Pixel Scroll 5/29/22 As Space-Time For Springers Goes By

(1) HYBRID READING SERIES FROM SEATTLE. Clarion West is bringing back their Summer of Science Fiction & Fantasy reading series in 2022. The readings will be held both in-person in Seattle and online. They are free and open to the public. Click on the author’s name below to learn more and to register for the event. All events will be held on Tuesday nights. 

June 21 Susan Palwick
7PM Seattle Public Library
Central Branch
1000 4th Avenue
Supported by the Leslie Howle Instructorship
Susan Palwick (CW ‘85) has published several novels and short story collections, including The Necessary Beggar, Shelter, and Mending the Moon. She is a recipient of the Crawford Award, Alex Award, and Silver Pen Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

June 28 P. Djèlí Clark
7PM Seattle Public Library
Central Branch
1000 4th Avenue
Phenderson Djèlí Clark is the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy-nominated author of the novel A Master of Djinn and the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, as well as numerous short stories.

July 5 Fonda Lee
7PM Seattle Public Library
Central Branch
1000 4th Avenue
Supported by the Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship
Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the epic urban fantasy Green Bone Saga as well as the acclaimed young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer, Exo, and Cross Fire. She is a three-time winner of the Aurora Award, and a multiple finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards.
Register now.

July 12 Tobias Buckell
7:30PM Town Hall Seattle
1119 8th Ave
Supported by the Debbie J. Rose Memorial Instructorship
Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling author and World Fantasy Award winner. His novels and almost one hundred stories have been translated into twenty different languages. His work has been nominated for awards like the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and the Astounding Award for Best New Science Fiction Author.

July 19 Bill Campbell
7:30PM Town Hall Seattle
1119 8th Ave
Bill Campbell is the author of Sunshine Patriots; My Booty Novel; Pop Culture: Politics, Puns, and “Poohbutt” from a Liberal Stay-at-Home Dad; Koontown Killing Kaper; and Baaaad Muthaz, and he has edited several groundbreaking anthologies. He is the winner of a Glyph Pioneer/Lifetime Achievement Award.

July 26 Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
7PM Seattle Public Library
Central Branch
1000 4th Avenue
Supported by the Susan C. Petrey Memorial Fellowship

Annalee Newitz is the author of the book Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age, and the novels The Future of Another Timeline, and Autonomous, which won the Lambda Literary Award. They are also the co-host of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.


Charlie Jane Anders is the author of Victories Greater Than Death, as well as Never Say You Can’t Survive, and Even Greater Mistakes. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night and All the Birds in the Sky. With Annalee Newitz, she co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.
Register now.

(2) FOX ON SFWA. Just learned this made Fox News two days ago: “Sci-Fi Fantasy writers convention boots author for ‘racial slur’; target says he was not offended”. Their coverage begins:

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) booted award-winning author Mercedes Lackey from a conference over her use of a “racial slur,” even though the Black author to whom she had been referring later said he did not consider the term offensive.

Lackey had allegedly referred to Samuel R. “Chip” Delany, 80, a celebrated author and literary critic (winner of multiple SFWA Nebula awards), as “colored” while praising his work in the “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” panel at the SFWA Nebula Conference on Saturday, May 21…. 

Fox’s article includes Lackey’s apology, and the screencap of Delany’s Facebook comments.

(3) TALKING ABOUT EVERYTHING. Abigail Nussbaum says it’s a challenge to review something really good, such as the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once. Clearly, it’s a challenge she is equal to:

…Here is a non-exhaustive list of things I could talk about when talking about Everything Everywhere All at Once. I could discuss the fact that this is the first worthwhile showcase that Hollywood has given Yeoh since she burst onto Western audiences’ consciousness twenty-five years ago in Tomorrow Never Dies, and how it shows off not only her skills as an action heroine, but as a dramatic actress and a comedienne. I could mention that matching Yeoh beat for beat is Quan, the former child star who played Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, who has spent the intervening decades behind the camera as a stunt choreographer, but who returns to the screen now in what should be a star-making turn. I could point out that the film functions as a culmination of two of the early 2020s’ favorite tropes—multiverses and generational trauma—while managing to put its own unique spin on them. I could discuss its myriad references, to everything from Pixar movies to art-house Asian cinema….

And there’s quite a bit more Nussbaum could say – and does – after that excerpt.

(4) ABOUT BARKLEY. Camestros Felapton starts his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with Chris Barkley in “Chris M. Barkley: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Chris Barkley has been an active voice in fandom for over 40 years. He’s been a volunteer at numerous Worldcons, including being the head of media relations at several and more broadly, he’s been one of those vital people in fandom who does the work to make a group of people with common interests a community….

(5) BAD BATCH. Disney + continues the weekend’s parade of introductory trailers with the Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2 Official Trailer.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2009 [By Cat Eldridge.] So tonight we have an interesting short film. And no, I had no idea it existed until now.  2081 which is based off of the Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” story premiered on this date thirteen years ago at the Seattle International Film Festival. 

The story was first published the October 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and was in his Welcome to the Monkey House collection seven years later.

The cast is James Cosmo, Julie Hagerty, Patricia Clarkson, and Armie Hammer. 

The story is one where a future polity is attempting by any means possible to ensure that everyone is absolutely equal. That’s a bit of a SPOLER I know. 

So what did the critics think of it. Well I didn’t find a lot of them who said anything but I really like what Mike Massie at the Gone with The Twins site said about this half hour film cost that just a hundred thousand to produce: “’What are you thinking about?’ ‘I don’t know.’ The basic plot, adapted by Chandler Tuttle (who also directed and edited) from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s short story, is sensational, serving as a warning and as pitch-black satire. The notion of equality taken to hyperbolic extremes is certainly worthy of cinematic translation, as are the various manifestations of crushing governmental control. True freedom requires disparity. Here, however, there are some inconsistencies (such as determining how exactly to make a ballerina, encumbered as she might be with weights chained around her body, perfectly equivalent to a musician). But the use of slow-motion, classical music (featuring the Czeck Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and a cello solo), limited dialogue, and highly contrasting juxtapositions give this brief yet sharply filmed project an admirable level of artistry. The premise is terribly bleak, but Bergeron’s plight manages to be momentarily hopeful, funny, and provocative as well.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really liked it giving it a seventy-three percent rating.

