Pixel Scroll 6/24/22 Uptown Scroll

(1) DOES THE GENRE HAVE A CORE? Charles Payseur, whose reviews of short sff fiction now appear in a column for Locus, questions what is the “core” of the genre in the context of noting that he doesn’t cover Clarkesworld, Asimov’s or Analog. “Quick Sips 06/24/2022”.

…I do always encourage people to just find venues that you like and then otherwise read what you feel like. The field of short SFF is too big to take on comprehensively, and even trying can quickly lead to burnout and frustration (just ask…most short SFF reviewers who try). As a reviewer and now as an editor, though, does there arise some sort of obligation to try? It’s a decent question, and one that I’m not sure anyone can answer because…what would trying look like, if not doing exactly what I’m doing now? Could I fit Clarkesworld into my reading? I’m actually unsure. Probably if I could I would have. It’s not like I have suddenly opened up a bunch of free time in my life. And yet I feel that some would think this omission a failing, as some have found my lack of coverage of Asimov’s and Analog a failing. And…I don’t have much to offer to that. All of those are very large publications and take a big commitment to get through every month. Were they smaller I’d probably be more tempted. As is…

There are some arguments one could make about how to determine where the “core” should be. By what pays best, maybe? Or by what has a long tradition of award nominations. By the prestige of the editor. However the lines of the “core” are drawn, though, many will feel excluded for being on the outside of it. It’s a problem that really can only be overcome by engagement. If more people were engaged in drawing their personal cores, then what gets engaged with critically might greatly expand. If reviewers all are moved not by proximity to some sort of “required reading” but rather are pulled in the direction of their personal taste, then as long as the field of reviewers were diverse and acting in good faith, then the largest possible coverage would be achieved….

(2) ON THE LEFT COAST. SFF author Brenda Clough, whose family moved from Virginia two years ago, tells a Washington Post interviewer “What I love about my home in Portland, Ore.”

Brenda W. Clough and her husband moved from Reston, Va., to Portland, Ore., early in 2020. Brenda, a novelist, shared their experience and what they love about their new home in an email. The following was edited for length and clarity.

“My husband and I sold our big house in Reston, Va., when we retired in early 2020. What good timing we had, because both of our offices closed down later that year. We moved to his hometown, Portland, Ore., where we bought a condo downtown.

… I also wanted modern architecture. The D.C. suburbs are almost purely Colonial in style, a Mid-Atlantic thing. Now I have become a fan of poured concrete and Brutalism. My current home has plate-glass windows that go from floor to ceiling. There are no steps at all. I can’t hear my neighbors, and I don’t have screens on the windows. There aren’t many bugs downtown.

Because I am a novelist, I also needed a place that could accommodate our 10 tall bookcases full of books. I dragged the ones in the picture all the way from the East Coast to the West, the tools of my trade: a science fiction and fantasy collection that spans 70 years and historical volumes focusing on Antarctica or Victorian England. And these are only the survivors of a major cull. I weeded out half of the books and gave them to Reston’s Used Book Shop in Lake Anne, which has been enabling my book shopping for decades. It costs roughly a dollar a pound to move stuff coast to coast, a price that powerfully focuses the mind. Moving like this is the opportunity to prune all the possessions back. It has been liberating to get rid of stuff from the basement, garage and attic….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab dinner with Gwendolyn Clare during Episode 174 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Gwendolyn Clare

Gwendolyn Clare’s debut novel, Ink, Iron, and Glass, and its sequel, Mist, Metal, and Ash, compose a duology published in 2018 and 2019 about a young mad scientist with the ability to write new worlds into existence. Coming up in November is In the City of Time, the first book in a duology about three science prodigies on a time-traveling adventure to save the Earth. Her short stories have appeared in ClarkesworldAsimov’sAnalog, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others, and her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling Award.

Her short story “Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast” was reprinted in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018. She holds a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, and a PhD in Mycology — the last of those making me wish I got around to asking her to assuage my fears about a relative of mine who picks and eats wild mushrooms … but hey, that will have to be dealt with at a future meal during a different con.

We discussed the important lesson COVID taught her about her career, whether her most famous short story reads differently during these pandemic times, the identity of the science fiction writer I was startled to learn had been her high school geometry teacher, what the novels of Elizabeth Bear taught her about writing, the short story concept she decided to instead turn into what became her first published novel, how she gets into the mindset to write in the Young Adult genre, the amazing cleanliness of her first drafts, the pantsing fingerprints she sees on Stephen King, the many iterations recent writers have made to John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?,” and much more.

(4) WJW AND THE THREE R’S. The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Portolan Project conducted “An Interview with Walter Jon Williams” about the three R’s of writing craft: Raising the stakes, Reveals, and Reversals.

“Reveals keep the narrative from plodding directly from one point to another, and often sends it off in another direction entirely. This comes from theater in which there’s a curtain, you don’t know what’s behind the curtain. Action goes on, the curtain is pulled back and suddenly you’re in another place that is very different from where you were before.”

Watch or read our interview with Walter Jon Williams on the three R’s of writing craft and how they could make our stories more engaging. 

Incidentally, the Portolan Writing Project: Phase 1 recently completed a successful Kickstarter that raised over $5,000. The initiative seeks “to provide a wealth of exceptional creative writing courses and resources, free to the public.”

(5) BETWEEN WORLDS. Barbara Graham searches for the dividing line in “Paranormal Or Normal?” at Mystery Fanfare.

My debut mystery, What Jonah Knew, has been described many different ways: Magical. Mystical. Paranormal. Supernatural. And though in one way the labels fit, in another way they raise questions about where the otherworldly stops and reality begins.           

Some background. I was working as a journalist when I was assigned to write a magazine article on past-life regression therapy. As part of my research, I scheduled an appointment with a well-known Jungian analyst who specialized in this work and had published books on the subject. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything to happen. I knew these sessions involved hypnotic suggestion and I—an admitted control freak—believed myself to be immune to trance-induced states. What’s more, the whole business struck me as unreliable at best, fraudulent at worst. Nearly everyone I’d read about who claimed to recall a past life under hypnosis seemed to remember being someone famous—Napoleon, Nefertiti, Abraham Lincoln—never your average serf or working stiff….  

(6) VOGEL VOTING DEADLINE APPROACHES. Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) have until June 30 to get in their 2022 Sir Julius Vogel Awards votes.

The main SFFANZ site (separate to this news service) was down for a bit – that has been fixed.

You need to be a member to vote (it only costs $10) – see “How to Join SFFANZ”. Here’s the info about how to vote and where to download the voting form. If you need more info about the nominees, there is a voting pack available.

(7) PRIDE Q&A’S. The Horror Writers Association blog continues their “Point of Pride” theme in these interviews with Cody Sisco and Steve Berman.

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

Being part of a marginalized group creates a hyperawareness of how members are represented in the media, including in fiction. To paraphrase an apocryphal quote: First they ignore you, then they scorn you, then they laugh at you, etc. When LGBTQ writers tell stories, there can be pressure to create “good representation” and to avoid portrayals that are complicated or nuanced especially if they touch on stereotypes. Writing horror is doubly tricky because we have to navigate creating characters and plots based on real fears and injustices, which can blur into inflicting pain on readers and calling up their trauma.

In my writing, I aim to include shades of dark and light, to explore the complications, inconsistencies, and dilemmas that shape every character, and to reach a queer audience with stories that expand the boundaries of queer pop culture.

How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

I must admit I am fascinated with essays utilizing queer theory to explore works of horror that most readers would consider “very straight” classic works of horror. A number of academics have applied this to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde as well as Stoker’s Dracula. I feel that such examinations are perfectly valid as I bring my own perspective (a very gay one) to everything I read or watch or hear.

While the number of queer-themed contemporary horror fiction has grown over the years so it is very possible to fill several bookshelves with just new releases, I do wish more LGBTQ readers would familiarize themselves with older works—I’m frustrated with tweets and posts that present and celebrate queer horror as a twenty-first-century phenomenon, ignoring the great efforts of of many authors. Before there was Clive Barker and Poppy Z. Brite, horror fans could delve into the Gothic storytelling of Francis Lathom or Forrest Reid, the Southern macabre of Michael McDowell, or the vampires of Jewelle Gomez and Jeffrey McMahan. To deny their existence is wrong.

(8) BANNED SOMEWHERE BESIDES IN BOSTON. Slashfilm can tell you “Why These Sci-Fi Movies Are Banned Around The World”.

Since the dissolution of the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, in the late 1960s, film censorship has been relatively uncommon in the United States. However, several other countries still actively ban films. Though science fiction is less of a target than other genres, there are still many notable examples of sci-fi films that ran afoul of censors, and behind each case lies a deeper story. Ironically, these bans end up revealing more about the perpetrators and their politics than any sci-fi film ever could.

First on the list:

The Matrix: Reloaded

“The Matrix” sparked backlash when it was first released in Egypt. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports, several Islamic publications interpreted the film as supporting Zionism. Naturally, Egypt promptly banned its follow-up, “The Matrix: Reloaded,” as well, but the reasoning behind that decision is somewhat murkier.

According to Variety, the country’s Department of Monitoring Artistic Products partially attributed the ban to “scenes of excessive violence,” which is a common red flag in Middle Eastern countries. However, the larger reason requires more digging. The committee also noted that the film “deals explicitly with issues of creation and existence,” including “the Creator and the created, the origins of creation, [and] free will and predestination.”

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1950 [By Cat Eldridge.] Seventy-two years ago on this day, the radio version of Robert Heinlein’s Destination Moon aired on the Dimension X radio show.  It was episode twelve of the series.

Despite common belief that it based off the film version of Heinlein’s novel, it was not. It was instead based on Heinlein’s final draft of the film’s shooting script. During the broadcast on June 24, 1950, the program was interrupted by a news bulletin announcing that North Korea had declared war on South Korea, marking the beginning of the Korean War.

A shortened version of this Destination Moon radio program was adapted by Charles Palmer and was released by Capitol Records for children. 

You can hear it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 — Ambrose Bierce. The Devil’s Dictionary is certainly worth reading but it’s not genre. For his best genre work, I’d say it’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” which along with his “The Tail of the Sphinx” gives you range of his talents. Both iBooks and Kindle offer up everything (as near as I can tell) he’s written, much of it free. (Died circa 1914.)
  • Born June 24, 1925 — Fred Hoyle. Astronomer of course, but also author of a number of SF works including October the First Is Too Late which I think is among the best genre novels done. I’m also fond of Ossian’s Ride which keeps its SF elements hidden until late in the story. Though he won no genre Awards, he won a lot of other Awards, to wit the Mayhew Prize, Smith’s Prize, FRS, Kalinga Prize, RAS Gold Medal, Bruce Medal, Royal Medal, Klumpke-Roberts Award and Crafoord Prize. (Died 2001.)
  • Born June 24, 1937 — Charles N. Brown. Founder and editor of Locus. I’m going to stop here and turn this over to those of you who knew him far better than I did as my only connection to him is as a reader of Locus for some decades now. Locus won far too many Hugos to list under his time there. He also was nominated at Conspiracy ‘87 for a Hugo for his Science Fiction in Print: 1985 that was co-written by William G. Contento. (Died 2009.)
  • Born June 24, 1947 — Peter Weller, 75. Robocop, obviously, which was nominated for a Hugo at Nolacon II, with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain in the second film, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well, there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Or I hope you haven’t. Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety”.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainly qualifies. Hey he even showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Born June 24, 1950 — Nancy Allen, 72. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films for various reasons.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as an unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise? Oh why?). She’s in the direct to video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. 
  • Born June 24, 1950 — Mercedes Lackey, 72. There’s a line on a wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Very, very impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Guon and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is quite fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. 
  • Born June 24, 1982 — Lotte Verbeek, 40. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She’s got an interesting genre history including Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the cross-world Counterpart series. 
  • Born June 24, 1988 — Kasey Lansdale, 34. Daughter of Joe Lansdale. Publicist at Tachyon Books and a really nice person. Really she is. And yes, she’s one of us having written The Cases of Dana Roberts series, and edited two anthologies, Fresh Blood & Old Bones and Impossible Monsters. In her father’s Hap and Leonard collection Of Mice and Minestrone, she has “Good Eats: The Recipes of Hap and Leonard”. 
  • Born June 24, 1994 — Nicole Muñoz, 28. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same name.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side suggests superheroes are not immune to the problems of aging.  

(12) YOU ASKED FOR IT. “Amazon Promises Another Attempt to Make Comixology Suck Less” as Gizmodo puts it so delicately. Their article is based on a Comixology thread that starts here.

Daniel P. Dern sent the link with a note: “Among other things, as in, (says DPD, based on other comments I’ve seen in past months along with some of my own experience) to un-‘deprove’ recent changes which made by Amazon.

“To be fair (still DPD opining), IMHO, both Marvel and DC have made similar ‘deprovements’ to their streaming digital comic services over the past year. They’re still great deals, money for reading wise, but the UI/UX has gotten unnecessarily more ornery.”

(13) MIRACLEMAN SERIES RETURNS. After thirty years, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham complete their Miracleman saga this October in Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham: The Silver Age.

“We’re back! And after thirty years away it is both thrilling and terrifying,” Buckingham said. “Neil and I have had these stories in our heads since 1989 so it is amazing to finally be on the verge of sharing them with our readers.”

The two visionary comic talents will complete their unfinished Miracleman storyline “The Silver Age,” including remastered editions of the first two published issues, complete with new artwork and bonus material. The series will follow the previously announced Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age TPB, the new collection containing Gaiman and Buckingham’s first Miracleman series. After 30 years, fans will finally see the full incredible story of Young Miracleman with more to come!

Young Miracleman — the lost member of the Miracleman Family — is back! His last memories were of a 1963 world of joy and innocence. Now, he’s been thrust into the 21st century, where his best friends have become gods and monsters. Where can a hero from a simpler time call home in this brave new world?

(14) CAN CONFIRM. George R.R. Martin responds to reports about “SNOW… and Other Stuff” at Not A Blog.

…Yes, there is a Jon Snow show in development.   The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER story was largely correct.   And I would expect no less from James Hibberd.   I have dealt with a lot of reporters over the past few years, and Hibberd is one of the very best, an actual journalist who does all the things journalists are supposed to do (getting the facts right, talking to sources, respecting requests for “background only” and “off the record,” etc) that most of the clickbait sites never bother with….

But, yes, it is true.   This was not an official announcement from HBO, so it seems there was another leak.   I did a long interview with James Hibberd last week, for the big HOUSE OF THE DRAGON story that HOLLYWOOD REPORTER is planning.   At the end of the call, he asked a few questions about the spinoffs.   “Is it possible one of the spinoffs is a sequel rather than a prequel?” he asked.   I answered “No comment.”   Then he asked “Is it possible a member of the original cast is attached?”  And again I answered “No comment.”   And that was all.   But plainly he found someone more forthcoming than me.   Who?   I don’t know, and suspect I never will.   A good journalist protects his sources.

There’s not much more I can tell you, not until HBO gives me a green light….

(15) HYSTERICAL LITTER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Authorities in Malmo, Sweden created a “sexy trashcan” that mutters suggestive comments whenever anyone throws in some trash.“’Sexy’ rubbish bins installed in Swedish town to encourage use”.

Two rubbish bins on Davidshallsbron bridge in Sweden’s southern city of Malmö have been equipped by city authorities with loudspeakers, blaring out sexual phrases like “ooooh, right there yeah” when the lid is opened to encourage passers-by to use the bins to get rid of their rubbish.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Dead By Daylight,” Fandom Games says this multi-player vampire slaughterfest “makes you a little more misanthropic just playing it.” The narrator suggests that after fighting various licensed monsters, the next series should feature Jared Leto. “No. not Morbius, Jared Leto. That would be truly terrifying!

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

Pixel Scroll 6/17/22 Three Scrolls And Three Pixels

(1) MAKING THE COPYRIGHT CLAIMS BOARD WORK FOR YOU. Victoria Strauss instructs authors how to access “The Copyright Claims Board: A New Option For Copyright Disputes” at Writer Beware.

