Pixel Scroll 6/16/22 Scrolls Against Pixelry

(1) HALFWAY THRU THE YEAR. Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility tops Amazon.com’s list of the twenty “Best science fiction and fantasy of 2022 so far”.

And joining Sea of Tranquility on Amazon.com’s overall “Best Books of the Year So Far” are Saara El-Arifi’s The Final Strife and John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society.

(2) BROOKS BY THE BOOK. The New York Times’ interview with Geraldine Brooks gives backhanded praise to a Hugo winner.

Can a great book be badly written? What other criteria can overcome bad prose?

The “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy, by Liu Cixin, is full of insight into everything from China’s Cultural Revolution to why we have yet to experience first contact, and why we maybe shouldn’t want to. But there’s a clunkiness to some of the sentences and I can’t know if it’s the writing or the translation. Alas, it’s too late for me to learn Mandarin in order to get a definitive answer.

(3) HEAVY DUTY. TrekMovie.com reports “Toymaker TOMY To Make 32-Inch Die-Cast ‘Star Trek’ USS Enterprise Weighing 20 Pounds”. Twenty pounds!!! What, have they got Garfield the Cat as the Captain?

… TOMY has announced a new collaboration with Paramount to develop a number of Star Trek products, starting with a limited edition highly-detailed 1/350 scale premium die-cast U.S.S. Enterprise model from The Original Series. Made of 90% die-cast metal, the model includes precision detailing and decorations with over 70 LED lights and a premium stand with collector packaging…. 

Gizmodo has more of the story and – brace yourself – the price tag: “Star Trek USS Enterprise Model Created With Smithsonian’s Help”.

…As you’ve probably guessed, this replica isn’t priced for casual Trekkies. Tomy is taking a crowd-funded approach and will only put the limited run replica into production if it receives 5,000 pre-orders for the ship, with pre-orders starting tomorrow. That’s a lofty goal, especially with a price tag of $600, and with pre-orders being limited to just Star Trek fans in the United States. If Tomy finds enough backers, its Prestige Select U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 replica will ship out to fans next Summer in 2023.

This video shows off the prototype with the lights in action.

(4) INTO THE WEST. HBO’s Westworld Season 4 Official Trailer says, “Maybe it’s time you questioned the nature of your own reality.” Sounds right.

(5) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDALS. The Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. Neither winner is a genre work.

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal 

  • October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 

  • The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)

(6) YOUNG XENA AND OTHER ROLES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Rose McIver. “Maltin on Movies: Rose McIver”.  Nearly all of her work is genre-related, including her current role in CBS’s Ghosts and her best-known role in IZombie.  Of course, being a Disney fan, Leonard Maltin made sure to ask about her work as Tinker Bell (spelled that way) in Once Upon a Time.

McIver has a good story about Lucy Lawless.  When she was nine she played young Xena while Lawless stepped away from her role during her pregnancy.  Lawless sent McIver several cassette tapes where she explained Xena’s story and gave her a chance to listen to the cadences of Lawless’s voice so she could do a better job of being a young Lucy Lawless.  McIver fondly remembered Lawless’s kindnesses over two decades later.

I thought this was a good interview.

(7) A VISIT TO THE INSTRUMENTALITY. Rich Horton tours the worldbuilding of Cordwainer Smith in “The Timeless Strangeness of ‘Scanners Live in Vain’” at Black Gate.

I recently had occasion to reread Cordwainer Smith’s Science Fiction Hall of Fame story “Scanners Live in Vain.” This was probably my fifth rereading over the years (soon followed by a sixth!) — it’s a story I’ve always loved, but for some reason this time through it struck me even more strongly. It is a truly great SF story; and I want to take a close look at what makes it work….

(8) PORT YOUR HELM. If you can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, you can certainly make an anime feature from Tolkien’s appendix. “’Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim’: Brian Cox, Miranda Otto Cast”Deadline has the story.

…The movie centers around the fate of the House of Helm Hammerhand, the mighty King of Rohan, a character from the J.R.R. Tolkien book’s appendix. Succession actor Cox will provide the voice of that protagonist.

The anime feature, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set 183 years before the events chronicled in the original trilogy of films. A sudden attack by Wulf, a clever and ruthless Dunlending lord seeking vengeance for the death of his father, forces Helm and his people to make a daring last stand in the ancient stronghold of the Hornburg – a mighty fortress that will later come to be known as Helm’s Deep. Finding herself in an increasingly desperate situation, Hera, the daughter of Helm, must summon the will to lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction.

Wise (A Walk in the Woods) will play Hammerhand’s daughter Hera; and Luke Pasqualino (Snowpiercer) will portray Wulf…

(9) DOCTOR DOOGIE HOWSER WHO? “Neil Patrick Harris Joins Doctor Who’ for 60th Anniversary Special” reports Yahoo! But what’s he doing on the show?

…“It’s my huge honour to open our studio doors for the mighty Neil Patrick Harris…but who, why, what is he playing? You’ll just have to wait,” [Russell T] Davies said in a statement. “But I promise you, the stuff we’re shooting now is off the scale. Doctor beware!”

Harris is currently filming his scenes for the special, though details about his role are being guarded safely behind the closed doors of the TARDIS…

Harris released a photo of him in character on Instagram.

(10) THREE MORE MONGOLIAN TRANSLATIONS. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] I stopped in at the really snazzy bookstore at the State Department Store today and found three more recent translations: Second Foundation (the Mongolian is literally more like “Second Storehouse/Coffers/Holdings”), Fahrenheit 451, and Zamyatin’s We (between Ahmet Ümit’s Istanbul Souvenir and Moby Dick).

(11) ESSAY: GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER’S WHEN GRAVITY FAILS

1986 [By Cat Eldridge.] No, When Gravity Fails wasn’t published this month. It was published in January of 1986 by Arbor House. It’s just one of my favorite novels. And it’s one of the few truly great genre fictions set in the Middle East or whatever you want to call that region. (Jon Courtney Grimwood’s Arabesk trilogy and G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen are two other great ones set there. Do suggest others ones to me please.) That When Gravity Fails is the first in the Marîd Audran series makes it even better.

SPOILER ALERT Effinger’s novel, set near the end of the 22nd Century in an Islamic world in the rise while the West is fast descending or so we are told, describes an ascendant Arabic/Muslim is Center around Marîd Audran, a young man whose has a deep phobia about getting his brain wired. Hence he’s always on the outside of society. He and his trans girlfriend sometimes get along, sometimes want to kill each other. END SPOILER

I re-read about a half a decade ago. I was pleasantly surprised that the Suck Fairy hadn’t trod her steel studded combat boots upon this work. It feels remarkably fresh and Effinger’s society still rings true. Like the settings in Grimwood’s Arabesk or Wilson’s Alif, it feels real. That a neat trick that not many genre writers accomplish when trying to create a different culture. 

I understand that Effinger said in interviews that a lot of his society there was based on his living in the New Orleans French Quarter. If that’s true, the sex, violence, and moral ambiguity shown in the novel suggests a lot about the French Quarter in the Eighties! 

A note for y’all to consider. Most reviewers consider it a cyberpunk novel. I do not. It’s very good SF novel but the personality chips just don’t feel cyberpunkish to me. Neither the Arabesk trilogy or Alif is cyberpunk either.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 16, 1896 — Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 “First Contact” novella, a 1996 Retro Hugo-winner, one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 16, 1924 — Faith Domergue. Dr. Ruth Adams in the classic Fifties film This Island Earth. She has a number of later genre roles, Professor Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jill Rabowski in Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man) and Dr. Marsha Evans in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet. She amazingly did no genre television acting. (Died 1999.)
  • Born June 16, 1938 — Joyce Carol Oates, 84. To my utter surprise, she’s won a World Fantasy Award for a short story, “Fossil-Figures”. And though I didn’t think of her as a horror writer, she’s won five, yes five, Stoker Awards.  Her short fiction, which is legion, is stellar. I recommend her recent Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense collection . 
  • Born June 16, 1939 — David McDaniel. A prolific writer of The Man from U.N.C.LE. novels penning seven of them, with such names as The Vampire Affair and The  Hallow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two which I must find. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director, writing various APAs and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” which is to say he financially support the Club. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 16, 1940 — Carole Ann Ford, 82. Best known for her roles as Susan Foreman in Doctor Who, and as Bettina in of The Day of the Triffids. Ford appeared in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born June 16, 1957 — Ian Buchanan, 65. Best remembered as Dick Tremayne on Twin Peaks. He’s done one-offs on the first Flash series, Quantum Leap, voice roles on GargoylesBatman: The Brave and the BoldBatman Beyond and Justice LeagueCharmed and Stargate SG-1
  • Born June 16, 1972 — Andy Weir, 50. His debut novel, The Martian, was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal”  which is only available as an Audible audiobook. Project Hail Mary is nominated for the Hugo Award this year. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater is based on a gag I bet every comics reader has thought of at some point.
  • Bizarro finds it’s time to have that discussion when little robots wonder where they came from.
  • Close to Home overhears what the next thing is that a kaiju wants to eat.

(14) VOYAGE CONTINUES WITH A NEW PILOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Randy Milholland, who has just taken over Popeye from 95-year-old Hy Eisman.  Cavna explains that Milholland is trying to preserve Popeye’s noble spirit and champion of the underdog while making Popeye a GenXer and Olive Oyl a MIllennial. “Popeye is getting a makeover at age 93”.

…Today, he thinks characters like Olive Oyl, as shaped long ago by Segar and writer Tom Sims, can speak to modern audiences. He notes that their Olive was outspoken and in your face. “She was never the damsel in distress in the comics.” He says her stance was: “I’m here and I will fight either at Popeye’s side or I will get in front of him.”

All these characters have flaws — and Popeye’s father, Poopdeck Pappy, “is a flaw on his own,” Milholland notes with a grin — but Popeye and Olive are the types to “find their moral centers” when needed.

Milholland likes to play with character faces and shapes, including the antagonistic witch the Sea Hag and the magical pet Eugene the Jeep. He enjoys designing the ballet of fisticuffs that flows across the page. Yet, for all the enduring dynamics of “Popeye,” Milholland comes back to valuing the familial heart that beats at the center of the strip….

(15) DINO MIGHT. Did you ever ask yourself “Why Does Batman have a T-Rex in the Batcave?” MSN.com’s Aman Singh did.

Debuting in 1943, the Batcave is a fascinating place that holds many mementos to Batman’s long history. The Caped Crusader’s lair features many interesting items such a giant penny and a large replica of Joker’s playing card. Though some may say it’s ridiculous, the cave is a reflection of Batman’s character evolution. Despite going through many changes over the years and different iterations across creative teams, one of the few items that remains constant is the iconic T-Rex prop. The origins for this unusual memento go way back into Batman’s formative years….

(16) NINEFOX GAMBIT TRPG ON ITS WAY. Yoon Ha Lee has designed an RPG for his Machineries of Empire universe.

(17) ONE THUMB DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This reviewer pretty much hates Kyra Sedgwick‘s directorial premier, indie feature film Space Oddity. I’ve seen others reviews that were kinder to it. Me? I have no clue. “Space Oddity Review: Kyra Sedgwick’s Sexless, Spaceless Rom-Com” by Samantha Bergeson at IndieWire.

….But the film heavy-handedly relies on a climate change component to beat people over the head with a bouquet of reasons why the world as we know it is dying. True, but this film makes a good reason for why it should.

At one point, Alex angrily lectures a mirror: “I hope you all had a good time at the farewell party for the tigers and the lions!” And no, he is not talking about Detroit teams finishing their seasons. It is hysterical in the best way. “I’m going to Mars!” is Alex’s refrain in “Space Oddity,” and he even says it to himself — “over and out.”….

(18) BUGS, MR. RICO. ZILLIONS OF ‘EM. “Spilling the Tea: Insect DNA Shows Up in World’s Top Beverage” is the jolly news from The Scientist.

How do you monitor which species live in an area? In addition to traditional ecological tools such as camera traps, researchers have reported new methods in recent years that allow them to detect minute traces of DNA known as environmental DNA, or eDNA, that animals leave behind in water and even air. In a study published June 15 in Biology Letters, a group reports picking up eDNA from a new source: dried plant material. The team purchased tea from grocery stores, and were able to detect hundreds of species of arthropods in just one bag….

TS: Was there anything about the results of this study that surprised you? 

HK: What really surprised me was the high diversity we detected. . . . We took one tea bag, and . . . I think it was from 100 [or] 150 milligrams of dried plant material, we extracted DNA. And we found in green tea up to 400 species of insects in a single tea bag. . . . That really surprised me. And the reason probably is that this tea, it’s ground to a relatively fine powder. So the eDNA [from all parts of the tea field] gets distributed.  

(19) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. The Scientist reports on evidence that the “Black Death Likely Originated in Central Asia”.

In the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains in what is now Kyrgyzstan, tombstones in the Kara-Djigach cemetery with Syriac inscriptions showed that the village’s death rate skyrocketed over a two-year period. Phil Slavin, a historian at the University of Stirling in Scotland, says that “out of a total of 467 stones that are precisely dated to the period between 448 and 1345, 118 actually turned out to be dated to the years 1338 [and] 1339.”…

(20) A CLOSER LOOK. “NASA’s Perseverance rover begins key search for life on Mars” reports Nature. “Rolling up an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater, the rover starts crucial rock sampling.”

More than 15 months after landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally begun its hunt for ancient life in earnest.

On 28 May, Perseverance ground a 5-centimetre-wide circular patch into a rock at the base of what was once a river delta in the crater. This delta formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river deposited layers of sediment into Jezero, and it is the main reason that NASA sent the rover there. On Earth, river sediment is usually teeming with life.

Images of the freshly ground spot show small sediment grains, which scientists are hoping will contain chemical or other traces of life. Poet William Blake’s “‘To see a world in a grain of sand’ comes to mind,” wrote Sanjeev Gupta, a planetary geologist at Imperial College London, on Twitter.

The rover will spend the next few months exploring the Jezero delta, while mission scientists decide where they want to drill and extract rock samples. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to retrieve those samples and fly them back to Earth for study, no earlier than 2033, in the first-ever sample return from Mars….

(21) DEL TORO OPENS HIS CABINET. Guillermo Del Toro and Netflix have shared the first teaser trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, an eight-episode horror anthology featuring original plots and adaptations of short stories. No release date has been set.

The maestro of horror – Guillermo Del Toro – presents 8 blood-curdling tales of horror. This anthology of sinister stories is told by some of today’s most revered horror creators, including the directors of The Babadook, Splice, Mandy, and many more.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Jurassic World: Dominion Pitch Meting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode says that neither the producer or the screenwriter can remember the names of the characters Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt play so a quick Wikipedia search is in order. Also, when the producer learns that several characters from Jurassic Park have come back, he asks, “Is there any other way to make money? We’re rapidly running out of iconic characters to bring back!”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rich Horton, Ferret Bueller, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/7/22 Head Like A Scroll, Pixeled Like Your Soul

(1) ARRIVAL. “On Coming to Ursula K. Le Guin in My Own Time” at Literary Hub, an excerpt from Amal El-Mohtar’s introduction to Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin.

… I took Le Guin for granted. When she died in 2018, I could have fit the span of my life inside hers almost three times. She had always been there, like a mountain, or the sun, and it was easy to fall into the certainty that she always would be. I was unfamiliar with her most celebrated works—The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, books by which she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel, and then, five years later, the first woman to have won it twice.

I had assumed, with all the oblivious confidence of youth, that I’d get to read them while she was still with us and talk to her about them. I imagined that I would meet her one day, under ideal conditions that would make me seem interesting enough for conversation, and ask her about poetry, about being a middle-aged woman in the 1970s, and about science fiction. Her passing hit me harder than I expected, considering my slender acquaintance with her work, but that was the thing about Le Guin: to have lost her was to have lost a world I longed to visit….

(2) ROMANTIC NOVEL AWARDS. The Romantic Novelists Association announced the winners of the 2022 Romantic Novel Awards in London on March 7. The awards celebrate excellence in romantic fiction in all its forms. The complete list is here. In the RNA category of genre interest the winner is —

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award

  • A Marvellous Light, Freya Marske, Pan Macmillan

(3) HIDDEN TREASURE. [Item by Bill Burns.] The BBC Archive started a new YouTube channel a couple of months ago, and there are some interesting SF items: BBC Archive – YouTube. As well as Star Wars, Doctor Who, and other media items, there’s these more mainstream pieces from broadcast programs:

  • “Arthur C Clarke predicts the future” (September 1964)
  • “Douglas Adams on HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY game” (1984)
  • “ISAAC ASIMOV’s 3 laws of ROBOTICS” (1965)

(4) SCREENTIME MACHINE. For the first five seconds I thought it was a Monty Python sketch. But no – these are all legit sff writers on a 1979 episode of the BBC’s Book Programme trying to answer the question “What is SCIENCE FICTION?”

