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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(15) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/25/22 In The Clearing Stands A Pixel And A Scroller By Its Trade

(1) WORLDWIDE CHANGE. Reuters Graphics explores how non-binary people identify themselves in highly-gendered languages around the world, using animated examples to explain the challenges to English-language readers. “Beyond pronouns: How languages are reshaping to include nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people”.

Not everyone identifies as a woman or a man. The movement to recognize gender identities beyond female and male is growing in places like Western Europe and the United States, and changing languages around the world.

In English, the pronouns people use — such as ‘she,’ ‘he,’ or ‘they’ — have come to the fore. In some languages, other parts of speech can also be feminine or masculine.

Modifying language to reflect a spectrum of gender identities is a fundamental change that stirs fierce debate….

(2) FIRST CHAIR. Actor Doug Jones will receive the inaugural The Chair Award from the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild (IATSE Local 706). Star Trek: Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green will present the honor during the guild’s awards ceremony on February 19 — The Hollywood Reporter has details.  

He’s known for roles such as the so-called Amphibian Man in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Waterwhich won 2017’s best picture Oscar, and Pale Man in del Toro’s Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth. He was the Silver Surfer in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the blue fish-man Abe Sapien in del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Jones is also the villainous title character in a remake of Nosferatu, currently in postproduction.

TV roles have included such series as Star Trek: Discovery, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Falling Skies….

(3) VILLENEUEVE TO MAKE RENDEZVOUS. Movieweb reports “Denis Villeneuve to Direct Rendezvous with Rama Adaptation”.

It seems as if Denis Villeneuve can’t keep his eyes from the stars. The director of 2021’s Dune has been signed on to direct another science fiction adaptation. This time the subject will be Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

The project was picked up by Alcon Entertainment, who previously worked with Villeneuve on Prisoners and Blade Runner 2049. The rights to the novel had previously been under the control of Morgan Freeman and his partner Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment. The film has been a passion project of Freeman since the early 2000s, but the project was stuck in development hell for many years.

It seems as if the film is finally going to get its wings with this new partnership at last. Alcon will be financing the project….

(4) WHEN NOT ONLY KANGAROOS HAVE POCKETS. At CrimeReads, “Juneau Black” (pen name of Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel) discusses how to write an animal fantasy where the animals have human characteristics: “How To Craft Non-Human Characters With Plenty of Personality”.

… Our problem in a nutshell: Foxes don’t own handkerchiefs. Well, that’s an obvious statement, isn’t it? Of course they don’t. They don’t have hands. Yet in the world of Shady Hollow, our civilized animal denizens do wear clothes and own accruements and if someone starts blubbering into their coffee, it would be downright rude to not offer a clean bit of cloth to soothe them.

But what to call that cloth? It has to be a word that instantly conveys the idea of handkerchief, without the human-centric assumption of hands. We could call it a pawkerchief…but that sounds too cutesy for a book with murders in it. So we looked for alternatives: Hankie? No, it’s a riff on “hand” and therefore isn’t a word that would exist in this world (and its logical equivalent “pawkie” is so twee it’s sickening). Snot rag is accurate but maybe too gross. Pocket square turned out to be our winner, since it describes the object in a way that the characters themselves would understand….

(5) THEY ASKED HIM ANYTHING. Hosted today at Reddit – “I’m Gideon Marcus, science fiction writer, publisher, space historian…and time traveler. Ask Me Anything!” In connection with Galactic Journey he said:

…Our coolest new project is watching the original Star Trek “as it comes out” on the original air dates (minus 55 years). And they’ve got the original commercial breaks in them! It’s been fascinating watching this classic in its original form, and with about a dozen young people who have never seen it before. We’ve also been reading the period trekzines and fanzines of the time, and that’s been a trip.

…Thank you! It’s been really neat. The show was designed with the traditional four act and teaser format, punctuated with little cliffhangers. The commercials give the show room to breathe and marinate. Plus, the period ads give context — you go from Kirk fighting a giant lizard to… cigarette ads.

Hey, they’re both killers!

(6) FANCAST Q&A. Cora Buhlert posted another Fancast Spotlight for GeekShock, a podcast run by several people who met while working at a Star Trek live show in Las Vegas: “Fancast Spotlight: GeekShock”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

GeekShock is a podcast about the week-in-geek. We like to think we’re a funny bunch, so we style ourselves as a comedy podcast. We approach geek topics of the day however they may strike us as humorous, but we get serious when serious subjects arise. We talk about movies and television of course, but we also cover subjects in comics, games of all types (video, board, tabletop rpg), geek accessories i.e., toys, collectables, curiosities, and genre literature.

(7) 17TH CENTURY SPACE EXPLORATION. The Huntington hosts a free Zoom lecture, “Blasting into Space: The Poetics of Faith and Astronomy in 17th-Century England”, by Wendy Wall on February 16, at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register at the link.

In this lecture, Wendy Wall, Professor of the Humanities at Northwestern University, describes how 17th-century woman Hester Pulter, while sick and confined to her bedroom after giving birth to her 15th child, sought solace in an unusual way: she wrote poems about taking off into space to explore planets in the heliocentric universe. While intellectuals of the day feared that new conceptions of astronomy undermined cherished religious beliefs, Pulter was exhilarated in incorporating cutting-edge ideas about space into a new type of devotional poem. How can this relatively newly discovered female poet enlarge our understanding of ways that writers used poetry to interconnect religion, science, and the imagination? How might Pulter’s poetry reveal previously unacknowledged ways that early modern women engaged in intellectual production and the mapping of the heavens, even from their remote estates or bedrooms?

(8) THE SCIENCE IN THIS FICTION. In “Malorie Blackman on seeing her sci-fi novel about a pig heart transplant come true”, the author tells Guardian readers that questions are the best place to start when writing a book.

What some call science fiction, I prefer to call science possible or sometimes science probable. One branch of sci-fi is based on imagined technological or scientific advances, and major social or environmental changes. It was that branch that I embraced when I wrote Pig Heart Boy. I loved the idea of exploring xenotransplantation through the eyes of Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with a bad heart who just wants to live. I found the whole notion of transplanting organs from one species into another fascinating and the perfect subject matter for a children’s book.

Now I hasten to add that I’m not a scientist or expert on xenotransplantation, nor do I claim to be. I’m a layperson with a love of science who occasionally reads science magazines. My approach was from an author’s angle, spending months on research before writing a single word…

(9) ANOTHER NAME FROM APPENDIX N. Ngo Vinh-Hoi profiles fantasy writer John Bellairs, one of the more obscure names listed in the Appendix N to the original D&D Dungeon Master’s Handbook: “Adventures in Fiction: John Bellairs” at Goodman Games.

… The modest success of The Face in the Frost was enough for Bellairs to turn to full-time writing, and his next work The House with a Clock in its Walls was also a dark fantasy. Supposedly Bellairs had difficulty selling the book until a publisher suggested rewriting it as a young adult (YA) book set in the fictionalized Michigan of Bellairs’s childhood. The House with a Clock in its Walls proved to be a huge critical and sales success, so much so that Bellairs became a full-time YA author for the rest of his career, completing a total of 15 books for young readers, most of which were illustrated by the great Edward Gorey….

(10) WILL THE REAL CONAN PLEASE STAND UP. Howard Andrew Jones explains which of the many Conan pastiche novels are worth reading: “The Best Of The Conan Pastiche Novels” at Goodman Games.

… You can fit the sum total of all the Conan that Howard wrote (including some fragments and rejected stories) into one large hardback. That’s not a lot of fiction about such a great character, and so for decades, people have been trying to create new tales of adventure starring Conan, mostly because they wanted MORE!

What makes those stories pastiche instead of fanfic, I suppose, is that many of these writers were paid to write it and the result was distributed widely. You would assume that meant that the work was well-edited and had some kind of consistency, but a lot of people, me among them, would tell you you’re wrong….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-one years ago, City Beneath the Sea premiered on NBC. It had a tangled history as it was originally a pilot for a series that Irwin Allen had pitched to that network several years earlier. The film itself was an expansion of a much shorter idea reel that Allen had shown to the network. 

The story was by Allen, but the screenplay was by John Meredyth Lucas who had written four Trek episodes, “Elaan of Troyius”, “The Changeling”, “Patterns of Force” and “That Which Survives” in addition to direction and production duties there. 

The primary cast was Stuart Whitman, Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Colbert, Burr DeBenning, Robert Wagner, Joseph Cotten and Richard Basehart. Irwin’s suggested cast for the series was Glenn Corbett, Lloyd Bochner, Lawrence Montaigne, Francine York, Cecile Ozorio and James Brolin.

I couldn’t, for love or money, find any critical reviews of the film. Rotten Tomatoes has none which is highly unusual.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes weren’t fond of it giving it a rating of just forty percent.  Here’s the trailer for it. City Beneath the Sea (1967).

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1905 Margery Sharp. Her best remembered work is The Rescuers series which concerns a mouse by the name of Miss Bianca. They were later adapted in two Disney animated films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. I’m reasonably sure I’ve seen the first one a very long time ago. Her genre novel, The Stone of Chastity, is according to her website, based on English folklore. Other than the first volume of The Rescuer series, she’s not really available digitally though she is mostly in print in the dead tree format. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. Jack Belicec in the original and by far the best version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Thirty years later, he’d be Lunartini Husband in Nothing Lasts Forever, a SF comedy film with a contentious history. His only other genre appearance was a one-off on Night Gallery. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1920 Bruce Cassiday. Under two different pen names, Con Steffanson and Carson Bingham , he wrote three Flash Gordon novels (The Trap of Ming XIIThe Witch Queen of Mongo and The War of the Cybernauts) and he also wrote several pieces of non-fiction worth noting, The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, co-written with Dieter Wuckel, and Modern Mystery, Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. The latter done in ‘93 is rather out of date and out of print as well. Checking the usual suspects shows nothing’s available by him for this genre though some of his pulp novels are available with appropriately lurid covers. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 25, 1950 Christopher Ryan, 72. He’s played two different aliens on Doctor Who. First in the Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp”, he was Kiv where he looked akin to Clayface from the animated Batman series. Second in the era of the Tenth Doctor (“The Sontarian Experiment” and “The Poison Sky”) and the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”), he was the Sontarian General Staal Commander Stark.
  • Born January 25, 1958 Peter Watts, 64. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower-linked short stories sound intriguing. He won a Hugo for Best Novelette at Aussiecon 4 for “The Island”.
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 59. Butler’s most important work is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 49. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him is on Batman: Gotham KnightsJustice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to notehis decade long run on the Green Lantern books. He’s the writer and producer on the most excellent Stargirl now streaming on HBO Max.
  • Born January 25, 1975 Mia Kirshner, 47. She was Amanda Grayson in Star Trek: Discovery. Her first genre was in the really not great The Crow: City of Angels as Sarah Mohr. (I editorialize, it is what I do.) she had another run as Isobel Flemming in The Vampire Diaries and one-offs in The War of The WorldsDracula: The SeriesAre You Afraid of the Dark? and Wolf Lake. She had a plum role in Defiance as Kenya Rosewater. 

(13) NOT JUST ANYBODY. Here they are! Screen Rant’s choices as the “10 Most Nonsensical World Domination Plans In Movie History”. Some of them have better musical accompaniments than others.

Help! (1965)

Given that this movie stars the Beatles and that it is intended as a comedy, it makes sense that its central world domination plan would be nonsensical.

However, even by that standard, the central plot strains the ability of the audience to make sense of anything of what is happening, much of which revolves around a seemingly magical ring. The fact that the movie moves along at a frantic pace makes its plot even more difficult to follow.

(14) SWORD & SORCERY’S ANCESTRY. At DMR Books, Brian Kunde chronicles his research into the life of Clifford Ball, Weird Tales contributor and probably the most obscure of the first wave of sword and sorcery writers: “Who Was Clifford Ball?”

…In this we are in a position similar to that of Shakespearean scholars, who on the basis of surviving records have also put together a threadbare sketch of an outer life while likewise failing to illuminate the inner man. As with them, our surest guides to our subject’s inner life and interests remain those we started with—in Ball’s case, his published works, together with what he and “W. C., Jr.” set down in their letters and notes in Weird Tales. Having left no descendants, whatever else Ball might have left of a personal nature likely perished with him or his near heirs. The who we already had may have led us to a more complete picture of the life he lived, but how that life was reflected in his thoughts, hopes and dreams remains elusive….

(17) TROLL SIGHTINGS. Jim C. Hines has updated the “Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing” webpage: “Among other things, JDA had a friend take pictures of Tomlinson at ConFusion, which JDA posted for mockery.” The screencaps are here.

(18) NEWBERY AT 100. In “The centennial of the Newbery Award: what publishers should do with older winners that don’t hold up”, Slate’s Sara L. Schwebel and Jocelyn Van Tuyl challenge the award winners’ status as canonical children’s books.

…Many of us are increasingly aware that American childhoods can look very different from one another, varying with race and ethnicity, geographic location, economic status, and many other factors. This has always been true, of course, but until very recently, the imagined child reader was monolithic. So your favorite Newbery from childhood may now seem out of touch, hopelessly uncool. Worse yet, it may feature offensive viewpoints and stereotypes.

Some readers may reject older titles for their objectionable content. But some people feel that recent medal books threaten a long-cherished vision of a universal American childhood experience—a vision they still hold dear. This was the case recently when schools in Katy, Texas, retracted (then subsequently reinstated) an invitation for author Jerry Craft to speak. Craft’s 2020 medal winner, New Kid, depicts a Black boy’s first year in a predominantly white prep school, where he faces frequent microaggressions. Concerned that some readers might experience white guilt, agitators claimed the book ran afoul of Texas’ ban on teaching critical race theory….

…The Newbery makes aspirationally high art for children into news.

This is what Newbery founder Frederic Melcher had in mind: Librarians’ professional neutrality would keep prizing above the taint of commercialism, benefiting publishers’ bottom lines and also, of course, children’s minds and spirits. The prize was about building a junior American canon, books that cultivated readers and inspired the highest ideals of democratic citizenship in the nation’s youth. But the result was a canon that is overwhelmingly white and often marked by a colonialist worldview. Today, the Newbery’s mission increasingly encompasses an awareness of past failures to think about all children as future leaders….

(19) SLICE OF THE DAY. “Icelandic pizzeria nods to pagan tradition by serving sheep’s head as special topping”CBC explains it all to you. Photo at the link. (Which I plan to leave at the link.)

On a bed of arugula and carrot slices, an Icelandic pizzeria has laid out an unusual topping for their new, seasonal pizza: a sheep’s head boiled in stout beer.

The head itself is laced with a smoked chili barbecue sauce that plays up the animal’s flavour — more than when it’s traditionally been served for Thorrablot, the midwinter food festival celebrating Iceland’s pagan history.

And that’s because the sauce includes another juicy ingredient — sheep dung.

“It’s really delicious. I mean, it has to be tasted to be able to describe it,” Laufey Sif Larusdottir, the owner of Olverk Pizza and Brewery in Hveragerdi told As It Happens host Carol Off.

(20) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH SAUSAGES. The Guardian has good news:  “Stranded dog saved from rising tide after rescuers attach sausage to drone”.

As the tide rose, it began to look perilous for Millie the jack russell-whippet cross, who had defied the efforts of police, firefighters and coastguards to pluck her from treacherous mudflats.

So the rescuers had to think imaginatively, and came up with the idea of attaching a sausage to a drone and hoping the scent of the treat would tempt Millie to safety. It worked gloriously and Millie has been reunited with her grateful owner after following the dangling sausage to higher, safer ground.

Millie disappeared after slipping her lead in Havant, Hampshire, and after frantic public appeals was spotted on the mudflats, in danger of being engulfed by the tide. She resisted efforts to encourage her to a safer spot until a drone pilot suggested attaching food to one of the unmanned aerial vehicles that had been used to track the dog….

