Pixel Scroll 6/29/22 I Want To Scroll, What The Pixel On The Table Number 5 Is Scrolling!

(1) MARCEAU RAISES ISSUE ABOUT H.A.G. PRESIDENT. Author Caitlin Marceau tweeted yesterday that she has made the decision to leave the Horror Authors Guild (a different organization than the Horror Writers Association) due to Facebook comments made by the group’s newly-appointed president Don Smith on his own page. Smith was appointed President of HAG after D.A. Roberts stepped down, as Roberts announced June 14 on Facebook. Thread starts here.

(2) OTHER TIMES. Oliver Brackenbury of the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast interviews Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus about alternate history fiction: “Alternate Histories”.

(3) A BARBARIAN’S BIRTHDAY. The Cromcast shares another Howard Days recording, this time of a panel to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Conan the Barbarian film: “Howard Days 2022 – Part 6 – Conan the Barbarian at 40!”

In this recording from Saturday, June 11, Paul Sammon shares comments and stories related to his involvement with the first two Conan movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger .

(4) BEYOND PEEVED. The Guardian tells how the superhero show The Boys enraged its rightwing fanbase, because they apparently did not realize that The Boys was supposed to be satire: “Why superhero satire The Boys turned off its rightwing fanbase”.

There seems to be a low-key competition within the culture at the moment as to who can produce the worst sort of fan. For years, Star Wars has been the far and away winner, with fans bitching and crowing like wounded animals any time the series dares to venture out of its very narrow parameters. And Rick and Morty had a decent shot at the title a few years ago, when fans furious that their favourite show had the temerity to hire a female writer published her personal details online.

But now, thanks to a large and increasingly dunderheaded minority, it would appear that the show with the worst fans alive is currently Amazon’s The Boys. These fans have just twigged that the show’s main villain is actually a villain, and they’re absolutely furious….

(5) MURRAY LEINSTER SIGHTING. A Virginia news site remembers the Dean of Science Fiction on the date he once received a statewide honor: “Editorial: The Virginia writer and inventor who predicted the internet and the multiverse” in The Roanoke Times.

We’ve opined on a number of heavy topics in recent weeks. Today we’re going to take a breather, and contemplate space, time, alternate realities and the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations.

In this instance, especially on this day, these topics have a Virginia connection.

Thirteen years ago, the General Assembly passed a resolution declaring June 27, 2009, as William Fitzgerald Jenkins Day.

Who the heck, you might wonder, is Will Jenkins?

…Jenkins, who died in 1975, is today remembered above all else as an author, but his most enduring work was not published under his own name. He used a nom de plume, Murray Leinster (pronounced LEN-ster).

As is the case with the invention of front screen projection, while you may not have personally read a Murray Leinster story, odds are extremely high that you’ve been entertain by a book or movie built on themes that he was the first to tackle — or at least the first to tackle in a manner that left a memorable impression through the decades.

Case in point, his 1945 story “First Contact,” which the General Assembly resolution billed as “the first science fiction story to present the dramatic scenario of the first meeting between earthlings and aliens.” The phrase “first contact” has since been used so often in that context that it’s understood to refer to a first encounter of the extraterrestrial kind….

(6) PULLMAN PROTESTS. Sheffield Hallam University in the UK has shuttered its English literature program, because the current UK government considers it a “low value” degree, which caused angry reactions from many prominent writers, including Philip Pullman: “Philip Pullman leads outcry after Sheffield Hallam withdraws English lit degree” in The Guardian.

The award-winning author Philip Pullman has said the study of literature “should not be a luxury for a wealthy minority of spoilt and privileged aesthetes” after it emerged that Sheffield Hallam University is to pull its English literature degree from next year.

He was one of a number of writers to raise concerns about the university’s decision to stop teaching the standalone degree and incorporate it instead into a broad-based English degree, a year after the University of Cumbria took similar action.

A Sheffield Hallam spokesperson confirmed that English literature was among a small number of its courses that were being either suspended or closed, largely due to lack of demand. They said the changes would not involve job losses….

(7) DOROTHY J. HEYDT (1942-2022). Author Dorothy J. Heydt, the originator and first editor of the Star Trek Concordance (1969), died this month reported Seanan McGuire on Twitter. Memory Alpha notes that beginning in 1967 her series of Star Trek stories, “Dorothy and Myfanwy” were published in Ruth Berman’s fanzine T-Negative. The Wikipedia credits her with the invention of the first widely used Vulcan conlangs for that series.

Its words were picked up and used by other fan fiction authors such as Claire Gabriel. One term, ni var, meaning “two form”, an art form in which two contrasting aspects of a subject are compared, is still used on Star Trek: Enterprise, as the name of a Vulcan ship and on Star Trek: Discovery as the new name of the planet Vulcan itself.

She also had poetry and articles published in the first Trek fanzine, Spockanalia.

Later she was an active participant in the Usenet newsgroups rec.arts.sf.written and rec.arts.sf.fandom. She wrote numerous short stories and two novels. Many of her stories appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, or in collections edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, including the Sword and Sorceress series, and stories in the Darkover series shared world. 

(8) BILLY WOLFENBARGER (1943-2022). Author and poet Billy Wolfenbarger died June 26. In addition to short fiction and poetry, he wrote columns and contributions for fanzines, especially Bill Bowers’ Outworlds and Xenolith. Two years ago William Breiding fulfilled the late Bowers’ vision of gathering these works in a book – Language at Midnight – now available at eFanzines. Breiding’s introduction shares some of that history:

In 1973 Bill Bowers published The Lizard Speaks by Billy Wolfenbarger in Outworlds 15, the 3rd anniversary issue, as a “book” inclusive to that issue. He then did an overrun of 50 “books” (a mimeographed pamphlet) that he distributed to its author and other interested parties. This was the culmination of an affectionate editor/writer relationship between Bill Bowers and Billy Wolfenbarger that dated as far back as 1964 and the Bill Bowers/Bill Mallardi fanzine Double:Bill.

In 1974 Bowers ran Wolfenbarger’s first “Language At Midnight” column in Outworlds 19. The column continued through Outworlds 26, published in 1975, then hopped over to Bill’s Xenolith in 1977 and ran there until 1980, when Billy stopped writing the column. Billy had a scattershot of other pieces in Bill’s publications—prose and verse—but never another “Language At Midnight” column, which had its own cast of characters and feel to it. (“Where it’s always midnight in October.”)

(9) MEMORY LANE

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty years ago, at the very first L.A. Con, we saw Poul Anderson’s “A Queen of Air and Darkness” novella which has been published in F&SF, the April 1971 edition, win the Hugo for Best Novella. (Mike says he both nominated and voted for it.)

It was a particularly strong field that year with the other works being Arthur C. Clarke’s “A Meeting with Medusa”, Larry Niven‘s “The Fourth Profession”, John Brunner’s “Dread Empire” and Gardner R. Dozois’s “A Special Kind of Morning”. 

It would remain in print thereafter showing up immediately in Terry Carr’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year and Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s Nebula Award Winners 7. Anderson put in several collections including, not unsurprisingly, The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories. Currently, of course, it is in the NESFA volumes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 29, 1919 — Slim Pickens. Surely you remember his memorable scene as Major T. J. “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove? I certainly do. And of course, he shows up in Blazing Saddles as Taggart. He’s the uncredited voice of B.O.B in The Black Hole and he’s Sam Newfield in The Howling. He’s got some series genre work including several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, plus work on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1983.)
  • Born June 29, 1920 — Ray Harryhausen. All around film genius who created stop-motion model Dynamation animation. His work can be seen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (his first colour film) which was nominated for a Hugo at Detention, Jason and the Argonauts, Mighty Joe Youngand Clash of the Titans. I’ve got him voted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame twice, in 1996 and 2008. Any idea why?  (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 29, 1943 — Maureen O’Brien, 79. Vicki, companion of the First Doctor. Some forty years later, she reprised the role for several Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio works. She had a recurring role as Morgan in The Legend of King Arthur, a late Seventies BBC series. Her Detective Inspector John Bright series was well received.
  • Born June 29, 1947 — Michael Carter, 75. Best remembered for being Gerald Bringsley in An American Werewolf in London, Von Thurnburg in The Illusionist and Bib Fortuna in the Return of the Jedi. He plays two roles as a prisoner and as UNIT soldier in the Third Doctor story, “The Mind of Evil”. 
  • Born June 29, 1950 — Michael Whelan, 72. I’m reasonably sure that most of the Del Rey editions of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series was where I first noticed his artwork but I’ve certainly seen it elsewhere since. He did Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls cover which I love and many more. And there’s a wonderful collection of his work available, Beyond Science Fiction: The Alternative Realism of Michael Whelan.
  • Born June 29, 1956 — David Burroughs Mattingly, 66. He’s an American illustrator and painter, best known for his numerous book covers of genre literature. Earlier in his career, he worked at Disney Studio on the production of The Black HoleTronDick Tracy and Stephen King’s The Stand. His main cover work was at Ballantine Books where he did such work as the 1982 cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (superb novel), the 2006 Anderson’s Time Patrol and the 1983 Berkley Books publication of E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith Triplanetary.
  • Born June 29, 1957 — Fred Duarte, Jr. His Birthday is today and this long-time Texas fan was well eulogized by Mike here upon his passing several years back. 
  • Born June 29, 1963 — Judith Hoag, 59. Her first genre role was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as April O’Neil followed by being in Armageddon playing Denise Chappel and then a Doctor in A Nightmare On Elm Street. She filmed a cameo for another Turtle film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, but it was deleted. She’s got one one-offs in Quantum LeapThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Strange WorldThe Burning ZoneX-FilesCarnivàle and Grimm. Her lady genre role was in The Magicians as Stephanie Quinn.

(11) ORIGINAL HORROR ANTHOLOGY BY POC. Following a successful Kickstarter, Death In The Mouth: The Best of Contemporary Horror, a horror anthology showcasing BIPOC and other ethnically marginalized writers and artists from around the world edited by Sloane Leong and Cassie Hart, will be released October 1 and is available for pre-order.

Sloane Leong is a cartoonist, artist and writer of Hawaiian, Chinese, Mexican, Native American and European ancestries. She’s written and drawn two acclaimed graphic novels, Prism Stalker and A Map to the Sun, and has short fiction credits with Fireside Magazine, Dark Matter Magazine and Entropy Magazine. She’s also co-edited the anthology Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Oceania Edition. Sloane is currently living on Chinook land near what is known as Portland, Oregon.

Cassie Hart is a Māori/Pākehā author and editor from New Zealand. She has been an Australian Shadow, Hugo, and Sir Julius Vogel award finalist across the years, co-winning an SJV for Best Collected works for the anthology, Tales for Canterbury, and is a finalist for Best Edited Works in the Australian Shadow Awards 2021. Her supernatural suspense novel, Butcherbird, releases from Huia in 2021.

The anthology includes these authors and artists:

  • Jolie Toomajan – “Water Goes, Sand Remains”, with art by Jabari Weathers
  • Yah Yah Scholfield – “They Will Take Up Serpents”, with art by Makoto
  • ChiIsha Karki – “Welcome to Labyrinth”, with art by Natalie Hall
  • Endria Richardson – “Wind Up Teeth”, with art by Tsulala
  • Johnny Compton – “No Hungry Generations”, with art by Pierre Roset
  • Arasibo Campeche – “Drowned in Mindfulness”, with art by Michael Deforge
  • K-Ming Chang – “The Three Resurrections of my Grandfather”, with art by Sloane Hong
  • Reno Evangelista – “Her Apocrypha”, with art by Jess Hara
  • Catherine Yu – “Balloon Girl”, with art by Joy San
  • Daphne Fama – “The Pleiades”, with art by Alicia Feng
  • Beatrice Iker– “They’ll Keep You Gestated”, with art by Molly Mendoza
  • Cassie Hart – “She”, with art by Weiwei XuC
  • Pam Zang – “Alice or Rose or Aurora or Allerleuirah or Belle, on the Occasion of the Burial of the Beast”, with art by Charlotte Gomez
  • P. H. Low – “Tongue is a Void”, with art by JaeHoon Choi
  • Kelsea Yu – “The Obedient Son”, with art by Audrey Murty
  • JL Akagi – “Henry Watanabe and the Wandering Hand”, with art by Bhanu Pratap
  • Amaranta Sepulveda Durán – “The Mother-Wound”, with art by Vivian Magaña
  • Sloane Leong – “Paradise”, with art by Solomon Enos
  • Rivers Solomon – “Some of us are Grapefruit”, with art by Junko Mizuno
  • Ras Cutlass – “Melinda and the Grub”, with art by Naomi Butterfield
  • R.S.A. Garcia – “A Bonfire in the Night”, with art by Zhang Hetian
  • Jessica Cho – “On Tattered Wings”, with art by Lina Wu
  • M. L. Krishnan – “The Eggshell Sanctuary”, with art by Julie Benbassat
  • Priya Chand – “Never Lie to Me” with art by Congming
  • Karin Lowachee – “The Black Hole of Beaumort”, with art by Allissa Chan
  • Darcie Little Badger – “Homebody”, with art by Apolo Cacho

(12) IS IT TIME FOR YOUR MOUNT TSUNDOKU TO ERUPT AGAIN? [Item by BGrandath.] Matt of Bookpilled is IMHO one of the best SF reviewers on BookTube, he has a great respect for classic SF. He is going to have an auction of vintage books on Sunday and I thought some Filers might be interested. These are the two links to the event he discusses in the video. (1) Whatnot – Vintage SF & Fantasy Book Clearout Livestream by thriftalife #books, and (2) Bookpilled – Etsy.

(13) A LIVING SKIN COVERING FOR ROBOTS HAS BEEN CREATED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In The Terminator film franchise, the hideous form of the robotic Terminators were covered by biological skin. This has now been developed for real by researchers in Japan. They have developed a living-skin consisting of cells and extracellular matrix, as a human-like and self-healing coverage material for robots. It was flexible and felt like skin. If scratched it could even heal. However, this artificial living skin was prone to drying out. To avoid such drying, building perfusion channels within and beneath the outer skin so as to mimic blood vessels to supply water, as well as the integration of sweating glands in the skin equivalent, need to be developed. (See Kawai, M. et al (2022) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2022.05.019 Matter, vol. 5 1-19.)

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Diablo Immortal,” Fandom Games says this version of Diablo meant for phones is yet another example of how “a thing you love is processed by the same garbage-content processing machine” that is ruining entertainment today. The game is so focused on making you by stuff to make the play enjoyable that the only people who can afford it are “Saudi princes and whales who badly need a gambling intervention.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Steven H Silver, BGrandath, Christian Brunschen, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 6/28/22 The Mirror Grok’d

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Gordon Van Gelder has shared the July/August 2022 cover for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  The cover art by Mondolithic Studios illustrates “Starblind, Booklost, and Hearing the Songs of True Birds” by Rudi Dornemann.

(2) MACMILLAN REMAINS SHUTTERED. “Macmillan Closed Tuesday As Well As They Address Security Incident” reports Shelf Awareness.

Macmillan, which closed yesterday because of “a security incident” on Saturday that involved its servers and internal system, is remaining closed “virtually and physically” today, Tuesday, June 28. The company said it is “making progress,” but it is still unable to process, receive, place or ship orders.

Details of the incident have not been publicized. Publisher’s Lunch (behind a paywall) commented:

…Network “security incidents” — generally some kind of hacking and/or ransomware — have become all too commonplace in recent years, and each one serves as a cautionary tale to all of us. Some are handled quietly and never acknowledged, but among the known incidents with publishing-related companies in recent years, the Barnes & Noble ransomware hack was the most prominent and had the biggest effect on customers, ultimately taking weeks to fully resolve….

(3) 69 IS NOT DIVINE? Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson recommends some changes in “The Hugo Awards At 69”.

… At the time of its establishment and for the first few years of its existence, the award categories clearly reflected the interests and aspects of SF Fandom that were considered important to its future existence:  fiction, the “raison d’etre” of the culture, the magazines that published the fiction and/or the editor’s who managed them, the artists who realized its visions and the people who made and reinforced that culture, the Fans.

