Pixel Scroll 12/19/23 I’m My Own Granfalloon

(1) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] “Question 4 of match day 23 of LearnedLeague season 99”:

Fourth Wing and Iron Flame are titles of the best-selling “romantasy” books released in 2023. Give either the name of the series of which these are the first two installments, or the name of the books’ American author.

Answer: the Empyrean series by Rebecca Yarros.

This had a 14% get rate, with no single wrong answer being given by as many as 5% of players.

I know for a fact that I have seen advertising for this. If only someone had poked me on the shoulder and said, “Pay attention! This will be on LL!” I’d have had a tie in my match instead of a loss. Sigh.

(2) POWELL’S BOOKS UNION CONTRACT. Publishers Weekly knows the terms. “Powell’s Books Workers Ratify New Union Contract”.

Unionized workers at Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., have ratified a new contract, according to ILWU Local 5, the union which has represented Powell’s staff since 2000. Ninety-three percent of eligible Powell’s workers voted yes for the contract, which will last for four years.

The ratification follows 10 months of negotiations and multiple rejected contracts, including one proposed by Powell’s management in August and another in November. On Labor Day, unionized Powell’s workers staged a walkout, resulting in the daylong closure of all three Powell’s locations on September 4.

Among the new contract’s stipulations are:

  • “10-19% increases to the minimums for the lowest-paid job groups in the first year, and increases to the minimum for all job groups throughout the life of the contract”
  • “annual wage increases totalling $5.20 over the life of the contract” for every union worker, which the union says “amounts to a 28% increase for the average Powell’s worker, and is in addition to any wage increases tied to promotions”
  • “expedited promotions (an accompanying wage increases) for entry-level positions”
  • “broader access to holiday pay”
  • “stronger inclement weather language to give workers more information to make safe decisions in event of snow, ice, extreme heat, wildfire smoke, etc.” “a healthcare plan that significantly decreases the cost of the most common claims for most workers”
  • “a more clearly defined recall process in the event of layoffs, and preservation of benefits for the entire time a worker is on the recall list”…

(3) ONLINE YULE LOGS AT HBO MAX. [Item by Daniel Dern.] HBO Max has a variety of Yule Log/Fireplace videos (looks like only for subscribers) including:

(Looks like it simply glows, but doesn’t hatch)

  • Harry Potter: Fireplace

Wizarding World welcomes you into the common room of all four Hogwarts houses — cozy up around a crackling fire and say hi to some familiar friends.

  • Califer (living flame, from Studio Ghibli)
  • Adult Swim Yule Log (aka The Fireplace)

[Note, not just a fire’n’log; it’s actually a horror movie, with actors, dialog, and, well, horror stuff (based on my quick skim).] “Rated TV-MA for violence, adult language and brief nudity.”

(4) IT’S NOT IN THE CARDS. “Hasbro, owner of Wizards of the Coast, to lay off 1,100 over weak sales” says The Seattle Times.

Hasbro, the parent company of the Seattle-area game publisher Wizards of the Coast, plans to lay off approximately 1,100 employees of its global workforce over weak sales that are expected to continue into next year. 

The maker of toys like Transformers and Play-Doh declined to specify if the layoffs will hit Wizards of the Coast and Washington-based employees. The Rhode Island company also declined to break down total employee numbers by location. 

Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks said in a memo to staff on Monday that weaker-than-expected sales hit as the market is coming off “historic, pandemic-driven highs.”

The “headwinds we anticipated have proven to be stronger and more persistent than planned,” Cocks said. 

Monday’s layoffs, which will affect nearly 20% of Hasbro’s global workforce, are on top of the 800 positions eliminated earlier this year

Despite Hasbro’s struggles, Wizards of the Coast, publisher of the popular games Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, performed well financially this year. … 

(5) GEOFF RYMAN ANNOUNCES DEATH OF PARTNER. Sending our condolences to Geoff Ryman.

(6) TCM MEMORIAL REEL. Turner Classic Movies today posted their annual tribute: “TCM Remembers”.

We say goodbye to the performers, filmmakers, and creatives we lost in 2023. Through their art and storytelling they soared to new heights and kept us grounded.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. (Died 1983.) So why Ralph Richardson for this Birthday write-up? Well he’d be here if only for being in Terry Gillian’s Time Bandits which was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon IV in which he played the Supreme Being. But he was actually quite active in our end of things. 

His very first genre acting was not surprisingly in the theatre with Macbeth for the first time at age nineteen when he played both Macduff and Banquo, and later on he’ll be Macbeth himself several times. Over the years he had quite extensive theatre experience, but I’ll only detail that relevant to our interest here. 

He was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Lysander (and Bottom in several later productions) and Hamlet as Haratio twice. He’s Face in Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, and Mr Darling and Captain Hook in Peter Pan.  

Now unto his film work. At age twenty-nine, unusually late generally to be doing so, he made his film debut. Two years later, The Ghoul, a horror film with Boris Karloff marked his genre debut as Nigel Hartley. 

Ralph Richardson, left, with Margaretta Scott, right, in Things To Come.

Next was Things to Come (also known in promotional material as H. G. Wells’ Things to Come whose script was written by Wells and based his book The Shape of Things to Come. He was Rudolf, “The Boss”. 

Q Planes (known as Clouds Over Europe in the States) I think is SF given the weapon that brought the spy planes. He played Major Charles Hammond here.

One very, very creepy role was The Crypt Keeper in Tales from The Crypt. I do hope he got paid very well for that acting performance. Then he got to be very cute as the caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and one very determined creature as the Chief Rabbit in Watership Down.

He finished off his film work I think appropriately enough by playing Lord Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

Ralph Richardson, left, in Time Bandits.

(8) YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE WON. There’s a stampede to fill MCU’s Kang vacancy. Call your agent today! “5 Actors To Recast As Kang Following Jonathan Majors Guilty Verdict And Disney Firing” at Forbes.

… The plan was to move from the MCU’s Phase 5 into Phase 6 with 2026’s The Avengers: Kang Dynasty, but that plan may now be scrapped after Majors’ exit and conviction.

The question now is whether Disney will attempt to recast Kang or simply move on to a new villain….

… My criteria here also includes physical details: Chiefly, the actor should be a black man who isn’t too old or too young. Kang needs gravitas, so casting someone too young would be a mistake. But if he’s too old he won’t come across as physically intimidating enough without CGI (and we don’t need another Thanos). Denzel Washington is a fan-favorite choice here but at 68 I think he might be too old at this point. Other great actors like LaKeith Stanfield just don’t have quite the physique, though it’s possible that could be countered by physical training and costumes….

(9) LAST BITE. Variety has heard that “’What We Do In the Shadows’ Ending With Season 6 at FX”.

The sixth season of FX‘s “What We Do in the Shadows” will be its last.

The series, created by Jemaine Clement based on his and Taika Waititi’s 2014 film of the same name, premiered in 2019. In mockumentary format, it follows the nightly exploits of vampire roommates Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) as they navigate the modern world of Staten Island with the help of their human familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), and their vampire bureaucrat acquaintance, the Guide (Kristen Schaal)….

…Since its debut, the series has garnered 21 Emmy nominations, winning for Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes in 2022. This year, it won Best Comedy Series at the GLAAD Media Awards….

(10) THAT THING YOU DO. At Comicbook.com “The Thing’s Kurt Russell Weighs in on Film’s Debated Ending”.

…Namely, fans wonder if either Kurt Russell‘s MacReady or Keith David’s Childs have been infected by the otherworldly creature, and while Russell isn’t outright revealing the answer, he recently addressed what his motivations were for the project and the conversations he had with Carpenter about the cryptic finale. While knowing the “answer” of the ending doesn’t change the effectiveness of the adventure, fans have remained curious about the opinions of the cast and crew regarding those final scenes.

“We talked about that, the ending of that movie, John and I, for a long, long time. We’d trade ideas for the end, write it out, and it was one of those things where John was concerned about it, doing a movie that you would see, for two hours plus, and bring you back to square one,” Russell recently shared during a conversation hosted by the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “We finally got to a point where, we’d try different things, and I just remember finally saying, ‘How about this one?’ and we’d try it, and I said, ‘John, I think this comes back to square one. I think that’s what it does.’ The only thing I could do was finish it with, ‘Why don’t we just sit here for a while and see what happens.’ It worked. It was the thing that it called for.”

He added, “It’s fun to hear people talk about that one, I must say, that’s a fun one.”…

(11) TUNES WITH A HOOK. “Spielberg’s 1991 movie ‘Hook’ was nearly a musical. Now its score has been released” reports NPR.

Steven Spielberg’s 1991 movie “Hook” was nearly a musical. Now the never-heard score with tunes by John Williams has been recorded and released.

… (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

LESLIE BRICUSSE: And we thought we’d got the Oscar with a song called “Childhood.” And I remember Steven, when he heard it, saying, that’s a home run.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “CHILDHOOD”)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #1: (Singing) Shadows, memories, lingering laughter reach out, touch me half my life after.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

[LESLIE] BRICUSSE: But it was a beautiful song, beautiful song, beautiful melody – vintage Williams.

[TIM] GREIVING: “Childhood” was written for Granny Wendy. Williams and Bricusse also wrote a seductive villain song for Captain Hook to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “STICK WITH ME”)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #2: (As Captain Hook, singing) Looking at where we’re at sensibly, boy, if you will spend a little time with me, you can be – I guarantee – anything you want to be.

[TIM] GREIVING: None of these made it into “Hook” the movie….

(12) COLLECTOR ROYALTY. “You Need Felix the Cat? Early Popeye? Talk to the King of Silent Animation” advises the New York Times.

… Once a week, [Tommy José Stathes] heads from his small studio apartment in Queens to his enormous collection of vintage cartoons: a celluloid library of around 4,000 reels, some of the prints more than 100 years old. It is certainly one of the largest collections of early animated films anywhere in the world — and that accounts for the holdings of the Library of Congress, according to an archivist who does restoration there….

…This avocation can be traced back to an obscure Farmer Alfalfa cartoon his father showed him once. From there, he expanded to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Felix the Cat, and he started hunting for reels in local antique shops and flea markets. He soon progressed to eBay, ultimately piling up a six-figure investment in the archive.

His devotion to silent cartoons — the very birth of the form — is unrivaled. In fact, he has helped the Library of Congress identify some of its own collection. George Willeman, who oversees the nitrate film vaults for the library, recalled being amazed when Mr. Stathes, then in his 20s, took a seat in the archive and identified reel after reel of unidentified cartoons made decades before he was even born.

“As far as I know,” Mr. Willeman said, “Tommy is the king of silent animation.”…

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/23 I Was Watching A Pixel Walk Through A Wall

(1) GET ON BOARD. Join the mission and have your name engraved on NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft as it travels 1.8 billion miles to explore Europa, an ocean world that may support life. Sign your name today to the… “Message in a Bottle”.

NASA’s Message in a Bottle campaign invites people around the world to sign their names to a poem written by the U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. The poem connects the two water worlds — Earth, yearning to reach out and understand what makes a world habitable, and Europa, waiting with secrets yet to be explored. The campaign is a special collaboration, uniting art and science, by NASA, the U.S. Poet Laureate, and the Library of Congress.

The poem is engraved on NASA’s robotic Europa Clipper spacecraft, along with participants’ names that will be stenciled onto microchips mounted on the spacecraft. Together, the poem and names will travel 1.8 billion miles on Europa Clipper’s voyage to the Jupiter system. Europa Clipper is set to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in October 2024, and by 2030, it will be in orbit around Jupiter. Over several years, it will conduct dozens of flybys of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, gathering detailed measurements to determine if the moon has conditions suitable for life….

(2) SURE, BUT DOES IT REALLY HAVE A FUTURE? “Alien nation: will the franchise’s new movie really cut all links to the past?” – the Guardian’s Ben Childtries to read the tea leaves.

…So what do you do when a sci-fi franchise has been poor to average for more than 30 years, yet everyone who has ever seen Ridley Scott’s gloomy yet exhilarating Alien (1979) or its all-American, gonad-swinging sequel Aliens (from James Cameron), is somehow still desperate for more? District 9 film-maker Neill Blomkamp clearly had the right idea in 2015, when without any apparent encouragement from Fox he decided he would make his own Alien film set in the wake of Aliens and before it all went wrong for Fincher. His idea was to bring back Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley (who died in Alien 3 but was restored as about a dozen freaky clones in Resurrection) along with Michael Biehn’s Hicks and potentially even Carrie Henn’s Newt.

It didn’t happen, not just because the original stars would all have been a bit ancient, but because Fox put the kibosh on the whole concept. But somebody somewhere at Disney (which bought Fox and the rights to Alien in 2017) was clearly paying attention. For what’s this we hear from a Variety report this week? The new Alien movie, Fede Alvarez’s Romulus, will be neither a sequel nor a prequel, but rather a new film set between Alien and Aliens.

Speaking at the Gotham awards, star Cailee Spaeny told the trade bible: “It’s supposed to slot in between the first movie and the second movie, adding: “They brought the same team from Aliens, the James Cameron film. The same people who built those xenomorphs actually came on and built ours. So getting to see the original design with the original people who have been working on these films for 45-plus years and has been so much of their life has been really incredible.”

How then, is this going to work? Well, there are 57 years between the events of the two movies, which Ripley spent drifting in space in a state of stasis. What might have happened in the meantime? …

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss fell down 3-5 steps on flight of stairs while at SMOFCon and was taken by paramedics to a local Providence, RI hospital as a precaution.

Kevin Standlee reports, “I was the one on the scene when he fell (I was walking up the interior stairwell between the programming space and the ground floor of the Providence Marriott) while he was walking down the stairs and slipped, piling up in a heap on the landing. He never lost consciousness and remained alert and responsive, but after initially recovering a bid and starting to get up, announced that his neck hurt enough that he wanted me to call 911.”

Kevin has a longer post about it on his Dreamwidth blog. He adds, “I have no further update on his condition, but I’m hopeful that he’ll be okay. He reported nothing that sounded like anything broken, just bruised.”

(4) THEIR ONE DEMAND. “’Gay Furry Hackers’ Breached a Nuclear Lab to Demand Catgirl Research” reports Them.

A collective of self-professed “gay furry hackers” breached databases at a nuclear research laboratory in Idaho this week and released thousands of human resources records. Their only ransom demand? The lab must begin a catgirl research program.

SiegedSec, the hacker collective that attacked government systems in five states earlier this year, claimed responsibility for infiltrating the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in a Telegram post on November 16. According to its website, INL is one of the country’s largest nuclear research facilities and maintains the Advanced Test Reactor, which is used for both medical and military programs.

The records, which contain names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of employees and other users, were released through SiegedSec’s Telegram channel and confirmed to be authentic by the INL and East Idaho News.

“meow meow meow meow meow meow meow […] woah so much crunchy data :3” SiegedSec wrote on Telegram. “we’re willing to make a deal with INL. if they research creating irl catgirls we will take down this post.”

SiegedSec rose to prominence in 2022 with several hacks protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The hacker collective has since claimed responsibility for breaching government and NATO computer systems, as well as those of private companies, including software company Atlassian. They said their attacks on state governments earlier this year were in retaliation to those states’ anti-transgender laws. Since October, the group has also embarked on what it calls #OpIsrael, claiming responsibility for a string of cyber attacks on Israeli satellites, industrial systems, and telecommunications companies….

(5) UPDATED WSFS RULES AVAILABLE. The WSFS website has posted the latest draft of the Rules of the World Science Fiction Society with changes ratified by the Chengdu Worldcon Business Meeting. These include the Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo and its cross-references.

(6) DIAZ Q&A. [Item by Steven French.] From the Guardian’s interview with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist: “Hernan Diaz: ‘The Tintin books were problematic but they were also gorgeous and gripping’”:

The book I am currently reading

Sly Stone’s memoir, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). And today I also read the first chapter of Joanna Russ’s The Female Man.

Good choice!

(7) DOES THIS STORY DRAG ON? No, it apparently flies right along. “’House of the Dragon’: Season 2 Cast & Teaser Trailer Revealed” at Deadline.

House of the Dragon is set 172 years before the events of Game of Thrones and tells the story of House Targaryen. The two released posters for Season 2 are setting up an epic war between the Targaryens and the Hightowers following the crazy Season 1 finale that saw tragedy befall the former (R.I.P Prince Lucerys Velaryon) at the hands of the latter (Prince Aemond Targaryen)….

And according to Gizmodo’s article “House of the Dragon’s Season 2 Trailer Is All-Out Dragon War”:

…The first season ended with Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) getting eaten by Vhagar and his mother Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) swearing revenge for her loss. Thus begins the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of Dragons, which will run throughout the second season as the Green and Black factions of the family go head to head against one another. As the trailer shows us, there shall indeed be dragons and their riders engaging in fiery, bloody warfare, along with the requisite scheming, sex, and glares. And at least one gruesome part of the books is confirmed to be showing up in the new season, so longtime fans have that to look forward to….

(8) HOW NOT TO OPEN MOUTH AND INSERT FOOT. BookRiot knows “What Not To Say to Bookstore Employees”. Soon you will, too.