Robert Robinson presents a science-fiction themed edition of The Book Programme. What constitutes science-fiction, is there room in the genre for the metaphysical or spiritual, or should writers slavishly stick to the scientific? What is to be made of the phenomenon that is the sci-fi convention – is there something unique to science fiction that inspires such devotion in its fans? And is all fiction slowly becoming science fiction? Taking part are: Douglas Adams, the author of the science-fiction comedy ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’; Harry Harrison, a prolific science fiction writer best known for his ‘Deathworld’, ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ and ‘Bill, the Galactic Hero’ novels; Peter Nicholls, the editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; and Ian Watson, whose book ‘The Jonah Kit’ won the British Science Fiction Association award for Best Novel and whose new book “God’s World” is reviewed here and forms the basis for the discussion.

(5) RELATED WORKS. Today, Cora Buhlert turns the Non-Fiction Spotlight on “Lovecraft in the 21st Century Dead, But Still Dreaming, edited by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm”.

…If you’re just joining us, the Non-Fiction Spotlights are a project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that came out in 2021 and are eligible for the 2022 Hugo Awards….

The subject of today’s Non-Fiction Spotlight is a collection of scholarly essays about H.P. Lovecraft entitled Lovecraft in the 21st Century: Dead, But Still Dreaming, edited by Antonio Alcala Gonzalez and Carl H. Sederholm….

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

Carl: I first became interested in Lovecraft because of references to him in popular culture. As I began to read more and more of his stories, I became fascinated by the ways his work continues to show up in everything from heavy metal music to board games to internet memes to television shows. What I didn’t know was that there were dozens of others having similar experiences. This book provides a glimpse at what others have discovered in their own journey through Lovecraft. I think anyone with an interest in Lovecraft, including SFF fans and Hugo voters, can discover just how far Lovecraft’s influence goes through a book like this. Even those who already have a firm grasp of Lovecraft should be able to find new insights and research opportunities here….

(6) NATURE CALLS. SF² Concatenation has just Tweeted an advance post of the first of its four “Best of Nature Futures” one-page short stories for this year: “Freemium: It’s no game” by Louis Evans.

When SETI detected an alien signal, they called Derek. Derek was a billionaire from designing computer games. He was bankrolling the search.

Soon – an impossibility in physics – Derek was in regular contact with the aliens. But eventually, there is a price….

(7) NEWBERY WINNER’S NEXT. In the Washington Post, Mary Quattlebaum interviews Newbery Award-winner Kelly Barnhill, whose new book The Ogress and the Orphans creates “a complex character that makes readers question the stereotype of ogres.” “In Kelly Barnhill’s new fantasy novel, no single hero can save the day”.

…A more fully formed story started to emerge in 2020. This original fairy tale explored both the conflict and the generosity she was seeing in the world around her. She noticed, for example, that throughout the pandemic, some people worked together to protect one another from the coronavirus, and others did not.

“I saw the power that one individual has to make something better for another,” she said.

A conversation with her “awesome and interesting” 10-year-old nieces also helped shape the story. The girls’ parents are philosophers. They study knowledge — how people think and reason and how they decide right from wrong. The girls thought that philosophy should also consider kindness and animals.

Barnhill listened. “The Ogress and the Orphans” probes what happens to people’s hearts and to the spirit of their communities when they give to others — or turn away. What happens when they respect and include others — or seek power over them?…

(8) WOOL GATHERING. At Bandcamp, Aidan Baker’s album “The Sheep Look Up” is intended as “a ‘soundtrack’ to John Brunner’s 1972 dystopian novel.” Baker is a Canadian musician “making experimental ambient music.”

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1968 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series has a fascinating Hugo history.

She won a Hugo the first time she was nominated, for the novella “Weyr Search” at Baycon (tied with Philip José Farmer’s “Riders of the Purple Wage”.) It was published in Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact, October 1967. It’s in A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury of the Fantastic anthology which was edited by Margaret Weis, available from the usual suspects at a very reasonable price. 

It would be the only win for the Dragonriders of Pern series but by far is not the only nomination for the series. 

Next up would be the “Dragonrider” novella which was nominated one year later at St. Louiscon. Three years later, her Dragonquest novel would get a nod at the first L.A. Con showing that Con had impeccable taste. And at Seacon ‘79, The White Dragon gets nominated. (I really love that novel.) The next L.A. Con would see another novel be nominated, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. (I’ve never heard of that one.) And the final nomination, also for a novel, was at MagiCon, for All the Weyrs of Pern.

The series did win a number of other awards including a Nebula for Dragonrider, a Ditmar and Gandalf for The White Dragon, a Balrog for Dragondrums and The Science Fiction Book Club’s Book of the Year Award for The Renegades of Pern. It is, after all, an expansive series.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1925 Richard Vernon. He is perhaps best remembered for playing the role of Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. His first genre role was Sir Edgar Hargraves in the Village of the Damned which was adapted from John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos.  He’s also in Goldfinger as Colonel Smithers. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 7, 1926 Alan Sues. Here for his outstanding performance in The Twilight Zone’s “The Masks” as Wilfred Harper, Jr., one of the most chilling scripts written for that series. He really didn’t have much of a genre history showing just otherwise on Wild Wild West and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch unless you want to include Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July where he played Scratcher the jealous Reindeer. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 7, 1942 Paul Preuss, 80. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular among the British ex-Pat community.  I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him. 
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 78. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013 at LoneStarCon 3.  He’s also an accomplished author and l know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now though I know I enjoyed what I read by him.
  • Born March 7, 1945 Elizabeth Moon, 77. I’ll let JJ have the say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them. But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly’, but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.” 
  • Born March 7, 1954 Elayne Pelz, 68. She is a member of LASFS (and officer) and of SCIFI who worked on myriad cons, mainly in art show and treasury.  She was married to famous SF fan Bruce Pelz and assumed leadership of Conagerie, the 2002 Westercon, upon Bruce’s death and the con was held successfully. She was the Chair of Loscon 20.
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 52. Best remembered  for The Mummy films which I really, really love (well the first two with her), and her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film which scores rather well – fifty-one percent — among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster. As of late, Weisz starred as Melina Vostokoff in the MCU film Black Widow.

(11) INSIDER TRADING. Gizmodo finds evidence of intergalactic smuggling: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Rare Merch Already on eBay”.

It’s only been a few days since Disney’s lavishly priced Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser attraction previewed for invited media, influencers, and guests—yet eBay listings are already being promoted for exclusive items from the experience. Some item postings even have timetables for guests who have yet to step onto the Halcyon ship but promise to bring back merch for sale.

A sign that this might be different from the usual hive of scum and villainy where merch-flippers tend to dwell is that the prices seem to reflect ways to offset the cost of the trip itself—or for those who got freebies to maybe even get on board again….

(12) 2021 WAS GOOD FOR ONE THING. Yahoo! reports “Guillermo del Toro is really not into the Oscars’ new format”.

…Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro has brought up another point of contention: The new format for the upcoming awards ceremony.

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts recently unveiled its new format, which involves pre-taping a select eight categories and announcing the winners in a pre-show. The categories moved to this lower-tier position include Best Production Design, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Sound, Documentary Short, Animated Short and Live-Action Short. After the last couple of arduous years in the film industry, del Toro thinks this change could not come at a worse time.

“The nominees that we have here, most of the ones we have here tonight, [worked] against many, many difficult odds [to get here], and we don’t do [films] alone,” del Toro said while receiving the Hollywood Critics Association’s Filmmaking Achievement Award. “We do them together, and the people that made them with us did it risking everything in a pandemic, showing up, making the day, somewhat in a miracle.

“I must say, if any year was the year to think about it, this is not the year not to hear their names live at the Oscars. This is the year to sing it, and sing it loud,” Del Toro continued. “We shouldn’t do it this year; we shouldn’t do it ever, but not this year… And we must say this… 2021 was a f**king great year for movies.”…

(13) TIME’S THREE. “Take three historical figures, throw them together in some situation, and tell us the story that ensues.” That simple description was enough make a success of Fantastic Books’ Kickstarter campaign, fully funding the anthology Three Time Travelers Walk Into…, which will appear in June. “It pulls together the adventuring of such disparate figures as Julia Child, Jesus Christ, Michael Jackson, and Vlad the Impaler (well… not all in one story).”

Edited by Michael A. Ventrella, the contributing authors are Eric Avedissian, Adam-Troy Castro, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gregory Frost, David Gerrold, Henry Herz, Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin, Heather McKinney, James A. Moore, Jody Lynn Nye, L. Penelope, Louise Piper, Hildy Silverman, S.W. Sondheimer, Allen Steele, and Lawrence Watt-Evans.

(14) YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU. Gizmodo noticed that “A Mars Rock Appears to Be Stuck in Perseverance Rover’s Wheel”. (Image at the link.)

NASA’s Perseverance rover has involuntarily adopted a traveling companion, in the form of a stone that’s lodged in one of its six aluminum wheels.

An image captured by Perseverance’s Onboard Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera, or Hazcam for short, shows the interloper sitting on the interior of a wheel. The rover must’ve kicked up the rock while exploring Jezero Crater, where it’s been operating since it landed on Mars in February 2021.

The picture was taken on February 25, 2022, but a similar image taken five days later showed the rock still firmly in place. The stone, it would appear, is now a stubborn fixture of the $2.2 billion rover…. 

(15) RETURN TO SENDER. “Dreaming of Suitcases in Space”. Hard to believe, but the New York Times, not Philip K. Dick, came up with that title. “A California start-up company believes it can one day speed delivery of important items by storing them in orbit.”

…Inversion is building earth-orbiting capsules to deliver goods anywhere in the world from outer space. To make that a reality, Inversion’s capsule will come through the earth’s atmosphere at about 25 times as fast as the speed of sound, making the parachute essential for a soft landing and undisturbed cargo.

Inversion is betting that as it becomes cheaper to fly to space, government agencies and companies will want to not only send things to orbit but also bring items back to earth….

…What Inversion is trying to do is not easy. Designing a vehicle for re-entry is a different engineering challenge than sending things up to space. When a capsule enters the atmosphere from space, it is traveling at such high speeds that there is the danger of burning up — a huge risk for human travelers and precious nonhuman cargo alike.

Seetha Raghavan, a professor in the University of Central Florida’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, said it would be even more difficult to handle the heat, vibration and deceleration of the capsule when the vehicle size shrank.

“It all becomes harder when you have a smaller item to control,” Ms. Raghavan said.

Inversion’s plan for capsules in orbit raises questions about whether it will contribute to congestion in space, already a problem with the megaconstellations of satellites. And the abundance of satellites interfering with observations of planets, stars and other celestial bodies has been a common complaint among astronomers.

But Inversion said it was using materials to make its capsules significantly less reflective to decrease visual pollution. In addition, the company said its capsule would come with systems to avoid debris and collisions in orbit….

(16) CUBISM. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece commemorating the Dungeons & Dragon‘s gelatinous cube.

According to Patreon, “I listen to ‘Not Another D&D Podcast’ while I draw these days, and they were coincidentally fighting an ooze monster during this drawing (not a Gelatinous Cube, though. It was a Juiblex).”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/22 Paradise By The Pixel Light

(1) CYBERSTALKING. Patrick Tomlinson has written a 27-tweet thread about the cyberstalking campaign against him, daily threats, invasions of privacy, fake delivery orders, and email accounts impersonating him to send offensive messages to people. His efforts to learn the identities of the stalkers were contested by Cloudflare and a California court refused to require them to be disclosed. Thread starts here.

The pain caused to him and his family has been mocked by the right-wing comics site Bounding Into Comics, and in numerous tweets and videos by Jon Del Arroz.

(2) ON THE FRONT. The Avocado revisits the book cover art – including some international editions – on volumes of Isaac Asimov’s famed trilogy: “Judging a Book by its Covers: The Foundation Trilogy”.

Del Rey, 1986

Holy smokes, these are beautiful. Three significant points in the Foundation era, illustrated in stunning detail and each with a representative character. Hari Seldon sits on a throne of carefully calculated order. The Mule takes a wrecking ball to the plan and lounges amid the ruins. And Arkady Darell strides through the world that was reborn from that destruction, as nature reclaims the Empire’s decaying vestiges. I love these covers. Bravo!

Huh? Doesn’t the Mule kind of look like a clown here? That’s right! It was Magnifico the whole time, making the Mule an unusually cerebral addition to the hallowed Scary Clown Hall of Fame. Pennywise can eat your soul, but the Mule could make you happy about it….

This is apparently the second in an occasional series. The first installment was: ”Judging a Book By its Covers: Podkayne of Mars”.

(3) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. The Hollywood Reporter can hear the cash register still ringing like mad: “Box Office: ‘Spider-Man’ Swings Past ‘Jurassic World’ on All-Time List”.

No Way Home made headlines on the global stage as it passed up 2019’s The Lion King ($1.66 billion) and 2015’s Jurassic World ($1.67 billion) to become the No. 6 film of all time worldwide with $1.69 billion in worldwide ticket sales through Sunday, not adjusted for inflation.

In North America, Sony and Marvel’s No Way Home returned to No. 1 in its sixth weekend with an estimated $14.1 million from 3,705 theaters for a domestic total of $721 million, the fourth-best showing of all time.

(4) SCOTS TAPING. Do you know where your locations are being shot? “Glasgow becomes Gotham for Batgirl as Scottish film industry booms” says the Guardian.

Icicles were glued on to vintage streetlamps as Glasgow was transformed into a wintry Gotham City over the weekend, as Batgirl became the latest blockbuster to take advantage of Scotland’s versatile urban locations and glorious scenery.

Last summer the city was draped in US flags and bunting to simulate a New York parade for the latest Indiana Jones movie, while the stars of the Amazon Prime series Good Omens 2 have been spotted recently in Edinburgh.

For Screw, the flagship new-year drama by STV Studios for Channel 4, the inside of Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall – now host to a £11.9m television studio jointly funded by the Scottish government and Glasgow city council – was transformed into a prison wing….

(5) IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR IT TICK. Citizen is ready to sell fans Star Wars Watches, in a variety of franchise themes. Here are two examples, Boba Fett, and Rebel Pilot (each marked down to a mere $280!) There are 18 altogether.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1952 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Seventy years ago this month, Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man is first published in three parts starting in the January 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. Although he had been writing short fiction since 1939, this was Bester’s first novel.

The novel is dedicated to Galaxy‘s editor, H. L. Gold, who made suggestions during its writing. Bester’s preferred title was Demolition! but Gold convinced him it was not a good one. Anyone know where the title came from? 

The Demolished Man would be published in hardcover by Shasta Publishers the next year. Shasta Publishers was formed in 1947 by a group of Chicago area fans.

Critics at the time really loved it. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas in their Recommended Reading column for The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy said it was “a taut, surrealistic melodrama [and] a masterful compounding of science and detective fiction.” And Groff Conklin in his Galaxy 5 Star Shelf column exclaimed that it is “a magnificent novel as fascinating a study of character as I have ever read.”

As you know The Demolished Man would win the first Hugo for Best Novel at PhilCon II. It was also nominated for the International Fantasy Award. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911 CL Moore. Author, and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. They collaborated in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and I believe that the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of SugarfootMaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking the usual suspects , Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind (2010). Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1937 Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of GenieBewitchedThe Flying NunMission: ImpossibleKolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 78. He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.  He’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1949 John Belushi. No, he was not in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here.  (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 55. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a jazz singer in the “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash.
  • Born January 24, 1985 Remi Ryan, 37. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room eight years ago and she retired from acting not long after.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) MARVEL LOADS UP FOR FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. Marvel Comics will celebrate Free Comic Book Day on May 7 this year with three free one-shots. The second title to be announced is Free Comic Book Day 2022: Marvel’s Voices #1, an introduction to the critically acclaimed Marvel’s Voices series, which spotlights creators and characters across Marvel’s diverse and evolving universe. The book will include seven Marvel’s Voices stories, spotlighting creators and characters from different cultures, communities, and identities.

 In addition to a new story starring Moon Girl by writer Nadia Shammas and artist Luciano Vecchio, the issue will reprint these stories from other Marvel’s Voices one-shots:

Writer Evan Narcisse and artist Jahnoy Lindsay’s tale showcasing the heroic journey of Brother Voodoo from MARVEL’S VOICES (2020) #1

Acclaimed artist Jeffrey Veregge’s showcase of Marvel’s greatest indigenous heroes from MARVEL’S INDIGENOUS VOICES (2020) #1

Oscar winning writer John Ridley and artist Olivier Coipel’s action packed Miles Morales adventure from MARVEL’S VOICES: LEGACY (2021) #1

Writer Alyssa Wong and superstar artist Whilce Portacio’s Wave and Bishop teamup story from MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY (2021) #1

Artist Luciano Vecchio’s rousing exploration of the history of LGBTQ+ representation in Marvel Comics from MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE (2021) #1

Writer/artist Leo Romero’s celebration of Brazilian culture with the X-Men’s Shark-Girl from MARVEL’S VOICES: COMUNIDADES (2021) #1 by Leo Romero

(10) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST. The winners of the 2021 National Fantasy Fan Federation Short Story Contest have been announced.