Seven categories were initially offered.  That’s now expanded to 17 and I’ll submit that the reason(s) some categories may be under-represented and might be eliminated is not because they’ve lost importance over the years, but because the awards themselves have focused on becoming more commercially appealing, rather than on focusing on serving their original purpose, that of self-congratulation and recognition within a fan community.

The Hugo Awards need to reduce the number of categories it covers and refocus its efforts on the writing and Fan categories.  (Why Fan categories?  Two primary reasons:  The body of critical analysis offered by Fans through reviews and essays, commentary and yes, even ridicule and sarcasm, is what continuously redefines and elucidates the field.  These efforts sustain the genre and the community that engages with it and should therefore be supported….

(4) ANYTHING YOU CAN DO I CAN DO BETTER. “Aldous Huxley to George Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours (1949)” at Open Culture.

In 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher.

Orwell had just published his groundbreaking book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which received glowing reviews from just about every corner of the English-speaking world. His French teacher, as it happens, was none other than Aldous Huxley who taught at Eton for a spell before writing Brave New World (1931), the other great 20th century dystopian novel.

Huxley starts off the letter praising the book, describing it as “profoundly important.” He continues, “The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.”

Then Huxley switches gears and criticizes the book, writing, “Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.”… 

(5) PRIDE Q&A’S. The Horror Writers Association blog continues their “Point of Pride” theme in these interviews with Crystal Romero and Damian Serbu.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Yes, inclusion or lack of it, is what encouraged me to begin writing. I’ve always wanted to see more people who were like me. So when I began to write original work, I made a conscious effort to include characters of all orientations, but especially lesbians. Not only do I make an effort to include LGBTQ characters in my work, but I also include people of color. In an upcoming short story, I’m including a female bi-racial lesbian and Filipino gay male character. In the story that will follow this one, I’ll be introducing a transgender female character.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I love the creative expression of horror writing. I find horror liberating in a way other genres don’t allow. With horror, there are no rules about what can or cannot happen! The notion of generating a unique monster, plague, demon, or source of evil fascinates me. I wonder what caused the horror to exist. And I ponder how people can over come it. I also think horror writing prompts a writer to get into the raw emotion of being human and in community. Fear is such a base human emotion and at the center of so much of what we think and do. Horror digs into that feeling to reveal the soul of a person.

(6) MIXING HIS INKS. Eddie Robson explains that he loves noir and paranoid Phil Dickian sf so much he decided to combine them! “On Nightmare Noir, Science Fiction, and the Lure of the Gothic” at CrimeReads.

…Meanwhile in SF we can look to the work of Philip K Dick, so often marked by ambiguity and uncertainty, calling into question the nature of reality. Technology’s increasing ability to create artificial things not only returns us to the territory of Frankenstein, it also brings back the essential Gothic quality of the uncanny. This became a familiar mode of SF in the wake of works like Neuromancer and Blade Runner—both of which, incidentally, also draw heavily on crime tropes. (Perhaps the most obvious, and successful, combination of all three is The X Files, which itself draws on key Gothic crime texts like The Silence of the Lambs and Twin Peaks.)…

(7) SQUARING THE CIRCLE. In the Washington Post, Dave Eggers discusses how the Rapid City, South Dakota school system had removed his sf novel The Circle and four other books, including Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home from the high school curriculum and were threatening to destroy the books.  He talks about how he worked with an independent bookstore in that city to make the books available and to have the school system do something with the books rather than pulp them. “South Dakota schools banned Dave Eggers’s novel. He investigated why.”

… When the book ban made national news, I talked with Amanda Uhle, my colleague at the publishing company McSweeney’s, about making the banned books available to Rapid City high school seniors.We called Mitzi’s Books, an independent bookseller in Rapid City, and we made an arrangement whereby we would buy books for any seniors who had been deprived access to them. So far more than 400 copies of the five banned books have been provided free to these students….

(8) FROM BABIES TO THE BEATLES. Kay Dee tells what it was like to witness the first worldwide live TV linkup at Galactic Journey. “[June 28, 1967] Around the World in Two Seconds (Our World Global Satellite Broadcast)”

I love how our world is drawing closer every day to some of the amazing futures that science fiction has spread before us. I’ve written before about the importance of satellite communications in connecting this divided planet. Just two days ago, 24 countries around the globe were linked together in the first world-spanning live satellite broadcast, titled – appropriately enough – Our World….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2015 [By Cat Eldridge.] In the usual manner that such things happen, the Humans series debuted here two weeks after it first aired seven years ago on BBC. It was based on the Swedish SF series Real Humans which involved the creation of synths. (Yes, Picard would later use that term.) Channel 4 and Kudos in the United Kingdom, and AMC in the United States were the companies that underwrote it.

It was created by Sam Vincent, largely a voice actor, and Jonathan Brackley who had nothing to his name previous to this. I suspect a ghost writing staff was definitely involved but I cannot prove it. It was produced by Chris Fry who has executive produced a lot of Spooks so it had an experienced hand there. 

It had a huge cast including Carrie-Anne Moss and William Hurt. Seriously it did. 

It had three seasons of eight episodes each. It did not get a proper conclusion as it was simply cancelled. Ahhh welll.

Too bad, as the British critics really liked it. Mind you the ratings kept slip sliding away. 

The Guardian said, “Humans itself won’t compete with Westworld on wild ambition or imagination, and certainly not on budget. But I like it better; it’s more pressingly relevant. And more human.” 

And the London Evening Standard said that it provides “a smart and stylish exploration of the joys and perils of putting your very existence into the hands of artificial intelligence… If episode one delivers on its promise, then the journey into the unknown will be a profoundly interesting one.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a brainy eighty-five percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 28, 1926 — Mel Brooks, 96. Young Frankenstein (1974) (Hugo and Nebula winner) and Spaceballs (1987) would get him listed even without The 2000 Year Old ManGet Smart and others. Here is an appreciation of Mel on YouTube.  (Alan Baumler)
  • Born June 28, 1946 — Robert Lynn Asprin. I first encountered him as one of the co-editors along with Lynn Abbey of the most stellar Thieves’ World Series for which he wrote the superb “The Price of Doing Business” for the first volume. I’m also very fond of The Cold Cash War novel. His Griffen McCandles (Dragons) series is quite excellent. I’m please to say that he’s well stocked on both at the usual suspects. (Died 2008.)
  • Born June 28, 1947 — Mark Helprin, 75. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it as I love the novel. 
  • Born June 28, 1951 — Lalla Ward, 71. She is known for her role as the second actress to play Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus
  • Born June 28, 1954 — Deborah Grabien, 68. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It’s coming out in trade paper and ebook editions soon. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. And she sent me miniature palm tree seeds which are growing here now. 
  • Born June 28, 1954 — Alice Krige, 68. I think her first genre role was in the full dual of Eva Galli and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now it’s in Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I will only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World
  • Born June 28, 1979 — Felicia Day, 43. She was Vi in  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a rather fascinating Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears  as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Baldo might be considered a biography instead of a punchline by the average Filer!

(12) AHMED’S NEW PROJECT. “Saladin Ahmed, Shaka King & Travon Free Team On Webcomic ‘Drac: Son of Dante’”Deadline has the details.

Saladin Ahmed (Miles Morales: Spider-Man) has partnered with filmmakers Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah) and Travon Free (Two Distant Strangers) to create Drac: Son of Dante—a new, 15-part webcomic series for Tapas Media and Endeavor Content, which is now free to read exclusively via the former company’s website and mobile app. The series’ first two episodes have already launched, with more to come weekly on Fridays.

Drac is said to introduce a new and contemporary mythology around the origins of the iconic goth villain Dracula that will resonate with multicultural and youth audiences alike. The narrative follows Dante, an eerie, flute-playing immortal who finds himself drawn to the human condition against the natural order and better judgment of his species. Dante follows this obsession no matter how much trouble it gets him into — but a conflict for the ages erupts when his monstrous son Drac chooses a human bride….

(13) THE WITCHING HOUR. Hocus Pocus 2 comes to Disney+ on September 30.

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy reunite for the highly anticipated Disney+ Original Movie “Hocus Pocus 2.” The live-action, long awaited sequel to the perennial Halloween classic, which brings back the delightfully wicked Sanderson sisters for more comedic mayhem, will debut on Disney+ on September 30. It’s been 29 years since someone lit the Black Flame Candle and resurrected the 17th-century sisters, and they are looking for revenge. Now it is up to three high-school students to stop the ravenous witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.

(14) TRADING OLD TROUBLES FOR NEW. Fantasy author and podcaster Richard H. Stephens continues his work within the Soul Forge Universe with Dragon Sect: Highcliff Guardians Series Book Two.

The Dragon Witch Wraith has returned.

With the Grim Duke in his place, and a tentative pact with the wizard’s guild, the Queen of the Elves’ only real concern is for her rebellious daughter. Or so she is led to believe.

Buoyed by the news of unrest in the land’s largest city of Urdanya, Duke Orlythe’s new wizard attempts to convince him that a path to the coveted Willow Throne lies within reach of someone bold enough to seize the opportunity.

The return of the Dragon Witch Wraith prompts the ailing high wizard to find a way to thwart his arch nemesis before everything South March has fought for is lost.

Oblivious to the dangers of the world, Princess Ouderling sets out on a quest to locate an ancient dragon, in a desperate attempt to save her mother from an inevitable fate.

Should she fail, the Grim Duke will ascend the throne.

Available from Amazon and Amazon.ca.

At age 17 author Richard H. Stephens left high school and for the next twenty-two years worked as a shipper at a local bakery. At the age of 36, he went back to high school and graduated with honors. He became a member of the local Police Service, and worked for 12 years in a Canadian provincial court system. In early 2017, he left the Police Service to write full-time. Learn more about Richard H. Stephens at his website.

(15) WHAT IS YOUR QUEST? Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy enthusiastically recommends “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”.

How can a film as disarmingly simple as this inspire deep feelings about loss, connection, and the meaning of family? I’m not sure I have the answer; all I know is that I was fighting back tears at the end of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. My daughter Jessie got to see the movie at the Telluride Film Festival last year and has been a proud proselytizer ever since.

I wouldn’t want to burden this charming film with descriptors like “existential” but it’s not misapplied here. At a time when so many of us are feeling disoriented—or disconnected—a movie like this is especially welcome….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the Screen Junkies say that Disney, having brought back Han Solo as a “broke, divorced dad,” and Luke Skywalker as a “gross recluse,” they brought back Obi-Wan Kenobi as a “sad fishmonger whose new mission is to stare at a ten-year-old boy all day.” While they liked Vivian Blair’s work as a young Princess Leia, the series becomes “another round of ‘grumpy man brings a cute, sassy kid to safety’: just like The Mandalorian, Terminator 2, and Aliens.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/22/22 Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh

(1) HOW WRITERS GET UNPAID. Quenby Olson shows how a returned book costs her money on Amazon. Thread starts here.

Olson backed up the account with Vice’s article “TikTok Users Are Showing Readers How To Game Amazon’s Ebook Return Policy”.

A TikTok trend where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks within the company’s return policy window has irked independent authors, who claim to have seen dramatic spikes in their ebook return rates since the trend went viral.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line. 

“When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” Kessler told Motherboard. 

Kessler, who self-publishes several book series, says that before the challenge, she would see on average one or two returns per month. But when she checked her Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales dashboard on June 1st, she says she was shocked to find a negative account balance….

(2) JUST A SECOND. The Fall of Númenor, a collection of Tolkien’s works about the Second Age of Middle-Earth, will be published by HarperCollins in November 2022. The book will appear after Amazon Prime releases the streaming series The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, in September 2022. “New Tolkien book: The Fall of Númenor to be published” at The Tolkien Society.

A HarperCollins press release included in the post explains that the volume is edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee.

…Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

(3) BALTICON UPDATE. Balticon’s post-convention email dated June 17 included the following update about the Code of Conduct investigation that is addressing events reported by File 770 here, here, and here.

(4) LIBRARY E-BOOK RELIEF UNCONSTITUTIONAL. “In Final Order, Court Declares Maryland’s Library E-book Law Unconstitutional” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a June 13 opinion and order, Judge Deborah L. Boardman declared Maryland’s library e-book law “unconstitutional and unenforceable” all but ending a successful months-long legal effort by the Association of American Publishers to block the law.

“In its February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court determined that the Maryland Act likely conflicts with the Copyright Act in violation of the Supremacy Clause,” Boardman’s opinion reads. “Although neither AAP nor the State has moved for summary judgment on any claim, they agree a declaratory judgment may be entered… Therefore, for the reasons stated in the February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court finds that the Maryland Act conflicts with and is preempted by the Copyright Act. The Act ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”

… First introduced in January 2021, the Maryland library e-book law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms.” The bill passed the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In response, the AAP filed suit on December 9, 2021 arguing that the Maryland law was pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act. Just days after a February 7 hearing, Boardman agreed with the AAP and temporarily enjoined the law. Boardman’s order this week now permanently renders the law enforceable….

(5) CENSORSHIP CASE IN VIRGINIA. Publishers Weekly also reports, “Lawyers Say ‘Defective’ Virginia Obscenity Claims Should Be Tossed”.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, a retired local judge found there was “probable cause” for the obscenity claims and ordered the authors and publishers to answer the charges, raising the possibility that the court could bar the books from public display and restrict booksellers and librarians from providing the books to minors without parental consent.

But in filings late last week, lawyers for Kobabe and her publisher, Oni Press, and Maas and her publisher Bloomsbury, along with lawyers for Barnes & Noble, told the court the suits as filed are defective and the remedy sought unconstitutional.

“The petition and show cause order are facially defective because [the Virginia law] does not authorize a court to declare that the book is ‘obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,’” reads a joint filing by Maas and Bloomsbury, explaining that the Virginia law “cannot constitutionally be the basis for the relief sought by petitioner as a matter of law.”

In separate filings, Kobabe and Oni Press also argue the law in question is misapplied and the complaint defective. “The statute permits the challenge of a book on the grounds that it is ‘obscene’ to the entirety of the community of the Commonwealth,” reads the brief from Oni Press lawyers. “Petitioner here attempts to redefine [the Virginia law] to have book declared obscene as it relates to one subset of the Community: minors in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.”

Furthermore, lawyers for the authors and publishers argue that the books in question do not come close to meeting the standard for obscenity as established by the Supreme Court, which requires that materials, even if they contain explicit material, be found to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Thus, the relief requested by the plaintiffs would be “an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,” lawyers argue.

(6) THE MIGHTY NATALIE. “’Thor: Love and Thunder’: How Natalie Portman Grew Nine Inches Taller”Variety divulges the answer at the link.

…“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.’”

Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.

… To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get….

(7) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will be changing its schedule to the second Wednesday of the month. The date change begins on September 14, 2022. Both the July and August readings will be on the third Wednesday as originally scheduled.

After more than twenty years of being held on the third Wednesday of every month, the Fantastic Fiction reading series, currently hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, will be switching to the second Wednesday of the month, beginning in September, for the foreseeable future. Previously, the series was held on the third Wednesday of the month.

During the Pandemic, when Covid cases in New York City were dangerously high, hosts Ellen and Matt decided to go virtual (via YouTube) for the safety of all. This virtual period lasted for more than eighteen months, during which time Ellen and Matt were able to bring in guests, many of whom were unable to visit New York in person, from all over the world, including Pakistan, Barbados, the U.K., Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

During this same period a younger crowd less fearful of Covid began to congregate in person at the KGB Bar during the series’ usual third Wednesday. When the Fantastic Fiction series finally returned to the KGB Bar in person in late 2021 and early 2022, the KGB Bar saw a significant drop in income. Because of this, the KGB Bar owner has asked Ellen and Matt to switch weeks for this “big earner/younger generation” that they wish to accommodate on the third Wednesday of each month.

(8) EAR TO THE GROUND. CSI Skill Tree is a series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.The latest event in the CSI Skill Tree series on how video games envision possible futures and create thought-provoking experiences will streamed on Thursday, July 7, from 2:00-3:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is free and open to everyone—here is the registration link.