Taking legal action if your copyright is infringed can be complicated and confusing–not to mention expensive. Suing an infringing party, which must be done in federal court, can rack up enormous legal fees, and take years to resolve. (For instance, the Authors Guild estimates that the average cost of a copyright suit is $400,000–often more than the value of the claim itself.) And there’s no guarantee of success. It’s a situation that, for many creators, renders their rights under copyright essentially unenforceable.

Traditionally in the USA, such suits have been creatives’ only avenue of redress. Now, though, there’s an alternative: the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), which opened for business yesterday.

Established by Congress in 2020 via the CASE Act, the CCB is a small claims court for copyright disputes, where creators can bring lower-dollar infringement claims (monetary damages are capped at $30,000) without having to hire an attorney or make a court appearance (proceedings are conducted entirely online). The CCB is housed within the US Copyright Office, and staffed by a three-person tribunal that oversees proceedings and is the final decision-maker on claims….

(2) ANALOG AWARD DEADLINE EXTENDED. The submission deadline for The Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices has been extended to June 30. Eligible to enter are “Any writer over 18 years of age who customarily identifies as Black, has not published nor is under contract for a book, and has three or less paid fiction publications is eligible.”

Here is what the award winner receives:

With editorial guidance, Analog editors commit to purchasing and publishing the winning story in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, with the intent of creating a lasting relationship, including one year of monthly mentorship sessions. These sessions will be opportunities to discuss new writing, story ideas, the industry, and to receive general support from the Analog editors and award judges.

(3) STAY FROSTY. The Game of Thrones spinoffs continue to multiply. The Hollywood Reporter brings news of another: “‘Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow Sequel Series in Development at HBO”.

The network has entered into early development on its first sequel to its blockbuster fantasy drama: A live-action spinoff series centered on the fan-favorite character Jon Snow, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Kit Harington is attached to reprise the role should a series move forward. The actor was twice nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of an action hero who struggles to uphold his family’s noble values in a brutal world.

In Thrones’ eighth-and-final season, Jon Snow discovered his true name was Aegon Targaryen, a potential heir to the Iron Throne. In the series finale, he was exiled from Westeros and journeyed North of the Wall with the Wildlings to leave his old life behind. 

… The development signals an intriguing new direction in HBO’s handling of author George R.R. Martin’s fantasy universe, a move not unlike Disney+’s management of its Star Wars and Marvel brands where the streamer has found success launching character-focused sequel series such as WandaVision (starring Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (with Ewan McGregor reprising his iconic role).

Perhaps most boldly from a creative standpoint, the project would upend Thrones’ final season as the last word on the fates of the surviving characters in HBO’s most popular and Emmy-winning series of all time. In theory, the project could open the door for other surviving characters from the Thrones universe to reappear – such as Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).

This development news means there are now seven Thrones projects in the works in addition to the upcoming House of the Dragon prequel series, which debuts Aug. 21. 

(4) NEWS TO HER. “’Game Of Thrones’ Star Maisie Williams Thought Arya Stark ‘Was Queer’” reports Deadline.

One of the most memorable Game of Thrones scenes in a final season full of memorable scenes was Arya Stark getting it on with Gendry.

Many were surprised that the hookup took place. Not the least of them was Maisie Williams, who played Arya.

Williams told Teen Vogue she was “surprised” by her character’s choice on the eve of major battle.

“The first time that I was surprised by Arya, I guess, was probably in the final [season] where she whips off her clothes and sleeps with Gendry,” Williams says. “I thought that Arya was queer, you know? So… yeah. That was a surprise.”

(5) PLATONIC IDEAS. Camestros Felapton returns to an intriguing question having done more research: “Does Gandalf Know About Atoms? Part 2 Corpuscular Wizards”.

So my previous post on this topic spun out some theories based on very little at all. I didn’t actually believe that Tolkien himself had any views on the issue. It was only afterwards, and with the addition of more coffee, that I realised the issue is right there in the text of The Fellowship of the Ring

(6) LIBRARY CENSORSHIP ISSUES. Organizations continue to target certain graphic novels for removal from school libraries. Publishers Weekly says “Comics Librarians Are Up for the Fight”.

…Organizations such as Moms for Liberty claim that award-winning books often push racial agendas or are obscene and demand their removal from shelves and reading lists. Many librarians counter that these concerns arise from the fact the books’ creators are Black or identify as LGBTQ, or that the titles touch on queer themes. Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, a memoir about growing up nonbinary, was the most banned book of 2021 and continues to be a flashpoint for controversy. Even acclaimed graphic novels like Art Spiegelman’s Maus (which won a Pulitzer Prize) and Jerry Craft’s New Kid (which won the Newbery) have become targets for removal.

The challenges have left librarians anxious and intimidated. In Texas and Florida, widespread library challenges have become highly politicized, with librarians in one Texas district being harassed and called groomers, heretics, and child pornographers on social media.

The movement to remove books from libraries and schools has affected school board elections, and laws are being passed to change library reporting structures, resulting in highly confrontational board meetings.

“It’s just demoralizing,” says Tina Coleman, membership specialist for the ALA and liaison for ALA’s Graphic Novel and Comics Round Table (GNCRT). “I’ve talked to librarians who have had to deal with the challenges, and even if it’s a relatively straightforward, easy challenge, librarians are getting all of this vitriol and being harassed. And we have to work under the assumption that this is going to be going on for an extended period of time.”

Indeed, the challenges show no signs of letting up—Moms for Liberty just released a fourth list of books it wants removed from libraries, including classics like The Kite RunnerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Slaughterhouse-Five (coincidentally adapted into a graphic novel in 2020).

It’s a frightening and exhausting atmosphere for librarians across the country, says Matthew Noe, lead collection and knowledge management librarian of Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library, who is wrapping up his second term as president of the GNCRT. “A lot of this stuff is sheer intimidation, and it’s mind boggling,” he adds. Noe feels that while the challenges were mounting all through last year, the phenomenon didn’t strike a chord in the mainstream news until Maus was removed from a school curriculum in Tennessee. “That seemed to be a wake-up call for a lot of people.”…

(7) WRITING ABOUT DISABILITY. Nathanial White draws from deep experience in this post for Tor.com: “Disturbing the Comfortable: On Writing Disability in Science Fiction”.

Six years ago I shattered my spine in a whitewater kayaking accident. The bone shards of my second lumbar vertebra sliced into my spinal cord, severing communication with the lower half of my body. Surgeons rebuilt my vertebra and scaffolded my spine with four titanium rods. I spent a year in a wheelchair. After hundreds of hours of therapy, my body established new neural connections. I learned to walk again. I’m tremendously grateful, and I know it’s an inspiring story. It’s the story that many want to hear. But it’s not the story I want to tell in my writing.

… I decide I need a more encompassing narrative, one that considers exasperation as well as progress, suffering as well as triumph. One that makes meaning not just from overcoming, but from the ongoing lived experience of pain. Maybe I can even exorcize pain through writing, transmute it into narrative. So I invent Eugene, the protagonist of my novella Conscious Designs. I give him a spinal cord injury. Maybe together we can find some sense in our suffering.

The more I get to know Eugene, the more compassion I feel for him. I consider giving him a shot at escaping his pain, so I send him into a near future where technology might be his savior.

Because I want to take away the visual signifier of his disability, his mobility impairment, I gift him a much more advanced robotic exoskeleton than the one that retrained my nerves. Eugene’s device is so svelte, it can hide under his clothes. He doesn’t even limp like I do, except when the machine fails.

But making Eugene mobile doesn’t make his disability go away. …

(8) MIDDLE-EARTH FASHIONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Costume designer Ngila Dickson discusses the 19,000 costumes she made for The Lord Of The Rings in this 2003 clip Warner Bros. released two weeks ago.

(9) YOU’RE INVITED. “NASA Invites Media, Public to View Webb Telescope’s First Images” on July 12.

NASA, in partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), will release the James Webb Space Telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data during a televised broadcast beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 12, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Released one by one, these first images from the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope will demonstrate Webb at its full power, ready to begin its mission to unfold the infrared universe.

Each image will simultaneously be made available on social media as well as on the agency’s website at: nasa.gov/webbfirstimages

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1960 [By Cat Eldridge.] Anniversary: Twilight Zone’s “The Mighty Casey”

What you’re looking at is a ghost, once alive but now deceased. Once upon a time, it was a baseball stadium that housed a major league ball club known as the Hoboken Zephyrs. Now it houses nothing but memories and a wind that stirs in the high grass of what was once an outfield, a wind that sometimes bears a faint, ghostly resemblance to the roar of a crowd that once sat here. We’re back in time now, when the Hoboken Zephyrs were still a part of the National League, and this mausoleum of memories was an honest-to-Pete stadium. But since this is strictly a story of make believe, it has to start this way: once upon a time, in Hoboken, New Jersey, it was tryout day. And though he’s not yet on the field, you’re about to meet a most unusual fella, a left-handed pitcher named Casey — opening narration of “The Mighty Casey”

Before you ask, yes, I really do like this series. I think it’s the best fantasy genre series ever done bar none. And when a episode is stellar, it is among the best genre fiction done, period. So it is with “The Mighty Casey” which first aired on CBS sixty-two years ago this evening. 

Obviously the episode title is in homage to the “Casey at the Bat” baseball poem. Now go away if you’ve not seen this episode, go away as SPOILER ALERT I’m going to discuss it now. A really bad baseball team somehow acquires a robotic pitcher (really don’t ask as it makes no sense) but the League says Casey is not human and cannot play. So Casey is, sort of Wizard of Oz-ish given a human heart, which makes eligible Casey to play.  Unfortunately the human heart makes him realise that he shouldn’t be throwing those really fast balls. Oh well.

With the team sure to fold soon without its star robotic pitcher, the creator of that robot gives the manager Casey’s blueprints as a souvenir. Looking at them, McGarry suddenly has a brilliant idea, as he runs off after Dr. Stillman to tell him his idea. Rumors later surface suggesting rather strongly that the manager has used the blueprints to build a world-champion team of Casey robots. END SPOILER ALERT.

The entire production was originally filmed with Paul Douglas in the manager role. (Douglas previously played a baseball team manager in the Fifties film Angels in the Outfield. He died right after it was filmed and Serling decided that it needed to be done again with a new actor. CBS being cheap wouldn’t pay for it, so Serling paid for the entire shoot. 

It was filmed at Wrigley Field, a ballpark in Los Angeles, California that hosted minor league baseball teams for more than thirty years. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 17, 1898 — M. C. Escher. Dutch artist whose work was widely used to illustrate genre works such as the 1976 Harper & Row hardcover of Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, or Berkley Books 1996 cover of Clive Barker’s Damnation Game(Died 1972.)
  • Born June 17, 1903 — William Bogart. Pulp fiction writer. He is best remembered for writing several Doc Savage novels using the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. Actually he’s responsible for thirteen of the novels, a goodly share of the number done. It’s suggested that most of his short stories were Doc Savage pastiches. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 17, 1927 — Wally Wood. Comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics’s Mad magazine, Marvel’s Daredevil, and Topps’s landmark and stellar Mars Attacks set. He was the inaugural inductee into the comic book industry’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 17, 1931 — Dean Ing. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. His “Devil You Don’t Know” novelette was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon ‘79. I also liked  his L-5 Community series. (Died 2020.)
  • Born June 17, 1941 — William Lucking. Here because he played Renny in Doc Savage: Man of Bronze. (I know I’ve seen it, but I’ll be damn if I remember much about it other than I like Doc Savage.)  He also had one-offs in Mission: ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkThe American HeroThe QuestVoyagersX-FilesThe Lazarus ManMillenniumDeep Space Nine and Night Stalker. (Died 2021.)
  • Born June 17, 1953 — Phyllis Weinberg, 69. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan the late Robert E. Weinberg. She co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector. She co-chaired World Fantasy Convention 1996. 
  • Born June 17, 1982 — Jodie Whittaker, 40. The Thirteenth Doctor who did three series plus several upcoming specials. She played Ffion Foxwell in the Black Mirror‘s “The Entire History of You”, and was Samantha Adams in Attack the Block, a horror SF film. I like her version of The Doctor a lot with David Tennant being my other favorite modern Doctor. 
  • Born June 17, 1982 — Arthur Darvill, 40. Actor who’s has in my opinion had two great roles. The first was playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions. The second, and to my mind the more interesting of the two, was playing the time-traveller Rip Hunter in the Legends of Tomorrow, a Time Lord of sorts. (And yes, I know where the name came from.) He also played Seymour Krelborn in The Little Shop of Horrors at the Midlands Arts Centre, and Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe.  

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) PLANET OF THE APES COMICS RETURNING. Marvel Entertainment has announced the Planet of the Apes franchise is coming back to Marvel Comics with all-new stories starting in early 2023. The legendary science fiction franchise has spanned over five decades with media including comics, books, films, television series, video games, and toys. 

Marvel Comics and Planet of the Apes have a history that goes back over 40 years. Marvel first published Planet of the Apes stories in 1974, and in 1975, Marvel published Adventures on the Planet of the Apes, full-color adaptations of the iconic Planet of the Apes films. 

(14) A MEREDITH MOMENT. Peter Roberts once edited a fan newzine (Checkpoint) but he got better. For a few hours more the Kindle edition of his 2014 book The Book of Fungi: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World co-authored with Shelley Evans is available for $2.99.

The blurb from Popular Science promises, “The lurid photographs and enticing, offhandedly witty descriptions make the reader want to go out collecting specimens right away.”

(15) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter did not touch that dial and was rewarded with a “double-stumper” while watching tonight’s Jeopardy! episode.

Category: Sci-Fi Characters

Answer: In an H.G. Wells tale, Griffin, whose face is wrapped in rags, turns out to be this title guy.

Wrong question: Who is the guy in the time machine?

Right question: Who is The Invisible Man?

Answer: Walter M. Miller Jr. won a Hugo Award for penning “A Canticle for” this saint.

No one could ask, “Who is Saint Isaac Leibowitz?”

(16) BUSINESS PLANS TO MAKE A LOT OF DOUGH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s not so much a pizza-making robot as a pizza-making factory full of several robots & all fitting in a 16-foot box truck.

A start up headed by an ex-SpaceX employee has demonstrated an automated pizza-making machine designed to crank out one 12-inch pie every 90 seconds and to fit in a food truck. The only human would drive the truck, fold boxes, and hand over the goods. Ordering would be via an app. 

The pizzas are estimated to retail from $7-$10 depending on toppings… But first there’s a little matter of convincing the health authorities. CEO Benson Tsai wants to put his first trucks on the road in his home LA market this summer. “SpaceX rocket scientists built a robot that makes $8 pizzas” – the Los Angeles Times has the story.

… “Our vehicle build cost is on the same order of magnitude as building out a Domino’s store,” Tsai said. He declined to give specifics but said that the cost was in the low six figures. Domino’s franchise agreement estimates that, minus franchise fees, insurance, supplies and rent, opening a new location costs between $115,000 and $480,000 to build out.

With lower overhead compared with a store staffed by humans, Tsai says Stellar can drop prices but still maintain the fat profit margins enjoyed by pizza chains. Company-owned Domino’s locations had profit margins of 21% in 2021, according to the company’s annual report, even after 30% of revenue was eaten up by labor costs….

(17) SPEAKING OF LIGHTYEAR. Chris Evans and Taika Waititi chat with BBC One about Lightyear and the problems of doing voice work in this video, which dropped today. “’I have to get off this planet!’ Chris Evans, Taika Waititi on Lightyear and ‘quoting’ Thor Ragnarok”.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Interstellar Probes over at Isaac Arthur’s Science & Futurism channel.

We continue our discussion of surveying for habitable exoplanets by touring our possible option for interstellar probes, dumb and smart, flyby and protracted orbital.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/22 You Can Go Scroll At Home Tonight If You Can Get Up And File Away

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present N.K. Jemisin and Brooke Bolander in a virtual event on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The readings will be held live on YouTube — link to come.

  • N.K. Jemisin
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, art by Lauren Panepinto
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, art by Lauren Panepinto

N. K. Jemisin is a New York Times-bestselling author of speculative fiction short stories and novels. In 2018, she became the first author to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row, for the Broken Earth trilogy, currently in film development. She has also won a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards, and is a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

  • Brooke Bolander

Brooke Bolander’s fiction has won the Nebula and Locus awards and been shortlisted for the Hugo, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy, and British Fantasy. Her work has been featured on Tor.com and in LightspeedStrange Horizons, Uncanny, and The New York Times, among other venues. She currently resides in New York City.