You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago but still remember quite fondly. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s ReposeThe Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. I know that someone here has read them so do tell me about them please. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. It is thought that “The Death’s Head Meteor”, his first story, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, could be the first use of “astronaut” in fiction. He also created the use of a future history before either Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith did so. They’re collected in The Planet of the Double SunThe Sunless World and a number of other overlapping collections. He’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 29, 1939 Alice K Turner. Editor and critic who starting in 1980 served  for twenty years as fiction editor of Playboy. The Playboy Book of Science Fiction which is not available from the usual suspects but which is available at quite reasonable prices in hardcover was edited by her. Snake’s Hands: The Fiction of John Crowley is an expansion of her earlier Snake’s Hands: A Chapbook About the Fiction of John Crowley.  It is available from sellers like ABE Books. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 29, 1942 Kevin Conway. His first genre role was as Roland Weary in Slaughterhouse-Five with later roles in Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace and Black Knight, neither of which I suspect many of you have seen. You will likely have seen him in The Lathe of Heaven as Dr. William Haber. He played Khalistan on “The Rightful Heir” episode of Next Generation, and had one-offs on Dark AngelLife on Mars and Person of Interest. (Died 2020.)
  • Born May 29, 1947 Julie Cobb, 75. Her first credited role as Yeoman Leslie was in an episode of Trek, “By Any Other Name”. She was the only female Redshirt to be killed in that series. She had roles in The Fantastic JourneyFantasy Island, The Incredible Hulk, a recurring role in Salem’s LotBrave New WorldTucker’s Witch, Starman and The New Adventures of Superman.
  • Born May 29, 1952 Louise Cooper. She wrote more than a dozen works of SFF and was best known for her quite excellent Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. She wrote a lot of short fiction, most of it collected in Creatures at ChristmasThe Spiral GardenShort and Scary! and Short and Spooky!. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 29, 1987 Pearl Mackie, 35. Companion to the Twelfth Doctor, the actress was the first openly LGBTQ performer prior to the Fourteenth Doctor and the first LGBTQ companion cast in a regular role in Doctor Who. Mackie, says Moffat, was so chosen as being non-white was not enough. Her other notable genre role was playing Mika Chantry in the audiowork of The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James.
  • Born May 29, 1996 R. F. Kuang, 26. She’s an award-winning Chinese-American fantasy writer. The Poppy War series, so- called grimdark fantasy, consists of The Poppy War which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. She’s won the 2020 Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side introduces us to the ace of aces.
  • Tom Gauld shared his catoon about authors’ pets.

(9) A TOURIST IN TRANSYLVANIA. Slate’s Marissa Martinelli says Daily Dracula is “Why Hundreds of Thousands of People Are Reading Dracula Together Right Now”.

I keep getting these emails from a guy I’ve never met, who says he got stuck while traveling abroad for work. At first, he seemed to be having a nice time, but lately he’s been describing increasingly weird and disturbing circumstances that make me feel like I should help him out. For once, though, I can rest easy that it’s not a spammer trying to scam me out of some money—it’s Jonathan Harker, protagonist of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Dracula Daily is a Substack that emails snippets of the classic horror novel, which takes place over a six-month period, in real time, in the form of the book’s journal entries and letters. The venture is the brainchild of Matt Kirkland, whose previous projects include etching inane tweets into cuneiform tablets and exposing the robotic skeletons lurking beneath your stuffed animals. I spoke to Kirkland about our pal Jonathan, how weird it is that Dracula crawls down walls like a lizard, and the part of the book he’s most excited for readers to experience in email form….

Do you have a sense of what is causing it to take off on Tumblr in particular?

No, I don’t. So much of the posts are about how people are just finding it so funny. We have this dramatic irony of like, “Oh, Jonathan Harker doesn’t know that he’s in Dracula, so he’s not scared enough by going to Dracula’s castle.”

(10) WHEN PEOPLE TAKE THEIR WORK HOME…FOREVER. “U.S. Book Show: The Pandemic and Publishing: How Has Covid Changed the Industry for Good?” asks Publishers Weekly.

…Odom Media Management founder and literary agent Monica Odom was already working from home, expecting a baby, when the pandemic began. “I sold the most books of any year in 2020—and I’m still waiting for them all to publish,” she said. Despite her productivity, she fought “to stay grounded amid the immense collective trauma we were all having, recognizing we were all humans doing this work.” As an aside, she commented, “I did miss the editor lunches.”

That sounds like a throwaway line, yet social distancing highlighted publishing’s reliance on workplace culture. Bogaards suggested the pandemic put “a cap on industry fun,” lowering morale among people who thrive on hard work and literary perks. “The social fabric seems to be fraying at the edges,” Bogaards lamented.

“We’re not having as much fun together, and that does take a toll,” agreed Julia Sommerfeld, publisher of Amazon Publishing and founder of Amazon Original Stories. As remote work developed, she noticed the rise of “a strong online chat culture. The team is always pinging each other and trying to capture that casual conversation. We’re missing the kind of osmosis that happens when we’re all together.”…

(11) STICK A CORK IN IT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Novelty wines are often not a great idea. For the most part, this Star Trek selection seems to follow that trend, at least according to Ars Technica. “We tasted the expanded collection of Star Trek wines and found them… wanting”.

Picard has now wrapped its second season, with a third currently in production, and the folks behind Star Trek Wines have expanded their collection from two varieties to six. So a second informal wine tasting was clearly in order. And who better to help us in this noble endeavor than Q himself—aka actor John de Lancie—and The Orville writer Andre Bormanis, who launched his career as a science advisor on TNG? They joined a fresh group of tasters (eight people in all) on a cool late spring evening in Los Angeles, where the nibbles were plentiful and the conversation flowed freely. (Wine assessments were anonymous, in keeping with the gathering’s super-casual vibe. And the wine was purchased out of pocket, not gifted for promotional purposes.)  

… Alas, the four new varieties in the Star Trek wine collection fall far, far short of their predecessors. We’ll start with the merely bland and inoffensive: an Andorian Blue Premium Chardonnay and the United Federation of Planets Special Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.

The Andorian Blue is, indeed, blue in hue, no doubt thanks to the addition of a food dye. (“What is this, a substrate for a COVID test?” one taster quipped.) It’s a gimmick that imparts a very slight aftertaste that is all the more noticeable because the wine otherwise barely has any flavor. That’s unusual for a chardonnay. I’m not especially fond of white wines, but good chardonnays are generally light to medium body, crisp, and a bit citrus-y. The Andorian Blue is indeed light, but it’s missing any distinctive flavor notes—other than that unfortunate hint of blue dye….

(12) FIRE UP THE BOILER. Game Rant feels qualified to recommend “5 Great Underrated Steampunk Sci-Fi Movies”. But the second one they name is the Will Smith Wild Wild West, so should we trust them?

… A usual definition of the steampunk genre states that it presents inventions, technologies, or historical events that happened differently in the real world or didn’t exist in the first place. For every well-known steampunk movie, there are many underrated ones that flew under the radar and that every fan of the genre should watch….

Their list begins:

5. Invention For Destruction (1958)

Though many steampunk movies are in the English language, some best, most underrated pieces come from non-English-speaking countries. This Czechoslovakian 1958 movie was directed by Karel Zeman and based on Jules Verne’s work. It is a classic, but is mostly unknown among the general audiences and has barely over 2,000 ratings on IMDb.