In this event, speculative fiction author Tochi Onyebuchi and composer/sound designer Amos Roddy will discuss how sound and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. They’ll look closely at Inside (2016), a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics.

Roddy’s other sound work in games is frequently for science fiction titles (most recently, Citizen Sleeper), and Onyebuchi is an incredibly talented SF storyteller. 

(9) AN IDEA THAT WHIFFED. Galactic Journey knows exactly what the public in 2022 wants to hear about the Worldcon – which is nothing good, of course – and presents: “[June 22, 1967] The Stench Arising from the World Convention” by Alison Scott.

…Here we are in 1967, and Ted White, from his lofty position of power as chairman of NyCon 3, this year’s World SF Convention, has decided that the time has come to expand the existing Best Fanzine Hugo. I think that many of we actifans would welcome additional awards for Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist. However, the NyCon 3 committee – and I think we must assume this is mostly Ted – decided to unilaterally create a new class of awards, the Fan Achievement Awards, by analogy to the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and to nickname them the “Pongs”, by analogy to the “Hugos”….

P.S. Even at the time almost everyone said they hated the idea. That’s why in the end the NyCon 3 committee actually did call these added fan awards Hugos.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1925 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s keep in mind that ninety-seven years ago when this first version of The Lost World premiered, A. Conan Doyle was very much alive. This is very important as he was involved in the film including writing the script from his novel and being involved in the production quite personally. Doyle said repeatedly that Challenger, not Holmes, was his favorite creation.

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World featured the amazing stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, the dinosaurs here being a great look at what he would do on King Kong in eight yers. Nine different types of dinosaurs were created including of course Tyrannosaurus. A very crowded plateau it was. Some of the dinosaur models made for this film were collected later by Ackerman.

It cost seven hundred thousand to make and grossed one point three million. Studios being relatively honest in those days, we can say it actually made money. 

Full early prints include an introduction by Doyle. Later prints removed this.  

The New York Times after seeing early reels of the dinosaurs said if these be “monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces.” Contemporaneous reviews such as the LIFE one say the same thing: “In The Lost World, as it appears on the screen, the animals have been constructed with amazing skill and fidelity and their movements, though occasionally jerky, are generally convincing.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have a sixty-nine percent rating for it.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 — H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1894 — George Fielding Eliot. ISFDB has scant listings from him and Wiki is not much better but shows “The Copper Bowl”  in Weird Tales in the December 1928 issue and notes that thirty years later he has “The Peacemakers”  in the Fantastic Universe in January 1960 edition. Stitching this together using the EofSF, I’ll note he wrote Purple Legion: A G-Man Thriller, a really pulpish affair. As Robert Wallace, he wrote “The Death Skull Murders”, one of the Phantom Detective stories, a series that came out after The Shadow and ran for a generation. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 — Kris Kristofferson, 86. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly I’ll note he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes.
  • Born June 22, 1947 — Octavia Butler. I think her Xenogenesis series is her most brilliant work though I’m also very, very impressed by the much shorter Parable series. I’m ambivalent on the Patternist series for reasons I’m not sure about. Her first Hugo was L.A. Con II (1984) for her “Speech Sounds” short story and she also got a Hugo for her “Bloodchild” novelette at Aussiecon Two (1985). DisCon III (2021) saw Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation with text by her obviously as adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings pick up the Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Edward M Lerner, 73. I’m here today to praise the Ringworld prequels that he co-wrote with Niven, collectively known as Fleet of Worlds which ran to five volumes. Unlike the Ringworld sequels which were terribly uneven, these were well written and great to read. I’ve not read anything else by him.
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Meryl Streep, 73. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it.
  • Born June 22, 1958 — Bruce Campbell, 64. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked him just as much in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and god awful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 — Ian Tregillis, 49. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a  rather good serial fiction narrative (if that’s the proper term), and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I haven’t  checked out. He’s also a contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series which I’m beginning to suspect everyone has been involved in.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

(13) THE READING LIFE. The Critic’s Paul Dean mourns the decline of the second-hand book trade in “Bookshops remaindered”.

At the Oxford Book Fair in April, the presence of a hundred exhibitors from all over Britain suggested that Covid had not killed off the antiquarian book trade. But those who buy antiquarian books are not necessarily interested in reading, any more than those who buy hundreds of cases of rare wines are interested in drinking.

The second-hand market — for immediate consumption rather than laying down — is a different matter, as Oxford itself sadly demonstrates. In the 1970s, Blackwell’s second-hand department occupied the whole of the top floor. By 2000, it occupied most of the third floor. Now it shivers forlornly in a few feet of the first floor.

Will Waterstones, Blackwell’s new owners, bother to keep it? One second-hand bookshop after another has closed in Oxford, leaving two admittedly excellent Oxfams, St Philip’s Books opposite the cathedral, a new small outlet in the Covered Market, and the ominously named The Last Bookshop in Jericho. Thornton’s and Robin Waterfield are much missed. The former still sells online, but, although I plead guilty to online buying, that is not the same. It is like eating the menu instead of the food….

(14) GETTING READY TO INTERACT WITH AI. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe” says David Brin in his opinion piece for Newsweek.

…In 2017 I gave a keynote at IBM’s World of Watson event, predicting that “within five years” we would face the first Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some kind of emulation program would claim individuality and sapience. At the time, I expected — and still expect — these empathy bots to augment their sophisticated conversational skills with visual portrayals that reflexively tug at our hearts, e.g. wearing the face of a child. or a young woman, while pleading for rights… or for cash contributions. Moreover, an empathy-bot would garner support, whether or not there was actually anything conscious “under the hood.”

One trend worries ethicist Giada Pistilli, a growing willingness to make claims based on subjective impression instead of scientific rigor and proof. When it comes to artificial intelligence, expert testimony will be countered by many calling those experts “enslavers of sentient beings.” In fact, what matters most will not be some purported “AI Awakening.” It will be our own reactions, arising out of both culture and human nature.

Human nature, because empathy is one of our most-valued traits, embedded in the same parts of the brain that help us to plan or think ahead. Empathy can be stymied by other emotions, like fear and hate — we’ve seen it happen across history and in our present-day. Still, we are, deep-down, sympathetic apes.

But also culture. As in Hollywood’s century-long campaign to promote—in almost every film — concepts like suspicion-of-authority, appreciation of diversity, rooting for the underdog, and otherness. Expanding the circle of inclusion. Rights for previously marginalized humans. Animal rights. Rights for rivers and ecosystems, or for the planet. I deem these enhancements of empathy to be good, even essential for our own survival! But then, I was raised by all the same Hollywood memes….

(15) SPIDER-REX. “Spider-Rex Makes His Roaring Debut on Leinil Francis Yu’s New ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover” Marvel announced today.

The future of the Spider-Verse is here! Launching in August, Edge of Spider-Verse will be five-issue limited series that introduces brand-new Spider-heroes and redefines fan-favorites such as Araña, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Man: India! Each thrilling issue will contain three stories crafted by Marvel’s biggest Spider talents including an overarching narrative by Dan Slott who will lay the groundwork for the epic conclusion of the Spider-Verse later this year. Edge of Spider-Verse #1 will see the debut of Spider-Rex in a story by hit Spider-Woman creative team, Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Fans can see this awesome and one-of-a-kind Spider-Hero in a brand-new variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu.

(16) WEIRD AL’S SONG FOR STAR WARS. There might actually be a few notes from it in this trailer, I’m not sure. “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation”, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous LEGO Star Wars specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, “Scarif Beach Party”.

(17) CAT NOT SLEEPING ON SFF. Enjoy this entertaining trailer for “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”.

This Christmas, everyone’s favorite leche-loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek).

(18) SHOULD BE WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Rube Goldberg machine by Creezy has been viewed nearly 10 million times, but not on File 770! “The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot”.

(19) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! [Item by Daniel Dern.] To help you decipher today’s Scroll title “Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh” —

Throg is Frog Thor, The Frog Of Thunder, first introduced by Walt Simonson in 1986 (see “Thor Left Asgard’s Future to Marvel’s Strangest Thunder God”), although, Marvel being Marvel (sigh), there are now several variants and versions…

“Heigh-Ho etc” riffs on the Irish folk song “Heigh-Ho, The Rattlin’ Bog” popularized by The Irish Rovers and done by many others including Seamus Kennedy,

(20) AMATEURS DRIVING THE CHARIOT OF APOLLO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] James Burke and John Parry tour an Apollo training facility, crash a “scooter” on the Moon and mispronounce “Houston” in this clip from the BBC show Tomorrow’s World in 1968.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This is buzzzzzare! “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario and One with Bees” from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/6/22 Make Your Own Kind Of Pixel, Even When Nobody Else Scrolls Along

(1) FUND OGHENECHOVWE DONALD EKPEKI’S TRIP TO CHICON 8. Jason Sanford has set up a GoFundMe that will “Send Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki to Worldcon”. Donate at the link.

This year Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki became the first African writer to win the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for his story “O2 Arena ,” with that story also making him the first African writer to be a finalist for the Hugo Award in the same category. In addition, he became the first person from Africa to be a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Editor, Short Form, for his work on the groundbreaking anthology Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction.

 This fundraiser is to allow Ekpeki to travel from Nigeria to attend Chicon 8, the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in Chicago. In addition to allowing Ekpeki to attend the Worldcon where he is a finalist for two Hugo Awards, the fundraiser will also enable him to work on building in-person connections at Worldcon between genre fans and professionals from Africa and around the world….

(2) 2024 NASFIC BID. The Buffalo in 2024 NASFiC bid chair Wayne Brown answered File 770’s question about who is on the committee. Says Brown:

We have a small group right now but are looking to add more committee members.  Right now the committee consists of:

  • Wayne Brown (chair)
  • Alex Von Thorn
  • Debi Chowdhury
  • Marah Searle-Kovacevic
  • David Ennis

(3) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. Astronaut Chris Hadfield is one of the shortlisted authors for the 2022 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize worth £10,000.

  • The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield (Quercus)
  • Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian (Bantam Press, Transworld Publishers)
  • The Vacation by John Marrs (Pan, Pan Macmillan)
  • The Plant Hunter by T.L. Mogford (Welbeck Publishing Group)
  • Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo (Virago, Little, Brown Book Group)
  • Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook (Mantle, Pan Macmillan)

The judges discuss their definition of adventure here.The winner of the 2022 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize will be announced at an online ceremony on September 21. 

(4) JUBILEE COVERAGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The weekend has been a blast. If you get a chance catch the “Jubilee Platinum Party at the Palace.” [Note: Can only be viewed in the UK. But there are many short video clips on The Royal Family Channel.]

The next day we had a parade through central London and even the Daleks were well behaved.

(5) PULP FOREVER. Cora Buhlert has an essay about Harald Harst, a forgotten German pulp detective of the Weimar Republic era, in The Drink Tank #439 on page 10:

So-called dime novels or penny dreadfuls are a child of the industrial revolution, when the invention of the rotary printing press made it possible to publish cheap literature for the masses. The dime novel was born in the mid-nineteenth century and in the United States gave way to pulp magazines at the turn of the twentieth century. But in Germany, the dime novel never died….

(6) HE’S BACK. Netflix announced The Sandman will begin airing August 5.

There is another world that waits for all of us when we close our eyes and sleep — a place called the Dreaming, where The Sandman, Master of Dreams (Tom Sturridge), gives shape to all of our deepest fears and fantasies. But when Dream is unexpectedly captured and held prisoner for a century, his absence sets off a series of events that will change both the dreaming and waking worlds forever. To restore order, Dream must journey across different worlds and timelines to mend the mistakes he’s made during his vast existence, revisiting old friends and foes, and meeting new entities — both cosmic and human — along the way. Based on the beloved award-winning DC comic series written by Neil Gaiman, THE SANDMAN is a rich, character-driven blend of myth and dark fantasy woven together over the course of ten epic chapters following Dream’s many adventures.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1980 [By Cat Eldridge.] It’s been forty-two years since this film came out and I can’t remember if I’ve seen it. It certainly sounds familiar but that doesn’t mean anything. So let’s get to it.

It was both directed and written by William Sachs who previously had done Secrets of the Gods (re-released in theatres as The Force Beyond in 1977) and The Incredible Melting Man. It was produced by Marilyn Jacobs Tenser who had absolutely no genre background though she did produce Superchick and The Pom Pom Girls

The cast consisted of Stephen Macht, Avery Schreiber. James David, Hinton Lionel and  Mark Smith. And one more individual — Dorothy Stratten.  Now let’s be honest, Dorothy Stratten was Galaxina. Literally. And as she was a Playboy Playmate, she was the only draw for this R-rated SF film which also had a triple breasted alien in it a decade before Total Recall had its triple-breasted Mars whore.

As Jeffrey Anderson said in his review, “Unfortunately, the actual movie isn’t much. Stratten in fact plays a robot and doesn’t do or say much for at least the first half of the movie; and, despite her Playboy status, she keeps her clothes on. Then we’ve got the rest of the movie to deal with: it’s a lazy attempt to spoof the popular sci-fi movies of the day, including Star WarsAlien, and many others, but the jokes are little more than references and they simply don’t work.” 

It was made in less than three weeks on a shoestring budget of about five million and the box office was somewhat less than that. It was never released outside of the States.  

No, the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do not like it, giving it just a twenty-three percent rating.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 6, 1918 Richard Crane. In the Fifties, he would be cast in two of the series that largely defined the look and feel of televised SF for a decade. First, he was the dashing lead in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which lasted for thirty-nine thrilling episodes; second, he’s Dick Preston in nine of the twelve episodes of the wonderfully titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. He was also the lead in the fifteen-chapter serial Mysterious Island which was a very loose adaption of the Jules Verne novel. He died far too young died of a heart attack at the age of fifty. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 6, 1931 Joan Marshall. She played Lt. Areel Shaw in Star Trek‘s “Court Martial”, a rather excellent affair. Her other major genre other was as Wilma in The Twilight Zone‘s “Dead Man’s Shoes”.  She also had roles in Men in SpaceThe Outer LimitsThe Munsters and I-Spy. The Munsters appearance was in My Fair Munster, the Unaired Pilot as Phoebe Munster. (Died 1992.)
  • Born June 6, 1936 Levi Stubbs. Remember the voice of Audrey in The Little Shop of Horrors film?  (It was nominated for a Hugo at Conspiracy ’87 the year Aliens won.) Well that was this individual who was the lead vocalist of the Four Tops. Cool, very cool.  On the film soundtrack, he performs “Feed Me (Git It)”, “Suppertime” and “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space”. (Died 2008.)
  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 75. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Short-lived as in just six episodes. Of course most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD  to Strippers vs Werewolves. (Really. Truly. He did.)  Versatile man, our Robert. So versatile in fact that he’s on Stranger Things as Victor Creel in a recurring role.
  • Born June 6, 1951 Geraldine McCaughrean, 71. Fifteen years ago, she wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to Peter Pan commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital, the holder of Peter Pan’s copyright which J.M. Barrie granted them. So has anyone here read it?  By the way, she’s extremely prolific having now written over one hundred and eighty books! 
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 63. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think should be considered one of the best SF series ever made. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and was cast as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash of the 1990 series, and she has a recurring role on the present Flash series as the same character.
  • Born June 6, 1963 Jason Isaacs, 59. Captain Gabriel Lorca, the commanding officer of the USS Discovery in the first season of Discovery and also provided the voice of The Inquisitor, Sentinel, in Star Wars Rebels, and Admiral Zhao in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Oh, and the role of Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film franchise.
  • Born June 6, 1964 Jay Lake. Another one who died far too young. If you read nothing else by him, read his brilliant Mainspring Universe series. Though his Green Universe is also extremely entertaining. He won an Astounding Award for Best New Writer and an Endeavour Award for Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection which collects a lot of his most excellent short fiction.  He has two Hugo nominations, one at Noreascon 4 for his “Into the Gardens of Sweet Night” novelette and one at LoneStarCon3 for his “The Stars Do Not Lie” novella. (Died 2014.)

