17) THREE’S A CHARM. The first two were cursed. “BABYLON 5 The Geometry of Shadows commentary/reaction by Straczynski Third Version”. Why was this the third version? Straczynski spends the opening minutes explaining the problems that trashed the first two attempts:

…I’m recording the commentary for the Geometry of Shadows for the third time. The first time turned out that the new lavalier i was using wasn’t exactly hooked up right and did the entire recording sounding like Marvin the Martian — if Marvin the Martian were a raging drunk. Same applies to the Sense-8 commentary I did the same night. The second time I did it to redo the technology of the first one everything went fine. The sensitive microphone picked up all the sound in the room which was great, until I found out that it also picked up enough of the dialogue from the screen that it showed up on the recording and Youtube, when it did its search, said you cannot use this, Warner Brothers television has a claim on this, you can’t use it, you can’t post it. From 26 minutes to 42 minutes we can hear it. This is now my third run at this. I am beyond annoyed. I’m so – I wore a B5 cap from the pilot. I had a whole story about this. Screw it. I’m not telling you what it was because i don’t care anymore…

(Is this what really happened to the first four Babylons?)

(18) NOT SF. AT ALL. But if you read the Jack Reacher books you might want to see this trailer for Amazon Prime’s Reacher series. If it’s important to you that the new actor be taller than Tom Cruise, they have that covered. However, the trailer makes this Reacher look a bit of a showoff and dipshit, which isn’t his psychology in the books.  

(19) LIKE A DOG WITH A BONE. Can’t let go of it. But why couldn’t his passion project turn out great? Maybe someday. “Guillermo del Toro Wants to Make a ‘Weirder, Smaller’ Version of ‘At the Mountains of Madness,’ Possibly at Netflix” at Yahoo!

Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has long held that his passion project is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” and while he still hopes the opportunity arises to make the film, he now has a different version in mind than the one he nearly got off the ground a decade ago.

Appearing on the Stephen King-centric podcast The Kingcast to discuss “It,” del Toro was asked about the multiyear deal he signed with Netflix in 2020 and whether he might finally make “At the Mountains of Madness” at the streamer. “Take a wild guess which were the first projects I presented, you know?” del Toro replied. “I went through the cupboard and found ‘Monte Cristo’ and ‘Mountains of Madness.’ Those were a couple of the ones I presented first.”

(20) NEUTRON BEAMS, FAITH AND MAGIC.  In today’s Nature: “Neutron Beam Peers Into Medieval Faith And Superstition”.

A Norwegian amulet more than 700 years old has been hiding a runic inscription that holds religious and magic significance.

When archaeologists found the rectangular metal object during an excavation in Oslo’s medieval town in 2018, they saw that it was covered with runes and folded several times. Hartmut Kutzke at the city’s Museum of Cultural History and his colleagues wanted to study what was inscribed inside, but they feared that manually opening the talisman, known as the Bispegata amulet, would damage it. Because it is made out of lead — a heavy metal that blocks most X-rays — using X-ray tomography to make the hidden runes visible would not work either. Instead, the researchers used a neutron beam to peek inside the amulet and create a detailed reconstruction of it.

They found that some of the runes spell out Latin and Greek phrases, whereas others signify repetitive sequences of seemingly meaningless words. Some of the comprehensible phrases might carry religious meaning, whereas the abstruse abracadabra was probably thought to have a magic effect, the researchers say.

(21) IT’S A YOUNG MOON AFTER ALL. From “Robotic sample return reveals lunar secrets” in today’s Nature:

A mission to unexplored lunar territory has returned the youngest volcanic samples collected so far. The rocks highlight the need to make revisions to models of the thermal evolution of the Moon.

The wait is over for more news from the Moon1. Three studies in this issue, by https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04119-5.pdf  Tian et al.   https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04107-9.pdf   Hu et al. and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04100-2.pdf ;Li et al., together with one in Science by Che et al. report data on the lunar samples brought back by China’s robotic Chang’e-5 mission — the first to return samples since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. These data shed light on volcanic eruptions that occurred more than one billion years more recently than those known about previously, and provide information on the cause of the volcanism that cannot be obtained from orbit. The results raise questions about the structure and thermal evolution of the lunar interior, and could help to improve methods for estimating the age of planetary surfaces throughout the inner Solar System.