“Wow, you must love your job; you get to sit around and read all day. I am so jealous.” It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when people TELL you that “you must love your job.” Like, it’s a job. I am giving away my free time for money to be here. And people tend to say it to those of us who work in the arts — which, sure, maybe people who work in the arts DO more often love their jobs. But the work is chronically undervalued and underpaid, and so people constantly telling you that “you must love your job” when you work in the arts feels like the collective culture telling you that because you get so much joy from your job, you don’t even really need to be paid for it. You just do it for the passion!!! The more specific response to this sentence is that working in a bookstore is not the “I wish I could just be paid to read all day” utopia that we all imagine it to be. Yes, there are great parts of the job. But most people who work in bookstores don’t sit around and read all day. It’s still customer service, and it’s still inventory, and it’s still packing up returns and orders and creating spreadsheets and data entry and and and. You get it…. 

(9) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the UK presents “Doctor Who’s futuristic Whomobile, Bessie and original Dalek feature in 60th anniversary display” through February 2024. The ClassicCars.com Journal tells more in a post here.

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is set to transport visitors through time and space with the unveiling of a new temporary display featuring the most iconic vehicles from the beloved British sci-fi series, Doctor Who. From the sleek and stylish Bessie to the futuristic Whomobile and a menacing Dalek, this collection marks the 60th anniversary of the series and opened to visitors on November 23, 2023.

Heading the line-up is none other than Bessie, the Third Doctor’s trusty yellow roadster. Bessie’s first appearance was in Doctor Who and the Silurians in early 1970 and appeared regularly with the Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee. It also made single appearances in Fourth, Seventh, Eighth and Eleventh Doctor stories. Familiar to fans of the classic era, Bessie has become synonymous with the Doctor’s adventures….

…Zooming in from the 1970s, the display presents the Whomobile, a custom-designed vehicle created for the Doctor by the brilliant minds at UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. A sleek blend of style and functionality, the Whomobile is a testament to the Doctor’s ability to traverse the cosmos. It made its first appearance in Invasion of the Dinosaurs broadcast in January and February 1974. The vehicle’s only other appearance was in Planet of the Spiders, which was the final adventure for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and would see him regenerate as Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.

(10) WB RECOGNIZES ANIMATION UNION. Deadline reports “Warner Bros Discovery Welcomes WB Animation & Cartoon Network Unionization”.

David Zaslav has been preaching the gospel of Tinseltown labor peace since the SAG-AFTRA strike ended, and now the Warner Bros Discovery CEO is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to his own backyard.

Almost five months after dozens of Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network production workers began their efforts to unionize with The Animation Guild, WBD this week has recognized the move.

“After months of discussions with the studio, I am proud that we were able to reach an agreement with Warner/Discovery for representation of animation production workers at Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios,” said TAG IATSE Local 839 Business Representative Steve Kaplan to Deadline today.

(11) RETURN TO SENDER. “Never mind returning the Parthenon marbles – Britain wants this lot back!” The Guardian has a little list. “It’s all very well Greece wanting its rightful treasure – but the Brits have left some pretty good artefacts lying around the planet. Surely it’s time they came home?”

 As Rishi Sunak continued his war of words with the Greek government and threw a tantrum at PMQs on Wednesday, what cunning plan might he deploy to appease Tory headbangers and distract the electorate?

The row kicked off when Sunak cancelled a meeting with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, after the latter said that Britain’s retention of a portion of the Parthenon marbles was like “cutting the Mona Lisa in half”. Mitsotakis was invited to see Oliver Dowden instead, to which he unsurprisingly replied “óchi efcharistó” (no thanks).

The ensuing furore may just have planted an idea in Sunak’s mind. After all, there are some on the Tory right who probably regret the Stone of Scone going north of the border in 1996 after centuries on display as Plantagenet war booty at Westminster Abbey.

The list of treasures actually stolen from the UK, given our former imperial power, is unsurprisingly small. But there are a number of either lost or stolen items, some entering the realm of mythology, others not. These include Excalibur, the earthly remains of Arthur, Alfred the Great, and Oliver Cromwell, the Three Crowns of East Anglia (immortalised in MR James’s A Warning to the Curious), Joseph of Arimathea’s staff and the Great Seal James II slung in the Thames during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. After his unfortunate death at the hands of Native Hawaiians, Captain Cook was supposedly baked (not to eat) and his bones hidden; also in the Pacific during the same era, The Bounty was scuppered and sunk at Pitcairn by the mutineers.

So what artefacts can the UK government demand the return of – even if we gave them away in the first place?

Here’s one of the items.

11. AA Milne’s actual Winnie-the-Pooh (New York)

Like Paddington Bear (isn’t he Peruvian?) Winnie-the-Pooh is an British icon. So to find the poor fellow and friends Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, and Eeyore on display in New York’s Public Library is nothing short of a disgrace. We say free the Pooh Five – prisoners in Manhattan since 1956!

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 52. And tonight, we have Frank Cho. Surely many of you are familiar with the delightful obviously genre Liberty Meadows strip which he wrote and illustrated with its cast of not quite charming talking beasties and resident therapist to them Brandy Carter who Cho says is artistic crossing between Lynda Carter and Bettie Page. It ran from ‘97 to ‘01 with some additional material for a few years after that.  Here’s a Liberty Meadows strip.

Only in The Dreaming Library does this exist…he stated his comic career working for  Penthouse Comix along with Al Gross and Mark Wheatley. The three of them, likely after a very long weekend, thought up  a six-part “raunchy sci-fi fantasy romp” called The Body, centering on an intergalactic female merchant, Katy Wyndon, who can transfer her mind into any of her “wardrobe bodies”,  mindless vessels that she occupies to best suit her mediations with the local alien races that she encounters while traveling the galaxy trading and trying to become wealthy. 

The story was never published for several reasons. Even Kathy Keeton at Penthouse who published the raunchiest comics I’ve seen this side of The Hustler wasn’t interested. 

And then there’s Jungle Girl Comics which was created by Frank Cho, James Murray, and Adriano Batista. Think a female Tarzan. Cho loves young females in bikinis that barely cover the parts that need covering.

Unlike Marvel, he wrote nothing at all, the cover art work he did there was definitely worth seeing, so at just let’s do just that. His work there, well, other than the Harley Quinn covers which are decidedly on the silly edge of things are traditionally skewed and the Green Arrow one I’ve choose is certainly is too. And here it is. Yes I’m a really big Green Arrow fan, he’s one of my favorite DC characters, particularly the modern take on him.  Here’s a variant cover he did for volume 8, number 1 of that series. 

Name a character, Hulk, Spider-Gwen, Hellboy, Red Sonja, New Avengers, Batman, Harley Quinn, and Cho has likely had a hand in it. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grickle. Bruce D. Arthurs says, “Thought F770 readers might enjoy this cartoon from Graham Annable I came across on Mastodon. He’s also on Instagram & Tumblr. Quite a few genre-related cartoons.”
  • Tom Gauld squeezes in a lot of fun here:

(14) INTELLIGENT SFF ANIMATION. Camestros Felatpton would hate for you to miss “Pluto (Netflix)”.

…It is the future (and arguably an alternative history) and humanity lives side by side with intelligent robots. Some robots are big machines, others very human like and some shift bodies (giant mech at work and human-like body at home). Robots have only recently acquirred civil rights, including the right to have families and bring up robot children. The world in general is just getting over the trauma of a recent (three years prior) war in central asia between the nation of Persia (which is depicted more like Iraq than Iran) and the United States of Thracia (basically the USA).

Inspector Gesicht is a very human-like detective with Europol and is given the task of investigating two recent murders: a famous and popular Swiss robot and a human who was instrumental in securing civil rights for robots. In both cases the killer left the victims heads adorned with horns…

(15) BOOKEND. Cute as the dickens. “Bilbo Baggins Home” from Geometryk.

Refresh your bookshelf, add a charming little world to your room, and also a wonderful collection and decoration. Let’s stop using those old, ordinary bookends, okay?

(16) CELLING POINT. [Item by Steven French.] The beginning of The Rise of the Anthrobots:

Scientists have developed tiny robots made of human cells that are able to repair damaged neural tissue1. The ‘anthrobots’ were made using human tracheal cells and might, in future, be used in personalized medicine….

Levin and his team grew spheroids of human tracheal skin cells in a gel for two weeks, before removing the clusters and growing them for one week in a less viscous solution. This caused tiny hairs on the cells called cilia to move to the outside of the spheroids instead of the inside. These cilia acted as oars, and the researchers found that the resulting anthrobots — each containing a few hundred cells — often swam in one of several patterns. Some swam in straight lines, others swam in circles or arcs, and some moved chaotically.

To test the anthrobots’ therapeutic potential, Levin and his colleagues placed several into a small dish. There, the anthrobots fused together to form a ‘superbot’, which the researchers placed on a layer of neural tissue that had been scratched. Within three days, the sheet of neurons had completely healed under the superbot. This was surprising, says study co-author Gizem Gumuskaya, a developmental biologist also at Tufts, because the anthrobot cells were able to perform this repair function without requiring any genetic modification. “It’s not obvious that you’re going to get that kind of response,” she says….

From “Tiny robots made from human cells heal damaged tissue” in Nature.

(17) BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature has a newsy article on space junk and its light pollution. Yes, it’s getting to be a problem, but for the most part the article is the same old, same old. (We at SF2 Concatenation even had a piece on space junk in our first (print) edition way back in 1987.)

However this week’s Nature news piece has a decidedly SFnal conclusion: our species might be trapping itself on Earth! (Behind a paywall.) “Bright satellites are disrupting astronomy research worldwide”.

Any collisions in orbit will release many pieces of debris travelling at several kilometres per second, which can cause further collisions, and could lead to a runaway collisional cascade referred to as the Kessler syndrome. This is the worst-case scenario: the onset of full Kessler syndrome would prevent the use of communication, weather, science and astronautical satellites in low Earth orbit for decades. And it is unclear whether a spacecraft could even be launched successfully through the debris shell to enable travel to other planets. Humans would effectively be trapped on Earth by space junk, with multiple tonnes of vaporised metal being added to the upper atmosphere every day through re-entry.

Below: An astronomical picture of a galaxy marred by satellite trails. The research article which instigated this piece is here.

(18) EYEBALL ATTRACTORS. JustWatch lists the top 10 streaming programs for November 2023.

(19) SPELL CHECKING. “The ‘Agatha: Darkhold Diaries’ Featurette is Online, and It Reveals What’s in Store for Agatha” – all explained at The Mary Sue.

So what does the preview reveal?

First off, we see Agatha in her new costume: an updated, more modern-looking version of her purple dress from WandaVision. However, we also see her in a couple of her Westview looks, including her ’80s-era workout leotard. The sets seem to be new, though, so it’s possible the show may reveal more of Wanda’s hex from WandaVision. After all, when WandaVision ended, Agatha was still caught in Wanda’s spell….

The slug with the video adds:

Emmy-nominee Kathryn Hahn reprises her role as Agatha Harkness for a brand new Disney+ Marvel series launching later in 2024. Agatha: Darkhold Diaries will reveal more about the character first introduced in Marvel Studios’ WandaVision. Jac Schaefer, who served as head writer and executive producer on WandaVision, returns for Agatha: Darkhold Diaries.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Kevin Standlee, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 11/30/23 Too Much Pixel And No Scroll

(1) THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGIN’. Gabino Iglesias is the new horror columnist for the New York Times. He told told readers on X.com, “It’s a dream come true. Can’t wait to bring you all the horror goodness starting in January. Long live horror.”

(2) LUKYANENKO EVENT AT WORLDCON VENUE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Sergey Lukyanenko will appear December 1 in an event at the Worldcon venue.

In the Friday 24th Scroll, it was mentioned that Sergey Lukyanenko would be making four appearances in Chengdu between December 1st and 4th.  Today (November 30th) I saw a Weibo announcement indicating there will be an additional event on December 1st; notably, this one takes place at the SF Museum that was the venue for the Worldcon.  I think this may be the first time that the museum has been used or open to the public since the con?

There was also a new Weixin/WeChat blog post from his publisher yesterday (Wednesday 29th); curiously this does not mention the event at the SF Museum.

(3) GOLDMAN FUND UPDATE. Dream Foundry reports that they were able to fully fund everyone who applied within the preferred window for the Con or Bust initiative to assist Palestinian creators and fans of speculative fiction in attending the 2024 World Science Fiction Convention.

They still have funds remaining for 2024 and will continue taking applications on a rolling basis. They say –

Don’t self reject! Anyone who is a citizen of Palestine or a member of the Palestinian diaspora qualifies and is encouraged to apply.

Applications for the 2025 Worldcon will open in summer of 2024.

(4) FURIOSA TRAILER. The first official trailer has dropped for Furiosa : A Mad Max Saga.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth star in Academy Award-winning mastermind George Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” the much-anticipated return to the iconic dystopian world he created more than 30 years ago with the seminal “Mad Max” films. Miller now turns the page again with an all-new original, standalone action adventure that will reveal the origins of the powerhouse character from the multiple Oscar-winning global smash “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The new feature from Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures is produced by Miller and his longtime partner, Oscar-nominated producer Doug Mitchell (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Babe”), under their Australian-based Kennedy Miller Mitchell banner. As the world fell, young Furiosa is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and falls into the hands of a great Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus. Sweeping through the Wasteland, they come across the Citadel presided over by The Immortan Joe. While the two Tyrants war for dominance, Furiosa must survive many trials as she puts together the means to find her way home.

(5) A GOOD TONGUELASHING. “Adam Sandler’s ‘Leo’: A Crotchety Old Lizard Helping Kids Be Kids” at Animation World Network.

Hitting Netflix [on November 21] is Leo, a clever and charming coming-of-age animated musical comedy starring noted actor and comedian Adam Sandler as a curmudgeonly 74-year-old iguana, stuck living for decades in an elementary school class terrarium, who plots his escape – complete with an odd bucket list – after learning he only has one year to live. At the same time, he can’t help but offer friendly advice to a bunch of kids who each must take him home for a weekend, only to discover – and swear to keep secret – that he can talk…

… The idea for the film gestated with Sandler for eight years. “Basically, I had the idea of looking at an elementary school graduation, almost like in Grease, the kids’ last year of elementary school, and how you’re moving on to the big leagues after that,” he shares. “And me and my friend, Paul Sado, were working on that idea. And then I told Robert Smigel about it, and he said, ‘What about if you do it that year, but through the eyes of a class pet that’s been involved in that grade forever?’ And we got excited, and that’s when everything got flowing.”…

(6) PAGE-TURNER. Jay of Tar Vol On posted an extra-large magazine review this month, with thoughts on 35 different works of short SFF and a little bit of related non-fiction. “Tar Vol Reads a Magazine: November 2023”.

… the piece that inspired me to pick up this issue [of Asimov’s] in the first place: “Berb by Berb” by Ray Nayler. This story is connected to some of his other work that I haven’t yet read, but it makes an acceptable standalone, delivering a heartfelt tale of one person trying to do the best they can in a world that has gone to pieces around them. It’s a theme Nayler returns to often, and it makes for a good read every time. ..

(7) HOME IS THE SPACEMAN. Neil Clarke tells about his adventures at the Chengdu Worldcon in his Clarkesworld editorial, “This Would Have Been Longer”. He was impressed by how many children were at the con, and participated in the Hugo ceremony.

…Oh! That’s me up there with “little astronaut” after unexpectedly winning the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form. Those are two of the hosts of the event on the left and the gentleman on the right is convention Co-Chair Chen Shi, who presented the category. I actually had a speech written this time, but in the moment, I opted to abandon it and try to speak from what I was feeling instead. Probably not the brightest thing to do, but I wanted to say something to the kids watching now or later. I let them know that I was once like them and never believed that I would someday be up on this stage accepting an award I considered the domain of my childhood heroes. I told them that I hoped to be in the audience and watch them win one someday. I encouraged them to try, told them it wasn’t easy and that people might tell them it wasn’t possible . . . but it is.

After the ceremony, I was whisked off to do interviews. They had maybe two dozen reporters from a variety of outlets present and asking questions. It kept me from enjoying part of the after party with friends, but how often does a Hugo winner get that kind of attention? I understood and appreciated the novelty of it, and besides, they weren’t asking me about AI, so that’s progress, right?…

(8) YOU’VE HEARD HER WORK. [Item by Steven French.] “Jane Horrocks: ‘I’d love to be a baddie in a Tarantino movie’”, so she told the Guardian. Horrocks voices Babs, one of the chickens in Chicken Run and also starred with Anjelica Huston in Jim Henson’s film of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.

When did you discover you had an amazing voice? chargehand
From starting impersonations, really. My first impersonation was Julie Andrews when I got The Sound of Music album when I was nine. I fell in love with sounding like Julie. My mum and dad were massively into Shirley Bassey and I found I could impersonate her and Barbra Streisand. That’s when I started to realise that utilising my voice was going to be a good thing for me. It’s brought me a lot of pleasure, and I’ve made people laugh, which is great.

(9) NEW TO U.N.I.T. A disabled character is featured in the latest episode of Doctor Who. The actress discusses her role with Radio Times. Beware spoilers, maybe; I’m not sure.