The movie shows that when somebody creates an invention that has the power to destroy the world, it’s more than likely that someone evil will try to use it for their own nefarious purposes. The film is visually beautiful — shot on a camera from 1928, it offers the charm of even older movies. What’s more, it will keep the viewers guessing throughout, especially if they’re not familiar with the original source material.

(13) ON THE MARCH. Northwestern University declares this tiny robotic crab is smallest-ever remote-controlled walking robot.

Northwestern University engineers have developed the smallest-ever remote-controlled walking robot — and it comes in the form of a tiny, adorable peekytoe crab. Just a half-millimeter wide, the tiny crabs can bend, twist, crawl, walk, turn and even jump. The researchers also developed millimeter-sized robots resembling inchworms, crickets and beetles. Although the research is exploratory at this point, the researchers believe their technology might bring the field closer to realizing micro-sized robots that can perform practical tasks inside tightly confined spaces.

(14) SCARY VIDEO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghost Dogs” on Vimeo, Joe Capps asks, “If dogs were ghosts, what sort of ghosts would they be?” And “Why would ghost dogs be terrified of Roombas?”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/16/22 Or Is It But A Pixel Of The Mind, A False Creation, Proceeding From The Scroll-Oppressed Brain?

(1) SCRIPT DOCTOR. “Ditch the Tardis! Seven ways Russell T Davies could revive Doctor Who” according to the Guardian. Here’s one of the ideas on their list:

A ‘Doctor of the week’ every week

What if there was no one new Doctor? With a quick narrative device to produce an unstable regeneration, you could have a new high-profile Doctor every week. Suddenly it’s possible to hire Hugh Grant, Judi Dench or Riz Ahmed at the Tardis controls, when you only need to persuade them to do a few weeks’ filming – rather than a three-series commitment. Plus, you get all the publicity of the reveal of a new Doctor, over and over again.

(2) LET’S YOU AND HIM FIGHT. Rosemary Jenkinson is missing the old verbal slapfights between literary writers: “A Room with a Feud” in The Critic Magazine. Well, we still have plenty in genre, but if they stopped would you miss them?

Oh, where to find the fabulous spats that used to enliven every writers’ circle? It’s no coincidence that the drab rise of cancel culture has contributed to the demise of colourful literary disagreements. In my own case, my publisher, Doire Press, rescinded their offer to publish my debut novel after I wrote an article contending that Northern Irish authors should focus on contemporary matters rather than the Troubles. As the Sunday Independent rightly questioned in the aftermath, “Is the Irish literary world really so fragile and full of itself that it can’t cope with the odd dose of healthy impertinence?”

Many of the writing greats enhanced their reputations with a critical bon mot. As the poet and critic Dorothy Parker vaunted, “The first thing I do every morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue,”… 

…Naturally, no one wants to see hatchet jobs on writers, but one can’t help wondering where the entertainment is in a bland anodyne literary world. Many writers don’t have the robust constitution to engage in the art of the literary skirmish, but the difficulty for the few who do is that those they write about are likely to claim victim status…. 

(3) SAWYER HEALTH UPDATE. Robert J. Sawyer told Facebook followers in a public post today that he tested positive for Covid-19, but has “no symptoms to speak of.” Best wishes for him to continue feeling well.

(4) UKRAINE BIRD STAMP. A stamp featuring the image of an armed and armored Ukrainian soldier with his middle finger raised to a Russian vessel went on sale this week. Borys Sydiuk says they’re already sold out. “Ukraine postal service issues ‘Russian warship, f***k you!’ stamp” in the Jerusalem Post.

…”Russian warship, f***k you…!” was the response to demands to surrender given to Russian naval forces by Ukrainian border guards stationed on Snake Island early in the war. The Ukrainian marine who uttered the phrase, Roman Grybov, was present at a ceremony issuing the postage stamp along with the illustrator….

(5) ROOTS FOUND. Damon Lindelof and Regina King appeared on the April 12 episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “’Lost’ and ‘Watchmen’ screenwriter Damon Lindelof gets emotional learning about his family’s tragic Holocaust story” at Jewish Telegraph Agency. (PBS offers that Finding Your Roots episode “Watchmen” for viewing online at the link.)

Acclaimed screenwriter Damon Lindelof learns that several members of his family tree died in the Bialystok ghetto during the Holocaust on Tuesday night’s episode of the celebrity genealogy show “Finding Your Roots.”

With help from the archives at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, the “Finding Your Roots” team found six pages of testimony detailing the fate of a branch of Lindelof’s family.

Lindelof, who created HBO’s 2019 “Watchmen” series and co-created “Lost,” reads from the show’s compiled pages about his family tree, repeating “circumstances of death: ghetto Bialystok” after several relatives: his great-granduncle — the brother of his great-grandmother — and his wife and their four children.

(6) GHOSTING. Past HWA President Lisa Morton recommends “The best collections of classic ghost stories” at Shepherd.

Who am I?

I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories. As a kid, I loved horror movies and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and H. P. Lovecraft; later on, I discovered movies like The Innocents (based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw) and The Haunting (adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House). As a ghost historian and editor, I’ve discovered dozens of brilliant tales from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; these are stories that remain relevant, entertaining, and frightening….

(7) TRANSPORTATION FUTURES. Arizona State University’s Future Tense will host an online event “Imagining Transportation Futures with Sec. Pete Buttigieg” on April 20 (10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Pacific). Register at the link.

Future Tense is asking Sec. Pete Buttigieg what role imagination plays in managing a federal department as sprawling and impactful as the Department of Transportation. We’re also asking three of our accomplished Future Tense Fiction authors to talk about how they see their work inspiring visions of futures that might come to pass.  

Featuring:

Pete Buttigieg, @SecretaryPete; U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Annalee Newitz, @Annaleen; Author, When Robot and Crow Saved St. Louis, Future Tense Fiction Author, Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

Linda Nagata, @LindaNagata; Author, Ride, Future Tense Fiction Author, Pacific Storm

Tochi Onyebuchi, @TochiTrueStory; Author, How to Pay Reparations: A Documentary, Future Tense Fiction Author, Goliath

Moderators: Paul Butler, President, New America; Ed Finn, @zonal; Founding Director, Center for Science and the Imagination, Arizona State University

(8) MORE ABOUT CHRISTINE ASHBY. [Item by David Grigg.] Christine Ashby, long-time Australian fan, died at home on Tuesday 29 March 2022. She was 70 years of age. She is survived by her husband Derrick Ashby.

Christine was a member of the Monash University SF Association, alongside such well-known names as John Foyster and Carey Handfield. After graduating as a lawyer she began work as a solicitor and developed considerable expertise in legal costings. 

She was involved in organising and running several Melbourne SF conventions in the 1970s and 80s and was the Guest of Honour at Q-Con in Brisbane in 1973. She and Derrick were members of ANZAPA for many years.

Christine was Treasurer of two Worldcons: Aussiecon in 1975 and Aussiecon Two in 1985.