First Prize ($50): “The Prudence of Silver,” by Sean Jones: A Swords and Sorcery “dungeon crawl,” with monsters, skeletons, high priests, and a small band of determined heroes to penetrate the depths and accomplish their dire mission. But things are not always what they seem, and, in war, who is really a “good guy?”

Second Prize ($30): “Breaking Good,” by Adrian Rayner: A “Noir” style conflict between a publisher and an extortionist. When the armbreakers are making demands, whom can anyone trust?

Third Prize ($20): “Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair,” by Markus Nyström: A space battle goes badly — as badly as it could conceivably go — and our hero volunteers to salvage the situation in the only way possible. Will he succeed?

Honorable Mention: “The Landing at the Somme,” by Patrick McKay: What if the Martian war machines from “War of the Worlds” had landed in the middle of one of the climactic battles of World War One? What better time to attack, than while earthlings make war on each other? 

(11) CRICKETS WILL BE CHIRPING. Netflix has announced that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is coming in December.

Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro reinvents Carlo Collodi’s classic tale of the wooden marionette who is magically brought to life in order to mend the heart of a grieving woodcarver named Geppetto. This whimsical, stop-motion musical directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson follows the mischievous and disobedient adventures of Pinocchio in his pursuit of a place in the world.

(12) JWST IS ON STATION. “New space telescope reaches final stop million miles out” reports AP News.

The world’s biggest, most powerful space telescope arrived at its observation post 1 million miles from Earth on Monday, a month after it lifted off on a quest to behold the dawn of the universe.

On command, the James Webb Space Telescope fired its rocket thrusters for nearly five minutes to go into orbit around the sun at its designated location, and NASA confirmed the operation went as planned.

The mirrors on the $10 billion observatory still must be meticulously aligned, the infrared detectors sufficiently chilled and the scientific instruments calibrated before observations can begin in June.

But flight controllers in Baltimore were euphoric after chalking up another success.

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed a category take a bite out of a contestant on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Writers do Right

Answer: This author of vampire novels donated $1 each from the sale of “The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner” to the Red Cross.

Wrong question: Who is Anne Rice?

Right question: Who is Stephenie Meyer?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/22 What Is The Use Of A Scroll, Thought Alice, Without Pixels Or Conversation?

DECEASED AT DC. Nerdist plans to be there when “DC Comics Kills the Justice League”. Will you be invited to the funeral?

Twenty-five years ago this year, Superman died at the hands of Doomsday. And the issue in which he died, Superman #75, became iconic. Now, Superman is dying again. And in another 75th issue. But this time, so are Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League. DC Comics has announced that issue #75 of the current Justice League book will be its last. And it will feature almost the entire team dying on a mission. Writer Joshua Williamson (Batman) and artist Rafa Sandoval (The Flash) have the somber duty of laying the world’s greatest heroes to rest.

According to the official description from DC Comics, a new Dark Army, featuring the DCU’s greatest villains, has formed on the edges of the Multiverse. And they pull together the best and most powerful heroes in an epic war to push the darkness back. In the end, the Dark Army kills the Justice League. And with only one survivor left to warn the remaining heroes of Earth about what is coming for them.

(2) VOICE. Morgan Hazelwood kicks off a series of posts about what she learned about writing at the Worldcon. “Finding The Authorial Voice: A DisCon III Panel”. When you’re looking to get published, people sure talk a lot about your ‘voice’. But what exactly is it? And how can you change yours?”  (Also a YouTube video.)

What is Authorial Voice?

It’s a hard thing to define, but the panelists did their best.

  • A thread that is in all your work, so people can identify you as the author, no matter the subject. It’s what makes you sound like you. (Jo Walton/Cass Morris)
  • What unites all your work (JT Greathouse)
  • What sells you to the reader – often why you read an author. New voices on old stories can carry the story (Walter Jon Williams)
  • A forcefulness of writer personality (Usman T. Malik)

(3) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 49 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Not Sufficiently Sassy”, John Coxon is demanding, Alison Scott joined a Discord, and Liz Batty knows a lot about the WSFS Constitution.

We criticize Amazon for the way they treated Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, listen to Hugo, Girl, and chat about the latest Worldcon gossip.

(4) GASBAG FROM HOLLYWOOD. “Tom Cruise movie producers sign Axiom deal for space production studio” says CNBC.

The producers of Tom Cruise’s future space movie on Thursday announced plans to attach a studio to the International Space Station in development by Houston-based company Axiom.

U.K.-based studio Space Entertainment Enterprise, co-founded by producers Elena and Dmitry Lesnevsky, contracted Axiom to build the module. Called SEE-1, the module would be “the world’s ?rst content and entertainment studios and multipurpose arena in space.”

SEE-1 is scheduled to launch in December 2024. It will attach to Axiom’s first module that the company plans to connect to its space station in September 2024….

… The SEE-1 module is an inflatable module, according to Axiom, which will have a diameter of nearly 20 feet. Using inflatable modules is an increasingly popular approach of private companies developing space stations to build large living areas, due to the advantage of launching in a smaller form factor and then expanding to a greater volume once in space.

(5) COZY BUT WEIRD. At CrimeReads, Amanda Flower recommends her favorite paranormal cozy mysteries: “5 Paranormal Cozies to Help You Escape Everyday Reality”.

… I start out my list with an older title, but a personal favorite, A Potion To Die For by Heather Blake. In this novel, Carly Bell Hartwell is the owner of Little Shop of Potions, a magical potion shop specializing in love potions in Hitching Post, Alabama. Carly’s potions are popular in the town. Maybe a little too popular as a soothsayer recently predicted that one of the married couple in Hitching Post was headed for divorce. Now, it seems that every married couple in town wants a love potion from Carly to save their marriage. To make matters worse, Carly finds a dead man in her shop clutching one of her potion bottles in his hands. Now, she is a suspect for a murder that could send her to prison and ruin her business for good….

(6) G.M. FORD OBIT. Mystery novelist and raconteur G.M. Ford died on December 1, 2021, says Shelf Awareness. His agent, Lisa Erbach Vance of the Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency made the announcement. Ford was 76.

Ford’s first novel, Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca?, introduced the irreverent Seattle private eye Leo Waterman and was a finalist for the Anthony, Shamus and Lefty Awards. The Waterman series extended through 11 more books, the most recent of which, Heavy on the Dead, was published in 2019. His work also included the six-book Frank Corso mystery series and several stand-alone novels. His wife, author and photographer Skye Moody, said that “he will live on in his many books and in our broken hearts.”

(7) BOFILL OBIT. Architect Ricardo Bofill died January 14. The New York Times tells why his work might look familiar to sff fans: “Ricardo Bofill, Architect of Otherworldly Buildings, Dies at 82”

…Another, known as Les Espaces d’Abraxas, reinvented and repurposed classical elements in unsettling, otherworldly combinations; it features vast columns made not of stone but of reflective glass. That project was often described as a kind of “Versailles for the people.” But its jarring juxtapositions made it seem dystopian — and it served as the perfect backdrop for Terry Gilliam’s 1985 movie, “Brazil,” and the last of the “Hunger Games” movies.

… He founded his firm, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura, in Barcelona in 1963. In 1975, the firm — and Mr. Bofill — moved to La Fábrica, a 32,000-square-foot former cement factory outside Barcelona, which he spent decades turning into a habitable ruin.

Five years earlier he had proposed a housing project for Madrid called the City in the Space, an endlessly expandable structure with turrets and crenelations and, in some renderings, a crazy quilt of colorful patterns….

… In an unexpected twist, Mr. Bofill’s older buildings found new fans in the 21st century. “Westworld,” the HBO sci-fi series, was shot in part at La Fábrica, and “Squid Game,” the Korean TV juggernaut, featured sets that closely resembled La Muralla Roja.

Those Bofill buildings and others became familiar Instagram backdrops — or in the words of Manuel Clavel Rojo, a Spanish architect and educator, “His buildings became pop icons at the very end of his career.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1959 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  Sixty-three years ago this evening, a new genre anthology series called Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond first aired on ABC where it would run for three years. (If you saw it in syndication, it was called just One Step Beyond.) It was created by Merwin Gerard who previously had done nothing at all of a genre nature. He was associate producer here with it actually being produced by Collier Young. 

Unlike other anthology programs of the time, this series was  presented in the form of docudramas. Mind you, the stories depicted hewed close to known urban legends or were remakes of let’s call them horror films on the light side. Ninety-six half-hour episodes would be filmed during its. When it was cancelled, it was replaced by The Next Step Beyond which ran for one season of twenty-five episodes, fourteen of which were remakes of the first series.

John Newland, the original series host, and Gerard were involved in an attempt in the late Seventies to revive it. It failed miserably lasting but twenty-five episodes. As Newland stated later, “The remakes were a bad idea, we thought we could fool the audience, and we soon learned we couldn’t.” 

They are legally available on YouTube now so you can see the first episode, “The Bride Possessed” here if you desire. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the realm of the usual suspects, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF as he really preferred Westerns. Lots of them. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 88. The Fourth Doctor and still my favorite Doctor. My favorite story? The “Talons of Weng Chiang” with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worst of the stories were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. And yes, he turns up briefly in the present era of Who rather delightfully. Before being the Doctor he had a turn as Sherlock Holmes In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and though not genre, he played Rasputin early in his career in “Nicholas and Alexandra”! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad,The MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech-made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of ten percent among audience reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 64. Writer, and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas English Department, which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally, I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. She’s well-stocked at the usual digital suspects. Oh, and she has a very cool website — https://kijjohnson.com/.
  • Born January 20, 1981 Izabella Miko, 41. She was in The Clash of Titans as Athena. Why Goddess tell would anyone remake such a perfect film? She also had a recurring role on the very short-lived The Cape series as Raia, and she had a recurring role as Carrie on Deadwood
  • Born January 20, 1983 Svetlana Viktorovna Khodchenkova, 39. I think her only SFF role was in the most excellent Hugh Jackman-led The Wolverine in which she had the dual role of Dr. Green who becomes The Viper. Marvel fans will recognize that this is a new version of the character. But most of her career involves Russian-titled productions so I’m not sure whether any of them are SFF…

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows the effects of being bitten by a radioactive insect are unpredictable.
  • Whereas Baldo shows one reason why the future is unpredictable.
  • Randall Munroe thinks the process was more complex than we assume.

(11) THINKING AHEAD. Isaac Arthur’s latest video is about the SF trope of telepathy and what if science had a fix?

Telepathy and other psychic abilities have often been investigated by science, but could the future offer humanity such talents, and is science they key to unlocking or creating them?

(12) AVOIDING ACCIDENTS. “Guillermo del Toro Hasn’t Used a Real Gun on Set Since 2007: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Necessary Anymore’” – so he told a Directors Roundtable reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

…After an on-set accident involving a prop gun led to the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” last month, the use of guns on film sets has been a hotly debated topic in Hollywood. Several A-list actors and directors have pledged to stop working on films that use real guns. Guillermo del Toro would join them, but he has not fired a gun on one of his sets in over a decade.

Appearing alongside Jane Campion, Pedro Almodóvar, Kenneth Branagh, Asghar Farhadi, and Reinaldo Marcus Green as part of The Hollywood Reporter’s Director’s Roundtable, del Toro took a strong stance against the use of real guns in filmmaking. The Oscar-winning director said that he has not fired a real gun on set “since 2007 or 2008.” According to del Toro, the decision began as a practical necessity, but later became his preferred approach…

(13) SKIDMARKS IN SPACE. Someone has cleverly spliced together a history of “Star Trek Warp Jumps (1979-2021)”.

One of the hallmarks of Star Trek’s visual aesthetic is the classic jump to warp speed. Audiences were treated to the first version of the warp jump in 1979 with the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In this video, we will be doing a survey of how the warp jump effect changed over the years. Note: The Kelvin timeline and other alternate continuities are not included in this overview.

(14) RICH SOIL. “Curiosity rover finds ‘tantalizing’ signs of ancient Mars life”MSN Kids has the story.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found some interesting organic compounds on the Red Planet that could be signs of ancient Mars life, but it will take a lot more work to test that hypothesis.

Some of the powdered rock samples that Curiosity has collected over the years contain organics rich in a type of carbon that here on Earth is associated with life, researchers report in a new study. 

But Mars is very different from our world, and many Martian processes remain mysterious. So it’s too early to know what generated the intriguing chemicals, study team members stressed….    

(15) THE FOURS BEWITCHOO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you get bored with regular Lego Star Wars, you can play in “mumble mode!”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/22 In Five Years, The Pixel Will Be Obsolete, Said The Salesman

(1) MORE AMAZON SHENANIGANS. Nick Cole says Galaxy’s Edge had its account nuked by Amazon over the weekend. The action has since been undone. “CTRL ALT Revolt FLASH REPORT”. He plays it the way his readers like to hear it.

Spent all weekend dealing with a situation on Amazon. Saturday night we got a letter saying our Galaxy’s Edge account was terminated and we were permanently banned.

This morning the books are back up. Was it a purge, a hacker running amok, the AI screwing up… I have thoughts.

But for now this is my official statement :

“We don’t know anything concrete. This happened on Saturday night on a 3 day weekend.

That sounds suspiciously like a hacker got into Amazon. Also, a few other people have had it happen to them.

But the times are crazy due to the leftists strangling everyone’s small business and acting like some kind of woke mafia within major corporations and so it must be considered, that until Amazon says different, this was some kind of Purge.

We are hoping Tuesday morning sees a resolution. Until then our cash flow has been destroyed, our customers are upset, and potential new customers are being lost forever….

(2) LIFE INFLUENCES ON LEM. [Item by Tom Becker.] Two recent books by Polish authors make clear how much Lem’s wartime experience weighed on him. In Agnieszka Gajewska’s deeply researched “Holocaust and the Stars,” translated by Katarzyna Gucio (Routledge) … and “Lem: A Life Out of This World,” a lively, genial biography by Wojciech Orlinski, which has yet to be translated into English. “A Holocaust Survivor’s Hardboiled Science Fiction” in The New Yorker. [Note: The Latin “l” is used in Lem’s first name because WordPress does not support the special character.]

In “His Master’s Voice,” a 1968 sci-fi novel by the Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, a team of scientists and scholars convened by the American government try to decipher a neutrino signal from outer space. They manage to translate a fragment of the signal’s information, and a couple of the scientists use it to construct a powerful weapon, which the project’s senior mathematician fears could wipe out humanity. The intention behind the message remains elusive, but why would an advanced life-form have broadcast instructions that could be so dangerous?

Late one night, a philosopher on the team named Saul Rappaport, who emigrated from Europe in the last year of the Second World War, tells the mathematician about a time—“the year was 1942, I think”—when he nearly died in a mass execution…..

Privately, Lem told people that he had witnessed the executions described by his fictional character. “Dr. Rappaport’s adventure is my adventure, from Lwów 1941, after the German army entered—I was to be shot,” he wrote to his American translator Michael Kandel. When Orlinski asked Lem’s widow which elements in the scene were drawn from life, she replied, “All of them.”…

(3) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. You knew it all along – the creators of the term “squeecore” graduated from the “I made you look! I win!” school of clickbaiting. Whose graduates always try to get John Scalzi to say their names, or failing that, they announce to the world he paid some attention to them. Yay them.

And here’s that big, succulent dose of attention:

That was it. Show’s over.

(4) THE SOUND AND THE FURY. Or is it? Camestros Felapton is convinced there’s more candy left in that piñata, as he argues in “Yeah, but”.

I was going to write something else today but as squeecore arguments are still raging on my social media I wanted to pull out some of my own views on where the discussion is, partly because there’s a lot of directions the arguments are going.

      1. Is there’s a dominant style in SFF in the sense of the works that critical buzz and award nominations? Yes, so long as we a generous with both “dominant” and “style” but it is fairly nebulous (as was New Wave for example.
      2. Is there a dominant style in SFF (in the sense above) that is so ubiquotous that is pushes out nearly everything else? No unless you define “style” so expansively that it can’t not to be true i.e. the claim becomes tautological.

He reaches number eight before he’s done.

(But wait! If you use a sufficiently high-powered vacuum, there might be more candy yet! Camestros reacts to Reddit’s discussion of the topic: “A log entry in the voyage of genre name looking for a genre”.)

(5) I SEE A LITTLE SILHOUETTO.  Meanwhile, Doris V. Sutherland has interesting points to make in “’Squeecore’ and the Cartoon Mode in SF/F” – thoughts that deserve to be discussed without the handicap of being attached to this arbitrary term.

…There’s an old rule in animation that a cartoon character should have a readily-identifiable silhouette — think of Mickey Mouse’s ears or Bart Simpson’s spiky hair. In the strongest examples these silhouettes incorporate not only the character’s body and/or clothes but also a posture that tells us something of their personality: Bugs Bunny casually leaning back as he chomps on a carrot; Spongebob excitedly waving his arms about. This is a visual counterpart to the old rule in writing that says you should hook the reader with the first line.