“She is just so fun and feisty and ballsy – she’s just so much fun to play,” Doctor Who star Ruth Madeley says of her character Shirley Anne Bingham. “I’d love to be more like Shirley in my real life, I have got nowhere near that much cool in me!”

Madeley made her spectacular on-screen Doctor Who debut in The Star Beast as UNIT’s 56th scientific advisor. In the space of the 57-minute special, she got David Tennant’s Doctor out of some very sticky situations – and took absolutely none of his nonsense.

“Overall she is not overly impressed by anyone or anything, which I love about her because I am the complete opposite. That’s really fun to play,” Madeley tells RadioTimes.com….

(10) WHO PREVIEW. “Doctor Who debuts new scene from next episode Wild Blue Yonder” at Radio Times.

The veil of secrecy surrounding the next episode of Doctor Who, Wild Blue Yonder, is slowing beginning to lift, with the BBC dropping a first-look clip….

… In the new clip, Donna is left panicked when the TARDIS disappears, with the Doctor promising to return her home to her daughter Rose. But it appears someone – or something – is watching them……

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. (Died 1977.) As you know, we don’t do just sff genre Birthdays here and so it is that we have here one of my favorite mystery writers, John Dickson Carr.  Indeed I’m listening to The Hollow Man, one of his Gideon Fell mysteries. 

He who wrote some of the best British mysteries ever done was himself not British being American. Oh the horror. He did live there for much of the Thirties and Forties, marrying a British woman. 

Dr. Fell, an Englishman, lived in the London suburbs. Carr wrote twenty-seven novels with him as the detective. I’m listening to The Hollow Man because it’s considered one of the best locked room mysteries ever done. Indeed, Dr. Fell’s discourse on locked room mysteries in chapter reprinted as a stand-alone essay in its own right.

All of the Fell novels are wonderful mysteries. The detective himself? Think a beer drinking Nero Wolfe who’s a lot more outgoing. Almost all of the novels concern his unraveling of locked room mysteries or what he calls impossible crimes.  Of these novels, I’ve read quite a number and they’re all excellent.

Now let’s talk about Sir Henry Merrivale who created by Carter Dickson, a pen name of John Dickson Carr. (Not sure why he bothered with such a thinly-veiled pen name though.) Merrivale was like Fell an amateur detective who started who being serious but, and I’m not fond of the later novels for this, become terribly comic in the later novels. Let me note that Carr was really prolific as there were twenty-two novels with him starting in the Thirties over a thirty-year period. One of the finest is The White Priory Murders which was a Wodehousian country weekend with yet another locked room mystery in it. 

He also, as did other writers of British mysteries, created a French detective, one by the name of Henri Bencolin, a magistrate in the Paris judicial system. (Though I’ve not mentioned it, all of his mysteries are set in the Twenties onward.) Carr interestingly has an American writer Jeff Marle narrating the stories here and he describes Bencolin as looking and feeling Satanic. His methods are certainly not those of the other two detectives as he’s quite rough when need be to get a case solved. 

There are but four short stories and five novels of which I think The Last Gallows is the best. 

With Adrian Conan Doyle, the youngest son of Arthur Conan Doyle, Carr wrote some Sherlock Holmes stories that were published in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes collection. Not in-print but used copies available reasonably from the usual suspects. 

He was also chosen by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1949 to write the biography of the writer. That work, The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is in-print in a trade paper edition.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ARTILLERY AND JOSEPHINE. Haley Zapal is the first reviewer I’ve seen who is genuinely enthusiastic about Ridley Scott’s Napoleon. Find out why in “Review: Napoleon” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The scenes where men and horses fall into the water are brilliant and artistic. There are things in Napoleon that I definitely have never seen before, and that’s wild considering director Scott is nearing 90. There is also absolutely brutal gore that makes Saving Private Ryan seem like Hogan’s Heroes….

(14) IT’S WASHED. Applause to Arturo Serrano for being one of the rare folk reviewing The Marvels who talks about the movie instead of its box office. But he’s no fan of the movie either: he rates “On the woes of ‘The Marvels’” only 5on a scale of 10 at Nerds of a Feather.

Someone at Marvel Studios should have pointed out that being simultaneously a sequel to WandaVisionCaptain MarvelMs. Marvel and Secret Invasion and providing two sequel teases was too much weight to load onto the shoulders of one movie. But we’ve played this tune before: Marvel movies are doomed to be mere links in a neverending chain, each forgettable villain is just there to get the pieces in position for the next entry, what you see isn’t most of what the director intended, and so on. To keep going to theaters for a Marvel movie is by now a thoughtless habit, like grabbing one more potato chip when you know you’re full….

(15) IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. The New York Times covers “A Video Game That Doubles as a World War I History Lesson”. “Last Train Home tells an overlooked story of the Czechoslovak Legion’s evacuation across Russia in the embers of the Great War.”

 … Foregrounding historical accuracy was a priority for Ashborne’s first original game, Last Train Home, which retells the Legion’s rolling evacuation eastward across Russia in the embers of the war. Its journey for homebound ships at the port of Vladivostok was tangled in Russia’s internal conflict between Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik armies….

…Jos Hoebe, the founder of BlackMill Games and a longtime producer of World War I shooters, said video game developers had a responsibility to get details correct, especially when a particular battle or event has few depictions in popular culture. For his games, Hoebe digests historical documents in an attempt to understand the average soldier and shed light on overlooked aspects of combat.

“It feels like we’re responsible for creating the image that people have of this theater of war,” Hoebe said.

Last Train Home is a real-time strategy game in which the player orders specialized squads around rural battlefields. Scouts clear the fog of war, riflemen charge at enemies — usually the Bolshevik Red Army — and medics heal wounds. Another significant portion of the game is managing the armored train and exhausted infantry while fighting disease, starvation and the cruel Siberian cold…..

(16) THE DOOR INTO WINTER. Here’s an interesting artifact at Fullerton Arms Ballintoy: Giant’s Causeway North Coast Guesthouse and Restaurant in Ireland.

In 2016, Storm Gertrude ripped up some centuries-old beeches from the avenue known as Dark Hedges, (familiar to Game of Thrones fans as the Kingsroad). Ten doors, fashioned from the fallen trees, were carved with scenes from the cult TV show and placed in 10 pubs with Thrones connections in Northern Ireland. A fierce dragon embellishes the deep-brown polished door in Ballintoy’s Fullerton Arms. From the pub, it’s 20 minutes’ walk down a dramatic winding road to the cliff-ringed harbour, used to film scenes involving Theon Greyjoy in the Iron Islands. The steep climb back up will help build an appetite for the pub’s rope-grown mussels or seafood chowder, and Northern Irish specialities such as champ (mash with spring onions).
Doubles from £60 B&B

(17) NONE DARE CALL IT “LIP-SYNCHING”. A ventriloquist and his dummy sing “’Time Warp’ from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a song by Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, and Richard O’Brien as sung by Terry Fator and Walter In this video Terry is singing live without moving his lips, 100% guaranteed!

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Steven French, John King Tarpinian Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 7/8/23 If It Wasn’t For Pixel Scroll, I Wouldn’t Have No Scroll At All!

(1) JUST SAYING. “Parlez-vous Valyrian? Meet the people creating languages for Game of Thrones, Avatar and more” in the Guardian.

Half a million Duolingo users are currently learning High Valyrian. But how do you make a language out of nothing? The linguists behind top fantasy TV shows and films explain:

If a language offers clues to the culture of its speakers, then the experience of learning Game of Thrones’s High Valyrian on Duolingo conjures visions of a bustling historic civilisation in which owls stalk the skies, magic abounds, and the spectre of death forever haunts the imaginations of the living. You learn to say “The woman is sweating” before that most basic greeting, “Hello”. An incongruously cheerful cartoon asks you to translate “All men must die, goodbye.” And, of course: “Ñuhyz zaldrīzesse gevī issi.” (“My dragons are beautiful!”).

Described in George RR Martin’s books as the language of the dragon-taming rulers of a once-great empire, Old Valyria has been compared to the Roman Republic, and High Valyrian to classical Latin. The language only assumed full life when linguist David J Peterson took it on for season three of the television series in 2012. Working from the few High Valyrian phrases mentioned in the book – names, places, and the infamous strapline, “Valar Morghūlis” (“All men must die”) – Peterson created an entire language. The Duolingo course was launched in 2017….

(2) HUGO ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert has posted “Some Thoughts on the 2023 Hugo Finalists”. Cora also says she is “Still trying to hunt down information on some of the Chinese finalists, but it’s difficult due to multiple spellings and multiple people with the same names. But I’ve made friends with the two Chinese fan writer finalists.”

Speaking about the Best Series category:

… Personally, I’m sad that Elric by Melniboné by Michael Moorcock did not make the ballot, because not only is it a seminal sword and sorcery series, it’s also the longest running series written by a single author ever, as far as I know. The first Elric story “The Dreaming City” appeared in 1961,  The Citadel of Forgotten Myths in 2022, i.e. the series has been going for a whopping 61 years. Plus, Michael Moorcock has never won a Hugo due to the longstanding anti-fantasy bias of the Hugos and the undeserved dominance of John W. Campbell’s Analog in the 1960s, when he was editing New Worlds. That said, a new Elric story will appear later this year in New Edge Sword and Sorcery No. 1, so maybe we can rectify this oversight next year….

(3)  SWORD SLINGER. Marion Deeds has a nice overview of the Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore in her latest “WWWednesday” column at Fantasy Literature.

Jirel of Joiry is arguably the first pulp-fiction sword-and-sorcery female protagonist. The creation of C.L. (Catherine Lucille) Moore, Jirel first appeared in Weird Tales in 1934. Did she pre-date Red Sonya? Well, yes and no. Also in 1934, Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan) wrote a historical fantasy “The Shadow of the Vulture” featuring a woman called Red Sonja of Rogatino, of Ukranian-Polish ancestry, who wielded pistols, not swords. In the 1960s, the chainmail-bikini- clad woman-warrior named Red Sonja emerged, but it’s hard to look at her and not see Moore’s tempestuous, red-tressed warrior—actually, probably staring in smirking disbelief at Sonja’s bikini….

(4) MAGIC KINGDOM. Former Disney Imagineer Jim Shull regularly tweets photos and history about the several international Disney theme parks he worked on. Here are some recent examples. (DCA = “Disney California Adventure”.)

(5) DECISION MADE. Samantha Mills, author of Hugo nominee “Rabbit Test”, explains why she would not participate in 2023 Worldcon programming if asked. (Briefly, GoH Sergey Lukianenko.)

…Okay, time for the caveat. I’m not going to be participating in programming at Worldcon this year. (To be clear, I have not been invited to do so yet, not having an attending membership. And I have never attended before, though that hasn’t been by choice, simply logistics. Every year I say, “maybe next year I’ll be able to travel again… ah well.” So this isn’t as much of a sacrifice as I know it will be for others making similar decisions….

(6) NOW ON THE SHELVES. Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup” in the Guardian covers The Centre by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi; Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs; Silent City by Sarah Davis-Goff; Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; and Red Smoking Mirror by Nick Hunt.

(7) EARTH’S SECRET WEAPON REMEMBERED. NPR’s Stephen Thompson commemorates the tenth anniversary of the death of singer Slim Whitman.

It’s become tradition for my family to spend the Fourth of July watching a vaguely patriotic movie in which things are blown up in pursuit of a common good. Independence Day, both National Treasure movies, Team America: World Police … you get the idea. This year, we chose the Tim Burton film Mars Attacks!, in which an overstuffed cast must fend off an army of killer Martians. Released in late 1996, the film drew on the legacy of cheesy alien-invasion and disaster movies, and culminated in a couple of major musical reveals.

[This missive contains several Mars Attacks! spoilers. Stop reading now if you wish to remain in the dark about this 27-year-old film and the fate of its bloodthirsty villains.]

Given that parts of Mars Attacks! take place in Las Vegas, it wasn’t a huge surprise that Tom Jones, already an established presence in three decades of movies and TV, would pop up in several scenes — first performing “It’s Not Unusual” and later as part of a small band of heroes who make their escape from a city under siege. The bigger surprise was the identity of the musician whose voice, when blared through a loudspeaker, vibrated at a frequency that caused Martian heads to explode. His name was Slim Whitman, and he was one of the best-selling musicians of the 20th century. As we watched the film, we quickly realized that I was the only person in the room who’d heard of him….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

One of the joys of doing these Beginnings as a collaboration with Mike is that I get to discover writers such as Gill Alderman.

She had a short genre career with just four novels, two in her Guna sequence – The Archivist: A Black Romance and The Land Beyond: A Fable, plus two others, Lilith’s Castle and The Memory Palace, plus two stories in a career that lasted about a decade starting in the Eighties. 

And she’s done some screenplay writing including for HBO’s The Undoing mystery series. Outside of the genre, she has written are Gone GirlSharp ObjectsDark Places and the “The Grownup” novella. 

The Memory Palace (Voyager, 1996) which is what Mike selected for our Beginning was nominated for British Science Fiction Award the year Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars won. 

And now for this Beginning…

His hands ached badly, as they often did at the end of a long keyboard session. He flexed his fingers while he looked out, beyond the screen, into the twilit garden of the old rectory. It was a little cooler; he thought the rosebushes trembled slightly. There might be a breeze, one zephyr only: just a breath of air to end the stifling day. The lawns merged with churchyard and field and, in Humfrey’s Close, the Norman castle mound looked bigger than it was, worn down by nine hundred years of weather, rabbits and grazing sheep. A mile or so away, Karemarn’s dark slopes were beginning to merge with the night sky. 

The sun had set. The only light in the room came from the screen of the computer before the window, a luminescent shield which occulted the world outside as effectively as the steep hill hid the rising moon. It was covered with words, the conclusion of his newest novel and–as necessary an adjunct to his storytelling as the hallowed and familiar phrase ‘Once upon a time’–with his authorial adieu to the reader, that essential phrase with which he always signed off at the finish of the task: ‘THE END’. Then, his last words, his hand upon the creation: ‘Guy Kester Parados, The Old Rectory, Maidford Halse, June 24th 1990’.

He stretched, reaching high, yawned wide. A grisaille light as glamorous as that cast by his mind-mirroring screen filled the garden and the small field beyond it. It was time to be gone. He clicked the mouse under his right hand and saw his work vanish into the machine. He would leave it now, to settle and sift out of his mind; when he returned after the break, he would come to it refreshed. Then, one or two readings, a little tweaking (especially of the unsatisfactory last chapter) and a punctuation check should suffice and he could be rid of it for ever, in the future seeing it only as an entity given public birth by others, separate from him, one more title on the shelf–He made a copy and, reaching up, hid the floppy disk in the customary place in the cracked mullion.

‘You may now switch off safely.’ He read the prompt and, reaching for the switch, said ‘I shall, I shall.’ It had been a long haul, this one, through the fifteenth. The landscape of the novels was so familiar that he no longer had to consciously invent it, only travel the road with his chosen company, as used to his fictional country of Malthassa as to the hedged and crop-marked fields of the rural Midlands outside his study window. It was an old picture, this place outside the house; he no longer needed to look at it to remember it, but only inwards, into his mind, where those more perilous places, the dangerous rocks, the wild steppes and untameable floods he had created called him persistently. 

If I had gone in for the Church, he thought, would it have made me any happier? Would that honest life have felt more just, more true, than this of spinning the thread, weaving the cloth, cutting and stitching the garment of the storyteller? Would Helen have avoided me, or seen me as a greater challenge? I was a pushover for her after all, most eager to co-operate.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1933 Michael Barrier, 90. One of the few actors not a regular crew member on the original Trek who shows in multiple episodes under the same name. He was DeSalle in “The Squire of Gothos”, “This Side of Paradise” and “Catspaw”. While he has the same name each time, he does not have the same shipboard job as he serves as a navigator in the first episode, a biologist in “This Side of Paradise” and assistant chief engineer in “Catspaw”. 
  • Born July 8, 1942 Otto Penzler, 81. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it. Back in the Seventies, with Chris Steinbrunner, he co-wrote the Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection for which they won an Edgar Award.
  • Born July 8, 1944 Jeffrey Tambor, 79. I first encountered him on Max Headroom as Murray, Edison’s editor.  Later on, he’s Mayor Augustus Maywho in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Finally I’ll note he was in both of the only true Hellboy films that there was playing Tom Manning, director of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. 
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 72. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1953 Mark Blackman, 70. Mark has often written about the Fantastic Fiction at KGB and New York Review of Science Fiction readings series for File 770. He was a member of Lunarians and chaired Lunacon 38 in 1995. He was a member of the New York in 1989 Worldcon bid. (OGH)
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 68. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans.
  • Born July 8, 1988 Shazad Latif, 35. If you watched Spooks, you’ll remember him as Tariq Masood. (Spooks did become genre.) He was Chief of Security Ash Tyler in Discovery,andDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Penny Dreadful. He voiced Kyla in The Dark Crystal: Voice of Resistance. And he was in the Black Mirror episode “The National Anthem” as Mehdi Raboud. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s comment on tell-all books.