In December 2020, the Chang’e-5 lander set down in the Rümker region near the northwest corner of Oceanus Procellarum on the side of the Moon closest to Earth (Fig. 1). Like the sites visited by Luna and by NASA’s Apollo missions, the Rümker region consists predominantly of a magnesium-rich volcanic rock known as basalt, but the difference from previous missions is that the Rümker basalts are potentially as young as 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion years old, which makes the Chang’e-5 samples the youngest taken from the Moon so far.

(22) NERD ART. “’Selfie with Godzilla’?! Artist Fuses Reality and Science Fiction in Multimedia Gallery Show” — some entertaining images in Houston City Book.

…Houston artist Neva Mikulicz, a self-described “nerd” with an alter ego named Commodore Mik, who once ordered Kirk to the Star Fleet Fat Farm so she could board and evaluate the condition of the Starship Enterprise, smartly and humorously blurs that line between science and science fiction in her new exhibit, Declassified, a collection of beautifully realized Prismacolor pencil on paper drawings, complemented by archival videos and LED and sound module technology. The show opens Saturday at Anya Tish Gallery.

UFOs, robots, and monsters both prehistoric and imagined are recurring subjects in Mikulicz’s artwork, which radiates with a 1950s “vintage-y” vibe, the decade when the automobile, rock’n’roll and television took hold of the country’s collective imagination.

But Declassified is no nostalgia trip. Some drawings mirror the look of our world as it is photographed and disseminated by handheld consumer gizmos, while other works are composed like panels in a graphic novel, a medium that many contemporary fine artists find inspiring. One features a T-Rex chasing an iconic orange-and-white-striped Whataburger cup; another is titled “Selfie with Godzilla.” Mikulicz also created a comic book to accompany the exhibition….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  No Time To Die,” the Screen Junkies say the film shows that Bond has gone beyond silliness (remember Roger Moore driving a gondola?) to be a movie “about a divorced dad who wonders what to feed a French kid for breakfast.” Also, why should characters care who is 007, since that’s basically “an employee ID number?”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rob Thornton, Bill, Michael J. Walsh, Kevin Standlee, David K.M. Klaus, Will R., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/20 You Can’t Sleep ’Cause The World’s On Fire, Don’t Read Me If You’d Prefer The Shire, Techno Thriller

(1) FLIP THE SCRIPT. “James McAvoy to Lead ‘Sandman’ Audible Drama” says The Hollywood Reporter. Wait a second – Michael Sheen is going to be Lucifer?

James McAvoy is stepping into a dream role. The actor will voice star as Dream in Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman, the classic DC/Vertigo comic book written by Neil Gaiman.

McAvoy, known for playing Prof. X in four X-Men films, will lead a cast that also includes Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond as Desire, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings as Death, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes as Despair, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen as Lucifer.

(2) NO MIDWESTCON IN 2020. Joel Zakem, who has attended 52 straight Midwestcons, nevertheless considers this a wise decision:  

After being held annually since 1950, Midwestcon 71, scheduled for June 25-28, 2020, in Cincinnati, OH., has unsurprisingly been cancelled. Everyone who has a hotel reservation should receive a cancellation notice with verification number from the hotel – no need to call them. Checks for pre-registrations (the only way to pre-reg fir Midwestcon) have not been cashed.

(3) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. The LA Times’ Martin Wolk tapped Emily St. John Mandel and other writers for their recommendations: “Essential end-of-the-world reading list offers a glimpse of the abyss”.

 …“I would not recommend reading ‘Station Eleven’ in the middle of a pandemic,” Mandel told the L.A. Times in an interview.

Yet many people are doing just that: The book is selling briskly just as Mandel’s new novel of financial disaster, “The Glass Hotel,” settles into the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Mandel joins the L.A. Times Book Club on May 19 for a virtual discussion of these two eerily timely novels….

If you go: Book Club

Emily St. John Mandeljoins the L.A. Times Book Club in conversation with reporter Carolina A. Miranda.

When: 7 p.m. May 19

Where: Free virtual event livestreaming on the Los Angeles Times Facebook Page and YouTube.

More info: latimes.com/bookclub

(3.5) SFF JUSTIFIED. If it needs it. Esther Jones at The Conversation says “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”.  

Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a professor with research interests in the social, ethical and political messages in science fiction. In my book “Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction,” I explore the ways science fiction promotes understanding of human differences and ethical thinking.

While many people may not consider science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction to be “literary,” research shows that all fiction can generate critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence for young readers. Science fiction may have a power all its own….

