Pixel Scroll 9/19/22 Secret File Wars: The Rise Of Timothy

(1) BUGLER, SOUND REBOOTS AND SADDLES! “J. Michael Straczynski Rallies Fans to Save the Babylon 5 Reboot”Tor.com boosts the signal. JMS asks fans to light up social media on behalf of Babylon 5.

The Babylon 5 reboot at The CW managed to survive the many rounds of cuts the network made in the lead up to its eventual sale. According to creator J. Michael Straczynski, however, the fate of the show is still uncertain, and he wants fans to express their support for the show on the Interweb so The CW’s new owners as well as Warner Bros. TV know there’s an audience for the sci-fi show….

Straczynski also dropped the hashtag #B5onCWin23 as the rallying point for fans to prove their desire to see the reboot. The hashtag became the top trending one on Twitter at one point, so here’s to hoping that The CW and Warner Bros. TV are listening.

(2) GUNN CENTER’S SFF BOOK CLUB. The Gunn Center’s Sci Fi, Fantasy, & Speculative Lit Book Club is officially back. You can register for the event using this link.

In honor of the upcoming Sturgeon Symposium: Celebrating Speculative Communities and the announcement of the 2022 Sturgeon Award winner at the end of this month (Sept. 29 & 30), we’ve chosen 3 short stories to read from the list of finalists:

  • Nalo Hopkinson’s “Broad Dutty Water: A Sunken Story”
  • John Kessel’s “The Dark Ride”
  • Suzanne Palmer’s “Bots of the Lost Ark”

Based on what we’ve heard from the jury, these are the final contenders for the award, so be sure to read their stories and take your guesses as to who you think the winner will be!

Sign up by midnight on the 22nd so that we can get you added to the list. Upon registration, you’ll be sent the Zoom link and passcode as well as links and pdfs to the readings.

P.S. To register for the Gunn Center’s First Annual Sturgeon Symposium (Sept. 29-30), use this link.

(3) YO HO NO. It’s not “speak like a pirate” day in France.Publishing Perspectives understands why “French Publishers Cheer a Court’s Order to Block a Book Piracy Site”.

Today (September 19), an announcement from the French publishers’ association—the Syndicat national de l’édition (SNE)—signals a victory for French publishers in cases against piracy-facilitation sites drain revenue of many world markets’ book publishing industries.

A judgment was handed down in Paris on August 25, according to SNE and that court ruling has ordered Internet service providers to block the site (and associated domain names) of a piracy group called “Z-Library.” The result, according to the syndicate, is that 209 domain names and their extensions on mirror sites are being rendered inaccessible.

“Presenting itself ‘as a free library’ since 2009,” the publishers’ association says “but offering a paying model for access to counterfeit works, the Z-Library site—accessible via multiple addresses—offered access to more than 8 million books” across all editorial sectors “and 80 million pirated items.”

…“This collective success,” the French publishers’ syndicate writes in its media messaging today, shuts down at least these instances of an abiding and expensive impediment to doing business and to copyright protection, “and opens the way to new actions by the publishers and the Syndicat national de l’édition—blocking and de-referencing, quickly and systematically, against Web sites operating to defeat copyright protections.

“French publishing is investing massively to allow broad public access to digital books,” the publishers say in today’s announcement. “Book piracy undermines the remuneration of creators, both authors and publishers. It poses a threat to the entire book ecosystem, particularly booksellers, and harms cultural diversity.

(4) CHICON 8 MASQUERADE CREDITS. As reported earlier this month, Chicon 8 posted a rich gallery of photos: “Masquerade! Astounding Faces on Parade!” It includes notes on the award winners, including Best in Show, Arwen’s Lament presented by Rae Lundquist and company. (Which also won “Excellence in Workmanship for Hobbit Feet”.)

We also want to credit the directors and judges. (Thanks to John Hertz for rounding up the names).

  • Masquerade Directors: Sue Finkle, Renata O’Connor (co-directors)
  • Judges: Debi Chowdhury, Byron Connell
  • Workmanship Judges: Karen Berquist-Dezoma, John Hertz, Leah O’Connor
  • M.C.: William Dezoma

(5) POSSIBILITY ZERO. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Got a post-convention report from local (Scottsdale) convention CoKoCon, held Labor Day weekend earlier this month. They had 221 in attendance and reported the following about their Covid-prevention results:

COVID CASES – ZERO REPORTED!