Outside of fandom, Christine served for several years on the board of the Paraplegics and Quadriplegics Association of Victoria and for a short while was its Chairperson.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Fifteen years ago, a special citation went to Ray Bradbury from the Pulitzer Board for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.

But the Pulitzer Board doesn’t give out such an Award without picking a specific work and this is the full language of their announcement:

Bradbury came of age as a writer before the postwar ascendancy of the paperback book as a publishing medium. Instead, during the Golden Age of Science Fiction, short stories published in pulp magazines like Astounding Science-Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Amazing Stories stood at the forefront of the field. As such, many of his novels are actually “fixups”—a term coined by SF legend A.E. van Vogt to describe novels assembled from previously published short stories that were buttressed with new interlinking material.   

Culled from Bradbury’s late 1940s output, The Martian Chronicles is a sweeping account of the colonization of Mars amid nuclear war on Earth. Its literary structure (patterned after Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio) earned plaudits from such notable critics like Christopher Isherwood, who read the book after a fortuitous encounter with the younger writer (and fellow Angeleno) at a bookstore. In his review, Isherwood deemed Bradbury “a very great and unusual talent,” a tastemaking assessment that charted the course of the rest of his career.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger (on the left) presents Michael Congdon (accepting for Ray Bradbury) with the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 16, 1905 Charles G. Finney. Writer and Editor. It’s rare that I pick writers whose main accomplishment is one work which has defined them, but his one such work is, well, phenomenal. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, was a Hugo finalist at Loncon II and won one of the inaugural National Book Awards, the Most Original Book of 1935; it is most decidedly fantasy. Ray Bradbury liked the novel so much that he included it as the headline story in his anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories; it is said that the carnival in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modelled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born April 16, 1917 William “Billy” Benedict. Singled out for birthday honors as he was Whitey Murphy in Adventures of Captain Marvel. Yes, that Captain Marvel.  Back in 1942, it was a 12-chapter black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures based off the Fawcett Comics strip. You can watch the first chapter, “Curse of The Scorpion,” here. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. I’ve done his Birthday in the past and profiled his extensive genre work there but I’m going to limit this write-up to just one role he did. In half a dozen films, he played Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot, first in Death on the Nile and then in Evil Under the SunThirteen at Dinner (a television film), Dead Man’s Folly (another television movie), Murder in Three Acts (yet another television movie), and finally in Appointment with Death.  An impressive take on that role indeed! (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Anti-Death League and The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction which was published in the late Fifties sounds fascinating as he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube despite there already being so. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both a excellent radio and a superb television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. The film version would be nominated for a Hugo at Noreascon I, a year where No Award was given. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 60. Writer, editor, literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine, and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb. She has a most excellent website Kathryncramer.com.
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 47. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly ‘verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of  animated DCU films, to wit Son of BatmanBatman vs. RobinBatman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract,  Batman: Hush and Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes. He also had a one-off on Warehouse 13 as Sheldon in the “Mild Mannered” episode. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys illustrates a problem caused by something you can easily understand Superman wouldn’t know he was doing.

(12) A FAN FUND AUCTION OF YESTERYEAR. Fanac.org’s video time machine has returned from 1976 with a clip from the first MidAmeriCon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976.  In this very short video excerpt from the Fan Funds Auction at Big Mac, auctioneer Rusty Hevelin shows just how far fans will go to be supportive of the Fan Funds.  In this clip, it’s not books or vegemite up for bid, but currency. The second item is the one to watch, with Rusty skillfully extracting bids from the crowd. You’ll also see fellow auctioneer jan howard finder making a brief appearance…

This video is brought to you by the FANAC Fan History Project, with video from the Video Archeology project (coordinated by Geri Sullivan, with technical work by David Dyer-Bennet).  

(13) IT’S BEEN AWHILE. Ethan Alter of Yahoo! Entertainment interviews Ke Huy Quan, who starred in Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom and The Goonies as a teen, dropped out of acting, and is now back as a lead in the new sf film Everyone Everywhere Everything At Once. “Ke Huy Quan looks back on ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘The Goonies’ and reveals what made him finally return to acting”.

Was it strange to go from being the only child on the set of Temple of Doom to being constantly around other young actors while making The Goonies?

It was weird, because coming off of Indiana Jones … I got all the attention versus being on a set with six other kids, and honestly they were all hams! [Laughs] They really knew what they were doing. So I found myself constantly having to fight for attention. But that was very familiar to me, because I grew up in a big family and that’s what my home was like. I got some great friendships out of that movie, including Jeff Cohen, aka Chunk. He’s my entertainment lawyer and we’re great friends, as I am with Sean [Astin] and Corey [Feldman]. We’re Goonies for life…

(14) NOSFERATU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Nigel Andrews reflects on the centennial of F.W. Murnau’s great horror film Nosferatu.

The film’s poetry of terror comes from real locations, mostly shot in daytime.  Cityscapes:  the unforgettable, hollowed-out tenement building (filmed in Lübeck) in which the vampire finds his last-act townhouse.  Nature: dark monuments and bristling forests.  castles:  the stone arches and beetling walls of Nosferatu’s Carpathian home.  Those arches become a master touch.  In shot after shot, Max Shreck’s hideous Count, dressd to kill and made up likewise, emerges from the inverted U of dark tunnels or from frame-fitting Gothic doorways, like a creature serially birthed or rebirthed from vertical coffin-wombs.

Schreck was a distinguished stage actor made out for the movie. The nightmarishly thin body (for which he dieted), with long arms and extended fingers,is crowned with a rat-toothed bat-eared head, bald and cadaverously thin.  The dark, hollowed eyes are a premonitory rhyme with the Lübeck buildings.  The frock coat is like a sartorial shroud, which seems sewn straight on to the skin.  Sometimes he wears a skewy turban-style nightcap:  a touch of bleak farce among the grand guignol.

(15) JUST A PINCH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Apollo 11 sample return bag saga gets another chapter.  “The bizarre drama behind a pinch of moon dust that just sold for $500,000” at National Geographic.  

Today’s auction is the culmination of a sordid saga involving Apollo astronauts, multiple lawsuits, and scientists aching for a chance to study rare lunar materials.

…NASA has long maintained that the lunar rocks and dust collected during the Apollo missions are government property that’s not allowed to be owned by private citizens. The space agency has gone to great lengths to recover any stray lunar materials, including a sting operation in 2011 that seized—from a 74-year-old woman in a Denny’s Restaurant—a rice-size moon rock embedded in a paperweight.

The lunar dust that sold today is a rare exception to the rule, a quirk due in part to a combination of fraud, mistaken identity, and a series of legal disputes….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Jurassic World Dominion, two generations of cast members unite for the first time. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are joined by Oscar-winner Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill.