With that in mind, take a look at the opening line to Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, the novel about the teenage lesbian necromancer who likes comic books and porn mags:

In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!— Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.

Succinct, funny, comprehensible in a flash — this is the prose equivalent of a cartoon character’s silhouette.

Can these stories, as wholes, be described as cartoonish? That’s more debatable. The purest examples of the aesthetic I’m talking about are in short stories like Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s “Fandom for Robots” and “A Guide For Working Breeds” or Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please”, each of which uses its cartoon-character-silhouette as the basis for its entire narrative trajectory. This is harder to sustain in a full-length novel. There are novels built wholly around the cartoon mode, but they fit into a narrow genre of giddy, goofy comedies (David Wong’s Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick is a good example)….

(6) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. In case you were still wondering what hopepunk is: “The sci-fi genre offering radical hope for living better” at BBC Culture.

…In the midst of current political, economic and environment uncertainty, many of us may have noticed a tendency to fall into cynicism and pessimism. Could hopepunk be the perfect antidote?

If you feel wary of optimism, you are far from alone. Writers and philosophers across human history have had ambivalent views of hope. These contradictory opinions can be seen in the often opposing interpretations of the Pandora myth, first recorded by Hesiod around 700 BC. In his poem Works and Days, Hesiod describes how Zeus created Pandora as a punishment to humanity, following Prometheus’s theft of fire. She comes to humanity bearing a jar containing “countless plagues” – and, opening the lid, releases its evils to the world. “Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within the rim of the great jar,” Hesiod tells us….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty years ago this day, the musical Chicago premiered. I just rewatched it on HBO Max which is why you are getting it as the Anniversary piece tonight. Well that and that Mike is extremely generous in what I can cover in this feature. Extremely generous. You are forewarned as to what the future might hold. 

I first saw this film at the theater when it came out. It’s based off the 1975 stage musical of the same name which had music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. That in turn was based off Chicago, a very successful 1926 play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins. 

This film was directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Martin Richards from the screenplay by Bill Condon.  Fosse was contracted to direct this but died before he could do so. The film marked the directorial debut of Marshall, who also choreographed the film, with music by Kander and lyrics by Ebb, both had worked on the Fosse musical. Marshall would later direct Into the Woods and Mary Poppins Returns.

Chicago was primarily set in Cook County Criminal Court Building and Jail. And this is a musical which means we get to a stellar cast sing including performers I swear I never knew could do so —  Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore and Dominic West.  Gere in particular is very, very impressive though the women performers are great in part because they pass the Bechdel test in that much of the script is dialogue between women smartly done without men present. 

Reception for Chicago was almost unanimously positive. I think Robert Ebert summed it up best when he called it “big, brassy fun” which it definitely is.  It gets a most excellent eighty-six rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.  Oh, and though costly to produce at almost fifty million, it made over three hundred million. 

And yes we can tie the film into the genre as Mike pointed out to me that “?Chicago is the source of a tune Maytree used to create one of the best-ever Puppy satire filks” — here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957.  It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories in 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks here remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 91. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, and Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. Did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1949 Donald Palumbo, 73. Well someone has to take us seriously. In this case, it’s this scholar. He’s done such studies as Chaos Theory, Asimov’s Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: the Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science FictionEros in the Mind’s Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film and Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. He has an interesting essay, “Reiterated Plots and Themes in the Robot Novels: Getting Away with Murder and Overcoming Programming” in Foundation, #80 Autumn 2000 . His latest work is A Dune Companion: Characters, Places and Terms in Frank Herbert’s Original Six Novels. Huh. I’d like to see that. 
  • Born January 17, 1952 Tom Deitz. He’s best remembered for the David Sullivan series which ran for nine novels, plus The Gryphon King, which technically isn’t part of that series. The Soulsmith is quite excellent as well. He was founding member of the SCA’s Barony of Bryn Madoc, and he won the Phoenix Award for lifetime achievement in promoting Southern fandom. Fitting for a lifelong resident of Georgia. He’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 60. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name and which get a mere thirty-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I rather liked, then there’s the The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled several years ago that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think that I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 52. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated  Hotel Transylvania franchise. You can see a sample of his Clone Wars animation here.
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 33. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series. She also voiced Raya in Raya and the Last Dragon and Dawn Betterman in The Croods: A New Age

(9) FAMILY FAREWELL. Christopher Rice wrote a long Facebook post about Anne Rice’s funeral in New Orleans, including the text of his eulogy.

Dearest People of the Page. We have brought Anne home. On Saturday January 15th, as we rolled to a stop on the tarmac at New Orleans International Airport, the heavens opened, and the thunder rolled, and it was as if the spirit world had heralded her return to the city of her birth, the city that always held her heart. The service was quiet and private, and a chance for close family to express their grief. The public celebration of life we will hold later in the year will be open to all of you, and it will be loud enough for Anne to hear us in heaven. She has now joined my father in the tomb in Metairie Cemetery she designed for him after his passing; their marriage, unbroken for decades, has entered immortality. My sister resides with them as well. I share with you now a portion of the eulogy I read graveside as the rain drenched our tent and a flock of blackbirds took to the sky behind me….

(10) DEL TORO’S HISTORY. “Guillermo Del Toro: ‘I saw real corpses when I was growing up in Mexico’” – the director is profiled by the New York Times.

Guillermo Del Toro used to describe Hollywood as “the Land of the Slow No”. Here was a place where a director could die waiting for a project to be greenlit. “The natural state of a movie is to be unmade,” he says over Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. “I have about 20 scripts that I lug around that no one wants to make and that’s fine: it’s the nature of the business. It’s a miracle when anything at all gets made.”

Nevertheless, Del Toro has established himself as this century’s leading fantasy film-maker, more inventive than latter-day Tim Burton and less bombastic than Peter Jackson (with whom he co-wrote the Hobbit trilogy). From the haunting adult fairytale Pan’s Labyrinth and the voluptuously garish Hellboy romps to his beauty-and-the-fish love story The Shape of Water, which won four Oscars, he is the master of the glutinous phantasmagoria….

(11) LENSMAN LOVE. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Parody ranks somewhere in there, too.“Foist Lensman: Early Fan Pastiche From the Works of Edward Elmer Smith, Ph.D.”First Fandom Experience has scans of a half dozen examples.

Fans love to pay tribute to the authors they love most. This takes the form of flattery and at times, its most sincere cousin: imitation. Imitation can stray accidentally or venture boldly into parody. The works of Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith, Ph.D. attracted all of this.

The earliest instances of fan pastiche based on Smith’s Skylark and Lensman novels appeared in fanzine that have largely been lost to history. Spurred by an inquiry from the Online Science Fiction Book Club, FFE has endeavored to make these works available. For Smith enthusiasts, we hope this is fun.
Click any image for a full-screen view.

“The Skylaugh of Space” by “Omnia”
Fantasy Magazine, v3n3, May 1934 and v3n4, June 1934
(The identity of “Omnia” is unclear. The author is described in the July 1934 issue of Fantasy Magazine as “a young chap who has shown promise in the science fiction field, having already sold stories to Wonder and Amazing. Besides, he is editor of his college humor magazine…”)

(12) WSFS. Kevin Standlee tells LiveJournal readers he has finished “Updating WSFS Documents” with changes from DisCon III. (The Business Meeting minutes are still in progress.)

The WSFS Rules website is now mostly updated. The 2021-22 WSFS Constitution and Standing Rules are updated, as is the Resolutions and Rulings of Continuing Effect, a cumulative list of resolutions passed by the WSFS Business Meeting that are likely to have an ongoing effect and rulings made by the Chair (or sometimes rulings made that were overturned on appeal) on various procedural matters.

The Minutes of the Business Meeting and the Business Passed On to the 2022 WSFS Business Meeting are nearing completion, and when they’re finished and certified by the 2021 meeting officers, I’ll update those as well.

(13) THE SHOW MUST GO ON. The New York Times says thanks to omicron “Now Is the Winter of Broadway’s Discontent”. Includes this item of genre interest —

… Now, producers have figured out how to keep shows running, thanks mainly to a small army of replacement workers filling in for infected colleagues. Heroic stories abound: When the two girls who alternate as the young lioness Nala in “The Lion King” were both out one night, a 10-year-old boy who usually plays the cub Simba went on in the role, saving the performance.

…And then there was “The Lion King,” where the young Simba went on as young Nala (uncostumed, and after a preshow explanation to the audience).

“I didn’t want the show to close,” explained the child actor, who performs as Corey J. “I was nervous at first, but then the person who plays Shenzi winked at me, and I wasn’t nervous anymore.”

In the wings between scenes, cast members cheered him on, and at the end of the show, the cast gave him the honor of the show’s final bow….

(14) BIGBUG. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s next film is going to be released by Netflix next month.

A group of bickering suburbanites find themselves stuck together when an android uprising causes their well intentioned household robots to lock them in for their own safety.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Alan Baumler, Dann, Tom Becker, 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 David Shallcross.]

Pixel Scroll 1/9/22 Chapter Scroll Dune

(1) SFF A “FORM OF SUBVERSIVE ACTIVISM”. Eugen Bacon’s thoughtful review appears in the latest issue of Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research, Volume 8, Issue 2 (Feb 2022): “Trends in Black Speculative Fiction”.

… More than two decades after the publication of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Thomas), black speculative fiction continues to rise as a powerful conversation in genre fiction, and increasingly tackles precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial themes pertaining to identity and culture, as well as feminist and queer themes pertaining to engaging with difference. Anthologies have become instrumental in the proliferating Afrofuturistic writing that heroes black people in stories from Africa and the diaspora, stories whose visibility is increasingly evident in award nominations and recommendations – for example 2021 Hugo nominee Ekpeki Donald Oghenechovwe, whose novella Ife-Iyoku won the 2020 Otherwise Award.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color (Shawl) – in its showcasing of interracial and cross-cultural stories – may have stunned its publisher, editor, contributors, and readers by winning the 2020 Locus, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Ignyte, and Brave New Words Awards. Casting a diverse range of new and established writers, including (among others) Tobias S. Bucklell, Minsoo Kang, Kathleen Alcalá, Alberto Yáñez, and Chinelo Onwual, and featuring a foreword by LeVar Burton, New Suns explored intergalactic stories, dream stories, song stories, coming-home stories, futuristic stories, and even self-aware stories that encapsulate person-of-colour chants full of longing and conviction of belonging and place. With the success of New Suns, it’s no wonder that Solaris announced its acquisition of New Suns 2 for release in 2023 (“Solaris to Publish New Suns 2”)….

… It is clear from just these select exemplars that publishers, authors, and readers alike have a steeping interest in black people’s stories. Thanks to the internet, audio books, and ebooks, the world is in the heart of an ongoing digital revolution that continues to stagger traditional publishing and make best sellers as well as anthologies and collections from smaller presses cheaper and accessible to ravenous readers. As e-publishers and self-publishers create opportunities for writers and readers alike, and more awards recognise calibre and uniqueness, rather than the author’s or publisher’s muscle, black speculative fiction will continue to rise in global distribution, and be increasingly accessible. A reader has only to look for it in anthologies, collections, even award nominations….

(2) CRITTERS ANNUAL READERS POLL. The Critters Workshop, “for serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” is hosting its Annual Readers Poll, which honors print and electronic publications published during the past year. (Click here for the official rules.) There are 41 categories. Voting is open through January 14. View the Current standings at the link.

Novels pages: Horror Romance Science Fiction & Fantasy Steampunk | Magical Realism | Positive Future | Erotica Mystery Thriller Children’s | Young Adult | All other |
Short Stories pages: Horror | Romance Science Fiction & Fantasy Steampunk | Magical Realism | Positive Future | All other | Anthologies page Poems page Nonfiction articles page Nonfiction books page |
Other Categories: Artwork page Book/e-book Cover Artwork page Magazine/e-zine Cover Artwork page Authors page Poets page Artists page Book/e-book Editors page Magazine/e-zine Editors page Book Publishers page Review site | Bookstore | Promotional Firms, Sites, and Resources page Fiction ‘zines page Poetry ‘zines page Nonfiction ‘zines page Writers’ Discussion Forum page Writers’ Workshop page Writers’ Resource/Information/News Source page |

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Tochi Onyebuchi and Sarah Pinsker in a virtual event on Wednesday, January 19 starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The readings will be live on YouTube, link to come.

  • Tochi Onyebuchi

Tochi Onyebuchi is a novelist and essayist, who won the World Fantasy Award, the Ignyte Award, and the New England Book Award for Fiction for his novella Riot Baby, a Nebula, Locus, and Hugo Award finalist. His works include the Beasts Made of Night and War Girls series, and the non-fiction book (S)kinfolk. His most recent novel is Goliath from Tordotcom Publishing. He lives in Connecticut.

  • Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker is a writer of novels and short stories and everything in between. She has won three Nebulas, including best novel for A Song For A New Day in 2020 and best novelette for “Two Truths And A Lie,” in 2021. Her most recent novel is We Are Satellites. She’s also a musician with four albums to her name, including 2021’s Something to Hold. She lives in Baltimore with her wife and two terriers.

(4) WINDY CITY. Doug Ellis notes the 21st Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention is just four months away.  The event will be held May 6-8 at the usual venue, the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Lombard, Illinois.  

We’ve sold out all 180 of our dealer tables, to dealers spanning the U.S., from Canada and the U.K.  We’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of pulp and comic publisher Fiction House.

At this point, we don’t know what COVID requirements may be in place when the show takes place.  Currently, masking would be required, but protocols may change during the next four months.  We’ll update those as we learn them.

As has been the case in years past, this year’s convention will feature some incredible material in our estate auctions. Friday night (May 6), our auction will focus on material from the estate of legendary collector Robert Weinberg (including many more issues of Weird Tales and a complete run of Planet Stories), while on Saturday night, (May 7) material from the estate of Glenn Lord, literary agent for the estate of Robert E. Howard, takes center stage.  In addition, we also will have a number of interesting items from other consignors.

The deadline to book your hotel room and receive the convention rate is 5:00 central on April 12, 2022.  The link for con hotel reservations is here.

We hope to see you there!

(5) SECOND FÜNF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Elliot Ackerman reviews The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut And The Many Lives Of Slaughterhouse-Five by Tom Roston. Roston argues that Vonnegut may have had undiagnosed PTSD from his experiences in World War II (including being a prisoner of war) and that Slaughterhouse-Five is an expression of his PTSD.  Ackerman finds Roston’s diagnosis unpersuasive and thinks Vonnegut’s own descriptions of how war affected him are a better guide than Roston’s posthumous diagnosis. “Book review of The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five by Tom Roston”.

… This defiance of categorization is probably why I found myself bristling early on when Roston asserts that his book will seek to answer “whether or not ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ can be used as evidence of its author’s undiagnosed PTSD.” This investigation, which animates much of Roston’s book, seems misguided. Roston himself acknowledges the reductivism he’s engaged in when he writes, “I imagine reducing his book to a clinical diagnosis or, perhaps worse, putting it in the self-help category, would make Vonnegut shudder.” Indeed, I think it would. Nevertheless, Roston soldiers on, casting himself as part literary scholar and part psychoanalytic sleuth. He deconstructs “Slaughterhouse-Five” and the history around the book in search of incontrovertible proof that Vonnegut had what we would today call post-traumatic stress disorder, even though Roston acknowledges Vonnegut’s consistent denials throughout his life that his wartime experiences left him traumatized….

(6) STAR TREK’S BRIDGE. SFGate’s Victoria Sepulveda explains “Why ‘Star Trek’ made San Francisco the center of the universe”.

…On top of that, San Francisco is a beautiful city with a major recognizable landmark, great for letting TV viewers know when an episode takes us from the far-flung reaches of the cosmos back to Earth. 

But there are other naval cities and major Earth landmarks that could suit this purpose. What really made San Francisco special, Bernardi says, was its progressivism and diversity. Roddenberry was a liberal humanist, and San Francisco, out of all American cities in the 1960s, best captured the issues Roddenberry wanted to delve into in the show. It was a hub for the civil rights and anti-war movements, says Bernardi, who has studied Roddenberry’s papers, which are collected at UCLA….

(7) DEL TORO INTERVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Guillermo Del Toro — Maltin on Movies: Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro is promoting Nightmare Alley (an excellent film I regard as horror-adjacent), but fantasy is never far from Del Toro’s mind; two minutes into the podcast there’s a discussion about whether Berni Wrightson or Richard Corben did better scary clown illustrations.  Del Toro also says Forrest J Ackerman was his “godfather” because Famous Monsters of Filmland was a source of inspiration and education when he was a kid.  Also credited is the great makeup artist Dick Smith, who was very generous with his time and met Del Toro at the train station when he took the train from Guadalajara to meet with the makeup master.  Del Toro tries to follow Smith’s example and give education and encouragement to young people getting started in the movie industry.  Finally, he thinks that Doug Jones, who has a small role in Nightmare Alley and a major one in The Shape Of Water, is a protean talent who is our generation’s Lon Chaney.

Del Toro’s next project is an animated Pinocchio, developed as a collaboration with The Jim Henson Company.