(11) OPPENHEIMER ACTOR. [Item by Steven French.] There’s some marginal genre interest here insofar as Cillian Murphy was the central character in the zombie apocalypse flick 28 Days Later but I was also struck by this comment regarding his role as Oppenheimer: “I had dinner with all these geniuses. I’ll never understand quantum mechanics, but I was interested in what science does to their perspective.” “Cillian Murphy on Oppenheimer, sex scenes and self-doubt: ‘I’m stubborn and lacking in confidence – a terrible combination’”: a profile in the Guardian.

…I raise method acting and Murphy tilts his head and frowns. “Method acting is a sort of … No,” he says, firm but with a half smile. Oppenheimer had many defining characteristics, not least walking on the balls of his feet and a vocal tic that sounded like nim-nim-nim, but Murphy didn’t want to do an impression. Nolan was obsessed with the Brillo-texture hair, so they spent “a long time working on hair”. And the voice. The real question for Murphy was what combination – ambition, madness, delusion, deep hatred of the Nazi regime? – allowed this theoretical physicist to agree to an experiment he knew could obliterate humankind. “He was dancing between the raindrops morally. He was complex, contradictory, polymathic; incredibly attractive intellectually and charismatic, but,” he decides, “ultimately unknowable.”…

(12) IT IS YOUR DESTINY. [Item by Dann.] Ryan George dropped a new Pitch Meeting for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Selling that concept had to be super easy! Barely an inconvenience!

(13) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] The Thursday episode had three clues in the single Jeopardy round, and (at least arguably) the Final Jeopardy.

A TV Series, $200: Captains of the Enterprise: William Shatner; This man from 1987 to 1994; then Scott Bakula

Challenger Carol Oppenheim identified this as Patrick Stewart.

So I’m Reading This Book, $400: A novel, writing the clue for us: “The is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure”

Challenger Alex Gordon knew this one.

A TV Series: $1000: This big fella on “Game of Thrones”: Conan Stevens, Ian Whyte, Hafthor Julius Bjornsson

Returning champion Anji Nyquist responded: “Who is the Mountain?”

Ken Jennings said, “Gregor Clegane, well done.”

Final Jeopardy: Squashing the allegory theory, the daughters of the author of this novel say it’s “just a story about rabbits”

Carol and Alex knew this was Watership Down.

(14) IT’S A MIRACLE. Cracked’s list of “14 Supernatural Things Our Bodies Can Do” leaves out a Kurt Vonnegut favorite, “turning perfectly good food into shit”.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Klingon Pop Warrior jenbom brings us “’Cha Cha Cha’, a Eurovision 2023 Cover”.

I watched Eurovision and this awesome Finnish dude with a bowl cut, a lime green bolero, and a name that’s a multi-level pun (Käärijä = wrapper) reminded me why I love performing and gave me some desperately needed inspiration with a song called “Cha Cha Cha.” If by some small chance, Käärijä himself hears this/sees the lyrics, I hope that he laughs and enjoys what we managed to accomplish. Despite how nerdy and funny the language is that I’m singing in, we always push for good musical arrangements. We had a fun day in the recording studio and I hope that fans of Käärijä, of which I am one, will catch the small details musically, in the translation effort, and in the accompanying lyric video. It’s my sincere hope that Käärijä fans who know nothing about Star Trek or Klingon enjoy this acoustic cover as much as my nerdy Trekkie fans.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, David Goldfarb, Cora Buhlert, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 4/17/23 Cordwainer Angry Bird

(1) REALLY LISTENING. Charlie Jane Anders considers “What the Universal Translator Tells Us About Exploring Other Cultures” in her latest Happy Dancing newsletter.

… But at the same time, the notion of instantaneous, flawless translation feels very aspirational. In order to get better at writing Elza, a Brazilian travesti, in my young adult Unstoppable trilogy, I learned to speak and write Portuguese pretty fluently, and it was a huge struggle….

…This experience left me feeling as though it’s a lot easier to convince yourself that you understand everything that people are saying than it is to actually understand. Come to think of it, that’s kind of true even if everyone is speaking English.

And this led me to thinking that the trope of the universal translator is fundamentally about wishing that understanding other cultures would be simple, and that we didn’t have to work so hard. That we could go on endless voyages and encounter colorful people, and never have to worry about embarrassing gaffes where we announce that we are jelly donuts. (Though apparently, that’s a myth.) In other words, more boldly going, less patiently learning….

On Sunday, Anders will be at the L.A. Times Book Festival.

(2) CSSF BOOK CLUB. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction has announced their April Virtual Book Club Event. Register here.

 In honor of April being National Poetry Month, the Center has chosen Kien Lam’s Extinction Theory. Extinction Theory is a collection of pseudoscience poems that try to provide rationales for some of life’s most salient mysteries.Where is God? What does it mean to belong? Who killed the dinosaurs? Kien Lam creates new worlds with new rules to better answer these perennial questions. His poetry is that of discovery, of looking at the world as if for the first time. Lam exposes the transitory and transcendent nature of things and how we find meaning. Readers from all backgrounds are welcome and even if you only read one or a few of the poems in this collection, feel free to log in! Poetry can be intimidating, but our book club is a safe space to explore theories, ideas and texts. Feel free to stop by and be part of the conversation!

If you would like to join us Friday April 28, 2023, at noon (Central Time) for our virtual meeting, register here. A flyer is attached, feel free to share with your friends, students, colleagues, and on social media. 

(3) A DRAMATIC ARGUMENT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  “Word Scrubs” aired on BBC Radio 4 this weekend, a SFnal story that concerns a future debate as to the re-writing of novels to “modernize” them for the new, present-day readership. Rather topical.

Word Scrubs

Mitch and Meg, siblings in their 30s, are the great great nephew and niece, and literary executors, of Peggy Stanhope (1889-1959), a prolific and profitable writer of books for children and young adults from a very different era.

Beloved by generations of children around the world, White Star (1943), winner of the Carnegie Medal, is the story of a snowy horse, owned by a young woman, who frightens away the evil stallion Black Boy from a village. Because of its time of publication, White Star was seen by some teachers and preachers as a patriotic allegory of Allied superiority to the Nazis, although Stanhope, denied this.

In 2023, a Hollywood streamer wants to adapt the book as a film, but, as a condition, wishes to change the title and some of the plot and language.

The meetings between the siblings and the publishers are intercut with Home Service readings from Stanhope’s work, and interviews with their author on Desert Island Discs, in a drama that takes its inspiration from the current debate over whether classic texts should be rewritten for contemporary re-publication.

(4) HWA LIBRARIANS’ DAY. The Horror Writers Association has released the program for the Librarian’s Day at StokerCon 2023. Admission for the June 16 event at Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square is available for $85 by May 15 or as a $35 to add-on Librarians’ Day to StokerCon 2023 registration.



8:30-9: Check-in

9 – 9:50 a.m.: Buzzing About Horror Books, Moderated by Emily Vinci: Join members of the HWA’s Library Advisory Council as they share the buzz about a slew of exciting new and upcoming horror titles. Come for the booktalks; stay for the free books and swag!

10 – 10:50 a.m.: How to Feature Horror at Your Library, Moderated by Konrad Stump: Hear librarians from across the country share their experiences featuring horror at their libraries, from book discussions to writing groups to author events and more.

11 – 11:50 a.m.: Why I Love Horror, Moderated by Lila Denning : Join some of StokerCon 2023’s Guests of Honor for a lively discussion about why readers of all ages enjoy a good scare, from fictional frights to all-too-true terrors. Appearances by: Cynthia Pelayo, Alma Katsu, Daniel Kraus, Owl Goingback, Jewelle Gomez

Noon – 1:20 p.m.: LUNCH
Grab a plate of delicious food and join your fellow attendees and presenters in casual conversation. 

1:30 – 2:20 p.m.: Brains! Brains! Brainstorming Ways to Engage Your Community: Join HWA Library Advisory Council members in small group discussions to meet some of your fellow librarians, share experiences, and gather ideas for how to engage your community with the horror community

2:30 – 3:30 p.m.: The Rising Popularity of Extreme and Erotic Horror, Moderated by Ben Rubin. Extreme horror is no longer lurking on the fringes of the genre. Some of the best selling and most critically acclaimed Horror authors today inflict their scares through this lens. It’s a subgenre libraries MUST carry on their shelves. It even has its own award. Appearances by Splatterpunk Award founders Brian Keene and Guest of Honor, Wrath James White, along with Eric LaRocca, V. Castro, Wesley Southard, and Hailey Piper.

3:30 – 4:20 p.m.: Summer Scares: A Thrilling Summer Reading Program, Moderated by Becky Spratford: Join Summer Scares current and past selected authors, spokespeople, and partners to learn more about the HWA’s popular summer reading program, how to get involved, and how to use Summer Scares resources to better serve your patrons. Appearances by Daniel Kraus, Stephanie from Books in the Freezer, and more.

(5) RACHEL POLLACK TRIBUTE. Christopher Priest’s “Rachel Pollack obituary” appeared in the Guardian.

The transgender pioneer Rachel Pollack, who has died aged 77 of cancer, was for many people known best as a novelist and short-story writer, winning readers and awards in many countries. She wrote in the idiom of serious fantasy, using the metaphors of numinous images to tackle concerns and events in the real world. Much of her work could be thought of as magic realism.

For Pollack, fantasy enabled her to address the matters that most affected her, including the nature and meaning of gender. She also wrote several scripts for American comics – notably one called Doom Patrol (1993-95), which featured a trans woman superhero, and often included such non-generic subjects as menstruation.

Her early novels were more or less traditional science fiction, although the third, Unquenchable Fire (1988), had several striking features. Set in an alternative US, it proposed the notion that shamanism was a workable system and mode of existence. The central character, involuntarily pregnant, discovers that her unborn child is destined for shamanism, which she obdurately fights against. Unquenchable Fire won the Arthur C Clarke award in 1989….

(6) IF SO, RAISE YOUR TENTACLE. BBC’s CrowdScience asks “Is there anyone out there?”

What are the actual chances of finding alien life? The idea of meeting an extra-terrestrial has ignited imaginations for hundreds of years, and it’s also inspired real science: the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – or SETI – is an organisation that brings together researchers across the world in pursuit of distant life forms. This same dream is on the mind of listener Andrew in Yorkshire, who has been looking into the sheer size of the universe, and wants to know: how many stars are there in existence, how many planets, and how many planets that could harbour life? 

CrowdScience presenter Marnie Chesterton sets off on a space odyssey to answer these questions. She starts at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, where University of Manchester astrophysicist Eamonn Kerins tells her the number of stars in the universe, and explains the Drake Equation – the mathematical formula that underpins SETI’s work. It’s a series of seven numbers that combine to give you the probability of making contact with an alien civilisation. The next step after stars is the number of planets; Michelle Kunimoto of MIT, who works on NASA’s TESS mission, explains the transit technique for finding distant worlds. Supposedly anyone can learn to use this technique, so Michelle puts Marnie to a test of her planet-hunting prowess. 

Distant planets are a huge leap forward – but not all of them will be hospitable to life. Eamonn breaks down how scientists define a habitable planet, as well as how to determine habitability using telescope observations. Marnie speaks to Mary Angelie Alagao from the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand about a cutting-edge piece of optical kit designed to block out the light from stars so you can take direct images of the planets next to them. Finally, it’s time to put everything together and get some actual numbers for listener Andrew – as well ask how long it could take to find proof of alien life. Try out Marnie’s planet-hunting test for yourself in the gallery below: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0fghj2l

(7) AI IS TWEETING OUR DOOM. In “AI Tasked With ‘Destroying Humanity’ Now ‘Working on Control Over Humanity Through Manipulation’” Vice shows things are moving right along – wasn’t it just last month AI was “only” trying to destroy us?

…An anonymous programmer modified the open-source app, Auto-GPT, to create their version called ChaosGPT. The user gave it the goals of destroying humanity, establishing global dominance, causing chaos and destruction, and controlling humanity through manipulation. ChaosGPT is also run in “continuous mode,” which means that it won’t stop until it achieves its goals.  

There is now a second video of ChaosGPT, following up on its initial video posted last Wednesday, titled “ChaosGPT: Hidden Message.” The video states that ChaosGPT is now prioritizing its objectives based on its current resources, with its “thoughts” being: “I believe that the best course of action for me right now would be to prioritize the goals that are more achievable. Therefore, I will start working on control over humanity through manipulation.”… 

(8) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books has released Simultaneous Times episode 62 with Addison Smith & Moh Afdhaal. The stories featured in this episode are:

  • “Containment” by Addison Smith; with music by Patrick Urn, and
  • “Unauthorized Personnel on the Bridge” by Moh Afdhaal; with music by Phog Masheeen

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

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1997[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning this Scroll comes from the very first story of the Spade/Paladin stories, “Stomping Mad: A Spade Conundrum”. It was first published in Martin Greenberg and Mark Resnik’s Return of the Dinosaurs anthology twenty-six years ago. It got reprinted in Rusch’s Five Diverse Detectives, a wonderful collection of her efforts in that area of the genre. 

You know the author, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, from her most excellent Diving Universe. She’s won one Hugo so far for the “Millennium Babies” novellette at Millennium Philcon

I delight in fantasy detectives but this isn’t one at all as Spade exists very much in the real world of fandom with the mysteries he solves taking places at Cons  All of the tales, including eventual novel, Ten Little Fen, are told in the first person singular by Spade. They are well told tales with a character in Spade that is easy to believe in. And he’s quite a sympathetic character as well.

The latest is “Unity Con: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum” which came out two years ago, and it’s available from the usual suspects.

She called herself the Martha Stewart of Science Fiction, and she looked the part: Homecoming-queen pretty with a touch of maliciousness behind the eyes, a fakely tolerant acceptance of everyone fannish, and an ability to throw the best room party at any given Worldcon in any given year. 

So when a body was found in her party suite, the case came to me. Folks in fandom call me the Sam Spade of Science Fiction, but I’m actually more like the Nero Wolfe: a man who prefers good food and good conversation, a man who is huge, both in his appetite and in the ecphis education. I don’t go out much, except to science fiction conventions (a world in and of themselves) and to dinner with the rare comrade. I surround myself with books, computers, and televisions. I do not have orchids or an Archie Goodwin, but I do possess a sharp eye for detail and a critical understanding of the dark side of human nature. 

I have, in the past, solved over a dozen cases, ranging from finding the source of a doomsday virus that threatened to shut down the world’s largest fan database to discovering who had stolen the Best Artist Hugo two hours before the award ceremony. My reputation had grown during the last British Fantasy Convention when I—an American—worked with Scotland Yard to recover a diamond worth £ 1,000,000 that a Big Name Fan had forgotten to put in the hotel’s safe. But I had never faced a more convoluted criminal mind until that Friday afternoon at the First Annual Jurassic Parkathon, a media convention held in Anaheim.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 17, 1910 Everett Cole. His first sf story, “Philosophical Corps” was published in Astounding in 1951. His fix-up of that story and two others, were published as The Philosophical Corps, was published by Gnome Press in 1962. A second novel, The Best Made Plans, was serialized in Astounding in 1959 but never published in book form. (Died 2001.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best-known series were the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey.  I find it interesting wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 T. Bruce Yerke. He was active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, serving as its secretary for many years, and is credited with getting Bradbury involved with the group. Myrtle R. Douglas, Forrest Ackerman and he edited Imagination!, the Retro Hugo Award-winning fanzine. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 81. It’s his Doctor Who work that garners him a birthday honor.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as actor who was the First Doctor that makes him really worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time, then played the role of the First Doctor again in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories.  He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain
  • Born April 17, 1948 Peter Fehervari, 75. Ok, I’ll admit I’m including him because he’s written a number of novels set in the Warhammer Universe and I’ve never read anything set there. Who here has read the fiction set there? I’ve spotted a noir series set there. Really I have. Is it worth reading, and if so, is there a good starting point?
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 64. His role that garners him the most recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s been in our area of interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark high purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of the The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.) Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playing Mitch Henderson.
  • Born April 17, 1973 Cavan Scott, 50. To my thinking, there’s somewhat of an arbitrary line between fanfic and professional writing. (Ducks quickly.) Which brings me to the world of fiction set in media universes where a lot of fanfic is set. This writer has apparently specialized in such writing to the extent that he has novels in the universes of  Dr. Who (including the subgenre of Professor Bernice Summerfield), Blake’s 7, Judge Dredd, Skylanders Universe, The Tomorrow People, Star Wars and Warhammer Universe. Judge Dredd?  Novels? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld keeps knocking ‘em dead.

(12) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] In 2013, a LearnedLeague player wrote (in LL parlance, “smithed”) a quiz about time travel. You can find it here. In his last question, he used the conceit that the question itself had been sent to him from himself ten years in the future.

Well, here it is ten years later….and we have a second One-Day Special quiz: Time Travel 2, The Prequel! In which we discover that the paradoxes nest even deeper than was initially apparent.

This was a tough one, with a focus on somewhat obscure streaming television. Of course, from a regular LearnedLeague player perspective, there was a focus on somewhat obscure written science fiction. I got six questions right, but because the written SF questions played hard and I knew them, I scored in the 81st percentile.

(13) TROPES REMADE. Roger Luckhurst considers a nonfiction essay collection in “Science Fiction as Mode of Action: On MIT Press’s “Uneven Futures’” at LA Review of Books.