(21) MYSTERY OF EARTH’S DIFFERENT MOON POSSIBLY SOLVED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Massive Moon strike could explain why its near-side and far-side are so different. Even the minerals on the near and far side are different: why does not the far-side have the lava seas seen on the near-side?  One theory has it that a huge object smashed into the early Moon; possibly its South Pole and the Aitken Basin. Whatever the impact researchers at Macau University have modelled what a huge impact would do.  Back then the Moon would have had a thin crust and a molten interior. The impact would have punched through the crust and made the molten interior even hotter and more fluid. Gravitational influences from its orbit about the Earth – and remember, in its early days the Moon orbited closer to the Earth – would have caused a more fluid type of magma to migrate to the near side where it erupted onto the surface. Nature has the abstract: “Lunar compositional asymmetry explained by mantle overturn following the South Pole–Aitken impact”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the chamber of Secrets Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that in the second Harry Potter movie, if you’re wondering how the pipes surrounding Hogwarts could be big enough for a giant basilisk, hey, kids eat a lot!”  Also, the producer wonders why Hogwarts has the Weeping Willow, which is “a tree that bludgeons kids to death.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/9/21 I Met A Filer From An Antique Scroll

(1) TRICK OR WHO. The official Doctor Who site says the new series of Doctor Who will premiere on Sunday October 31.

Get ready for Doctor Who: Flux, beginning this Halloween.

There’s also some kind of flash advertising campaign under way, with a number to call:

(2) SCA SETS COVID POLICY. The Society for Creative Anachronism announced a “Board Resolution – COVIDSafe Proof of Fully Vaccinated Status or Negative COVID Test Policy” to govern who is eligible to participate in its events. (A complete copy of the policy is here.)

The SCA Board of Directors aims to balance getting Society participants back to doing the things we love with measures that support Kingdoms in protecting all that people have worked so hard for. Our COVIDSafe Resolutions provide a flexible, risk based framework that allows Kingdoms in the United States and Canada to put in place a core set of requirements that event organisers and individuals must adhere to, based on their current environment and public health directions and advice….

In addition to the existing policy allowing Kingdoms to establish a mask policy, Kingdom Seneschals in consultation with the Crown shall have the discretion to implement the following policy requiring proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of an event start time from all event attendees…

(3) DURING THE SPACE RACE. “Moon Station (1967)” at Dreams of Space displays all the frames of a Soviet school filmstrip produced in 1967 showing the artist’s conception of how a moon colony would be built. Entertaining as well as informative. We’re still waiting for anybody to build a base on the Moon, of course.

(4) WINDY CITY REPORT. Walker Martin’s report on the Windy City Pulp & Paperback show is on page 11 of the Plymouth Review. Photos from the show appear throughout the issue.

(5) BEAR MEDICAL NEWS. Elizabeth Bear gave readers a “Cancer stuff update” at her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe Newsletter.

So, this is gonna get long, but I saw my surgeon on Wednesday and my shiny new medical oncologist on Friday, and the filet (you see what I did there) is that the incisions are healing well, and my tumor samples are being sent for oncotesting (basically genetic analysis of Barry to see what kind of a little bastard he is)….

(6) GILLER PRIZE. One work of genre interest has survived to make the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2021 Shortlist.

The complete five-book shortlist is here.

(7) SPOCK IS NOT LOGICAL: SHOCK, HORROR, DRAMA, PROBE! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has a statistics program. (Yes, disturbing for some as it may be, stats are fun for tru-geeks.) It is called More or Less and it has had its 20th anniversary edition that was book-ended by Star Trek. More or Less: “Behind the Stats, Reason, numbers and Mr Spock”.

It began with a parody of the original Star Trek series opening credits and ended with a defense of a previous edition’s assertion that Star Trek’s Spock was not at all logical: many fan listeners wrote in to complain!  In between there were statistics stories from the recent news calling out official figures and some number claims; enough to satisfy your inner nerd.

You can download the mp3 for a few weeks here. You can also enjoy this infographic about The Original Series. Click for a larger image.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 – Nineteen years ago this evening on The WB, the Birds of Prey series began its brief, thirteen episode run. Set in a post-Batman Gotham, it was loosely based on the DC Comics series of the same name. It starred Ashley Scott as Helena Kyle / Huntress, Dina Meyer as Barbara Gordon / Batgirl / Oracle and Rachel Skarsten as Dinah Redmond (née Lance). It also had Shemar Moore as Detective Jesse Reese and Ian Abercrombie as a rather perfect Alfred Pennyworth. The Arrowverse Crisis on Infinite Earths eventretroactively establishes the world of Birds of Prey as Earth-203 before the Anti-Monitor destroys it. Ooops. There were two different pilots, with Sherilyn Fenn portraying Harley Quinn in the original unaired pilot. Mia Sara plays her in the series. Ratings started out strong but declined rapidly and The WB didn’t pick up the series after the initial thirteen episode run. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a neither good nor bad forty-one percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 9, 1936 Brian Blessed, 85. Lots of genre appearances including Space 1999Blake’s 7Hamlet (as the ghost of Hamlet’s father), MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis, Johnny and the Dead and in The Phantom Menace. He even managed to show up on Doctor Who in a Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp” as King Yrcanos. 
  • Born October 9, 1948 Ciaran Carson. Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist who is here, genre wise at least, for his translation of the early Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, which he called simply The Táin. I’m also going to single him out for penning the finest book ever written on Irish traditional music,  Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music. It’s every bit as interesting as Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram is. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 9, 1949 Jim Starlin, 72. Comics artist and illustrator. If you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ve seen the characters Thanos and Drax the Destroyer which he created. He would also work for DC and other companies over the years. Starlin and Bernie Wrightson produced Heroes for Hope, a 1985 one-shot designed to raise money for African famine relief and recovery. Genre writers such as  Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, and Edward Bryant would contribute to this undertaking. He’s written a number of genre novels co-written with his wife Daina Graziunas. 
  • Born October 9, 1953 Barbara March. She was Lursa, one of the Klingon Duras sisters. She appeared on Next Generation (“Redemption” and “Firstborn”), Deep Space Nine (“Past Prologue”), and Star Trek Generations. Though she did no other genre acting, she played Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the stage and renown for being Lady Macbeth. She wrote a horror novel, The Copper People. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 9, 1954 Scott Bakula, 67. Lead in two great SF series, Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap and Captain Jonathan Archer on Enterprise. He also starred as Nolan Wood who discovers the alien conspiracy in the remake of The Invaders. Though definitely not genre or even genre adjacent, he was Dwayne Pride on the recently cancelled NCIS: New Orleans.
  • Born October 9, 1956 Robert Reed, 65. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well such as the superb Marrow series. I see he won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 for his “A Billion Eves” novella. And he was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer as well. His latest novel, Poubelle, was just published.
  • Born October 9, 1958 Michael Paré, 63. I’ll start off with being in Streets of Fire which I’m claiming as genre but he’s also been in The Philadelphia ExperimentLunarcop, both BloodRayne films and Moon 44.
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 60. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too. Oh, and I’d suggest both issues of House of Mystery Halloween Annual thathe did for some appropriate Halloween reading. And let’s not forget his long run on the Sandman Mystery Theatre
  • Born October 9, 1964 Guillermo del Toro, 57. Best films? HellboyHellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Nippon 2007. Hellboy II is watchable over and over just for the Goblin’s Market sequence.  His latest project is Pinocchio which will be on Netflix, it’s described as a “stop-motion animated musical fantasy”. Huh. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) HOLY SHEET! Bleeding Cool alerts fans “There Is Not Enough Paper In America For Comic Books Right Now”. Fortunately, there are plenty of pixels.

Comic books, more than many printed media, are vulnerable to issues with printing. Paper stock, and image reproduction are more of an issue for a graphic novel than a novel. Bleeding Cool has been reporting major delays and stock issues hitting the comics industry, including information from Bad Idea, DC Comics and from Marvel Comics, while there is still a “manga drought” from East Asia. This week we have been informed by a major printer in the field that “we continue to experience pricing and supply chain challenges in many sectors of our business – primarily in the graphic paper (commercial papers, SBS board, and corrugate), ocean, and road freight and branded merchandise markets.  All continue to experience extreme volatility, including price increases, extended lead times, product shortages, reduced capacity, and longer transit times.” Here is information that is being shared by printers with their customers, about the issues arising and what publishers need to start doing, including that “there is simply not enough paper making capacity to support the current domestic demand.”

(12) NOT TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. James Davis Nicoll points Tor.com readers at “Five SF Novels Featuring Ancient Alien Artifacts” even though he finds the idea highly unscientific:

I tend to prefer plausible settings for fiction, as my readers may have noticed. One matter that catches my attention: the implications of geological time scales for the existence of alien relics left behind by visiting extra-solar litterbugs. Many SF stories assume that such visitors will have arrived during the Phanerozoic era. Very often visitors are said to have visited towards the tail end of the Phanerozoic, the Cenozoic….

His first example:

Scarlet Dream by C. L. Moore (1934)

Northwest Smith’s solar system is ancient. The space-tanned Earthman’s civilization is only the latest to call the System home. Artifacts of unknown origin and potentially ominous purpose are scattered over the System like raisins in scones. A prudent man would think twice about acquiring alien artifacts without doing some serious homework re: the device’s past and powers.

Northwest is many things, but prudent is not one of them. He sees only an alluring scarlet scarf. The dream realm in which he is subsequently trapped offers only empty, dissatisfying pleasure. Death appears to be the only escape. Although, as Northwest discovers, it need not be his death…

(13) SPACE COWBOY ROUNDUP. Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA has some items for your calendar.

Online Flash Science Fiction Night
Tuesday October 12th 6pm PST
Featuring short science fiction stories by Geoff Habiger, Rodrigo Assis Mesquita, & Tom Purdom
Register for free here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/169769889309

Online Reading and Interview with Gideon Marcus
Tuesday October 19th 6pm PST
Celebrate the release of Gideon’s latest book Sirena
Register for free here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/169201501245

(14) BANNED BOOKS SMELL THIS WAY. North Ave. Candles is offering “Smoked Pine + Parchment / Inspired by Fahrenheit 451”.

No Banned Books Collection would be compete without Bradbury.

Smoked Pine + Parchment is the scents of pine, balsam, bergamot, and smokey birch blended with base notes of antique sandalwood.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

The other 15 candles in their Banned Books Collection include these genre titles:

  • White Tea + Rose, inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Clove + Orange, inspired by A Clockwork Orange
  • Ginger + Peach, inspired by James and the Giant Peach
  • Sugared Citrus + Island Greens, inspired by Where the Wild Things Are
  • Pomegranate + Red Tulip, inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Coffee + Chestnut, Inspired by 1984

(5) TREEHOUSE OF HORROR. The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror XXXII” airs Oct. 10 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox. Mashable pointed to a segment inspired by American pen-and-ink illustrator Edward Gorey.

Gorey’s segment will join the annual lineup for the Treehouse of Horror episode, which is reportedly set to parody Parasite, Bambi, The Ring and more.

Rolling Stone added these details:

The annual Halloween episode has often turned horror classics — complete with faux-Vincent Price narration — into fodder for its chapters, and in this clip, Price reads Maggie Simpson a bedtime story called “The Telltale Bart”; however, despite its title, the chapter has little in common with Edgar Allen Poe’s version.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/6/21 I Fought The Laws Of Newton, Thermodynamics, Robotics And Grammar, And All But One Of Them Laws Won

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Ellen Klages and Mari Ness via livestream on Wednesday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Link to come.

Ellen Klages

Ellen Klages is the author of three acclaimed MG novels: The Green Glass Sea, White Sands, Red Menace, and Out of Left Field, which won the New-York Historical Society’s Children’s History Book Prize.  Her adult short fiction — fantasy and some SF — has been translated into a dozen languages and been nominated for or won multiple genre awards. Ellen lives in San Francisco, in a small house full of strange and wondrous things.

Mari Ness

Mari Ness has published short fiction and poetry in Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Fireside, Apex, Diabolical PlotsStrange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction. Her poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, is available from Papaveria Press, and an essay collection, Resistance and Transformation: On Fairy Tales, from Aqueduct Press.  She lives in central Florida under the direct supervision of two magnificent cats.

(2) COUNTING THE DOLLAR SIGNS FOR 2020 COMICS. Comichron has published its “Industry-wide Comics and Graphic Novel Sales for 2020”. Lots of stats and graphs at the link.

Combined comics and graphic novel sales hit a new high in the pandemic year of 2020, according to a new joint estimate by ICv2‘s Milton Griepp and Comichron‘s John Jackson Miller. Total comics and graphic novel sales to consumers in the U.S. and Canada were approximately $1.28 billion in 2020, a 6% increase over sales in 2019. The increase was due to strong sales of graphic novels online and in mass merchants and strong digital sales, which overcame big declines in comic and book store sales.

“The challenges of retailing in the pandemic had profound impacts on the market, including the acceleration of trends that have been in place for years,” Griepp said of the 2020 estimates. “The book channel increased its share dramatically vs. comic stores, and graphic novels increased their share vs. periodical comics, while digital sales were turbocharged.”

Numlock News also did a Q&A with the person who oversees the report: “John Jackson Miller on the huge growth of the comic book industry – by Walter Hickey”.

Comichron and your partners at ICV2 released your 2020 comic book sales report. It was a really surprising and very complex year in comics, very tumultuous to say the least, but the number was up year-over-year.

That’s right. Part of the key is it depends on where do you work in the business, what the business looked like, because not every part of the business was under the same constraints. The graphic novel part of the market, and, in particular, the young adult part of the market typified by books like Dog Man, these are all part of the book channel which never really shut down, those books continue to circulate and the best selling kids graphic novels had the additional advantage that the Walmarts of the world that are kind of like the music industry where they only stocks the hits.

Places like that, which had been declared essential services, which never shut down and had small selections of graphic novels, they continue to sell all through the pandemic and there’s a dynamic that happens where the best sellers became really best sellers. You have that part of the market, which was continuously running. Digital is a sector that has kind of, I don’t want to say stagnated, but it had reached its level a few years ago and had not really gone anywhere. But during the pandemic, there’s a stretch there where the physical comics aren’t coming out, people can’t get to the comic shops, and also you have some of the major publishers basically going direct to video.

They basically took their poor selling titles and didn’t even go to press at all with them, but they went directly to digital on those. That’s supplemented that part of the market and so we have a significant increase in digital downloads, the comics you can pay for and actually get to keep, as opposed to the subscription model comics that are digital. Then the direct market, which, for the first quarter of 2020 was doing fine, it was ahead for the year and then we have in succession, a few things that happened. We had DC’s printer Transcontinental had to close temporarily. Diamond, the exclusive distributor for at the time all of the major publishers, it judged that it needed to pause as well, because there were going to be comics piling up at stores that weren’t open….

(3) EVERYTHING’S UP TO DATE IN KANSAS CITY. Fanac.org has added video of the “MidAmeriCon (1976) Worldcon – Hugo and other Awards, with Bob Tucker & Pat Cadigan”.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. In this recording, Toastmaster Bob Tucker orchestrates a relatively compact ceremony, nevertheless with time and space for a little fannish humor, with the assistance of Pat Cadigan. The evening includes the awarding of the E. Everett Evans Big Heart Award, and a heartfelt presentation by Lester Del Rey of the First Fandom award given to Harry Bates. Ben Bova and Joe Haldeman are among the Hugo recipients accepting awards. The recording is a little damaged in places, but very watchable. Video and video restoration provided by David Dyer-Bennet and the Video Archeology Project.

(4) RU12? BBC Culture expounds on “The 100-year-old fiction that predicted today”.

