Pixel Scroll 1/23/24 Tribbles, Like Pixels, Only Cuter

(1) TAKING THE CURSE OFF ADVERBS. Philip Athans is here to liberate us: “Adverbs Are Fine!” declares Athans at the Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

…Everyone tells you adverbs are bad, bad, terrible words! In On Writing Stephen King wrote that famous line:

I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.

I even found a web site that said you can only use one adverb per 300 words, which is just bizarre. That’s not even a little bit a thing. This came from one of those goofy “writing” apps that count the number of adverbs in your manuscript so you can feel bad about yourself in a new and pointless way based on a software engineer’s lack of understanding of creative writing. Or, anyway, maybe not totally embarrass yourself in work emails….

Adverbs are fine!

Why say that to ourselves? Because it’s true. Adverbs are a perfectly acceptable, even necessary part of speech and blindly deleting them from a manuscript because an app told you to is the sign of an amateur. Learning how to use them properly is the sign of a writer.

You might be surprised by Athans’ choice of novel from which to draw his example texts:

…I pulled out some examples from Perry Rhodan #19: Mutants vs. Mutants by Clark Darlton, translated by Wendayne Ackerman and published by Ace Books in 1972… 

However, they’re pertinent to his interesting discussion. And in the end he reminds writers:

…Adverbs are words and as authors we get to use all the words. We even get to make some up from time to time. And there’s nothing special about adverbs. Use them—just like you use adjectives, nouns, and verbs—with care and thought and in service to your characters and the story they’re sharing with your readers.

The same discussion is also available as a YouTube presentation.

(2) CAN YOU HEAR ME MAJOR TOM? “Tin can alley: the return of the Sad Man in Space”, a Nicholas Barber column in the Guardian.

The Sad Man in Space is back! He was last seen orbiting our cinemas five years ago, when the average big-screen astronaut was less inclined to explore strange new worlds or fight bug-eyed monsters than to sit in a tin can feeling sorry for himself. Ryan Gosling was grief-stricken in First Man, Brad Pitt had issues in Ad Astra, Robert Pattinson was in low spirits in High Life, and Matthew McConaughey sobbed his eyes out in Interstellar, to name just four of the men who were lost in space in more ways than one. Floated around in zero gravity, but weighed down by their woes, they were so common that critics coined the terms “Sad Man in Space”, “Sad Dad in Space”, and “Sadstronauts” to describe them, while various articles traced the sub-genre back to Tarkovsky’s Solaris via Duncan Jones’s Moon. Being thousands of miles from home, separated from every other living being by cold, dark emptiness … this, film-makers realised, was a handy metaphor for being a bloke.

Now another Sadstronaut is on the launchpad. Earlier this week, Netflix debuted the first trailer for Spaceman, a science-fiction drama that premieres at the Berlin film festival in February. Adapted from Jaroslav Kalfar’s novel, Spaceman Of Bohemia, it stars Adam Sandler as Jakub, the titular astronaut – and you know it’s one of Sandler’s serious outings, because he’s got a beard….

…Where has the Sad Man in Space been since Gosling, Pitt and co were doing their intergalactic brooding? The answer, I’d argue, is that he fell to Earth, and now he’s everywhere. Countless major films in the last 12 months have revolved around masculinity in crisis: men without purpose, men perplexed by relationships, and men being generally depressed about being men. This has been the year of the Sad Man in Cinema….

(3) DIAMOND DAGGERS. The Crime Writers Association (CWA) of the United Kingdom will honor two writers this year: “Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke share Diamond Dagger lifetime award” in the Guardian.

Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke are the joint recipients of this year’s award, which is administered by the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) and recognises sustained excellence in the genre.

“By an extraordinary quirk of fate, due to our new voting process, this year’s Diamond Dagger is, for the first time in seven decades, being awarded to two authors,” said Maxim Jakubowski, chair of the CWA Daggers’ committee. “If the Booker prize can do it, so can we!”

La Plante is best known for writing the Prime Suspect and Widows television and novel series. Her other series include Lorraine Page, Anna Travis and Trial And Retribution. In 2008, she received a CBE for services to literature, drama and charity. Her memoir is expected to be released later this year.

…James Lee Burke’s series about detective Dave Robicheaux spans more than 20 novels. Burke said he was “honoured and humbled” to receive his award. “It is also an honour to have my name among the best mystery and crime writers in the world,” he added….

(4) GLORIOUS EDITION OF LONG WAY. Becky Chambers announced The Folio Society’s limited edition of her book The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet will be available beginning January 25.