We’ve seen a lot of reports of COVID cases coming out of other conventions, whether they be of similar size to us or much larger. Some of them, perhaps unsurprisingly, had no COVID policy in place, and became spreader events. Others had a very strict policy, so strict that it was broadly ignored.

We tried to find a middle ground that would keep all members of CoKoCon as safe as possible and it seems to have worked out, because our case count is… zero, as far as we are aware. Not one positive case has been reported.

If you did attend CoKoCon and tested positive for COVID within the next week, please let us know by e-mailing info@cokocon.org. For now, it seems like we found a good balance and we couldn’t be happier.

Because of this, we will continue our current policy into 2023.

I think I mentioned in a Pixel Scroll comment that attendees were cooperative about following the convention guidelines: Masks required in the conference center facilities, no eating or drinking inside the facilities (the Ice Cream Social was held on an outside patio), and social distancing encouraged, both in and outside the conference rooms. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1989 [By Cat Eldridge.] Adapted from the Alien Nation film, the Alien Nation series premiered on Fox thirty-three years ago this evening. I’m sure that I saw that night. And even liked. It. I wouldn’t say that it’s the greatest series ever conceived but it was good enough that I caught most, if not all, of the twenty-two episodes aired.

You probably know the concept of starship crashing near Los Angeles carrying a race we called the Newcomers. Some join the LA police force, hence the police procedural theme of the series. Our central story revolves Detective Matthew “Matt” Sikes, a human, and Detective George Francisco, a Newcomer is who’s his partner. I thought they did a reasonably decent job of dealing with racism and associated issues framed within an SF setting. 

Yes, it includes weird things like even the aliens have male pregnancies. Awkwardly done I thought. 

Was it perfectly done?  (See above.) Oh Hell no. But they tried.

It was produced by Kenneth Johnson who you might recognize from the V franchise that he done earlier. He also was responsible for The Bionic Woman and The Incredible Hulk,

TV Guide would later include the series in their 2013 list of 60 shows that were “Cancelled Too Soon” I disagree. I don’t think that it was that well a conceived a series and honestly I’m not sure that it was going anywhere. It did spawn five films after it was cancelled. 

In June 2009, Syfy (You know, that which had been the Sci-Fi Channel) announced that they were developing a new take on the series. Before that went anywhere, the series was cancelled by the network in favor of paranormal reality shows and professional wrestling. Since then talk after talk has been made of a reboot. Do you see a series happening? 