(9) BERLIN IN 1967. Cora Buhlert’s new Galactic Journey article chronicles the point where the peace and love 1960s turned violent in West Germany, namely the protests against the visit of the Shah of Iran to West Berlin and the murder of Benno Ohnesorg in 1967: “[June 6, 1967] Blood in the Streets of West Berlin: The Shah Visit and the Shooting of Benno Ohnesorg”. Content warning for police violence in words and pictures as well as a photo of a body.

… On June 2, the Shah and his wife were due to visit West Berlin. Therefore, the student parliament of the Free University organised a panel discussion about the Iranian regime on the day before. Among those invited to speak at the meeting was Bahman Nirumand. The Iranian embassy in West Germany was incensed and demanded that the panel discussion be cancelled. However, the chancellor of the Free University refused, citing the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. This is not the first time that the Iranian government has tried to suppress criticism in West Germany, by the way. They have also repeatedly invoked a lese-majeste law dating from the days of the Second German Empire (which ended fifty years ago) in order to have unfavourable news articles retracted….

(10) ARTIST KELLY REMEMBERED. Brian Murphy offers a tribute to the late Ken Kelly at DMR Books: “Remembering Ken Kelly: Master of Light and Dark, and the Imagination”.

… I have a hard time writing about artists because their images speak so much louder and more potently than words. Just spend a minute looking at the covers of the Berkley Medallion Conans, and your tribute to Kelly’s passing is paid. Maybe you are lucky enough to have copies with the foldout posters intact. Kelly’s iconic images of Conan alone make him an S&S immortal, and of course they only scratch the surface of his epic 50 year career….

(11) LOVECRAFT: IT’S COMPLICATED. At Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein, Serbian horror author and scholar Dejan Ognjanović explains what the works of H.P. Lovecraft mean to him: “A Serbian Looks At Lovecraft”.

… In my childhood, in the early 1980s, during my initial investigations into the scarce horror fiction then available in Serbian, Lovecraft was literally unknown. Not a single story by him had been translated by my late teens, i.e. by 1989. Thus my first encounter with him was indirect – it was through the idea of Lovecraft, as re-imagined in an Italian comic series Martin Mystere, the episode “The House at the Edge of the World” (“La Casa ai confini di mundo”, 1982), which I read in the summer of 1986, when I was 13. It was love at first sight: for the first time I encountered the concept of houses haunted not by ghosts or any traditional monster, but by unnamable inter-dimensional entities; it also involved places serving as portals into non-Euclidean spaces, nameless cosmic vistas, alien temples and weird-looking gods/demons…

(12) A SWORD & SORCERY PODCAST. The Rogues in the House podcast talk about their fantasy influences:  “Sweet Nostalgia: A Nerd’s Journey”.

The Rogues are once again joined by Flame and Crimson author, Brian Murphy–this time to discuss the works of fiction most near and dear to their roguish hearts.

(13) NO MORE LICENSE TO KILL. “Seven years, 40 editions and 3117 trained witchers later,” the Witcher School live-action role-play events in Poland has shut down: “’Witcher school’ closes after CD Projekt Red pulls license over political ties” reports Indy100.

A ‘Witcher school’ located in Poland has been forced to close after its licence was abruptly pulled by the game’s publisher.

The reasons for which are currently unclear but organisers have claimed that the decision was due to a staff member’s involvement with an ultra-conservative political group, according to Eurogamer.

[CD Projekt Red pulled the license because of a staff member’s involvement with the ultra-conservative Polish Catholic organization Ordo Iuris, which is anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+, and rejects the idea of gender equality.]

The Witcher School ran live-action role-playing (LARP) events in Poland themed around the popular videogame series with 40 editions of the event and over 3000 “Witchers” taking part.

But after 7 years, the publisher of the hit videogame seriesCD Projekt Red, officially ended the contract with the school in February 2022 with a three-month notice, effectively ending their use of The Witcher’s characters, setting and storylines.

(14) FUNERAL DIRECTOR. Nicholas Meyer talks with Ethan Alter of Yahoo! Entertainment on the death of Spock in this piece about the 40th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan. “’Wrath of Khan’ director reveals how he killed Spock in the 1982 blockbuster” at Yahoo!

It’s been forty years since Spock put the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few — or the one — in the final moments of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. With the U.S.S. Enterprise‘s warp drive inoperable thanks to a devastating attack launched by Khan Noonien Singh (Richardo Montalban), Starfleet’s most popular Vulcan officer descends into the starship’s engine room and absorbs a lethal dose of radiation, surviving just long enough to save the day and say goodbye to his closest companion, James T. Kirk. And no matter how many times you’ve seen Wrath of Khan in the four decades since the movie’s June 4, 1982 release, Spock’s passing never fails to trigger tears, whether you’re human, Klingon… or Gorn.

The tears were certainly flowing on the Wrath of Khan set when William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — who had been part of each other’s lives since the 1966 premiere of the original Star Trek TV series — played what was intended to be their final scene together. In his 2010 memoir, The View From the BridgeWrath of Khan director, Nicholas Meyer, described members of the crew weeping as Spock told Kirk: “I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”…

(15) WEBB TELESCOPE. Inverse tells us, “We Finally Know When The Webb Telescope’s First Color Images Will Arrive — Here’s What To Expect”

…On Sunday, July 12, the Webb team will release an unconfirmed number of full-color images based on observations by two of Webb’s four science instruments: the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).

The Webb’s two other instruments, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) and the Fine Guidance Sensor/Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS) don’t capture photo-like images of the universe. Instead, they sort incoming light from distant objects into distinct wavelengths. Scientists can then use these data to measure the temperature and chemical makeup of those objects.

“We will release the scientific data from those observations as well — not just the color JPGs, but also the actual quantitative data — to the astronomical community,” Pontoppidan explains.

What can we expect to see in those first images and data? The Webb team is keeping specific spoilers under wraps, but they’ve offered a few (very broad) hints…

(16) NOSE FOR NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is the first trailer for Disney’s Pinocchio remake, which is not Guillermo del Toro’s version (That’s a Netflix project.)

This reminds me of the version of Pinocchio that sank Roberto Benigni’s career because he stupidly played Pinocchio instead of Geppetto.  “Call the vice squad!” warned Washington Post critic Stephen Hunter.  “It’s a 50-year-old man wearing jammies!”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] David Sproxton and Peter Lord, creators of Aardman Animations, explain how stop-motion animation is done in this excerpt from a 1981 episode of Blue Peter.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/22 I’ll File You, My Pretty, And Your Pixel Scroll Too

(1) NEED TO RELOAD. There will be no TitanCon in Belfast this year announced co-chair Samuel Poots.

We’re very sorry to have to announce that Titan Con is cancelled this year.

I don’t need to tell you that the past few years have been enormously challenging for everyone and many of us are still processing our experiences. While finances are good, the humans and human resources needed to make Titan Con viable have been impacted.

In recent weeks, a number of committee members, including my co-chair, have had to step away due to personal reasons. I’m sorry to lose them, and am extremely grateful for their hard work, but understand it’s the best decision.

After taking stock of the situation with the committee and advisers, it’s clear we do not have the resources for this year’s already smaller con, and unfortunately have to cancel it. This was a very difficult decision and one the committee wished could be avoided, but there was simply no alternative.

A fresh start is called for.

We need to cancel, regroup, and consider our way forward carefully.

We’ll be recruiting some people to help us look at delivering a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror convention with the best elements of our legacy events, while considering how to become sustainable going forward.

All current members will receive a full refund.

Thank you for your support and patience, and we hope to see you in the future to celebrate the wonderful media we are all fans of.

(2) MALIK Q&A. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its “Asian Heritage in Horror” theme in an “Interview with Usman T. Malik”.

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

Don’t worry about pandering to western stereotypes or the market. Write your own darkness. Spill your own fears onto the page and the audience will follow.

(3) ABOUT THE BROKEN TRUST. Jake and Ron chat with author Juliette Wade about her projected five-book series, The Broken Trust on The Wrath of the iOtians podcast. (Also available on Spotify.)

Juliette Wade is a novelist … and after listening to this interview, you’ll understand why it’s a hard-earned and well-deserved title for this masterclass worldbuilder.

Her background is impressive. She is fluent in French and Japanese, has degrees in linguistics and anthropology, and also boasts a Ph.D. in education.

Juliette started writing fiction in 1999, and her short stories have been featured in Analog, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy & Science Fiction magazines. But she is perhaps best known for her projected five-volume Broken Trust series, whose latest volume, Inheritors of Power, was published earlier this year by DAW. Juliette’s specialty is sociological science-fiction, of which Broken Trust is one of our finest contemporary examples. Each stratum of Broken Trust’s complex caste system has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture, and naturally, they come into a devastating conflict. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive in!

(4) JO FLETCHER NEWS. Publishers Lunch reports, “Publisher Jo Fletcher will leave the Quercus sci-fi, fantasy and horror imprint she founded 11 years ago on September 30. She will continue to edit some of her long-standing authors for the line.”

(5) WARNING LABEL. “’Stranger Things 4′ Warning Card Added Following School Shooting” reports Variety.

Netflix is adding a warning card to the “Stranger Things 4” premiere in light of the shooting on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 21 people dead — including 19 children and two teachers.

The warning card, which will show up for viewers in the U.S. when the episodes launch on Friday, reads: “We filmed this season of ‘Stranger Things’ a year ago. But given the recent tragic shooting at a school in Texas, viewers may find the opening scene of episode 1 distressing. We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”

This warning will appear before the prior season recap that auto-plays at the beginning of “Stranger Things 4” Episode 1 for viewers in the U.S. only. Additionally, Netflix has also edited the description for the premiere to include the note, “Warning: Contains graphic violence involving children,” and added “disturbing images” to the show rating advisories….

(6) LIFT OFF. The New Yorker’s Neima Jahromi analyzes Disney World’s Starcruiser experience in “LARPing Goes to Disney World”.

In February, when it was cold and wet in New York, I rode a jitney under blue skies from the Orlando airport into Disney World. Before reaching the Magic Kingdom, the bus passed a range of gray crags perched on scaffolding—a sliver of Black Spire Outpost, which, in the “Star Wars” universe, is a settlement on a planet called Batuu. Nearby, the Millennium Falcon rested below a control tower built into the rock; Stormtrooper helmets were for sale at a sun-bleached military-surplus garage. Black Spire is also the destination of the Galactic Starcruiser, a spaceship that carries hundreds of interstellar tourists to and from the outpost, on what Disney calls an “immersive adventure.” The Starcruiser begins its journey floating in space, light-years from Batuu and Black Spire. In reality, the spacecraft is a massive brutalist building that sits beside a highway….

In one of the games —

In Calculations, written by Caro Murphy, a veteran larper with a side-swept cyberpunk haircut, Sinking Ship customers play a spaceship pilot delivering medicine to Mars, where colonists have been dying from an illness that causes “shortness of breath.” Murphy adapted the game from a nineteen-fifties sci-fi story by Tom Godwin.

(7) DIAL ‘M’ FOR MILKY WAY. No, E.T. should not be allowed to phone home. Vice looks at a scientific paper: “There Are 4 ‘Malicious Extraterrestrial Civilizations’ in Milky Way, Researcher Estimates”. The author, PhD student Alberto Caballero of Spain’s University of Vigo, readily admits he had to make a number of assumptions. Thus, it’s hard to put error boundaries on his conclusions. 

Stephen Hawking famously said sending messages from Earth into deep space could get human civilization destroyed: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Hawking’s words have often been used to discourage the practice of METI, which is Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence. But how many “malicious” alien civilizations are there? And what are the chances any message we sent into our own galaxy would be received by an evil alien civilization? There is precious little research on this topic, and very few scientists have even posited a guess.

new thought experiment attempts to at least venture a guess in hopes that other scientists will begin to take METI more seriously, and will try to determine how dangerous it actually is to try to contact alien civilizations.

According to this paper, which the author admits has “some limitations,” there are roughly four “malicious extraterrestrial civilizations” in the Milky Way, and we could likely send out 18,000 interstellar messages to different exoplanets in our galaxy and the probability of ensuring our own destruction would still be about the same as Earth being hit by a “global catastrophe asteroid.” 

(8) TWO SF ARTISTS REMEMBERED. “A Vision In Many Voices: The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon” at Unquiet Things.

It must have been fate. Born eleven days apart on opposite coasts, Leo and Diane met, competed artistically, and eventually fell in love while attending Parsons School of Design, each aspiring to a life of art. After their marriage in 1957, the artists initially pursued separate careers in illustration before recognizing their strengths were collaborative in nature. In an effort to work in a particular style that they both could master, they symbiotically and seamlessly melded their personalities and styles, employing pastels, colored pencil, watercolor, acrylic, stencils, typography, woodcut, pochoir, found-object assemblage, collage, and sculpture into an entity/partnership that they came to refer to as “the artist.”

Noted Leo on the gorgeously striking complexity of their distinctive decorative realism and unconventional techniques: “People often comment on the ‘Dillon style.’ I think that someplace, the two of us made a pact with each other. We both decided that we would give up the essence of ourselves, that part that made the art each of us did our own. And I think that in doing that we opened the door to everything.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] Warning: there are lots of SPOILERS here. Go away now if you’ve not watched Babylon 5. Really I do mean it! 

Twenty-four years ago in the last season of Babylon 5, the “Meditations on the Abyss” episode aired. It has three story lines: a mission to the edge of Centauri space, Lennier both teaches and learns; John Sheridan struggles to keep the Interstellar Alliance together; a Drazi agents plant a bug in Londo Mollari’s quarters and faces the wrath of Vir Cotto which happens after Londo Mollari tells Vir Cotto he will have to be more careful if he wishes to be worthy of his new job as Centauri Ambassador to Babylon 5. 

Vir fascinates me. This episode, like so many involving him, upends the apparent light hearted nature of the character and show him to be something much more complex, more dangerous but good for the Empire in fact than Londo is as Londo has no sense of community and Vir does. Vir cares about the Centauri people in a way Londo doesn’t.

“I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike, as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this.” – Vir telling Mr Morden what he wants.

And he gets to do just that. Wasn’t that absolutely thrilling to see Vir looking up at the head of Mr Morden on a stake in the capital city of a devastated Centauri Prime and waving at it? 

And he will become the Emperor of an Empire almost completely shattered after Londo is strangled by the blind G’Kar.  It not known how the Empire fares under him but it has to be better than it did under under previous Emperors. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. Yes, I know he’s written some genre fiction but I’m interested this time in his mysteries. He wrote The Maltese Falcon which was turned into the film you remember and another film a decade earlier. And of course there are Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series that got turned in a six film series. Now my favorite character by him is the Continental Op in Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. And let’s not forget the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip which I think is genre, which artist Alex Raymond of Flash Gordon fame illustrated. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “House of Horrors” sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1929 Burnett Toskey, 93. A Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones and served them in various offices from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the official editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society. His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pitcon, a honor he shared with  F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. 
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the two Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading.  His awards are far, far too numerous to recount here so I’ll need to do an essay on them. His Hugos alone are legion and that’s hardly all of the awards that he was honored with.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 87. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will. 
  • Born May 27, 1951 Stepan Chapman. He wrote but one novel, The Trioka, a most excellent steampunk affair that won that the Philip K. Dick Award. He’s written a lot of short fiction, some of it collected in Danger Music and DossierThe Trioka is available for a reasonable price at the usual suspects. (Died 2014.)
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 55. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I loved. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HORSING AROUND WITH SHATNER. Tomorrow, May 28, the Hollywood Charity Horse Show is offering “An Evening with William Shatner”. One ticket is $400. Or buy a table for 10 and only pay – eh, $4,000.

6:00pm – 7:00pm Dinner.  During Dinner, Mr. Shatner will go around to each table and take a group shot  (Due to Covid restrictions individual photos are not possible.)

7:00pm – 8:00pm Mr. Shatner will  tell stories and answer your questions

(12) SCENES OF HORROR. Cora Buhlert has a new article up at Galactic Journey about a forgotten tragedy: “[May 26, 1967] Flames over Brussels: The À l’Innovation Department Store Fire”.