From Jurassic World architect and director Colin Trevorrow, Dominion takes place four years after Isla Nublar has been destroyed. Dinosaurs now live—and hunt—alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/20/22 The Cardinality Of The Reals

(1) AN ORDERLY ILLUSION. The Daily Californian’s Logan Roscoe, in “Bureaucratizing science fiction”, analyzes the use of architectural design in New Weird visuals.

…When playing Controlthe player fights interdimensional enemies, but in every background, they see an attempt at subjecting the supernatural to a distinctly human authority. When watching “Loki,” the watcher is baffled by the mysteries of time travel and elusive authoritarians, but in every background, they see an attempt at condensing those mysteries into something understood. When watching “Legion,” the viewer is captivated by sights such as an interview room positioned upside down, dangling above an entire city; but in every background, they see a need for such an interview room — characters lost and scrambling for ways to understand the phenomena that make every cell in their bodies scream in discomfort. In all of these pieces of media, the humans try to colonize the unknown before it colonizes them….

(2) THERE’S KNOW PLACE LIKE HOME. Jennifer Bernstein studies the reasons for “Edith Wharton’s Ghosts” in the Boston Review.

… This disposition of unease followed her into adulthood. She married Edward Robbins Wharton (Teddy) in 1885; the two traveled extensively until Teddy’s depression anchored him to The Mount, a melancholy that seems to have bled into Edith’s psyche. Wharton lived some happy years there, famously writing in bed with her little dogs, but gradually became disillusioned with the house she had once loved, even coming to find it sinister and threatening. Her marriage deteriorated; after verbal abuse and violent episodes of hysteria on Teddy’s part and infidelity by both parties, Edith moved to Paris, and Teddy sold the house without her consent in 1911. They divorced two years later. Wharton would never again live in the United States.

So the symbol of her self-invention became something Wharton hated and feared. Amidst her marital and emotional turmoil, did Wharton really believe The Mount was haunted? Subsequent occupants shared her suspicions; some reported hearing strange noises and seeing spectral figures. The estate, now open to the public as a house museum, offers a popular ghost tour, promising the chance to see apparitions of past denizens, caretakers, groundskeepers, and tragic suicides.

But the question of Wharton’s own beliefs is perhaps the wrong one to ask. In the preface to Ghosts, Wharton adumbrates her view that belief in the supernatural is not an act of the intellect. Rather, it is “in the warm darkness of the pre-natal fluid far below our conscious reason that the faculty dwells with which we apprehend the ghosts we may not be endowed with the gift of seeing.” …

(3) SUN SETS ON YURI’S NIGHT. “Space Conference Censors Name of First Human in Space Because He Was Russian” says Futurism in a disapproving article.

Whipping themselves into a Freedom Fries-esque fit of censoriousness, a space industry conference has removed the name of celebrated Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel into space, from an event.

The nonprofit Space Foundation announced  in a now-deleted note that “in light of current world events” it would be changing the name of a fundraiser from “Yuri’s Night” to “A Celebration of Space: Discover What’s Next” at its Space Symposium conference.

“The focus of this fundraising event remains the same — to celebrate human achievements in space while inspiring the next generation to reach for the stars,” the deleted update notes.

… Erasing the name of the first person to ever fly to space while supposedly celebrating “human achievements in space” is bad enough.

But doing so in line with the milquetoast trend of disavowing all things Russian, including famous composers and food products, amid the country’s current invasion of Ukraine is just outrageous….

(4) ESSAY: GINJER BUCHANAN [Item by Cat Eldridge]

I have come to honor one of our most excellent Editors ever. She was the Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she stayed for a stellar thirty years before retiring. Prior to that, she was consulting editor for the Star Trek tie-ins at Pocket Books and an outside reader for the Science Fiction Book Club. And yes, she was active in fandom from an early age which included being a founding member of the Western Pennsylvania Science Fiction Association or WOOPSPA or as it was affectionately known as she noted in a Locus interview.

Berkley president and publisher Leslie Gelbman upon her retirement said  of her:  “During her thirty years with Ace and Roc, Ginjer was essential in growing our science fiction and fantasy list and launching the careers of several bestselling authors. Her love for the genre and books in general and dedication to her authors is unparalleled, and she’s a key reason Ace/Roc is one of the preeminent science fiction-fantasy publishers.”

She won a Hugo at Loncon 3 for Best Editor, Long Form and was nominated for the same at Nippon 2007, Denvention 3, Anticipation, Aussiecon 4 and Renovation.

She won the Nebula Solstice Award in 2013, and the same year saw her garner the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. She was nominated in 2006 for a World Fantasy Award for a Special Award, Professional for her work Ace Books but alas did not win. 

She was the Toastmaster at the World Fantasy Convention in 1989, and a Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon in 1988, Foolscap in 2000 and at OryCon in 2008. Ginjer Buchanan was also a Guest of Honor at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. And she will be a GOH at World Fantasy Con in New Orleans in 2022.

And yes, she’s written fiction. Her sole novel is a Highlander series tie-in, White Silence. She’s also penned three short pieces of fiction, “The End of Summer by The Great Sea” in the Alternate Kennedys anthology,  Cathachresis” in the More Whatdunits anthology, and “If Horses Were Wishes …“ in the By Any Other Fame anthology. The first two are edited by Mike Resnick alone, the last by Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg. 

Being a serious Firefly fan, she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly collection. Being a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, she penned “The Journey of Jonathan Levenson: From Scenery to Sacrifice” which was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide, Volume 3 edited by Paul Ruditis. 

Oh, and she has one published poem, “Four Views of Necon” published in Cemetery Dance’s The Big Book of Necon anthology edited by Bob Booth.

All in all, an amazing individual who has contributed in oh so many ways to our community, so let’s toast her now as she so richly deserves to be. 

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume. He had a Hugo nomination at ConAdian for his novella The Night We Buried Road Dog”. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 20, 1948 Pamela Sargent, 74. She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships, is the one I like the best. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a women determined to terraform that world at all costs is quite good, and there is the Watchstar trilogywhich I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels, so please do tell me about them. Her “Danny Goes to Mars” novelette won a Nebula and was nominated for the same at ConFrancisco. She was given the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award. 
  • Born March 20, 1948 John de Lancie, 74. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse, though I was more fond of him as Janos Barton in Legend which stars Richard Dean Anderson (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it).  He was also Jack O’Neill’s enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar ManBattlestar Galactica (1978 version), The New Twilight ZoneMacGyverMission: Impossible (the Australian edition which is quite excellent), Get Smart, Again!Batman: The Animated Series, and I’m going to stop there. He’s currently reprising Q in the second season of Picard
  • Born March 20, 1950 William Hurt. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, an making film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, a Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows in Lost in Space as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of  Inspector Frank Bumstead followed for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby and performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Up next was horror film Hellgate and his role as Warren Mills,and Jebediah from Winter’s Tale. His final, to date that is, is in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of notes, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitised blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. His other role worth noting is Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands. (Died 2022.)
  • Born March 20, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 67. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are amazingly excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set in either California or the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Born March 20, 1962 Stephen Sommers, 60. He’s responsible for two of my very favorite pulpish films, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns which he directed and wrote. He also did the same for Van Helsing, and the live action version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. No, I’ve not seen it, so how is it? Not that he’s perfect as he did all four of the Scorpion King films…
  • Born March 20, 1970 Cathy DeBuono, 52. If you were observant, you noticed her as M’Pella, a dabo girl who worked in Quark’s on Deep Space 9 during the last three seasons for an amazing fifty two episodes. She also worked on the series as a stand-in, photo double, and body double for Terry Farrell. She received no on-screen credits until her final appearance in “The Dogs of War” episode
Cathy DeBuono
  • Born March 20, 1979 Freema Agyeman, 43. Best known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised that role briefly in Torchwood. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. Currently she’s on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some seventeen years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. She’s continued her Martha Jones role in the Big Finish audio productions. 