One day in 1920, the Czech writer Karel Capek sought the advice of his older brother Josef, a painter. Karel was writing a play about artificial workers but he was struggling for a name. “I’d call them laborators, but it seems to me somewhat stilted,” he told Josef, who was hard at work on a canvas. “Call them robots then,” replied Josef, a paintbrush in his mouth. At the same time in Petrograd (formerly St Petersburg), a Russian writer named Yevgeny Zamyatin was writing a novel whose hi-tech future dictatorship would eventually prove as influential as ?apek’s robots.

Both works are celebrating a joint centenary, albeit a slippery one. Capek (pronounced Chap-ek) published his play, RUR, in 1920 but it wasn’t performed for the first time until January 2021. And although Zamyatin submitted the manuscript of his novel, We, in 1921, it was mostly written earlier and published later. Nonetheless, 1921 has become their shared birth date and thus the year that gave us both the robot and the mechanised dystopia – two concepts of which, it seems, we will never tire. As Capek wrote in 1920, “Some of the future can always be read in the palms of the present”….

(5) FRANK HERBERT Q&A. From Seventies video archives: “DUNE Author Frank Herbert on Environmentalism”.

Frank Herbert, author of the ‘Dune’ series, discusses environmentalism in this 1977 interview with WTTW’s John Callaway.

(6) JUDITH HANNA. Fanzine fan Judith Hanna died September 6 of cancer. She is survived by her husband, Joseph Nicholas. The Australian-born Hanna was a member of the Sydney University Tolkien Society. She emigrated to the UK in the early Eighties. She was a member of the Australia in ’83 bid committee. Hanna wrote for many fanzines, and with Nicholas published Fuck The Tories, which won the Nova Award in 1990.She was a reviewer for Vector and Paperback Inferno, among others. Her fanwriting was selected for Fanthology ’88, Fanthology ’89, and Fanthology ’93.  

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago on this date, the first Science Fiction Achievement Awards, which would be nicknamed the Hugo Awards, are presented during the 11th World Science Fiction Convention. This Worldcon was informally known as Philcon II. Isaac Asimov was the Toastmaster that year. Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man won for Best Novel, The award for Best Professional Magazine went to Astounding Science Fiction as edited by John W. Campbell, Jr., Hanes Bok was voted Best Cover Artist, Virgil Finlay won for Best Interior Illustrator, Willy Ley won it for Excellence in Fact Articles, the Best New SF Author was Philip José Farmer and #1 Fan Personality was Forrest J Ackerman. 

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

  • September 6 – Read A Book Day

Sumiko Saulson says this is how “HWA Celebrates Read a Book Day”:

September 6 is National Read a Book Day, one day a year that is set aside to encourage all of us to curl up with a good book. The Horror Writers Association would like to take this time out to honor and celebrate the international horror writing community, and the book lovers all over the world who love to read the scary books we write.

Many of us have bookshelves filled with tomes of terrifying tale and bone chilling anthologies of monstrosities of every kind. But when it comes to books, we’re sure you will agree that there is really no such thing as too much of a good thing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 — Groff Conklin. He edited some forty anthologies of genre fiction starting with The Best of Science Fiction fromCrown Publishers in 1946 to Seven Trips Through Time and Space on Fawcett Gold in 1968. The contents are a mix of the obscure and well-known as Heinlein, Niven, Simak, Dahl, Sturgeon, Lovecraft and Bradbury show up here. He was nominated at NyCon II  for Best Book Reviewer which Damon Knight won (there’s a category that got dropped later), and was nominated at Millennium Philcon for a Retro Hugo that went to John W. Campbell Jr. Exactly one of his anthologies, Great Stories of Space Travel, is available at the usual suspects. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 6, 1943 — Roger Waters, 78. Ok, I might well be stretching it just a bit in saying that Pink Floyd is genre. Ok, The Wall isdefinitely genre I’d say. And quite possibly also The Division Bell with its themes of communication as well. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger! 
  • Born September 6, 1953 — Elizabeth Massie, 68. Ellen Datlow, who’s now doing the most excellent Year’s Best Horror anthology series, was the horror and dark fantasy editor for the multiple Hugo Award winning Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror where she selected Massie’s “Stephen” for the fourth edition. A horror writer by trade, Massie’s also dipped deeper into the genre by writing a female Phantom graphic novel, Julie Walker Is The Phantom in Race Against Death! and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion novel. Massie is also a two-time Bram Stoker Award winner.
  • Born September 6, 1953 — Patti Yasutake, 68. She’s best remembered  for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up as well in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consulted a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but it made for a nice if fictional coda on her story. She was cast as a doctor in episodes of several other non-genre series.
  • Born September 6, 1972 — China Miéville, 49. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 is the one I’ve re-read the most followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that the New Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. Now his writing on the Dial H sort of horror series for DC was fantastic in all ways that word means.
  • Born September 6, 1972 — Idris Elba, 49. He was Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. He’s the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond. His latest genre role was as Robert DuBois / Bloodsport in last Suicide Squad film.
  • Born September 6, 1976 — Robin Atkin Downes, 45. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later shows up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episiode of Angel. He does the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and he‘s Angelo on the 2016 Suicide Squad. (There’s a small place in a database Hell for film makers who make films with the same name.) 
  • Born September 6, 1976 — Naomie Harris, 45. She’s Eve Moneypenny in SkyfallSpectre and the still forthcoming No Time to Die. This was the first time Moneypenny had a first name. She also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Tia Dalma. And lastly I’ll note she played Elizabeth Lavenza in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GET YOUR KICKS IN YEAR ’66. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus tells us how things went at this year’s (1966) Worldcon in Cleveland: “[September 6, 1966] The Greatest (SF) show on Earth! (1966 Worldcon and Hugo Awards)”.

There are many science fiction conventions in the United States, from New York’s Lunacon to Westercon, held in San Diego this year!  But the granddaddy of them all is the annual Worldcon, which travels from city to city as various fan groups are able to submit a winning bid to the con’s members.

This year, Cleveland won the honor, and so the convention representing the three cities of Cleveland, Cincinatti, and Detroit was appropriately called “Tricon.”  More than 800 fen (plural of fan, natch) descended upon the Sheraton-Cleveland (the historic “Renaissance”) hotel for a long weekend of fun and fannery.  Even the best rooms at this ancient hotel were tiny, and several complained of dusty closets.  Luckily, we spent little time in our rooms!…

(12) IN A HOLE IN ITALY THERE LIVED A HOBBIT. Dream comes true: “‘What is this if not magic?’ The Italian man living as a hobbit” reports The Guardian.

Nicolas Gentile, a 37-year-old Italian pastry chef, did not just want to pretend to be a hobbit – he wanted to live like one. First, he bought a piece of land in the countryside of Bucchianico, near the town of Chieti in Abruzzo, where he and his wife started building their personal Shire from JRR Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth.

Then, on 27 August, alongside a group of friends and Lord of the Rings fans dressed as an elf, a dwarf, a hobbit, a sorcerer and humans, he walked more than 120 miles (200km) from Chieti to Naples, crossing mountains and rivers, to throw the “One Ring”, a central plot element of The Lord of the Rings saga, into the volcano crater of Mount Vesuvius….

… In Bucchianico, the festival of the Banderesi is organised every year. It is one of the oldest festivals in Europe – celebrated for almost 500 years and in which people wear medieval clothes, sing songs, dance and prepare typical local dishes.

“Those are hobbit clothes,” says Gentile. ‘‘I realised that I have always lived in the Shire. The only thing missing was to become aware of it and build a village….”

(13) URBAN VISION. CNN covers somebody else’s idea of living the dream: “Plans for $400-billion new city in the American desert unveiled”.

The cleanliness of Tokyo, the diversity of New York and the social services of Stockholm: Billionaire Marc Lore has outlined his vision for a 5-million-person “new city in America” and appointed a world-famous architect to design it.

Now, he just needs somewhere to build it — and $400 billion in funding.

The former Walmart executive last week unveiled plans for Telosa, a sustainable metropolis that he hopes to create, from scratch, in the American desert. The ambitious 150,000-acre proposal promises eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system. A so-called “15-minute city design” will allow residents to access their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter-hour commute of their homes.

Although planners are still scouting for locations, possible targets include Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and the Appalachian region, according to the project’s official website….

(14) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. Captain Toy has posted Michael Crawford’s “Review and photos of Captain Picard First Contact Star Trek sixth scale action figure”.

…We don’t get a ton of extras this time, but we get a couple key features.

He comes wearing a set of relaxed hands, and there’s a set of fists and two sets of specific gripping hands you can swap in. These are designed to work with the other accessories, and their sculpts are just about perfect for the purpose.

He also has the phaser and tricorder, specific in design to the film. I mentioned the fantastic details earlier, but it’s worth talking about again. If you have good enough eyes, you’ll be able to read the screen on the tricorder.

The tricorder has the same two piece design as the earlier releases, with a strong magnet that holds the top and bottom together. This is a fantastic design, allowing the tricorder to be open or closed without any hinge that would be obvious or easy to break.

They also use magnets to hold the tricorder and phaser holsters to the uniform. This is a design carried over from QMX, but they do it better, with stronger magnets that are pretty much invisible to the eye….

(15) STUNNING. NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day – description below. And here’s a key to everything that appears in the photo.

Firefly Milky Way over Russia
Image Credit & Copyright: Anton Komlev

Explanation: It started with a pine tree. The idea was to photograph a statuesque pine in front of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. And the plan, carried out two months ago, was successful — they both appear prominently. But the resulting 3-frame panorama captured much more. Colorful stars, for example, dot the distant background, with bright Altair visible on the upper left. The planet Saturn, a bit closer, was captured just over the horizon on the far left. Just beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, seen in the upper right, an Earth-orbiting satellite was caught leaving a streak during the 25-second exposure. The Earth’s atmosphere itself was surprisingly visible — as green airglow across the image top. Finally, just by chance, there was a firefly. Do you see it? Near the image bottom, the firefly blinked in yellow several times as it fluttered before the rolling hills above Milogradovka River in Primorsky KraiRussia.

(16) SEND IN YOUR MEDIA TO RODDENBERRY TRIBUTE. “’Star Trek’ Creator Gene Roddenberry To Be Honored With ‘Boldly Go’ Campaign”Deadline has the story.

The family foundation for Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry is launching a month-long campaign on Wednesday to inspire hope for the next 100 years.

In partnership with Paramount+ satellite company Planet and Academy Award-winning technology company OTOY, the campaign (“Boldly Go”) is part of the celebration of the legacy of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in what would have been his centennial year.

The campaign will launch at Paramount+’s red carpet event on September 8, featuring Star Trek actors LeVar Burton, George Takei, Patrick Stewart, and others. Gene’s son Rod Roddenberry, founder of the Roddenberry Foundation and president of Roddenberry Entertainment, will appear on a panel about Star Trek’s legacy. The celebration will be live streamed for free at StarTrek.com/Day starting at 8:30 PM ET.

The “Boldly Go” campaign will call on Star Trek fans and citizens around the world to submit photos and videos describing their hopes for the next 100 years….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Youtuber LadyKnightTheBrave’sThrough The Gate: A Stargate SG-1 Retrospective.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/10/21 The Scrolls Are Lovely, Dark And Deep, But I Have Pixels To Keep

(1) SANDBAGGING GOODREADS FOR RANSOM. TIME probes “Goodreads’ Problem With Extortion Scams and Review Bombing”.

A few months after posting a message on Goodreads about the imminent release of a new book, Indie author Beth Black woke up to an all-caps ransom email from an anonymous server, demanding that she either pay for good reviews or have her books inundated with negative ones: “EITHER YOU TAKE CARE OF OUR NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS WITH YOUR WALLET OR WE’LL RUIN YOUR AUTHOR CAREER,” the email, shared with TIME, read. “PAY US OR DISAPPEAR FROM GOODREADS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.”

Black, who has self-published both a romance novel and a collection of short stories in the past year, didn’t pay the ransom. “I reported it to Goodreads and then a couple hours later, I started noticing the stars dropping on my books as I started getting all these 1-star reviews,” she says. “It was quite threatening.”

Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of “review bombing” their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.

… Goodreads remains one of the primary tools on the internet for book discovery, meaning lesser-known authors often have to rely on the site to get their work noticed. But at this point, some feel that Goodreads’ ratings and reviews system is causing more harm than good.

In a July 29 statement to TIME, a spokesperson for Goodreads said that the company is actively working to resolve many of these review bombing problems.

“We take swift action to remove users when we determine that they violate our guidelines, and are actively assessing all available options to take further action against the small number of bad actors who have attempted extortion scams,” the statement read. “We have clear guidelines for reviews and participation in our community, and we remove reviews and/or accounts that violate these guidelines… We also continue to invest in making technology improvements to prevent bad actor behavior and inauthentic reviews in order to better safeguard our community.”

Review bombing, ransom emails and extortion

As author Rin Chupeco told TIME, Goodreads is a “good idea that slowly became unmanageable over the years due to lack of adequate moderation and general indifference.”

One emerging issue is review bombing: when a coordinated group, or a few people with multiple accounts, intentionally tank a book’s aggregate rating with a flurry of one-star ratings and negative reviews….

.. But Black isn’t the only author to be targeted. There are many threads on Goodreads discussing similar issues, with posts from writers who’ve been targeted….

(2) MAKING RULES DIFFERENTLY. Eleanor Konik shows colleagues a way to expand their horizons in “Unusual Governments to Take Inspiration From” at the SFWA Blog.

Often, speculative fiction relies on common government types, like monarchies and republics, because they’re familiar to readers. History, however, offers other examples of sociopolitical systems. They can be a gold mine for worldbuilding ideas that stretch beyond the mainstream.

Cycling Governments

Age-sets are a sociopolitical system common in East Africa. Among Kenya’s Nandi people, each ibinda (age-set) corresponds to a stage of the life cycle. Boys and girls from each region would be initiated into their age-sets during a series of mass ceremonies.  As an analogy, consider a series of nearby communities gathering children into one centralized boarding school then transitioning them out of school and into the lifestage of young adults marrying and being busy with young children, after which they would return to the workforce before finally amassing the experience to lead the community as political figures. 

In the Ethiopian Highlands, this sort of cycling age-set system, known in some places as gadaa (for men) or siqqee (for women), led to the development of a republic with democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power, which took roughly eight years to accomplish. It is not the “democratic republic” as described in ancient Greece. Men were bound to their neighbors by the bonds of shared experiences, handling infrastructure projects for the whole region. In some places, this led to peace. In others, expansion of the length of time men spent in the warrior stage meant an increase in raids and conquest. 

(3) SILVERBERG TO BE DISCON III VIRTUAL PARTICIPANT. Robert Silverberg revealed online today: “Apparently I will be at the DC worldcon after all, though only virtually.  Since I am unwilling to travel to the East Coast in wintertime, they have arranged for me to do a virtual conversation with Nancy Kress, with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro acting as moderator.  So my 67-year streak of worldcon attendance will remain intact, if only virtually.”

(4) ENTER THE DRAGONS. Camestros Felapton’s epic has now reached a key moment of 2016: “Debarkle Chapter 55: The Dragon Award Begins”.

…With the devastating final results of the 2015 Hugo Award, some Puppy supporters thought that the right response was to walk away from Worldcon and the Hugo Awards altogether. This was matched by some of the rhetoric from critics of the Puppies, who had suggested that the Puppy leadership should set up their own awards.

So it was both notable and not wholly a surprise when on March 31 2016 Dragon Con announced the first inaugural Dragon Awards with their own new website…

(5) DULCET TONES. Open Culture invites you to listen as “Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter of Advice to People Living in the Year 2088”.