…The last time I was in Brussel in April, I stopped at the Standaard Boekhandel book shop directly across the street from À l’Innovation to pick up the latest comics. The venerable weekly comics magazine Tintin has launched a slew of new strips to keep up with the competition of Spirou and particularly the French comics magazine Pilote….

(13) BOOK REVIEW. Cora Buhlert also appears in The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies (12.2) with a review of The Weird Tales Story: Enhanced and Expanded by Robert Weinberg et al. The publication is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted to the academic study of Howard’s literary works as well as the literary historical and print culture contexts associated with it. 

(14) DOZOIS AND ADLER TRANSCRIPT. The Eaton Collection shares a bit of history.

(15) AT THE HELM. Gizmodo asks the show creator about those odious comparisons: “Seth MacFarlane Interview: The Orville Versus Star Trek”.

…“I think it’s safe to say that we’re still occupying our own space this year,” MacFarlane told io9 over video chat at a recent Orville press event. “Certainly, the more that’s out there, you do start to become a little concerned that, you know, is it oversaturation? Is there a pocket where our show and only our show exists? And I think that is still very much the case.”

Not wanting to spoil what’s in store, MacFarlane didn’t get too into detail about what specifically sets The Orville apart from Star Trek this season. In more general terms, “It’s this genre that emerged in the 1930s of a ship in space, captained and crewed very much the same way that a sailing ship was,” he said. “It’s something that dates back a lot of decades. Star Trek was really the first to take it and turn it into something that really mattered and was a serious form of storytelling. You know, for us… sci-fi right now is very dark. It’s very dystopian. It’s very grim in a lot of ways. It’s very cautionary. And the optimistic, uplifting part of that genre is something we haven’t really seen in a while. So there was a pretty obvious open pocket for us to kind of slip into when we started. How we fit in now is—it’s really up to the audience, I think—what we’re bringing to the table in tone, in structure, in scope is in a class of its own. But that remains [to be seen], because the verdict [on season three] has not come in yet.”…

(16) GIVE A DOG A BAD NAME. James Davis Nicoll is happy to help.

(17) WE ARE NASA. People sent me links to this 3-year-old NASA video which has been the subject of several posts this week. Take a look.

We’ve taken giant leaps and left our mark in the heavens. Now we’re building the next chapter, returning to the Moon to stay, and preparing to go beyond. We are NASA – and after 60 years, we’re just getting started. Special thanks to Mike Rowe for the voiceover work.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Evil Dead:  The Game,” Fandom Games says this move tie-in “fulfills a need you never knew you had: fighting with four Bruce Campbells.” The narrator suggests that someone convince Lucy Lawless to appear in a game with her Xena armor, “a move that would cause a majority of gamers to regress into puberty.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Andrew (not Werdna), Cora Buhlert, 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 Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/22 Scroll Me A Pixel I’ll Be Back For Breakfast

(1) BRAM STOKER LOSERS UNITE. Scott Edelman has famously lost many Bram Stoker Awards – and he has the card to prove it. He invites tonight’s unlucky nominees to become card-carrying members of this group.  

Tonight’s Bram Stoker awards ceremony means — there will be winners — but also losers. If any of the new Never Winner losers created tonight would like this Susan Lucci of the HWA to mail you one of my “It is an honor to be nominated” cards — ask, and one will be sent your way!

However — if you’re a previous Never Winner in Denver tonight who already owns of one of these cards and should lose yet again — please track down Lee Murray, whom I have deputized to punch you a new hole. Good … luck?

(2) LIVE LONG ENOUGH, YOU’LL PROSPER. Somtow Sucharitkul tells Facebook readers why a recent Star Trek episode rang a bell. BEWARE SPOILERS.

SPOILER COMING – But For What Exactly?

The Enterprise discovers that a comet is hurtling toward a planet that doesn’t have warp drive and whose civilization they cannot interfere with because of the prime directive. Presently, they discover that the comet is alive, and has some kind of intelligence. The only way to save the planet is to find a way to communicate with the comet, and it turns out that the key is to sing to it a folk song from someone’s homeworld….

Yes, this is the plot of the new episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, but it’s also the plot of my 2001 Star Trek Novel, “Do Comets Dream?” which is itself vaguely adapted from a tale told in my Inquestor series, “The Comet That Cried for Its Mother”, originally published in AMAZING….

(3) IT’S A MASSACRE. “Everything on Broadcast TV Just Got Canceled” Vanity Fair declared yesterday. It will feel like that if you watched sff on CW.

In the ever-changing television landscape, this past Thursday was a particularly tough time to be a broadcast television show. Per TV Guide, 17 broadcast television shows were officially given the axe by their respective networks yesterday. “It’s the Red Wedding at WBTV/CW today,” tweeted showrunner Julie Plec, whose CW shows Legacies and Roswell, New Mexico were both among the carnage. “Much more to say, but not today. Loads of gratitude coming for fans and cast and crew in future tweets. But today, we mourn.” 

The CW was hit particularly hard, with nine shows getting chopped in all. Along with Legacies and Roswell, New Mexico, the teen-focused network said goodbye to Dynasty after five seasons, In The Dark after four seasons, and Batwoman after three seasons. The network is currently up for sale, which may explain why it was particularly ruthless with its cancellations and downsizing its slate from 19 original scripted series to 11 original scripted series ahead of next fall….

(4) WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE? James Wallace Harris reprints and analyzes Alfred Bester’s vintage analysis of the genre in “Blows Against The Empire: Alfred Bester’s 1953 Critique of Science Fiction” at Classics of Science Fiction (a 2020 post).

…Bester is looking back over what many have called the Golden Age of Science Fiction and burning it down with his blaster. I wish I could find the fan reaction to this essay from back in the 1950s, but Google only returns seven results. And for those who aren’t familiar with the name Alfred Bester, he wrote two books in the 1950s that became classics: The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man. At the time Bester had a reputation for being a writing stylist and innovator. So getting a dressing down from one of our own must have been painful.

I wonder what I would have thought if I read and understood this essay in 1962 when I first began reading science fiction. Science fiction wasn’t popular then like it is today. Science fiction was one step up from comic books, and you were called retarded (their word back then) by your peers if you read comics. I remembered also being called a geek and zero for reading SF. Back then those terms were the social kiss of death. I had two buddies that read science fiction in high school and I remember being very hurt by George’s mother when she sat is down one day and gave us a serious talk about evils of reading science fiction. George’s mother was a sophisticated, well-educated, widely traveled woman, and I was always impressed with her thoughts, so it really hurt when she tried to convince us we were reading trash. She implied reading SF was a sign we were emotionally and intellectually immature. We thought we were Slans…

(5) OPPOSING BOOK BANS. “More than 25 Organizations Join ALA’s ‘Unite Against Book Bans’ Campaign”. Among them are the Authors Guild and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The American Library Association this week announced that more than 25 major organizations, including a host of publishers and author and bookseller groups, have joined its Unite Against Book Bans campaign, an effort to help communities defend the freedom to read. The ALA launched the campaign in April to raise awareness about the surge in book bans and other legislation targeting the work of schools and libraries, with support from the Steve and Loree Potash Family Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

“Our partners and supporters are critical in moving the needle to ultimately bring an end to book bans,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “It’s time that policymakers understand the severity of this issue. ALA is taking the steps necessary to protect individuals’ access to information, but we can’t do this alone.”…

“Three-quarters of the 1,100 plus books currently banned in public schools in the United States have been written by authors of color, LGBTQ authors, or other traditionally marginalized voices,” said Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger, in a statement.

(6) NAMING CONVENTIONS. He has a point –

(7) PERSONAL TAXONOMY. Joe Vasicek, often quoted here in the Sad Puppy days of 2015, shares what he calls “an interesting personal discovery” at One Thousand And One Parsecs.

…I just made a very interesting personal discovery, gleaned from the data on my reading of the Hugo and Nebula winning books. Of the 110 novels that have won either award, I have now read all but 16 of them, which is enough data to get some representative results.

One of the best predictors that I will DNF a book is whether the author is a childless woman. Of the 18 books written by childless women, I have DNFed all but three of them (Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh, which I read years ago and would probably DNF today, and Network Effect by Martha Wells, which is a genuinely entertaining read, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke, which I haven’t read yet). For childless men, it’s a little bit more of a crapshoot: of the 31 books written by childless men, I’ve DNFed 16 of them and read 11, but only 6 of those are books I thought were worth owning.

Conversely, one of the best predictors that I will enjoy a book is whether the author is a mother. Of the 20 books written by mothers, I have DNFed only 6 of them and read 8, all of which I think are worth owning. Of the six remaining books that I haven’t read yet, I will almost certainly finish four of them, and may finish all six. The only book by an author I haven’t already read and enjoyed is The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, which I am currently reading and will probably finish next week…

(8) LIGHT MY FIRE. “Firestarter (2022) vs. Firestarter (1984): Which Stephen King adaptation burns brightest?” – Clark Collis supplies his answer at Entertainment Weekly. The summaries of each film make good reading, too.

… The 1984 film stars Barrymore as Charlie McGee, a young girl with pyrokinetic powers who is fleeing from a sinister government organization called “The Shop” with her father Andy, played by David Keith. Andy has been training Charlie to use her powers properly by getting her to turn bread into toast with her mind but it is the unfortunate Shop agents who get browned as Barrymore’s character periodically sets them ablaze. The supporting cast is notable for a few reasons. Oscar-winners Art Carney and Louise Fletcher play a couple who befriend Charlie and Andy, while Martin Sheen portrays the head of the Shop just a year after his performance in David Cronenberg’s adaptation of King’s The Dead Zone. Finally, another Academy Award-winner, George C. Scott, is inexplicably cast as the seemingly First Nation assassin John Rainbird, who has a fondness for punching his targets’ noses into their brains and an unhealthy interest in our heroine…

(9) TOM SWIFT. Edge Media Network supplies an intro as “First Trailer Drops for New CW Series ‘Tom Swift’ Featuring a Black Gay Lead Character”.

…”Tian Richards already made his debut as Tom Swift on one of the best episodes of ‘Nancy Drew’ yet, but get ready to see him in a whole new light on his own show,” EW said.

As previously reported at EDGE, being gay was a prominent part of the character’s depiction when he made a guest appearance on “Nancy Drew.” Sparks flew between Tom Swift and “Nancy Drew” regular character Nick (Tunji Kasim), leading to an onscreen kiss….

(10) WHEN I USE A WORD. At Tor.com, CD Covington’s series on sff linguistics finally tackles the 500-lb gorilla: “On Tolkien, Translation, Linguistics, and the Languages of Middle-earth”.

Since I started this column in 2019, I’ve been avoiding one famous—possibly even the most famous—example of using linguistics in SFF literature: the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s not because I don’t like Lord of the Rings—quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just such an obvious topic, and one which people have devoted decades of scholarship to exploring. Hell, my Old English prof has published academic scholarship on the topic, in addition to teaching a Maymester class on the languages of Middle-earth. But I suppose it’s time to dedicate a column to the book that first made me think language was cool and to the man who wrote it.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2010 [By Cat Eldridge.] I’m starting this essay by acknowledging that everyone has their favorite Robin Hood. My all-time favorite is the one in the Robin of Sherwood series, Robin of Loxley as played by Michael Praed. And yes, I acknowledge that the second Robin, Robert of Huntingdon as performed by Jason Connery was quite excellent too. Richard Carpenter did himself proud with this series. 

But I’m here tonight to talk about one of my favorite Robin Hood films (the other being Robin and Marian.) Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood premiered in the States on this date twelve years ago. It was written by Brian Helgeland who had done mostly horror films before this but was also the screenwriter of the beloved A Knight’s Tale. He along with Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris were responsible for the story.

It was produced by Ridley Scott, Brian Grazer and Russell Crowe. Yes the actor who played Robin Hood here helped produce it. So let’s turn to casting. 

I think Crowe made an outstanding Robin Longstride and Cate Blanchett as Marion Loxley was a great casting move. Other interesting casting here includes Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley and William Hurt as William Marshal. This was not a cast of unknowns. I thought Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham was interesting as the actor usually had much lighter roles. Mark Addy as Friar Tuck was well cast. 

It was a very expensive undertaking costing at least two hundred million and it took in least three hundred and twenty-five million, so it likely just broke even.

And what was the opinion of critics at the time? Well it was decidedly mixed with Deborah Ross of UK’s Spectator on the side of the dissenters: “Scott decided, I think, to get away from the whole campy thing in tights business and wanted to make this ‘real’. So there is sweat and dirt and rats at the cheese and even bad teeth, which is fair enough, but it is also joyless.” 

But Richard Klein of Shadows on the Wall liked it: “Ridley Scott and his usual Oscar-winning crewmates turn the familiar old English legend it into a robust, thumping epic. The pacing is a bit uneven, but it keeps us thoroughly engaged.”

Let’s finish off with Jeffrey Westhoff of the Northwest Herald:  “Robin Hood doesn’t become the swashbuckling bandit of Sherwood until the final moments, when the tag “And so the legend begins” appears. You may walk away liking this Robin Hood well enough, but wishing you had seen the sequel.” 

It gets just a fifty eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 14, 1929 Kay Elliot. The actress who shows up in “I, Mudd” as the android form of Harry Mudd’s wife Stella Mudd. SPOILER ALERT (I promised our OGH I’d put these in. It’s possible someone here hasn’t seen “I, Mudd”.) Need I say she ends getting the upper hand in the end? She also had appearences in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Miss Prendergast in “The It’s All Greek to Me Affair” episode and multiple roles on Bewitched. That’s it, but she died young. (Died 1982.)
  • Born May 14, 1933 Siân Phillips, 89. Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in David Lynch’s Dune, Cassiopeia in Clash of The Titans, Grandmother in A Christmas Carol, Charal in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, and The Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass. And I’m about to see her on Silent Witness.
  • Born May 14, 1935 Peter J. Reed. A Vonnegut specialist with a long track history starting with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; The Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays that he wrote with Marc Leeds; Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations again with Leeds again. He also wrote a handful of essays such as “Hurting ’til It Laughs: The Painful-Comic Science Fiction Stories of Kurt Vonnegut” and “Kurt Vonnegut’s Bitter Fool: Kilgore Trout”. (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 78. For better and worse, he created the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine, the others suck royally in my opinion. Later Star Wars films are meh though I adore the original trilogy. And let’s not forget THX 1138. So you ask, what are my favorite works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Yes Willow. Oh, and The Young Indiana Jones series which I really, really loved. 
  • Born May 14, 1945 Francesca Annis, 77. Lady Jessica in David Lynch’s Dune, Lady Macbeth in Roman Polanski’s Macbeth. I know only two roles, but what a pair of roles they were! She also appeared in Krull as The Widow of The Web but I’ll be damned if I can remember her in that role. 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Kathleen Ann Goonan. Her Nanotech Quartet is most excellent, particularly the first novel, Queen City Jazz. Her only Award was given for In War Times which garnered a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. She’s wrote an interesting essay on the relationship between sf and music, “Science Fiction and All That Jazz”. (Died 2021.)
  • Born May 14, 1952 Robert Zemeckis, 70. He’s responsible for some of my favorite films including the Back to the Future trilogy, The Muppet Christmas CarolThe WitchesWho Framed Roger Rabbit and the savagely funny in a twisted sort of way Death Becomes Her. So what’s your favorite films that’s he had a hand in? 
  • Born May 14, 1955 Rob Tapert, 67. I’d say he’s best known for co-creating Xena: Warrior Princess. He also produced and/or wrote several other television series including Hercules: The Legendary JourneysM.A.N.T.I.S. and American Gothic. Tapert also co-created the prequel series Young Hercules which I loved. He’s married to actress Lucy Lawless.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Let Nick Mamatas introduce Tom Gauld’s strip for today’s Guardian.
  • Next, here’s Gauld’s latest comic for New Scientist.

(14) CLUES OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Keith Roysdon remembers newspaper crime comic strips (remember Steve Roper and Mike Nomad?) “Black and White and Noir All Over: A Brief History of Vintage Newspaper Crime Comic Strips” at CrimeReads.

Who could have known that newspaper comic strips and crime stories, including noir, were a match made in heaven?