…Yes indeed, that’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, complete with full-color artwork from award-winning illustrator Zoë van Dijk. Each copy is signed by both me and her, and there’s a new introduction written by yours truly. It’s got a folding box and cloth binding and lemon-gold foil and all other manner of fancy materials besides, but…the artwork. The artwork knocked me off my feet. I spent years living in that spaceship inside my head. What a wild thing, to see someone evoke it so perfectly….

(5) HEAR YE. Episode 53 of Phil Nichols’ Bradbury 100 podcast is about “Ray’s Fanzine, Futuria Fantasia. Listen to it at the link.

…The first issue of Futuria Fantasia, published when Ray was eighteen years old, catches him just before he heads off to New York for the first-ever World Science Fiction Convention. In that first issue, he is very much focused on “Technocracy”, a movement which promised to turn science fiction into political reality. The issue includes an essay on Technocracy by Bruce Yerke, followed by an early piece of Ray Bradbury science fiction: “Don’t Get Technatal”, a satirical look at how boring it will be to live in a utopia!

“Don’t Get Technatal” was Ray’s third piece of published fiction, although he hid behind the pseudonym of Ron Reynolds. I read it in full in the podcast, along with Ray’s other contributions to FuFa No. 1. (I also read selections from the writings of the other contributors.)

If you want to read the whole magazine, it’s freely available, since the copyright on FuFa expired decades ago. The best place to find it – and the other three issues that Ray published – is via the links at science fiction history site FANAC.

So, come with me now to the world of 1939, where fans of “scientifiction” enthusiastically support the bright future offered by the Technocracy movement, perhaps oblivious to the impending likelihood of world war…

Or to quote Ray: “But, Mr. Smith, how do you explain that gyro-statistic-electromagnetiosonomonator on the radiostuntomotor?”

(6) IT’S A TWISTER AUNTIE EM! Stephen Colbert opens the CBS vault to discover a lost segment from The Twilight Zone, where legendary host Rod Serling shares twist endings that were filmed but never aired. The Late Show Presents: “The Twilight Zone: Just The Twists”.

(7) GARY GRAHAM (1950-2024). Actor Gary Graham died January 23 at the age of 73. The Deadline tribute details his genre roles.

…Graham began making appearances on episodic TV in the mid-1970s, including one-off roles in Eight Is Enough, Starsky and Hutch, Police Woman and The Incredible Hulk.

His signature role came in 1989, when he was cast in the starring role of Detective Matthew Sikes in the television series Alien Nation. The series lasted only one season, but Graham would reprise the role in TV movies Alien Nation: Dark Horizon (1994), Alien Nation: Body and Soul (1995), Alien Nation: Millennium (1996), Alien Nation: The Enemy Within (1996), and Alien Nation: The Udara Legacy (1997).

Graham became part of the Star Trek universe in 2001 when he was cast in Star Trek: Enterprise in the recurring role of Vulcan Ambassador Soval (Graham had appeared as a different character in a 1995 episode of Star Trek: Voyager). He appeared as a character named Ragnar in the 2007 video Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and reprised that role in the series Star Trek: Renegades….

(8) DAVID EMGE (1946-2024). He had only one hit role, but it made David Emge unforgettable: “David Emge Dead: Zombie Pilot In Horror Classic Dawn Of The Dead Was 77” reports Deadline.

…[George] Romero cast Emge as helicopter pilot Stephen “Flyboy” Andrews, an accident-prone but well-meaning news pilot who escapes the undead apocalypse to find safety with a few other survivors in a suburban shopping mall.

Emge’s character manages to avoid a zombie fate for much of the movie, but eventually falls victim.

A photo of Emge’s dead-eyed, blood-spattered Zombie Stephen would become the most famous image from the film, used in promotional material and capturing the lasting attention of generations of horror fans, among them a young Simon Pegg, future star of the 2004 horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead.

“I would stare at the image of David Emge’s zombified flyboy character,” Pegg wrote in his 2011 memoir Nerd Do Well. “The film became something of an obsession for me.”

Emge appeared in only two films after Dawn of the Dead – 1990’s Basket Case 2 and 1992’s Hellmaster – but years later he’d become a favorite at horror conventions for his role as Stephen….


[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 74. I’ve liked Richard Dean Anderson from the very first time I saw him playing Lt. Simon Adams in the one-season Emerald Point N.A.S., which befitted him more than his first acting job playing Dr. Jack Webber on the General Hospital daytime soap opera, as this was a military soap opera of the first degree.

Going from the short-lived and uniformed Emerald Point N.A.S. role, he got arguably the most interesting acting role of his career of his performing career, the lead in MacGyver. Was it genre? I think so. I enjoyed it immensely.

Richard Dean Anderson in 1985.