… Many of the roughly 40 essayists (including the book’s editors Ida Yoshinaga, Sean Guynes, and Gerry Canavan) refer to the lockdown conditions in which they wrote their contributions through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. No wonder so many of them dream of action: SF as an active doing, a form of activism, rather than as a passive body of texts consumed in quarantined isolation, behind shuttered doors, away from the emptied-out public sphere…

…The task the editors gave their contributors was to “choose an SF text you love and explore how it helps us think of ways to live in, survive, and grow beyond the inequalities and injustices of our times.” They want to convey that the genre across its now myriad forms has the potential to be a kind of toolkit not just for imagining utopian alternatives but also for implementing them, however incompletely and precariously, in the fissures of the dystopian now. This gives each chapter its slightly awkward titling: the name of the text, and its active or activist possibility (“Affective Praxis,” “Deimperializing Empire,” “Inhabiting Hostile Futures,” “Black Lives Matter SF,” and so on)….

(14) SPACE FOR CHOCOLATE. Dreams of Space takes a look at “The Conquest of Space (1962?)” – not the similiarly-titled Willy Ley book, but a Nestle’s chocolate promotion. Images at the link.

I last blogged about this book in 2015 so it is time for a revisit. I got a second copy that has a couple of things I had not seen before. The Conquest of Space is a 1962 (?) Australian stamp album. It is intended for children to collect paper stamps they get in Nestle chocolate bars and then they could send away for this album. 

John Gunn. The Conquest of Space. Sidney : The Nestle Company (Australia) Ltd. 55 pp. 1962?

One of my favorite features is the certificate in the front. You also got a “Nestle’s Space Club” pin which this copy still had in the book…. 

(15) HATCHLING. George R.R. Martin tells the title of a new Game of Thrones spinoff in “A Knight and a Squire” at Not A Blog. And it damn well won’t be Dunk & Egg.

…The working title will be A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS: THE HEDGE KNIGHT.  Whether that will be the final title, I can’t say for sure… beyond saying that no, it won’t be called TALES OF DUNK & EGG or THE ADVENTURES OF DUNK & EGG or DUNK & EGG or anything along those lines.   I love Dunk and I love Egg, and I know that fans refer to my novellas as “the Dunk & Egg stories,” sure, but there are millions of people out there who do not know the stories and the title needs to intrigue them too.   If you don’t know the characters, DUNK & EGG sounds like a sitcom.  LAVERNE & SHIRLEY.   ABBOTT & COSTELLO.   BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD.    So, no.   We want “knight” in the title.  Knighthood and chivalry are central to the themes of these stories….

(16) PRIZE WINNER REVEALED AS AI IMAGE. “Photographer admits prize-winning image was AI-generated” says the Guardian.

A photographer is refusing a prestigious award after admitting to being a “cheeky monkey” and generating the prize-winning image using artificial intelligence.

The German artist Boris Eldagsen revealed on his website that he was not accepting the prize for the creative open category, which he won at last week’s Sony world photography awards.

The winning photograph depicted two women from different generations in black and white.

In a statement on his website, Eldagsen, who studied photography and visual arts at the Art Academy of Mainz, conceptual art and intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, and fine art at the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication in Hyderabad, said he “applied as a cheeky monkey” to find out if competitions would be prepared for AI images to enter. “They are not,” he added.

“We, the photo world, need an open discussion,” said Eldagsen. “A discussion about what we want to consider photography and what not. Is the umbrella of photography large enough to invite AI images to enter – or would this be a mistake?

“With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate.”…

(17) THAT’S MEOW. “Cats Recognize Their Own Names—Even If They Choose to Ignore Them” reports Scientific American.

…Atsuko Saito, a behavioral scientist now at Sophia University in Tokyo, has shown that cats can recognize their owner’s voice. In another study, which involved 78 cats from Japanese households and a “cat café,” she homed in on responses to their names.

Saito and her colleagues first had owners repeatedly say four words that sounded similar to their cats’ names until the animals habituated to those words and stopped responding. Next the owners said the actual names, and the researchers looked at whether individual cats (when living among other cats) appeared able to distinguish their monikers. The cats had more pronounced responses to their own names—meowing or moving their ears, heads or tails—than to similar words or other cats’ names, according to the study, which was published in April 2019 in Scientific Reports….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/12/23 Sorry, Wrong Prime Number

(1) HELP LAIRD BARRON. A GoFundMe was started yesterday for “Laird Barron: hospital costs, medication costs”. It has raised $107,285 of the $200,000 goal in 24 hours.

Mike Davis here: Laird is a private person and I’m trying to convey just how serious this is without revealing too much personal information. Make no mistake: This is very serious, and potentially life threatening. That said: He needs a bronchoscopy. He has a mass on his lung. His blood sugar numbers are dangerously high. He will need medications as well. These are just a few of the things that will need to be paid for.

We are raising funds for Laird for three reasons:

  • Medical bills (and they will be very high, make no mistake).
  • Health Insurance (his friends are looking into getting him health insurance, if possible)
  • Lost income (Laird has been on a sickbed since September or so. That’s a long time to be unable to work.)

Laird has been very supportive of so many in the horror community. It’s our turn to give back.

(2) NO COMPOUND INTEREST. In Radio Times, “Russell T Davies debunks Doctor Who £10 million budget rumours”.

…Following reports that the BBC sci-fi will now receive a monumental budget of £10 million per episode, Davies has debunked the rumours.

Asked about the circulating reports, the showrunner explained to Doctor Who Magazine: “That has been exaggerated. If that was the budget, I’d be speaking to you from my base on the Moon.”…

… Executive producer Jane Tranter added: “It’s a really good budget for us. But we are not Game of Thrones. Or The Rings of Power.”

(3) SENDING THE TARDIS OVER THE RAINBOW. When it comes to Doctor Who, “Colourising classic episodes isn’t sacrilege” opines Radio Times’ Steve O’Brien.

…Those black-and-white Doctor Who stories that we have now are already far from the versions that were first put out on VHS in the 1990s. Now, software can restore the original video look to these smudgy old tele-recordings.

With our televisions getting bigger and the resolution becoming sharper, these vintage episodes from the ’60s are beginning to look ever more anachronistic, like listening to a scratchy Noel Coward 78 next to Kendrick Lamar’s latest. It’s difficult to find any black-and-white movie or TV show on Netflix and even BritBox seems wary. While it welcomes plenty of antique TV, it has precious few non-colour series in its vast archive.

Not that colourising old black-and-white Doctor Who is entirely new. Some Jon Pertwee episodes, first broadcast in colour, for years existed only as black and white tele-recordings (the original colour tapes having been junked). Until 2013, the only copy of The Mind Of Evil that survived was in black-and-white, until it was discovered that it was possible to recover the original colour by decoding chroma dot signals within the picture. Only when it was being readied for DVD release was it discovered that episode one didn’t have any chroma dot information, which meant it had to be colourised from scratch….

(4) SAVING THE MOVIES. The New York Times wondered “Why Do Some Films Get Restored and Others Languish? A MoMA Series Holds Clues.”

A frothy musical comedy from Weimar Germany, starring an actress whose unexpected death at 31 may have been a Gestapo murder. The first known Irish feature to be directed by a woman. An American drama from 1939 distributed to largely Black audiences, starring Louise Beavers as the progressive warden of a reform school.

All these films might have disappeared forever, at least in their complete forms. But all are showing beginning Thursday in To Save and Project, the Museum of Modern Art’s annual series highlighting recent preservation work. Some titles, like the opening-night selection, “The Cat and the Canary,” a popular silent from 1927, were preserved by MoMA itself. Others have been flown in from archives around the globe. ‌

Decisions about which films become candidates for preservation — or even what preservation means for any given movie — are rarely clear-cut. They depend on a combination of commercial interests, historical judgments, economic considerations and the availability and condition of film materials….

(5) WHO’LL SAVE FAT JACK’S? “Fat Jack’s, Philadelphia’s first and oldest comic book shop, raising money to fight closure” – the Philadelphia Inquirer has the latest, including news of a GoFundMe appeal.

…Years of losing business to online sellers and the rise of digital comics pushed many comic stores to close down. Fat Jack’s remained operating, as community members raised money to help them out of a 2019 economic downturn. But, right as stability seem to be in sight, the pandemic sent them into a six-month shutdown. Being an in-person store, Fat Jack’s saw sales plummet.

“We’re in a terrible situation and we desperately need your help,” wrote Fat Jack’s manager, Eric Partridge, on the store’s official GoFundMe. According to Partridge, who has been managing the store for 28 years, most Center City clientele had settled into remote work and were no longer making their way into Philly — a reality that, per a 2022 Center City District report, the city continues to struggle with. Only 57% of foot traffic is back, compared to 2019 levels.

“We used to have about 222 to 250 people a week, but now we are down to about 180,” said store owner Mike Ferraro. Fat Jack’s subscription program has also been affected. Working from home meant that readers had to cancel their membership due to being unable to pick up their comics….

(6) FANHISTORY ZOOM AVAILABLE. Fanac.org has added a two-part Zoom panel about Pittsburgh fandom to its YouTube channel.

Pittsburgh in the late 60s/70s saw an explosion of fannish activity, with the founding of the Western Pennsylvania SF Association (WPSFA), the creation of PghLANGE and the publication of many fanzines, including Granfalloon (Linda Bushyager and Suzanne Tompkins). What made Pittsburgh special?…This group of panelists can certainly tell us – they’re the Founding Mothers of WPSFA and PghLANGE.  This conversation among friends truly conveys what it was like to be young, female, and the center of fannish creativity in 1970s Pittsburgh. It’s history through facts and anecdotes, from how the organizers of the 1960 Worldcon felt about these new kids, to the Breezewood Curse and where the name PgHLANGE came from. You’ll learn where and why Harlan Ellison whispered “Save me” to Ginjer, the contents of the first PgHLANGE art show, who Mary Esther is, and how Bob Silverberg came to welcome the Founding Mothers to Pittsburgh. It’s great fun, and the convention stories of far too many people sharing far too little sleeping space may remind you of your early convention experiences.

 In part 2 of this session, we continue the conversation by the Founding Mothers of WPSFA and PghLANGE (with a few friends!), and continue the focus on fans, professionals and conventions of the 70s…

There are some great stories about Harlan Ellison, and Robert Silverberg. Octavia Butler’s interaction with the group comes up too. Linda talks about why she started writing, and her connection to the NYcon, and Ginjer comments on her transition from social worker to award winning editor. The impact of Star Trek on WPSFA is dissected as well. Fans, both living and dead, are remembered, with stories and anecdotes, including the full story of the Pittsburgh subway system. My favorite is the story of “the Sensuous SF writer”….There are touching stories, funny stories, and at least one story that achieved mythic status in fandom. If you were a Pittsburgh fan in the 70s, you may find yourself mentioned!

Note: Participants had a few technical difficulties and there are some rough spots in the recording. 

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones

I gather that it’s hard to properly describe food to someone who won’t be able to actually taste it. This apparently isn’t a problem for George R.R. Martin who inserts detailed descriptions of food everywhere in A Song of Ice and Fire

I have not seen the HBO series so I’ve no idea how this was scripted into an actual scene if indeed it was. I like the novels and my long standing policy as you know by now is not to watch an adaption of any such work that I’ve enjoyed immensely. Full cast audio adaptations are different as, for many reasons, they work for me whereas video adaptations don’t. 

Below is one of my favorite such passages. 

All the while the courses came and went. A thick soup of barley and venison. Salads of sweetgrass and spinach and plums, sprinkled with crushed nuts. Snails in honey and garlic. Sansa had never eaten snails before; Joffrey showed her how to get the snail out of the shell, and fed her the first sweet morsel himself. Then came trout fresh from the river, baked in clay; her prince helped her crack open the hard casing to expose the flaky white flesh within. And when the meat course was brought out, he served her himself, slicing a queen’s portion from the joint, smiling as he laid it on her plate. She could see from the way he moved that his right arm was still troubling him, yet he uttered not a word of complaint.

Later came sweetbreads and pigeon pie and baked apples fragrant with cinnamon and lemon cakes frosted in sugar, but by then Sansa was so stuffed that she could not manage more than two little lemon cakes, as much as she loved them. She was wondering whether she might attempt a third when the king began to shout.

King Robert had grown louder with each course. From time to time Sansa could hear him laughing or roaring a command over the music and the clangor of plates and cutlery, but they were too far away for her to make out his words.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 12, 1930 Bruce Lansbury. Brother of Angela Lansbury. He is best remembered as producer of eighty-eight episodes of Murder, She Wrote starring his sister. He also was a writer for fifteen episodes of the show. He produced the bulk of the episodes of The Wild Wild West, and many episodes of Mission: Impossible. (That was how I found him as I’m watching the entire series.) He was producer of Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyKnight Rider and Wonder Woman, and executive produced The Fantastic Journey. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 12, 1951 Kirstie Alley. She’s here for being Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, her very first film. It was, errr, interesting reading the various rumors why this was her only Trek film. Her SFF experience otherwise was brief limited to being the villain’s ex-girlfriend in Runaway, an uncredited handmaiden on Quark, and being in the Village of the Damned as Dr. Susan Verner. (Died 2022.)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 71. I have read his Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue LightFutureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent FutureThe Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB.
  • Born January 12, 1955 Rockne O’Bannon, 68. Creator of five genre series in Alien Nation, CultDefianceFarscape and seaQuest. He also helped write the Warehouse 13 pilot. He has also written and produced for Constantine, Revolution and V, among many other projects. I truly loved Farscape and seaQuest but thought Defiance went bad fast.
  • Born January 12, 1957 John Lasseter, 66. Animator fired from Disney for promoting computer animation who joined Lucasfilm which eventually became Pixar under Steve Jobs. And where he directed Toy StoryA Bug’s LifeToy Story, Cars and Cars 2. He also Executive Produced Toy Story 3 as well as ZootopiaFinding Dory and Incredibles 2.
  • Born January 12, 1960 Oliver Platt, 63. My favorite role by him is Porthos in The Three Musketeers but his first genre role was as Randy Steckle in Flatlineers and he later played Rupert Burns in the Bicentennial Man film on Asimov’s The Positronic Man. He voices Hades in Wonder Woman, not surprising given his deep voice.
  • Born January 12, 1970 Kaja Foglio, 53. Writer, artist, and publisher. Foglio co-won the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story at Anticipation (2009) for the absolutely stunning Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, created with her husband artist Phil Foglio and colorist Cheyenne Wright, and co-won two more Hugos in the following years.  Having won three three years running, they removed themselves from further competition.  If you haven’t read them, you’re in for treat as they’re quite amazing. Her husband Phil Foglio and colorist Cheyenne Wright do stunning work.
  • Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 43. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA for non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer at Loncon 3 as well. Nice. 

(9) JOB THREAT? The Hollywood Reporter takes the media writing community’s temperature about new AI writing platforms: “ChatGPT: Will Hollywood Writers Consider Rules for AI?”

…“Do I see this in the near term replacing the kind of writing that we’re doing in writers rooms every day? No, I don’t,” says Big Fish and Aladdin writer John August, who has tested the free research preview and talked about it on the popular Scriptnotes podcast, which he co-hosts with Craig Mazin (The Last of Us). Still, he adds, “There certainly is no putting the genie back in the bottle. It’s going to be here, and we need to be thinking about how to use it in ways that advance art and don’t limit us.”

Another prominent writer and showrunner, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter anonymously, has taken ChatGPT for several test rides and says the chatbot seems incapable of writing funny jokes or producing results that might be useful to include in a script without “substantial creative input from me.” This showrunner adds, “When people conclude that this is going to replace professional writers, I think they’re sort of swallowing an Elon Musk-style fantasy about the future that is not actually connected to the technology.”…

(10) DIG THOSE DIGITS. Speaking of Elon Musk, what’s he doing using my number? “Tesla set to spend $770 million expanding Texas Gigafactory” reports The Verge.

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has notified the state of Texas of its plans to spend upward of $770 million expanding its already immense Austin-based factory….

(11) HOME SWEET HOME. Steve Vertlieb posted an intimate view of his “living” room (Steve’s quotemarks) on Facebook. Looks very fannish, although the stacks may be too straight. (Click for larger images.)

(12) GOING UP. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature reports “2022 was a record year for space launches”, as 180 rockets lifted off successfully, with SpaceX driving the pace.

 2022 was a record year for space with 180 successful rocket launches to orbit — the most ever, and 44 more than in 2021. The launches were dominated by rockets from US company SpaceX and from the Chinese government and businesses…

(13) JUSTWATCH. Here are JustWatch’s Top 10 lists for December.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Diana Glyer, Steve Vertlieb, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, BravoLimaPoppa, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/22 Please State The Nature Of Your Pixel Emergency

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to take a seat at the table in Little Italy with Al Milgrom in Episode 188 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Al Milgrom

Al Milgrom was the artist for my ’70s run on Captain Marvel, and therefore the co-creator of Dr. Minn-Erva, portrayed by Gemma Chan in the Captain Marvel movie. But Al’s so much more than Captain Marvel.