Newspaper comic strips are an artistic genre that’s largely forgotten now. The strips that remain are for the most part humor strips like “Garfield.” A handful of dramatic strips are still published.

But serial dramatic strips were once a staple of the newspaper comics page. Many of them were soap opera-ish strips like “Mary Worth” and “Apartment 3-G.” To say that drama strips were slow moving is an understatement. I wish I could remember who joked that they came back to read “Apartment 3-G” after decades away and the caption read, “Later that afternoon …”

But that deliberate pace – well, maybe not quite that deliberate – was perfect for teasing out a good crime storyline. And crime and noir look awesome in black and white newsprint.

(15) MUSIC WITHOUT THE SPHERES. “Peace is Still Weirder Than War” asserts Laurie Penny in a very entertaining essay about Eurovision. Admittedly, nothing to do with sff except a brief reference to Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera at the end.

…Britain is a lot worse at Eurovision than you’d think. We’ve spent half a century distracting the world from our post imperial decline by flinging out wild handfuls of pop music and self deprecating humour, so we really ought to be able to deploy them here. Sadly, we’re scuppered every time by our even more fundamental fear of looking daft in front of the French.

We’ve made worse choices for the same reason.

But reasons are not excuses, and the land of Monty Python, David Bowie and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band should be able to do better than another basic bearded guitar boy. We do have the best tv commentary by miles, after Graham Norton seamlessly accepted the baton from the great Terry Wogan, proving once again that Britain’s comfort zone is making fun of other people.  Yes. Hi.

…For related reasons, Ukraine are likely to win this year. Russia can sulk all they like, just like they did when Ukraine stood down from Eurovision in 2015with the reasonable excuse that they were busy being invaded by Russia. in 2016, Ukraine was back, and it won, narrowly beating Russia, whose entry looked like someone repurposed a rave club as a re-education camp without redecorating. Not only did Ukraine win, it won with a song called ‘1944’, about the Soviet genocide of the Crimean Tartars. Russia has not forgotten this. State Television spent a long time denouncing Eurovision as a degenerate spectacle of homosexuality, which did as much good as denouncing bears for defecating in the woods.

But Russia has never really been any good at Eurovision. This year they’re not even going, partly because the Kremlin has no interest in any competition it can’t cheat at, but mostly because they got banned. It’s hard to get banned from Eurovision, but invading a neighboring country and massacring tens of thousands of people will do the trick….

(16) STOP, NOW, WHAT’S THAT SOUND? ScreenRant suggests “10 ‘Subtly’ Scary Horror Movies (For Horror Fans Sick Of Jump Scares)”. A Bradbury adaptation leads the list!

Sometimes the unknown or the unnatural can be much more terrifying than any masked slasher with a chainsaw.

….It’s not so much that these films rely on someone hiding in the shadows and yelling boo, but rather the audience knows something is wrong but can’t identify what. While jump scares and other such tactics might be sparsely employed, the real horror in these movies comes from both knowing and not knowing what might be in store.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Sometimes, the scariest movies are the ones where nobody dies, and Disney’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is a brilliant example. Based on the book by Ray Bradbury, the film tells the story of what happens when a mysterious carnival lurks into town one windy October.

Led by the mysterious Mr. Dark, Cooger and Dark’s Shadow Show has the uncanny ability to grant anyone’s wishes and make their dreams come true. But like with most things Disney, all magic comes at a price. When two boys and the local librarian are able to see through the illusions, a slow-burning battle with the freakshow for the souls of the town takes place.

(17) THE HUNDREDTH SHADE. Paul Weimer reviews “Gregory A. Wilson’s Grayshade” at A Green Man Review.

… We meet Grayshade in the midst of an assassination that doesn’t go quite to plan, and a relatively atypical assassination target at that – the outwardly flighty socialite wife of a political powerful man, which in itself seems odd to Grayshade. We come to Grayshade at a point in his career where he is extremely experienced and very good at what he does. This is no “coming of age” novel where we follow the assassin through his first mission; rather this is someone who has past adventures and missions behind him, which grounds him for when things do not go according to his expectations. Things spiral out from the assassination not going right, to the point where Grayshade starts to question his purpose, his role, and the entire Order.

This makes a lot of the novel about information control and dissemination, which in turn reminds me of Wilson’s gamemastering….

(18) BAD BACK TO THE FUTURE. At Galactic Journey, Jessica Holmes gives us an recap of the latest (in 1967!) episode of Doctor Who. “[May 14, 1967] Ben And Polly To The Departure Gate (Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones [Part 2])”.

…We left things off with the Doctor having a sudden attack of a bad back, and things only get worse, with Spencer disabling Jamie and Samantha within moments of the episode’s opening.

Now would be a good time to finish them off, you’d think, but instead he sets up some sort of death ray to kill them… eventually. The thing moves so slowly the trio would probably have time for a round of golf before the ray fries them. Though mostly paralysed, Samantha conveniently has enough control of her faculties to get her mirror from her bag and hand it to Jamie, who uses it to reflect the beam and blow up the death ray machine.

With the machine destroyed, their partial paralysis wears off, which doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me. I thought it was the freezing pen that paralysed them? And I’m still not sure what that device on the Doctor’s back did to him…

(19) AND YOU ARE THERE. This fossil is in a way a snapshot: “How the dinosaurs died: New evidence In PBS documentary” – the Washington Post digs into the story.

…The ground started shaking with intense vibrations while water in the nearby sea sloshed about in response. The sky filled with burning embers, which drifted down and set fire to the lush primordial forest.

Thescelosaurus panicked and looked to flee — but it was too late. Everything changed in a heartbeat as a 30-foot-high wave of mud and debris came racing up the seaway from the south, sweeping away life and limb in the process. The dinosaur was caught in the destructive deluge, its leg ripped off at the hip by the devastating surge.

That moment — 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, when an earth-shattering asteroid ended the reign of the dinosaurs — is frozen in time today through a stunning fossil found last year at the Tanis dig site in North Dakota. This perfectly preserved leg clearly shows the skin, muscle and bones of the three-toed Thescelosaurus.

While the details of the death scenario described above are embellished, they’re based on remarkable new findings and accounts by Robert DePalma, lead paleontologist at Tanis.

“We’re never going to say with 100 percent certainty that this leg came from an animal that died on that day,” the scientist said. “The thing we can do is determine the likelihood that it died the day the meteor struck. When we look at the preservation of the leg and the skin around the articulated bones, we’re talking on the day of impact or right before. There was no advanced decay.”…

(20) DRAWN WITHOUT DRAWERS. CBR.com remembers: “Star Wars: Why George Lucas Had to Fight for Chewbacca Not to Wear Shorts”.

…So he wanted McQuarrie to go beyond humanoid and try to do more of an animal design for Chewbacca. Lucas’ recall led him to a recent issue of Analog Magazine, which had a short novel in it by a pre-Game of Thrones George R.R. Martin called “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Artist John Schoenherr had designed some characters for Martin’s story and they made it to the cover of the magazine…

Lucas sent the drawings to McQuarrie and basically said, “Draw Chewbacca like that” and so that’s what McQuarrie did…

The problem with having basically a giant dog as a character is that dogs, well, you know, don’t have pants. McQuarrie kept coming up with some designs with the character in pants and Lucas kept saying no and that carried over to when the film started production. Lucas’ specific vision of what Chewbacca would look like required him to not have pants and that was a bit of a strange thing for the studio executives at the time.

During the DVD commentary for the 2004 release of Star Wars on DVD, Mark Hamill recalled what Lucas had to go through with regard to Chewbacca’s lack of clothes. “I remember the memos from 20th Century Fox. Can you put a pair of lederhosen on the Wookiee?’ All they could think of was, ‘This character has no pants on!’ This went back and forth. They did sketches of him in culottes and baggy shorts.”…

(21) BEING SNARKY. Would Lewis Carroll readers with an unassigned two hours or so available be interested in the opportunity to watch this complete production? “The Hunting of the Snark” posted by Official London Theatre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(15) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/28/22 Who Controls The Scroll Controls The Tickbox

(1) WHOSE SECRETS ARE THESE ANYWAY? That’s one of the questions sf writer Alma Katsu answers while explaining why her historical horror novel The Fervor has an Asian protagonist. “Alma Katsu: Why I Finally Decided to Write a Main Character Who Shares My Ethnicity” at CrimeReads.

…When I started work, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Meiko was just another character and it was my job to slip into her head, as I do with all the POV characters.

Only it wasn’t that simple. The ghosts of my past kept dropping in, insisting on being heard.

My mother was Japanese. She married my father, who was white, when they met after the war. My mom was a product of her time and culture, demure and quiet, but she was also shaped by her experiences after the war. Complete strangers would come up to her in public and say hateful things (much like the anonymous assailants who attack Chinese grandmothers on the streets today). Until she died at 91, she hid in her room every December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day.

It was more than the influence of WWII. Being an Asian woman means navigating stereotypes and others’ assumptions….

(2) BUTLER AS OPERA. We’ve talked about the opera version of Parable Of The Sower. This article has a link to a trailer: “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower Created by Toshi Reagon & Bernice Johnson Reagon”.

Parable of the Sower is a triumphant, mesmerizing work of rare power and beauty that illuminates deep insights on gender, race, and the future of human civilization.

This fully-staged opera brings together over 30 original anthems drawn from 200 years of black music to recreate Butler’s sci-fi, Afrofuturist masterpiece live on stage.

(3) SHEER LUNACY. CBC News says “Crimes on the moon could soon be added to Canada’s Criminal Code”. But it may take awhile for the cops to arrive.

…The proposed amendment to the code that would include crimes committed on the moon can be found deep inside the 443-page Budget Implementation Act that was tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons.

The Criminal Code already accounts for astronauts who may commit crimes during space flight to the International Space Station. Any such crime committed there is considered to have been committed in Canada. 

But with Canada part of the Lunar Gateway project, which also includes a planned trip to the moon, the federal government has decided to amend the Criminal Code to incorporate those new space destinations. 

In the Budget Implementation Act, under the subhead Lunar Gateway — Canadian crew members, the amendment reads: 

“A Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offence is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada.”…

(4) SIGNATURE WEBSITE LAUNCHED. GideonMarcus.com is now live, publicizing his many sff activities.

Founder of Journey Press, an independent publisher focused on unusual and diverse speculative fiction, four-time Hugo Finalist Gideon Marcus also runs the time machine project, Galactic Journey. He is a professional space historian, member of the American Astronautical Society’s history committee, and a much sought after public speaker.

Galactic Journey, frequently covered here, is a remarkable project:

Gideon Marcus and his team live in 1967, regularly commuting 55 years into the future to write about then-contemporary science fiction and fantasy, particularly fiction found in magazines. But that’s not all there is to life 55 years ago! So expect to read about the movies, the space shots, the politics, the music, and much more!

Galactic Journey has been a smash hit, garnering the Serling Award and four Hugo Nominations. So come jump through the portal and see a world you may but dimly remember, or which you may never have seen before, but without which your time could never have been…

(5) CROWDED TARDIS. “Is Doctor Who’s regeneration Centenary special too overstuffed?” asks Radio Times. This might be a  rare occasion when being “bigger on the inside” won’t be enough.

In the thrilling trailer for the Doctor Who Centenary special, we discovered a whole host of exciting characters will be joining Jodie Whittaker for her final outing as the Doctor. Chief among those returning? ‘80s companions Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred), whose shock comeback has thrilled Doctor Who fans old and new.

But that’s not all – some of the Doctor’s more recent allies including Vinder (Jacob Anderson) and UNIT leader Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) were also revealed to be joining the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) once again. And that’s not all – the Daleks, the Cybermen and Sacha Dhawan’s brilliant incarnation of the Master were also shown to be returning. Clearly, this will be a jam-packed finale episode for Whittaker.

But herein lies a potential issue. While all of these character returns are thrilling for fans, in an episode which should be Whittaker’s final time to shine as the Doctor, it’s possible to get the feeling that Doctor Who’s Centenary special is at risk of being overstuffed.

(6) DINO MITE. This trailer for Jurassic World Dominion dropped today.

This summer, experience the epic conclusion to the Jurassic era as two generations unite for the first time. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are joined by Oscar®-winner Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill in Jurassic World Dominion, a bold, timely and breathtaking new adventure that spans the globe. From Jurassic World architect and director Colin Trevorrow, Dominion takes place four years after Isla Nublar has been destroyed. Dinosaurs now live—and hunt—alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures.

(7) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. GateWorld remembers “Why (Almost) Every Stargate SG-1 Cast Member Was Written Out”.

Whether they’re moving on to new opportunities, ready to retire from show business, or are driven away by conflict on the set, there are moments in the life of a hit show where the actor leaves … but the show must go on.

And so the characters we’ve come to know and love set out for greener pastures. Or they’re recast with another actor. Or, worst case scenario, they get killed off.

Stargate SG-1 was no exception. Running for 10 years across both Showtime and the SCI FI Channel in the United States, the series saw its fair share of cast changes over the years. In each case the writers had to think creatively to write the character out of the show – and in a few cases to bring them back again later.

In fact, every single member of the show’s original cast ended up written out at one time or another … everyone, that is, except for one. Let’s round up when and why the writers wrote out each member of the original cast, as well as a couple of honorable mentions along the way.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1978 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Ahhh, Space Force. Do you remember it? Well forty-four years ago on this evening, the pilot for it aired on NBC with the primary cast being William Phipps as Commander Irving Hinkley, Fred Willard as Captain Thomas Woods, and Larry Block as Private Arnold Fleck. It also had a very large ensemble cast. 

Now I say pilot but the series was never picked up, so that was it. Some parties claimed the cancellation was a result of the network earlier canning Quark which had lasted but eight episodes. This series was modeled upon the Phil Silvers series and perhaps someone at the networks thought better of a SF series based on that premise.

Fred Willard reprised his role from the pilot in a comedy sketch for Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2018.  

Willard portrayed an unrelated character for the 2020 Netflix series Space Force, which began airing two weeks after his death.

Not a single review I read about the 1978 series had a less-than-completely-harsh word for it. Now I have not seen it, so I do want to know what those who have seen it think of it, please. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1914 Philip E. High. He first made his name in the Fifties by being published in Authentic Science FictionNew Worlds Science Fiction and Nebula Science Fiction, and was voted “top discovery” in the Nebula readers’ poll for 1956. A collection of his short stories, The Best of Philip E. High, was published in 2002. He wrote fourteen novels but I can’t remember that I’ve read any of them, so can y’all say how he was as a novelist? He is very well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1919 Sam Merwin, Jr. An editor and writer of both mysteries and science fiction. In the Fifties, he edited, Fantastic Story Quarterly, Fantastic Universe, Startling StoriesThrilling Wonder Stories, and Wonder Stories Annual. As writer, he’s best remembered for The House of Many Worlds and its sequel, Three Faces of Time. At L.A. Con III, he was nominated for a 1946 Retro Hugo for Best Professional Editor for Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories. He seems to be deeper stocked in mysteries than genre at the usual suspects. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1929 Charles Bailey. Co-writer writer with Fletcher Knebel of Seven Days In May, a story of an attempted coup against the President.  Rod Serling wrote the screenplay for the film. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. Her first genre role was an uncredited appearance in the original The War of the Worlds as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here as reviewed by Kage’s sister Kathleen. Pratchett was a guest of honor at Noreascon 4 (2004). He was knighted by the Queen for his services to literature in a 2009 ceremony. See his coat-of-arms here. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for any night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 Will Murray, 69. Obviously MMPs still live as he’s writing them currently in the Doc Savage Universe, to the tune of eighteen under the house name of Kenneth Robeson since 1993. He’s also written in the King Kong, Julie de Grandin, Mars Attacks, Reanimator Universe, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.,Tarzan,  Destroyer and The Spider media franchises. So how many do you recognise?  At CoNZealand, his Doc Savage series got nominated for a RetroHugo. The Cthulhu Mythos series, if it can be called a series, by H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth and others won that Award. 
  • Born April 28, 1957 Sharon Shinn, 65. I’m very fond of her Safe-Keepers series which is I suppose YA but still damn fine reading. The Shape-Changers Wife won her the William L. Crawford Award which is awarded by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for best first fantasy novel. And she was twice nominated for the Astounding Award. 
  • Born April 28, 1967 Kari Wuhrer, 55. Best known for her roles as Maggie Beckett in Sliders and as Sheriff Samantha Parker in Eight Legged Freaks. Her first genre role was as Jackie Trent in Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. She also played Amy Klein in Hellraiser VII: Deader (There were that many films in that franchise? Really? Why?) She voiced Barbara Keane and Pamela Isley in the most excellent Batman: Gotham by Gaslight which deviated a lot from the Mike Mignola series and earlier in her career she was Abigail in the first live action Swamp Thing series.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LEVAR BURTON HONORED. “LeVar Burton will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award” at the inaugural Children’s Emmys in December.