(6) COLLECTOR’S ITEM. The New York Post listens to the register ringing as “First-ever Marvel comic nabs whopping $2.4M at auction”.

A particularly prized copy of the first-ever Marvel comic book fetched more than $2.4 million in an online auction, the auctioneer said Friday.

Known as the Marvel Comics #1 “pay copy,” it’s “arguably one of the top three comic books in the world of comics collecting,” said Vincent Zurzolo, chief operating officer of ComicConnect. The New York-based auctioneer sold the book Thursday night for a bit under $2,427,800.

The buyer’s name has not been disclosed. He is “an extremely passionate comic book collector and investor” who also collects other items, Zurzolo said.

Published in 1939, Marvel Comics #1 introduced characters including Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch, a precursor of the character of the same name that was later a member of Marvel’s Fantastic Four. The book launched what became the Marvel universe of comics, movies, TV shows and video games….

(7) WEAVER OF TANGLED WEBS. Spider-Man: No Way Home special effects supervisor Kelly Port discusses what he did on the film in this video from Vanity Fair that dropped Friday. “How ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Visual Effects Were Made”.

(8) ROBOSMACKDOWN. “‘More Than Robots’ Review: An International Battle” in the New York Times.

… Despite the movie’s title, robots are, in fact, the subject and spectacle of this lighthearted film.

Working in groups over the course of several weeks, young inventors participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition to create industrial-size robots that are complex enough to move automatically, shoot projectiles and even climb. The organization that runs the competition was founded by the inventor Dean Kamen, who wanted to host an event that would develop the skills of young engineers. (The international reach of the competition drew powerful patrons: When the organizers of the tournament present the season’s challenge, they acknowledge that the competition is sponsored by Lucasfilm.)

The documentary follows four teams in early 2020 as they prepare for regional competitions in Japan, Mexico and California. The most memorable scenes come from the two teams in Los Angeles, each led by their teachers Fazlul and Fatima, who are also a married couple. Despite the apparent differences in funding between the two schools, both mentors encourage their students to build robots that stand up to the hard knocks of engineering battles….

(9) ANIME NEWS. A trailer for a new Netflix anime series “Tekken: Bloodline”

(10) WHAT’S MISSING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this video, Patrick WIlliens, self-proclaimed Batman nerd. wonders what happened to Robin in most of the versions of Batman released this century.  He notes that Batman co-creator Bill Finger created Robin to be Watson to Batman’s Holmes and give Batman someone to talk to, and thinks that having an age-appropirate Batman (not 13 and not an adult) would make Batman more human and less broody and obsessed. “Why Are Batman Movies Afraid Of Robin?”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/15/21 I Know What Pixel You Scrolled Last Summer

(1) ORAL HISTORY OF SMALLVILLE. “‘We Had Freedom to Change the Mythology:’ An Oral History of ‘Smallville’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Here, the key players look back, with those sharing memories including Welling and the creators, as well as Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Kreuk, John Schneider, Annette O’Toole, John Glover and Erica Durance.

GOUGH There weren’t any comics on [Clark Kent’s teen years]. It was a blank slate. Jenette Kahn, who was the publisher of DC Comics at the time, said, “Clark is who he is because of his parents. If he had landed in a different cornfield and been raised by different people, he would have been a different person.” That was something that really struck us.

MILLAR We had the freedom to change the mythology, to really make it our own, with Lex losing his hair in the meteor shower — even the meteor shower itself, which was a new development. Anyone approaching that similar story today would not be allowed the freedom that we had, because at that point no one cared….

ROSENBAUM  [Lex Luthor] The casting director is like, “Sit here,” and I go, “Naw, Lex wouldn’t do that.” And she’s like, “Well I have to relight,” and I go, “Would you mind?” And she relit the room and I had to wait outside. I came back in and kind of just took over the room. I go, “What are 700 other guys doing wrong that you are auditioning?” And they said, “Well, we want a sense of charisma, we want a sense of danger, we want a sense of comedic timing.” I only had three pages to work with. I circled, “I’ll be dangerous here, I’ll be funny here, I’ll be charming here.”

GOUGH Lex was the last role we cast. It was a week before we started shooting. Miles was in Vancouver with David Nutter and I was still in Los Angeles with some of the other producers. Michael came in in Los Angeles. We videotaped it and he was just fantastic. He literally hit all the right notes and he was perfect. I remember we somehow got it up to Miles and David in Vancouver.

ROSENBAUM My agent called. “They want to screen test you.” I said, “I’ll never have an audition as good as I just had. Tell them to rewind the tape.” So he goes, “You’re going to lose this role. You know that.” I don’t recommend this to any other actor, and I would never do it again, but I said, “Rewind the tape.”

WELLING “Lex Luthor does not come back for a second audition, OK?”

ROSENBAUM Exactly. He just wouldn’t do it. It’s out of character….

(2) WATCH THE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The winners of the Aurora Awards will be revealed on Saturday, October 16 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern (4:00 p.m. Pacific.) Can*Con will be present awards in a virtual ceremony accessible via their YouTube channel here.

(3) INDIGENOUS FUTURISTS. On October 5 Apex Magazine released its Indigenous Futurists issue, a bonus issue featuring the work of Indigenous genre creators. The issue, guest-edited by Allison Mills, features the work of Pamela Rentz, Kevin Wabaunsee, Tiffany Morris, Sloane Leong, Rebecca Roanhorse, Norris Black, and Theodore Van Alst, Jr. Cover art by Megan Feheley. Read it at the link.

(4) THREE HEARTS. The Poul Anderson Facebook page posted a photo from the Anderson family motorcycle trip in Europe in the Fifties. See it at the link.

We’re going through an album of photos that Poul made in the late 1940s and into the late 1950s, and we’ll be sharing some images from it. For starters, here’s a picture of Poul’s brother, John Anderson, his mother, Astrid Anderson, and Poul, with the motorcycle and sidecar they toured Europe with in 1953. This was taken somewhere in Holland.