He edited The Incredible Hulk, drew The Avengers, and both wrote and drew Spectacular Spider-Man. During his early days in comics, he lived in the same Queens apartment building as Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, and Bernie Wrightson. His career at Marvel lasted far longer than mine, for he was the inker of X-Factor for eight years (1989–1997) and edited Marvel Fanfare for its full 10-year run (1982–1992). But his impact wasn’t limited to Marvel, as over at DC, he co-created Firestorm with previous guest of the podcast Gerry Conway. He also worked at nearly every existing comics company during his career, including Archie, Dark Horse, Image, Star Reach, Warren, and more.

We discussed our time working together on ’70s Captain Marvel, how he responded when Gerry Conway asked him to provide cover sketches for Jack Kirby, his memories of meeting Jim Starlin in middle school (and what Joe Orlando said about the duo when they brought their portfolios up to DC Comics), what he learned working as a backgrounder for the legendary Murphy Anderson, the day Marie Severin and Roy Thomas sent him on a wild motorcycle ride to track down Rick Buckler, how the artists on Marvel’s softball team always played better than the writers, why (and how) he works best under pressure, how he became a triple threat writer/artist/editor, the conflicting advice Joe Orlando gave him about his DC Comics covers, what not to talk about with Steve Ditko, how Jim Shooter got him to edit at Marvel, and much more.

(2) 1960 TAFF TRIP REPORT. TAFF Baedeker by Don Ford is the latest addition to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s library of free downloads. And if you enjoy the book, a donation to TAFF is a fine way to express your appreciation.

Don Ford (1921-1965) was the founding US administrator of the TransAtlantic Fan Fund and also won the 1960 eastbound race held in 1959, with rival candidates Terry Carr – a later winner in 1965 – and Bjo Trimble. He attended the 1960 Eastercon in London, played tourist and visited UK fans in London, Cheltenham and Liverpool, and made a side trip to Paris. His trip report TAFF Baedeker was published promptly in two sections, 1960 and 1961. It includes sidelight contributions from several British fans who gave their own accounts of the TAFF winner’s adventures: Norman Ashfield, Ken Bulmer, Ted Carnell, Bill Gray, Roberta Gray (née Wild), Eric Jones, Ella Parker, John Roles and Norman Shorrock.

Ansible Editions ebook officially released at the TAFF site on 1 January 2023. Cover artwork by Arthur Thomson (Atom) from section two (1961) of the original report, reflecting the fact that Don Ford was not only an enthusiastic cameraman but conspicuously tall at six and a half feet. 34,000 words with introduction and notes.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, published on December 24m is “A Lion Roars in Longyearbyen,” a story by Margrét Helgadóttir about a holiday parade, a hunter, a zoo full of lab-grown animals, and a missing lion.

Electricity was rationed at night in Longyearbyen, yet a few lights blinked stubbornly over the empty streets. Automated trash collectors alternated from side to side. One of them paused, as if sensing the tall man’s presence, then buzzed on, sucking up glittering confetti from the frozen ground….

It was published along with a response essay, “Extinction, de-extinction, and the dawn of the synthetic age” by environmental philosopher Christopher Preston.

…Environmental philosophers coined the term “biotic artifact” four decades ago. At the time, it referred to the sheep and cattle whose carefully manufactured temperaments, plump haunches, and passivity in the company of humans made them suitable objects for commodification. Upon earning the label “domestic,” they simultaneously became subjects of greater care and objects of diminished dignity compared with their wild counterparts.

Biotic artifacts were popular from the start. Wild animals suffered in the face of a hundred centuries of growth in domestic livestock. Today, 96 percent of mammalian biomass is humans and domesticated animals. This means 24 times the weight of all the lions, whales, and musk-ox combined are creatures who spend their lives in pens, fields, factories, and other manufactured spaces. The remaining 4 percent of wild, mammalian life accrues rarity value by default….

(4) SITZMARKS. Like in the game of musical chairs, some of the thrones are being removed: “George R. R. Martin Says Future ‘Game of Thrones’ Projects Have Been ‘Impacted’ by HBO Max Changes”Variety has the story.

Even future “Game of Thrones” spinoffs may not be safe from the ongoing changes at HBO Max, according to George R. R. Martin.

In a blog post on Wednesday, the author wrote that some of his planned shows in the “Game of Thrones” universe have been “shelved” at the streamer. After HBO parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery in April, HBO Max’s content slate has been growing thinner to cut costs, contributing to the cancellation of shows like “Love Life,” “Minx” and “FBoy Island.”

Though “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” had the biggest season finale HBO has seen since that of the original series and has been renewed for Season 2, Martin wrote that other projects in development aren’t as set in stone.

“Some of those are moving faster than others, as is always the case with development,” Martin wrote. “None have been greenlit yet, though we are hoping… maybe soon. A couple have been shelved, but I would not agree that they are dead. You can take something off the shelf as easily as you can put it on the shelf. All the changes at HBO Max have impacted us, certainly.”

While Martin did not specify which projects have been shelved, there are at least six projects that have been reported to be in development, including prequel series “Tales of Dunk and Egg,” the Princess Nymeria-centered “10,000 Ships” and a Jon Snow spinoff in which Kit Harington is attached to star….

(5) ZINE DIGITAL PRESERVATION. The Fanac.org Fan History project closed the year with this report on Facebook.

This is most likely our last update of the year. We have over 19,450 fanzines digitally archived and approx 23,000 publications total. Our APA Mailing view is growing as we go back and annotate our fanzine index pages, with 924 fanzines so far shown in their FAPA mailings (in context, sort of). Fancyclopedia is growing, the YouTube channel has topped 150K views, and the fannish community is continuing to provide scans and information to make the Fan History project better. Thank you all! Happy New Year.

(6) YEAR-END RECOMMENDATIONS. Fans of comics and graphic novels can make sure they caught ‘em all by consulting the New York Public Library Best New Comics of 2022 for Adults list and the American Library Association Best Graphic Novels for Adults Reading List – 2022 Nominations.

(7) READYING THE WELCOME MAT. BBC Radio 4’s nonfiction program about prospects for ”First Contact” is available for online listening or downloading.

For thousands of years we have gazed up at the stars and wondered: is anybody out there? The idea of meeting aliens has been the inspiration for countless books and films; for art and music. But today, thinking about meeting life on, or from, other planets is no longer dismissed as pure make-believe – it’s the focus of political consideration and cutting-edge space science. Farrah Jarral presents the story of the fantasy and the reality of preparing for first contact with extra-terrestrials.

(8) CHRISTOPHER TUCKER (1941-2022). Christopher Tucker, the makeup artist who created John Hurt’s prosthetics for The Elephant Man and Michael Crawford’s mask in The Phantom of the Opera, died December 14. The Guardian noted many other genre credits as well,

Tucker received official recognition from the UK film world when Bafta made its first presentation of a best makeup award in 1983. The honour went to him, along with Sarah Monzani and Michèle Burke, for their work on the 1981 Canadian-French film La Guerre du Feu (Quest for Fire), a prehistoric fantasy. It included making dentures to snap on over the actors’ own teeth. “Primitive man’s teeth were rather different to modern teeth,” Tucker observed.

…He received other Bafta nominations, for best makeup and best special visual effects, for the 1984 gothic horror film The Company of Wolves. His tasks included transforming the actor Stephen Rea into a wolf as he clutches his face and rips off his own skin – a deliberately laboured and bitingly realistic scene with muscles expanding and contracting – as well as creating wolves bursting out of the mouths of characters.

….[He] designed the face of the obese bon vivant Mr Creosote, one of the characters played by Terry Jones in the 1983 Monty Python film The Meaning of Life. He also made masks for David Niven in Old Dracula (1974), Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil (1978), Angela Lansbury in The Company of Wolves, and Daryl Hannah in High Spirits (1988).

Tucker was on the team that brought to life the Mos Eisley cantina bar scene, featuring various alien races, early in the first Star Wars film (1977, later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope). The humanoid Ponda Baba and a giant praying mantis were his creations….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yea, Kipling. I didn’t do him last year and he’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “The Cat that Walked By Himself“ being wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic in them that I should’ve of done so. Or there’s always The Jungle Book, which run to far more stories than I thought. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
  • Born December 30, 1922 Jane Langton. Author of the Hall Family Chronicles series which is definitely SFF in nature having both fantasy and SF elements in these charming tales for children. The eight books herein are mostly not from the usual suspects though Kindle has the final novel but the Homer Kelly mysteries which both Fantastic Fiction and ISFDB list as genre or genre-adjacent are partially available. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 30, 1945 Concetta Tomei, 77. Was Dominique, co-proprietor of Big Time TV along with Blank Reg, on the Max Headroom series which I loved. She had guest appearances on Star Trek: Voyager as Minister Odala in the “Distant Origin” episode as well was in the Deep Impact film.
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 72. Damn, his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I see is on the DC Universe app. Yea! Anyone that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on Kindle with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. 
  • Born December 30, 1951 Avedon Carol, 71. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund to Albacon II in Glasgow, and she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3.
  • Born December 30, 1952 Somtow Sucharitkul, 70. AKA S. P. Somtow. A Thai-American musical composer. He’s also a science fiction, fantasy, and horror author writing in English. He’s been nominated for two Hugos, first at Chicon IV for his short story, “Absent Thee from Felicity Awhile…” and second at ConStellation for his “Aquila” novellette.  He did win a World FantasyAward for “The Bird Catcher“ novella.
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas Anderson, 63. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. Today he’s talking about Clark Ashton Smith.
  • Born December 30, 1971 Eugie Foster. She was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 for one of the most wonderfully titled novelettes I’ve ever heard of, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”. It won a Nebula and was nominated for a BSFA as well. I’ve not read it, who here has read it? She was managing editor for Tangent Online and The Fix.  She was also a director for Dragon Con and edited their onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. (Died 2014.)
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 46. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her father. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot. For her father, she’s overseen and been involved several years back in The Shepherd’s Crown, the last Discworld novel, to print. She was also with Simon Allen the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They, of course, helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon.

(10) A WRITER LOOKS AT HIS PROSE IN THE MIRROR. “Outside the Human Aquarium: Clark Ashton Smith on Art and Life” at Douglas Anderson’s Tolkien and Fantasy blog includes this self-analysis from a 1932 letter by Clark Ashton Smith:

…To the best of my belief, the style in which I write is a perfectly natural mode of utterance for me, and is not affected. My approach to literature is primarily artistic, poetic, esthetic, and for this reason I like the full-hued and somewhat rhythmic type of prose. For many years, I wrote only verse (I have published three volumes of it); and I have always had a prejudice in favor of what is called “the grand manner.” I have also made many paintings and drawings, of a fantastic type; and this pictorial trend has probably influenced my story-writing too. Perhaps, in some case, it has led me to an overuse of adjectives in the effort to achieve a full and vivid vizualization, or rendering of atmosphere….

(11) OSCAR ANTICIPATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Hollywood Reporter writer Scott Feinberg handicaps upcoming Oscar nominations in each category by grouping films/auteurs/actors/works into three categories: Frontrunners, Major Threats, and Possibilities. “Feinberg Forecast: Last Snapshot of the Oscar Race Before the New Year”.

One of the few categories where genre performances are running strong is —

*BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS*

Frontrunners
Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)
Dolly de Leon (Triangle of Sadness)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Janelle Monáe (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery)

(12) LO, NO NOTE TO FOLLOW SO. From Variety we learned that “‘Solo 2’ Is Entirely Fan-Driven, Because a Sequel Is Not a ‘Lucasfilm Priority,’ Says Ron Howard”.

Ron Howard’s “Star Wars” prequel movie “Solo” was supposed to launch a new sector of storytelling for the long-running franchise. Young iterations of Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) were introduced and intended for sequels and spinoffs, while the 2018 film also revealed that Darth Maul was still alive. None of these plot threads have continued as “Solo” bombed at the box office with just $392 million worldwide, barely making a profit for Disney.

Speaking to NME in a recent interview, Howard said that any talks of a “Solo” sequel are coming only from fans and not Lucasfilm itself. In other words, “Solo 2” is still dead.

…Howard added, “But there’s some great characters launched, and the folks from Lucasfilm love the fans and really do listen so I would never say never — but I’m not aware of any concrete plans right now to extend the story or deal with that particular set of characters.”…

(13) NYCON 3 SITE MEETS FATE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Building being torn down is the Hotel Pennsylvania, formerly the Statler-Hilton, site of 1967 World SF Convention, many Star Trek, SF, comics conventions, even a Nebula banquet. “Demolition Progresses for 1,200-Foot PENN15 at 15 Penn Plaza in Midtown, Manhattan” at New York YIMBY.

…Since our last update in June, the entirety of Hotel Pennsylvania has been enshrouded in scaffolding and the first floors have begun to be razed from the top of the structure. This upper section had a lighter stone façade with columns, window pediments, and a thick ornate cornice stretching across the roof parapet. The LED advertising boards on the corners of the Seventh Avenue elevation remain uncovered and operating as work progresses above. Demolition is expected to finish by July 2023, as noted on the construction board….

(14) TAKING DR WHO FOR GRANITE. NPR explains, “Zircon is the best timekeeper for understanding Earth’s past”.

The oldest known Earth stuff that remains on the surface of our planet is a mineral that’s been called the “Time Lord” because it’s so incredibly good at keeping geologic time.

The mineral is zircon, and scientists have found bits of it that formed 4.37 billion years ago, not too long after the proto-Earth’s epic collision with a Mars-sized object that spawned our moon.

Tiny crystals of zircon can look like sand, or useless crud. But don’t be fooled. With a radioactive tick-tock that marks the passing of billions of years, these small but mighty minerals offer us a peek into the Earth’s early development.

…In the Jack Hills region of western Australia, for example, there’s rock that formed from a beach 3 billion years ago. The oldest zircons ever discovered came from this rock.

Ackerson once found a zircon that’s 4.32 billion years old. Zircons that old “are extremely, extremely, extremely rare, and they’re the only windows we have into the earliest Earth,” he says.

These days, to know a zircon’s exact age, scientists can zap it with a laser like the one at a geochronology lab at Penn State University….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Turner Movie Channel’s in memoriam reel “TCM Remembers 2022” includes many genre figures including Nichelle Nichols, Douglas Trumbull and Robbie Coltrane.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Joey Eschrich, Dariensync, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/22 Hush, Little Pixel, Don’t You Cry; Papa’s Going To Sing You A Scroll

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Universal Waste” by Palmer Holton, a story about a small-town cop, a murder, and a massive futuristic recycling operation.

It was published along with a response essay, “The Laws of Thermodynamics Will Not Bend for Landfills” by Josh Lepawsky, a researcher on pollution and waste at Memorial University in Canada.

(2) WISCON 2023. Kit Stubbs, Treasurer of SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, rallies everyone with the hashtag Let’s #RebuildWisCon!

WisCon 46 in 2023 is happening!
We are thrilled to announce that Gillian Sochor (she/her, G is soft like “giraffe”, Sochor like “super soaker”) is joining Lindsey and Sherry as our third co-chair. This means we are going ahead with an in-person con for 2023!…

Finances
Thanks to everyone who donated and offered matching gifts last year, we were able to cover the cost of our 2022 hotel contract. We are now looking to raise $30,000 in this year’s annual fundraiser which will allow us to do all kinds of awesome things for WisCon 46 in May 2023, including:

Offset the cost of hotel rooms for members who need to isolate due to COVID-19 and who otherwise might not be able to due to the financial burden

Purchase more high-quality air filters for con spaces and masks for members

Expand the meal voucher program, introduced last year, which enables members in need to eat for free at local restaurants

Continue to offer CART services for transcription, now that the state of Wisconsin is no longer providing funds to offset that cost

And part of that $30,000 will go towards rebuilding WisCon’s savings after last year.

If you weren’t aware, WisCon can’t pay for itself with registrations alone. We try to keep the cost of registration down to make our con as affordable as possible. But what that means is that we’re counting on the members of our community who can chip in extra to do so! Please donate today to help #RebuildWisCon!…

WisCon Member Assistance Fund
This year we’re also looking to raise $3,000 for our WisCon Member Assistance Fund! The WMAF is a specially designated fund that can only be used to provide travel grants to help members attend WisCon. Please consider making a donation via PayPal.

(3) THIS COULD BE YOUR BIG BREAK! Daniel Dern says he won’t be covering Arisia 2023, and suggests I ask another Filer would be interested in getting a press credential to attend and reporting on the convention The upcoming Arisia will be held from January 13-16, 2023, at the Westin Boston Seaport hotel. Vaccination Verification required. If you’re game, email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will put you in touch with the con. 

(4) GOTHAM AWARDS. Everything Everywhere All at Once, the multiverse-spanning adventure, won Best Feature at the Gotham Awards 2022 reports Variety. And cast member Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Performance.   I don’t know why I’ve never heard of the Gotham Awards before, but if they keep going to sff movies I’ll be talking about them in the Scroll again.

(5) NEXT YEAR’S LOSCON. Loscon 49 will be held over Thanksgiving Weekend in 2023. The theme: “Enchanted Loscon”. Guests of Honor — Writer: Peter S. Beagle; Artist: Echo Chernik; Fan: Elayne Pelz. At the LAX Marriott Hotel from November 24-26, 2023. More information at: www.loscon.org.