A few years ago we posted Kurt Vonnegut’s letter of advice to humanity, written in 1988 but addressed, a century hence, to the year 2088. Whatever objections you may have felt to reading this missive more than 70 years prematurely, you might have overcome them to find that the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions single-mindedly importuned his fellow man of the late 21st century to protect the natural environment. He issues commandments to “reduce and stabilize your population” to “stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems,” and to “stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars,” among other potentially drastic-sounding measures.

Commandment number seven amounts to the highly Vonnegutian “And so on. Or else.” A fan can easily imagine these words spoken in the writer’s own voice, but with Vonnegut now gone for well over a decade, would you accept them spoken in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch instead?

(6) END TIMES. Netflix dropped this trailer for the final season of Lucifer today.

Lucifer scored the promotion, but does he really want the job? Plus, Chloe prepares to give up detective work, Amenadiel joins the LAPD, and more.

(7) SOUNDING OFF. The Guardian interviews actors who are better known for their voice than their face. One of them is Doug Jones of Star Trek: Discovery fame: “’They wanted my meerkat to sound like a Russian Alan Sugar’ – meet TV’s secret superstars” in The Guardian.

…[Doug Jones:] When you say yes to playing something that doesn’t look human, you’re saying yes to the entire process. I don’t get to shout: “Get this off me! It’s so hot and sticky.” I need the mindset of a performer, but also the endurance of an athlete, one who can take five or six hours of makeup application, then get through a long day of shooting.

Because of all the parts I’ve played, I often end up skipping the conventional casting process. People in creature effects just say: “It’s a tall skinny alien – we need Doug Jones.” I was playing the amphibian in the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water when Star Trek: Discovery approached me. I was actually thinking “I’m not sure how much more rubber and glue I want in my life,” but there was no way I could turn it down. For Saru, I wear a four-piece prosthetic over my head that comes down past my collarbones, with gloves to change my hands. It’s all been moulded to my shape and pre-painted so getting it all glued on is only a two-hour process. I wear a Starfleet uniform like everybody else, but I do have special hoofed boots that add five inches to my height. That makes me about 6ft 8ins!…

(8) TRAPPED IN AMBER. Irish/Dutch writer couple Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten talk about the future of the sword and sorcery genre — and if it has one: “Fled & Done: Sword & Sorcery” at Turnip Lanterns.

…Modern Sword & Sorcery writers face an uphill battle, if they want to emerge from the shadow of Conan (including, and in particular, his Marvel comics and Schwarzenegger film incarnations). And that indeed sums up our dilemma: is it worth trying to expand the genre, when the general audience’s idea of S&S has calcified in cliché? Especially when a large section of S&S fans (and authors) have very firm ideas of what S&S was, is and always will be?…

(9) INTERNATIONAL TOLKIEN FANDOM. Brazilian podcast Tolkien Talk did a video Q&A with acclaimed Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson. It’s the fifth in their series of major international interviews. Find the others at their Tolkien Talk YouTube channel.

Meet Douglas A. Anderson, creator of The Annotated Hobbit and one of the most important tolkienists of our time. All the way from his first contact with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to unveiling misconceptions throughout the time, get an overview on Tolkien’s life and works from one that accessed them directly.

(10) CRIMINAL RECORD. Anthony Horowitz has reached a crime fiction award milestone: “Horowitz becomes Japan’s most-decorated foreign crime author” at The Bookseller.

Author Anthony Horowitz has won the Best Mystery of the Decade award by Honkaku Mystery Writers Club for his first Daniel Hawthorne novel, The Word is Murder, making him the most-decorated foreign crime author in Japanese history.

Horowitz is the first author in Japanese history to win 16 literary awards in total, according to his publisher…. 

(11) WHY THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. “’I Am Legend’ screenwriter responds to conspiracy theory about vaccines and zombies”Yahoo! has the story.

There are a multitude of reasons why people are hesitant or refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide, from distrust in science and medicine to wariness towards the government and also… zombies?

New York Times report last weekend about a Bronx-based eyewear company struggling to persuade its employees to get jabbed referenced one worker whose hesitancy was based off of the belief that the COVID vaccine is the shot that turned people into zombies in the 2007 post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend.

As the Times pointed out, the zombification portrayed in the box office hit starring Will Smith was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not the vaccine for it. But the bizarre claim has still flourished on the hotbed of vaccination misinformation that is social media.

On Monday, I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman entered the chat.

“Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real,” Goldsman tweeted in response to journalist and comic book writer Marc Bernadin, who shared a screencap of the article with quote, “We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should.”…

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2013 – Eight years ago, Futurama ended its run. It had four seasons on FOX, and when cancelled there was revived by Comedy Central and ran another three seasons. In between, reruns aired on Adult Swim.  It was created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame. Over its seven seasons, it would run for one hundred and seventy episodes. There would be four later films, Bender’s Big Score, The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder. It had a legendary voice cast of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman and Frank Welker. It was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Script for the “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” episode during the last season. It has a ninety-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. He won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at Dublin 2019  for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and was nominated for six more. ISFDB notes Donovan’s Brain was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available from the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents — four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World including “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine.“ (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 90. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that? And he won the Rotsler Award for fan art in 2006.  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read, so do tell me about them please. 
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 77. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her?
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 66. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell, written by Alan Moore, and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell.
  • Born August 10, 1960 Antonio Banderas, 61. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in the Puss in Boots and Shrek franchises, appearances in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and the New Mutants. He’s James Mangold in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 56. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six episode series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) UP TO DATE. Entertainment Weekly says Robin is now bi. “Robin becomes a bisexual icon in new Batman comic”. Clearly it doesn’t cut it to keep visualizing Burt Ward/Robin as Adam West/Bruce Wayne’s teenage ward — I missed the part where Robin was dating at all.

The latest issue of Batman: Urban Legends, a monthly anthology series, revealed that the Caped Crusader’s longtime sidekick Robin, specifically the Tim Drake version of him, is bisexual. 

The moment came at the end of part 3 of the Sum of Our Parts story, from writer Meghan Fitzmartin, artist Belén Ortega, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Pat Brosseau. 

(16) SUBSTACK GROWING. “Comic Book Writers and Artists Follow Other Creators to Substack” – the New York Times tells how it will work.

… Nick Spencer, a comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Entertainment, was the liaison between Substack and a group of creators who, starting Monday, will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform.

He said he approached Chris Best, a Substack founder, with the idea last year, when the pandemic was keeping many fans out of the comic book shops and the creators were looking for new ways to connect with readers.

The initial lineup includes comic-centric newsletters from Saladin AhmedJonathan HickmanMolly OstertagScott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with other writers and artists to be announced.

The creators will be paid by Substack while keeping ownership of their work. The company will take most of the subscription revenue in the first year; after that, it will take a 10 percent cut.

Mr. Tynion, who last month won an Eisner Award, the comic industry’s highest honor, for best writer, said he would break away from writing Batman for DC Entertainment to devote time to his creator-owned series and his Substack newsletter.

(17) KEEPING THE BOOKS. Lazy Rabbit has a set of humorous pictures of librarian jokes on Facebook.

(18) CATS FOR ADOPTION. Let’s signal boost the availability for adoption of a new litter of kittens in Los Angeles. The owner is a friend of Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey. You can reach her by emailing digginginthewrongplace (at) gmail (dot) com.

The momma cat is approx two years old. We just had her spayed and she had a dental check too. She’s negative for all diseases/fleas/worms, and in great health.

Kitties are 9 weeks old. All in great health. Too young to be neutered yet.

Let me know if anyone’s interested!

(19) CANDLING THE EGGS. SYFY Wire got first dibs on this 90-second video: “Monsters at Work: Explore the Pixar show’s various Easter eggs”.

SYFY WIRE is excited to debut an exclusive featurette that breaks down a number of these subtle — and not-so-subtle — references in the Disney+ series. Series executive producer Bobs Gannaway tells us that all of the Easter eggs “happened naturally and came from anyone on the crew at any phase of production — be it a storyboard artist adding something in the board, or the art director dressing the set.” 

“We focused mostly on world expansion — using the graphics to suggest parts of the world we will never see: like the Laffeteria menu, or advertisements on the back of Roz’s newspaper,” he continues. “We also focused things more inward and on our characters. For example, Duncan’s nameplate changes every episode, and whenever he’s listening to his boom box, the ‘mixtape’ is labeled. You have to really zoom into the frames to see those. Other things aren’t so much Easter eggs as they are just having fun: like changing the theme music every time during the credits to reflect that episode’s story, and doing something different each time with the wind-up teeth in the Mike’s Comedy Class title card. Everyone has a good time adding the details to the world.”

(20) TRICK OR TRICK. “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ Halloween Special First Images Revealed” – see the pics at Halloween Daily News. Below is the trailer from May.

On today’s 52nd anniversary of the premiere of the Haunted Mansion dark ride at Disneyland, two first-look images from this October’s new Muppets Haunted Mansion Halloween special have been released, including Kermit and Miss Piggy in costume …as each other.

The special will feature the Muppets cast, along with celebrity cameos, new music, and fittingly seasonal fun for all ages.

Muppets Haunted Mansion will take place on Halloween Night, when Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers, The Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword”, Fandom Games says this is “the motion-control Zelda game no one asked for” where “every fight feels like doing a bunch of morphone before a high-school fencing match.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/9/21 Self: Deaf Ents

(1) WITH THANKS. John Wiswell, Nebula winner for ”Open House on Haunted Hill,” has made his touching “Nebula Awards 2021 Acceptance Speech” a free post on his Patreon.

…Saying that, there’s one other author I cannot end this speech without thanking. It’s a little gauche, but I hope they’re listening.

Because my story, “Open House on Haunted Hill,” was rejected several times before Diabolical Plots gave it a chance. And in my career my various stories were rejected over 800 times before I won this award tonight. And that’s why I hope this author is listening.

You, who think you’re not a good enough writer because you don’t write like someone else.

You, who haven’t finished a draft because your project seems too quirky or too daunting.

You, who are dispirited after eating so many rejection emails.

You, who are going to write the things that will make me glad I’m alive to read them.

What the field needs is for you to be different, and to be true to your imagination….

(2) GOMEZ Q&A. In “A Point of Pride: Interview with Jewelle Gomez”, the Horror Writers Association blog continues its Pride Month series.

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

Because my life as a lesbian/feminist of colour is my context I don’t have to remind myself to include Queer material. That’s where I begin. There are, of course, other types of characters in my writing but my experience is centralised. I have a Queer social and political circle and they are easily represented in my work. For so long women, lesbians and people of colour were told our stories weren’t important, other (white) people wouldn’t be interested in them. Now we know that was just another way to dominate our experience. I long for the day that non-Queer writers and non-Black writers feel sensitive enough to do the research and include authentic characters in their work who don’t look like them.

(3) KIRK AT WORK. Thomas Parker revisits the history-making calendar at Black Gate: “First Impressions: Tim Kirk’s 1975 Tolkien Calendar”.

How does the old saying go? “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s often true that the first encounter has an ineradicable effect, whether the meeting is with a person, a work of art, or a world. It’s certainly true in my case; I had my first and, in some ways, most decisive encounter with Middle-earth before I ever read a word of The Lord of the Rings. My first view of that magical place came through the paintings of Tim Kirk, in the 1975 J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar, and that gorgeous, pastel-colored vision of the Shire and its environs is the one that has stayed with me. Almost half a century later, Kirk’s interpretation still lies at the bottom of all my imaginings of Tolkien’s world.

(4) CASTING THE MCU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with casting director Sarah Finn – “Maltin on Movies: Sarah Finn” Finn has cast every role in every film and TV series on Disney+ in the MCU, so she has a lot of inside knowledge.  Among her goals is to find actors who enjoy playing superheroes and like working with each other.  She also discusses why it was a gamble to cast Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man and why Vin Diesel was cast as Groot because of his voice work in The Iron Giant.

She also reveals Dwayne Johnson’s secret for success:  he is genuinely a nice guy who even volunteered to do the dishes after a casting call!

Finn also discusses her work as casting director on The Mandalorian and her work for Oliver Stone, including the gamble of having Eli Wallach play a substantial role at age 95 on Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps.

This was a very informative podcast.

 (5) ONE SHOT. “Elizabeth Olsen Says WandaVision Won’t Have a Second Season: ‘It Is a Limited Series’” reports Yahoo!

Elizabeth Olsen has weighed in on the future of WandaVision – and sadly, fans shouldn’t expect there to be a second season.

“No, that’s easy for me to answer. It is a limited series. It’s a fully beginning, middle, end, and that’s it kind of thing,” she told PEOPLE in January ahead of the Disney+ show’s premiere. 

During a recent virtual chat with Kaley Cuoco for Variety‘s Actors on Actors series, Olsen once again echoed her comments about the series likely not returning for season 2…. 

(6) PRO TIP. Tade Thompson triages his email:

(7) GRANTS AVAILABLE. The Ladies of Horror Fiction review site are offering nine 2021 LOHF Writers Grants. Applications must be submitted by August 31.

Nine recipients will receive the LOHF Writers Grant in the amount of $100. The Ladies of Horror Fiction team will announce the recipients of the LOHF Writers Grant on September 15, 2021.

The LOHF Writers Grant is inclusive to all women (cis and trans) and non-binary femmes who have reasonably demonstrated a commitment to writing in the horror genre. All grant provided funds must be used in a manner that will help develop the applicant’s career.

The grants are funded by Steve Stred, Laurel Hightower, Ben Walker, S.H. Cooper, Sonora Taylor, and several anonymous donors.

(8) TEN FOR THE PRICE OF FIVE. Two entries from James Davis Nicoll from the pages of Tor.com:

“Five SFF Characters You Should Never, Ever Date”.

Science fiction and fantasy are rich in characters who deserve (and sometimes find) rewarding personal relationships. There are also characters that other characters should never, ever date. Ever. Here are five fictional characters from whom all prospective love interests should run screaming…

“Five SF Books About Living in Exile”.

Few calamities sting like being driven from the land one once called home. Exile is therefore a rich source of plots for authors seeking some dramatic event to motivate their characters. You might want to consider the following five books, each of which features protagonists (not all of them human) forced to leave their homes….

(9) CORA ON CONAN. Cora Buhlert’s latest Retro Review is of one of the less known Conan stories that was not published in Howard’s lifetime: “Retro Review: ‘The God in the Bowl’ by Robert E. Howard or Conan Does Agatha Christie”.

…Unlike the two previous stories, “The God in the Bowl” remained unpublished during Howard’s lifetime and appeared for the first time in the September 1952 issue of the short-lived magazine Space Science Fiction. Why on Earth editor Lester del Rey decided that a Conan story was a good fit for a magazine that otherwise published such Astounding stalwarts as George O. Smith, Clifford D. Simak and Murray Leinster will probably forever remain a mystery.

As for why I decided to review this particular Conan story rather than some of the better known adventures of our favourite Cimmerian adventurer (which I may eventually do), part of the reason is that the story just came up in a conversation I had with Bobby Derie on Twitter. Besides, I have been reading my way through the Del Rey Robert E. Howard editions of late and realised that there are a lot of layers to those stories that I missed when I read them the first time around as a teenager.

(10) INSIDER WADING. The next Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron will be abouts “Future of the HUGO, ASTOUNDING and LODESTAR Awards: Worldcon Insiders Discuss the History and Trends”. Register at the link.

Three Worldcon insiders, Tammy Coxen, Nicholas Whyte, and Vincent Docherty will join Gadi and Karen to discuss the Hugo, Astounding, and Lodestar awards, their history, and current trends.

Like last year, we will be interviewing category nominees in the next few months, with this show as the opening segment.