Del Toro shares a lot of wisdom about movie production and life, in what I think is one of the Maltins’ better episodes.

(8) DWAYNE HICKMAN (1934-2022). Actor Dwayne Hickman, best known as TV’s Dobie Gillis, and for appearing in the Western comedy Cat Ballou, died January 9 reports the New York Times: “Dwayne Hickman, T.V.’s Lovelorn Dobie Gillis, Is Dead at 87”. He had a couple of genre roles – if Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) counts, or else there’s his appearance on an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1975).

(9) BOB SAGET (1956-2022). Actor Bob Saget, best known for his comedy sitcom work, died January 9. He worked on episodes of The Greatest American Hero (1983), Quantum Leap (1992), and Robot Chicken (2016), and voiced roles in the animated movies Madagascar (2005), and Casper’s Scare School (2006).

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1980 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-two years ago, New York City public television station WNET’s Experimental TV Lab project premiered their adaptation of The Lathe of Heaven. Based off the Ursula Le Guin novel of the same name, it was directed by David Loxton and Fred Barzyk. It should be noted Le Guin, by her own writings later, was involved in the casting, script planning, script editing, and filming of the production. Thus, we’ll give scripting credits to Diane English, Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Swaybill. Primary cast was Bruce Davison, Kevin Conway (earlier in Slaughterhouse-Five as Roland Weary) and Margaret Avery. It was budgeted at a quarter of a million dollars.

The Lathe of Heaven became one of the two highest-rated shows that season on PBS that year. Michael Moore writing for Ares magazine liked it saying that “The best science fiction, such as Lathe, examines humankind’s place in the universe and the products and problems created by intelligence.” It was nominated for a Hugo at Denvention Two which had Ed Bryant as Toastmaster, the year The Empire Strikes Back won. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a seventy-two percent rating. 

The Lathe of Heaven is the most-requested program in PBS history. It took twelve years to clear up rights to rebroadcast it and that involved replacing the Beatles music with a cover band version. In 2000, The Lathe of Heaven was finally rebroadcast and released to video and DVD. 

I’ve seen this version several times and remember as being rather well crafted but I’ve not the second version made twenty-two years later. Who here has seen that version? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 9, 1890 Karel Capek. [Spelled with Latin “c” because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.] Author of the his 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. R.U.R.was a dystopian work about a really bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. ISFDB shows two additional works by him, Krakatit: An Atomic Fantasy and The Absolute at Large which I’ve not heard of. (Died 1938.)
  • Born January 9, 1908 Simone de Beauvoir. You know who she is but likely don’t know she wrote All Men Are Mortal (Les Hommes Sont Mortels in its original French)in 1946 which tells the story of Raimon Fosca, a man cursed to live forever. It’d be published in English in the States a decade later, and was adapted into a 1995 film of the same name. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 9, 1925 Lee Van Cleef. The Warden of the Prison in Escape from New York but he was best known for acting in Spaghetti Westerns. Genre wise, he was also Col. Stone in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Dr. Tom Anderson in Corman’s It Conquered the World. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 9, 1932 Algis Budrys. I am trying to remember what I read by him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and really enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for GalaxyMagazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and wrote genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any of. I should note his Tomorrow Speculative Fiction prozine was quite excellent. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 72. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in the oh-so-perfect Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack. I think the brief Ghost of Christmas Past riff in the aforementioned Scrooged is enough to earn him as Birthday Honors here. 
  • Born January 9, 1955 J.K Simmons, 67. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League.
  • Born January 9, 1956 Imelda Staunton, 66. Voice of the Snow Queen in The Snow Queen’s Revenge, A Nurse in Shakespeare in Love, Polly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dolores Jane Umbridge In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well and Knotgrass in Maleficent and the sequel. 
  • Born January 9, 1957 Greg Ketter, 65. A Minneapolis SF Bookstore owner, DreamHaven to be precise, and con-running fan as well. He is a member of MN-Stf. He’s been involved in myriad regionals and Worldcons. He‘s chaired Minicons and World Fantasy Conventions alike.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SEÑORITA RIO CREATOR. The work of Lily Renée was part of the “Three with a Pen” exhibit at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York that ended in September. Although the exhibit is over, much material remains online, including a trailer.

Lily Renée

The only child of a well-to-do family, Lily Renée Willheim discovered drawing early, creating opulent fantasy worlds with mythical creatures. As a result of the so-called “Anschluss”, her father lost his job, her school friends were no longer allowed to play with her, and, like many, the family endured a variety of hardships. In 1939, at age seventeen, her parents put her on a children’s transport bound for England where she briefly stayed with a British family.

She reunited with her parents in New York City in 1940, where she lives today. After studying at the Art Students League and School of the Visual Arts, she was hired by comic book publishers. An exception in the male-dominated field, she created illustrations for several comic books including Señorita Rio, a glamorous Brazilian secret agent fighting the Nazis, the comedy duo Abbott and Costello, and others. Her later works include children’s books, decorative motifs, and textile designs. In 2007, Lily Renée attended Comic-Con in San Diego to receive their Inkpot Award and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Friends of Lulu, an organization promoting women in comics. She celebrates her 100th birthday this year.

Read more about her in The Forward: “This female comic book artist was unknown for decades”.

Like the comic superheroes they invented, the Jewish creators of the characters often had secret identities – at least different names. Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerome Siegel used the pseudonyms Joe Carter and Jerry Ess. Bob Kane, born Robert Kahn, created Batman. Jack Kirby, the pen name of Jacob Kurtzenberg, concocted Captain America.

Although lesser known, the comic book heroine Señorita Rio was Hollywood starlet Rita Farrar by day and Nazi-fighting secret agent by night. The artist who drew Rio’s action-packed panels in the 1940s, and signed as L. Renee, lived a sort of double life, too.

“Everybody assumed I was a man,” artist Lily Renee Phillips has said of the fan mail she received at the time, which was always addressed to “Mr. Renee.” Fans knew neither Renee’s gender nor her incredible origin story, which rivaled the plotline of Señorita Rio….

(14) DISNEY’S INSPIRATION. In the Washington Post, Philip Kennicott reviews “Inspiring Walt Disney:  The Animation of French Decorative Arts,” an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Walt Disney’s fascination with France explored in Metropolitan Museum’s ‘Inspiring Walt Disney’”

I have watched more Disney princess films in the past few weeks than in the entirety of my first five decades on the planet. As a citizen of American popular culture, I enjoy their grace and charm. But as a citizen of this thing called the American republic, with its roots in revolution and its rhetoric of equality, I find them often surreal. Isn’t it odd — and perhaps even wrong, in some deeper ethical sense — that Americans are addicted to these gilded fantasies of privilege?A fascinating exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art explores something that is hiding in plain sight if you watch Disney cartoons closely: the curious affinity for all things French, especially the trappings of French aristocracy.

The curators of “Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts” are upfront about one basic fact: Walt Disney made his movies for a very different audience than that for which the artisans of the French rococo produced their dazzling luxury objects….

(15) EFFECTS OF CHINA CENSORSHIP ON INTERNET AND TECH. According to the New York Times, “As Beijing Takes Control, Chinese Tech Companies Lose Jobs and Hope”.

…Beijing wants its cyberspace to become a tool of governance and national rejuvenation. And it will penalize anyone who fails to serve the goal.

In mid-December, the country’s internet regulator said it had ordered platforms to shut down more than 20,000 accounts of top influencers in 2021, including people who spoke ill of the country’s martyrs, entertainers involved in scandals and major livestreaming stars.

Alibaba was slapped with a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine in September. That was followed by a $530 million fine of Meituan, the food-delivery giant, a month later.

Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was fined 44 times between January and November. Douban, the popular film- and book-reviewing site, was fined 20 times.

Li Chengdong, an e-commerce consultant who invests in start-ups, said some consumer internet companies he owned were struggling with higher compliance costs. “To stay on the safe side, they have to be stricter in compliance than what the government requires,” he said….

(16) ONLY HOW MANY SHOPPING DAYS LEFT? Sold by The Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, these Christmas Cards that look like book covers. Click through the slideshow to see all four examples.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/22 Barsoomian Rhapsody

(1) AUTHORS CALL OUT DRASTIC PROBLEMS WITH KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING. Several indie romance authors recently found themselves banned by Kindle Direct Publishing with no real explanation, including paranormal and SF authors such as Ruby Dixon, author of Ice Planet Barbarians. She’s a successful writer who has been reviewed in mainstream media, so this was very odd. Even when Amazon reinstated the authors and their books, some say they had to fight to get their royalties restored as well.

Lexi Ostrow, another author who experienced this, blogged about it extensively. “The Story of Amazon & The Destruction of a career – USA Today Bestselling Author Lexi Ostrow” is the first of three posts.

… The last 30ish hours have been very hard for me. Somehow, I offended Amazon’s KDP system and my entire career has been taken down. This blog is my attempt to share only the facts, while leaving out any opinions and emotions. At present, 43 books have been unpublished, over $300 in advertising dollars on a new release from 12.20.21 are wasted, and over 700 reviews & ratings are now gone. All of this occurred just 24 hours after my latest release, which was the first release I’ve had since last Christmas, due to fighting a mystery illness and COVID parenting a toddler – writing took a backseat.

Please consider sharing this blog on your social media. I want to effect change within Amazon more than I want my career back. If enough of us make noise, it’s possible this can all be changed….

As I am human, my next course of action included breaking down. I have been a published author – indie house, small presses, and self – for just over 6 years. I have been included in or solo’d in 54 novels + the two preorders. 

Per the email, my books were gone. My reviews were gone. My royalties would not be paid – yes, you read that correctly, Amazon was going to keep money I made on all my BACKLIST titles because the preorder raised a flag. I also cannot create another KDP account to begin again (which is fair if I’d done what I was accused of doing or anything else).

I took to social media for help, because my account was blocked so I couldn’t “contact us” beyond a form fill and I wasn’t content with that. To see the Facebook post, click here.

Susan Lyn says she suffered the same fate: “Writing and Life”.

In unrelated yet just as devastating news, I seem to have angered the gods of Amazon and all books have been purged from the behemoth. They seem to be doing a massive author purge, some pretty big names have also been affected.

Never fear, I’m in the process of sending all of my previously published titles wide (to be available everywhere but Amazon) and will update links to where they are available.

Ruby Dixon’s books have since been reinstated.

Lexi Ostrow’s Amazon author page also shows her Kindle books are back, but it was a struggle every step of the way as she explains in two follow-up posts. “Amazon & The Destruction of a Career Part 2” on December 26 contains screenshots of more emails exchanged with the Amazon Content Review Team. “Amazon & The Death of a Career – the Finale” on December 29 says that when Amazon restored her books, they initially did not restore the royalties in her account. Later, Ostrow got a call from someone from KDP’s Executive Customer Relations that her royalties also had been restored. Ostrow’s final post includes these lessons learned:

What did I learn from the call?

  • The KDP content team has no phone access because “they aren’t client facing so it isn’t an issue”. I assure you, I let him know how very much it was/is an issue
  • Executives have no idea why the content team does what they do – AKA NO NOTES!!
  • He found me via Twitter, not via any of my emails or attempted calls.
  • The KDP content team is overseas and doesn’t interact with clients. I was very verbal that this is a problem.
  • I was told there would be an investigation into why I was ignored so many times and not given proper responses.
  • That while nice, I will never put all my eggs in one basket. While I will remain on Amazon for the exposure, I am 100% wide.
  • Our fight to fix this process is not yet done, but I’m still trying to understand what will help as a petition merely expresses a desire for something, but we all know Amazon KNOWS their policy is shit.

(2) WEBB TELESCOPE IN THE SHADE. Yahoo! reports:“NASA’s new space telescope ‘hunky-dory’ after problems fixed”.

NASA’s new space telescope is on the verge of completing the riskiest part of its mission — unfolding and tightening a huge sunshade — after ground controllers fixed a pair of problems, officials said Monday.

The tennis court-size sunshield on the James Webb Space Telescope is now fully open and in the process of being stretched tight. The operation should be complete by Wednesday.

… The sunshield is vital for keeping Webb’s infrared-sensing instruments at subzero temperatures, as they scan the universe for the first stars and galaxies, and examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for possible signs of life.

Getting the sunshield extended last Friday “was really a huge achievement for us,” said project manager Bill Ochs. All 107 release pins opened properly.

But there have been a few obstacles.

Flight controllers in Maryland had to reset Webb’s solar panel to draw more power. The observatory — considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope — was never in any danger, with a constant power flow, said Amy Lo, a lead engineer for the telescope’s prime contractor, Northrop Grumman….

They also repointed the telescope to limit sunlight on six overheating motors. The motors cooled enough to begin securing the sunshield, a three-day process that can be halted if the problem crops up again, officials said.

“Everything is hunky-dory and doing well now,” Lo said.

(3) HARD TO SWALLOW. Cora Buhlert reviews the opening episode of the new series: “The Book of Boba Fett finds itself a ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’”. Beware spoilers.

…“Stranger in a Strange Land”, the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett continues where both The Mandalorian and Return of the Jedi left off. Because the scenes of Boba Fett establishing himself as the premiere crime lord on Tatooine are interspersed with flashbacks of Boba Fett’s past, including his escape from the Sarlaac’s digestive tract….

(4) ROUTES. In San Marino, the Huntington’s “Mapping Fiction” exhibit will open January 15: “Exhibition to Explore the Construction of Fictional Worlds through Maps and Novels”.

On the occasion of the centennial of James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Mapping Fiction” includes works by Octavia E. Butler, William Faulkner, Jack and Charmian London, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Mark Twain, among others…

…Other featured objects in this section include an Arion Press artist book edition of Edwin A. Abbott’s satirical novella Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions; J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy; George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones; maps from the Octavia E. Butler archive related to her Earthseed novels; and a map for The Mortmere Stories of Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward.

(5) CINEMATIC CLI-FI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao interviews directors of films that deal with climate change.  Most of the films discussed, including Wall-E, The Day After Tomorrow, and Mad Max:  Fury Road–are sf.  Kim Stanley Robinson is briefly interviewed in the section on Mad Max:  Fury Road. “Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Here’s how filmmakers have tried to make sense of it all.”

… Things fall apart rapidly in “The Day After Tomorrow.” Soon after climate scientist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) says at a United Nations conference that climate change could lead to an ice age, a storm system develops and threatens to destroy the Northern Hemisphere. Jack’s son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his friends seek shelter at the New York Public Library, where they burn books for warmth as snow mounts against the building’s outer walls.

Like its peers in the disaster genre, “The Day After Tomorrow” is consumed by the special effects involved in depicting calamity. Emmerich says his critics often forget that “when you make a movie, it has to be dramatic in a certain way.” People bought tickets to be stunned. This was the guy who made “Independence Day,” after all….

(6) TODD SULLIVAN. Space Cowboy Books presents an online reading and interview with Todd Sullivan author of the fantasy trilogy The Windshine Chronicles on January 25 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration here.

(7) NIGHTMARES ALLEZ. Hear from the legendary director in the Maltins’ podcast: Maltin on Movies: Guillermo del Toro.

Guillermo del Toro is a sorcerer who places no limits on his imagination. His new film, Nightmare Alley, now playing in theaters, is an exquisitely rendered film noir that stands alongside his earlier work (The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) with the promise of more to come—like his “take” on Pinocchio. Leonard and Jessie are longtime devotees and are thrilled to share this uniquely eloquent and passionate creator with all of you.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in syndication. The fourth spin-off of the original series (counting the animated run) was the first developed after the death of Roddenberry as created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It starred Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn. It would run for seven seasons and one hundred seventy-six episodes. It would be nominated for two Hugo Awards but wouldn’t win either of them. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, It’s the Birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I thought I’d do something different, so I asked Filers and other folk I knew what their favorite works by him were. 

Peter Beagle says:

‘You mean my favorite writing by Tolkien? Probably the story of Beren and Luthien, which I’ve always loved – or maybe the one now published as The Children of Hurin. One or the other.’

Cora Buhlert is one of three Filers who gave an answer:

‘The first Tolkien I actually read was The Hobbit, in an East German edition with the illustrations from the Soviet edition. I got it as a present from my Great-Aunt Metel from East Germany, who often sent me books for Christmas and my birthday. It’s still somewhere in a box on my parents’ attic. 

‘I liked The Hobbit a lot, but I didn’t know there were more stories set in Middle Earth, until several years later, when I spotted The Lord of the Rings at a classmate’s place and borrowed it from him. As a teenager, I had a thing for mythology and read my way through the Nibelungenlied, the Odyssey and the Iliad, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, etc… Lord of the Rings fit right into that context and I enjoyed it even more than I had enjoyed The Hobbit.

‘I didn’t read the essay “On Fairy Stories” until university, when I cited it in a paper I wrote for a class. Now I had been educated in an environment which considered the traditional Grimm’s fairy tales too brutal and unsuitable for children (luckily, my parents ignored that and told/read them to me anyway) and which viewed fantasy and science fiction or any kind of genre fiction as escapist trash and potentially harmful. I got regurgitated version of this from my teachers at school and in university I was exposed to the 1970s leftwing pop culture criticism where those ideas had originated. However, I didn’t believe that fairy tales were bad and that SFF was escapist trash, so I was thrilled to read “On Fairy Stories” and find that Tolkien, who surely was considered beyond reproach, agreeing with me.’ 