(2) TITLES TO RETURN TO. A Guardian “Books” interview with David Mitchell includes a shout out to Ursula K. Le Guin, among others: “David Mitchell: ‘If I need cheering up, Jamie Oliver’s recipes usually help’”.

The book that changed me as a teenager
EB White’s Charlotte’s Web gave me the uncomfortable idea that the contents of my bacon sarnie had wanted to be alive as much as I did. Anne Frank’s Diary and Richard Wright’s Native Son gave me a sense of proportion regarding my own problems and injustices….

The book I reread
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin, once a decade. It’s trippy, human, mind-expanding, curious, feels more prescient by the year and has one of my favourite lines from anything: “The King was pregnant.” The book is a chance to catch up with my past and future selves and see how we’re getting on.

(3) A BURNING SENSATION. The TV show has been a boon to Irish tourism, however, this place won’t be a destination anymore: “Winterfell set from Game of Thrones set on fire” reports Winteriscoming.net.

Game of Thrones was one of the most elaborately produced shows in television history, meaning it had a lot of really big, really impressive sets. Winterfell, King’s Landing, Meereen…this show took us to some spectacular places, and the crew deserves plaudits for their fine work.

It must be hard for some of those crew members to watch their work get torched. But according to the Belfast Telegraph, that’s what happened earlier this week. Per the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, it was a “controlled burn,” meaning this wasn’t a grease fire that got out of hand or anything; they meant to do this, although we’re not sure entirely why. They may just be getting rid of a set that’s no longer needed in the area, or it could be part of another production; there are other movies and TV shows that might need a burning castle….

(4) BLACK HISTORY MONTH. The Horror Writers Association blog is running a “Black Heritage HWA interview series” – here’s a quote from the introduction by Linda Addison.

… This country is built by a wide variety of people from different cultures, and just as horror fiction has many sub-genres, Black horror writers are not defined by one type of writing. From gothic through paranormal, supernatural, weird and so on, Black writers are creating work in wide-ranging areas.

Black horror is growing in every category of writing: novels, short/long fiction, non-fiction, as well as graphic novels, screenplays, poetry collections, and podcasts. Publishing through traditional and Black-owned publishing companies, along with self-publishing presents authors with several venues to offer their work to the public.

Horror writing allows readers to experience the rush of fear, the thrill of danger in the safety of their homes or theaters. Black Americans have historic and current experiences with real-life horror that can flavor our work. A society can only benefit by exposure to different voices and stories….

And here are links to the interviews presented so far —

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

Yes, I do. I’m from a majority Black community (New Orleans), so to write in a realistic way, I portray those characters and I portray them with as much humanity and complexity as I can.

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

I have always loved horror, ever since I was very young. I think one of the attractions is that in real life, the monsters we encounter have almost unlimited power over us and seem invincible. But what horror teaches us is that there is usually a rule or legend… a silver bullet, a wooden stake, salt, water, a talisman… a method that a normal person can employ to vanquish the monstrous entities in our midst. Through knowledge and courage we become giant slayers.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

Horror changes as we change, so yes, absolutely. In the twenty…-ok we don’t really need to calculate just how long it’s been, do we? Since I have been writing, I have seen smartphones be created and apps take over the world. I have seen electric cars on the road and school being conducted online. The world has advanced and horror has done so as well, using the technology of the day to add to the stories that are told. I think that will continue – we’ll figure out a way to make something brand new sinister… I’m sure someone is already thinking of something amazing for that self-driving car already!

And to the Black writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

To the Black writers out there getting started, write the themes you’re passionate about in your horror. Build on them. Terrify people with the unfamiliar and stay true to the craft. Listen to that writers voice inside and tell the story you want to tell.

(5) HWA PUBLISHERS COUNCIL. The Horror Writers Association has assembled a group to facilitate communication between horror authors and publishers: “Horror Writers Association Announces Inaugural Publishers Council”.

In an effort to build stronger relationships between the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and horror publishers, editors, and industry professionals, the HWA announced the launch the first ever HWA Publishers Council. This council will be comprised of an elected cohort of individuals who represent a diverse spectrum of genres and outlets across the publishing industry—from traditional small and mid-size presses, niche publishers, and indie micro-presses to magazines and other horror publishing industry professionals.

The inaugural council will be overseen by HWA President John Palisano and co-chaired by HWA Board of Trustees Treasurer Maxwell Gold and Black Spot Books Founder and President Lindy Ryan. Seated on the inaugural council are Jennifer Barnes (Raw Dog Screaming Press), Michael Bailey (Written Backwards), Don D’Auria (Flame Tree Press), Kevin Lucia (Cemetery Dance), Wendy Wagner (Nightmare Magazine), Romie Stott (Strange Horizons), and Jonathan Maberry (Weird Tales). Cohort members will serve one year.

Says co-chair Maxwell Gold, “My hope is that with the Publishers Council, the Horror Writers Association will be able to create not only resources for writers, but also more transparent understanding and education into how publishing works.”…

(6) UP TO THE HILT IN SUSPENSE. “Amazon Releases ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV Show Character Photos With One Thing Missing”. Yahoo! Entertainment has collected all the Instagram photos.

You gotta hand it to Amazon Studios, they know how to tease a TV show.

The company released the first character photos from its highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series.

There’s just one catch: There are no heads.

The photos (below) show the hands and midsections of characters from the show. Character and actor names are also not being released.

These hands-of-the-king may seem frustrating to some, but the goal is to fuel fandom speculation about who is who — as well as draw attention to the intricate costume, prop and accessory work. Indeed, there are a lot of hints and details packed into each shot.

Here’s one example:

(7) I SOLUTE. Harry Potter is third of three detectives mentioned in this piece about YA mysteries: “Sleuth Youths” at CrimeReads.

…Harry Potter is the embodiment of that classical trope of mystery detectives, the outsider. Not only does Harry have a mystery to solve, but he is learning all about his new world at the same time that we are….

(8) MOON WOMAN. Ann Holmes discovers “The Radical Woman Behind ‘Goodnight Moon’” in The New Yorker.

Bruce Handy, in his 2017 book about children’s literature, “Wild Things,” confesses that he always imagined the writer Margaret Wise Brown to be a dowdy old lady “with an ample lap”—just like the matronly bunny from her classic story “Goodnight Moon,” who whispers “hush” as evening darkens a “great green room.” In fact, Brown was a seductive iconoclast with a Katharine Hepburn mane and a compulsion for ignoring the rules. Anointed by Life in 1946 as the “World’s Most Prolific Picture-Book Writer,” she burned through her money as quickly as she earned it, travelling to Europe on ocean liners and spending entire advances on Chrysler convertibles. Her friends called her “mercurial” and “mystical.” Though many of her picture books were populated with cute animals, she wore wolfskin jackets, had a fetish for fur, and hunted rabbits on weekends. Her romances were volatile: she was engaged to two men but never married, and she had a decade-long affair with a woman. At the age of forty-two, she died suddenly, in the South of France, after a clot cut off the blood supply to her brain….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1962 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Sixty years ago at Chicon III where Earl Kemp was the Chair,  Wilson Tucker was Toastmaster and Theodore Sturgeon was the Guest of Honor, Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land won the Hugo for Best Novel. It had been published the previous year by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 

Other nominated works that year were Dark Universe by Daniel F. Galouye, Sense of Obligation (also called Planet of the Damned) by Harry Harrison, The Fisherman (also known as Time Is the Simplest Thing) by Clifford D. Simak and Second Ending by James White.  

It was his third Hugo in six years after Double Star at NyCon II and Starship Troopers at Pittcon. He’d win his fourth and final Hugo for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress at NyCon 3 in five years.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties film, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of FrankensteinAli Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look, that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s in Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island which though I suspect it’s not a record is still impressive. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale which has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of. He also created the Castle series with Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame and was one of the actual players at the poker games on the series. View one of them here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 61. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turned spawned more series by him — Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman BeyondStatic ShockJustice League in several series and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the ones I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura Linney, 58. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on ever so excellent Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 48. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on DiscoveryPicardLower Decks and the forthcoming Strange New Worlds. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as Production Assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) NAMING CONVENTIONS. If Harlan Ellison’s story had been titled “Drifts Off the Isle of Langerhans,” a couple of these would have been the right choice to clear them. “’Betty Whiteout,’ ‘Ctrl Salt Delete’ top winners in MnDOT Name-a-Snowplow contest” reports MPR News. [Via Paul Weimer.]

“Betty Whiteout” is the runaway winner in this winter’s Minnesota Department of Transportation Name-A-Snowplow contest.

The name honoring Hollywood icon Betty White, who died Dec. 31 at age 99, received 40,024 online votes in the results announced Thursday.

Coming in second with 21,372 votes was “Ctrl Salt Delete,” followed by “The Big Leplowski” (17,478), “Plowasaurus Rex” (13,209) and “Scoop Dogg” (13,144).

“Blizzard of Oz” (12,742), “No More Mr. Ice Guy” (11,198) and “Edward Blizzardhands” (10,664) rounded out the top eight.

…Last winter’s winners were “Plowy McPlowFace,” “Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya,” “Duck Duck Orange Truck,” “Plow Bunyan,” “Snowbi Wan Kenobi,” “F. Salt Fitzgerald,” “Darth Blader” and “The Truck Formerly Known As Plow.”

Two of this winter’s winners — “Blizzard of Oz” and “Edward Blizzardhands” — had been among the names that fell short in voting last winter….

(13) CRITICAL ROLE THEORY. Slate discovers that a popular show on Amazon Prime is D&D-derived. “The Legend of Vox Machina on Amazon Prime: The story behind Critical Role landing its own cartoon.”

There’s a new show on Amazon Prime, and boy, does it come with a lot of backstory.

No, it’s not the Lord of the Rings show, which Amazon has already thrown a ton of money at—that’s not out until later this year. This one is animated, and at first blush, it may just seem like any old cartoon about magic and action and dragons. But The Legend of Vox Machina, a fun, raunchy fantasy series with new episodes out every Friday, has already taken the internet by storm. That’s because it started out as a long-running Dungeons & Dragons game, called Critical Role—which just so happens to be one of the most successful web series in history.

…Beginning like most D&D games—with a group of friends, some creative ideas, and a whole lot of dice—Critical Role is a story set in the fantasy world of Exandria, created by game master and renowned voice actor Matthew Mercer. Mercer and his friends started livestreaming themselves playing the game for an audience in 2015, when the story was already underway.

The internet quickly fell in love with the story and its colorful characters via these streams, which aired weekly on Twitch and YouTube. The story of the Vox Machina campaign in particular—the first D&D game played together by the Critical Role cast—followed this ragtag team on their adventures, which involved them growing from self-interested mercenaries searching for a big payout to saving their realm from otherworldly dangers, with plenty of other high-stakes subplots along the way. The campaign streamed (almost) every Thursday night for over two years as our brave heroes fought dragons, demons, and would-be gods. With each episode usually running between three and four hours, the first campaign ended with more than 400 hours of wacky, intense, and above all impeccably narrated gameplay to watch.

The primary cast included Grog Strongjaw (played by Travis Willingham), Pike Trickfoot (Ashley Johnson), twins Vex’ahlia and Vax’ildan (Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien), Keyleth (Marisha Ray), Scanlan Shorthalt (Sam Riegel), and Percival de Rolo (Taliesin Jaffe).

Even after the story of Vox Machina came to a close, Critical Role just kept on rolling. A second campaign ran for three additional years, clocking in at over 500 hours, and Campaign 3 kicked off in October 2021. Each campaign features a new story, new characters, and a different setting within the world of Exandria, and the cast continues to stream all of it for its ever-growing fan base. All told, that’s 1,000 hours of content—and counting.

(14) HEAVY DUTY. Science and Nature says “World’s Second Largest Meteorite Discovered in Argentina”.

A 30,800-kilogram meteorite has been unearthed in Argentina, and experts have declared it to be one of the largest meteorites ever found on Earth.

The discovery, made on the border of Chaco, about 1,078 km (670 miles) northwest of the Buenos Aires, has been attributed to a meteor shower that hit the region more than 4,000 years ago. Weighing in at more than 30 tons, the find has been controversially named the second largest meteorite on Earth, but until further tests are completed, it’s too soon to give away that title just yet.

The undisputed king of Earth-based meteorites is a 66-ton whopper called Hoba, excavated in Namibia nearly a century ago. While the Hoba meteorite has been fully uncovered from its resting place in the Otjozondjupa Region of Namibia, due to its size, it has never been removed.

It’s thought to have slammed into Earth some 80,000 years ago, and its age has been estimated to be between 190 million and 410 million years. The rival contender for the second spot is El Chaco – a 37-ton meteorite discovered in the same Argentinian field as this new find.

Now experts will need to perform additional weigh-ins to see if this new Argentinian meteorite, called Gancedo, can beat that and secure the title below Hoba.

“While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tons,” Mario Vesconi, president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco, told the Xinhua news agency over the weekend. “[T]he size and weight surprised us.”…

(15) WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS. Keeper of the Jewel: Highcliff Guardians Series Book One begins a new series by fantasy author and podcaster, Richard H. Stephens.

Something evil lurks beneath the palace.

A phantasm from a darker past makes its presence known to Khae Wys, Queen of the Elves.

Braving the perils of a haunted tower, the queen seeks the counsel of the mysterious Fae, for only they can predict what is to come. A future that doesn’t bode well for her only living child.

In a desperate attempt to save the heir to the Willow Throne, Princess Ouderling is exiled to the only place capable of protecting her. Highcliff, the home of the coveted Crystal Cavern and the dragons that watch over it.

The Duke of Grim, however, has other plans for the princess.

Featured at the Amazon.com Kindle Store and the Amazon.ca: Kindle Store.

Stephens says, “Halfway through book three of the Soul Forge Saga, Into the Madness, (aptly named), one of my main characters did something so uncalled for that it opened the floodgates to the potential for a 20-30 book series. A storyline so involved with lore and magic that it will span many centuries. Who knew the addition of a dragon would become an all-consuming desire to write an in-depth back story? Thus, the Legends of the Lurker was born.”

(16) COMING ATTRACTIONS. On March 9, Marvel Comics will release Captain Carter #1.

Captain Carter, the fan-favorite character recently featured in Marvel Studios’ What If reports for duty in her very own comic series next month. Prolific creator Jamie McKelvie uses his acclaimed talents to bring this Marvel super hero to the forefront of Marvel Comics canon, writing the series and designing the character’s brand-new look. McKelvie will be joined by rising star artist Marika Cresta, known for her recent work on Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. The five-issue limited series will introduce this World War II hero in an adventure that will find Peggy Carter as a woman out of time, facing the reappearance of an old foe in modern day and deciding what she stands for as the wielder of the shield.

 “There’s a whole load of story meat in the premise that interests me,” McKelvie told Syfy Wire. “It’s almost 80 years since the end of World War II. That’s a big difference to the 20 years Steve Rogers was in the ice in the original comics timeline. It’s a huge gap, and so much has changed since then. Even the decade since MCU Cap woke up has seen a lot of big shifts in the world. So that’s immediately exciting to me –– how do you deal with waking up in such a radically different world, with every anchor in your life long gone?”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me, When I Pixel Scroll?

(1) GET AN EARFUL. Today File 770 partnered with AudioFile Magazine to unveil “AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks”. Here is the link to the complete AudioFile Magazine – Best Of 2021 list.

We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

(2) A PAY SERVICE NIXES DISCON III. “WeChat Restrictions, We Tried, We Really Tried” says DisCon III:  

“We have had to remove WeChat as a payment option. Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time. Our tech team is working to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. That said, all of our other avenues are still available, and there’s still time to join us at DisCon III. Please visit our member services page to purchase your membership.” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

(3) ON BROADWAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The opening of (Marvel) Hawkeye (new TV series) includes Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (and his 3 kids) going to a performance of Rogers The Musical (note that the signage looks very Hamiltonian), and we get to, delightfully, see about half of “I Can Do This All Day” about the NYC invasion, in the first Avengers movie.

Here’s one of many articles on this, including an audio with the full lyrics:  “Hear Hawkeye’s Rogers: The Musical song, and how Marvel pulled it off” at Polygon.

… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You CanRogers is the MCU’s latest attempt to reminisce over past battles with a wink and nod. A little like the scene in Loki where the God of Mischief finds Infinity stones being used as paperweights, the silliness of Rogers asks the audience if they can remember what all the fuss was about….

(4) HE GAVE IT A SPIN. Camestros Felapton says “The Wheel of Time adaptation is looking good”.

…A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world….

(5) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Ride,” by Linda Nagata, a story about climate, public transportation, and AI in Hawaii.

 …The boy waved at them, then turned again to Jasmine. “Give it a try,” he exhorted her in a conspiratorial whisper. “Promise you will?”

Those eyes.

Her smile brightened. She didn’t want to disappoint those eyes. So she played along, teasing, “I might.” And maybe she really would. It was just a little game, after all….

It was published along with a response essay by cities and transit journalist Henry Grabar: “What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?”

I like to think of myself as deeply skeptical of the many internet algorithms telling me what I want and need. I turn off targeted advertising wherever I can. I use AdBlock to hide what’s left. Most of my YouTube recommendations are for concerts or sports highlights, but I know I’m just a few clicks away from a wild-eyed influencer telling me to gargle turpentine for a sore throat. Twitter trending topics? I regret clicking immediately.

But I make an exception for the sweet, all-knowing embrace of the Spotify algorithm, to whom I surrender my ears several times a day. This software doesn’t just know my taste in music better than my friends; it acts on it, with chains of songs that build off things that I know I like, or forgot I did….

(6) HARLAN IN THE WILDERNESS. Stephen Bowie interviewed Harlan Ellison in 1996 about his early days writing for television: “Harlan Hits Hollywood” at The Classic TV History Blog.

…I was going to ask you if you remembered watching “Memos From Purgatory” when it was first broadcast, but perhaps you don’t, since it wasn’t actually the first one.

It’s a moderately funny story about what happened the night it aired.  I was living in Beverly Glen, in this little treehouse. The television set that I had was a real small TV, with rabbit ears, and the antenna was up the side of the mountain behind the house.  I mean this house, literally and actually, sat half on a rock ledge and the other half sat in the crotch of a gigantic banyan tree. It was raining that night, it was raining terribly. And the antenna, which was up the hill – rabbit ears down in the house and an actual antenna up on the hill; I mean, there was no cable – well, the antenna fell over.  

I had invited all these people to come and see the show, and we couldn’t get any reception.  So a friend of mine volunteered to go up, and he put on my raincoat, and he stood up there in the pounding rain, a really torrential downpour.  He stood up there holding the fuckin’ antenna up. And I was kind of, you know, upset that he was up there, not to mention that there were cougars or mountain cats – really, there were catamounts or cougars or whatever the fuck they are – up there running loose, because it’s all watershed land.  And I was terrified that he was going to get eaten, or washed away, or drowned, or fall off the mountain, or something. So about midway through I went up and I took his place. And I came back drenched, soaking wet, I looked like a drowned rat, and everybody was raving about this thing, and I had only seen about half of it….

(7) DRAGON IT OUT. A new book says “George R.R. Martin flew to New York to ‘beg’ an HBO executive to make ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 seasons long, according to his agent” reports Yahoo!

HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” came to an end in 2019 with two shortened seasons, which brought the total to eight seasons and 73 episodes. But the story’s original creator, the author George R.R. Martin, pushed for up to 10 seasons and 100 total episodes, according to a new book.

New accounts of Martin’s wishes can be found in a book titled “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” by the journalist James Andrew Miller.

Miller, who conducted 757 interviews for the book, spoke with Martin, Martin’s agent, Paul Haas, and Richard Plepler, HBO’s former CEO.

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas told Miller.

(8) IN XANADU. Henry Farrell points to the availability of the video of a panel he was on with Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Noah Smith, and Jo Walton. And he has a few more things he’d like to say in his post “The Future Finds Its Own Uses for Things” at Crooked Timber.

So this event on the relationship between social science and science fiction went live late last week. It has Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton, Noah Smith and … me. I’ve been wanting to say something a little bit more about this relationship for a while. Here is one take, which surely misses out on a lot, but maybe captures some stuff too.

…The Hume quote captures a particular – and very common – way of thinking about the world. It suggests that beneath the vast procession of history, the extraordinary profusion of ways in which human beings organize their society, their politics and their economies, lies a hidden and coherent unity. He emphasizes “the constant principles of human nature” – other social scientists have other notions about what the underlying unity involves and entails. But from this perspective all the ways in which things are different across time and space are really illustrations of how they are really deeply the same. This is a powerful lens for understanding the world and perhaps changing it.

When Marco Polo counters Kublai Khan, he points towards quite the opposite phenomenon; how an apparent unity -an abstract of plane forces – can be opened up to disclose the quiddity of things. A chessboard is a plane divided into sixty-four squares – yet it is also something physical, made out of joined-together pieces of wood, each with its own history. The apparently all encompassing abstract unity conceals a world of variation. Unless you understand how the squares were formed – a year of drought; a frosty night; a caterpillar’s appetite; you cannot understand how the chessboard came to be as it is.

It is a little too simple to say that social science is on Hume’s side of the dialectic, while science fiction is on Marco Polo’s. What makes more sense, I think is that very good social scientists and very good science fiction writers each work the tensions between the two understandings of the world, more from the one side than the other….

(9) NAME YOUR PRICE. Filer Jane Sand’s novelette “Not Poppy Nor Mandragora” is in the newly released Fusion Fragment issue #9. The publishers invite readers to “download Fusion Fragment #9 for free or pay what you want!”

(10) CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SPOILERS. I say, this Ars Technica article gives away the entire story, never mind spoilers! “David Tennant makes a dashing Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days preview”. It wasn’t easy to find an excerpt that didn’t blab some important part!

…Verne’s story, in turn, inspired the late 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly to make her own world tour, completing the trip in 72 days. She even met Verne in Amiens and wrote her own bestselling book about her adventures. Monty Python alum Michael Palin made the charming TV travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 1988, detailing his recreation of Fogg’s journey, without resorting to airplanes….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Nineteen years ago on NBC, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie first aired. It was the first film to be made for television by The Muppets franchise. It was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (in his feature directorial debut though he earlier been hired by Nimoy to associate produce the Conspiracy ’87 Hugo-nominated Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis.

It starred the usual Muppet puppeteers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson) plus a number of human guests: David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg. Executive producers Juliet Blake and Brian Henson, though the actual producers were Martin G. Baker and Warren Carr. 

This is also the final Muppets production from the Jim Henson Company, as The Muppets were in their final years of ownership by the Henson family before being sold to Disney in 2004.

Critics were generally very impressed by this film with such comments as the Canadian Movie News saying it “is a medley of familiar Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Story and The Grinch, amongst others, with a distinct Muppet spin.” Interestingly audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less impressed giving a mediocre fifty-one percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C S Lewis. I first encountered him when reading The Screwtape Letters in University. I later read of course The Chronicles of Narnia which I found most excellent though I’ll admit that I’ve not read his Space Trilogy. (Died 1963.)
  • 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 and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. She has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 71. He played the title character in the late Seveties Dr. Strange film, well before the present MCU film reality existed. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as OrcaHouse of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’d accused it of name laundering, including 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1955 Howie Mandel, 66. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 52. 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 alias 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. (Died 2020.)

(13) IT’S NOT SURPRISING. “‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Square Episode Missing From Disney+ Hong Kong; Discovery Leads to Censorship Concerns” reports Deadline.

An episode of The Simpsons during which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform.

Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, having launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

At time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities and Disney has not responded to requests for comment.

The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong….

(14) D&D DIVERSITY. “‘A safe haven’: how Dungeons & Dragons is slaying social anxiety” – the Guardian runs the numbers.

… Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has brought together a far more diverse array of players than its stereotypes suggest. Earlier this year, the game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, released a report showing that, of its estimated 50 million players, 54% were younger than 30 and 40% identified as female. What it didn’t reveal was the rise in visibility of queer and neurodiverse players.

…For people such as Shadia Hancock, the founder of advocacy group Autism Actually and Dungeon Master to a group of young neurodiverse players, the therapeutic potential of the game has always been clear.

“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Hancock says. “I work out the players’ expectations at the beginning of a game. Some get really into creating their characters, some are more interested in finding items and exploring the world, others are really interested in how the characters met. We all have a mutual love of gaming, but we all want something different from the session.”

Some characteristics expressed by some of Hancock’s players – social anxiety, increased empathy, difficulty adapting to change, feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments – have become familiar to many Australians in the wake of lockdowns. Studies cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found reported levels of social anxiety increased over the past two years among all age groups, with young neurodiverse Australians even more likely to have experienced a decline in wellbeing.

“While other people are excited about going out, I’m filled with dread,” Hancock tells me. “With Covid, we [autistic communities] had all these sudden changes, often with short notice, and there was this need to constantly adapt to new rules. Not knowing what is coming up is really anxiety-inducing. During the pandemic, that became a shared experience.”

(15) NEXT TIME, TAKE THE TRAIN. John Holbo’s “The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas” is adorned with a big Omelas-themed travel poster (which you can see at the link.)

*Confused? This page contains a parody of a famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d point you to it, but there are no versions legally free on the web. Buy a book! Read Wikipedia. If you are somehow here about the BTS song – sorry, I don’t know about that. (But with half a billion hits, somebody probably does.)

I’ve written notes on my take on Le Guin. An essay! That’s here

Also, once I made the graphics I tossed ’em on Redbubble. Forgive me. It seemed funny.

“I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

(16) DS9 ON NFT. Voice actor Joshua Martin put together a parody video where Deep Space Nine’s “Quark and Odo discuss NFTs and Crypto Currency”. There’s also a Twitter thread that starts here.

(17) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. SlashFilm reveals “This Is What You’re Really Hearing When R2-D2 Screams In Star Wars”.

…One fateful moment of stress managed to help define a character through more than four decades and nine movies in the Skywalker saga — and counting.

(18) STAND BY TO ENTER HYPE-SPACE. Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken pans Disney World’s effort to sell people on its new theme hotel: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel Preview Looks Unimpressive”.

If you’ve been slavering for your chance to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to head to Walt Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, might I suggest you towel off your chin for the time being? Disney has released a video preview of some of what awaits families who come aboard the Halcyon, and it doesn’t look particularly enticing.

The first thing you should know about this video is that it stars Disney Parks Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson and The Goldbergs’ sitcom actor Sean Giambrone. The two take a very short tour of the Starcruiser, but instead of them just talking like normal people about what people who come to the Halcyon can expect, it’s scripted and painfully unfunny. You’ve been warned. But this video also raises an important question, which is: Disney wants $6,000 for this?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Jayn, Bill, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 9/7/21 I’ve Scrolled Through The Desert In A File With No Name

(1) TROPE THE LIGHT FANTASTIC. The Nerds of Color had the opportunity to interview Denis Villeneuve. Their headline asks “Is ‘Dune’ Truly a White-Savior Story?”, however, there is much more to the interview than the part relating to the title, excerpted here:

There is a storytelling trope called the White Savior where a Caucasian will go into a foreign land and act as a rescuer or messianic figure to the indigenous people there. And Herbert’s work has been criticized for falling into that trope. So how do you contemporize the story to avoid falling into the problematic areas that trope may potentially present?

That’s a very important question. And it’s why I thought Dune was, the way I was reading it, a critique of that [trope]. It’s not a celebration of a savior. It’s a condemnation and criticism of that idea of a savior. Of someone that will come and tell another operation how to be and what to believe… it’s a criticism. That’s the way I feel it’s relevant and can be seen contemporary. And that’s what I’ll say about that. Frankly it’s the opposite [of that trope].

(2) DISCON III RATE HIKE SEPT. 15. DisCon III membership prices go up on September 15. Purchase your Attending, Virtual, or Supporting Worldcon membership now.

(3) NYRSF READINGS. Michael Bishop will feature in the New York Review of Science Fiction readings series on September 9. The program will livestream from the NYRSF Readings Facebook page at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

(4) CAR TUNES. Bob Gale finally got his wish. “In ‘Back to The Future: The Musical,’ the Car Is the Star of the Show” – and the New York Times has the story.

During a recent performance of “Back to the Future: The Musical,” at the Adelphi Theater here, the audience couldn’t stop cheering.

They cheered a preshow announcement asking everyone to turn off their cellphones, “since they weren’t invented in 1985,” the year the original movie was released. They cheered when Marty McFly, the show’s main character (played by Olly Dobson), skateboarded onstage in an orange body warmer. And they cheered, again, when he started singing, surrounded by break dancers and women in aerobics getup to complete the 1980s vibe.

But the loudest applause came about 20 minutes in. After three loud bangs and a flash of light, a DeLorean car seemed to magically appear in the middle of the stage, lights bouncing off its steel bodywork and gull-wing doors.

The audience went wild.

Bob Gale, who co-wrote the original movie with Robert Zemeckis and wrote the musical’s book, said in a telephone interview that he always knew the car would be vital to the show’s success. “We knew if we pulled it off, it was going to make the audience go nuts,” he said.

He added he had been working on making that happen for over 15 years. 

(5) GAME ON. The “Montegrappa Winter Is Here Limited Edition Fountain Pen” is marked down to $4,400! Hmm, shall I buy it, or do my laundry for the next 220 months?

Made under license to HBO, Montegrappa’s new Game of Thrones pen, Winter is Here, pays homage to the mysterious forces from north of The Wall.

Using the ancient jeweller’s art of lost wax casting, Montegrappa has created half pen, half objet d’art.

Three-dimensional effigies of the Night King and White Walker form a sterling silver superstructure that encases a body of shiny lines celluloid. The figure of Viserion wraps around the cap, and the dragon’s head with a tongue of ice coming out of its mouth acts as an innovative pocket clip. Enamelled, crystal blue flames encircle the base of the cap, while semi-precious apatite stones emulate the cold, mysterious eyes unique to beings of the North.

(6) MOUNTAIN CLIMBER. James Davis Nicoll devises “Five Extremely Unscientific Methods for Picking Your Next Book” at Tor.com.

Anyone can apply logic, taste, and methodical research to the problem of selecting which limited subset of the vast number of books available one is to read. Conversely, one can half-ass one’s way through Mt. Tsundoku using methods of dubious reliability. Don’t believe me? Here are five methods I have used, each more ludicrous than the one before….

(7) FREE MARS EVENT. Explore Mars, Inc., is holding a free S2021 Humans to Mars Summit (H2M 2021) on September 13–15. It will be a virtual event, however, Explore Mars plans to also conduct some in-person elements in Washington, D.C. Register here.

The topics include:

  • Planet of Robots: Recent Milestones and Discoveries on Mars
  • Artemis to Mars: Utilizing the Moon to sending Humanity to Mars
  • How Space Exploration Improves Life on Earth
  • Making it on Mars: 3-D Printing and Other Critical Technologies
  • Building a Space Workforce: Inspiring and Motivating Preprofessional     and Early Professionals
  • EVA Suits and Surface Operations
  • Nuclear Propulsion and Surface Power
  • Robotic Support: Prior, During, and After Crewed Missions to Mars
  • How Can Space Exploration Expand Inclusiveness and Diversity?

(8) BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. A Livejournal post from Elizabeth Bear for public sharing: “if memories were all i sang i’d rather drive a truck”.

Just wanted to let everybody know that my surgical consult is on Thursday afternoon, and I expect to be scheduled rapidly for surgery after that. If that goes well then I can look forward to a month off to heal and then radiation. If it goes poorly, alas, it’s probably straight into chemo but right now that is considered unlikely.

Scott can’t come in to the consult with me because plague. I’m going to ask if I can record it.

Got my You Are A Cancer Patient Now covid booster which was surprisingly emotional. Cue crying in a CVS. Could be worse… so glad I’m not doing this last year….

(9) WALL OF FAME. “Muppets creator Jim Henson’s London home gets blue plaque” reports The Guardian.  

Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, has been honoured with a blue plaque at his former London home.

The US puppeteer, acclaimed for his work on Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock and as director of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, lived at 50 Downshire Hill in Hampstead from 1979….

…His son Brian, who is chairman of the board at The Jim Henson Company, said: “My father moved to London to make The Muppet Show, and then chose to stay because he was so impressed by the UK’s many gifted artists and performers….