Amazon, Hulu, Sling and Starz are streaming it. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 19, 1922 Damon Knight. Author, editor, critic. Kate Wilhelm who was his wife is also regrettably no longer with us. His 1950 short story, “To Serve Man” was adapted for The Twilight Zone. His first story, “The Itching Hour,” appeared in the Summer 1940 number of Futuria Fantasia which was edited and published by Ray Bradbury.  It’s hard to briefly sum up his amazing genre career but let me note he was a member of the Futurians and a reviewer as well as a writer. Novels of his I’ll single out are Hell’s PavementThe Observers and Special Delivery but don’t think I’m overlooking his brilliant short stories. The Encyclopedia of SF notes that “In 1995, he was granted the SFWA Grand Master Award – which from 2002 became formally known, in his honour, as the Damon Knight Grand Master Award. He was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003.” (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 19, 1928 Adam West. Best known as Batman on that classic Sixties series, he also had a short role in 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars as Colonel Dan McReady. He last played the role of Batman by voicing him in two animated films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. He also most excellently voiced The Gray Ghost in an episode of the Kevin Conroy voiced B:TAS, “Beware the Gray Ghost”. So what did he do that I didn’t note here? (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 19, 1933 David McCallum, 89. His longest running, though not genre, role is pathologist  Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on NCIS where he appeared in every episode of the first fifteen seasons. Genre wise, he was Illya Nickovitch Kuryakin on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and the British series Sapphire & Steel where he was Steel and Joanna Lumley was Sapphire. He played the lead in a short-lived U.S. version of The Invisible Man. He was Dr. Vance Hendricks on Babylon 5’s “Infection” episode.
  • Born September 19, 1941 Mariangela Melato. She was Kala, one of the female enforcers of Ming the Merciless in the Eighties version on the Flash Gordon film. The only other film she was in that might have been genre is Thomas e gli indemoniati. (Died 2013).
  • Born September 19, 1942 Victor Brandt, 80. He showed up not once but twice during Star Trek’s third and final season. He played Watson in the “Elaan of Troyius” episode and Tongo Rad in the “The Way to Eden” episode. He’s since done work in The InvadersThey Came From Outer Space, and voice work in Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • Born September 19, 1947 Tanith Lee. I hadn’t realized that she wrote more than ninety novels and three hundred short stories in her career. Ninety novels! She even wrote two of the Blake’s 7 episodes as well. I am more fond of her work for children such as The Dragon Hoard and The Unicorn Series than I am of her adult work. She has garnered well-deserved Stoker and World Fantasy Awards for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 19, 1952 Laurie R. King, 70. She’s on the Birthday Honors list for the Mary Russell series of historical mysteries, featuring Sherlock Holmes as her mentor and later partner. Hey it’s at least genre adjacent.  She’s also written at least one genre novel, Califia’s Daughters.
  • Born September 19, 1970 N. K. Jemisin, 50. Her most excellent Broken Earth series has made her the only author to have won the Hugo for Best Novel in three consecutive years. Her “Non-Zero Probabilities” was nominated for the Best Short Story losing out to Will McIntosh‘s “Bridesicle” at Aussiecon 4. “Emergency Skin” I’m pleased to note won the Best Novelette Hugo at CoNZealand. Yeah I voted for it. And at Chicon 8 she won a Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo for Far Sector, written by her, with art by Jamal Campbell.

(8) WHAT TOMORROW WILL LOOK LIKE. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore will host a virtual panel – “OCCUPY GONDOR: Using Speculative Fiction To Interrogate The New Gilded Age” – with Elizabeth Bear, Katherine Addison, Arkady Martine, C. L. Polk, Scott Lynch, and Max Gladstone on September 30 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register at the link.

God-emperors and space capitalists got you down? The discourse surrounding speculative fiction, and in particular fantasy and space opera, often pushes the idea that SF is inherently regressive. Join our panel of award-winning and best-selling authors as they interrogate the assumption that the future necessarily has to look anything like the past. 

(9) FAMILIAR MOTIFS. In “Review: Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi”, Camestros Felapton says readers’ persistence will be rewarded.

This is an absolutely tremendous book that befits its Biblically gigantic name yet I feel the need to start the review in a similar way to many of the reviews I’ve since read. I initially struggled to get into the book but you should stick with it.

The other repeated review comparison I’ve seen is to Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren. It is a comparison with some merit — both books do have a disorientating sense of an urban landscape in collapse — but it is not a helpful comparison. Rather like the initial statement I made, it is a comparison that feels like you are making either excuses or giving a warning. Where Dhalgren can feel obscure or even occult, Goliath is quite direct about its thesis even if it is complex in the way it interplays the lives of the multiple characters…

(10) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter spotted the contestants tripping over this one on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! Might have gotten me, too!

Category: A Hunger For Reading

Answer: The title eatery of this Douglas Adams book is Milliways, famed for its Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

Wrong question: What is ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’?

Right question: What is ‘The Restaurant at the End of the Universe’?

(11) KEY AND PEELE VOICE TITLE CHARACTERS. This teaser trailer for Henry Selick’s new film dropped last week: Wendell & Wild.

From the delightfully wicked minds of Henry Selick (director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline) and Jordan Peele (Nope, Us, Get Out) comes the story of Kat (Lyric Ross), a troubled teen haunted by her past, who must confront her personal demons, Wendell & Wild (played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) to start a new life in her old hometown.

(12) NO SH!T SHERLOC? “’Tantalizing’ Mars rocks strengthen the idea the Red Planet once hosted life”Inverse has the story.

NASA’S PERSEVERANCE ROVER has detected a plethora of potential biosignatures on Mars, the agency announced Thursday.

Now that the car-sized robot has covered 13 kilometers of Martian terrain over the span of 560 sols (days on the Red Planet), the mission team happily announced that the rover’s SHERLOC instrument detected organic material across many more samples of unique Mars rocks than first anticipated.