Lis Carey was our next Filer:

‘I think I have to say that The Hobbit is my favorite Tolkien. I really do identify with Bilbo’s desire to stay home, and enjoy his cozy hobbit hole and its comforts, in his comfortable, familiar neighborhood. Yet, against his better judgment, he is lured into going on an adventure (always a bad idea, adventures) with the dwarves, and finds out just how resilient he is, his unexpected bravery, his ingenuity when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges (“…he was chased by wolves, lost in the forest, escaped in a barrel from the elf-king’s hall…”) (yes, I love The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, too.) He finds resources in himself that he never suspected–and at the end, he still goes home, to deal with his annoying relatives and enjoy his home. None of this “and now I will abandon everything I ever cared about, to be a completely different person in a different life.”‘

It’s been a long time for Ellen Datlow: since she read his nibs. so she says:

‘I haven’t read him in so long I don’t remember–I loved all three of the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit but don’t remember exactly why.’  

Pamela Dean says she “unreservedly loves The Lord of the Rings, the translation of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ and ‘On Fairy-Stories’.” 

Once again, The Hobbit proves popular as Jasper Fforde says it’s:

The Hobbit, because it’s the only one I’ve read – I liked it a great deal but was never really into spells, wizards and trolls, so never took it any further.’ 

Elizabeth Hand gave a lengthy reply:

‘I’d probably have to say The Lord of the Rings, which I’ve read it countless times over the last forty years. It imprinted on me at such an early age — I had the good luck to read it as a kid in the 1960s, when it was still a cult novel, and you had a real sense that you were in some secret, marvelous group of insiders who had visited a place not everyone knew about. Maybe kids discovering it today still have that feeling, in spite of the success of the movies (which I love). I hope so. But I also find that, as I’ve gotten older, I’m far more drawn to reread other works, especially in The Complete History of Middle Earth and The Silmarillion (we have very long Tolkien shelves here). 

‘I love the Beren & Luthien material, and also the various accounts of Turin, which recently were republished as The Children of Hurin. The dark tone of all of it, the tragic cast and also the recurring motifs involving elves and mortal lovers — great stuff. It doesn’t serve the function of comfort reading that LOTR does, and because I’m not so familiar with the stories I can still read them with something like my original sense of discovery. 

‘The breadth and depth of Tolkien’s achievement really becomes apparent when one reads The Complete History — 13 volumes, including an Index. Every time I go back to them I think, I could be learning Greek, or Ancient Egyptian, something that has to do with the real world.  But then, I’m continually so amazed by what this one man came up with, the intensity and single mindedness of his obsession. And I get sucked into it all over again.’ 

Gwyneth Jones says her favorite work is The Lord Of The Rings:

‘Why — Because I read it when I was a child, in bed with bronchitis. My mother brought me the three big volumes, successively, from the library, I’d never met anything like it, and it was just wonderful entertainment for a sick child. I grew out of LOTR, but will never forget that thrill.  More why: I’ve never felt the slightest temptation to open the massive prequels and spin-offs of Middle Earth fantasy, I just don’t have that gene, and I feel the Tolkien industry doesn’t need my money. And the other works are either too scholarly, or everything about them is represented in LOTR anyway.  I admired ‘Tree and Leaf’ when I read it, long ago, but I’m not sure if I still would.’ 

OR Melling says:

‘As a child, I loved reading fantasy – CS Lewis, E Nesbit, JM Barrie and so on – but when the librarian offered me The Hobbit and said “it’s about little men with hairy feet” I recall giving her one of those withering looks only children can give. Why on earth would I want to read a book about men with hairy feet? I did finally read The Hobbit when I was 12, after I had read The Lord of the Rings, and discovered that my initial suspicion was correct. I did not like the book at all, particularly its depiction of the elves. This was a great surprise, of course, considering that I had absolutely fallen in love with The Lord of the Rings. It is still one of my favourite books to this day. Aside from The Silmarillion – which I endured like all faithful fans – I have not read any other of Tolkien’s works.’ 

Catherynne M. Valente picked The Silmarillion:

‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’ 

Our final Filer is Paul Weimer who states:

‘I am going to go with a sidewise choice.   While LOTR and the Hobbit are some of my earliest and most beloved of all SFF that I have ever read, the piece by Tolkien that comes back to my mind again and again is the story of Beren and Luthien.  We get the story in a number of ways and forms :the small fragments we see in Lord of the Rings (or the tiny bit in the movie), the longer tale told in the Silmarillion, and the alternate and evolving versions seen in the extended histories of Middle Earth and his letters,  In the end this love story between man and elf, mortal and immortal, is in many ways THE story of Tolkien, more than the story of a Hobbit, or of the One Ring. It is very telling that Tolkien and his wife’s gravestone name check themselves as Beren and Luthien.  It moved me the first time I read the full story, and it moves me still.’

For Jane Yolen, it’s The Hobbit:

‘While it’s true that The Lord of the Rings is his masterwork and The Hobbit his first attempt at writing (and that, some say witheringly, for children) I have to admit I adore The Hobbit. It has adventure, wonderful characters, fine pacing and spacing, some really scary bits (my daughter ran screaming from the room when the trolls grabbed the ponies, and she refused to hear the rest of it.) And if I could ever write a chapter as good as the Riddles in the Dark chapter I would never have to write again.’

(10) COMIC SECTION.

  • Bizarro stretches the truth in a comic way.  

(11) FLIPPED SCRIPTS. “Premee Mohamed on turning science fiction tropes on their head” is one of the segments on the January 2 edition of CBC’s The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay. Listen to the profile at the link.

(12) THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. People always want to know how a successful writer does things. John Scalzi obliges with an account of how he budgets his time: “In Theory, My Work Day” at Whatever.

Now that the holidays have been packed away and we are back into the swing of things, I know that some of you have had an interest in how I manage my work days. The answer to this varies, largely depending on whether I’m working on a novel or not. However, as it happens, I am working on a novel again, and also, I’ve decided to put a bit more structure into my day. So in theory, here’s how my work days should go in 2022….

(13) THE AMAZON PRIME DIRECTIVE. Jeff Foust reviews an Amazon Prime documentary about Shat’s space trip for The Space Review: “Shatner in Space”.

… There is not a lot of drama in the show itself. When winds force a one-day delay in the flight, Shatner briefly ponders if the universe is trying to tell him that he shouldn’t go, but the moment passes. There’s a brief hold in the countdown because of a software issue that threatens a scrub (“You’ve got to be [bleeping] kidding,” Shatner says in the capsule) but that, too, quickly passes. There’s some footage inside the capsule during the flight itself, although not much more than what was shown during and immediately after the flight….

(14) MALLEUS MALEFICARUM. “How do you spot a witch? This notorious 15th-century book gave instructions – and helped execute thousands of women”The Conversation has the story.

Books have always had the power to cast a spell over their readers – figuratively.

But one book that was quite popular from the 15th to 17th centuries, and infamously so, is literally about spells: what witches do, how do identify them, how to get them to confess, and how to bring them to swift punishment.

As fear of witches reached a fever pitch in Europe, witch hunters turned to the “Malleus Maleficarum,” or “Hammer of Witches,” for guidance. The book’s instructions helped convict some of the tens of thousands of people – almost all women – who were executed during the period. Its bloody legacy stretched to North America, with 25 supposed “witches” killed in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s.

(15) FUSION EXPERIMENT SETS RECORD. “China switches on ‘artificial sun’ that is five times hotter than the real thing” reports MSN.com.

A nuclear fusion reactor in China has set a new record for sustained high temperatures after running five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, according to state media.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), known as an “artificial sun”, reached temperatures of 70,000,000C during the experiments, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The ultimate aim of developing the artificial sun device is to deliver near-limitless clean energy by mimicking the natural reactions occurring within stars.

“The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor,” said Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the latest experiment.

The EAST project, which has already cost China more than £700bn, will run the experiment until June….

(16) TRUTH. Via RedWombat.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Olav Rokne, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/21 I’m Shocked To Find Scrolling Going On In Here

(1) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. In the New York Times, Amal El-Mohtar names “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2021”. Here’s one of her picks:

In the gray fog of an uncertain year, these books stand out in bright colors and floods of intense feeling. They’re organized only by the order in which I read them….

No Gods, No Monsters

By Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone, 387 pp., $26.99)

Intimate and intricate, full of charismatic monsters and the dueling secret societies to which they belong. A pack of werewolves transform on camera, prompting hidden powers to rally for or against revealing the supernatural world of gods and monsters to the public. Mysteriously narrated and utterly riveting.

 (2) EXCEED YOUR GRASP. At Futurism, Matthew Angelo tells readers “Why Science Fiction Matters in Literature”.

… Science fiction typically deals with the impact of imagined future science and technology on society. Sci-Fi is an important genre in literature. It teaches us about contemporary ideas, inspires new technological inventions, and entertains us by telling stories that could not have happened otherwise….

Science Fiction is one of the biggest, most influential genres in literature. It taps into human dreams and nightmares about what might be, what could happen to us, and how we might deal with it. It makes up many of our fictional worlds, futures, and inhabitants. Science Fiction stories can be wildly different in content. Still, they all have a similar feeling of being exciting possibilities just out of reach. Science fiction is often thought to be just about aliens and robots. Still, it can also have a lot to do with social commentary….

(3) SPINNING BLADES. Foz Meadows tweeted two threads commenting on the social media heat directed at Neon Yang after Yang, who criticized Isabel Fall’s “Helicopter Story” when it appeared in January 2020, recently promoted the appearance of their own queer mech story in a forthcoming anthology. Thread starts here.

A second short thread starts here.

Suzanne F. Boswell advances a case that Neon Yang’s tweets in 2020 did not cause the outcome for which critics now want to hold them accountable. Thread starts here.

R. B. Lemberg warns about the damage from these exchanges. Thread starts here.

(4) HIS FAVORITE MARTIAN. Congratulations to Jonathan Eller, whose Bradbury Beyond Apollo has been named one of the Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2021. The list is quite selective: it contains approximately ten percent of some 6,000 works reviewed in Choice each year.

(5) AS VIEWED FROM ABOVE. Rob Hansen has created “a small extra” for those who read Bixelstrasse, his compilation of early LASFS history (see “Revisit ‘Fighting Forties’ LASFS in Rob Hansen’s Bixelstrasse”) – it’s an annotated Map of 1940s LA Fandom.

(6) A BARKING GOOD CLIMAX. Camestros Felapton announces “Debarkle Volume 3 Now Available”. It is the end, my friend, and the price is right – free! A list of vendors is at the link.

The third and final volume of Debarkle is now available from a wide range of online book stores and by “wide range” I mean “not Amazon”. As with the rest of this series, it’s been published via Draft2Digital and you can access it in these online book shops. Note: this is the “second draft” version with fewer typos than the blog version. A third draft version will be available as a collected edition of all three volumes before the end of the year.

(7) DOWN TO THE WIRE. Starburst Magazine’s Ed Fortune covers 2023 Site Selection here: “China Races Canada For Prestigious SciFi Con”.

… Worldcons are a long-running international Science Fiction convention that tends to be hosted in North America or Europe, and the next venue is determined two years ahead of time.

Recent years have seen the convention come to other parts of the world, such as Japan and New Zealand. Chinese fans have been actively seeking to bring the world-renowned event to Chengdu, China since 2014….

(8) 2023 WORLDCON BID Q&A. Video of last weekend’s bidder Q&A session at Smofcon Europe has now been posted.

Representatives of the 2023 Worldcon bids for Chengdu and Winnipeg present and answer questions. Terry Fong, Tony Xia, Tina Wang, Tammy Coxen (m)

(9) BACK ON HIS FEET. Nicholas Whyte reports on his recovery from Covid after spending the end of November and part of December sick in bed: “630 days of plague, and COVID 20 days on” in his Livejournal.

(10) THE CULTURE. Christopher Fowler, known to fans for his sff, discusses what makes English novels “English” at CrimeReads: “The Curse of Englishness: Why Every British Thriller Is Also a Black Comedy”.

…I first became aware of the curse when I heard the teacups. To be precise, their endless tinkling.

Whenever I listened to an English radio play as a child the sound effects included a spoon endlessly circling bone china. English characters were always going out and coming in, but mostly they stayed inside and drank tea, even in the grisliest true-life murder dramatizations. Our plots unfolded in small rooms. It’s an English thing; neat little houses, inclement weather. Agatha Christie was particularly obsessed with egress. ‘It was a fine old library with the only other door leading out to the pristine tennis courts.’ And as we tended not to point guns at each other, our fictional killers generally dismissed firearms in favour of doctored pots of chutney, electrified bathtubs and poisoned trifles. They escaped without leaving footprints and relocked doors with the aid of string….

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

I am reliably informed by John King Tarpinian that this is how I should have spent my day.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966[Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty five years ago, Star Trek’s “The Conscience of a King” first aired on NBC. The title comes from the concluding lines of Act II of Hamlet: “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Barry Trivers wrote the script. Memory Alpha notes that he also wrote the never made “A Portrait in Black and White” episode based on a story premise by Roddenberry in his original series proposal for Star Trek

The primary guest cast here was Arnold Moss as Anton Karidian / Kodos and Barbara Anderson as Lenore Karidian. Other than a later Time Tunnel appearence, his only genre role. She played Mimi Davis in a recurring role on Mission: Impossible

Reception for it is generally very good though Keith DeCandido at Tor.com kvetches about how he’s identified as the war criminal. (Keith, it’s not your your modern CSI.) Later Trek writer Ronald D. Moore considers it one of the best Trek episodes ever done. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E. C. Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye, who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 James Thurber. He’s written a number of fantasies, The 13 ClocksThe White Deer and The Wonderful O, definitely none of which children should be reading. You’ve no doubt seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Danny Kaye which bears little resemblance to the original short story. It would be made into a second film, just eight years ago, again not resembling the source material. (Died 1961.)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker, 71. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London.  So what else is he know for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The ExorcistStar WarsThe Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, the Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version.
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 70. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. He won a World Fantasy Award for his editing of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and a Mythopoetic Scholarship Award for Stories about Stories: Fantasy & the Remaking of Myth.
  • Born December 8, 1954 Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind,  plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here.  (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 8, 1954 John Silbersack, 67. With Victoria Schochet, he edited the first four volumes of the Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology series. Seasonally appropriate, he edited with Chris Schelling, The Magic of Christmas: Holiday Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He’s written a Buck Rogers novel, Rogers’ Rangers, off a treatment by Niven and Pournelle. 
  • Born December 8, 1967 Laura J. Mixon, 64. She won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer at Sasquan for her writing about the abhorrent online activities of Benjanun Sriduangkaew. She has written a number of excellent novels including Glass Houses and Up Against It which got an Otherwise nomination. She is married to SF writer Steven Gould, with whom she co-wrote the novel Greenwar.

(14) GEORGE PÉREZ MEDICAL UPDATE. George Pérez, known for his work on DC’s The New Teen TitansCrisis on Infinite Earths and Wonder Woman, Marvel titles like Infinity Gauntlet and The Avengers, and with Kurt Busiek on the landmark Marvel/DC crossover JLA/Avengers (aka Avengers/JLA), announced on Facebook that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  

To all my fans, friends and extended family,

It’s rather hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since I formally announced my retirement from producing comics due to my failing vision and other infirmities brought on primarily by my diabetes. At the time I was flattered and humbled by the number of tributes and testimonials given me by my fans and peers. The kind words spoken on those occasions were so heartwarming that I used to quip that “the only thing missing from those events was me lying in a box.”

It was amusing at the time, I thought.

Now, not so much. On November 29th I received confirmation that, after undergoing surgery for a blockage in my liver, I have Stage 3 Pancreatic Cancer. It is surgically inoperable and my estimated life expectancy is between 6 months to a year. I have been given the option of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, but after weighing all the variables and assessing just how much of my remaining days would be eaten up by doctor visits, treatments, hospital stays and dealing with the often stressful and frustrating bureaucracy of the medical system, I’ve opted to just let nature take its course and I will enjoy whatever time I have left as fully as possible with my beautiful wife of over 40 years, my family, friends and my fans.

Since I received my diagnosis and prognosis, those in my inner circle have given me so much love, support and help, both practical and emotional. They’ve given me peace.

There will be some business matters to take care of before I go. I am already arranging with my art agent to refund the money paid for sketches that I can no longer finish. And, since, despite only having one working eye, I can still sign my name, I hope to coordinate one last mass book signing to help make my passing a bit easier. I also hope that I will be able to make one last public appearance wherein I can be photographed with as many of my fans as possible, with the proviso that I get to hug each and every one of them. I just want to be able to say goodbye with smiles as well as tears…

(15) SEPTEMBER SONG ENCORE. BasedCon will ride again in September 2022, says chair Rob Kroese. The inaugural event he created to appeal to the “sci-fi writer or fan who is sick of woke politics” (see “BasedCon Planning for Dozens of Attendees”) actually drew 70.