(4) FROZEN AT HOME. The Walt Disney Animation Studios today released “I Am With You” — At Home With Olaf.

Wherever you may be, here’s a special message from Olaf’s home to yours. “I Am With You” Music and Lyrics Written at Home by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Performed at Home by Josh Gad. Directed at Home by Dan Abraham.

(5) THE ROAD TO FURY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Five years after the fourth Mad Max movie took audiences by storm, the New York Times film critic Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) interviewed dozens of crew members, producers, writers and stars to weave together a compelling picture of how Fury Road came to be. In “’Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”,  he charts the course of its production through quotes from Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and writer/director George Miller.

…CHARLIZE THERON (Furiosa) I grew up on all the “Mad Max” movies — they’re very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. Are you kidding me?”

[GEORGE] MILLER When someone is directing a film, they’re thinking about it every waking hour, and even processing it in their dreams. The problem is, if you’re a studio executive, you tend to think about it for 10 minutes on a Wednesday.

[GEORGE] MILLER When the ideas that you start off with are then comprehended by an audience at large out there, that’s ultimately what redeems the process for you. The Swahili storytellers have this quote: “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault, because I am the storyteller. But if it was good, it belongs to everybody.” And that feeling of the story belonging to everybody is really the reward.

(6) FROM THE BATCAVE. Zach Baron, in “Robert Pattinson: A Dispatch From Isolation” in GQ, caught up with Pattinson last month as he stayed isolated in a London hotel room.  Pattinson says he’s living on food supplied by The Batman production until shooting resumes but isn’t doing any exercise.  He also says although he is in Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, he can’t give anything away because he doesn’t understand the plot except that it doesn’t involve time travel.

…It’s possible that you couldn’t build a person more suited to this experience. Pattinson, who turned 34 in May, has spent his adult life separating himself from the rest of the world. He was 21 when he was cast in the first Twilight, as the lead vampire in what would become five increasingly popular movies about teen lust in the Pacific Northwest. The final installment of the franchise, which turned Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart, into two of the more famous people in the world, came out in 2012 and grossed over $800 million worldwide. But by that time, he was already mostly gone.

(7) GOING FOR THE KO? It’s Reader Request time at John Scalzi’s Whatever. In “Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism”, the reader’s question begins:

Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities?

We already know what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see Scalzi work it out.

(8) CAFFEINATED CARTOON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the May 8 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Neville Hawcock reviews Rick and Morty.

It could easily be so sweet, charming, whimsical.  An eccentric old scientist zips around the galaxy in his home-made flying saucer, accompanied by his grandson sidekick. Each cartoon episode brings a new alien peril and a new chance to prevail through pluck and ingenuity, You could be forgiven for imagining a cross between a Werther’s Original commercial and Star Trek.

Rick and Morty, however is anything but…

…That doesn’t mean it’s weary; it is consistently energetic, inventive, and witty, both in script and animation. To borrow a phrase from the late sci-fi writer Gardner Dozois, each 30-minute episode has a high bit-rate. Whereas some bingeable TV is like the unlimited cups of coffee you get in American diners, and endless warm wash, an evening with Rick and Morty has the jolting quality of an espresso spree.

(9) DOCTOR WHO FACTOID. Martin Morse Wooster also found this data point in Horatio Clare’s essay-review in the May 9 Financial Times.

The National Trust reports that while 30 percent of eight-to-11 year olds could not identify a magpie, 90 percent could spot a Dalek.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 13, 1994 The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1876 – Harold De Lay.  Illustrated W.E.B. DuBois’ Quest of the Silver Fleece, pretty good since De Lay later did covers and interiors for Golden Fleece.  Five interiors for Frank Baum’s early Daughters of Destiny.  Four covers and thirty-eight interiors for Weird Tales, of Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson; here’s one.  Blue Bolt and The Human Torch for Marvel while it was under Funnies, Inc.; Treasure Island for Target Comics.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. I understand that John’s going to have a choice remembrance of him for us. (Died 1995.) [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1937 – Rudolf Zengerle.  Pioneer of the Risszeichner (German, “crack markers”) for Perry Rhodan – illustrators who draw schematics of robots, ships, weapons.  Zengerle did six dozen; here’s a Grand Battleship of the Blues.  Speaking of series, PR has sold over two billion copies worldwide.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1941 – John Vermeulen.  Flemish author; also sailor, diver, glider, horseman.  First SF novel at age 15.  Historical novels of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Brueghel the Elder, Mercator, Nostradamus, da Vinci, translated into German, Japanese.  A dozen SF novels, as many each of thrillers, plays, books for children & young adults, shorter stories.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman. Comics, novelizations, animation, for Dark Horse, DC, Disney, Eclipse, Image, Marvel (Editor-in-Chief 1975-1976), many more.  Pioneered writing credits when the Comics Code Authority said “No wolfmen; remove” (as was the rule at the time), DC said “But the writer’s name is Wolfman”, CCA said “Let’s see the name credit, then”, after which everybody got one.  Inkpot Award, 1979; Jack Kirby Awards, 1985-1986 (for Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez); named in Fifty Who Made DC Great,1985; National Jewish Book Award, 2007 (for Homeland); Scribe Award, 2007 (for novel based on Superman Returns).  Recently, see Man and Superman (2019, with Claudio Castellini).  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 71. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 69. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THINK OF SFF CONFINED TO A HAMSTER BALL. Is it possible that James Davis Nicoll found “Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…”? Uh, you’ve read his Tor.com posts before, haven’t you?