(10) TONY SELBY (1938-2021). Actor Tony Selby died September 5 after contracting Covid-19. His genre work included Doctor Who and Ace of Wands.

…In a different vein – and sporting a beard – Selby was one of Doctor Who fans’ favourite guest stars. He played Sabalom Glitz, the selfish mercenary from the planet Salostopus who forms uneasy alliances with Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy’s incarnations of the Time Lord in two adventures, the series-long story The Trial of a Time Lord (1986) and Dragonfire (1987). The unbroadcast back story for the second revealed that Glitz had taken the virginity of the doctor’s young companion Ace (Sophie Aldred).

Alongside guest roles as crooks in various television series, the actor played Sam Maxstead, reformed convict and assistant to the magician who uses his real supernatural powers to fight evildoers, in the first two runs (1970-71) of the children’s fantasy series Ace of Wands….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1974 – Forty-seven years ago this night, the Land of the Lost series premiered on NBC. (It went into syndication for the last two seasons.) It was created by Sid and Marty Krofft and (though uncredited during the series) also by David Gerrold, and produced by the Kroffts who were previously known for H.R. Pufnstuf and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. (I actually remember the former. Particularly the theme song which is earworming its way into my brain now.) Starring Spencer Milligan, Wesley Eure, Kathy Coleman, Phillip Paley, and Ron Harper, it ran for three seasons and forty-three half hour episodes. A number of SF writers wrote scripts including  Ben Bova, Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon and Norman Spinrad.  The Kroffts continue to claim that they are working on an updated remake to the series and that this time it will be an hour-long series.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7, 1921 — Donald William Heiney. Under the pseudonym of MacDonald Harris, which he used for all of his fiction, wrote one of the better modern set novels using the Minotaur myth, Bull Fever. His time travel novel, Screenplay, where the protagonist ends up in a film noir 1920s Hollywood is also well crafted. Most of his work is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 7, 1924 — Gerry de la Ree. He published fanzines such as Sun Spots ran for 29 issues from the that Thirties through the Forties, and as editor, he published such work as The Book of Virgil FinlayA Hannes Bok Sketchbook, and Clark Ashton Smith – Artist. He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 7, 1955 — Mira Furlan. Damn, another early death among that cast. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost, a series I did not watch. (and have absolutely no interest in doing so.) She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in a Canadian SF series called Space Command. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 7, 1956 — Mark Dawidziak, 65. A Kolchak: Night Stalker fan of the first degree. He has written The Night Stalker Companion: A 30th Anniversary Tribute, Kolchak: The Night Stalker ChroniclesKolchak: The Night Stalker Casebook and The Kolchak Papers: Grave Secret. To my knowledge, he’s not written a word about the rebooted Night Stalker series. Proving he’s a man of discriminating taste. 
  • Born September 7, 1960 — Susan Palwick, 61. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Neighbor’s Wife,” the Crawford Award for best first novel with Her Flying in Place, and the Alex Award for her second novel, The Necessary Beggar. Impressive as she’s not at all prolific. All Worlds are Real, her latest collection, was nominated for the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award. She was one of the editors of New York Review of Science Fiction which was nominated for the Best Semiprozine Hugo at Noreascon 3. 
  • Born September 7, 1966 — Toby Jones, 55. He appeared in “Amy’s Choice,” an Eleventh  Doctor story, as the Dream Lord. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he voiced Dobby the house elf. And in Finding Neverland, Mr. Smee, Captain Hook’s bo’sun. Guess what work that film was based on. Finally I’ll note that he was using motion capture as Aristides Silk in The Adventures of Tintin. 
  • Born September 7, 1973 — Alex Kurtzman, 48. Ok, a number of sites claim he single-handedly destroyed Trek as the fanboys knew it. So why their hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems him for me. And I’m fascinated that he was Executive Producer on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess!
  • Born September 7, 1974 — Noah Huntley, 47. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days LaterThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (well, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series which I refuse to watch, and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, which gets a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent audience rating. Ouch. Anyone here seen it? 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) IF ONLY IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE. It’s a good thing the writers didn’t wait – reality has already overtaken the future predicted in this 2006 movie: “The oral history of ‘Idiocracy,’ Mike Judge’s time travel triumph” at Inverse.

Mike Judge’s science fiction satire imagined what the United States might look like in the year 2505. From his perspective, that meant:

A population made stupid by advertising

A brash president who used to be a wrestler

Crocs dominating the footwear landscape

Society seems doomed until a 21st-century everyman (Luke Wilson) gets frozen by the military and wakes up 500 years later, making him the smartest person in America and the only man who can save it.

Beset by a low budget and little-to-no-advertising support from 20th Century Fox, Idiocracy almost didn’t happen at all. The fact that it exists is a miracle. The fact that it managed to accurately predict the future is just a bonus, though Judge loves to downplay his prescience….

JUDGE: I started talking to other writers; Etan Cohen was over at my house and I told him about the idea and the next day he said, “I really like that idea. I was thinking there could be a fart museum.” I thought, “Maybe his head’s in the right place for this.”

ETAN COHEN (CO-WRITER): It was great because there wasn’t a rush. It was a luxury to have that much time to generate the idea….

COHEN: One of the great things about the movie was it was very cathartic because you could just drive around and if anything got you angry it could go right in the movie….

(15) ANOTHER BITE OF THE POISONED APPLE. Two more authors think it’s not too late to mock the spirit of the times. Canadian authors Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock have produced a new installment in their cult-classic graphic novel series, The Silent Invasion, coming out from NBM Publishing on October 19.

Dark Matter is the latest installment in the graphic novel series which began 35 years ago. The series originally focused on the paranoia and conspiracy theories in the 1950s including UFOs, alien abductions and invasions — both alien and communist. The current book continues with an emphasis on brainwashing by religious cults that may be in league with a secretive cabal of industrialists, military authorities and scientists, who may have the assistance of alien overseers . 

The Silent Invasion is a visually striking series drawn in a bold and expressionistic European-influenced black and white style . However, Dark Matter is a complex, compelling and sometimes humorous tale filled with numerous twists and turns. 

Referring to the current political atmosphere filled with rampant conspiracy theories, writer Larry Hancock, said, “If there is any time for a good dose of paranoia that doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s now.” 

Co-author and illustrator Michael Cherkas added, “I’ve always been fascinated by the phenomenon of UFO sightings, aliens abductions and conspiracies. It’s interesting that this sort of “magical thinking” is no longer confined to the fringe element. It’s now part of the mainstream.” 

(16) STOLEN AND FOUND. Suggest brings us “The Wild Story Of Nicolas Cage’s Issue Of The First Superman Comic”.

Nicolas Cage’s love of comic books is fairly well known. The star of Ghost Rider and Kick-Ass once owned the legendary Action Comics No. 1, featuring the first appearance of Superman. What happened to this specific issue is quite wild, and the story even features a connection to the hit A&E series Storage Wars. Here’s what happened….

I can’t resist an item that mentions Storage Wars — my friend Elst Weinstein appeared as an expert in the show’s first season.

(17) SCARY LEGO SPECIAL. There can be more terrifying things than stepping on them barefoot — “LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales debuts Disney+ trailer” at SYFY Wire.

Marvel isn’t the only one capable of exploring alternate realities within established canon. The official trailer for the LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales special (coming to Disney+ early next month) teases a trio of stories that put a fresh — and borderline What If…? — twist on beloved characters and storylines.

Set on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, Terrifying Tales follows Poe Dameron (Jake Green), BB-8, and plucky mechanic Dean (Raphael Alejandro) as they’re treated to a hair-raising tour of Vader’s old castle. One of the most foreboding locations in the Star Wars mythos, the castle is being turned into a galactic tourist attraction by Graballa the Hutt (Dana Snyder)….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Shang-chi Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the producer take out the “Marvel Movies checklist” to find that Shang-Chi does have “a big messy CGI Battle,” ‘color-coded energy blasts,” and a hero who takes off his shirt to reveal sic-pack abs.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Alan Baumler, Jeffrey Smith, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Anniversary: A Game of Thrones (Novel)

By Cat Eldridge: Twenty-five years ago this week, George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones was published. It’s the first novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. It was published simultaneously by Bantam Spectra (US) and Voyager Books (UK). 

The novel won the Locus Award and was nominated for both the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards, but was only on the long list for the Hugos. It was a preliminary nominee for the BFA August Derleth Fantasy Award. A Game of Thrones has received critical acclaim with several reviewers comparing it to A Wheel of Time for its epic sweep. 

The “Blood of the Dragon” novella taken from the Daenerys Targaryen chapters from A Game of Thrones would win a Hugo Award for Best Novella at LoneStarCon 2. 

Martin, of course, would go onto to write A Clash of Kings in 1998 and A Storm of Swords in 2000. Then, in November 2005, A Feast for Crows, and in 2011, A Dance with Dragons. A Storm of Swords would finish second to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at Millennium Philcon. A Feast for Crows was a Hugo finalist at L.A.con IV, the year Robert Wilson’s Spin won. A Dance with Dragons was nominated at Chicon 7, which was the year that Jo Walton’s Among Others won. Finally Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) was on the long list for Best Novel at Dublin 2019.

As you know, it became a HBO series which deviated from the storyline of the series. At Chicon 7, the first season won the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. At LoneStarCon 3 the next year, the “Blackwater” episode from season two would win a Hugo as well.

Two prequel series, Bloodmoon and House of Dragons are currently approved at HBO. 

Pixel Scroll 4/6/21 A Pixel’s A Pixel, No Matter How Small

(1) CAN HORROR EXIST IN SPACE? [Item by Soon Lee.] It started with Freelance writer Elle Hunt’s Twitter poll on whether Alien is a horror film, and unsatisfied when most of the respondents ticked yes, said, “My argument: horror cannot be set in space.”

Unsurprisingly, it provoked a Tweetstorm of comments from people who disagreed. Amongst the responses was a wonderfully insightful thread by literary agent DongWon Song dissecting what we might mean by “genre”.

Thread starts here.

(2) FIVE THINGS. Alison Scott made one of the great aspirational speeches about what a convention chair should do, using disappointments about this year’s Eastercon as the text. Read the transcript at Ansible Links: “Eastercon 2023: What Really Matters to Us?”

Scott was compelled to deliver it as a bid presentation to gain the floor at the convention’s version of the annual open meeting.

…I was told that the only way I could speak here at this meeting was to bid. And so I’m bidding. Okay. I’ve had to tell the convention team very late that I was bidding; great apologies for that. But we have a 70 year tradition of this meeting, being an open meeting where any member of the convention can come and speak.

I felt that it was really important. We lost that last year because they had to do things very quickly. And I understand that. But I think that the fact that they haven’t given you a chance to speak in an open meeting this year, is actually disgraceful. It’s really undermining our community.

Then come the five things:

…I don’t think it’s possible to do a perfect job. I think it’s possible to do a good job in a lot of good ways and I see five things, which an Eastercon chair needs to do. And these are the five things that I think are really important.

(3) FIVE MORE THINGS. James Davis Nicoll has no trouble finding “Five Stories in Which Great Power Is Not Always Used Responsibly” for Tor.com readers. From the middle of the list —

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (2013)

Utterly convinced (despite the absence of concrete evidence) that ExtraOrdinary (EO) people—superhumans, to you and me—exist, ambitious college students Eli and Victor set out to determine how to artificially induce EO abilities. While trigging superpowers turns out to come with a good chance of simply killing the test subjects, neither Eli nor Victor are much inconvenienced by professional ethics or even ordinary caution. Victory is therefore assured!

Eventual success imbues both young men with abilities far beyond human ken. While Eli’s power of regeneration is self-focused and not immediately dangerous to others, Victor’s powers lend themselves to inadvertent misuse. Indeed, almost the first thing Victor does with his new power is accidentally kill Eli’s girlfriend Angie. The consequence? A vendetta of epic proportions.

(4) THE COLOR OF UBIK. LitHub encourages everyone to “Check out the Folio Society’s new (and very neon) Philip K. Dick box set”. My gosh!

The Folio Society‘s latest publication is a massive edition of all 118 of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, presented in this shockingly bright four-volume set. Their edition of The Complete Short Stories was designed by independent studio La Boca and includes original artworks commissioned from twenty-four different illustrators. 

(5) WINCING AT INVINCIBLE. “What Makes ‘Invincible’ a Superhero Show for Adults?” at The Ringer.

…The sequence is an awesome, grotesque (expensive-looking) demonstration of what a hacked-off Superman might actually do to the Flash once he caught up to him, among other things. It is a surprising explosion of violence, even in a violent show, made even more horrifying for the specificity of the sound design. Invincible emphatically earns its 18-plus rating in just under three minutes, and yet, outbursts like these are not what make Invincible feel “adult.”

…So far, Invincible also seems to be interested in whether the emissary of a hyper-advanced alien civilization, meant to be Earth’s “sole protector,” might have a bit of a god complex. JK Simmons is part of an incredible voice acting cast that includes the likes of Sandra Oh, Walton Goggins, and Mahershala Ali, and there are shades of Terence Fletcher in Simmons’s performance as Omni-Man. Consider how Fletcher first enters the dimly lit practice hall in Whiplash—he hangs his suit jacket on the door, revealing a tight black tee and an imposing physical stature. You immediately understand that his suggestions are demands, and that he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond. It’s the smirking gaze and the visible vein on his temple. Simmons brings the same kind of lurking monomania to Invincible, and it causes me to consider the paroxysm of force not just when Omni-Man is on the job, but when he’s at home, and when he’s speaking to service workers too. He yells at a hospital clerk and you wonder if he thinks she’s disposable. He makes demands on his wife’s time and you wonder whether he thinks of her as an accessory. He hits his newly superpowered son a little too hard while sparring and you wonder whether he feels somewhat threatened—perhaps afraid of obsolescence…. 

(6) TIME FOR WONDER. “Mexicanx on the Rise” is the theme of this week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron. Register at the link.

Catch a rising star as five of the Mexicanx Initiative’s leaders spotlight some of the brightest new literary and art phenoms. They’ll share their latest endeavors furthering Mexicanx representation in SFF and the world at large. Joining Gadi and Karen will be John Picacio, Libia Brenda, Julia Rios, Andrea Chapela, and Héctor González. This Saturday, April 10th, at 3 PM Eastern Time.

(7) BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BAUMANN. The Pink Smoke podcast’s sixty-sixth episode is a “Fritz Leiber Double Feature” with guest Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, curator of the 2018 exhibition “Frankenstein 200: The Birth, Life and Resurrection of Mary Shelley’s Monster.”

“She is all merciless night animal…yet with a wisdom that goes back to Egypt and beyond – and which is invaluable to me. For she is my spy on buildings, you see, my intelligencer on metropolitan megastructures. She knows their secrets and their secret weaknesses, their ponderous rhythms and dark songs. And she herself is secret as their shadows. She is my Queen of Night, Our Lady of Darkness.”

In two books written nearly 25 years apart, “weird fiction” guru Fritz Leiber examined how ancient witchcraft and black magic continue to prey malignantly on unsuspecting contemporary characters deeply entrenched in the rational. Whether it’s faculty wives hexing a sociology professor in CONJURE WIFE or the paramental entities tormenting a writer in San Francisco in OUR LADY OF DARKNESS, Leiber sees modern life as a conduit for a “new science” of the supernatural, which we dig into with this horror-themed October episode!

Our guest is Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, curator of the 2018 exhibition Frankenstein 200: The Birth, Life and Resurrection of Mary Shelley’s Monster and avid collector of genre fiction. Baumann shares her take on these essential “weird” tales as well as details of Leiber’s life that offer rare insight into his perspective on femininity. (Also on how to pronounce his name, which John gets wrong through most of the episode.)

(8) SPECTRAL DELIVERY. In “Ghosts and Narrators” on CrimeReads, Jessica Hamilton explains why she used a ghost as the first-person narrator of her novel What You Never Knew and the problems writers have writing fiction from the ghost’s viewpoint.

…For me, creating a dead protagonist was not what fueled me to write my novel What You Never Knew. It was necessary for me to kill off a character within the first few pages of the book, as it’s this event that sets everything else in motion. My only problem was that I still needed the perspective of the deceased character throughout the rest of the novel, which meant I had a dead narrator on my hands.