(16) THE ROARING TWENTIES. The New York Times applauds this fashion statement: “Just in Time for Christmas: Knitwear Fit for a T. Rex”.

Behold the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex — all swaddled in a cozy Christmas sweater.

The replica T. rex at the Natural History Museum in London is an enormous, ferocious-looking beast that was built to scale, standing about 60 percent the size of the 40-foot-long prehistoric creature.

The animatronic attraction, which features roaring sound effects, often startles visitors, but on Monday, the predatory edge was somewhat softened when visitors found the T. rex bedecked in a giant blue, red and green holiday sweater, replete with cheerful Christmas trees and snowflakes….

(17) A BIRD IN FLIGHT. The European launch of the book The Space Cuckoo and Other Stories by Arvind Mishra will take place online, on December 13 at 6.00 p.m. Romanian Local Time, on Discord, at the international meeting of Syndicate 9 Science Fiction club from Timisoara, Romania. The guest of the meeting is the author, and the moderator, Darius Hupov.

To participate at the online meeting, please click the invitation link for the Syndicate 9 Discord server:
https://discord.gg/rs2YUAwP. The meeting will take place at the “Intalnirea S9” voice channel.

(18) I’M NOT SAYING IT’S ALIENS… [Item by Dann.] China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover has found something interesting on the moon.  The rover is going to spend the next couple of months trundling over to get a closer look. “China’s Yutu 2 rover spots cube-shaped ‘mystery hut’ on far side of the moon” at Space.com.

China’s Yutu 2 rover has spotted a mystery object on the horizon while working its way across Von Kármán crater on the far side of the moon.

Yutu 2 spotted a cube-shaped object on the horizon to the north and roughly 260 feet (80 meters) away in November during the mission’s 36th lunar day, according to a Yutu 2 diary published by Our Space, a Chinese language science outreach channel affiliated with the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Our Space referred to the object as a “mystery hut” but this [is] a placeholder name rather than an accurate description….

…but it’s aliens. Or the Transformers lunar base.

(19) GRESHAM’S LAW. Guillermo del Toro, director of Nightmare Alley, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Guillermo talks about his new movie…,, his attention to detail, his drawing notebook, his mother being a little bit of a “witch,” learning about tarot cards, getting married, shooting around the pandemic, Rooney Mara being secretly pregnant during it, buying and selling things on eBay, and he quizzes Jimmy about 1930s slang.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “In Honest Trailers:  Let There Be Carnage,” the Screen Junkies say ,” If you’re making a film about a squirelly guy who talks to himself, you get Gollum (Andy Serkis) to direct it.”  Under Serkis’s direction, the film features “bad CGI goo,” “bad wigs,” “British actors doing really bad American accents,” and a mysterious reference to Beverly Hills Cop 2!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/21 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls In To Mine

(1) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC 2021. The New York Times reports “Hochul Urges Anime NYC Conference Attendees to Get Tested Due to Omicron”.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said on Thursday that everyone who attended a recent anime convention in Manhattan should get tested for the coronavirus, after it was announced that an individual who tested positive for the Omicron variant in Minnesota had attended to the conference.

Ms. Hochul said the individual, a Minnesota resident who was vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, had attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center in Midtown Manhattan. She urged people who attended the event, which was held from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, to get tested and said that health officials would be in contact with attendees. The convention hosted 53,000 attendees over three days, according to a spokesman for the Javits Center….

The Mayor of New York City also put out a statement:

(2) VARLEY MEDICAL UPDATE. In “The Two Johns”, John Varley tells why he’s home from his third stay in the hospital this year. Much as he works to lighten it up, this is serious, plus some touching moments about his last roommate. The digest version about his health is in this excerpt of the last three paragraphs:

…So I’m back home now. My final diagnosis, like a slap on the butt as I went out the door, was C.O.P.D. (That’s #5.) It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. My guess is that it has something to do (ya think?) with over fifty years of a pack-and-a-half per day smoking habit, only recently terminated. Used to be, it was easy to find me at SF conventions. Just look for the very tall guy whose head was obscured by the smoke that encircled his head like a wreath. That was in the early days. More recently I could usually be found outside the hotel, huddled against the rain, the cold, and the howling gale with a couple other hopeless addicts.

I was sent home with a couple bottles of oxygen and an oxygen concentrator, but it’s possible I won’t need them after a while. Lee and I were enrolled in classes at something called the Transitional Care Clinic, TCC, a really smart and nice service of the Clinic where you record all your vital signs and come in weekly for consultation. I hate trailing the coiled tubing for the O2 all around the house, but so be it. I am able to do most things I always did, and get around in the car. I still tire quickly, but I don’t pant like an overheated hound dog.

Thanks again to all who sent money after my heart attack at the beginning of the year. I can’t tell you how much those dollars have helped take a heavy load off both our minds….

(3) MOBY WORM. Michael Dirda, well-known Washington Post critic who started there writing sf book reviews, has written an introduction to the new Folio Society edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune. An excerpt appears at Literary Hub: “What Accounts for the Lasting Appeal of Dune?”

… Even now, half a century since it first appeared in 1965, Dune is certainly still “the one”—it continues to top readers’ polls as the greatest science-fiction novel of modern times. Many would say of all time. Before Star Wars, before A Game of Thrones, Frank Herbert brought to blazing life a feudalistic future of relentless political intrigue and insidious treachery, a grandly operatic vision—half Wagner, half spaghetti western—of a hero discovering his destiny. Characters include elite samurai-like warriors, sadistically decadent aristocrats, mystical revolutionaries, and, not least, those monster worms, which barrel along under the desert surface with the speed of a freight train, then suddenly emerge from the sand like Moby Dick rising from the depths….

(4) MISSING A FEW THINGS. A.V. Club’s M.L. Kejera’s “Comics review: The History Of Science Fiction is bad history” contends “This reprehensible graphic novel could have been so much more, but instead spends time covering up history, not unpacking it.”

… Presented with an index and a list of principal art sources, the book is clearly attempting to be of some academic or referential use, on top of its wider appeal. But the English translation of Histoire De La Science Fiction fails utterly as a proper historic work—and worse, ends up functioning as weak hagiography.

… For example, though objects and ideas from Japanese sci-fi litter the futuristic museum, no Japanese author is given anywhere near the depth as writers from the aforementioned countries. Considering that one of the primary sources for this book is able to be precise about its purview (La Science-Fiction En France Dans Les Années 50, or Science Fiction In France In The ’50s), it’s a baffling decision on the part of everyone involved here to not specify this—especially while calling itself history.

Additionally, there is an ugly tendency in the book to gloss over the more reprehensible aspects of the writers featured….

(5) CLARK DEPARTS. SFWA bid “A Farewell to SFWA Blog Editor C.L. Clark”.

As of November 30, our blog editor, C.L. Clark (Cherae) has stepped down from her role for personal reasons. Clark joined SFWA’s staff in the summer of 2020. Her editorial perspective has brought many new voices to the blog over the past year, voices with a lot of insightful and fresh perspectives on the publishing industry today and the craft of science fiction and fantasy writing in the many mediums in which our members work. She’s also provided essential assistance with the release of The Bulletin #216 and our other SFWA Publications projects…. 

(6) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a “Call for Artists 2022” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2022.  Full guidelines at the link.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats. The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s first open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fifth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

(7) HOST CITY WANTED FOR 2023 WESTERCON. Kevin Standlee posted an announcement at the Westercon.org website: “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2023 Westercon”.

Because no groups filed to host Westercon 75, selection of the site of the 2023 Westercon devolved upon the 2021 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 73 (in conjunction with Loscon 47) in Los Angeles on November 27, 2021. The Business Meeting voted to appoint Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Westercon 74 Head of Hospitality Lisa Hayes as a committee to select a site and committee to run Westercon 75. Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75.

To submit a bid to the “Standlee-Hayes Commission” to host Westercon 75, write to Kevin Standlee at chair@Westercon74.org, or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee.

The initial deadline for applications is January 31, 2022.

(8) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Rosemary Claire Smith encourages writers to do what they want to anyway: “Reasons to Publicize Your Award-Eligible Works” at the SFWA Blog. Here’s the second of four points:

2. Award Eligibility Posts Are for All Writers, Not Only the Big Names.

Don’t believe me? Consider how many writers won a Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award or another prestigious literary prize with the first story or novel they ever got into print. Think about the “newcomers” awards such as the Astounding Award for Best New Writer given to someone whose first professional work was published during the two previous calendar years. It’s been a springboard launching a number of careers. Also, keep in mind that your audience may nominate and/or vote on readers’ choice awards given by Analog, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and other periodicals. 

By now, some of you are saying to yourselves, “Why bother when I’ll never win an award…or even be nominated. Or if I am, it’ll be as a list filler.” Others are thinking, “I only published one story. It came out in an obscure publication.” Then there’s, “My novel didn’t sell all that well,” not to mention the perennial, “The reviewers don’t know my book exists.” Are you thinking about waiting until…what? You’re better known? You sell more copies? You get published in a top market? Your sales figures improve or your social-media following grows? Your work attracts a glowing review? 

To every one of your objections, the answer is the same: Your fiction merits more attention right now. Even in better times, writing is a difficult enough business without running ourselves down. As writers, we are notoriously NOT the best judge of our own work. We’re too close to it. Sometimes words flow quickly and effortlessly. Other pieces fight us for every sentence we succeed in wringing out of them. Critical and popular acclaim aren’t tethered to the ease or difficulty of creation. Besides, our assessment of particular pieces may evolve as we gain the advantages of time and distance. In short, you never know how a story will fare….

(9) A TOP SFF BOOK COMES TO TV. Station Eleven will air starting December 24 on HBO Max.

A limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, #StationEleven is a post-apocalyptic saga that follows survivors of a devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew while holding on to the best of what’s been lost.

(10) GAIMAN ON TOUR. Neil Gaiman will be visiting many cities in the U.S. in April and May next year – see the schedule on Facebook.

(11) OSBORN OBIT. [Item by Bill.] I am saddened to pass on that Darrell Osborn has died of heart issues. He’s the husband of Stephanie Osborn. They’ve made a number of appearances at SF cons in the Southeast, with Stephanie as a writer and Darrell doing magic and balloon animals. Darrell’s day job was as a graphic designer for an aerospace contractor, and he did cover art for SF books.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age wins the Hugo for Best Novel at L.A. Con III where Connie Willis was Toastmaster. The other nominated works that year were The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, Brightness Reef by David Brin, The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer and Remake by Connie Willis. The Diamond Age would be nominated for Nebula, Campbell Memorial, SF Chronicle, Clarke, Locus, Prometheus, BSFA and HOMer Awards, winning the SF Chronicle and Locus Awards. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. He wrote a lot of SFF novels, none of which I recognize from the ISFDB listings. A lot of his genre novels are available from the usual suspects for very reasonable prices. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.  He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 84. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 75. British-born American illustrator and writer who is at least genre adjacent I’d say. (Motel of the Mysteries is genre.) Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 69. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. She too loves dark chocolate. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1952 Keith Szarabajka, 69. Quite a few genre roles including Daniel Holtz in the Angel series, voicing the demon Trigon in the Teen Titans series, Gerard Stephens in The Dark Knight and a recurring role as Donatello Redfield on Supernatural. That’s just a small sample of his genre roles down the decades. 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 50. Writer and illustrator, best remembered as creator of the most excellent Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. It’s available from the usual suspects. In French only for some reason. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full’s joke really has nothing to do with Tom Baker. Honestly.

(15) BEEBO, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A.V. Club declares, “Beebo Saves Christmas is one of the oddest holiday specials ever”.

You don’t (apparently) have to have been watching the WB/”Arrowverse” series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; indeed, it’s not clear that will help or otherwise make any difference. Beebo is a small furry toy that’s appeared as a character in several LofT episodes, ranging from as a mild joke to a malevolent something-or-other.

… For those who aren’t invested in Arrowverse lore, Beebo Saves Christmas was spun out of a running joke on DC’s Legends Of Tomorrowthe show about loser superheroes traveling through time and trying to save the day without making anything worse. In one episode—arguably the show’s best—a talking Tickle Me Elmo-style toy called Beebo is sent back in time and ends up in the possession of Leif Erikson and a group of Vikings who worship the talking toy as their new god of war….

If you can find it. On the CW, it apparently aired last night, “with an encore presentation airing on December 21, 2021.”  JustWatch.com doesn’t have this in its database. This Decider article has some other how-to-watch-it suggestions: “What time is ‘Beebo Saves Christmas’ on The CW?”

I’m thinking that an hour might be overmuch, but there’s only one way to find out…

(16) LAUREL & HARDY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2017 podcast Leonard Maltin did with Mark Evanier on Laurel and Hardy (Maltin on Movies: Mark Evanier.)  As kids, both of them watched Laurel and Hardy two-reelers after school and when John McCabe’s Mr Laurel And Mr Hardy came out in 1961 both checked out copies from the adult section of the library.  Because the Los Angeles public library didn’t have a copy, Evanier persuaded his aunt to get the Beverly Hills library’s copy.

Both men are really knowledgeable on silent film history, and if you know enough to argue about whether Snub Pollard was funnier than Charley Chase, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.  But their points are simple ones: all of Laurel and Hardy is worth watching except for the last five years of their careers, and it’s best to see them in a theatre or with friends because the laughter produced by a group adds to the joy these great comedians provided.

Fun facts: The stairs used in the 1932 short The Music Box still exist, and you can visit them in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.  Two Oscar-winning directors: Leo McCarey (as director) and George Stevens (as cinematographer) got their start on Laurel and Hardy shorts.

I thought this was a fun hour.

(17) THREE’S A CHARM. The first two were cursed. “BABYLON 5 The Geometry of Shadows commentary/reaction by Straczynski Third Version”. Why was this the third version? Straczynski spends the opening minutes explaining the problems that trashed the first two attempts:

…I’m recording the commentary for the Geometry of Shadows for the third time. The first time turned out that the new lavalier i was using wasn’t exactly hooked up right and did the entire recording sounding like Marvin the Martian — if Marvin the Martian were a raging drunk. Same applies to the Sense-8 commentary I did the same night. The second time I did it to redo the technology of the first one everything went fine. The sensitive microphone picked up all the sound in the room which was great, until I found out that it also picked up enough of the dialogue from the screen that it showed up on the recording and Youtube, when it did its search, said you cannot use this, Warner Brothers television has a claim on this, you can’t use it, you can’t post it. From 26 minutes to 42 minutes we can hear it. This is now my third run at this. I am beyond annoyed. I’m so – I wore a B5 cap from the pilot. I had a whole story about this. Screw it. I’m not telling you what it was because i don’t care anymore…

(Is this what really happened to the first four Babylons?)

(18) NOT SF. AT ALL. But if you read the Jack Reacher books you might want to see this trailer for Amazon Prime’s Reacher series. If it’s important to you that the new actor be taller than Tom Cruise, they have that covered. However, the trailer makes this Reacher look a bit of a showoff and dipshit, which isn’t his psychology in the books.  

(19) LIKE A DOG WITH A BONE. Can’t let go of it. But why couldn’t his passion project turn out great? Maybe someday. “Guillermo del Toro Wants to Make a ‘Weirder, Smaller’ Version of ‘At the Mountains of Madness,’ Possibly at Netflix” at Yahoo!

Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has long held that his passion project is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” and while he still hopes the opportunity arises to make the film, he now has a different version in mind than the one he nearly got off the ground a decade ago.

Appearing on the Stephen King-centric podcast The Kingcast to discuss “It,” del Toro was asked about the multiyear deal he signed with Netflix in 2020 and whether he might finally make “At the Mountains of Madness” at the streamer. “Take a wild guess which were the first projects I presented, you know?” del Toro replied. “I went through the cupboard and found ‘Monte Cristo’ and ‘Mountains of Madness.’ Those were a couple of the ones I presented first.”

(20) NEUTRON BEAMS, FAITH AND MAGIC.  In today’s Nature: “Neutron Beam Peers Into Medieval Faith And Superstition”.

A Norwegian amulet more than 700 years old has been hiding a runic inscription that holds religious and magic significance.

When archaeologists found the rectangular metal object during an excavation in Oslo’s medieval town in 2018, they saw that it was covered with runes and folded several times. Hartmut Kutzke at the city’s Museum of Cultural History and his colleagues wanted to study what was inscribed inside, but they feared that manually opening the talisman, known as the Bispegata amulet, would damage it. Because it is made out of lead — a heavy metal that blocks most X-rays — using X-ray tomography to make the hidden runes visible would not work either. Instead, the researchers used a neutron beam to peek inside the amulet and create a detailed reconstruction of it.

They found that some of the runes spell out Latin and Greek phrases, whereas others signify repetitive sequences of seemingly meaningless words. Some of the comprehensible phrases might carry religious meaning, whereas the abstruse abracadabra was probably thought to have a magic effect, the researchers say.