(11)  GAME WRITING ARCHIVE. Eatonverse tweets highlights of the UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Today’s rarity is from Marc Laidlaw —

(12) HERE THEY COME AGAIN. Those pesky aliens.Invasion launches on October 22 on Apple TV+.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon 1 which had Robert Silverberg as its Toastmaster, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction won the Hugo for Best Professional Magazine. It was its third such Hugo win in a row, and seventh to that date.  

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 9, 1911 – J. Francis McComas.  With Raymond Healy (1907-1997) edited the pioneering and still excellent anthology Adventures in Time and Space – and got Random House to publish it.  Thus although not having planted the crops, he knew to harvest: they also serve who only sit and edit.  With Anthony Boucher (1911-1969) founded The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the best thing to happen among us since Astounding.  Half a dozen stories of his own.  Afterward his widow Annette (1911-1994) edited The Eureka Years; see it too.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1925 – Leo R. Summers.  Twenty covers for Fantastic, eight for Amazing, six for Analog; six hundred interiors.  Here is a Fantastic cover; here is one for Analoghere is an interior for H.B. Fyfe’s “Star Chamber” from Amazing.  A fruitful career.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1925 — Keith Laumer. I remember his Bolo series fondly and read quite a bit of it. Can’t say which novels at this point though Bolo definitely and Last Command almost certainly. The Imperium and Retief series were also very enjoyable though the latter is the only one I’d re-read at this point. The usual suspects  have decent though not complete ebooks listings for him, heavy on the Imperium and Retief series and they’ve just added a decent Bolo collection too. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1930 — Lin Carter. He is best known for his work in the 1970s as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. As a writer, His first professional publication was the short story “Masters of the Metropolis”, co-written with Randall Garrett, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1957. He would be a prolific writer, average as much as six novels a year. In addition, he was influential as a critic of the fantasy genre and an early historian of the genre. He wrote far too much for me to say I’ve sampled everything he did but I’m fond of his CastilloGreat Imperium and Zarkon series. All great popcorn literature! (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born June 9, 1931 – Joanie Winston.  Vital spark of Star Trek fandom; co-founder of the first Trek convention, got Gene Roddenberry to attend; co-organized the next four; became a sought-after guest herself.  Reported in The Making of the Trek Conventions, or How to Throw a Party for 12,000 of Your Most Intimate Friends, got it published by Doubleday and Playboy.  Appreciation by OGH here.  Quite capable of playing poker at a 200-fan relaxacon rather than bask in glory at a Trek megacon the same weekend.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1934 — Donald Duck, 87. He made his first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” on June 9th, 1934. In this cartoon as voiced by Clarence Nash, Donald and his friend, Peter Pig (also voiced by Nash), lie their way out of helping the titular little hen tend to her corn. Donald Duck was the joint creation of Dick Lundy, Fred Spencer, Carl Barks, Jack King and Jack Hannah though Walt Disney often would like you to forget that. You can watch it here. (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1943 – Joe Haldeman, age 78.  Two dozen novels, eighty shorter stories; ninety published poems.  Seven Hugos, five Nebulas; three Rhyslings; Tiptree (as it then was); Skylark.  Edited Nebula Awards 17.  Pegasus Award for Best Space Opera Song. SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  Guest of Honor at – among others – Windycon I and 20, Disclave 21, Beneluxcon 7, ConFiction the 48th Worldcon.  Wide range has its virtues; he’s told how one story sold at a penny a word and five years later was adapted for television at five times as much; also “I don’t have to say Uh-oh, I’d better get back to that novel again; I can always write a poem or something.”  [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1954 — Gregory Maguire, 67. He is the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West based off of course the Oz Mythos, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister retelling the tale of Cinderella and Mirror, Mirror, a revisionist retelling of the Snow White tale which is really excellent. Well you get the idea. He’s damn good at this revisionist storytelling. (CE) 
  • Born June 9, 1963 — David Koepp, 58. Screenwriter for some of the most successful SF films ever done: Jurassic  Park (co-written with Michael Crichton), The Lost World: Jurassic Park, War of The Worlds and, yes, it made lots of money, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He won a Hugo for Jurassic Park which won Best Dramatic Presentation at ConAdian. (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1966 – Christian McGuire, age 55.  Co-chaired eight Loscons.  Chaired Westercon 63, Conucopia the 7th NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, held when the Worldcon is overseas), L.A.con IV the 64th Worldcon.  A founder of Gallifrey One; chaired or co-chaired its first 12 years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Baycon 2002, Westercon 51, Capricon 29, Loscon 36.  Evans-Freehafer Award (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.; service).  [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1967 – Dave McCarty, age 54.  Chaired three Capricons.  Chaired the 70th Worldcon, Chicon 7, which by our custom means the seventh Worldcon in the same town with continuity from the same community.  No one else has managed this, or come close; the nearest have been Noreascon Four (62nd Worldcon), L.A.con IV (64th), and Aussiecon 4 (68th). Also served as Hugo Awards Administrator, and on the World SF Society’s Mark Protection Committee, two of our least conspicuous and most demanding tasks.  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon 28, Capricon 38.  [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1981 — Natalie Portman, 40. Surprisingly her first genre role was as Taffy Dale in Mars Attacks!, not as Padme in The Phantom Menace. She’d repeat that role in Attack of The Clones and Revenge of The Sith. She’d next play Evey in V for Vendetta. And she played Jane Foster twice, first in Thor: The Dark World and then in Avengers: Endgame. She’ll reprise the role in Thor: Love and Thunder in which she’ll play both Jane Foster and Thor. That I’ve got to see. (CE) 

(15) PET SHOP. “’DC League of Super-Pets’ Cast: Kevin Hart, Keanu Reeves, More Join Dwayne Johnson” reports Deadline.

The cast for the upcoming animated movie, DC League of Super-Pets, includes Dwayne Johnson as Krypto and Kevin Hart as Ace. The cast also features Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, and Keanu Reeves. The movie will be released May 20, 2022.

(16) LIGHTS ON LANGFORD. Cora Buhlert continues her Fanzine Spotlight by interviewing David Langford about his famed newzine: “Fanzine Spotlight: Ansible”.

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

In theory it’s just me. In practice I couldn’t keep going without all the correspondents who send obituaries, interesting news snippets, more obituaries, convention news, too many obituaries, and contributions to such regular departments as As Others See Us and Thog’s Masterclass. The first collects notably patronizing or ignorant comments on the SF genre from the mainstream media, with special attention to authors who write science fiction but prefer to pretend they don’t (Margaret Atwood once explained that SF was “talking squids in outer space” and since she didn’t write /that/ she had to be innocent of SF contamination). Thog’s Masterclass is for embarrassingly or comically bad sentences in published fiction, not always SF — as well as the usual genre suspects, the Masterclass has showcased such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Vladimir Nabokov and Sean Penn.

(17) TAKES TWO TO TANGO. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus tells the good and the bad news about the latest (in 1966) US space mission: “[June 8, 1966] Pyrrhic Victory (the flight of Gemini 9) – Galactic Journey”.

…Scheduled for May 17, 1966, Gemini 9 was supposed to be the first real all-up test of the two-seat spacecraft.  Astronauts Tom Stafford (veteran of Gemini 6) and Gene Cernan would dock with an Agena and conduct a spacewalk.  If successful, this would demonstrate all of the techniques and training necessary for a trip to the Moon. 

The first bit of bad luck involved the Agena docking adapter.  Shortly after liftoff on the 17th, one of the booster engines gimballed off center and propelled rocket and Agena into the Atlantic ocean.  The two astronauts, bolted into their Gemini capsule for a launch intended for just a few minutes after, had to abort their mission.

Luckily, NASA had a back-up: the Augmented Target Docking Adapter (ADTA).  The ADTA was basically an Agena without the engine.  A Gemini could practice docking with it, but the ADTA can’t be used as an orbital booster for practice of the manuever that Apollo will employ when it breaks orbit to head for the Moon.

ADTA went up on June 1, no problem.  But just seconds before launch, the Gemini 9 computer refused navigational updates from the Cape.  The launch window was missed, and once again, Tom and Gene were forced to scrub.  Stafford got the nickname “Prince of the Pad.”…

(18) CULINARY FAME IS FLEETING. The New Yorker’s Jason Siegel and Maeve Dunigan take up the tongs as “A Food Critic Reviews the Swedish Chef’s New Restaurant”.

When I heard that the Swedish Chef from “The Muppet Show” was opening a Chelsea location of his celebrated bistro, Dorg Schnorfblorp Horganblorps, I was skeptical. I’m always hesitant to believe the hype surrounding celebrity chefs, especially when they’re made of felt. While the city was abuzz, calling Mr. Muppet the new Jean-Georges Vongerichten, I was certain that this newcomer was nothing more than a passing fad, a Swedish Salt Bae. But, after such a tough year for restaurants, I was curious about how this mustachioed madman’s gimmick had sustained its popularity. Eventually, I decided that I had to go see for myself—could the Swedish Chef’s bites ever live up to his bark, or bork?

Dorg Schnorfblorp Horganblorps has been open for only three months but already has a wait list that extends to the end of the year. I was amazed that anyone could get a reservation at all, considering that the restaurant’s Web site contains no helpful links or information, only a gif of a turkey being chased by the chef wielding a tennis racquet, captioned, “Birdy gerdy floopin.”…

(19) WHO THAWS THERE? Mike Wehner reports “Scientists revived a creature that was frozen in ice for 24,000 years” at Yahoo!

It sounds like the plot from a cheese science fiction movie: Scientists unearth something that’s been buried in the frozen ground of the Arctic for tens of thousands of years and decide to warm it up a bit. The creature stirs as its cells slowly wake up from their long stasis. As time passes, the animal wakes up, having time-traveled 24,000 years thanks to its body’s ability to shut itself down once temperatures reached a certain low. It sounds too incredible to be true, but it is.

In a new paper published in Current Biology, researchers reveal their discovery of a microscopic animal frozen in the Arctic permafrost for an estimated 24,000 years. The creature, which would have lived in water during its previous life, was revived as the soil thawed. The discovery is incredibly important not just for the ongoing study of creatures found frozen in time here on Earth.

The tiny creature is called a bdelloid rotifer. These multicellular animals live in aquatic environments and have a reputation for being particularly hardy when it comes to frigid temperatures. They are obviously capable of surviving the process of being frozen and then thawed, and they’re not the only tiny animal to have this ability….

(20) HAVE AN APPLE, DEARIE. Atlas Obscura would like you to “Meet the Appalachian Apple Hunter Who Rescued 1,000 ‘Lost’ Varieties”. Daniel Dern sent the link with two comments: “1: I don’t know whether any of these are better at keeping doctor away. 2: Have they been tested for ‘putting people to deep-sleep’?”

AS TOM BROWN LEADS A pair of young, aspiring homesteaders through his home apple orchard in Clemmons, North Carolina, he gestures at clusters of maturing trees. A retired chemical engineer, the 79 year old lists varieties and pauses to tell occasional stories. Unfamiliar names such as Black Winesap, Candy Stripe, Royal Lemon, Rabun Bald, Yellow Bellflower, and Night Dropper pair with tales that seem plucked from pomological lore.

Take the Junaluska apple. Legend has it the variety was standardized by Cherokee Indians in the Smoky Mountains more than two centuries ago and named after its greatest patron, an early-19th-century chief. Old-time orchardists say the apple was once a Southern favorite, but disappeared around 1900. Brown started hunting for it in 2001 after discovering references in an Antebellum-era orchard catalog from Franklin, North Carolina….

(21) TEFLON CRUELLA. The New York Times speculates about “The Surprising Evolution of Cruella De Vil”:

From a calm socialite, she morphed into an unhinged puppy kidnapper and then a vindictive glamourpuss. Why don’t we hate her?

And for dessert, here’s a Cruella parody video.

(22) CAN YOU MAKE A WALL OF TEXT? The Lego Typewriter has some moving parts that simulate a real typewriter but, no, you can’t produce copy with it. At the link is a video of the assembled 2000+ piece project.

(23) BREAKING INTO THE MCU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Marvel Character Tutorial” on Screen Rant, Ryan George plays Marvel screenwriter “Richard Lambo,” who says if you are trying to sell a screenplay to Marvel, make sure he or she has plenty of abs (four will do, but a six-pack is best) and leave plenty of room for snark!

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Returnal,” Fandom Games says that Sony’s new game puts you “in a Gigeresque sci-fi setting” where your goal is “to kill all the wildlife” in a game so depressing that Sony should “just throw away the game and have someone come over and kick you in the scrotum” to achieve the same painful effect. (Or “slamming your face into a brick wall” is mentioned at another place, if the first option isn’t available.)

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Gadi Evron, Cora Buhlert, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/21 If I Could Save Time In A Jay Kay Klein Bottle

(1) A SECOND MEOW. Geoff Carter, in “Inside Meow Wolf’s immersive Omega Mart art installation in Las Vegas” at the Las Vegas Weekly, reports on the second Meow Wolf installation, “Omega Mart,” which opened last month in Las Vegas.  It apparently starts as a pretend supermarket and gets much weirder! Their first permanent space, in Santa Fe, is in an old bowling alley purchased for their use by George R.R. Martin.

Omega Mart is Meow Wolf’s second permanent installation—arriving after Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return—and their second entry into Las Vegas; the group took over the Life Is Beautiful festival’s Art Motel space in 2017. If you were there, you have some idea what Meow Wolf has to offer: laser harps, portals to the unknown, room-size bowls of “ramen.” The collective has a unique talent for producing and soliciting works of maximalist art, collecting them in warehouse-size spaces with innocuous facades and tying all those artworks together through inventive visual segues and mystery-box narrative.

“Our work is for people that don’t necessarily go to art galleries and art museums, who feel like they want to see artwork and have it [as] an important part of their lives, but might feel a little alienated by the art world,” says Corvas Brinkerhoff, Meow Wolf’s executive creative director. “We’re trying to build a bridge to those people and say, look, art is valuable. And all this brilliant work that all these artists are making deserves to have a place where it can be seen, and where the artists can be supported in the process of making it….”

…Brinkerhoff notes that there are several giant stories unfolding within the space, including those of a shadowy corporation (Omega Mart’s parent company “Dramcorp”). Brinkerhoff says it’s “trying to save humanity from itself” by experimenting with what looks like alien technology. A zealous resistance group—shades of Meow Wolf’s beginnings here—is standing against these corporate overlords wielding what little it has.

There are RFID-accessed computer terminals and old-fashioned phones scattered throughout that yield clues to the mystery (Brinkerhoff says the phones mostly deliver recorded messages, though “you also might get a live human”), and videos that advance the story—about three hours’ worth of original footage….

(2) LEARNING FROM PRATCHETT. Ziv Wities’ project “Story Structure Lessons From The Discworld.” is a series of videos aimed at readers and writers, where he talks about “what structure is, how you spot it in what you read and watch, how you choose it and build it up in your own work.” Why Discworld? “The Discworld subseries aren’t just about different characters and different events. They’ve got different structures; they’re each built differently. So Discworld is a single series, but it tells many shapes of stories — which makes it a perfect example to learn structure from.”

Structure is fundamental to fiction. So often, though, we lack basic terms and ideas to talk about story structure. We have trouble getting past basic intuition. What *is* structure? What makes structure “good”? When one story is better-structured than another — what is the actual difference? To answer these questions, we’re using Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld novels. Because one interesting thing about the Discworld is how it’s divided into sub-series — different books following different characters and different story arcs. Throughout these videos, we’ll see that the Discworld sub-series not only follow different characters — they follow different structures. By comparing and contrasting, we’ll understand what those structural differences are — and how to think about story structure in what we read, and in what we write.