LeVar Burton, the beloved former Reading Rainbow host, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Children’s and Family Emmys in December, the Television Academy announced this week.

Burton took on executive producer and hosting duties for the PBS kids’ program in 1983. On the show, Burton read books, conducted interviews and explained current events to children. The show aired for 23 years, and has won 12 Daytime Emmys and a Peabody Award….

(12) WOMEN OF MARVEL. “Marvel Entertainment’s Original Podcast Series ‘Women of Marvel’ is Now Back for the Spring Season” – the first episode of the new season went live today:  Peggy Carter: “Made to be Captain America.”

…In each episode, the hosts talk to the early and modern-day creators who helped bring to life some of Marvel’s most iconic women super heroes and learn how these beloved characters have evolved over time. This season features an impressive lineup of guests including comic writers Trina RobbinsRainbow RowellElsa Sjunneson; editors Alanna SmithLauren AmaroRenee Witterstaetter; colorist Jordie Bellaire; actors Milana VayntrubAshlie Atkinson; historians Jacque NodellBeth Pollard; games designer Paige Pettoruto; playwright Karen Zacarias; directors Giovanna SardelliJenny Turner-Hall, and more!

Episode 1 is titled Peggy Carter: “Made to be Captain America.” Meet the beloved Peggy Carter and in particular, a fan-favorite version of her – the Super-Soldier serum-enhanced Captain Carter. Captain Carter didn’t begin in the comics pages or on-screen. Rather, she was born on the smaller screens of the MARVEL Puzzle Quest game – but she didn’t stop there! This week’s guests include Paige Pettoruto and Elsa Sjunneson!…

(13) OCTOTHORPE. The Octothorpe staff, John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty are live from @reclamation2022, the 2022 Eastercon! “Sorry, Am I Supposed to Be Recording This”.

We discuss Eastercon a lot and we’re very excited, plus there are audience heckles and questions.

(14) ZOOMING WITH THE HALDEMANS. Courtesy of Fanac.org, you can now see the two-part video of “Joe and Gay Haldeman – Fandom From Both Sides,” a Fan History zoom with Joe Siclari

Esteemed icons in the field, Joe and Gay Haldeman have been involved with science fiction fandom since discovering it in the early 1960s.  With long, successful careers, they have a view on science fiction from both the fan and the professional side. Joe Haldeman’s highly regarded writing career has included 5 Hugo awards, 5 Nebulas, 3 Rhysling Awards, and many other honors;  Big Heart award winner Gay Haldeman has managed the business as well as been a literary agent.  But in this delightful zoom interview, the focus is primarily on fandom. Interviewer Joe Siclari knows just what to ask, having been friends with the Haldemans for decades.

PART 1. Joe and Gay describe how they first found fandom, their experiences at their first convention  (Discon I, 1963), and how (and why) they became fans.  They tell anecdotes of fans and professionals, their connections with non-US fandom, and the surprising identity of Joe’s Italian editor. Joe tells the story of how he single-handedly  (if unintentionally) started I-Con in 1975, his work on convention program (some of it while serving in Viet Nam), his contributions to fanzines and more. There’s serious discussion about the reaction of fandom to him as a returning vet, along with Gay’s fannish activities while Joe was overseas. You’ll also hear much more, including the relationship between book advances and house mortgages, and the ultimate story of how far a science fiction novel can go. Highly recommended.

PART 2. The conversation continues with discussion and personal anecdotes about well-known authors and Big Name Fans. Rusty Hevelin was a particularly good friend, and Joe and Gay tell how they met him, and some impressive travel stories (especially the bicycle ones!). They offer stories and insights on Keith Laumer, Gordon Dickson,  Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, and others outside the field as well.  This part of the zoom has audience Q&A, ranging from a literary question about the role of women in the Forever War to favorite means of writing (which leads to samples of Joe’s artwork). Many of the questions begin with “I first met you in xxxx”, and the tone of the session is that of close friends, sharing a cherished time together.  As one of the attendees says, “You are some of the best people I know”.

(15) DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. A data disk you don’t want to lose…or need to back up too quickly! Gizmodo is wowed that this “Quantum Computing Diamond Disc Could Store A Billion Blu-Rays”.

Don’t toss your hard drives, SSDs, and RAIDs just yet, but a company with an expertise in making precision jewel-based industrial tools has partnered with researchers from Japan’s Saga University to create a diamond wafer that’s both pure enough and large enough to be used in quantum computing applications, including memory with a mind-blowing storage capacity….

(16) JULES VERNE PREDICTED THIS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Companies blast satellites into orbit with a huge gas cannon. “Hypersonic space cannon promises 10 minutes from ground to orbit” at New Atlas.

…Green Launch COO and Chief Science officer Dr. John W. Hunter directed the Super High Altitude Research Project (SHARP) program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory some 30 years ago, and in the process led the development of the world’s largest and most powerful “hydrogen impulse launcher.”

This is effectively a long tube, filled with hydrogen, with helium and oxygen mixed in, and a projectile in front of it. When this gas cannon is fired, the gases expand extremely rapidly, and the projectile gets an enormous kick in the backside. The SHARP program built and tested a 400-foot (122-m) impulse launcher in 1992, breaking all railgun-style electric launcher records for energy and velocity, and launching payloads (including hypersonic scramjet test engines) with muzzle velocities up to Mach 9….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] (Spoiler warning?) In “Moonfall Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George begins with the writer saying, “You know the moon?  It’s going to fall!”  “Are you putting spoilers in the title?” says the producer.  After the pitch, the producer asks why it’s a happy ending.  “Didn’t billions of people die?”  “Yeah, but none of the people we care about,” says the writer.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, John A Arkansawyer, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian,and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/22 I Had It, But I Traded It For These Magic Beans

(1) PLANETARY SOCIETY GRANTS. The first-ever winners of The Planetary Society’s Science and Technology Empowered by the Public (STEP) Grants were announced today. These are planetary science and/or technology grants that fit within one or more of The Planetary Society’s core enterprises (Explore WorldsFind LifeDefend Earth). “Announcing the First-Ever STEP Grant Winners”. The two winning projects are a radio SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) citizen science project, and a planetary defense project to use a new technique to study near-Earth asteroids. 

Are We Alone?

We have awarded US$49,980 to a team from the University of California Los Angeles led by Professor Jean-Luc Margot for their proposal “Are We Alone? A Citizen-Science-Enabled Search for Technosignatures.”

The search for life elsewhere in the universe seeks to answer one of the most fundamental questions: are we alone? One part of this search involves looking for signals from elsewhere in the universe sent by intelligent life. Looking for signals is like searching for a needle in a very enormous haystack. Over the decades, though no confirmed signal from ET has been found, the technology and the techniques have gotten more and more capable.

Demystifying Near-Earth Asteroids

We have awarded US$44,842 to a team from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, led by Professor Bojan Novakovi? for their proposal “Demystifying Near-Earth Asteroids (D-NEAs).”

Tens of thousands of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) have been found, but we only know the physical properties of a small percentage. Asteroids can range from solid rock to collections of boulders to fluff balls. Understanding these characteristics for individual NEAs as well as entire NEA populations is crucial to not only the science of asteroid evolution and variability, but also to considerations of how to deflect a dangerous asteroid in the future.

(2) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDAL SHORTLISTS. The shortlists for the Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. I couldn’t find any genre works in the mix, perhaps you will be more discerning.

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal (alphabetical by author surname):

  • October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)
  • Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle (Andersen Press)
  • Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber)
  • The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin Children’s Books)
  • Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada (Guppy Books)
  • Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle (Andersen Press)
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

  • Drawn Across Borders illustrated and written by George Butler (Walker Books)
  • The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)
  • Too Much Stuff illustrated and written by Emily Gravett (Two Hoots, Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • Long Way Down illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff, written by Jason Reynolds (Faber)
  • Milo Imagines the World illustrated by Christian Robinson, written by Matt de la Pena (Two Hoots, Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • Shu Lin’s Grandpa illustrated by Yu Rong, written by Matt Goodfellow (Otter-Barry Books)
  • I Talk Like a River illustrated by Sydney Smith, written by Jordan Scott (Walker Books)
  • The Wanderer illustrated and written by Peter Van den Ende (Pushkin Children’s Books)

(3) NASFIC SAFETY. The Orlando in 2023 NASFiC Bid defends one city in Florida’s LGBTQIA+ record. This is just the beginning:

We’ve seen some of you ask about how friendly Orlando is to the LGBTQIA+ community and whether you will be safe coming to Orlando for the 2023 NASFiC. Those are excellent questions to ask, and we have answers for you.

The short answer: Orlando is one of the most LGBTQIA+ friendly cities in the entire country. You will be welcomed, and you will be safe.

Period.

Full stop.

Have you noticed how people who like the “Period. Full stop” idiom always have so much to say after it?

(4) OPPOSITION TO 2023 WORLDCON IN CHENGDU. Sarah Mughal Rana, organizer of the Open Letter condemning China as host of the 2023 Worldcon, had two opinion pieces about the issue published today.  

The first, at Winteriscoming.net, “Dear World(con): Don’t host the Hugos amidst Uyghur concentration camps”, fleshes out these arguments:

  • The development of Chengdu as a sci-fi and tech center is contributing to genocide
  • Chengdu Worldcon has problematic Guests of Honor
  • Turkic authors, publishers, and intellectuals are persecuted in China
  • Condemning Worldcon is not the result of Western bias
  • Holding Chengdu Worldcon goes against artistic values

The second, at The Bookseller, “Science fiction’s moral reckoning: why we must block Worldcon Chengdu”, says in part —

…As an activist who, only one month ago, organised a protest over the Beijing Winter Olympics in light of the Uyghur genocide, I was stunned by the writing community’s support of the Chengdu 2023 Worldcon bid. It is not rare for authors to get involved in politics, as evidenced by well-known authors such as Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie, Holly Black, and more announcing their intentions not to renew their releases with Russian publishers in support of Ukraine. However, in the case of Chengdu, China – no one resisted.

…Supporting and attending Worldcon 2023 makes us hypocrites. Writers create characters that oppose entrenched power structures, malicious regimes, status quos and utopias. In science fiction, we use our fiction to draw parallels about reality, unchecked uses of technologies, persecution and surveillancing. Our characters work to overthrow cruel empires; they are the heroes that protect their culture and societies against invasion, injustices and genocide. How can one of the world’s most prestigious writing awards celebrate science fiction’s best stories while millions of Uyghurs are subject to severe persecution? How can we celebrate China’s sci-fi scene when artists, writers and intellectuals of its ethnic minorities are interned in camps or in exile, unable to attend?

Among Chengdu Worldcon’s guests of honour are Sergei Lukyanenko, a bestselling sci-fi writer who has constantly defended Russia’s Ukraine policy, and Liu Cixin, an internationally bestselling Chinese sci-fi writer who was recently hired for SenseTime as a director of Science Fiction Planet Research Center – a tech company that is using sci-fi research to develop immersive artificial intelligence. SenseTime—along with four other firms—is responsible for creating mass surveillance AI systems used to identify and police Uyghurs, Tibetans and other Turkic populations in China. The US has even banned investments into SenseTime for its prominent role in the genocide. The advanced systems include facial and voice recognition, DNA sampling, and racial profiling; these factors are directly responsible for widening the scope of the genocide. But SenseTime is not the only company. Chengdu has invested billions in sci-fi research to attract writers, creators, animation departments, and tech start-ups; these same companies create advanced AI that are is being used to persecute China’s Muslim minorities.

Chengdu is an emerging global sci-fi capital of China, but supporting the sci-fi scene there contributes to the genocide and mass policing of ethnic minorities….

(5) STORY TIME. Simultaneous Times science fiction podcast Special 4 Year Anniversary Episode is a collaboration with Sci-Fi Lampoon Magazine: Simultaneous Times Ep.49 – Michael James & J.W. Allen.

Stories featured in this episode:

“Minimum Sage” – by Michael James; music by Phog Masheeen; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“Systems Strike” – by J.W. Allen; music by RedBlueBlackSilver; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-eight years ago today a very silly film called The Ice Pirates premiered. Yes I am editorializing. That’s why my name is on these essays. It was directed by Stewart Raffill, who co-wrote the screenplay with Krull screenwriter Stanford Sherman. Raffill would also direct The Philadelphia Experiment this year. Sherman wrote quite a few Batman episodes and a few of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well.

The producer was John Foreman who had already done Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and who would later do what was known in the States as The Great Train Robbery which I essayed here on File 770  several weeks back. (Great film and a rather good book as well.)

The primary cast was Robert Urich, Mary Crosby and Michael D. Roberts; but the secondary cast of Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, Bruce Vilanch, John Carradine was rather notable as well. 

It was supposed to have a rather extravagant budget for a film of its sort at twenty million dollars but MGM had just been slapped quite hard by its bankers as it losing a great deal of money just then and all films then in production were limited by the those bankers to just eight million to spend. So the story goes that Raffill rewrote the script from a hard SF film to a comic SF affair to make less it much dependent on SFX. 

So how did it fare with critics? The New York Times said upon its release that “THE ICE PIRATES,” which opens today at the Warner and other theaters, is a busy, bewildering, exceedingly jokey science-fiction film that looks like a ”Star Wars” spinoff made in an underdeveloped galaxy.” (Raffill for the record denies that it was based off of Star Wars at all.) 

And the Sunday Call-Chronicle said of it that “’The Ice Pirates,’ a cross between ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Monty Python And The Holy Grail,’ is amusingly silly through the first box of popcorn. After that, you’re on your own.” Ouch. 

Box office wise, it likely didn’t make money as it grossed only fourteen million against a budget that eventually hit nine million. So I doubt the bankers were very happy. 

It performs decently but not great at Rotten Tomatoes currently with a score of fifty percent among audience reviewers. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1883 Sonia Greene. Pulp writer and amateur press publisher who underwrote several fanzines in the early twentieth century. Wiki says she was a president of the United Amateur Press Association but I can’t confirm that elsewhere. And she was married to Lovecraft for two years. Her best-known story is “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” which was revised and edited by Lovecraft and renamed as “The Invisible Monster” when it got published in Weird Tales inNovember 1923. (Died 1972.)
  • Born March 16, 1900 Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine from 1924 to 1966 including The Wife of the Centaur (a lost film which has but has but a few scraps left), Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan the Ape Man, The Invisible Boy and Forbidden Planet. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. He shows up in a recurring role as Number Two on The Prisoner in  “The Chimes of Big Ben”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out”. Other genre appearances include Police Inspector McGill in X the Unknown, Bill Macguire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Professor Moriarty in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The Voice of Gwent in “The Infernal Machine” episode of Space: 1999. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard of which she said in interviews that was impressed by Haggard’s novel She at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate her. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 16, 1931 Irene Champlin. Though she was short-lived, she’s remembered most as Dale Arden in the Fifties syndicated Flash Gordon series in which she was both intelligent and resourceful. Her entire acting  career was but three years in length, ending with in appearance on I Spy. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 71. Her best known work is the God Stalker Chronicles series with By Demons Possessed being the current novel. She has dabbled in writing in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague” that was first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. All of the God Stalker Chronicles series are available from the usual suspects. 
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 70. Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. The Rules of Magic was nominated for Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award.
  • Born March 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 51. Hoban “Wash” Washburne  in the Firefly universe whose death I’m still pissed about. Wat in A Knight’s Tale. (Chortle. Is it genre? Who cares, it’s a great film.)  He’s K-2SO in Rogue One and yes he does both the voice and motion capture. Impressive. He also had a recurring role on Dollhose as Alpha, he voiced a number of characters in the Young Justice series streaming on HBO Max, and he was a very irritating Mr. Nobody on the Doom Patrol series also on HBO Max.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville jokes about the multiverse.
  • Bizarro injects a moment of horror into the lives of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man family.