…WHAT THEY FOUND — The rocks are “tantalizing” and “whetting our appetite for what’s next,” Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said on Thursday.

First, the team found evidence that the rocks are excellent at preserving organic material. They learned this thanks to SHERLOC, short for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals. It performed the preliminary analysis of Perseverance’s target rocks by shooting a laser at exposed faces — called abrasion patches — to analyze the rocks’ compositions….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Warner Brothers dropped this 2022 featurette on the batsuit, featuring interviews with five directors of Batman movies and six Batmans, last week.  Narrated by Kevin Smith. “The Evolution of the Batsuit”.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, John Hertz, Bruce D. Arthurs, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Gunn Center’s First Annual Sturgeon Symposium Set For Sept. 29-30

The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) will host the 1st Annual Sturgeon Symposium from September 29-30 in Lawrence, KS. The symposium will feature the presentation of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best published science fiction short story and a reading from this year’s winner.

In addition to the Sturgeon Award Ceremony, the hybrid in-person/online symposium will include scholarly panels on such topics as fan fiction and teaching science fiction, roundtable discussions, and creative writing readings that highlight the diversity of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the Speculative Arts.

This year’s theme – “Celebrating Speculative Communities” – explores how contributors from diverse groups employ speculative genres, and how these speculative productions create and impact notions of community. The theme encourages contemplation of the Gunn Center’s new mission of showcasing international speculative literatures, including creative work by writers from Indian Nations, such as the Kaw, Osage, and others on whose homelands KU stands. Guests include a collective of Indigenous Hawaiian authors and Andrea L. Rogers [Cherokee], whose forthcoming collection of stories, Man Made Monsters, has been called by Publishers Weekly a book that “artfully tackles themes of colonialism and its effects on entire generations, for a simultaneously frightening and enthralling read.” L.L. McKinney (A Blade So Black), Tessa Gratton (Lady Hotspur and Star Wars: The High Republic [Disney/Lucasfilm]), and Natalie C. Parker (the Seafire series) are also featured speakers.  

The Sturgeon Symposium will take place in the Commons (Spooner Hall) at the University of Kansas. The first roundtable discussion will begin at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday with the Sturgeon Award Ceremony and reading by the winning writer beginning at 7:00 p.m. On Friday, the symposium will run from 9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Registration is now open and attendance is free to the public. Registration forms and the program/schedule of events can be found on the CSSF website.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 6/27/22 Scroll Ain’t Nothing But Pixel Misspelled

(1) STOP STICKING IT TO AUTHORS. In “Amazon’s e-book return policy comes under criticism from authors” NPR takes up the cause of the writers whose pockets are being picked.

… Authors are protesting Amazon’s e-book return policy, a system they say allows readers to “steal” from self-published authors. Amazon’s current return policy for e-books allows customers to “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But, for some readers, seven days is more than enough time to finish a book and return it after reading, effectively treating Amazon like a library.

When an Amazon customer returns an e-book, royalties originally paid to the author at the time of purchase are deducted from their earnings balance….

…Those suggesting the read-and-return practice think they’re “sticking it to Amazon,” but in reality are only harming the authors, said Eva Creel, a fantasy writer who publishes under the name E. G. Creel.

“I have my book available at the library. If somebody wants to read it for free, they can,” Creel said. “But reading it and making me think that I’ve made an income and then that income being taken away from me, that feels like stealing.”

Science fiction and fantasy author Nicole Givens Kurtz said she’s concerned that this trend will continue.

“If people continue to promote [reading and returning e-books], it impacts my income, which impacts my quality of life and my ability to take care of my family,” she said. “I don’t think readers quite understand or see the person behind the product.”

(2) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM CFP. The Gunn Center reminds everyone that the deadline for proposals for the first annual Sturgeon Symposium is only 3 days away. The event takes place September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. See the call for papers here.

(3) INCIDENT INTERRUPTS BUSINESS AT MACMILLAN. “After ‘Security Incident,’ Macmillan Closes, Will Not Process Orders” reports Shelf Awareness. The details are not disclosed.