(3) GET READY TO HAVE A BLAST. [Item by David K.M. Klaus.] Everybody who registered with TWA and PanAm for moon tickets back in 1969 has another chance. Another eight names will be drawn from a dimensionally transcendental (*) hat for a trip on SpaceX’s mis-named “Starship” (since technically it’s not a starship, but merely a spaceship) and there’s no initial mention of an age/health requirement so maybe even D. D. Harriman could go. Inverse has the story: “SpaceX Moonshot: How to win a seat on Yusaku Maezawa’s trip to the Moon”.

You can’t win if you don’t enter, and even if you wind up like the crews of Shuttle Orbiters Challenger and Columbia, you’ll still be part of Earth history not to be forgotten.  You will be remembered.

(*) Doctor Who reference, Tom Baker years

HOW TO APPLY TO GO TO THE MOON

According to the new video, the way to enter into the competition is not as straight-forward as putting your name in the hat, as it were. But it does start that way.

  1. Go to the dearMoon website, the site set up to release new information regarding the project.
  2. There, people are invited to preregister with the mission by giving their name, country of origin, and email.
  3. Entrants are also asked to upload an image of themselves.
  4. Entrants are also asked to select which of Maezawa’s many social profiles they follow, too.

“Everyone who pre-registers will receive an email about the selection process,” the dearMoon site reads. They will also receive a “crew candidate” certificate with their name and picture on it, according to the site.

(4) DOCTOR WHO MARKS THE DAY. “Doctor Who female stars discuss International Women’s Day 2021” – a Radio Times from March 8.

Mandip Gill – actor, Yaz Khan in Doctor Who

International Women’s Day to me is a day to celebrate women’s progression politically, socially and economically. It’s also a day for us as a whole to recognise the further improvements needed. Ultimately it’s about the celebration of women.

Doctor Who saw what most people could see, in that it wasn’t an equal playing field.  They absolutely took a stand in changing the space to one much more equal by having Jodie as the Doctor. This challenged things that were just a given and showed the audience why we should continually challenge these structures and roles.

From the first meeting I knew the significance of this change to Doctor Who history and knew I wanted to be a part of that change. You could feel the significance and positive energy of what was to come from my first audition with Jodie.

Personally, I love the weight of being a south Asian female companion and do hope young people take inspiration from my role in Doctor Who as I did watching the cast of Goodness Gracious Me.

(5) WORK V. ARTIST. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron discusses “Can We Read Their Books While Not Forgiving Them?” on Saturday March 13 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

P. Djèlí Clark, Stephen Llano, and Alan Bond will join Gadi and Karen to discuss the challenges faced by the community when considering problematic authors and how to treat their works.

(6) BEING PROFESSIONAL. [Item by N.] Show creator Owen Dennis offers insights about marketing and how creators have to keep mum about a lot of details regarding the future of their shows/projects in this Twitter thread.

The previous day he’d announced this –

(7) THROUGH ALIEN EYES (OR WHATEVER THEY USE). James Davis Nicoll isn’t surprised that most sff is told from a human viewpoint, however, it certainly isn’t limited to doing so: “Five Classic SF Novels. Written From an Alien Perspective”

Pride of Chanur by C. J. Cherryh (1982)

The Compact comprises seven technologically sophisticated species, each shaped by its own evolutionary history. In spite of sometimes profound communication problems, the seven coexist peacefully enough that violence is retail, not wholesale.

At Meetpoint Station, Tully, a hairless primate of a new, unfamiliar species , takes refuge in the hani trading ship Pride of Chanur. For reasons that made sense at the time, Pyanfar Chanur grants the furless, blunt-fingered alien sanctuary. In so doing, she offends the kif Akkhtimakt. In Akkhimakt’s eyes, Pyanfar has stolen Akkhimakt’s property. The kif do not forgive affronts. Pyanfar’s act of mercy makes her ship the target of a kif vendetta.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1981 — Forty years ago, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien won the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award. (From 1971 until 1991, they gave but one award for all fantasy literature. Starting in 1992, they expanded to this award into two: one for adult literature and one for children’s literature.)  It was published by  George Allen & Unwin Publication in 1980. This is yet another collection of tales edited by Christopher Tolkien. It would also win a Balrog Award from the Intentional Fantasy Gamers Society.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script for the latter surprisingly enough. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty  science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed their own and each other’s works.  A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M Miller”.  Having not read these, I’ve no idea what this entails. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye, 83. Formerly the editor of Weird Tales, he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. His Cold Blue Light novels with Parke Godwin are quite superb. The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award. He writes the “Marvin Kaye’s Nth Dimension” for the Space and Time website. (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1958 Sharon Stone, 63. Damn she’s the same age I am. She’s been in three genre films, her first being the original Total Recall where she played the deservedly ill-fated Lori Quaid. Her next was Sphere where she was cast as Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Halperin, and last was in, errr, Catwoman where she was Laurel Hedare, an assassin. (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 44. She’s best remembered for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly. (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1979 Fonda Lee, 42. Her Jade City novel was a finalist for a Nebula Award for Best Novel and won the World Fantasy Award. It’s sequel, Jade War, was published last year. And her Cross Fire novel was named Best YA Novel at the 2019 Aurora Awards for best Canadian speculative fiction. (CE) 
  • Born March 10, 1913 – Carlos Ochagavia.  Three dozen covers, a few interiors.  Here is A Scanner Darkly.  Here is Universe 8.  Here is The Best of Keith Laumer.  Here is Dream Park.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1920 – Boris Vian.  Author of prose, poetry, plays, music, criticism; actor; translator; inventor, engineer.  Active in French jazz, among other things liaison for Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, commenter for Le Jazz Hot, trumpeter at Le Tabou (yes, that’s “The Taboo”); also, it seems, wrote the first French rock ’n’ roll songs.  Strange books, e.g. L’ecume des jours variously tr. as Froth on the DaydreamMood Indigo (twice), Froth on the Daze; half a dozen ours, anyway; fifty shorter stories, still few available in English but «Le bons élèves» appeared 2010 as “Honor Students”.  Some fiction attributed to a fictitious Vernon Sullivan whom BV supposedly translated.  (Died 1959) [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1955 – Walter Riess, age 66.  Five dozen covers, mostly for Anticipatia (which is SF in Romanian, just as Anticipation was the 67th Worldcon in Montreal).  Here is The Einstein Intersection.  Here is A Time for Changes.  Here is The Demolished Man.  Here is the 1999-2000 Anticipatia Almanac.  [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1962 – Amy Casil, age 59.  One novel, two dozen shorter stories.  Studied at Chapman under James Blaylock.  Poem “Joshua Swims in the Ocean of Dreams” in Mythic Delirium.  Three terms as SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Treasurer, including while John Scalzi was President and Mary Robinette Kowal was VP, hello, you two – or three: Amy, do you read this?  Outside our field, biographies of Buzz Aldrin and John Dewey.  Recent collection, The Instrumentality of Women. [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1972 – Lynette Mejía, age 49.  A score of short stories, three dozen poems, recently in Liminality.  Interviewed in Redstone.  “When I’m not working, I mostly read, think, and talk to trees.  Every once in a while, they talk back.”  Website – which, possibly because of her Louisiana connections, has a section “lagniappe”.  [JH]
  • Born March 10, 1975 – Claire Merle, age 46. Four novels.  Shadow Weaver won a B.R.A.G. (Book Readers Appreciation Group Medallion.  Be independent!  [JH]

(10) PLEASE, SIR, I WANT SOME MOA. Polygon finds a way to make your hunger pangs extinct: “Pringles releases Halo potato chips that taste like Moa Burgers from Halo Reach”.

Microsoft has teamed up with chip-maker Pringles for a new flavor of potato chip: Moa Burger. As in the Moa, the flightless bird indigenous to the planet Reach (and also the name of an extinct species of bird here on Earth), from Halo: Reach.

In the Halo fiction, Moa were a source of food on Reach, and were served in wing, nugget, and burger form. Pringles’ new Moa Burger aims to approximate what a quadruple hamburger made of ground space bird, plus cheese, pickles, lettuce, onions, and an unidentified sauce, would taste like. They are artificially flavored, naturally.

(11) GALAXY OF THE MONTH CLUB. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus comes up with an eye-opening hook to begin his review of the latest – in 1966 – issue of Galaxy: “[March 10, 1966] Top Heavy (April 1966 Galaxy)”.

Stacked

For as long as I can remember, American culture has really liked people who have extra on top.  Whether it’s Charles Atlas showing off his wedge-shaped physique or Jayne Mansfield letting herself precede herself, we dig an up front kind of person.

So I suppose it’s only natural that this month’s issue of Galaxy put all of the truly great material in the first half (really two thirds) and the rest tapers away to unremarkable mediocrity (though, of course, I’m obligated to remark upon it).

(12) WANDAVISION DEBRIEFINGS. Two semi-dissatisfied customers tell what they think WandaVision’s shortcomings were. NATURALLY THERE ARE SPOILERS.

Abigail Nussbaum discusses “America’s Sweetheart: Thoughts on WandaVision at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…It’s impressively weird, in other words, and as if that weirdness weren’t enough, every now and then, strange occurrences interrupt the domestic idyll and gentle comedy. Some of the Westview residents experience alarming fugue states. A voice on the radio urgently calls out to Wanda. Out of place items and people—a colorized helicopter toy; a man in a beekeeper outfit—appear with no explanation. The “show” is interrupted by sinister commercials with obvious relevance to the events of Wanda’s life—a Stark toaster that beeps ominously, like the bomb that took her parents’ lives; Lagos-brand kitchen towels with which to mop up blood-red liquid, a reference to her failure to prevent a Hydra bombing in Captain America: Civil War.

This glut of strange, disparate details is incredibly enticing, inviting audiences to parse references and spot easter eggs….

Film Crit Hulk’s “Watercoolering With WANDAVISION – Season One Finale” is a free Patreon post.

So. The finale, as a finale, does the things that finales are supposed to do. We wrap up our general story, we send some bad people to their respective fates, and we send some good people on their respective ways, all with a series of lessons seemingly learned. Because of this, I imagine that there are many who are satisfied with the overall experience. Especially as it did not make any egregious surface-level errors that have often plagued other finales (especially those that tend to treat their audience with more hostility). But Wandavision aimed for safety and it delivered on the base promises of the narrative itself. It even delivered on some genuinely nice beats in the process. And so, all seems well.

My personal feelings are little bit different.

Because my experience with the finale was one where I felt like I was constantly rocked back and forth between the positive and negative aspects of certain choices. Because of this, I want to take a different approach and single out the things where I was like “oooh, neat!” along with all the things where I really got tripped up. Because when you really, really look at some of those moments, something more problematic emerges….

(13) DIDN’T SEE THIS COMING. Vox Day’s own Castalia House blog reviewer likewise criticized WandaVision, calling it “acceptably mediocre,” prompting Day to write a dissenting post in which he said that what the other reviewer called shortcomings hadn’t affected his own enjoyment of the series — “In which I disagree” [Internet Archive link].

…While I always hesitate to share an opinion that is massively less-informed than a genuine expert’s perspective, what I think we have here is a distinction between an informed Marvel fan’s perspective and an uninformed non-Marvel non-fan’s perspective on the series. Unlike Dark Herald, I didn’t watch Wanda Vision from the perspective of someone who knew considerably more about the subject than having seen less than half of the MCU movies, most of which had only been viewed in order to learn how to write superhero movie scripts.

And at least from the ignorant, non-Marvel non-fan’s perspective, Wanda Vision was a surprisingly good, surprisingly powerful story about a woman wrestling with horrific grief. The alternative interpretations and possibilities that were not pursued are meaningless to me, because I didn’t know anything about the various historical storylines from the original comics, and therefore the production pyrotechnics with the evolving TV sitcom styles were presented were sufficiently intriguing to hold my interest in that regard.

There was, of course, an amount of the usual Marvel SJW nonsense, but it was minimal by today’s standards and did not conflict with the storytelling….

(14) A LOT OF LOTR. “Colbert and Andy Samberg Get Real Geeky About LORD OF THE RINGS”Yahoo! previews the video clip.

…In keeping with his usual vibe, Samberg maintained a sense of humor about Colbert showing him up in Tolkien knowledge; likewise, Colbert copped bashfully to his proclivity for long-winded rants when it comes to these stories. All in all, the two comics enjoyed a fun nerd sesh about one of the nerd world’s favorite topics.

(15) JEOPARDY! Genre stumped two contestants again on tonight’s Jeopardy. Andrew Porter shares his notes.

Category: Characters in Children’s Lit.

Answer: When Wendy first meets Peter Pan, he’s flown into her room searching for his lost this.

Wrong questions: What is a thimble?; what is childhood?

Correct question: What is his shadow?

(16) SPACE COMMAND. Showrunner Marc Scott Zicree has made available Space Command Episode One – “Mira Furlan’s Last Great Role” – to YouTube viewers.

(17) SUPER RESULTS. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert featured a very positive report from the North Carolina bookstore owner featured in the show’s small-business counterpart to the kind of celebrity-laden commercials aired during the Super Bowl: “Sales Triple At Foggy Pine Books After Receiving The Colbert Small Biz Bump” – video at the link.

The “Colbert Bump” is real! Just ask the owner of Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina, who enjoyed a huge surge in sales after being featured on our Super Bowl special.

(18) OF COURSE HE GETS WET.  The original cast of the 1984 movie Gremlins is reunited to plug Mountain Dew. “Gremlins Mountain Dew Commercial: Gizmo & Zach Galligan Return”.

Gizmo’s all grown up and still getting into some mischief in Mountain Dew’s new Gremlins commercial featuring the return of our favorite furry friend and star Zach Galligan in the fun new ad.

[Thanks to N., John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Ziv Wities, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. This mashup title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/26/21 Got My Mjolnir Working

(1) IF YOU LOVED THEM IN GOOD OMENS… A finalist for RadioTimes.com Awards 2021– TV Moment of the Year is Judi Dench slamming David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, a British comedy series set during the COVID-19 pandemic and primarily made using video-conferencing technology.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing exaggerated versions of themselves (actors) in 2020 trying to get work is already hilarious, but add in Dame Judi Dench and you’ve got a work of art. Tennant and Sheen aren’t exactly enthusiastic about their new role in a play, and Dench is on hand to remind them they have said yes to a job so they should “stop f**king about” and “do the bloody job”. That’s them (and us) told.

The series premiered on BBC One last summer, and another eight-episode series was released January 4. The first series synopsis is —

David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End. The pandemic has put paid to that, but their director (Simon Evans – also playing himself) is determined not to let the opportunity pass him by. He knows how big a chance this is for him and turns his attention to cajoling his stars into rehearsing over the internet. All they need to do is read the first scene, but throughout the series they come up against a multitude of oppositional forces: distraction, boredom, home-schooling and their own egos.

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Don Blyly is interviewed by Carz Nelson in “Down But Not Out: The Future of Uncle Hugo’s” at The Alley Newspaper.

…Deciding whether to reopen the stores won’t be easy. At 70 years young, many assumed owner Don Blyly would retire from retail business after the fire. Such assumptions are premature, however. It takes a lot of drive to start over from nothing, but Blyly seems to be equal to whatever tasks he sets himself.

…He admits that he has a knack for bouncing back from adversity, “I’ve noticed that I seem to have more resilience than most other people and I’ve wondered why. Partly it is stubbornness. Partly it is because the more of a track record you have at overcoming previous difficulties, the more confidence you have of overcoming the latest difficulty.”

Blyly says the city has a lot to answer for when it comes to the uprising, “Back in 2015 the Department of Justice made recommendations for reforming the Minneapolis Police, but the City Council has done nothing to implement those recommendations. The judge in the trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Damond raised issues about problems with the Minneapolis Police that have never been addressed.” 