Using a dead narrator comes with its own special challenges. A hurdle that I found to be quite difficult was dealing with the spirituality that is connected to death and the afterlife. The religion behind dying is a big topic to tackle. Beliefs around it are varied, often tied to religious convictions and highly debatable, which makes it fragile ground to tread upon. I think the question authors must ask themselves before writing a deceased character, is whether they want to avoid using specific spiritual elements in their versions of death or reference them directly…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 6, 1967 — On this day in 1967, Star Trek’s “City of the Edge of Forever” first aired on NBC. Though Harlan Ellison wrote the original script, the episode had several writers contribute to it including Steven W. Carabatsos, D. C. Fontana and Gene L. Coon with Gene Roddenberry making the final script re-write. Roddenberry and Fontana both consider it one of their favorite episodes, the latter ranking it up with “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Critics in general consider it one of the best Trek episodes done and many consider it one of the best SF series episodes ever.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 6, 1849 – John Waterhouse.  Known for painting women of Greek legend and the Matter of Arthur.  Here is The Magic Circle.  Here is Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus.  Here is Pandora.  Here is The Lady of Shalott.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1924 – Sonya Dorman.  One novel, a score of shorter stories (one in Dangerous Visions), a score of poems.  Four contributions to Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World.  Three reviews in Analog.  Outside our field in RedbookThe Saturday Evening Post; four collections of poetry that I know of.  Rhysling Award.  Tiptree Award (as it then was).  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the revamped DC Universe app. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 84. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/ Net and Just/In Time. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 83. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Collins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy. (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 73. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1948 – Sherry Gottlieb, age 73.  Two decades proprietor of “A Change of Hobbit” bookstore.  Three novels, one collection of shorter stories.  Special Guest at Westercon 32.  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1953 – Jerdine Nolan, age 68.  Half a dozen novels; several others outside our field, like this.  I. & J. Black Award, Christopher Award, Kirkus Best Book of the Year.  “It takes patience to get the right story…. to revisit and revise the work to make it the best that it could be…. so the words on the page have enough life … could stand up and walk around all on their own.”  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1959 Mark Strickson, 62. Turlough, companion to the Fifth Doctor. He didn’t do much genre but he was a young Scrooge in an Eighties film version of A Christmas Carol. And like many Who performers, he’d reprise his character on Big Finish audio dramas. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1976 – Tara McPherson, age 45.  Two covers, four interiors.  Four artbooks.  Posters, murals, Designer Toys.  In ElleEsquire (Esky Award for Beck in the Netherlands concert poster), Hi-FructoseJuxtapozLos Angeles TimesMarie ClaireNew York Times, Vanity Fair.  Designer Toy Award for a 10-inch (25 cm) Wonder Woman (“I even have her golden lasso of truth tattooed around my wrists”).  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 44. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Their short story “Augusta Prima” was originally written in Swedish, then translated into English by them, winning a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1983 – Michael Boccacino, age 38.  Début novel got starred review in Publishers Weekly.  Avid baker.  Blames love of books on his father.  Has read Pride and PrejudiceFrankensteinJane EyreWe Have Always Lived in the Castle. [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) INSPIRED BY WHO. Animator/illustrator Elizabeth Fijalkowski did this piece on the 2003 animated “Scream of the Shalka” written by Paul Cornell and starring Richard E. Grant as Doctor Who.

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter eyeballed this result on tonight’s installment of Jeopardy!

Category: Literary settings.

Answer: This Edgar Rice Burroughs hero first visited Barsoom, also known as Mars, in a 1912 tale.

Wrong question: “Who is Tarzan?”

No one else got, “Who is John Carter?”

(14) LUIGI MUST BE PROUD. “Sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ sells for record price of $660,000” reports UPI.

… The classic Nintendo video game was purchased in late 1986 as a Christmas gift, but ended up being placed inside a desk drawer, where it remained untouched for 35 years, before being discovered earlier this year.

“It stayed in the bottom of my office desk this whole time since the day I bought it,” said the seller, who asked not to be identified. “I never thought anything about it.”

… Heritage Auctions, based in Dallas, said the copy of Super Mario Bros. that was sold as part of the Comics & Comic Art Auction during the weekend was part of a short run that was produced in 1986, before Nintendo switched from shrink-wrapped packaging to a sticker seal.

“Since the production window for this copy and others like it was so short, finding another copy from this same production run in similar condition would be akin to looking for single drop of water in an ocean. Never say never, but there’s a good chance it can’t be done,” Valarie McLeckie, video games director for Heritage Auctions, said in a statement.

(15) GAME OF THRONES 10TH ANNIVERSARY. Shelf Awareness says the celebration begins April 10 on HBO Max’s Game of Thrones Spotlight Page, “an in-app experience with curations for every level of fandom.”

Beginning April 10, HBO will launch the Game of Thrones MaraThrone, with all episodes of season one airing on HBO2, “challenging fans to continue to binge watch all 73 episodes of the series on HBO Max while raising money for select global charities,” HBO noted. For two weeks, GOT cast members will rally the fandom to contribute to one of 10 causes: Women for Women International, World Central Kitchen, Conservation International, International Rescue Committee, UNICEF, FilmAid International, SameYou, Royal Mencap Society, National Urban League and the Trevor Project.

Later in the month, HBO will surprise three couples who were married in Westeros-themed ceremonies with special anniversary gifts: GOT-branded barrels of wine, custom chalices and elaborate cakes designed in partnership with local bakeries to represent the GOT houses of Targaryen, Stark and Lannister. In addition, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and its licensing partners have teamed up to create a variety of special-edition products kicking off the Iron Anniversary. 

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Ghosts n’ Goblins:  Resurrection” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this game is “one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time” to the classic arcade game of the ;80s and it’s so tough that playing it is like “running a triathlon after drinking three bottles of Nyquil.”

(17) HOW THEY DO THINGS DOWNTOWN. What will your stomach think? In the past week Downtown Disney has got patrons’ stomachs rumbling with the fried pickle corn dog! “Disneyland’s corn dog stuffed with a pickle is its new hot dog” at Today.

The parks of Disneyland Resort may be waiting to reopen, but at the Downtown Disney District, plenty of magic is being made.

Most notable is the commotion over the fried pickle corn dog, a hot dog stuffed into a dill pickle, then battered, panko-crusted, fried and served with a side of … wait for it … peanut butter.

While Disneyland closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Downtown Disney area, a space with retail and dining locations that does not require a park ticket, was able to reopen some locations in July 2020.

In April 2021, the Disney Parks Blog announced the fried pickle corn dog would make its grand entrance at Downtown Disney’s Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs cart. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Golem and the Jewish Superhero” on YouTube, Jacob Geller looks at the myth of the Golem throughout history, including adaptations o the legend by Ted Chiang, Jorge Luis Borges, Marvel Comics (particularly The Thing) and The Iron Giant.

[Thanks to Will R., Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Ben Bird Person, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, rcade, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/21 Give Me A Long Enough Pixel And A Place To Scroll

(1) CHEN QUIFAN. Yi-Ling Liu has a profile of Chen Qiufan in the April WIRED.  The article has a wealth of detail about what it is like being a sf writer in China, including the news that if The Three-Body Problem had been published in China today instead of in 2008 it would be heavily censored. “Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan”. Registration required.

… But in the past few years—a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets—Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice. (Chen’s recent short story “The State of Trance,” which includes passages generated by the AI, nabbed first prize in a Shanghai literary competition moderated by an artificially intelligent judge, beating an entry written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan.) In China, it is the place of science fiction itself—and the status of writers like Chen—that have taken a turn toward the hyperreal….

(2) NOT TODAY’S TITLE: “A Mushroom You Can’t Smoke? That’s A Non-Tokeable Fungi!” The genius that is Daniel Dern strikes again.

(3) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. James Davis Nicoll is impressed with these “Five Thrilling SFF Works About Meticulously Planned Infrastructure” at Tor.com.

Sure, there’s a lot of entertainment value in grand set piece battles, personal duels, or even two wizards engaging in a magical combat to the death. But there are those of us who enjoy a more arcane pleasure: edge of the seat thrills as protagonists struggle to build vast infrastructure projects. I would argue that providing London with a functional sewer system was more exciting than defeating the French at Trafalgar….

His first specimen is A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison (1972).

(4) A HAMMERLOCK ON FAME. “William Shatner to Be Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame” reports Comicbook.com.

WWE announced on Tuesday that the latest inductee into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame will be none other than Star Trek star William Shatner. The original Captain Kirk popped up on WWE programming a few times, including his famous 1995 appearance where he flipped Jerry “The King” Lawler and his turn as the celebrity guest general manager for Monday Night Raw in 2010.

This year’s induction ceremony will take place inside the WWE ThunderDome on April 6 and will induct both the Class of 2020 and 2021 after last year’s ceremony was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(5) MY BIG FAT RED WEDDING. Io9 says Game of Thrones will also inspire a Broadway spinoff: “Game of Thrones Broadway: Key Westeros History Coming to Stage”.

Though the show is long gone, fans of Game of Thrones have plenty to look forward to. There will be more George R.R. Martin books (hopefully), multiple new HBO shows, and now there will be a stage production that’ll go back in time to fill in a key part of Westeros history.

Sixteen years before the events in Martin’s first novel, as well as the TV show, was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal—an event often referred to because many of the major players from across Westeros were there, either competing in, or enjoying, various competitions. Think of it almost like the Westeros Olympics. At the end of the event, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen declared his love for Lyanna Stark, a young woman who was already promised to Robert Baratheon. The event led to Robert overthrowing the Targaryens and basically starting the events that took place in the novels and series….

(6) CONTROVERSIAL MANIFESTO. “Writers in culture war over rules of the imagination”The Guardian visits the front lines.

It’s a venerable global cultural institution, dedicated to freedom of expression and set to celebrate its centenary this year. Yet the writers’ association PEN is being drawn into dispute over a declaration claiming the right of authors to imagination, allowing them to describe the world from the point of view of characters from other cultural backgrounds.

At issue is a charter manifesto, The Democracy of the Imagination, passed unanimously by delegates of PEN International at the 85th world congress in Manila in 2019. A year on , through the social upheavals of 2020, PEN’s US arm, PEN America, has not endorsed the manifesto, which includes the principle: “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.”

While welcoming the commitment to freedom of expression, officials at PEN America indicate that aspects of the declaration might be perceived as straying into the contentious territory of cultural appropriation.

A spokesperson for PEN America told the Observer that the manifesto had not been explicitly rejected – two members of PEN America helped draft it – but “that does not necessarily indicate that we as PEN America formally endorse that action on behalf of our staff or board”.

PEN International’s “The Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto” says —

Pen International Upholds The Following Principles:

  • We defend the imagination and believe it to be as free as dreams.
  • We recognize and seek to counter the limits faced by so many in telling their own stories.
  • We believe the imagination accesses all human experience, and reject restrictions of time, place, or origin.
  • We know attempts to control the imagination may lead to xenophobia, hatred and division.
  • Literature crosses all real and imagined frontiers and is always in the realm of the universal.

(7) VERKLEMPT READERS. The New York Times absolutely knows “How Crying on TikTok Sells Books”.

…An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”

…“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”…

(8) OVERWROUGHT SKEPTIC. Everything Wrong With did Galaxy Quest recently:

Galaxy Quest is so good it hurts. It’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. It’s hilarious. We love it. Still has sins.

(9) EVERYBODY DROPS. NOBODY SPLATS. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] There’s this long but pretty interesting video at Brows Held High that says it’s about Starship Troopers, but is, at least in part 1, much more about Heinlein in general — it references many of his works, including, believe it or not, Farnham’s Freehold. (Any further parts aren’t released yet but probably will be soon; Kyle is reasonably reliable about his YouTube drops.) It also has an interesting dual generation take, where Kyle interviews his folks about their take on Heinlein’s work, as his father is an engineer who’s a huge Heinlein fan, and his family has a long history of military service.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1996 – Twenty-five  years ago, Paul J. McAuley wins the Clarke Award for Fairyland which had been published by Victor Gollancz Ltd the previous year. The other nominated novels were Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, Patricia Anthony’s The Happy Policeman, Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships, Christopher Priest’s The Prestige and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 30, 1746 – Francisco Goya.  Some of what this painter achieved is very strange.  Here is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on the cover of Haunted.  Here is The Spell on the cover of The October Country.  Here is Fantastic Vision on the cover of Positions and Presuppositions in SF.  (Died 1828) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1853 – Vincent Van Gogh.  Another painter whose work can be very strange.  Here is Starry Night on the cover of Orphans of the Sky.  Here is Wheatfield with Crows.  Here is The Night Café on the cover of Campbell & Baker’s anthology of stories and poems it inspired.  Here is a self-portrait.  (Died 1890) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1906 – Dirce Archer.  Served a term as President of PSFA (Pittsburgh SF Ass’n).  Half a dozen reviews in Astounding that I know of.  By 1961 she said of herself, “Primarily a book collector now.  Used to do batik, clay modelling, water colors, but am now too nervous to do art” – after chairing Pittcon the 19th Worldcon.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty-four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1914 – Francis T. Laney.  Active in his local club, and The Acolyte (Lovecraft fanzine), but what made him famous, or notorious, was his 130-page Ah! Sweet Idiocy! blistering us with how bad we were.  Read it for its writing, not its accuracy; there is, of course, all too much truth in it.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at the time he was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel  which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. Ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey it is genre of a sorts, isn’t it? It’s a really fun film which is in the public domain so enjoy watching it here. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. Stardance won the Hugo Award for Best Novella at IguanaCon II. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program Book. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 71. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 63. Voice actor primarily for such roles as The Brain on the Pinky and The Brain series (which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1975 – Wendy Isdell, Ph.D., D.D., age 46.  Two novels.  Likes Barbara Hambly for characterization and style.  Plays classical guitar.  “Can also tie things into knots with my feet….  Anyone who claims to be sane is simply clinging to the illusion that they agree with what everyone else says reality should be.  Sorry.  I don’t subscribe to that publication.  (I used to, but the cover price became too high so I bought Reader’s Digest instead.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle IzmaylovM.D., age 30.  Five novels.  Aristine Mann Award.  Also loves drawing and painting.  First published at age 14.  Resident physician at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center.   “After a tough day … I sit down and write.”  [JH]

(12) KEEP YOUR DOCTORS STRAIGHT. “Pierce Brosnan joins Black Adam as Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange” explains Yahoo!

Big news in the world of superhero casting, aTHR reports that Pierce Brosnan has joined Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam movie, where he’ll play DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange. This will be Brosnan’s first indulgence in the world of super-powered cinematic throwdowns, taking on the role of Kent Nelson, an American archeologist (played, obviously, by a British man), who stumbles onto vast magical powers while exploring a foreign country, and yet is not, against all odds, Doctor Strange…

(13) DON’T PLAY WITH THAT! IGN tells where “LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Helmet and More Sets Are Up for Preorder”. Kylo Ren would buy one of these.

…There’s a Darth Vader helmet, a Scout Trooper helmet, and an Imperial Probe Droid. All three sets will be available April 26, but you can preorder them now on Amazon.

LEGO says these sets are geared toward adults and experienced LEGO makers. They’re not designed to be played with; they’re designed to be displayed. They come with stands and placards so you can put them on your desk or bookshelf….

(14) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Charles Seife’s biography Hawking Hawking regards Stephen Hawking as a “scientific celebrity”:

Stephen Hawking was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist and even the most brilliant man alive–but what if his true talent was self-promotion? When Stephen Hawking died, he was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist, and even its smartest person. He was neither. A brilliant exposé and powerful biography, Hawking Hawking uncovers the authentic Hawking buried underneath the fake. It is the story of a man whose brilliance in physics was matched by his genius for building his own myth.

(15) TICKED OFF. [Item by David Doering.] Another funny story. Swatch and Apple are in court over using the phrase “One more thing…” (Yeah, go figure.) The British judge concluded, however, that while:

Steve Jobs had used the phrase, it had probably been borrowed from television detective Columbo.