(5) NZ FIRE OFFICIAL WIZARD. [Item by Tom Whitmore.] I don’t recall seeing anything about this character around CoNZealand — how did we miss that the country had an official wizard? And doesn’t firing the wizard usually result in bad things for the kingdom? The Guardian reports “New Zealand council ends contract with wizard after two decades of service”.

… The Wizard is a well-known face to Christchurch residents, but in recent years, his presence has diminished, and sightings have become rare. He says that is because the council has made him invisible and would not respond to his suggestions to improve tourism.

“But when they cancelled this honorarium, everyone got furious, they have awakened a hornet’s nest here, it’s hilarious. The next few months are going to be real fun.”

The Wizard said he would keep up his regular appearances at Christchurch’s Arts Centre, chatting to tourists and locals. The centre is hosting an exhibition of his life this month, which is supported by the council.

When asked if he would curse the council over its decision, he said he preferred to give blessings.

“I give children happy dreams, general good health, and I want to make bureaucrats become more human.”

(6) AFRICAN LITERARY PRIZE SHORTLIST. South African author Mandisi Nkomo’s Should have Listened to Mother, a work of genre interest, is one of six shortlisted for the Toyin Falola Prize 2021.

The Toyin Fálolá Prize is an award from Nigerian-based Lunaris aimed at honouring distinguished African scholar and foremost historian, Prof Toyin Fálolá, whose contributions to the field of African history and culture have continued to place Africa on the map and accord it its deserved recognition. The prize honours his endeavours and contributions to the advancement of African cultures, peoples, myths, and histories. The first winner of the award set up in 2020 was Fayssal Bensalah.

The award organizers announced the 11-story longlist from the 495 eligible submissions, 11 stories on September 20.

(7) JUST ARRIVED.  [Item by Daniel Dern.] As seen in the updates from Bud Plant. I haven’t looked at this, I plan to see about getting it through my library. It’s a 2021 Locus Award winner.  The Art Of Nasa: The Illustrations That Sold the Missions.

By Piers Bizony. Art by Robert McCall, Ron Miller, Robert Watts, Paul Calle, David Hardy et al. From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations….

From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations.

Ultra-rare artworks illustrate a unique history of NASA hardware and missions from 1958 to today, giving readers an unprecedented look at how spacecraft, equipment, and missions evolved — and how they might have evolved. Formed in 1958, NASA has long maintained a department of visual artists to depict the concepts and technologies created in humankind’s quest to explore the final frontier. Culled from a carefully chosen reserve of approximately 3,000 files deep in the NASA archives, the 200 artworks presented in this large-format edition provide a glimpse of NASA history like no other.

(8) CONTRARY TO WHAT SCOTTY SAYS. James Davis Nicoll touts “Five Stories in Which Changing the Laws of Physics Leads to Bigger Problems” at Tor.com.

The laws of physics are forever confounding perfectly reasonable schemes. Whether riding gracefully on the running board of a racing car, adroitly handling semi-molten glass, or gliding lightly down from a roof to the embrace of the sidewalk whilst borne up by what intuition said was a sufficiently large bath towel, the laws of physics are forever barging in to insist that, no, things do not work that way.

What if the laws of physics were altered? …

One of James’ examples is —

A Wizard’s Henchman by Matthew Hughes (2016)

Troubleshooter Erm Kaslo specializes in solving the problems of the rich and powerful. There are enough of those, spread across the Spray’s ten thousand worlds, to keep Kaslo busy and affluent. All he asks of his clients is that they pay his fees promptly. If their demands are immoral or insane? No problem.

One of his rich clients believes that the world is about to transition from an era of technology and enlightenment to one of magic and chaos. Kaslo is willing to do as the client asks, even while he believes that the client is nuts. It’s a surprise when the client turns out to be right.

But a change in the basis of power, from technology and commerce to dark magical arts, means that there will still be powerful folks with problems. Problems Kaslo is happy to handle. The universe may have been upended, but Kaslo will prevail.

(9) SABLE REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Sable, a new video game featuring nomads on a desert planet, which Faber says “Is drawn in a thrillingly unique style.”

‘Drawn’ is really the word. Playing Sable is like living in a graphic novel by Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, the influential artist who pioneered a surrealistic sci-fi style.  From the opening vista we see scrap metal villages and wind-sculpted mesas drawn in fine black lines, their flat textures and minimal shading drawing attention to a stunning pastel colour palette–one of the most artful I’ve ever seen in a game–of tawny desert, powder-blue sky and distant mountains a muted lilac…

…The fable-like qualities of the narrative are lent depth and fragrance by Meg Jayanth, the writer behind the superb interactive novel 80 Days.  Language here bears the plain-spoken profiundity of myth.  A machinist asking you to repair a malfunctioning wind tower says, ‘Go there, mend what is broken or sooth what is hurt, and I will give you what you seek…a direction.’  This abstraction is undercut by precise character writing, particularly in Sable herself, who is far from a blank slate — she is anxious, spunky, and completely relatable.  Conversations with other nomads offer spare but evocative fragments to explain the history of the world, allowing players to fill in the gaps themselves.

(10) A SCARY PROFESSION. CrimeReads’ Celia Mattison looks at horror films about books: “Publishing Is a Nightmare: 31 Horror Films about Writing, Reading, and the Book Business”.

The business of writing and reading pops up all the time in horror films. Maybe it’s that screenwriters understand better than anyone the terror of creation. Maybe it’s that long, late hours spent alone in an office juxtaposes nicely on screen against glamorous events hosted by the literati. Or perhaps we’ve all just had a traumatic childhood experience in a library. Either way, here are 31 films guaranteed to give you an October that’s equal parts eerie and erudite….

(11) TAPPING INTO MEMORY. Strange Horizons presents an interview with Chandler Davis by Gautam Bhatia, “Across fracture lines”.

…Science fiction is not a monolith: even as racism, colonialism, and sexism played a dominant role in SF-production through the long 20th century, there were always writers and texts that questions, challenged, and subverted that dominant paradigm. The contrapuntal canon, or the hidden transcript, as it were.

At Strange Horizons, we see ourselves as committed to a plural and diverse vision of SFF, and therefore, as a continuation of this older – and sometimes submerged – tradition of against-the-grain writing. To know – and understand – more about our forebears, for this Fund Drive Special Issue, we decided to interview Chandler “Chan” Davis, one of the most outstanding exponents of the contrapuntal canon, at a time at which the dominant, regressive tendencies of science fiction were at their apogee: the 1940s and the 1950s.