Since the uprising and subsequent looting, he’s concerned that many people think the area is too dangerous to visit, “About half of my sales were to people outside the I-495/ I-694 loop, and they are now scared to come to Minneapolis to spend their money. Customers in South Minneapolis told me that they would be scared to return to the Uncles if I rebuilt in the old location. The city is going to have to actually work on fixing the problems with the Minneapolis Police instead making ‘defunding’ speeches before people will feel comfortable about spending their money in Minneapolis again.”

(3) IT PAYS TO BE POSTHUMOUS. Julie Phillips, in “Born to Be Posthumous” at 4Columns, reviews Mark Dery’s Born To Be Posthumous:  The Eccentric Life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

By his mid-twenties, the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey had already settled on his signature look: long fur coat, jeans, canvas high-tops, rings on all his fingers, and the full beard of a Victorian intellectual. His enigmatic illustrations of equally fur-coated and Firbankian men in parlors, long-skirted women, and hollow-eyed, doomed children (in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, among other works) share his own gothic camp aesthetic. Among the obvious questions for a reader of Gorey’s biography are: Where in his psyche, or in the culture, did all those fey fainting ladies and ironic dead tots come from? And, not unrelatedly: Was Gorey gay?

…Gorey described himself as “undersexed” in a 1980 interview, and equivocated: “I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.” Did he reject a gay sexuality, or was his particular sexuality, perhaps asexuality, not yet on the menu? Dery isn’t out to judge, and encourages us instead to look at how Gorey’s arch imagery, flamboyant self-presentation, and “pantheon of canonically gay tastes” (ballet, Marlene Dietrich records, silent film) allow him to be read in the context of gay culture and history, whatever his praxis in bed…. 

(4) TOO MANY NOTES. Vox’s Aja Romano investigates a kerfuffle at Archive Of Our Own (AO3) about the issues of a million-word fanfic with 1,700 tags. “Sexy Times with Wangxian: The internet’s most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning”.

… Since it first appeared in October 2019, “Sexy Times With Wangxian,” or STWW, has become notorious across AO3. That in itself is unusual, because most AO3 users stick to their own fandoms and don’t pay much attention to what’s happening in others. STWW belongs to the fandom for the wildly popular Chinese TV series The Untamed, and the “Wangxian” in the title refers to the ship name for the show’s beloved main romantic pairing. It’s a very long fanfic, over a million words, and contains more than 200 chapters of porn featuring The Untamed’s large cast in endless permutations and sexual scenarios.

All that, by itself, isn’t enough to make STWW remarkable — not on a website as wild and unpredictable as AO3. Yet the fic has become impossible for many AO3 users to ignore thanks to a unique quirk: Its author has linked it to more than 1,700 site tags (and counting).

A quick note about AO3’s tagging system: It is designed to let users tag creatively and freely. So you can add useful tags, like pairing labels and character names, but you can also toss in personalized tags for fun and creative expression, from “no beta readers we die like men” to “I wrote this at 4am on three bottles of Monster Energy and zero sleep don’t judge.”

The tagging system is in service of the site’s total permissiveness — you can write anything you want in tags. But for the site to function, tags still need to be useful for navigation. So AO3 has hordes of volunteers known as “tag wranglers” whose sole job is to sort through the massive number of fic tags on the site and decide which ones will actually help users find what they’re looking for.

Those tags are then made “canonical,” which means they’ll become universal tags that every user can sort through. They’ll also appear within a list of suggested tags as you type. If I start to type “hospital” while tagging a fic, AO3 will return canonical tag suggestions like “Alternate Universe — Hospital,” “Hospital Sex,” and “Hogwarts Hospital Wing.” That makes it easy to determine whether your fic fits tags the community is already using.

AO3’s tagging system is so organized and thorough that it has won widespread acclaim from fields like library science and internet infrastructure. But it still has its limits — and with more than 1,700 tags, “Sexy Times With Wangxian” has revealed what some of those limits look like — in some cases quite literally….

The tags are so numerous, they can’t fit into a single screenshot on a large monitor. Here’s a quick scroll through the entire thing…

(5) THEY’RE FEELING BETTER. Jen Chaney, in “No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time” at Vulture, has an oral history of the last episode of Lost, which reveals that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had the ambiguous ending in mind the whole time and that the show was so important that the State of the Union in 2010 was moved because it conflicted with the final season opening episode.

…When the finale aired, it sparked divided responses (understatement) from fans. Some loved the emotional way in which Jack’s journey and that of his fellow survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 came to a close. Others were extremely vocally angry about not getting more direct answers to the show’s many questions. Still others came away from it all convinced that the castaways had been dead the whole time. (They were not dead. They really weren’t.)

What was semi-clear at the time and is even clearer now is that the broadcast of the Lost finale would mark the end of something else: the truly communal broadcast television experience. Subsequent finales would be major events (see HBO’s Game of Thrones) and even draw larger audiences (2019’s final Big Bang Theory attracted 18 million viewers, compared to the 13.5 million who tuned in for the Lost farewell). But nothing else since has felt so massively anticipated and so widely consumed in real time the way that the end of Lost, the Smoke Monster Super Bowl, did in 2010.

Vulture did extensive interviews with writers, cast, and crew members, who reflected on the development of “The End,” the making of the still hotly debated episode, and the cultural conversation it continues to generate. Because, yes, of course, we had to go back.

(6) AT HOME WITH SFF. Aidan Moher conducts a lively and revealing Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, Brian Staveley, Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard in “Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House” at Uncanny Magazine.

…An appreciation for speculative fiction isn’t always handed down from within a family. Sometimes it grows on its own, or is introduced by a friend or a teacher. Or a child is uninterested, despite their parents’ best efforts to sway them to the side of elves and proton cannons. I recently reached out to several writers to ask them about their experience growing up, their parents’ relationship to speculative fiction, and the impact that parenthood has had on them as writers….

…There are also emotional sacrifices that come along with parenthood. After the birth of her first child, de Bodard’s tolerance for stories featuring child abuse or endangerment “went from weak to zero” immediately. “I had to put off reading a book I was much looking forward to because I couldn’t get past the violence against a child.” As the father of a daughter, I’ve had a similar experience to de Bodard, and have also become even more aware of and angered by the pervasive sexism that continues to plague speculative fiction and fandom.

Personal writing of any sort reveals layers to a person that even their close friends and loved ones might not recognize. My wife often finds it odd to read my writing—not because of the subject matter, but because it’s told in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar to her ear.

“My children have all read at least some of my writing,” said Elliott. “I often consult them about plot, character, and world–building because I like to hear their feedback, because they know me so well, and because they have fascinating and deep imaginations. They are probably my most valuable writing resource, with my cherished writer and reader friends a close second.”…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the opportunity to “Savor Stan Lee’s favorite sandwich with comics writer Jo Duffy” in episode 139 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Duffy

My old Marvel Bullpen pal Jo Duffy had a lengthy, celebrated run back then on Power Man and Iron Fist, where she also wrote Conan the BarbarianFallen AngelsStar Wars, and Wolverine. She also wrote Catwoman for DC and Glory for Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios imprint of Image Comics. Additionally, she worked on the screenplays for the horror films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5.

We discussed why she knows what Superman will look like when he’s 100, the many reasons our kid selves both thought Marvel had D.C. beat, the genius of Marie Severin, how I may have inadvertently been responsible for her getting a job as an Assistant Editor in the Marvel Bullpen, what it was like to work with Steve Ditko, the firing she still feels guilty about 40 years later, how she approached the challenge of writing Power Man and Iron Fist, the letter she wrote to Stan Lee after the death of Jack Kirby, the two-year-long Star Wars story arc she was forced to squeeze into a few issues, the best writing advice she ever got, and much more.

(8) FIRST THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS. Sarah Gailey, in “Building Beyond: Move Mountains” at Stone Soup, gets an assist from Alex Acks and nonwriter Kacie Winterberg to illustrate how easy a particular facet of sff creation can be:

Building Beyond is an ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.

How do you go about communicating with a mountain to prevent it from pursuing its ambition of becoming a volcano?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 26, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, considered the most popular of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not-so-accidental take off of Fu Manchu. Cat Eldridge reviewed the episode at A Green Man Review. You can watch the first part online here with links to the rest of the story there as well. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 26, 1874 – Katherine Cameron.  Member, Glasgow Society of Lady Artists (Women Artists after 1975).  A dozen illustrated books for us.  This is in Stories from the Ballads (M. Macgregor, 1906).  Here are Snowdrop and the Seven Dwarfs.  Here is Celtic Tales.  Here is Undine.  This is in The Enchanted Land.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1916 – Clifford Geary.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us; many others.  Noteworthy in particular for illustrating Heinlein’s “juveniles”.  Here is a frontispiece for Starman Jones.  Here is an interior for Between Planets.  This is in Space Cadet.  Here is one from outside our field.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 76. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 – Alex Eisenstein, age 76; 1946 – Phyllis Eisenstein (Died 2020).  Active fannish couple; P also an active pro, a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories with A collaborating on half a dozen; so far as I know The City in Stone, completed, remains unpublished.  AE co-edited Trumpet.  Here is his cover for More Issues at Hand.  PE was Guest of Honor at Windycon XXX, Capricon 26, ConQuesT 38; a soft-sculpture of her was part of the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  AE, a noted SF art collector, has organized many displays including that Chicon.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 73. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1952 – Bob Devney, F.N., age 69.  Eight-time finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lover of SF movies – some of them, anyway.  When I remarked to him I hadn’t seen The Devniad in a while, he muttered something about Twitter; but quite possibly he still hasn’t recovered from Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, where he worked very hard, as I saw and maybe you did too.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1957 – John Jude Palencar, age 64.  A hundred ninety covers, five dozen  interiors.  Artbook Origins.  Here is Rhinegold.  Here is Kushiel’s Avatar.  Here is The Dark Line.  Here is Mind of My Mind.  This picture led to The Palencar Project – David Hartwell did such things.  Five Chesleys.  American Water Color Society Gold Medal.  Hamilton King Award.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Also National GeographicSmithsonianTime.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on  Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had any lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current carnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series there features here as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material including photos of her puts it. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 56. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1968 – Lynne Hansen, age 53.  Half a dozen novels, ten dozen covers.  Here is Strangewood.  Here is Things That Never Happened (hello, Scott Edelman).  Here is A Complex Accident of Life.  Here is The High Strangeness of Lorelei Jones.  [JH]

(11) COATES TO SCRIPT SUPERMAN MOVIE. Trey Mangum, in “Ta-Nehisi Coates To Write Upcoming Superman Film From DC And Warner Bros.” on Shadow and Act, says Coates will write a script for a Superman movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, but with no director or stars attached at this time.

…We’re hearing that no director is attached as of yet and plot details remain under wraps. Additionally, the search for an actor to play Kal-El / Superman hasn’t started yet.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” said Coates in a statement received only by Shadow and Act. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

“There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity,” said J.J. Abrams in the statement to S&A.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” added Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

(12) SANS RIDES ET SANS REPROCHE. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara finds this is a rhetorical question: “Is Disney California Adventure, with no rides, worth $75?”

…If you think Disney’s recent announcement that it will soon be charging $75 a head for the thrill of wandering around California Adventure to buy and eat things while admiring the entrances to still-closed rides is nuts, I am here to tell you that it is not.

At least not if my recent visit to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is any indication.

…It was absolutely clear right away. Desperate for even the faintest tang of the Disney experience, thousands of us apparently are quite willing to settle for the elements of the Disney experience we normally complain about the most: waiting in line, overpriced food and the siren call of way too much Disney merch.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was a 45-minute wait simply to enter the Downtown Disney area, 50 if you count the five-minute walk from the car, which cost 10 bucks to park.

To be fair, the line that snaked through an entire parking lot could be construed, at least in these coronavirus-plagued times, as a Disney experience in and of itself. The now-ubiquitous six-feet-apart marks created a socially distant conga line that involved far more walking than standing: “Well, we’re getting our steps in,” one of my daughters remarked.

…As the sun set over the Simba parking lot and our group advanced through the temperature-taking station and the bag-check station, then past a police presence prominent enough to make any mask-shirker think twice, one could at least imagine a world returning to something approaching normal.

Listen to the piped-in music! Yes, once upon a time it did indeed drive some of us insane. But now, after a yearlong lifetime of home-office work — concentration broken on an hourly basis by the maddening syncopated roar of leaf blowers and brain-drilling hum of the neighbors’ home improvement project — all those Disney tunes fell around us like the singing of a heavenly host….

(13) MARTINE’S SEQUEL. In a review at Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere makes the book sound irresistible: “A Desolation Called Peace: Wonderfully rich and nuanced”,

…Beyond the plot reasons, I loved that it was more a cultural conflict because that concept is at the heart of this duology: the way the Empire doesn’t simply conquer via its military but swamps others with its pervasive, relentless, invasive cultural tentacles (hmm, sound familiar?), the way the question of “who counts as human” (or more broadly, who can be considered a person) runs throughout the Empire on a macro level, and throughout the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass on a micro level.

… It’s impossible to read these moments and not relate them to everyday existence for those forced to swim in the sea of a majority culture. This fraught tension is made all the richer for how Martine portrays (realistically) how seductive such cultural power is even for those it threatens to swamp, like falling in love with the waves that are trying to drown you. And then it gets under the skin and into the brain so it becomes almost second nature: “Mahit laughed, a raw sound … She couldn’t do it all. She thought in Teixcalaanli, in imperial-style metaphor and overdetermination. She’d had this whole conversation in their language.”

(14) HARD TIME. Will it be at least seven more years before Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has something good to say about the monthly issue of Analog? “[February 26, 1966] Such promise (March 1966 Analog)”.

… It all came down to this month’s Analog.  If it were superb, as it was last month, then we’d have a clean sweep across eight periodicals.  If it flopped, as it often does, the streak would be broken.

As it turns out, neither eventuality quite came to pass.  Indeed, the March 1966 Analog is sort of a microcosm of the month itself — starting out with a bang and faltering before the finish….

(15) FROM BROADWAY TO BROADBAND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 19 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews “online interactive theatre shows” which try to capture some of the spontaneity of live theatre.

Collaboration is key to success with all these show: the quicker an audience learns to share tasks, the better.  In Sherlock In Homes:  Murder At The Circus (from the Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre), this turns out to be a group of small girls from Wales with a formidable line in questioning,  (The same companies have also created Sherlock In Homes 2:  Murder On Ice.)

Another Sherlock-inspired show, Murder At The Circus is a droll, family-friendly affair, low on tech high in audience-actor interaction. Sherlock is missing (again), leaving behind a rum case involving a dead circus clown and a plate of potted meat.  We, the impromptu detectives, must quiz a line-up of dubious suspects with names like Glenda Flex (acrobat) and Rory McPride (lion tamer), all of whom are adept at juggling the truth.

After several rounds of unfocused interrogation from our team, the Welsh 10-year-olds spring into action. “Where were you location-wise when you were kissing?’ demands one, sternly, of a particularly evasive character,  It would take a hardened criminal not to crack.”

The websites for this are sharpteeththeatre.orgthewardrobetheatre.com, and sherlockimmersive.com.

(16) MALZBERG ON PKD. A year ago on the DickHeads Podcast: “Interview #12 – Barry Malzberg – Malzberg Spectacular Part 1”.

David must have done something right because author Barry Malzberg was willing to sit down for a lengthy phone conversation with him. In this interview, Barry leads David through his experiences with multiple authors including PKD, the in’s and out’s of the publishing industry of the 60s and 70s, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out part 2 of our Barry Malzberg Spectacular where author James Reich joins David in an in-depth look at the award-winning novel Beyond Apollo, which garnered the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

(17) POTATO HEAD, THE MORNING AFTER. The London Economic has an entertaining collection of tweets about yesterday’s kerfuffle: “Best reactions as usual mouthpieces are foaming over a genderless Potato Head”. Here are a few —

When it was all over but the shouting, Reason’s Robby Soave announced:  “Mr. Potato Head will remain the strong, masculine figure he always was.”