It had a very lean regular cast with Dana Elcar as Peter Thornton, MacGyver’s immediate supervisor at the Phoenix Foundation, and Bruce McGill as Jack Dalton, MacGyver’s best friend, the whole supporting cast. There were a few other performers that showed on up a recurring basis plus a legion of background characters.

Remember Heinlein’s “Specialization is for insects” quote from Time Enough for Love? Well MacGyver comes as close in his problem solving to that as any individual could. And with a sense of humor to boot. Something I sometimes suspect Heinlein characters of lacking.

It lasted seven seasons comprising 139 plus two films. The seventh was short as it was cancelled but as Anderson noted in a later interview, “The only reason it went off the air was that everybody was ready to move on. I was physically exhausted and had no life.”

As it’s streaming on Paramount+, I know what I’ll be watching soon! 

So having survived, and by his own admission mostly enjoyed, a long running series, what came next for him? Well you take a half decade off before getting involved in a series that was even a lot longer lasting than MacGyver turned out to be! 

Oops, my bad. I almost forgot about the series he did in between the two most important, that being Legend, all twelve episodes. Yes, you heard me. Twelve. He played Ernest Pratt, a hard-drinking writer who created Nicodemus Legend, the main character in pulp novels. The only other ongoing character was a Tesla ripoff by the name of Janos Bartok played by John de Lancie. Think SF western and you’ve got it. It was fun, it had absolutely no audience and it was cancelled apparently before it aired. Oh well.

So now for his longest running series. I loved Stargate, I really did. So when I heard a series was being made from the film I was definitely intrigued. And I was pleasantly surprised how well Stargate SG-1 worked. Stargate wasn’t really a developed reality, Stargate SG-1 was. So comparing the Jack O’ Neil character that he plays there to the character played Kurt Russell once and done makes no sense, really it doesn’t.

It was a great role that Anderson was allowed to develop I assume as an Executive Producer of the series. So how the long did it last? An amazing ten seasons, 214 plus two films. And he shows up elsewhere in the Stargate Universe unsurprisingly. 

So two-long running roles, 357 between them. Quite impressive I would say. 

He retired from acting a decade ago.


(11) TELL FRIENDS YOU STOLE THEM FROM YOUR SCHOOL DINING HALL. A vendor on Amazon offers “Harry Potter Hogwarts House Logos 16-Piece Ceramic Dinnerware Set”. Take your choice of any of the four Houses:

Magical Mealtime: Entertain your guests with this gorgeous 16-piece Harry Potter Dinnerware Set. Featuring themed designs inspired by the Wizarding World, the fine detailing and gold edging make this a must-have dish set.

Elegant Styling: Each dinnerware place setting depicts a unique Hogwarts House: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. The Sorting Hat’s poem is also featured on the plates and bowls, tying all the pieces together in a cohesive style.

(12) CLOSING TIME. “Pioneering nuclear-fusion reactor shuts down: what scientists will learn” in Nature.

Scientists have begun to decommission one of the world’s foremost nuclear-fusion reactors, 40 years after it began operations. Researchers will study the 17-year process of dismantling the Joint European Torus (JET) near Oxford, UK, in unprecedented detail — and use the knowledge to make sure future fusion power plants are safe and financially viable….

…The thorniest part of decommissioning the JET site will be dealing with its radioactive components. The process of fusion does not leave waste that is radioactive for millennia, unlike nuclear fission, which powers today’s nuclear reactors. But JET is among the tiny number of experiments worldwide that have used significant amounts of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Tritium, which will be used as a fuel in future fusion plants including ITER, has a half-life of 12.3 years, and its radiation, alongside the high-energy particles released during fusion, can leave components radioactive for decades.

Decommissioning a fusion experiment doesn’t have to mean “bulldozing everything within sight into rubble and not letting anyone near the site for ages”, says Anne White, a plasma physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Instead, engineers’ priorities will be to reuse and recycle parts. This will include removing tritium where possible, says Buckingham. This reduces radioactivity and allows tritium to be reused as fuel. “The sustainable recycling of this scarce resource makes economic sense,” he says…

(13) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. Is that a robot duking it out with a Dalek in this 1967 video? Sure, but that’s not the big secret of Robot Boy. Beware spoilers. Yes, even a 90-second video can have spoilers.

Several shots show a home-made ‘Robot Boy’ and a Dalek in a suburban back garden. The maker, Victor Sherlock, sits with some young boys on the back doorstep; one of the boys is sitting inside a model spaceship. The robot is apparently worked by remote control; Victor sits with a remote control box that he seems to be speaking into. The robot walks towards a lawnmower, then Victor makes some adjustments to the robot’s head. He then lifts the head off to reveal that his son, Peter, is inside the robot suit.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Avatar: The Last Airbender live action series arrives February 22 on Netflix.

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