As happens from time to time, I recently noticed an author being subjected to complaints that their fiction has an “agenda,” that there are “political elements” in their story, that it touches on society, class, race, culture, gender, and history. As it happens, the calumniated author is one of those younger authors, someone who’s probably never owned a slide-rule or an IBM Selectric. Probably never had ink-well holes in their school desks. Undoubtedly, they may be missing context that I, a person of somewhat more advanced years, can provide…

(14) GOOD TO GO. “Inflatable e-scooter that fits in backpack unveiled”.

An inflatable e-scooter compact enough to be stored inside a commuter’s backpack has been unveiled in Japan.

The Poimo, developed by the University of Tokyo, can be inflated in just over a minute, using an electric pump.

The creators said they wanted to create a vehicle that minimised the potential for injury in the event of an accident.

However, experts say e-scooter rules still need to be clarified by the government before such modes of transport can be considered safe.

(15) I’LL BE MACK. “Scientists Make the World’s First Liquid Metal Lattice’. Tagline: “It’s like the Terminator, only much less murdery.”

Scientists from SUNY-Binghamton are developing new Terminator-like liquefying metals made from Field’s alloy. And in a fun twist, the lead researcher behind the study—which appears in the journal Additive Manufacturinghasn’t seen any films in the Terminator franchise.

“To be honest, I’ve never watched that movie!” Pu Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, said in a statement. (It’s safe to assume he also missed out on The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

The term “additive manufacturing” refers broadly to technology like 3D printing, where you add material in order to build an item. That contrasts with subtractive manufacturing, like using a lathe and removing metal or wood in order to sculpt a final shape. But in this case, the liquid metal is used in a more complex process where a “shell skeleton” is 3D printed from rubber and metal and then filled with liquid metal lattice….

(16) HAZARD PAY. Casualties on the front lines of the culture war will get help: “In Settlement, Facebook To Pay $52 Million To Content Moderators With PTSD.

Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Under the terms of the deal, more than 10,000 content moderators who worked for Facebook from sites in four states will each be eligible for $1,000 in cash. In addition, those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work as Facebook moderators can have medical treatment covered, as well as additional damages of up to $50,000 per person.

(17) HINTS FROM OUR AI OVERLORDS. A Harvard researcher finds “Predictive text systems change what we write”.

Study explores the effects of autocomplete features on human writing

When a human and an artificial intelligence system work together, who rubs off on whom? It’s long been thought that the more AI interacts with and learns from humans, the more human-like those systems become. But what if the reverse is happening? What if some AI systems are making humans more machine-like?

In a recent paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored how predictive text systems — the programs on our phones and computers that suggest words or phrases in our text messages and email — change how we write. The researchers found that when people use these systems, their writing becomes more succinct, more predictable and less colorful (literally).

…“We’ve known for a while that these systems change how we write, in terms of speed and accuracy, but relatively little was known about how these systems change what we write,” said Kenneth Arnold, a PhD candidate at SEAS and first author of the paper.

Arnold, with co-authors Krysta Chauncey, of Charles River Analytics, and Krzysztof Gajos, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, ran experiments asking participants to write descriptive captions for photographs.

…“While, for the most part, people wrote more efficiently with predictive text systems, this may have come at the cost of thoughtfulness. These kinds of effects would never have been noticed by traditional ways of evaluating text entry system, which treat people like transcribing machines and ignore human thoughtfulness. Designers need to evaluate the systems that they make in a way that treats users more like whole people.”