Not often does a fictional hero hold sway over a legal decision in a court of law. “Apple loses latest round of legal fight with Swatch over ‘one more thing’ phrase”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Bravely Default II,” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game features “bland do-gooders shaped like bobbleheads” and “will make you regress into your childhood like an adult eating a Lunchable,”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, John Hertz, David Doering, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 10/7/20 Those Who Do Not Learn Pixel Scroll Title History Are Doomed To Repeat It

(1) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA MILESTONES. John Clute regaled Facebook followers with the latest box score:

SFE hubris moment again; we’re free online so hope we can intrude this way . We’ve just hit 75,000 titles listed with full context in Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Checklists. Also, we now provide Picture Gallery scans for more than 5,000 individual authors given entries (some have only one, Robert Silverberg has 166 and counting). Personally, have just finished writing solo entry number 7,000.

(2) MEACHAM TO RETIRE. Tor editor Beth Meacham, a 7-time Hugo nominee and winner of the Skylark Award (2007), is retiring in December.Publishers Lunch has the story.

Beth Meacham, executive editor at Tor/Tom Doherty Associates will retire at the end of the year. She joined Tor as editor-in-chief in 1984. President and publisher Fritz Foy writes, “We’re delighted that Beth will continue to edit a small number of projects for us on a consulting basis. But most of her list will be moving to other editors as she prepares for her retirement.”

(3) NERDS EVERY MONDAY. Adri Joy and the Nerds of a Feather Team are starting a new series of weekly theme posts that focus on work from countries and regions that are underrepresented in English speaking science fiction and fantasy markets: “Introducing: Nerds on Tour!”

…Speculative fiction is, by definition, a global phenomenon, but the Anglophone science fiction and fantasy community has often sought to define its boundaries in ways that exclude much of the work being created in the rest of the world, even as it adds the “World” label into its own events and awards. At a time when it can feel like our own worlds are narrowing, we think its more important than ever to push back, to remind ourselves why we love genre in all its forms and to go beyond the narrow window of culture, language and geography that shapes most of the media we get to watch. Nerds on Tour will be running on Mondays from now until December, and we hope you enjoy everything we have in store.

(4) FRANCHISE PLAYER. Cat Rambo’s new “Cat Chat” is a really fascinating “Interview with Jennifer Brozek about Writing For Franchises.” Brozek: “The final surprise that I had for franchises is sometimes the publisher doesn’t actually know what they want. They want a story and they have sort of an idea in their head but they don’t know how to communicate it to an author. They don’t have universe bibles. They don’t have… They just want fiction in that universe. ‘No, not like that!’ You know, it’s kind of like ‘I don’t know art but I know it when I see it.’”

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and media tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. …Jennifer talks about writing for franchises, including Shadowrun and Valdemar, what has surprised her about the process, what worlds she hasn’t written in but would like to, and which of her original worlds would make the best franchise, as well as what advice she’d give to people working in it. Jennifer teaches Working in Other Worlds: Writing for Franchises with Jennifer Brozek, for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. The next class will be Saturday, October 24, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

(5) RACE IN D&D. “Dungeons & Dragons Officially Removes Negative Racial Ability Score Modifiers From Rules”Comicbook.com has the story.

Dungeons & Dragons players will no longer have a negative ability score modifier when building a character of a certain race. Last week, Dungeons & Dragons officially released updated errata for a number of their sourcebooks and adventures. The Volo’s Guide to Monsters errata was particularly important in that it removed the negative ability score modifiers for playable kobolds and orcs. While kobolds originally had a -2 modifier to their Strength score, and orcs had a -2 modifier to their Intelligence, the updated rules remove those modifiers entirely from the game. Additionally, the errata also removes the orc’s “Menacing” trait with the “Primal Intuition” trait, which grants players proficiency in two of the following options – Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, and Survival.

The updated rules reflect previous comments by the Dungeons & Dragons team that promised better representation and a movement towards giving the player characters individualism as opposed to forcing them to fit within cultural stereotypes within the game’s lore. While players can still choose to use the cultural generalities of D&D’s various campaign settings when creating a character, the updated rules allows for greater expression and also gives DMs more freedom to create their own worlds where the standard D&D cultural stereotypes aren’t present.

(6) OCTOBER THE SEVENTH IS TOO LATE. Sorry I didn’t know about this earlier — “Wednesday, Oct. 7: BBC America Assembles Long-Lost ‘Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones’”. Runs in part tonight, the rest tomorrow night.

Wednesday, Oct. 7

Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones
BBC America, 8pm
New Miniseries!

This is the mostly missing eighth serial of the fourth season of Doctor Who, which was broadcast in six weekly parts from April to May 1967, starring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Only two of the six episodes are held in the BBC film archives with snippets of footage and still images existing from the other four. Fortunately, off-air recordings of the soundtrack also still exist, making the animation of a complete serial possible once again, and that is what has been done here. The Faceless Ones sees the TARDIS arrive on Earth at a runway at Gatwick Airport in England, where the Doctor and his companions encounter sinister identity-stealing aliens known as the Chameleons. The first three episodes of the serial air tonight, and the three concluding episodes air tomorrow night.

TV Insider interviewed the director of the production: “‘Doctor Who’s Animated ‘The Faceless Ones’ Is a ‘Spine-Chilling’ ’60s Story”.

What was the most difficult challenge you encountered in this project?

AnnMarie Walsh: There are a number of challenges in creating an animated series of classic Doctor Who. For one, animation is a very different medium compared with live-action, and we play to its strengths to achieve the best way of telling the stories. Working with a low budget and a tight schedule will always require inventiveness, but we are animating to the original soundtracks from the 1960s. The fact that they are mono tracks—with the music, sound effects, and dialogue all in one single track—makes it very difficult to edit. It forces us to reorder our approach: Instead of recording the dialogue [from] the script, creating the music to the storyboards and animatics, and adding the sound effects at the end, we change the order of production and visualize the storyboards with the audio of the original recordings in mind as well as the original script.

Being unable to separate the music and sound effects from the dialogue means we need to be very creative in our storytelling. We need to have something fitting happen for every sound effect, even if it would be easier to have that action timed differently, or to have a line said earlier. We also don’t get any alternative or retakes in the audio, which we normally have.

Jamie, Sam, The Doctor, Crossland and The Commandant all peer at new evidence – Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones _ Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Animated Series Team/BBC

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty-five years ago, Pat Cadigan’s Fools won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the Best Science Fiction Novel. It was first published on HarperCollins UK, and it would be her second Clarke Award as she won for Synners three years previously. Fools is currently available as a Gollancz SF Masterworks trade paper edition and as an ebook from the usual digital suspects for just three dollars. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 7, 1893 – Alice Dalgliesh.  Taught 17 years at the Horace Mann School.  Wrote three dozen children’s books.  Editor of children’s books at Scribner’s 1934-1960; under her, books (including hers) won Newbery Honors, Caldecott Medals and Honors.  Edited Heinlein’s “juveniles” from Red Planet through Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; his disagreements with her appear in Grumbles From the Grave and were added to her Wikipedia page.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1942 – Lee Gold, 78.  Introduced to Van Vogt because she had golden pipecleaners in her hair and someone thought Van should meet her.  Published Along Fantasy Way, the Guest of Honor book for Tom Digby at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  Since 1975, Official Editor of Alarums & Excursions, an apa devoted to role-playing games; since 1988, also of Xenofilkia, a filk fanzine.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Hour-and-a-half 2019 interview here.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1947 – John Brosnan.  Sixteen novels, half a dozen shorter stories; four nonfiction books about the cinema, Eaton Award for Future Tense.  Wrote most of the cinema entries in the 1979 Encyclopedia of SF.  The current (2018) Nicholls-Clute-Langford entry ends, “he gave readers a considerable amount of unfocused pleasure.”  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1947 Lightning Bear. Native American stuntman and stunt coordinator. He did stunt work on the classic Trek series as well as Star Trek: The Motion PictureThe Wrath of Khan, and The Search for Spock.  He did not receive on-screen credit for any of these. Star Wars fans claim that he did stunt work on the three original Star Wars films but Lucas Films says that there is no records that he did. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1950 Howard Chaykin, 70. Comic book artist and writer. His first major work was for DC Comics drawing “The Price of Pain” which was an adaptation of author Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Sword of Sorcery #1. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk and Iron-Man for Marvel (to name but four series) but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg! series which I’ve enjoyed several times. It’s available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1952 – Peter Peebles, 68.  Fifty covers, a few interiors.  Here is the Aug 91 SF Chronicle.  Here is the Apr 95 Analog.  Here is A Wizard in Midgard.  Here is Taylor’s Ark.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1958 Rosalyn Landor, 62. She played Guinevere in Arthur the King, and Helen Stoner in “The Speckled Band” of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. She was the redheaded colleen Brenna Odell in the “Up the Long Ladder” episode of Next Generation which was banned in The United Kingdom for some years as it made a passing reference to Ireland being united in the early twenty first century. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1963 Tammy Klein, 57. She’s getting a birthday write-up because of the  most likely unauthorized Trek audioseries she’s involved in called Star Trek: Henglaar, M.D. in which she’sSubcommander Nonia but she also been in some definitely really pulpy works such as Lizard ManJurassic CityAwaken the Dead and Zoombies. (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1977 Meighan Desmond, 43. New Zealand resident who’s best remembered as Discord in Hercules: The Legendary JourneysXena: Warrior Princess and even Young Hercules, a vastly underrated series. Post-acting career, she was the special effects runner on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, special effects assist coordinator/runner on Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, assistant art director on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and construction office assistant on Mulan. (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1979 Aaron Ashmore, 41. He‘s known for being Jimmy Olsen on Smallville and Steve Jinks on Warehouse 13. He also is Johnny Jaqobis on Killjoys, a series I’ve yet to watch. He also had a recurring role as Dylan Masters in XIII: The Series which I think is SFF. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1979 – Shadreck Chikoti, 41.  Writes in English and Chichewa in and out of our field.  His SF novel Azotus the Kingdom won his second Peer Gynt Literary Prize.  Director of Pan African Publishers, founder of the Story Club.  See Geoff Ryman at Strange Horizons about and with him here.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1992 – Stephanie Diaz, 28.  Extraction and two sequels.  Also edits.  “Any combination of chocolate and peanut butter….  Basically, it’s all books all the time in my world….  wish I could go back to a year ago when we were in London on our way to Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye.”  I haven’t learned if she drinks my favorite whisky, Talisker. [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark shows why it might be hard for a zombie to wear a mask – or did that possibility ever cross your mind?

(10) DIAMOND JUBILEE. In “Pippi and the Moomins” on Aeon, Richard W. Orange uses the 75th anniversary of the first books by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson to discuss their achievements in children’s literature.

In February 1944, Russian bombs smashed the windows of Tove Jansson’s art studio in Helsinki. ‘I knocked slivers of glass out of the windows,’ the author wrote in her diary. She was so depressed, she had been unable to paint for a year, and despaired that war was ‘making us smaller. People don’t have the strength to be grand if a war goes on for a long time.’

Some 250 miles away across the Baltic, another woman was documenting the same bombardment from the safety of her flat in Stockholm. ‘About 200 Russian planes had carried out a bombing raid on Helsinki,’ wrote Astrid Lindgren in her war scrapbook. ‘It’s awful to contemplate the fate of Finland.’

Aside from a seven-year age difference, the two had much in common: both had cut their hair short in their late teens and early 20s, and worn trousers and neck ties – the style of radical women in the age of jazz. Both had a youthful fascination with philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche. Both were committed anti-Fascists….

(11) WATCHING YOUR SIX. In “6 Books with Stina Leicht” at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer poses the questions.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about? 

Maria Dahvana-Headley’s Beowulf translation. No woman has ever had their translation of Beowulf published before. Translations are very much affected by the person that translates them. I understand this really affected the interpretation of the story. I’m so very looking forward to it.

(12) BEFORE THE GAME. More details about the Game of Thrones prequel in Deadline’s story about a new cast member: “‘House Of the Dragon’: Paddy Considine To Star As King Viserys Targaryen In HBO’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ Prequel”.

Based on Martin’s Fire & Blood, the series, which is set 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones, tells the story of House Targaryen.

In the 10-episode first season, Considine will play King Viserys Targaryen, chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal. A warm, kind and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy. But good men do not necessarily make for great kings….

(13) ROLL THE BONES. Art & Object listens to the cash register ringing – and ringing! “T. Rex Skeleton Sells for Record-Breaking $31.8 Million at Christie’s”.

A 67-million-year-old dinosaur fossil known as “Stan” was the star of the show at Christie’s last night when it sold for $31,847,500 after a protracted bidding war between buyers on the phone in New York and London. Among the 46 lots in the 20th Century Evening Sale, including standout works by Cy Twombly, Picasso, and Mark Rothko, the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, the last lot of the evening, caused the most excitement when it sold for nearly four times its high estimate of $8 million to James Hyslop, head of Christie’s Science & Natural History Department. The sale beat the last record of $8.36 million set in 1997 for an equivalent T. Rex specimen.

(14) NOBEL FOR CRISPR. “2 scientists win Nobel chemistry prize for gene-editing tool” reports the AP.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry went to two researchers Wednesday for a gene-editing tool that has revolutionized science by providing a way to alter DNA, the code of life — technology already being used to try to cure a host of diseases and raise better crops and livestock.

Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A. Doudna of the United States won for developing CRISPR-cas9, a very simple technique for cutting a gene at a specific spot, allowing scientists to operate on flaws that are the root cause of many diseases.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry….

(15) NOTHING. NEXT QUESTION? Co-hosting this week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on Saturday, October10 will be Alan Lightman, discussing with philosophers Rebecca Goldstein and Edward Hall what separates science from the humanities. For example, what would it take to convince a scientist that a phenomenon was actually a miracle? Register here.

In this discussion with philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher of science Edward Hall (Harvard), and physicist and novelist Alan Lightman (MIT), we will consider the question of the role of experiment in science and how that feature separates science from the humanities. We will also discuss the strong commitment of scientists to a completely lawful universe.

This latter issue could be framed as a question: What would it take to convince a scientist that some phenomenon was a miracle — that is, could not be explained, even in principle, to lie within the laws of nature?

For most scientists, the answer is NOTHING. Yet surveys repeatedly show that 75% of the American public believes in miracles. Why this marked discrepancy between the beliefs of scientists and nonscientists?

(16) TRUE GRIT. Andrew Porter took notes when a contestant stumbled over a Neil Gaiman item on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: The Librarian Invasions.

Answer: Lucien becomes chief librarian of the Dreaming in this Neil Gaiman comic Book series with a one-word title.

Wrong question: “What is Cryptonomicon?”

Correct question: “What is Sandman.”

(17) EXCHANGE RATE. A 1.5 oz Harry Potter Chocolate Wand – for $10.99!! The weight you gain by eating it will be magically offset by the lightening of your wallet.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/28/20 I Don’t Want To Scroll The World. I’m Not Looking For New Pixels

(1) GRIND IT OUT. Cat Rambo’s latest Cat Chat is an interview with David Steffen of the Submission Grinder.

If you’re not familiar with the Submission Grinder, it’s a web utility that many genre writers spend a lot of time staring at: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/ I thought it would be interesting to talk to David about how the Grinder came about and what it does.

(2) THE NARRATIVE. Constance Grady, in “The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained” on Vox, says the rumor that People of Praise, the charismatic Catholic group Amy Coney Barrett belongs to, was the basis for The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t true and Margaret Atwood has not only denied it, but says she can’t currently say which groups were the basis for the “handmaids” because her papers are at the University of Toronto library and she can’t access them because the library is closed because of Covid-19.

…The inaccurate link between the People of Praise and Atwood’s story, perpetuated by a series of confusing coincidences and uneven fact-checking, first emerged in a Newsweek article and was later picked up by Reuters. Both articles have since been corrected, but the right was furious at both. The Washington Examiner called it a “smear that just won’t die.” Fox News noted several other outlets have mentioned Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale in the same story.

To be absolutely clear: People of Praise is not an inspiration for The Handmaid’s Tale, and the group does not practice sexual slavery or any of the other dystopian practices Atwood wrote about in her novel. But the argument over whether or not the two are connected reflects the deeply contentious atmosphere in which Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court occurs — and the immense symbolic weight The Handmaid’s Tale carries in American popular culture…

…Her archive of work and research is at the University of Toronto, where she can’t currently access it due to Covid-19 restrictions. But she’s on the record as going through her Handmaid’s Tale archives for journalists plenty of times in the past, and during those interviews, she’s always cited People of Hope, a different Catholic charismatic spinoff that calls women handmaids.