(9) THE SPRING BEFORE THE SUMMER OF LOVE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I’m at Galactic Journey today, reviewing Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman, while my colleague Victoria Silverwolf reviews Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak. Victoria obviously got the better deal: “[March 16, 1967] A Matter of Life and Death (Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak; Tarnsman of Gor, by John Norman)”.

(10) BASEDCON. Robert Kroese is organizing BasedCon 2022, following up last year’s event for alt-right sff authors. That said, I found it hard to resist the honesty of this line in his latest message:

…The biggest challenge once again is going to be money. I’m a moderately successful sci-fi author, which is another way of saying that I am poor…. 

(11) MERCIFUL MAUDE. “Disneyland’s Newest Menu Item Is Its Most Divisive Yet” claims The Takeout.

Though the Disney parks are known for all sorts of innovations, the food continues to be a big draw for many tourists. Some Disney fans go so far as to plan whole trips around sampling as many dishes as possible, and even Florida’s stork population seems to love the food on offer. Disneyland in California, however, has created a dish that might be a little divisive among park guests. I’m having some conflicted feelings about it right now just thinking about it. It’s dessert pasta, and everyone has an opinion.

This peanut butter and jelly pasta is now available at the Nuts About Cheese stand in Disneyland as part of the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival. I want to understand the motivations of whoever created this. Food writer and Takeout contributor Julie Tremaine sampled this new concoction for SFGate and came away with some mixed feelings.

The peanut butter & jelly mac involves macaroni noodles coated in a peanut butter sauce and finished off with a dollop of strawberry jelly, a sprinkle of brown sugar streusel, and a layer of strawberry crackle, which is pretty much just a serving of Pop Rocks….

(12) AFTER HE LANDED. Showtime released a teaser featuring the first five minutes from the new TV series The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on the novel by Walter Tevis and the iconic film starring David Bowie. Deadline reports that the series “will follow a new alien character (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution, and must confront his own past to determine our future.” It debuts April 24 on Showtime.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Free Guy,” the Screen Junkies say the game in Free Guy  is part Grand Theft Auto, part fortnite, and part Nothing at All, because the script was bought in 2016.  And did you know Taika Waititi and Ryan Reynolds worked together in Green Lantern?  Well, they did!

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Sarah Mughal Rana, Chris Barkley, Rich Lynch, 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 2/14/22 Our Files Are Protected By Mutual Assured Pixellation

(1) PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE ASKS INTERNET ARCHIVE TO REMOVE MAUS. Chris Freeland, a librarian and Director of the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, advocates for his work at ZDNet: “Librarian’s lament: Digital books are not fireproof”.

The disturbing trend of school boards and lawmakers banning books from libraries and public schools is accelerating across the country. In response, Jason Perlow made a strong case last week for what he calls a “Freedom Archive,” a digital repository of banned books. Such an archive is the right antidote to book banning because, he contended, “You can’t burn a digital book.” The trouble is, you can.

A few days ago, Penguin Random House, the publisher of Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, demanded that the Internet Archive remove the book from our lending library. Why? Because, in their words, “consumer interest in ‘Maus’ has soared” as the result of a Tennessee school board’s decision to ban teaching the book. By its own admission, to maximize profits, a Goliath of the publishing industry is forbidding our non-profit library from lending a banned book to our patrons: a real live digital book-burning.

We are the library of last resort, where anyone can get access to books that may be controversial wherever they happen to live — an existing version of Perlow’s proposed “Freedom Archive.” Today, the Internet Archive lends a large selection of other banned books, including Animal FarmWinnie the PoohThe Call of the Wild, and the Junie B. Jones and Goosebumps children’s book series. But all of these books are also in danger of being destroyed.

In the summer of 2020, four of the largest publishers in the U.S. — Penguin Random House among them — sued to force our library to destroy the more than 1.4 million digital books in our collection. In their pending lawsuit, the publishers are using copyright law as a battering ram to assert corporate control over the public good. In this instance, that means destroying freely available books and other materials that people rely on to become productive and discerning participants in the country’s civic, economic, and social life…. 

(2) SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS WITH A TOUCH OF SFF. Thanks to Cora Buhlert for flagging several of these in a comment yesterday on the “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – Teaser Trailer” post. Besides the ones I’ve embedded below, there’s a “Planet Fitness – What’s Gotten into Lindsay?” spot with a cameo and narration by William Shatner, and astronaut Matthew McConaughey headlining the “’The New Frontier’ Salesforce Super Bowl Ad” (“while the others look to the metaverse and Mars, lets stay here and restore ours…”).

Enter a new dimension of Strange. Watch the official trailer for Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Only in theaters May 6. In Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the MCU unlocks the Multiverse and pushes its boundaries further than ever before. Journey into the unknown with Doctor Strange, who, with the help of mystical allies both old and new, traverses the mind-bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary.

See the all-new Big Game TV Spot for Marvel Studios’ #MoonKnight ?, an Original series streaming March 30, only on Disney+. The story follows Steven Grant, a mild-mannered gift-shop employee, who becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life. Steven discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector. As Steven/Marc’s enemies converge upon them, they must navigate their complex identities while thrust into a deadly mystery among the powerful gods of Egypt.

In a competitive home buying market, Barbie was able to find and finance her dream house with some help from Rocket Homes??, Rocket Mortgage® and Anna Kendrick.

Retiring from Mount Olympus to Palm Springs, Zeus is underwhelmed by all earthly electric things and becomes a shell of his former self. But right when we think all hope is lost, his wife, Hera, introduces him to the all-electric BMW iX and helps mighty Zeus reclaim his spark.

(3) THE SIXTIES CONAN REDISCOVERY. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert continues her overview of the Lancer Conan reprints with Conan the Warrior, which includes two of the best Conan stories “and no L. Sprague de Camp mucking about”: “[February 14, 1967] Three Facets of Conan: Conan the Warrior by Robert E. Howard”.

…Valeria is a marvellous character, a warrior woman who is Conan’s equal in many ways. “Why won’t men let me live a man’s life?” Valeria laments at one point. “That’s obvious,” Conan replies with an appreciative look at Valeria’s body. Robert E. Howard is usually considered a writer of masculine fiction and Conan is clearly a man’s man, but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and competence of the female characters in these stories. Not every women in these stories is as impressive as Valeria or Yasmina from “The People of the Black Circle”, but they are all characters with personalities and lives of their own and every one of them is given a chance to shine….

(4) IT’S TIME FOR TRIVIA. Clarion West’s third annual speculative fiction trivia night fundraiser welcomes anyone to join this celebration of all things speculative. The event takes place March 20 from 5:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Pacific. Purchase tickets here – most options are $15.

Quizmaster Seanan McGuire will host us on Sunday, March 20th at 5pm PT for a night of science fiction, fantasy, and horror-themed rivalry. We’re also excited to welcome celebrity team captains Tananarive Due & Steven Barnes, A.T. Greenblatt, Greg & Astrid Bear, Cat Rambo, Andy Duncan, Brooks Peck, Julia Rios, and Curtis C. Chen!

Clarion West began running Speculative Fiction Trivia Night as an in-person fundraiser in 2019. It’s been such a hit that we’ve kept it going online for our global community. We enjoy bringing everyone together for this annual event, keeping it easy to run (with lots of volunteer power), and low cost to join! Ticket sales support Clarion West, the time and efforts of our staff, and our wonderful quizmaster Seanan McGuire!

You can join as an individual and be placed on a team, bring your own team, or join a team led by one of our amazing celebrity team captains (these fill quickly)!

Learn more about Trivia Night, our Celebrity Team Captains, and other details here.

(5) HIDDEN GEMS. G.W. Thomas remembers the adventures of Thula, a little known 1970s sword and sorcery heroine by Pat McIntosh, whose stories only appeared in an obscure British fanzine and Lin Carter’s Year’s Best Fantasy collections: “The Adventures of Thula” at Dark Worlds Quarterly.

 The Adventures of Thula was a series of five Sword & Sorcery tales featured in Lin Carter’s The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories 1-5Pat McIntosh, the Scottish author of these tales, was a mystery to me. Her stories appeared first in John Martin’s British fanzine Anduril but nowhere else. She was an obvious favorite of Lin’s, along with other women writers such as Tanith Lee, C. J. Cherryh and Janet Fox. He called McIntosh “…a new British writer bound to go places in the years to come!”…

(6) NOPE TRAILER. “Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’ Trailer Sees a UFO Terrorize Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya and Steven Yeun”. Yahoo!’s preview explains, “One day, a UFO appears in the sky, causing all matter of chaos for those at the ranch and its neighboring town. In one eye-catching scene in the trailer, we see Kaluuya on horseback trying to outrun the UFO; in another, a gooey alien creature stalks its prey.”

(7) IVAN REITMAN (1946-2022). A prolific Hollywood producer and director, Ivan Reitman died February 13 at the age of 75. He worked on many famous non-sf films, but the Ghostbusters movies were his best-known. As a producer or executive producer he had a hand in genre films Heavy Metal (1981), Spacehunters: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983), Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989), and the reboots Ghostbusters (2016) and Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), Space Jam (1996), Evolution (2001), A Babysitters Guide to Monster Hunting (2020), and also two animated TV series Mummies Alive (1997) and Alienators: Evolution Continues (2001), plus a recurring segment of the Atom TV series (2008).

The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman found Ivan Reitman impressive: “I finally met Ivan Reitman three months ago – my Hollywood hero was a truly lovely man”.

As the Guardian’s official 80s movies correspondent, I talked to Reitman multiple times over the years, beginning with a phone interview for the last film he directed, 2014’s Draft Day. When I contacted him again a few weeks later to ask if I could interview him for a book I was working on about 80s movies, he immediately agreed, and talked to me for over an hour, reminiscing about films people had been asking him to reminisce about for over 30 years. He never showed boredom or irritation. If I ever needed a quote, or just had a question, I could email him and he’d reply immediately. Does it really need saying that this kind of behaviour from a genuine Hollywood powerhouse is not exactly typical?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 [Item by Cat Eldridge] James Elwood: master programmer. In charge of Mark 502-741, commonly known as Agnes, the world’s most advanced electronic computer. Machines are made by men for man’s benefit and progress, but when man ceases to control the products of his ingenuity and imagination, he not only risks losing the benefit, but he takes a long and unpredictable step into… The Twilight Zone.”

Fifty-eight years ago this evening, Twilight Zone’s “From Agnes—With Love” episode first aired. The twentieth episode of Season Five, it tells the rather silly story of a meek computer programmer who has Agnes, the world’s most advanced computer, loving him. And what ends she’ll go to make sure no end else wins his hand. 

It was directed by Richard Donner who went to fame by directing The Omen and the 1978 Superman. It was written by Bernard Cutner Schoenfeld who had done mostly crime noir before this including Phantom Lady and The Dark Lady though he did write the screenplay for The Space Children, a film currently holding a fourteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.

The cast of this series was: Wally Cox as James Elwood, Sue Randall as Millie, Raymond Bailey as Supervisor,  Ralph Taeger as Walter Holmes, Don Keefer as Fred Danziger, Byron Kane as Assistant  and Nan Peterson as A Secretary. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 14, 1925 J. T. McIntosh. Scottish writer at his best according to Clute in his early work such as World Out of Mind and One in Three Hundred. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects at very reasonable rates, indeed most as Meredith Moments. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 14, 1942 Andrew Robinson, 80. Elim Garak on Deep Space Nine. He wrote a novel based on his character, A Stitch in Time, and a novella, “The Calling,” which can be found in Prophecy and Change, a DS9 anthology edited by Marco Palmieri. Other genre credits include Larry Cotton in Hellraiser, appearing in The Puppet Masters as Hawthorne and playing John F. Kennedy on the The New Twilight Zone.
  • Born February 14, 1948 Teller, 74. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. Harlan Ellison provided his voice there. Now available on HBO Max. 
  • Born February 14, 1952 Gwyneth Jones, 70. Interesting person that she is, let’s start with her thoughts on chestnuts she did when she was Winter Queen at Green Man. Just because I can. Now regarding her fiction, I’d strongly recommend her Bold As Love series of a Britain that went to pieces as it now certainly is, and her twenty-year-old Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality polemic is still worth reading. 
  • Born February 14, 1952 Paula M. Block, 70. Star Trek author and editor; but primarily known for working in Paramount Pictures’ consumer licensing division and then with CBS Consumer Products. Remember that novel I noted by Andrew Robinson? Yeah, that’s her bailiwick. She’s also written with her husband Terry J. Erdmann, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion and Star Trek: Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier. It looks like she did some Trek fanfic as well including “The Girl Who Controlled Gene Kelly’s Feet”.
  • Born February 14, 1963 Enrico Colantoni, 59. Any excuse to mention Galaxy Quest I’ll gladly take. He played a delightful Mathesar on that film, and that was his first genre role, lucky bastard. Up next for him was A.I. Artificial Intelligence as The Murderer followed by appearing in the most excellent animated Justice League Dark as the voice of Felix Faust where his fate was very, very bad. He had an amazing role on Person of Interest as Charlie Burton / Carl Elias. Not genre, but his acting as Sgt. Gregory Parker on Flashpointa Canadian police drama television series is worth noting as it that excellent series. 
  • Born February 14, 1964 Zach Galligan, 58. You’ll no doubt recognize him best as Billy Peltzer in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. He did some really forgettable films after that including Waxwork II: Lost in TimeWarlock: The Armageddon and Cyborg 3: The Recycler even if the star of the latter was Malcolm McDowell. He did show on Voyager on as Ensign David Gentry in the “In the Flesh” episode. 
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg, 52. Best known for playing Montgomery Scott in the sort of ongoing Star Trek franchise. His first foray into the genre was Shaun of the Dead which he co-wrote and had an acting role in. Late genre roles include Land of the Dead where he’s a Photo Booth Zombie, Diary of the Dead where he has a cameo as a Newsreader, and he portrays Benji Dunn in the ongoing Mission: Impossible franchise.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a cringeworthy joke for the holiday.  [Link worked earlier; right now it appears none of Comics Kingdom’s comics will load for some reason.]

(11) TUBERS IN SPACE. Nerdist gives us fair warning when “Mr. Potato Head Joins STAR WARS with The Yamdalorian Toy”. (See it at Hasbro.com.)

…Bring some space saga to your kid’s toy chest with Hasbro’s newest Star Wars plaything. This intergalactic version of Mr. Potato Head is ready to carry Grogu, in this case known as the Tot, everywhere he goes. Even in his stomach. The Yamdalorian features a 5-and-a-half inch body and comes with 14 parts to make him into the greatest bounty spud in the universe. That includes a Mandalorian helmet, armor, and cape. As well a base with feet, eyes, two arms, two ears, nose, and mustache. And his adopted son can also fit inside his pouch…

(12) FUN FACT. [Item by Sam Long.] I was looking up the word “god” in the Online Etymological Dictionary, and found that it could be derived from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word ghu-to, to pour a libation (as of bheer).  Apparently fandom–or at least the fannish “h”–dates back five thousand years or more.

“Bloomin’ idol o’ egoboo,

Wot they call the ghreat ghod Ghu!

(Plucky lot she cared for idols when I gave her some corflu.”

          –On the Road to Fandalay

(13) IMPRISONED ALIENS. Some aliens may never be able to leave their world due to things like high gravity or self-generated orbital debris. Isaac Arthur considers “The Fermi Paradox: Imprisoned Planets”.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. As one commenter calls it, “The all-Boston crossover you never expected, but deserved.” “Your Cousin From Boston (Dynamics)”.

While working security at the Boston Dynamics robotics lab, Your Cousin From Boston gives a robot a Sam Adams. At least he brought a Wicked IPA Party Pack to share!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Bill, Sam Long, 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 Kevin Harkness.]