(18) IT WASN’T CASABLANCA THEN. “Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History” claims Yahoo! News.

100 million years ago, Earth was a terrifying place. That’s according to a new paper in ZooKeys, which analyzed fossils from an area in southeastern Morocco also known as the Kem Kem beds. It was here that prehistoric animals such as “cartilaginous and bony fishes, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs” used to freely roam and hunt….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ScreenRant’s headline is the best reason to watch the video: “Blade Runner 2049 Honest Trailer Can’t Explain Why Dune Was Greenlit After This”.

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is due to return with another highly ambitious and cerebral – not to mention, expensive – sci-fi epic later this year in the form of Dune, the first of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 novel. It’s a peculiar move for Warner Bros. purely from a business perspective, considering how much money they lost on Villeneuve’s last costly, thought-provoking, sci-fi feature. So naturally, as you’d expect, Screen Junkies points that out in their latest video.

With marketing for Dune now underway ahead of its release in December (assuming it’s not delayed to 2021), Screen Junkies has gone and released an Honest Trailer for Blade Runner 2049

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/20 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) PASSING THE GRAIL. “Steven Spielberg Won’t Direct Indiana Jones 5” reports Vanity Fair.

“Indiana…let it go.”

This was what the adventurer’s father said to him in the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as he hung by one hand from a cliff and reached with the other toward the Holy Grail. Ultimately, the words hit home. As much as he wanted one more treasure, he had gone far enough.

That’s apparently the conclusion Steven Spielberg just reached. The Oscar winner has decided not to direct a planned fifth movie about Harrison Ford’s punch-throwing archaeologist, multiple sources confirmed to Vanity Fair. Instead, James Mangold, director of Ford v Ferrari, Wolverine, and Logan, is in talks to take over the project, which is still set to hit theaters on July 9, 2021.

A source close to Spielberg told Vanity Fair, “The decision to hand over directing duties was entirely Steven’s,” adding that “he felt now was the perfect time to let a new director and a new generation give their perspective to the overall story and this film.”

(2) EGYPT ACROSS THE AGES. Juliette Wade hosts “K. Tempest Bradford” at Dive Into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis, watch the video, or do both!

…She’s been researching Egypt for a long time. She told us about how she’s been attempting to write a novel set in Egypt since college. In fact, it’s a grouping of projects, not one (as is appropriate with a long and thorough research project of this nature!).  

She started with a novel based on the life of Pharaoh Akhenaten with links to Oedipus, and then decided she didn’t have the skills to do it well and put it on the back burner. At that point she started learning a lot about the 18th dynasty. People know a lot about that period, she points out, and she has become very knowledgeable about it. Then she started writing a Steampunk story set in ancient Egypt, pushing boundaries. It started out as a short story and turned into a novel. That, she says, has been common for projects she’s worked on since Clarion West. That piece is set at the start of the beginning of the 18th dynasty….

Tempest says she’s thought about carrying forward the steampunk cultural elements into her other novel. Giant flying scarab beetles run by the heat of the sun for Akhenaten to ride in sounded pretty awesome to us!

(3) FOWL PLAY. In the February 1 Irish Times, Niamh Donnelly interviews Eoin Colfer about his new fantasy Highwire, as Colfer discusses the forthcoming Artemis Fowl movie, how he hopes to slow down after 43 books, and the graphic novels he writes that deal with contemporary political issues: “Eoin Colfer: ‘Humour defines me … I’m obsessed with it’”.

… “As a teacher I always found that telling stories was the best way to teach because you could sneak the information inside an adventure story. So, a lot of the Artemis books, for example, would have a very ecological message. My books tend to be, of late, a mixture of escapism and trying to tackle issues head on. Last year we did the graphic novel, Illegal, which was, just blatantly, a book about how tough it is to migrate from Africa to Europe. But because it was a graphic novel, we got to people who wouldn’t normally get that subject. And we also brought a lot of people who do like that subject into the world of graphic novels. And then the flip side of that is I like to do books like Highfire and Fowl Twins just so people can have a laugh and kids can go to bed smiling.”

(4) ATTENTION STATION ELEVEN FANS. Penguin Random House talks ghost stories and more in a Q&A with Emily St. John Mandel:

Q: Was there a particular event or idea that was the genesis for The Glass Hotel?