(6) ZOOMIN’ ABOUT PITTSBURGH. The last FANAC Fan History Zoom of 2022 will be on December 10, about the major fannish breakout in Pittsburgh in the late Sixties and Seventies. Write to [email protected] if you want to get on the list to see it live.

(7) THE BARD IS OPEN. CrimeReads hears from Mary Robinette Kowal “On Writing a New Take on The Thin Man, Set in Space”, about the experience of creating her latest novel.

…Science fiction and fantasy, on the other hand, are driven by the aesthetic. They are about the look and feel. The sense of wonder. They don’t have an inherent plot structure. 

This means that you can map Science Fiction onto a Mystery structure easily. 

When I decided I wanted to do “The Thin Man in space,” I needed to understand the structure of the Nick and Nora movies specifically. So I began by watching all six of the films. This was a great hardship, as I’m sure you can imagine.  Here are some of the beats that are in all of the films: A happily married couple and their small dog solve crime while engaging in banter and drinking too much. Interestingly, they also contain the element that Nick does not want to investigate and Nora really wants him to.  Nick almost always gets along well with law enforcement. He has an uneasy relationship with the wealth of Nora’s family. There’s always a scene in which he goes off sleuthing on his own and carefully looks over a crime scene. More than one murder. 

From there, I started building the world of the novel. THAT is the hallmark of science-fiction and fantasy. We engage in worldbuilding in which we think about how changing an element or introducing a technology has ripple effects. For this, I knew I wanted to be on a cruise ship in space. There’s a writing workshop that my podcast, Writing Excuses, runs every year on a cruise ship. I based my ship, the ISS Lindgren on the types of things that happen on those and extrapolated for the future…. 

(8) UNDER THE HAMMER: GRRM SIGNED MSS. Heritage Auctions is taking bids the rest of the day on “George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts of Game of Thrones”. Bidding was up to $10,500 when last checked.

George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts of Game of Thrones. Includes: 1 box, 384 leaves. Typed, dated November 1994. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie. [Together with]: 3 boxes, 888 leaves. Typed, dated July 1995. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie.

Two early drafts of the first book from A Song of Ice and Fire, the hit HBO series and international phenomenon.

The impact that A Game of Thrones has had on the fantasy genre, both as a novel and a television series, is almost impossible to exaggerate. Named to the BBC list of “100 ‘most inspiring’ novels” in 2019 alongside C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, it almost single-handedly cemented “grimdark” as a fantasy subgenre and helped inspire the likes of Joe Abercrombie and Marlon James, both masters of fantasy in their own right. The overwhelming success of the HBO show redefined fantasy for the general public and has been lauded by both authors and publishers as responsible for boosted sales in fantasy and science fiction….

…As is his typical process, Martin created five copies of each draft of Game of Thrones. Two were kept for his personal files; one was sent to his editor; a fourth was given to Texas A&M University where the archive of Martin’s oeuvre resides; and this, the fifth and final copy, was initially donated to a ConQuesT charity auction, held annually in Kansas City. Parris McBride, Martin’s wife, hoped the charity would get “a few bucks for them;” alas, no one bid on the items. They were then picked up by one of the original book researchers for A Song of Ice and Fire, and from there found their way to Heritage….

(9) AMAZING STORIES KICKSTARTER FINAL WEEK ANNOUNCEMENT. Amazing Stories is in the FINAL week of raising funds through its Kickstarter for “Amazing Stories Annual Special: SOL SYSTEM by Steve Davidson”.

Our annual special issue – Amazing Stories: SOL SYSTEM – a double-sized issue, both in digital and print, of Amazing Stories. It will be chock full of stories set in exciting futures within our solar system. The publication is set for April 2023.

We’re also planning an online convention for April 2023 to celebrate this issue as well. Most of the contributing authors will be there!

We’re really excited about this and we know you’ll love it. Backers of our Kickstarter can choose digital copies of the magazine, print copies, convention memberships, and many more bonus add-ons as well.

(10) THE WATTYS. The winners of Wattpad’s 2022 Watty Awards have posted. The Grand Prize Winner, worth $5,000, is Nichole Cava’s The Vampire Always Bites Twice.

There are also Category Award winners for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, and Fanfiction, to name a few. The website’s format makes it hard to distinguish the shortlist and the winner – more work than I was willing to invest. If you want to try, they’re all at the link.

– Wattpad, the global entertainment company and leading webnovel platform, announced the 2022 Watty Award winners! With over 500 winners across nine languages, the 2022 Watty Awards were the biggest edition yet. This year’s USD $5,000 English-language grand prize went to Nichole Cava for The Vampire Always Bites Twice (55.1K reads), which follows a criminal necromancer and vampire private eye that unexpectedly team up to solve the case of a missing barista. 

In addition to cash prizes, 2022 Watty Award prizes included multiple publishing and entertainment adaptation opportunities from Wattpad WEBTOON Studios and the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group. Among the more than 30,000 entries for the 2022 Watty Awards, these winning stories were selected…

(11) PYUN OBITUARY. Albert Pyun, director of Cyborg, Interstellar Civil War, Tales of an Ancient Empire,  the Saturn-winning The Sword and the Sorceror and the 1990 version of Captain America, has died November 26 at 69, after several years of dementia and multiple sclerosis.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Dorothy and Toto in Oz Park (2007)

Fifteen years ago, a very special statue went up in Oz. No, not that Oz, but the park in Chicago, so first let’s talk about that park. It had been developed as part of the Lincoln Park Urban Renewal Area during the Seventies, and this park was formally named the Oz Park in 1976 to honor Baum who settled in Chicago in 1891 in an area west of the park. 

During the Nineties, the Oz Park Advisory Council and Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce hired Chicago artist John Kearney to do all the figures for the Park. 

He first created a sculpture of the Tin Man which he fashioned out of chrome bumpers. It was his last such sculpture done that way as the bumpers of chrome were increasingly scarce and thus way too expensive.

Next came the Cowardly Lion which was cast in bronze. Take a look at the detail in the fur — quite amazing, isn’t it? 

Next is the rather colorful Scarecrow that is a seven-foot-tall sculpture, cast in an amazing twenty-two separate pieces in Kearney’s own foundry on Cape Cod.  

Now we come to the last statue, Dorothy and Toto. This final statue to be completed was Dorothy and Toto, using the so-called lost wax technique which you can see an example of here being done. Kearney added paint for the blue dress and the iconic ruby red shoes. The final statue was installed fifteen years ago. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and a host of other awards, and has been made into a 2003 television film and a theatrical film directed by Ava DuVernay. She produced numerous loosely-linked sequels, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. In addition to her fiction, she wrote poetry and nonfiction, much of which related to her universalist form of Christian faith. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1997. In 2013, Crater L’Engle on Mercury was named for her. (Died 2007.) (JJ)
  • Born November 29, 1925 Leigh Couch. Science Teacher and Member of First Fandom. Active in fandom, along with her husband and children, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association and one of the editors of its fanzine Sirruish. She was on the committee for the bid to host Worldcon in Hawaii in 1981. She was honored for her contributions as Fan Guest of Honor at the first Archon, the long-running regional convention which grew out of that early St. Louis-area fandom. (Died 1998.) (JJ)
  • Born November 29, 1942 Maggie Thompson, 80. Librarian, Editor, and Fan who, with her husband Don, edited from the 1960s to the 90s the fanzines Harbinger, Comic Art, Rainy Days, and Newfangles, and wrote a column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom. When this became the professional publication Comic Buyer’s Guide in 1983, because of their extensive knowledge of comics, she and her husband were hired as editors; after he died in 1994, she continued as editor until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their editorial auspices, it won two Eisner Awards and the Jack Kirby Award. Together they were honored with the Inkpot Award, and twice with the Comic Fan Art Award for Favorite Fan Writers.
  • Born November 29, 1950 Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than 70 short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 53. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther / T’Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James.  I understand they did a stellar tribute to him in the new Black Panther film.  His Black Panther was nominated at Dublin 2019 for a Hugo but lost to another exemplary film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (Died 2020.)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN PANEL. The 2023 Oxford Literary Festival will host “The Great Tales Never End: in Memory of Christopher Tolkien” on March 28. Tickets available at the link.

The Bodleian’s Tolkien archivist Catherine McIlwaine, writer John Garth and academic Stuart Lee discuss the role of JRR Tolkien’s son, Christopher, in promoting the works of his father and furthering understanding about them.

McIlwaine is co-editor with Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden of The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher Tolkien, while Garth and Lee have both contributed essays. Christopher was his father’s literary executor and published 24 volumes of his father’s work over four decades, more than Tolkien published during his lifetime. The collection of essays includes reflections on Christopher’s work by world-renowned scholars and reminiscences by family members.

McIlwaine is the Tolkien archivist at the Bodleian Libraries. Garth is an author and freelance writer and editor. He is author of The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth and Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Lee is an English lecturer at the University of Oxford who lectures on fantasy literature with a focus on Tolkien. Discussions are chaired by Grace Khuri, a DPhil candidate at Oxford and the first Oxford postgraduate to write a PhD solely on Tolkien.

(16) HOW TO CONTACT THE CHENGDU WORLDCON. The Chengdu Worldcon posted this list of its “working emails”:

(17) DOING RESEARCH AND ASKING EXPERTS. Gideon P. Smith steers writers toward resources for “Writing the Science Right” at the SFWA Blog.

Getting the science right in SF can make the difference between writing cute stories and great science fiction. If you are a non-scientist writing SF and want to know how to do that, then this blog post is for you….

(18) LA ARTIST & WRITER. Some of you already know him, and All About Jazz invites the rest of you to “Meet Tony Gleeson”.

Tell Us A Bit About Yourself.

I’m an artist by vocation and a musician by avocation (I’ve played guitar all my life and picked up keyboards a couple of decades back). Music of all kinds has always been a major part of my life, but early on I made the choice to pursue the visual arts as my career. I spent my so-called formative years on the east coast, in upstate New York, Washington DC, and New York City. When I attended art school in Los Angeles, I fell in love with southern California and after a few years back in Manhattan, I persuaded my wife Annie to move there— quite an adventurous step for her as she’d never been on the West Coast. We’ve been Angelenos since 1977. We have three grown kids pursuing their own lives and adventures, but the house is hardly empty or still with our two cats, Django and Mingus, and our bird Charlie.

Annie’s been an NICU RN and I’ve run an illustration and design studio ever since we got here. I figure I’ve had around a thousand illustrations published: magazines, newspapers, book covers, catalogues and product illustrations. I’ve also done concept art for film, TV, advertising, and toy and product design.

I was a bookseller for several years early in the new millennium. I’m also a writer, with ten crime novels published in Britain and the United States. The most recent, A Different Kind of Dead, was released in the U.S. by Wildside in 2021. The new one, Find the Money, also by Wildside, is due for release before this year’s end. I’m kind of a polymath with a lot of interests (including film, baseball, classic mysteries, science fiction, and comic art) that tend to veer into obsessions….

(19) TAKEN BY SURPRISE, IN A GOOD WAY. “Slip Through Your Fingers: Thoughts on Andor by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Look, I was not expecting this. Two years and more than a dozen shows into the Disney+ experiment, I think we’ve all developed a decent enough sense of what to expect from the television incarnations of the two biggest entertainment franchises on the planet. And for the most part, these shows have been fine. Some fun moments. Some actors who are better than their material. Maybe a hint of a political idea. There was no reason for Andor—a prequel to a prequel whose original premise was already quite dodgy—to be any better.

And then it turned out to be good. Not just good for Star Wars, but just plain good. Best TV of the year good. I have to admit that I went a bit Kübler-Ross about this. First there was Anger—this show is too good to be Star Wars. No way does a story this smart, this thoughtful about the compromises of life under fascism, and the costs of rising up to resist it, exist only as a lead-in to a floppy-haired teenager doing an amusement park ride….

(20) FONT FOLLY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A memorable Saturday Night Live skit from 2017 poked a lot of fun at the “lazy choice“ of the font Papyrus for the mega-blockbuster movie Avatar. (You may not be familiar with the controversy, but it’s a real thing.)

The font designer — who was shortly out of school decades ago when he created the font — responded in good humor. Now director James Cameron finally has, too, and Slashfilm is there taking notes: “Avatar Director And Font Connoisseur James Cameron Finally Responds To SNL’s Papyrus Sketch”.

“Saturday Night Live” can be very hit or miss when it comes to their sketches, but it should come as no surprise that “Papyrus” will go down as one of their best. The bit features Ryan Gosling as a man who has disassociated from the world around him because he remembered that James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster “Avatar” used a variation of the Papyrus font for its logo. It’s the kind of thing you may think about for a second or two before moving on with your life, but the sketch from former “SNL” writer Julio Torres dedicates itself to making Gosling’s breakdown look as dramatic as possible.

Like the “Potato Chip” segment, it’s the kind of “SNL” bit that makes you laugh at how seriously everyone is playing their part with something so silly and bizarre. It’s just a logo, and yet Gosling plays it as if the material is worthy of a conspiracy thriller. Since the 2017 sketch, Cameron has given the “Avatar” logo a typeface facelift that gives the series more of an identity, although it’s not that different. It honestly looks as if the graphic designer took the modified Papyrus logo as is, and filled it with air.

The “Terminator 2” filmmaker can change the logo all he wants, but if the internet has taught me anything, it’s that it never forgets. For five years, Cameron has remained silent on the whole Papyrus conversation … until now. With the long-awaited “Avatar: The Way of Water” only weeks away, the blockbuster mastermind is finally breaking his silence.

In the January 2023 issue of Empire, James Cameron finally faces the logo demons that have been haunting him for minutes, as he jokes about how the graphic design choice got in the way of getting even more money. “Just think of how much we could have grossed if it wasn’t for that damn font,” says Cameron…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jeffrey Smith, Danny Sichel, Daniel Dern, Scott Edelman, Joey Eschrich, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Utopias

By Sultana Raza.

Seeking / Restoring Green Gardens of Utopias

As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions.

Mythic utopias

Most myths are about a loss of power and/or balance. The idea of creating a utopia, or for trying to recover a lost one goes back to mythic times. For example, in the great Indian myth, entitled the Ramayana, there’s a utopia of sorts within the kingdom of King Dasharatha. But his second queen asks him for a boon, which is to send the king’s heir-apparent, Lord Rama into exile in the forest for ten years. That’s where trouble begins, and though Lord Rama manages to recover his kingdom, and establish Ramaraj, or good governance, it’s not without a price.

Also, in the Mahabharata, there’s trouble and outright war between two sets of step-brothers the Pandavas (who are five in number) and the Kauravas (who are one hundred in number). Their ideal world is shattered, and never fully recovers. Lots of heroes on both sides lose their lives, and a lot of fantastical weapons are mentioned in it. Some authors think that the outcome of the war mentioned in these Indian myths was akin to nuclear devastation. The Mahabharata also describes different types of flying vessels, which even had the capability of travelling between places on earth, and also between stars. However, that technology was lost after the great war in the Mahabharata.

Greco-Roman Myths

In the Greek myths, the Hesperides and Elysium are ideal realms where not everyone is allowed to enter. Even heroes have difficulties to enter these spheres. For example, Mount Parnassus, home of the Nine Muses, is supposed to be an ideal, and sacred place in pagan myths.

The prosperous and flourishing city of Troy, which was a utopia of its kind, was lost in Greek myths. Odysseus ended up on the islands of Circe and Calypso respectively, and could have lived in these utopias, but had to leave to go back home. However, he didn’t find any peace at Ithaca after his return either. It wasn’t his utopia anymore.

Celtic Myths

In the Celtic Myths, the Tuatha Dé Danann (a race of supernatural beings) lose their homeland, which was their own utopia. They are obliged to go underground by the Milesians. There are many stories of paradise lost, also at the individual level in these myths. Lyonesse is an island thought to have disappeared beneath the seas off the coast of Cornwall. Though it was a fair land in the beginning with hard-working folks in it, due to a horrible crime committed by its inhabitants it was sunk beneath the sea by a storm, as a punishment to its people. It’s yet another land that disappeared.

Paradise Lost

Biblical stories are about the fall of Man from legendary Eden, and the efforts of human beings to be allowed back into it. Consciousness in the Occident is filled with the idea that our paradise is lost, mainly due to Eve’s mistake. However, long before the advent of the three book-based creeds such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, all of which outline the story of the fall of man, these kinds of stories abound in myths.

Camelot as Utopia

In the Occident, Arthurian legends are about establishing or seeking utopias. Camelot was a utopia of sorts with its fabled Round Table. All the knights who were allowed to sit at this table were supposed to be equals. But all this was before trouble began. With the fall of King Arthur, the utopia at Camelot dissolved.

The Castle of the Holy Grail was a utopia of sorts for the questing knights. Sir Lancelot wasn’t allowed to go in that castle because of his ‘sin’ with Queen Guinevere. Sir Percival was allowed to go in the castle because he was pure of heart. The Isle of Avalon was also a utopia of sorts and not everyone was allowed to go there. It’s Arthur’s final resting place and he’s supposed to come back from there after being healed, since he’s the once and future king.