…CD: One striking example of my writing responding to the preoccupations of the time is my responding to the threat of nuclear weapons. All of us in the science-fiction gang who learned of the Manhattan Project only in August 1945 felt at least a momentary joy of vindication: we had been saying this might happen, the general population didn’t know, and lo! we were in the right. But most of us soon realized, “Hey! this is a calamity, an atrocity” (and to think it was done in the name of the American people). Some of the authors sounded the alarm. I cite especially [Theodore] Sturgeon’s “Memorial”, my “The Nightmare”, and Sturgeon’s “Thunder and Roses”, but there were several others. We put it before our audience a rather large and international audience– that if your country is the target of nuclear attack, then it is up to you not to strike back but to do everything to RESTRAIN your country from striking back. We were right, but our message didn’t stick, in the USA or anywhere….

(12) AAHZ MARUCH (1967-2021). [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] Python programmer, whose fannish activities date back at least as far as classic USENET (alt.poly and other groups), died October 14 following several years of ill health. Survived by partner Steph Maruch.

Editor’s postscript: Alan Prince Winston earlier this year described him as “an unstoppable-seeming guy” who “became a contra and square dance caller and choreographer despite really severe hearing impairment.”

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1954 – Sixty-seven years ago this day, the first Flash Gordon television series as distributed by the DuMont Television Network premiered in syndication.  Its cast was Steve Holland as Flash Gordon, Irene Champlin as Dale Arden and Joseph Nash as Hans Zarkov. It immediately ran into criticism from some reviewers and fans as, well, how dare they cast a Flash Gordon who wasn’t Buster Crabbe. However it was very popular with almost everyone else and continued to run in syndication into the Sixties despite running for only one season of thirty-nine episodes. Only fourteen episodes survive and are all in the public domain, so here’s the pilot.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock in the Trek franchise, showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  (The role got reprised in the animated series, as well as three films and two episodes of The Next Generation.) Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild West, Otherworld, The Secret EmpireThe Increible Hulk, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He had a recurring role on the Planet of The Apes as Urko. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1923 Italo Calvino. Writer and Journalist who was born in Cuba, but grew up in Italy. His works range widely across the literary spectrum, across realism, surrealism, and absurdism. As a genre writer he is best known for his “cosmicomics”, linked stories which explore fantastical speculations about subjects such as mathematics, evolution, and human perception. At the time of his death in 1985, he was the most-translated Italian author, and he was recognized with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 15, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 68. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend, but Fleet Elements is in my TBR list.  I also like his Metropolitan novels, be they SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few awards that he’s won, just three with two being Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  Damn it, where is his Hugo? 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 52. Jigsaw in that most dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter. One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) MOVIE MEMORABILIA. Heritage Auction’s Hollywood & Entertainment Memorabilia Auction runs November 4-7. Some of the monster-themed items are on this page. The publicity poster is arresting, to say the least.

(17) MANIFESTATIONS. The Paris Review on what life might be like as a ghost: “All You Have to Do Is Die” by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.

…I’ve never seen a soul move through the air. I am not sure that we are anything more than a skin-bag of electrical impulses. But ghosts are different from the other uncanny citizens. They are only one step away from the known. To become a ghost, you don’t have to be bitten by a vampire or receive a curse or encounter a mad scientist or fall under the spell of a full moon. All you have to do is die.

Still, I imagine the first days of ghosthood would be tricky. There are so many different hauntings, so many ways to do it. In a way, it reminds me of puberty. The unpredictable shifts….

(18) SIGN OF THE TIMES. “Portland removes ‘Merge Simpson’ sign from NW Portland freeway ramp” says The Oregonian.

Many Portlanders just thought it was neat, but city officials didn’t feel the same way about a “Merge Simpson” sign that appeared in Northwest Portland earlier this week. Transportation workers took the “Simpsons”-inspired sign down Thursday afternoon, citing driving safety concerns.

An anonymous artist put up a homemade sign near an on-ramp to Interstate 405 North. The artist covered up a pedestrian crosswalk sign with a sign reading “Merge Simpson,” and drew a portrait of TV cartoon mom Marge Simpson. The artist painted her face strategically below a tall, round column of foliage in place of her iconic beehive hairstyle….

(19) COOL STAR WARS PAINTINGS. For your viewing pleasure, Naci Caba’s Star Wars Paintings at the link.

The artist also does other genre subjects  (click “Paintings” on the sidebar).

(20) HOW SAFE WAS IT TO SQUASH SHATNER? CNN answers the question “How space researchers knew that 90-year-old William Shatner didn’t have to worry about his age”.

…A series of studies in the 2010s sought to answer such question. Researchers put people with pre-existing medical conditions, including elderly men with heart conditions, into a spinning centrifuge to simulate the g-forces the body is subjected to during a trip to space.

Subjects were strapped into a small capsule attached to a massive metal arm that can swing the capsule around in a circle. That faster it spins, the higher the g-forces pressing into the passenger grow, much like the carnival rides that pin passengers to the wall of a spinning circle by rotating the circle at high speeds. When the centrifuge is stopped, passengers inside could be said to be experiencing 1G, or normal gravity on Earth.

At 2G, they feel like they weigh twice their body weight. At 5G, a 200-pound person feels like they weigh 1,000 pounds.

Donoviel pointed to three specific studies that saw people — with a broad range of ages, physical conditions and ailments — endure up to 6G.

“They were fine, they were perfectly fine,” Donoviel said. “The only thing… that was of concern when they did those studies was really anxiety and definitely claustrophobia.”

… For its part, Blue Origin does put some limitations on who can fly aboard New Shepard, its suborbital space tourism rocket, including an age requirement that tourists be 18 years or older, be between 5’0″ and 6’4″ and 110 pounds and 223 pounds, and be in good enough physical shape to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half.

The stair climb is no joke: Blue Origin passengers must rapidly climb what’s called the gantry, a tower that allows the crew to access their capsule as the 60-foot-tall rocket sits on the launch pad, brimming with fuel and ready to blast off.

Shatner quipped about scaling the tower after his flight, saying “good lord, just getting up the bloody gantry.”

(21) COSMIC HOME DELIVERY. “Meteorite Crashes Through Ceiling and Lands on Woman’s Bed” – the New York Times has the story.

Ruth Hamilton was fast asleep in her home in British Columbia when she awoke to the sound of her dog barking, followed by “an explosion.” She jumped up and turned on the light, only to see a hole in the ceiling. Her clock said 11:35 p.m.

At first, Ms. Hamilton, 66, thought that a tree had fallen on her house. But, no, all the trees were there. She called 911 and, while on the phone with an operator, noticed a large charcoal gray object between her two floral pillows.

“Oh, my gosh,” she recalled telling the operator, “there’s a rock in my bed.”

A meteorite, she later learned.

The 2.8-pound rock the size of a large man’s fist had barely missed Ms. Hamilton’s head, leaving “drywall debris all over my face,” she said. Her close encounter on the night of Oct. 3 left her rattled, but it captivated the internet and handed scientists an unusual chance to study a space rock that had crashed to Earth….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Bohemian Catsody” a parody song of the Queen classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this time, all about SJW credentials!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Lise Andresen, Annalee Newitz, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

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 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill Wagner, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]