A: My original idea was that I wanted to write a ghost story that was also somehow about money. (In fact, one of my early working titles was Ghosts and Money, because titles are hard.) But the event that captured my imagination was the collapse of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The characters in the novel are entirely fictional, but the central crime is essentially Madoff’s.

Q: Station Eleven fans will find some small nods to that beloved novel here. While this novel is different in so many ways how do you see it in relation to Station Eleven? It seems like they are both in many ways about art?

A: Yes, I think that’s fair to say. I also think it’s fair to say that if The Glass Hotel is a departure from Station Eleven, it’s in many ways a return to the themes that preoccupied me in my earlier work. My first three novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were largely concerned with bad decisions, the question of how to live honourably in a damaged world, memory, and questionable morality.

(5) AVOID THE TRAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This anecdote about Bradbury and Matheson is from “The Genre of You” by Jonathan Maberry behind a paywall in the March Writer’s Digest

‘What kind of writer do you want to be?’

That question was asked of me when I was 13.  I’d been dragged along to a party at a penthouse in New York City.  It was 1971 and the person asking the question was the legendary writer Richard Matheson…

…Before I could answer, another of the writers at the party — national treasure Ray Bradbury –touched my shoulder and said, ‘Be careful, young man.  That question’s a trap.”…

…So, what was the trap?  I found out when I did not step into it. ‘I don’t know,’ I said.  ‘A lot of things, I guess.’

Matheson beamed a great smile. ‘Good answer!’ he said, then explained why. ‘A genre is something that matters to the people in marketing.  It doesn’t matter much to me.  It doesn’t matter to Ray. We write what we want to write and then figure out how to sell it.”

Bradbury agreed.  ‘I like science fiction and fantasy, but if an idea for mystery comes and whispers loud enough to my ear, I’ll have to listen.’

The rest of the article includes anecdotes from Matheson, Harlan Ellison, and Joe R. Lansdale.  Here’s one more Bradbury quote:

“Don’t just write what you want to read — everyone does that. Write the story you would go out of your way to hunt down and read.'”

(6) MICHAEL HERTZ OBIT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Michael Hertz, creator of definitive New York City subway map, RIP. Among other things, he found a way to redo the map so it could be done as one rather than 5. Paywalled NYT obit. Non-paywalled Chicago Tribune pickup of NYT article: “He designed one of the most consulted images in modern history: Creator of the NYC subway map dies at 87”

“It was the 1970s,” Arline L. Bronzaft, a psychologist who worked on Hertz’s replacement map, told Newsday in 2004. “People were fearful of going on the subways. We wanted people to use the map to see the sights of New York.”

The map that Hertz’s firm came up with included streets, neighborhoods and other surface reference points. And it depicted the city and its signature elements like Central Park and the waterways in a fashion more reflective of reality — the park wasn’t square, as on the earlier map, and the water wasn’t beige.

It feels like I recently read an article on the evolution of subway maps, as the systems’ complexity grew… but I can’t find or remember it. Ah well.

(Somewhere I still have a few NYT subway tokens of various sizes (= different values over the years). Pretty sure at least one was for a 10cent fare.)

Transit-map-wise, I did buy these two books a year or three ago (but haven’t really looked through them yet): Transit Maps of the World: Expanded and Updated Edition of the World’s First Collection of Every Urban Train Map on Earth

Or, for the train-specific: Railway Maps of the World.

For the sfnal connection, I’ve got a list of transit maps for Middle Earth that I put together a year and a half ago (if the Fellowship had had ’em, those books and movies could have been shorter, methinks), but apparently didn’t offer to OGH… I’ll recheck and update it and send it in.