(21) IT’S A YOUNG MOON AFTER ALL. From “Robotic sample return reveals lunar secrets” in today’s Nature:

A mission to unexplored lunar territory has returned the youngest volcanic samples collected so far. The rocks highlight the need to make revisions to models of the thermal evolution of the Moon.

The wait is over for more news from the Moon1. Three studies in this issue, by https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04119-5.pdf  Tian et al.   https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04107-9.pdf   Hu et al. and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04100-2.pdf ;Li et al., together with one in Science by Che et al. report data on the lunar samples brought back by China’s robotic Chang’e-5 mission — the first to return samples since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. These data shed light on volcanic eruptions that occurred more than one billion years more recently than those known about previously, and provide information on the cause of the volcanism that cannot be obtained from orbit. The results raise questions about the structure and thermal evolution of the lunar interior, and could help to improve methods for estimating the age of planetary surfaces throughout the inner Solar System.

In December 2020, the Chang’e-5 lander set down in the Rümker region near the northwest corner of Oceanus Procellarum on the side of the Moon closest to Earth (Fig. 1). Like the sites visited by Luna and by NASA’s Apollo missions, the Rümker region consists predominantly of a magnesium-rich volcanic rock known as basalt, but the difference from previous missions is that the Rümker basalts are potentially as young as 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion years old, which makes the Chang’e-5 samples the youngest taken from the Moon so far.

(22) NERD ART. “’Selfie with Godzilla’?! Artist Fuses Reality and Science Fiction in Multimedia Gallery Show” — some entertaining images in Houston City Book.

…Houston artist Neva Mikulicz, a self-described “nerd” with an alter ego named Commodore Mik, who once ordered Kirk to the Star Fleet Fat Farm so she could board and evaluate the condition of the Starship Enterprise, smartly and humorously blurs that line between science and science fiction in her new exhibit, Declassified, a collection of beautifully realized Prismacolor pencil on paper drawings, complemented by archival videos and LED and sound module technology. The show opens Saturday at Anya Tish Gallery.

UFOs, robots, and monsters both prehistoric and imagined are recurring subjects in Mikulicz’s artwork, which radiates with a 1950s “vintage-y” vibe, the decade when the automobile, rock’n’roll and television took hold of the country’s collective imagination.

But Declassified is no nostalgia trip. Some drawings mirror the look of our world as it is photographed and disseminated by handheld consumer gizmos, while other works are composed like panels in a graphic novel, a medium that many contemporary fine artists find inspiring. One features a T-Rex chasing an iconic orange-and-white-striped Whataburger cup; another is titled “Selfie with Godzilla.” Mikulicz also created a comic book to accompany the exhibition….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  No Time To Die,” the Screen Junkies say the film shows that Bond has gone beyond silliness (remember Roger Moore driving a gondola?) to be a movie “about a divorced dad who wonders what to feed a French kid for breakfast.” Also, why should characters care who is 007, since that’s basically “an employee ID number?”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rob Thornton, Bill, Michael J. Walsh, Kevin Standlee, David K.M. Klaus, Will R., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 9/18/21 Me And My Pixel, Scrolling Down The Fan Venue

(1) SPACE OPERA. Stars Between, the 20-minute opera on the Voyager missions that E. Lily Yu wrote the libretto for, with Steven Tran composing, recently became available on Seattle Opera’s website along with other operas from the Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab. Yu won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 2012. “At Seattle Opera, young artists push a 400-year-old art form forward” at Crosscut.

…Created over the course of 21 weeks — via Zoom and during socially distanced, masked rehearsal sessions — this year’s eight Creation Lab operas will be streamed on the Seattle Opera website, in two separate bills, starting Sept. 9 and Sept. 10.

The inaugural cohort’s 20-minute creations use traditional opera vocals to deal with raw issues in fresh ways or take innovative approaches to storylines and orchestration. The dramatic opera Blaze depicts the personal losses caused by terrifying wildfires. If only I could give you the sun, a nonbinary/transgender retelling of the Icarus myth, centers generosity and joy instead of hubris and calamity. The existential opera Stars Between tells the story of the Voyager space mission with the help of ’80s synths and a vocoder (along with some Ariana Grande inspiration). And in Flush, the soprano portrays a girl running into a public bathroom — and the mezzo-soprano plays the toilet who sings back to her. 

Yu and Tran’s work is the first one performed here: “2020/21 Creation Lab Performances Part 2”.

(2) CARRIBEAN SFF PODCAST. Jarrel De Matas invites fans to listen to The Caribbean Science Fiction Network, “A celebration of all things fantasy, folklore, and science fiction.”

Want to learn more about Caribbean fantasy, folklore, speculative, and science fiction? Interested in established and emerging Caribbean voices about all things sf? Then tune in to The Caribbean Science Fiction Network. In this podcast I showcase emerging and established Caribbean voices who use sf genres to explore future states of Caribbean identity. Through these genres, the writers redefine Caribbean futurity and what it means to be Caribbean.

The most recent episode features a discussion with Karen Lord: ?“Imagining a Caribbean future of health”.

How can literature illuminate matters of public health and Caribbean futures? Listen to Barbadian writer, Karen Lord, discuss her latest short story “The Plague Doctors” which is eerily prophetic in its portrayal of an island bearing the brunt of a contagious disease. Through a blending of the hard sciences and the social sciences, Lord urges us to read not just for entertainment but for social change.

The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.fm, iHeartRadio, Podchaser, and Breaker.

(3) AFROFUTURISM. In a post for Axios, “Afrofuturists imagine space in 2051”, Russell Contreras provides an extensive roundup about the subgenre.

…Details: Afrofuturism describes an alternative place for Black people in space or a fantasy setting, or in relation to technology that allows one to escape slavery and discrimination.

Once an underground movement, Afrofuturism today enjoys a popular fan base with the blockbuster movie “Black Panther” and a new exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California….

The Oakland exhibit is discussed in full detail in the San Francisco Chronicle: “’Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism’ collapses space and time to envision a Black future”.

…“Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism,” which will be on view through Feb. 27, showcases work across mediums, dating from the early days of the Black American experience to the present. 

The Afrofuturism movement “is about collapsing time and space, so what happened in 1919 is just as relevant as what happened in 2019,” Harden explained. “You can understand that Black folks’ mere presence of life and living is in part resisting this impossibility that’s facing them, which is life, in a world that is fully anti-Black.” 

“Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism” is the museum’s first new exhibition since the start of the pandemic. It was scheduled to open in October, but public health orders forced the museum to suspend in-person operations from March 2020 to June. 

Rhonda Pagnozzi, a curator at the East Bay institution since 2017, served as lead curator, working with Oakland-born Harden, a doctoral candidate in the African American studies department at UC Berkeley. The museum had been at work on the project before the protests over the police killing of George Floyd erupted last summer and worked with more than 50 Black artists and historians in creating the exhibit. 

“As a non-Black curator, it was critical on this project to center the voices of Black creatives,” said Pagnozzi, who is white. 

To mount the exhibition, new walls were erected to create more intimate spaces, and the museum’s 7,600-square-foot Great Hall was painted with darker tones, primarily black and grays. The effect makes each installation more striking, as the exhibits contrast with the simple and muted nature of the space.  

The exhibit engulfs a visitor immediately with a hypnotizing sound installation, “Mothership Calling,” by Pittsburgh composer Nicole Mitchell, and a mural, “Radio Imagination,” by San Francisco artist Sydney Cain, both created in 2020. The mural aims to capture the idea of a collapse of time and space, featuring visuals of ancestors of the African diaspora while being abstract enough that it feels like something part of a distant future….

(4) SAY THEIR NAMES. Lise Andreasen asks, “Did you know I have a Soundcloud? Currently the correct (?) pronunciation of more than 50 names. Did I get someone wrong? Did I miss someone people often get wrong?” Listen here – “Say It Right. If you want to give any feedback, contact Lise here. (And now I know the right way to pronouce Lise Andreasen!)

(5) HEAR BISHOP. On October 7, ReadSC’s “On My Mind” series will present Brock Adams and Michael Bishop. Register for the free online event at Eventbrite. Begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Brock Adams‘s first novel, Ember, won the South Carolina First Novel Prize in 2016 and was published the following year by Hub City Press. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, The Sewanee Review, Bacopa Literary Review, and several other journals….

Michael Lawson Bishop is an award-winning American writer. Over four decades & thirty books, he has created a body of work that stands among the most admired in modern sf & fantasy literature…. 

(6) NIGHTMARE ALLEY. “Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley Finally Gets Its First Trailer” and Yahoo! News gives it an introduction:

Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming film Nightmare Alley is highly anticipated for a few reasons. The most obvious one is, well, it’s a del Toro film. But the cast comes in a close second for this dark ‘40s noir tale. Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, and David Strathairn complete the film’s ensemble cast. It feels like 84 years since we first found out about this adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 book of the same name. Believe it or not, the initial announcement hit way back in December 2017. And now, nearly four years later, we finally got the trailer. And it was indeed worth the long (and pandemic affected) wait….

(7) SAVING BOOKS. Andrew Porter says his comment about salvaging water damaged books, left on the New York Times article “He Was Swept Down a Sewer Pipe: ‘I Just Let the Water Take Me’”, is getting a lot of upvotes. (Click for larger image.)

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1965 – Fifty-six years ago on this evening , Get Smart! first aired on NBC. Created by Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, this would be the first scripted television series for either of them. It had a small core cast consisting of Don Adams, Barbara Feldon and Edward Platt. It would run for five seasons, the last being being on CBS, consisting on one hundred and thirty-eight episodes. A movie, The Nude Bomb (retitled The Return of Maxwell Smart when it ran on TV as obviously those audiences are sensitive), followed, and then later on Get Smart, Again!, another film aired. A mid-Nineties revival series, Get Smart, with Don Adams and Barbara Feldon lasted but seven episodes. Edward Platt who played The Chief in the original series had died, so he wasn’t part of it. Adams would later do many a commercial using his Maxwell Smart persona. You can see his ad for Savemart New York City here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 — Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered first time that an American female writer published an SF story using her real name. I’m pleased to say that the usual suspects are heavily stocked with her works.  (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1917 — June Foray. Voice performer with such roles as Cindy Lou Who, Natasha Fatale and Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She also provided the voice of Lucifer the Cat from Disney’s Cinderella. She also did a lot of witches such as Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel which you can hear thisaway. She was instrumental in the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature twenty years ago. OGH has a detailed remembrance here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 18, 1939 — Frankie Avalon, 82. He first graced the SFF realm with an appearance on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea followed by being in the Panic In Year Zero film and then in the Bondian spoof Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. His last two genre one-offs were on Fantasy Island and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Well, and there was the teenage horror bloodfest The Haunted House of Horror.
  • Born September 18, 1944 — Veronica Carlson, 77. She’s best remembered for her roles in Hammer horror films. Among them are Dracula Has Risen from the Grave,  Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Horror of Frankenstein. She also shows up in Casino Royale as an uncredited blonde. She also appeared in the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) episode “The Ghost Who Saved the Bank at Monte Carlo”.
  • Born September 18, 1946 — Struan Rodger, 75. He voiced the Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories “New Earth” and “Gridlock”. He returned to the series as Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Woman Who Loved” and voiced Kasaavin in Thirteenth Doctor story, “Skyfall”.  He was also Bishop in Stardust, and voiced the Three-Eyed Raven in The Game of Thrones’ “The Lion and The Rose” and “The Children”. 
  • Born September 18, 1946 — Nicholas Clay. Here for playing Lancelot on Excalibur. He did two earlier horror films, The Damned and Terror of Frankenstein, and he was The Prince in Sleeping Beauty. For television work, he’s done The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Hound of the BaskervillesZorroThe New Adventures of Robin HoodVirtual MurderHighlander and Merlin. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 18, 1948 — Lynn Abbey, 73. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (whom she was married to for 13 years) the quite superb Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her latter work, so y’all will not to tell me how it is. Most of the Thieves’ World Series is available from the usual digital suspects.
  • Born September 18, 1984 — Caitlin Kittredge, 37. Known for  for her Nocturne City series of adult novels which I’d not heard of before this, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s penned a Witchblade series at Image Comics, and the excellent Coffin Hill series for Vertigo. 

(10) GOOD HOUSECREEPING. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri knows you have to clean up your house, and provides tips from Poe, Shirley Jackson, Smaug, and Thanos! “Goblincore? Cottagecore? Here are some more -cores, as long as we’re doing this.”

  • Thanoscore: Have eliminated half of items in house at random; was attempting Kondocore, but something went very wrong.

(11) WORTH A SECOND GLANCE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This list includes quite a few genre films, some of which are arguably the exact opposite of “brilliant.” “26 Overlooked Movies to Watch This Fall” in The Atlantic.

Aeon Flux (2005, directed by Karyn Kusama)

Undoubtedly one of the oddest blockbusters ever produced by a major studio, Kusama’s adaptation of the cult ’90s MTV series was critically derided and somewhat disowned by its director, who said it had been reedited for commercial appeal. If that’s the case, her cut must have been unimaginably bizarre, because the final version is a visually giddy, borderline-incomprehensible sci-fi actioner loaded with intriguing ideas of how our utopian future could go awry. Charlize Theron stars as the raven-haired, ultra-athletic warrior fighting to take down her future government; she eventually uncovers a conspiracy that helps explain both the cloistered world she lives in and the hazy dreams she has of another life in the distant past. Kusama has made better movies, such as Girlfight and The Invitation, but even her biggest flop is overflowing with more cool ideas than most summer tentpole releases.

(12) OUT FOR A PENNY, OUT FOR A POUND. “Britain Signals Intent to Revert to the Imperial System” reports the New York Times.

The British government said it was taking steps to return to its traditional system of imperial weights and measures, allowing shops and market stalls to sell fruits and vegetables labeled in pounds and ounces alone, rather than in the metric system’s grams and kilograms, a move it hailed as an example of the country’s new post-Brexit freedoms.

…Since at least medieval times, the English have used their own set measurements, including inches, feet, stones, miles and acres, many of which are still used in the United States. But for decades, the British government had been pushing people to use the metric system, used in most of the world and developed using decimalized metric standards during the French Revolution.

Supporters of the metric system say its use is necessary for companies to compete globally, since so many countries use it. Those passionate about the metric system also point to the fact that Britain began its switch to the metric system in 1965, eight years before it joined the European Union. Others said there were more pressing issues to focus on, like cuts to public services.

(13) SLOW-PONY EXPRESS. Interesting to realize that crossing the U.S. by plane in thirty days would have been a speed to aspire to in 1911. See a gallery of close-up photos of the aircraft that tried to do it in “Wright EX Vin Fiz” at the National Air and Space Museum website.

110 years ago this month, Calbraith Perry Rodgers began the first crossing of the United States by airplane. Rodgers departed New York on September 17, 1911, in his Wright EX biplane Vin Fiz with the hopes of crossing the U.S. in thirty days or less to claim a $50,000 prize from publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. His endeavor was supported financially by the Armour Company, makers of the grape-flavored soft drink called Vin Fiz. While the flight took him 49 days and he did not earn the prize money, he did go down in history as the first person to cross the U.S. by airplane when he arrived in Pasadena, California, on November 5.

(14) A WHIFF OF HALLOWEEN. I’m including the link to Burke & Hare’s Halloween Scented Candles because they had the foresight to label their product page “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” And as you know, we’re all Bradbury all the time here. (Don’t get excited when you see every candle is marked “sold out” — a note at the top of the page says they’ll restock on September 22.)

(15) OUT FOR A SPIN. A step forward for space tourism: “SpaceX capsule returns four civilians from orbit, capping off first tourism mission,” reports CNN. (See video of the landing at SpaceX – Launches.)

Four people returned to Earth from a three-day extraterrestrial excursion aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Saturday evening, marking the end of the first-ever flight to Earth’s orbit flown entirely by tourists or otherwise non-astronauts.

“Thanks so much SpaceX, it was a heck of a ride for us,” billionaire and mission commander Jared Isaacman could be heard saying over the company’s livestream.

The tourists were shown watching movies and occasionally heard responding to SpaceX’s mission control inside their fully autonomous spacecraft before it began the nail-biting process of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. After traveling at more than 17,000 miles per hour, the spacecraft used Earth’s own thick blanket of air to slow itself down, with the outside of the craft reaching temperatures up to 3,500º Fahrenheit in the process.

The Crew Dragon capsule, which is designed not to allow temperatures to go past 85º in the cabin, used its heat shield to protect the crew against the intense heat and buildup of plasma as it plunged back toward the ocean. During a Netflix documentary about the Inspiration4 mission, Musk described a capsule going through reentry as “like a blazing meteor coming in.”

This is not a video of the landing.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Untitled Earth Sim 64” by Jonathan Wilhelmsson, a woman is faced with existential crisis after learning that the universe is an untitled simulation. This is the latest short sff film distributed by DUST.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, E. Lily Yu, Paul Di Filippo, Estee, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]