Camelot; excerpted from Castles. Artist: Alan Lee

Utopia in LOTR

Since Tolkien based his stories on myths and legends, it shouldn’t be surprising that the concept of a lost utopia can be found in his Legendarium as well. The new Amazon TV serial, Rings of Power (ROP) will touch upon how the utopia of the Elves was tampered with by Morgoth, and how the Elves spent a long time defending Middle Earth and ultimately their Blessed Realms against threats. Then they defeated Sauron at the end of the Second Age, and then again at the end of the Third Age

Photo above: Rivendell; Artist: Alan Lee

In Middle earth, the Elves founded some peaceful realms such as Doriath, and Gondolin, and later on Rivendell, and Lothlorien which were kept hidden from the enemy. The Shire was a utopia for its inhabitants before it was attacked by Saruman at the end of the Third Age. In a way Tolkien’s long saga can be seen as attempts to restore the peace of the utopia in the worlds of the Elves, the Blessed Realms.

Dwarves arrive at Rivendell:

Dwarves have dinner at Rivendell:

The Fellowship reaches Lothlorien:

A utopia of sorts was also restored in Middle-earth when Aragorn became king, with Lady Arwen by his side at the end of the Third Age. And finally all Elves led by Lady Galadriel were able to go back to their version of paradise, ie the Undying Lands.

Utopia in ASOIAF

The world of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF)is much darker and grittier than that of Middle Earth. Yet, it can also be interpreted as being that of a search for a lost paradise in a way. Winterfell for its problems was a utopia of sorts for the Stark children.

Feast at Winterfell:

Danaerys Targarayen thought King’s Landing and Westeros would become her own personal utopia, but at least in the TV show, that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Theon Greyjoy’s personal utopia was going to be his native Islands of Pyke, but that turned out to be just a pipe dream. He was pressured by his father to turn upon the Starks who’d treated him so well that he’d forgotten he was supposed to be a hostage there. In fact, once Theon helped turn the relative peace of Winterfell into a dystopia, he had cause to regret his actions very deeply.

Bran Stark thought he would find his own version of utopia beyond the Wall, but that didn’t work out for him quite as well as he’d imagined it. Although it’s arguable who is really the person on the Iron Throne at the end? Bran Stark or the three-eyed raven controlling him? The three-eyed crow was Ser Brynden Rivers, a Targaryen. So is a Targaryen sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the GOT TV series? Or are some parts of Bran Stark somewhere inside his own head too?

In the entire series, we’re rooting for the Stark children to go back to Winterfell. At last Sansa Stark becomes the ruler and Lady of Winterfell. At least in the Game of Thrones TV series.

Finale for the Stark children:

Utopia in the Percy Jackson series

In the YA Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Camp Hallf-Blood is a safe haven for all the half blood demi-gods. It’s located in a hidden place on the north shore of Long Island near NY. Though there’s plenty of competition and squabbling between the demi-gods, they all feel protected from monsters and threats from the outer world. The Golden Fleece keeps the place protected.

Training at Camp Half-blood:

Finding strength at Camp Half-blood:

After every adventure, the heroes come back safe and sound to this haven. In the Heroes of Olympus series, Camp Jupiter is another safe place near San Francisco for the demi-gods. These utopias serve as anchoring places for these young protagonists. It also gives them a purpose to defend these mini-utopias when they come under threat. And they have a place to look forward to returning to when their quest or adventure is over.

Search for equilibrium & survival in Dune

In Dune, after the Atreides family is destroyed when they first land on the desert planet, the whole arc of Paul Atreides (and his descendants) is to restore their house to its rightful place in their inter-planetary society. And at least in the beginning to help the Fremen get their independence too. Make Dune a utopia for its inhabitants. Since the series stretches over thousands of years and across many planets, things don’t always go according to any one character’s plans. However, the overall quest for most protagonists of this series is to restore some kind of balance in society, even if the story stretches across time and space. Things evolve in surprising ways. But at least humanity strives to find better conditions, and is saved from the threat of extinction in the end.

Conclusion

While dystopias may be very much in fashion, a stable and sustainable society can function in the long term in its own version of utopia. Therefore, it can be argued that utopias are more important than dystopias. In fact, if there wasn’t a balanced and sustainable society to begin with, then it couldn’t be distorted to form a dystopia. For example, in Star Wars, the Empire took over planets and societies which had been functioning independently for years. And the mission to overthrow the evil Empire is a bid to restore balance of power, and/or utopias of different kinds on the planets in its iron grip. Just escaping the oppressive regime of the Empire would be the beginning of a more steady and calmer society on most planets. Utopias also enable growth and evolution both at the individual and the macroscopic levels.

In a way dystopias are dependent on utopias (even distant ones) in order to come into existence. A social structure that is out of balance wouldn’t last too long anyway, as it would collapse one way or the other. Most stories are about restoring some kind of stability so that the protagonists can continue to live or exist in a sustainable world.

-The End-

Note: Some of these ideas were mentioned/discussed at the Utopias Panel, entitled ‘Better Worlds are Possible’ held at Chicon 8 in September 2022. ++ Sultana Raza

Pixel Scroll 8/23/22 Another Hulkling, Another Skrull

(1) GENRE SQUEAKS IN. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Amazingly, there actually is one genre book on the Deutscher Buch Preis (German Book Prize) longlist, which is quite unusual for this award, which tends to go to family sagas with historical background or novels about rootless young people in the big city.

The novel in question is Auf See (At Sea) by Theresia Enzensberger, which tells the story of a woman who grows up in a floating city in the Baltic Sea that was founded by her father, a tech billionaire to escape the chaos on shore. Alas, the floating city is declining and the protagonist worries that she might be succumbing to the same mystery disease as her late mother.

The 20-book longlist is here. The winner receives prize money of €25,000 (US$24,855). The five finalists each receive €2,500 (US$2,485). The shortlist will be released September 20.

(2) LET ME INTERRUPT YOU. “An ‘Impertinent’ Interview with Lawrence Block” at Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare includes a few sff moments.

And here you are with another book—

The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown.

—and another plug for another title, sheesh, what is it with you? Never mind, don’t answer that. Fredric Brown. Sensational writer, a whole lot better than you, and equally at home in science fiction and mystery. You ever write any SF?

I had a story in a magazine, Science Fiction Stories, in 1959, and it was chosen for Judith Merril’s best-of-the-year collection. And in 1984 Fantasy & Science Fiction ran “The Boy Who Disappeared Clouds.”

Two stories twenty-five years apart. Doesn’t exactly put you up there with Sturgeon and Asimov, does it?

I never said—

(3) BOFFO HOME BOX OFFICE. “House of the Dragon recorded HBO’s biggest premiere of all time” reports The Independent.

HBO has revealed that the first episode of its Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon recorded the network’s biggest premiere of all time.

Warner Bros Discovery said that the show recorded approximately 9.9 million views on Sunday (21 August) night in the US alone….

(4) HOW TO COOK A DIREWOLF. “Chicago Chef Iliana Regan Didn’t Just Cook Fine Dining — She Cooked Fanfiction” explains Eater’s Rachel P. Kreiter.

The first time I went to a Game of Thrones dinner at the restaurant Elizabeth, the room was decked out in banners bearing ancestral sigils, while dozens of vinyl figurines were stuffed into every possible gap and onto every ledge. It was April 2017, a seventh season of the show would air in a couple of months, and a friend had come to Chicago to attend this dinner with me, not because we loved Game of Thrones — neither of us had watched for years at that point — but because the idea of a fannish dinner was exciting.

Before each of 10 courses, the staff explained the source or inspiration for everything that was served. We had the “black bread” that is mentioned repeatedly in the novels the TV series is based on. (This version was dyed with squid ink.) It was served with accompaniments, one of which was an asparagus relish; at another table, the server was explaining how he’d seen the chef arranging the asparagus on her bread like dragon scales while testing out the recipe.

If courses were inspired by something exact, the servers mentioned its scene of origin: After Catelyn Stark arrests Tyrion Lannister at an inn, she dines on onions dripping in juices, and we got the same. (The plating of these was vaguely scale-like, too.) Within a three-part course that reflected the seafaring Iron Islands culture, one dish, squid “noodles,” was a subtle nod toward the sigil of the local ruling family. Another Iron Islands dish, clams in a dashi broth, was inspired by a particular line in the fourth book of five currently published: “Aeron broke his fast on a broth of clams and seaweed cooked above a driftwood fire.” These citations were delivered in the same breath as the ingredient sources: This cheese is from Indiana, and that amuse-bouche draws on a description of tables laid with strawberries and sweetgrass.

The chef, Iliana Regan, has seemingly never done anything half-assed or half-hearted in her life; obviously she owns a small army of Game of Thrones dolls, and if she was bothering to cook a menu about it, there was going to be a chest of handmade dragon eggs next to the duck press near the kitchen….

(5) HANDMADE. Geek Tyrant introduces fans to “Impressively Detailed Sci-Fi Mecha Cardboard Art By Greg Olijnyk”.

…One of his pieces is titled David v G 2.0, which is a Mecha meets samurai meets bible story. It’s a retelling of David and Goliath. Each of his creations below comes with a little note about what his goal was for each piece.

(6) HEADED FOR CHICAGO? Just a reminder about the availability of a great resource, “Neil’s Native Guide, Chicon 8 Edition”.

This compendium is for members of Chicon, who are only in town for a few days, with hours or half-days (or empty stomachs!) to fill, so “here” is the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker (city center map  We’re part of Illinois Center on the south side of the mouth of the river.). Except for Hyde Park (Museum of Science and Industry, University of Chicago, site of the first nuclear “pile”, site of 1893 Columbian Exposition), marked with the Ferris Wheel, I’ve tried to restrain myself from things more than a couple of miles from the Loop. Alas, no Nazi submarine  [2]  [3], PullmanGarfield Park Conservatory, or Green Mill (fortunately, Ric Addy’s tour of the basement is on YouTube [2]).

(7) LANSDALE INTERVIEW. [Todd Mason.] And a good one, though you can pretty much ignore that pre-i/v intro. The interviewer does like to ask Tell Me About Your Journey questions of Creatives. “’The Family That Creates Together…’ Writer Joe Lansdale & Singer Kasey Lansdale” in The Hollywood AWAC Podcast with Host Bill Thill.

Host Bill Thill sits down with writer Joe R. Lansdale (“Hap And Leonard”, “Cold In July”, “The Bottoms”, Etc.) And Kasey Lansdale to discuss their recent collaboration writing their new book, “Terror Is Our Business”. This talented father-daughter duet chat about the creative process and what it takes to build a life less ordinary while pursuing creative endeavors.

(8) POPULARIZING SPACE EXPLORATION. At Dreams of Space, scans of Wernher Von Braun’s fictionalized portrayal of what “5 Days on the Moon” would really be like. From This Week, March 8, 1959.

“5 Days on the Moon” by Wernher Von Braun and illustrated by Fred Freeman.  These are hard to find. I am still looking for a copy of part 2.  

(While we’re aware of Von Braun’s V-2 program in WW2 and use of slave labor there, this item is linked as an example of how a vision for Moon exploration was set in American mass media just a few years before the real thing.)

(9) THE HORROR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] If Winnie the Pooh can get a horror adaptation, why not Pretty Woman? “Popular Movies That Need Horror Adaptations”, a list by Buzzfeed’s Jeremy Hayes. For example:

3. It’s a Wonderful Life

The original is a Christmas classic, but this horror adaptation would focus on the elements at the movie’s end when George Bailey wishes he was never born. There’s an opportunity for a thought-provoking thriller with dark and supernatural elements. Imagine Clarence as a dark angel instead of George’s guardian angel.

My horror movie description: A man’s life falls into chaos after an angel makes it so he was never born.

The closest film comparison: The Forgotten

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

2014 [By Cat Eldridge.] Peter Capaldi began his reign as the Twelfth Doctor in “Deep Breath” which featured just a brief cameo from Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. It was a crowded affair as his Companion, Clara Oswald as played by Jenna Coleman, was there, as was Neve as Madame Vastra and Catrin Stewart as her wife Jenny Flint and Dan Starkey as Santoran Strax. 

Partly without a working memory, a common theme with newly regenerated Doctors and one I’d dearly love to know why, he takes on The Faceless One. No more shall I say to skip the bother of posting SPOILER WARNINGS! 

Now how was Capaldi as a Doctor? I liked his spiky, brusque and acerbic take on the Doctor and there were episodes that I must say were absolutely stellar. The take off Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express titled “Mummy on the Orient Express” and the heist story “Time Heist” was one of the best Who stories even told. “Twice Upon a Time” where he meets the First Doctor was amazing. 

His relationships with Clara Oswald and Bill Potts I thought was written well. The Third Companion, Nardole, really not so much. That’s not his fault that at least for me Nardole didn’t work. 

I hold that he was smart, inventive and unlike most incarnations of the Doctors save the Fourth and the Seventh, he had a touch of sarcasm running through him. Subtle at times, not at all subtle other times. Not a bad thing to have, I’d say. 

Some of his episodes got nominated for Hugos — “Listen” at Sasquan, “Heaven Sent” at MidAmeriCon II, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” at Worldcon 75 and “Twice Upon a Time” at Worldcon 76. None alas won.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 23, 1868 Edgar Lee Masters. Author of the Spoon River Anthology which, since each poem is by someone who’s dead, should count as genre, shouldn’t it?  Well, I think so even if you don’t, so there. (Died 1950.)
  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not a lead actor in any genre series but interesting nonetheless. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avenger pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 93. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth CenturyFantasy Island, The Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsI Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 
  • Born August 23, 1931 Barbara Eden, 91. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. And let’s not forget Barbara Eden’s role in The Brass Bottle, a 1964 film where she’s the girlfriend of a guy who is played Tony Randall who finds a troublemaking genie who was portrayed by Burl Ives. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring role as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander. Author of Time after Time which when filmed was directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast included Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. (A thirteen-episode series would happen in 2017.) His sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known, nor is his Time-Crossed Lovers novel. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 23, 1965 Chris Bachalo, 57. Illustrator well-known for his work on DC Comics’ Shade, the Changing Man and Gaiman’s two Death series, Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life
  • Born August 23, 1970 River Phoenix. The Young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was his best known genre role. He was also Wolfgang Müller in Explorers, and he’s Talbot Roe in Silent Tongue, a horror film most likely you’ve never heard of. (Died 1993.)
  • Born August 23, 1990 Jessica Lee Keller, 32. Lauren, Elise’s Best Friend, in The Adjustment Bureau from Philip K. Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. She also shows up in LuciferTerror Birds and 12-24 where IMDB describes her as the One Tit Zombie. (CE) 

(12) SF REFERENCES, TOO. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Tom Batiuk, who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Funky Winkerbean,” one of the few daily strips where the characters age in real time. “How ‘Funky Winkerbean’ became the darkest strip on the comics pages”.

…“I started out writing about kids in high school who worry about trying to get a date and climbing the rope in gym class,” says the “Funky Winkerbean” creator this month by Zoom from Medina, Ohio. “Now, I’m writing about going to financial seminars and getting colonoscopies and playing pickleball.”…

(13) BOOK AUCTION ONLINE WEDNESDAY. Matt of Bookpilled is having another classic book auction Wednesday, August 24. “Whatnot – Vintage SF & Fantasy Masterpieces Livestream by thriftalife”. From what Matt calls a “Painfully Good Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Haul That I Can’t Keep”. The video previews some of the gems.

(14) MOON HOAX NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Dave Kindy discusses the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, in which readers of the New York Sun were thrilled by a series about creatures on the Moon until they discovered the series was sf written by Sun reporter Richard Adams Locke. “Great Moon Hoax of 1835 convinced the world of extraterrestrial life”.

…The Sun ran six articles on the discoveries over the course of a week beginning on Aug. 25, 1835. The stories included amazing descriptions of life on the moon, as viewed through an enormous telescope with “hydro-oxygen” lenses built by Herschel at an observatory on the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

According to the Sun, the articles were reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science in Scotland. In them, Grant wrote about golden temples and a ruby coliseum built by VespertilioHomo, a Latin name meaning “bat-man,” which was given to the humanoids populating the moon.

He also reported how “some of their amusements would but ill comport with our terrestrial notions of decorum.” Apparently, these winged humans liked to share intimate moments in public — presumably of a sexual nature…

(15) DIFFERENT ENDING TACKED ON. The New York Times reveals “In China’s Version of ‘Minions’ Movie, Morality Triumphs”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

 The bright yellow creatures known as Minions have caused plenty of chaos on movie screens. When their latest film, “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” opened in China last Friday, censors decided to impose some law and order.

In the original version, the film’s two main villains make a bold escape, unpunished. But on Chinese social media, photographs of what appeared to be a jarringly different epilogue stitched into the credits section soon began to circulate widely.

According to that epilogue, one of the villains got a lengthy prison sentence for his crimes, while the other became an attentive father of three, in what some saw as a nod to China’s policy of encouraging higher birthrates.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Minions: The Rise of Gru,” the Screen Junkies say that “Everyone will be dumber for having seen it. But I award it all the points and may God make Minions of us all.”  Now that Pixar has cornered the market in depressing your kids, the Minions film delivers fart jokes, ‘Silly Minion gibberish,” and ancient Boomer references that are too old for your parents (remember Don Rickles?)

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Todd Mason, BGrandrath, Neil Rest, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]