Meanwhile, there’s the Westeros Metro System map.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 27, 1979 The Curse of Dracula premiered on NBC. Michael Nouri was Count Dracula, who is living undercover as a college teacher in 1979 San Francisco.  It was part of Cliffhangers which attempted to resurrect the genre of film serials. Each hour-long episode was divided into three 20-minute (including commercials) stories featuring different storylines Including this one. The Secret Empire was another genre serial done as part of this show. You can see the first episode of The Curse of Dracula here. Cliffhangers lasted but a single season from the 27th of February to 1st of May 1979. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1902 John Steinbeck. Yes, John Steinbeck. ISFDB lists one novel, The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication, Plus a bevy of short fiction such as “The Wedding of King”, “The Affair at 7 Rue de M—“ and “The Death of Merlin”. I’ll admit that i didn’t know these existed. So, has anyone read these? (Died 1968.)
  • Born February 27, 1915 Donald Curtis. His first genre role was an uncredited one as Ronal in the first twelve chapters of the Forties Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe. He’s a German sentry in Invisible Agent, an WW II propaganda film, and Dr. John Carter in It Came from Beneath the Sea, a Fifties SF film. Likewise he’s in another Fifties SF film, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, as Major Huglin. He played five different characters during on Science Fiction Theater, and he’d later have a one-offs on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart!. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 27, 1927 —  Lynn Cartwright. She had a career in genre productions starting with two Fifties pulp films, Queen of Outer Space and Wasp Women. She next shows up in The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood, his Lusty Men and Bawdy Wenches. She has an appearance in the Far Out Space Nuts series, and earlier showed up on Science Fiction TheaterThe Lucifer Complex is her SF role. (Died 2004.)
  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. So, what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 60. Creator and illustrator of the most awesome Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 56. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as  Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex Nolan. 
  • Born February 27, 1970 Michael A. Burstein, 50. He won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 1997 for “TeleAbsence”. His “Sanctuary” novella was chosen by Analog readers as the best novella published by the magazine in 2005. He has one to date, Remember the Future: The Award-Nominated Stories of Michael A. Burstein, which is available fir the usual digital publishers.
  • Born February 27, 1976 Nikki Amuka-Bird, 44. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”.  She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending)takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5).

(9) NEBULA PLATTER. Nerds of a Feather’s Adri Joy and Joe Sherry hit the highlights of the Nebula ballot in “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The 2019 Nebula Awards”.

Joe: I’d love to see a Nebula Longlist where we can see the even just the three or four books that just missed the ballot because here’s where things get interesting for me – I’m surprised that neither The City in the Middle of the Night nor The Light Brigade made the ballot. There’s no telling how, exactly, the Nebulas will translate to the Hugo Awards except that I think we both agree that A Song for a New Day feels more like a Nebula Book than a Hugo Book for whatever that means and whatever that’s worth.

Adri: I agree. Because the Nebulas don’t release voting statistics, they can feel like a closed box in this regard, albeit one that we collectively put our trust in to be delivering a result accurate to the voting base (and, hey, no 20booksto50k shenanigans this year!). Anders, Hurley and also The Future of Another Timeline feel like books that must have been bubbling just under. I wonder, also, about books like Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and some of the other literary “crossover” titles we were looking at on the Locus list. Are those also in the hidden longlist, or is that not what SFWA voters were looking at when putting this together?

(10) SOME LIKE IT SHORT. Then, Adri Joy reviews five sources of short sff – including collections and magazines – as part of “Questing in Shorts: February 2020” at Nerds of a Feather.

Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press)

Aliette de Bodard’s Subterranean press collection is as beautiful as you’d expect on the outside, with a Maurizio Manzieri cover and the standard level of Subterranean finishing. It’s also an excellent collection that’s largely comprised of pieces from the Best Series-nominated Xuya universe, which ranges from alternate history Earth stories in which the Western part of North America is colonised by China, and the Aztec empire of Mexica survives into the present day in a loose alliance with the power now called Xuya. The collection contains one piece from this Earthbound continuity “The Jaguar House, in Shadow“, an intriguing political thriller which, along with the opening story “The Shipmaker“, sets up the rest of the intergalactic political, cultural and technological traits of the Xuya universe very nicely. De Bodard’s stories dealing with cultural clashes of some kind are highlights for me: from “The Waiting Stars“, the tale of a young Dai Viet woman who has been taken from her family and raised in the Galactic Empire, to “Scattered Along the River of Heaven“, a story of conflict and war and cultural revolution told two generations after the fact, de Bodard is quietly unflinching in her portrayals of displaced characters and their struggles to find connection with the different cultures they are surrounded by and yet, to some extent, alienated from. The absolute highlight on this front is “Immersion“, a Nebula and Locus winning short story which alternates between Quy and another woman from the Rong people, both of whom wear Galactic (western culture)-made “Immersers” which allow them to communicate with Galactics but at the expense of their own culture and personhood. For Quy, who wears the Immerser briefly to help her family with business transactions, the experience is unpleasant but temporary; for the other narrator, it has become her permanent reality. The story’s sense of isolation, and the various losses which the casual dominance of Galactic culture in this part of space has created, come around into a perfect, heartbreaking, circle by the end as the second narrator finds tentative connection in her isolating, but unique, understanding of both Rong and Galactic culture….