(3) NEW SFWA BLOG EDITOR.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have selected C.L. Clark as the new SFWA Blog Editor. The position of Blog Editor was previously held by Todd Vandermark, who stepped down earlier this past summer.

C. L. Clark

Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FIYAH, PodCastle, Uncanny, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Now she’s one of the co-editors at PodCastle. The first novel in her upcoming trilogy is The Unbroken (Orbit, 2021).

“Todd Vandermark has done years of wonderful work and is moving on to work on his own projects. SFWA is grateful that he’s been a rock of stability for so long. Going forward, I am very excited to have C.L. Clark coming aboard to edit and curate SFWA’s website content,” SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal said. “Her experience as an editor and writer make her the perfect choice to nurture fresh new voices in the nonfiction side of the genre. I look forward to seeing how she shapes the blog during her tenure.”

The Blog Editor provides oversight and direction regarding articles published on SFWA’s blog. This critical position is responsible for soliciting and publishing online content to support SFWA’s goals of informing, supporting, promoting, defending, and advocating for writers of SF/F.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the SFWA team and so excited to bring the SFFH community helpful articles that reflect the diversity of our community while also addressing the systemic issues within it,” said Clark. “I’m committed to making sure the blog is a great resource for writers at all stages of their career, and is especially welcoming to writers in the early stages. I’m looking forward to seeing new pitches!”

(4) WAIT, WHEN? I was sold at timey-wimey. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Five SF Books Featuring Relativistic Relics and Timey-Wimey Problems” at Tor.com.

Houston, Houston, Do You Read? by James Tiptree, Jr. (1976)

The Sunbird loses contact with Earth while circumnavigating the Sun. Initially, the three men on board assume that a solar flare knocked out their communications. Only after making contact with another space vessel do they learn the truth: whatever happened to them cast their ship across time and space.

The human society of the future arose, as so many societies of the future do, from the ashes of the past. Catastrophe swept away the old order, including all men. Human society is now exclusively female. The crew of the Sunbird are the first men seen since the rise of the current civilization. How can these curious relics be integrated into modern society?

(5) SUNBURST AWARD GOES ON HIATUS. The Sunburst Award Society, which recently announced their 2020 winners, today announced they have put the Sunburst Award on hiatus.

 Like many other organizations, the Sunburst Award has been affected by the Covid-19 shutdown. As a consequence, the Sunburst Award Society is announcing a hiatus in its awards program for the coming year. The Sunburst Awards Society members plan to use this time to re-imagine the most effective means available to them for continuing to highlight the stellar work done by Canadians in the field of speculative literature.

Since its inception, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic has raised the public’s awareness of works of speculative literature, and rightfully honoured deserving works, through its prestigious awards program. Over two hundred and twenty-five works have been acknowledged for their contribution to the arts in Canada, and thirty-eight truly outstanding authors have also benefited from monetary recognition.

Members of the Sunburst Board extend their thanks to their members, their jurors, the publishing community, authors and readers for their support over the last twenty years.

The Sunburst Award also administers the Copper Cylinder Award, which went on hiatus in 2019 and has yet to resume activity.

(6) IT’S A SECRET. 20020, the sequel to Jon Bois’s 17776, is here. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Secret Base, September 28 through October 23. Here’s the first installment:

(7) FAIRY TALES. Jennifer Orme discusses “Queer enchantments: Finding fairy tales to suit a rainbow of desires” at Xtra.

…Fairy tales, we are made to believe, are not for queers. Cishet culture’s magic trick of making itself seem natural, inevitable and universal depends in part on the ubiquity and repetition of fairy tales throughout our lives. We are told these stories of compulsory heterosexuality from cradle to grave—and even though everyone knows they are just fantasies, their enchantments are so seductive that it is difficult to resist their charms and not wish we could all live the fairy tale.

And yet.

The fairy tale realm is the perfect place for the shifting, resisting, transformative and hard-to-pin-down cultures of LGBTQ folks. Ignore the happily-ever-after endings that imply a kind of blissful stasis that goes on and on forever. The wonder-filled, strange and surprising worlds of fairy tales have the potential for a kind of queer enchantment. Don’t let all those ever-after weddings fool you: Fairy tales are the perfect environment for LGBTQ folks and queer desires…

(8) CANONS TO THE RIGHT, CANONS TO THE LEFT. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, a critic/voter in the recent Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Etceteras poll has things to say about the idea of canon which might interest Filers: “Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: Say Goodnight to the Rock & Roll Era”.

Rolling Stone asked me to participate in this year’s project, a request I accepted without hesitation. I was happy to be part of a project that stretched back to the original 1987 issue that was so important to me as a teenager. As I began to assemble my ballot of 50 albums, I came to the quick realization that my decades of listening, list-making, and reading have drastically changed how I view lists and canons. I no longer think of them as some definitive word being passed down from on high or some definitive historical document but rather a reflection of how the pop music community views the past. 

Looking at the new Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums, it’s striking to see how the times have changed. The most obvious seismic shock is how Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is no longer the Citizen Kane of pop. It’s been dethroned from the top spot, pushed all the way to number 24, with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On taking its slot. What’s Going On has been floating in Rolling Stone‘s Top 10 since 1987, the same year where it made it into the Top Five on The World Critics List masterminded by Paul Gambaccini. In other words, What’s Going On has been acknowledged as a consensus classic for decades, so it’s not shocking to see it at the top of the list. The shocks arrive within the guts of the poll, where it becomes clear that the rock & roll era has come to an end….

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest, a DreamWorks film, would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It would beat out The Matrix (which lost by just three votes), The Sixth SenseBeing John Malkovich and The Iron Giant. It was directed by Dean Parisot from a screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon who worked off the story by David Howard. It’s considered by many Trekkies to the best Trek film ever made. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger.  Edited Famous Fantastic Mysteries and its companions Fantastic and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine.  Conducted “The Readers’ Viewpoint” in FFM and “What Do You Think?” in FN.  May have been a Futurian.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1909 – Al Capp.  His wildly popular comic strip Li’l Abner was made a Broadway musical and a motion picture; it was read by 70 million in the U.S. when the population was 180 million.  It had fantastic elements: Evil Eye Fleegle, the Shmoos, the Bald Iggle.  Capp spoke at NYCon II the 14th Worldcon.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1913 – Edith Pargeter, O.B.E.  Two novels for us, four shorter stories; other work under this name; perhaps her detective fiction under another name about a medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, is best known.  EP was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to Literature.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1930 – Lívia Rusz.  (Hungarian-style her name would be Rusz Lívia; Rusz is the family name.)  Cartoonist, illustrator, sometimes including fantastic elements e.g. Csipike the dwarf (with Fodor Sándor, or as we’d write, “Sándor Fodor”).  Illustrated The Hobbithere is her cover (in Romanian), here is an interior.  (Died 2020) 
  • Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik.  You can see his fanzine Fanac (with Terry Carr; fanac = fan activity) here; it won a Hugo.  Rick Sneary called him the squirrel for his chatter; he cheerfully adopted it; cartoons appeared.  Lived, among other places, in Los Angeles and Berkeley.  Hitch-hiked from L.A. to New York for NYCon II the 14th Worldcon.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; his trip report was The Squirrel’s Tale.  Served in the Marines.  Under another name, wrote a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel, The Cross of Gold Affair.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1950 – William Barton, 70.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Reviews in SF Eye, interviewed there too (with co-author Michael Capobianco).  Acts of Conscience won a special Philip K. Dick Award citation; he later served a term a a judge.  [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 70. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles. (CE)
  • Born September 28, 1956 Kiran Shah, 64. A dwarf (and yes that’s relevant) who’s been in SupermanSuperman IIRaiders of the Lost Ark,  The Dark Crystal , Return of the JediLegend , Aliens, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Sign of Four. He stunt doubled for Elijah Wood as Frodo and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. He’s got two Who appearances, first as Emojibot 1 in “Smile” and as the mysterious unnamed figure In “Listen”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1963 Greg Weisman, 57. Writer who’s best remembered for GargoylesSpectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1982 Tendai Huchu, 38. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. The latest issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1986 Laurie Penny, 34. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer.  “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by JoWalton is in Vector 288. (CE)

(11) CORFLU CONCORDE. The 2021 fanzine fans’ convention, Corflu Concorde, has posted its first progress report on the official Corflu website. The con is planned for March 26-28 in Bristol, UK. Rob Jackson is the Chair.

The FAAn Awards Administrator will be Nic Farey. (Mothers, shield your children!)

Jackson notes provisions are being made for alternate timings for the con “if — as is very possible indeed — we have to postpone from the original date.” A decision about timing will be in PR2, which will be published before Christmas.

(12) THEY’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER. At LitHub, Dan Rockmore considers “How Storytellers Use Math (Without Scaring People Away)”.

…Writing about mathematics presents some special challenges. All science writing generally amounts to explaining something that most people don’t understand in terms that they do. The farther the science is from daily experience, the tougher the task. When it comes to mathematics, its “objects” of study are hardly objects at all. In his famously heartfelt if somewhat dour memoir A Mathematician’s Apology, the mathematician G. H. Hardy describes mathematicians as “makers of patterns.” While all sciences depend on the ability to articulate patterns, the difference in mathematics is that often it is in the pattern in the patterns, divorced from any context at all, that are in fact the subject.

None other than Winston Churchill was able to tell us how it feels to have tower of mathematical babble transformed to a stairway to understanding: “I had a feeling once about Mathematics—that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and Abyss. I saw—as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show—a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable, but it was after dinner and I let it go.” Let’s assume it wasn’t just the whiskey talking.

(13) WARFARE WITHIN BUDGET. Vanity Fair has an excerpt from a forthcoming book: Game of Thrones: The Chaotic Scramble to Film the Battle of the Blackwater”. Tagline: “George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and Dan Weiss break down one of the drama’s greatest episodes in this exclusive excerpt from the new Thrones tome Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon.”

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Game of Thrones couldn’t afford to stage a battle. For all its groundbreaking, world-building ambition, the HBO fantasy drama’s 2011 debut season struggled to populate even modest crowd scenes on its $6 million-per-episode budget. Yet going into the show’s sophomore year, GoT producers were faced with the challenge of depicting one of saga author George R.R. Martin’s most colossal events: the Battle of the Blackwater, the climax of his second Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Clash of Kings.

George R.R. Martin: We had a director who kept saying, “Cut this! Cut that! I can’t make the day.” I kept removing elements and it was getting to the point where it was getting as bad as the jousting tournament.

And then, just a few weeks before filming, the director had an unexpected family medical emergency and had to drop out. “I’d done quite a lot of work prepping that episode,” the director said. “Very sadly, I had an illness in the family and I had to leave. I knew I was leaving them with a difficult time, but it was absolutely unavoidable.”

Now the production had another tough problem. After all their pleading and negotiation with HBO for the money and latitude to stage a climactic battle, they were less than a month from shooting and didn’t have a definitive plan or a director.

Bernadette Caulfield (executive producer): That was my first year on the show and probably my first fight with David and Dan. They were like, “Oh, let’s get so-and-so.” I said, “Ninety percent of this is action. We need somebody who really knows action. It’s not easy. We should really look at Neil Marshall.”

David Benioff: Neil did Centurion and Dog Soldiers, movies where the guy is doing an incredible amount of really impressive action on a very thin budget.

Bernadette Caulfield: And other directors kept being mentioned and I kept saying, “I’m telling you, we need an action director!” Then David calls me up. At the time we didn’t know each other that well. And he goes: “Okay, Bernie, we’re going with your idea to hire Neil.”

I swear to God, my stomach dropped. I’m like, “Wait, my idea? This is a community decision!” I hung up the phone and I thought, Shit. Now it’s my idea. I’m responsible for this guy doing our first battle.

Neil Marshall (director): I was aware of Game of Thrones when season one was happening. I thought, This is really my kind of thing, and had my agent contact HBO and say, “If there’s any chance, I’d like to be able to direct an episode.” Their response was like, “We have our directors, thank you very much.”

Then a year or so later on a Saturday morning, I got an emergency call from Bernie to come and fix a situation that, from what I gathered, was a bit out of control. She asked if I would like to direct an episode. I was like, “Absolutely!” I’m thinking this will be in few months’ time. Then she said, “It’s on Monday morning and you’ve got one week to plan.”…

(14) GET STARTED ON YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING. Time Travel Mart offers a Robot Toupee. Know anybody who needs one?

They have lots of amusing novelties. Consider the Pastport:

Whether heading to Pangaea or the future Moon Colony, no time traveler would dare go without their Pastport. Only documentation officially recognized by the Intertemporal Travel Commission.

Travel stamps may be obtained whenever travel to era is approved. Watch social media for era approval stamps.

(15) UNDERGROUND OCEANS OF MARS? The Independent reports “Multiple ‘Water Bodies’ Found Under Surface Of Mars”.

Several liquid bodies have been found under the south pole of Mars, according to a major new study.

The findings give extra credence to previous research that suggested there could be a large saltwater lake underneath the Martian surface, the researchers claim – and also led to them discovering a number of other wet areas.

The findings could be key in the search for alien life on the planet, the researchers note, given life as we know it requires liquid water to survive.

They will also be key to “planetary protection” work that ensures that humanity doesn’t contaminate other planets with life from Earth during missions to explore them.

…The discovery was made using MARSIS, or the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, which is onboard the Mars Express spacecraft sent by the European Space Agency to orbit around Mars.

(16) THAT SOUNDS DANGEROUS. The AP report “New measurements show moon has hazardous radiation levels”.

Future moon explorers will be bombarded with two to three times more radiation than astronauts aboard the International Space Station, a health hazard that will require thick-walled shelters for protection, scientists reported Friday.

China’s lander on the far side of the moon is providing the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study noted.

A Chinese-German team reported on the radiation data collected by the lander — named Chang’e 4 for the Chinese moon goddess — in the U.S. journal Science Advances.

(17) A DOLLAR SHORT. The Space Review’s Dwayne Day looked at the 12 reality shows that claimed to send the winner into space and explained why they all turned into vaporware. “Reality bites”.

…Of course, this is Hollywood, where production companies announce all kinds of plans, some of them much more solid than others, where often the announcement of a project does not mean that the project is about to happen. The article contained this bit of information: “The series will be taken out soon, with a global streaming platform and a broadcast partner in each country, including the U.S., explored as distribution options.”

“Taken out” is Hollywood jargon for “go looking for somebody to pay us to do this.” And when it comes to space-based reality television, lots of proposals like this have been “taken out” before, giving the term a more ominous meaning. In fact, by one count, this is now the twelfth time that somebody has attempted to create a reality TV show with a spaceflight as the prize.

Around 20 years ago, there was the first of a long string of announced reality television shows that would culminate in a flight into space for a lucky winner. The one, or at least the first one that became public, was “Destination: Mir” proposed in 2000 by Mark Burnett, the producer of numerous successful reality television shows, most notably “Survivor.” Burnett wanted to fly the winner of a reality show competition to the Russian space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. NBC even announced that the show would be on its 2001 schedule. After the Mir space station was deorbited, Burnett renamed the show “Destination: Space,” featuring a flight to the International Space Station instead. The reputed price tag for the show was $50 million. Burnett’s project never made it to television….

(18) INSATIABLE. Pac-Man, the iconic arcade game from the 1980s, turns 40 this year. To celebrate, the video game now enters the world of virtual reality.

(19) BRACKETT OUT OF CHANDLER. K A Laity, in “Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973)”, comes up with a bunch of reasons to make you want to find the movie and watch it – even though I don’t remember it being all that good!

I read the novel so long ago (back in my L. A. days so looooong ago) I could only remember the basics of the story. There were probably more of them in the original script by the legend Leigh Brackett, but Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking always left room for improvisation and Elliott Gould—unlikely to be most director’s ideal choice to play Phillip Marlowe—works well here.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “After Earth Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George notes that the 2013 Will Smith film is set in a future Earth where there’s no oxygen even though there are plenty of trees and animals, and how creatures can smell human fear in a world where humans haven’t lived for a thousand years.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Todd Mason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]