(18) IN MELODY YET GREEN. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman reviews Lady Gaga Oreos. They’re pink! (With green filling!) “Lady Gaga Oreos are an extra-sweet mystery wrapped in an enigmatic pink wafer”.

…One of the promotions tied to Gaga’s cookies is a Sing It with Oreo feature. You can make personal recordings, transform them into “musical messages of kindness” and send them to folks you love and support. The pink foil packaging for Gaga Oreos features a QR code, which provides instant access to the recording function. You probably have to give up countless pieces of personal information in the process, but go ahead, “Just sing from the heart, and make someone’s day a little brighter.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/12/21 Our Operators Are Standing By. On Three Legs

(1) 55 ISN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA. Cora Buhlert, in her new series “Fanzine Spotlight,” interviews Hugo eligible fanzines and fansites and the people behind them. The first post features Gideon Marcus discussing one of my favorites: “Fanzine Spotlight: Galactic Journey”.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Galactic Journey is more than a site or a zine. It’s a time machine.

The 20+ writers for the Journey produce an article every other day from the context of SF fans (and professionals) living exactly 55 years ago.  Thus, when it turned January 1, 2021 in your world, we rang in the new year of 1966.

When we started eight years ago, in “1958”, we were just covering the three big American SF mags: Fantasy and Science FictionGalaxy, and Analog, as well as the space shots — Pioneer 1 had just gone halfway to the moon.  Very quickly, as more people became associated with the Journey, we expanded our coverage to all the SF mags, current SF movies and TV shows (we’ve reviewed every episode of Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and Doctor Who), comicsfashionartmusic, politics, counter-culture…you name it!

(2) SWORD AND ADVOCACY. In “Bran Mak Morn: Social Justice Warrior” at Black Gate, Jason Ray Carney contends Robert E. Howard’s character was an SJW long before the phrase was invented.

…Weird Tales, November 1933, containing “Worms of the Earth”
by Robert E. Howard. Cover by J. Allen St. John

Despite Howard’s pulpster credentials, the young writer demonstrates intellectual ambition in this story. Readers are introduced to a historical framework philosophically anchored in the ideas of “Rome” and “Pictdom,” i.e. “civilization” and “barbarism.” Make no mistake: philosophy aside, this is a fantasy story, a sword and sorcery tale delicately painted with a gossamer-thin layer of history. Howard’s Picts are not the historical Picts, and Howard’s Romans are not the historical Romans. Without question, both tribes are unreal, fictionalized in this story, and fictionalized tendentiously: the Romans are rendered as irredeemable oppressors and the Picts are rendered as the brutally oppressed victims. Artful and strategic distortions allow Howard to bring into focus his troubling theme: the hatred of an oppressed race for their brutal oppressors and the evil consequences of that hatred.

Despite the story’s fantastic nature, it nevertheless engages with the actual, with real oppression, oppressors, and oppressed. Real racism was prevalent in the early 1930s in Howard’s rural Texas, a racially-mixed frontier where the elderly and the descendants of settlers and displaced first tribes remembered (and witnessed) the bloody battle, civil war, banditry, and rapine that characterized what has been mythologized as “the wild west.” Indeed, this earnest engagement with actual racism can be gleaned by contextualizing the “Worms of the Earth” with Howard’s correspondence…

(3) A WRITER’S RELICS. You might also be interested in a guided “Tour of the Robert E. Howard Home” in Cross Plains, Texas conducted by Howard scholar Rusty Burke. Includes a chart based on a map by Catherine Crook de Camp!

(4) HUGOS THERE. John Picacio is among those who posted a very favorable response to DisCon III’s U-turn (see “DisCon III Abandons Previously Announced Hugo Policy”) —

(5) WAREHOUSE £2. Is there anything not wrong with this coin? The Guardian reports “War of the words: HG Wells coin also features false quote”.

…Intended to mark 75 years since the death of the author, the coin has already been criticised for depicting the “monstrous tripod” featured in The War of the Worlds with a fourth leg, and for giving his Invisible Man a top hat, which the character never wore. Then the Wells expert Prof Simon James spotted the quote chosen for the edge of the coin: “Good books are warehouses of ideas.” James and his fellow academic Adam Roberts, a vice-president of the Wells Society, could source no such quote in Wells’s writing – although it is credited to him on various inspirational quote websites.

…Author Eleanor Fitzsimons solved the mystery. She tried searching Wells’s writing for a quote with “warehouses” in it, and found an approximation in his obscure work Select Conversations With an Uncle (Now Extinct) and Two Other Reminiscences. That quote, however, is not what appears on the coin: it reads, “Good books are the warehouses of ideals.”

(6) INFINITE WORLDS. [Item by rcade.] There’s a full-page ad in the new issue of the Previews catalog for Infinite Worlds magazine, a science fiction magazine that has its seventh issue coming out in March.

The magazine is published by Winston Ward and was launched by a Kickstarter campaign that raised around $3,500. Infinite Worlds is described as an “independent magazine” and does not take any advertising.

Issue 7 has stories by Adele Gardner, Daniel Kozuh and Emily Martha Sorensen and an interview with Stu Mackenzie of the Australian rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

Infinite Worlds has an Instagram audience of 105,000 followers featuring illustration-heavy posts such as this collection of the first six covers.

(7) IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO LAUGH. In ‘”Funny, How?’ Why Comedy is Crucial in Crime Writing” on CrimeReads, Christopher Fowler (who also writes fantasy and sf) discusses why comedy is important in his Bryant and May mysteries.

…Creating a funny character is one thing, but consciously setting out to write a witty crime novel is another matter altogether. Humour must emerge organically; you can’t simply parachute characters into a funny situation. It also requires a moral viewpoint, if only so that morality can then be flung aside. The tragedy of sudden death and its investigation needs to be treated with gravity, the humour confined to those who have no idea that they’re amusing. People are at their most ridiculous when they’re desperately serious.

(8) SUPER LIST. If superhero movies are your cup of tea, this list will tell you when all the tealeaves are scheduled for harvest: “Here’s the New Schedule For Every Superhero Movie Coming Out For the Foreseeable Future” at Yahoo!

…The rigmarole of last year really changed the shape of what Black Panther will look like moving forward. There’s also still quite a lag when it comes to seeing any iteration of Black Adam or a second Shazam film, but there is a lot of hope when it comes to films that were shelved last year. Black Widow? Still slated to come your way in May. The Eternals and Shang-Chi? Also making a 2021 debut. All of this is to say, while there’s still some bad news, there’s also a lot to look forward to in the coming year so get that bag of popcorn ready. We got some blockbusters on the horizon.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 12, 1966 — The Batman series premiered on ABC. It ran for three seasons and one hundred twenty twenty-five minute episodes.  Starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin, Alan Napier was Alfred, Neil Hamilton was Commissioner James Gordon and Yvonne Craig was Barbara Gordon / Batgirl. Its villains were many and featured many a famous performer. It enjoys a 62 rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.
A poster for the British release of Leslie H. Martinson’s 1966 superhero comedy, ‘Batman The Movie’, starring (left to right) Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether and Burgess Meredith. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)
  • January 12, 1967 – Star Trek’s  “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 84. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She was not nude as is thought but was wearing monokini. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1937 – Joyce Jumper.  Just as David McDaniel and Ted Johnstone lived in the same body, likewise David’s wife Joyce McDaniel and Ted’s wife Lin Johnstone.  David, a pro author, published eight novels, three shorter stories; Ted was a leading Los Angeles fan.  I knew Ted but hardly saw David; I knew Joyce but hardly saw Lin.  When David and Ted died, Lin gafiated; after a while Joyce married L.A. fan George Jumper; following his death (2001) she grew less active.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1940 – Tomas Endrey.  Escaped from Hungary 1956.  Often attended Boskone, Lunacon.  Active in APA:NESFA.  Assistant editor of SF Chronicle.  See Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH] 
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 69. He’s the genius behind the rejuvenated Twilight ZoneAmazing StoriesFarscapeSeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter I couldn’t get interested in though I did try. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 69. An odd one as I  have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t  been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue LightFutureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent FutureThe Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Seth Breidbart, Ph.D., age 67.  Chaired Lunacon 1988, 1999 (alas for pattern-lovers, not in 2000 or 2011).  Served a term as President of the Lunarians.  Guest of Honor at Albacon IV.  Often found in responsible positions at SF cons, e.g. he was House Manager in the Events Division of MidAmeriCon II the 74th Worldcon.  Annoyingly successful in fannish auctions and lotteries.  Two Harvard and two Yale degrees, which is like him.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Bill Higgins, age 67.  Radiation-safety physicist, thus seen here and elsewhere as Bill Higgins, Beam Jockey.  Plays baritone ukulele.  Guest of Honor at ConClave 15, Windycon XX, DucKon 2 & 22, Congenial 9, Capricon 10; Hal Clement Science Speaker at Boskone 51.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Paula Lieberman, age 67.  Thoughtful and vigorous in Boston fandom, e.g. at Noreascon 3 the 47th Worldcon she was Creative Consultant in the Program Division, in the Extravaganzas Division was part of the Brains Trust and ran the Anniversary Party.  Does some filking.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1964 Jeff Bezos, 57. He actually does have a genre credit for having played a Starfleet official on Star Trek Beyond. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 41. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA fir non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer as well. Nice. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 – Ameriie, age 41.  Recording artist; three golds, one silver; two Soul Train Awards; Club Banger of the Year; one Rolling Stone Best Album of the Year.  Edited one anthology for us, a short story of her own in it.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK CREATORS. The Detroit Free Press features the story behind “Invisible Men, the Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books” by Michigan resident Ken Quattro in “Chronicling the forgotten Black artists of early comic book industry”.

…The idea for “Invisible Men” started 20 years ago, when Quattro was writing an article about Matt Baker, the Black artist who in 1945 created Voodah, a character that is considered the first Black hero in a comic book aimed at white audiences.

Quattro was having a hard time tracking down information about Baker until someone suggested he reach out to Samuel Joyner, an influential cartoonist, teacher and illustrator from Philadelphia who died last year at age 96. 

He wrote me a beautiful four-page letter about not only Matt Baker, but about all these other Black cartoonists, and it stunned me at the time,” recalls Quattro, who wasn’t familiar with the other names that were included.

Quattro began reading what he describes as thousands of past issues of publications written by and for African Americans. “There was nothing in the white media, in newspapers or magazines at all, about Black comic book artists. I started going to Black newspapers of the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s, and there was a lot of information on these guys.”

(13) GAME TIME. [Item by Cath.] I spent a couple of enjoyable hours recently playing the text game ”Stay?” It incorporates Groundhog Day-style loops. WARNING: The link as I entered shows spoilers for how to “get the good ending.”

Welcome to Elaia, a magical city nestled in a high valley. It’s the end of your first year at university & time to choose your major. 

Find yourself among potential friends or lovers– young people with secrets, dreams, fears, and tragedies. Learn about the history & breadth of Elaia’s world, and decide what kind of mark you want to leave on it. 

WHAT IS “STAY? ” ?

  • An interactive fiction story. 
  • A dating sim wrapped up in a fantasy adventure puzzle.
  • A quest to find your own happy ending in a world where you always get a second chance.

(14) DOING SCIENCE. Vox tells how “Citizen science is booming during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

… Early in the pandemic, a fire hose of data started gushing forth on citizen science platforms like Zooniverse and SciStarter, where scientists ask the public to analyze their data online. It’s a form of crowdsourcing that has the added bonus of giving volunteers a real sense of community; each project has a discussion forum where participants can pose questions to each other (and often to the scientists behind the projects) and forge friendly connections.

“There’s a wonderful project called Rainfall Rescue that’s transcribing historical weather records. It’s a climate change project to understand how weather has changed over the past few centuries,” Laura Trouille, vice president of citizen science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and co-lead of Zooniverse, told me. “They uploaded a dataset of 10,000 weather logs that needed transcribing — and that was completed in one day!”

Some Zooniverse projects, like Snapshot Safari, ask participants to classify animals in images from wildlife cameras. That project saw daily classifications go from 25,000 to 200,000 per day in the initial days of lockdown. And across all its projects, Zooniverse reported that 200,000 participants contributed more than 5 million classifications of images in one week alone — the equivalent of 48 years of research. Although participation has slowed a bit since the spring, it’s still four times what it was pre-pandemic….

(15) THE SUN IS ALWAYS RISING. Not well done, not medium, but a “Rare Planet With Three Suns Has a Super Weird Orbit” is chronicled at Gizmodo.

… KOI-5Ab is likely a gas giant, similar to Neptune in terms of its size. It resides within a triple-star system, and while its orbit is a bit strange, it’s overall environment is less chaotic than it may sound.

Despite having three stellar companions, KOI-5Ab orbits a single star, KOI-5A, once every five days. This host star is caught in a mutual orbit with a nearby star called KOI-5B, and the two twirl around each other once every 30 years. A more distant star, KOI-5C orbits this pair once every 400 years.

(16) THE HYDROPONICS THAT FALL ON YOU FROM NOWHERE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post today had a piece about CES.  The gadget that seemed pretty futuristic to me is “Gardyn,” a portable hydroponic garden that’s about five feet tall.  Seeds are inserted via pods like coffee pods.  All you do is add water occasionally and the device says it grows enough veggies to feed a family of four. Video at the link: “Gardyn, the AI-driven indoor, leafy green growing machine”.

(17) NEANDERTHALS. BBC Future takes a long look at “How did the last Neanderthals live?”

…There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task.  What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.

“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewellery.

To show me exactly what he meant, Clive and his team reconstructed some intriguing Neanderthal habits. A dead vulture, carefully kept frozen, was brought out and dissected in front of me, to show how Neanderthals might have done so thousands of years earlier.

They carefully removed the bird’s body tissue. What was left appeared to be a stunning and elaborate black-feathered decorative cape, extending, of course, the length of the vulture’s wing span. They may have wrapped this around their shoulders, Clive says.

This all points to one thing: that Neanderthals had a sophisticated understanding and appreciation of cultural symbols.The fact that Neanderthals could, and would, take these steps – including the creativity and abstract reasoning required to turn a flying animal into a decorative cape – shows that their cognitive skills could have been on par with ours. And regardless of exactly how intelligent they were, their creation of these kinds of cultural artefacts is one of the defining traits of humanity.

(18) THE MOUSE NEVER PREDICTED THIS. “Disneyland to Become Covid-19 Mass-Vaccination Site”Deadline has the story.

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the bulk of which has been closed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, will serve as the first super Point-of-Dispensing (POD) site for Covid-19 vaccines in Orange County.

The site is expected to become operational later this week, county officials announced Monday. Also on Monday, Los Angeles County announced that its mass Covid-19 testing operation at Dodger Stadium will be phased out this week so the sports arena can be turned into a large-scale vaccination location….

(19) BEHIND THE LITTLE GREEN DOOR. “U.S. Intelligence Agencies to Share Everything They Know About UFOs” notes Mental Floss.

…According to Snopes, the Office for the Director of National Intelligence has confirmed that the omnibus bill includes a 180-day window for the U.S. director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to prepare a report for senators and armed services committees on the potential existence of UFOs and any potential they may have to pose a threat.

The data would be sourced from FBI reports as well as the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The language comes from the bill’s Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that the story arc of Steve Trevor in this movie make WONDER WOMAN 1984 “more problematic than a Rob Schneider movie” and the film explains you “shouldn’t cat-call women because they’ll turn into a cat and fight you!”

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Mlex, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cath, Daniel Dern, Joyce Scrivner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]