(11) RETURNING TO THE GALACTOSCOPE. And there’s so much sff coming out in 1965 that Galactic Journey ran a second batch of reviews:

(12) DOES IT LIVE UP TO THE HEADLINE? Mike Kennedy passed along this 2016 link because he loves the title: “All 35 Video-Game Movies, Ranked From Least Bad to Absolute Worst”. If you want to save yourself the suspense, here’s the film at the bottom of the barrel —  

1. Postal (2007)

Here it is, a movie that should make you think Warcraft is high art. Postal opens on two terrorists in the cockpit of a plane, fighting about how many virgins greet martyrs when they enter heaven. The argument ends with them deciding to fly to the Bahamas instead, but then the passengers of their hijacked plane revolt and force it to crash into the World Trade Center. Everything hovers around that level of bad and offensive for the rest of the movie, making this an easy call for definitively worst video-game adaptation ever. Uwe Boll, you make it so hard to love you.

(13) FILL ‘ER UP. BBC reports: “Docking gives Intelsat telecoms satellite new lease of life”.

Two American satellites have docked high over the Atlantic in a demonstration of what many commentators expect to be a burgeoning new industry.

One of the platforms is an old telecoms spacecraft low on fuel; the other is an auxiliary unit that will now take over all the former’s manoeuvring functions.

This will allow Intelsat-901 to extend its 19-year mission of relaying TV and other services by another five years.

The event has been described as a major accomplishment by the firms involved.

Northrop Grumman, which produced the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 that grabbed hold of Intelsat-901, said it was the first time two commercial satellites had come together in this way at an altitude of just over 36,000km.

…Northrop Grumman’s vehicle will now control all movement for the pair, including the precise pointing required by IS-901 to map its telecommunication beams on to the right regions of Earth’s surface.

When the Intelsat’s extended mission comes to an end, the MEV-1 will take the telecoms platform to a “graveyard” orbit before then joining up with another “running on empty” customer that needs the same manoeuvring assistance.

Northrop Grumman, which is operating its new servicing business through a subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, said it planned to expand the basic “tug” concept offered by MEV-1 to include vehicles capable of in-orbit repair and assembly.

Already it is working on systems that would feature not just simple docking probes but robotic arms to grab hold of satellites. Another option being developed is fuel pods that can be attached to satellites running low on fuel.

(14) BITTEN TO DEATH BY DUCKS. Daffy and Donald, lunch is served: “China prepares 100,000 ducks to battle Pakistan’s locust swarms”.

China is preparing to deploy 100,000 ducks to neighbouring Pakistan to help tackle swarms of crop-eating locusts.

Chinese agricultural experts say a single duck can eat more than 200 locusts a day and be more effective than pesticides.

Pakistan declared an emergency earlier this month saying locust numbers were the worst in more than two decades.

Millions of the insects have also been devastating crops in parts of East Africa.

The Chinese government announced this week it was sending a team of experts to Pakistan to develop “targeted programmes” against the locusts.

Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, described the ducks as “biological weapons”. He said that while chickens could eat about 70 locusts in one day a duck could devour more than three times that number.

“Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,” he told Chinese media.

(15) NICKELODIOUS. The New York Times takes you “Down on the Farm That Harvests Metal From Plants”.

Some of Earth’s plants have fallen in love with metal. With roots that act practically like magnets, these organisms — about 700 are known — flourish in metal-rich soils that make hundreds of thousands of other plant species flee or die.

Slicing open one of these trees or running the leaves of its bush cousin through a peanut press produces a sap that oozes a neon blue-green. This “juice” is actually one-quarter nickel, far more concentrated than the ore feeding the world’s nickel smelters.

The plants not only collect the soil’s minerals into their bodies but seem to hoard them to “ridiculous” levels, said Alan Baker, a visiting botany professor at the University of Melbourne who has researched the relationship between plants and their soils since the 1970s. This vegetation could be the world’s most efficient, solar-powered mineral smelters. What if, as a partial substitute to traditional, energy-intensive and environmentally costly mining and smelting, the world harvested nickel plants?

(16) PULLING THE WOOL OVER. “This Lady Crochets Her Neighbors and It Is Incredible”Awkward has a photo gallery.

Aritst Liisa Hietanen is one talented lady. Like, incredibly talented. Hietanen takes crocheting to a whole new level when she creates life-like models of her friends and neighbors in her native Finland.

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