Macmillan sent a notice to customers saying that because of “a security incident” on Saturday that involved its servers and internal system, the company has closed offices today, Monday, June 27, in order to continue its investigation and to rebuild “a secure working environment.” As a result, Macmillan is currently not able to process, receive, place or ship orders. The company added that it will keep customers posted.

(4) HUGO TAKES. This month the SF Insiders blog launched. Who’s writing it? No idea! It’s a secret.

Not unlike other writers hoping to break into the science fiction and fantasy field, we have high hopes, many opinions, and no power. We remain anonymous to protect ourselves from the Internet horrors we’ve seen inflicted on others.

The blog’s first order of business is evaluating the 2022 Hugo finalists. They’ve written about two Hugo categories and the Astounding Award so far.

2. Sheila Williams

Williams is the only previous winner on this year’s ballot and the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction. She’s also edited several anthologies, but none of those were published in 2021. Asimov’s output for 2021 was exactly what we’ve come to expect and Williams continued involvement with the Dell Award did not go unnoticed by us. There’s a reason she’s won two Hugos and continues to appear on this list.

5. Escape Pod

A science fiction podcast that publishes a mix of reprint and original stories. Their editors are finalists for Editor Short form and we stand by the opinions stated there. On discussing this publication for the second time, however, we questioned why the same work is eligible for two awards. This isn’t the first time it has happened, but we think it would be more fair if these magazines choose to be in one or the other. With how often there are repeat finalists in these categories, restricting it to one would give us more variety to choose from.

We were supposed to talk about the Astounding Award finalists during this week’s Zoom, but we went in a different direction instead: the “not a Hugo” status of the award. Maybe someone can tell us how has this never become an official Hugo Award? As writers, the current status feels like a slap in the face and we’re not even eligible yet….

(5) LE GUIN, ROBINSON, AND UTOPIAS. The Tin House podcast offers “Crafting with Ursula : Kim Stanley Robinson on Ambiguous Utopias”.

Today’s guest, Kim Stanley Robinson, is perhaps the living writer most associated with utopian literature today. And as a student of the philosopher, political theorist, and literary critic Fredric Jameson, Robinson has thought deeply about the history of utopias, the history of the novel, and the strange hybrid form that became the utopian novel. In his mind it was Ursula K. Le Guin who wrote the first truly great utopian novel. We discuss Le Guin’s utopian work alongside his, and contextualize her importance historically. Robinson also shares some incredible anecdotes from his time in the 70s as her student and the ways their lives as fellow writers have intersected over the decades.

What is a utopian novel? What is an ambiguous utopia? And why has this genre become a particularly vital form and even a critical tool of the human imagination today? Listen in to find out. 

(6) NO COUNTRY FOR YOUNG MEN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Ringer does some interesting research into the trend of Hollywood blockbuster action movies that center on older actors and finds that it’s a multifaceted phenomenon that can be tied to economic heft of older moviegoers, changing media tastes in younger generations, and shifts in how movie studios build tentpole features around intellectual property rather than around individual actors and their personal brands. “The Golden Age of the Aging Actor”.

They quote film historian Mark Harris: “Maybe they’re gamers, or maybe what they really enjoy is TikTok, or maybe it’s something else, but a generation can’t generate stars if it doesn’t really love the medium that creates and accommodates stars.”

(7) BRYAN BARRETT OBITUARY. Fan and bookdealer Bryan Barrett, who co-chaired the 1998 World Fantasy Convention, died June 21. Lucy Huntzinger relayed the news from Bryan’s nephew, and wrote a tribute about him on Facebook which says in part:

…I can’t say enough about what a genuine, caring, intelligent, interesting man he was. He was always willing to help out friends with his little truck while he still had it, and he had a marvelous time at the San Jose Worldcon in 2018 seeing many old fannish and mystery friends again.

Because of his poor health in the last few years he lived a life that became increasingly housebound and full of medical appointments, but he never stopped caring about the world, about fairness and justice, about democracy….

(8) MEMORY LANE

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-six years ago this evening on ABC, the rather at first mundane soap opera Dark Shadows first aired. Now it wasn’t until ten months later that the Toothy One, vampire Barnabas Collins, as played by Jonathan Frid, made his first appearance. 

Before its six seasons and one thousand two hundred and twenty-five episodes ran their course, those of us who watched it will have seen Frankenstein style monsters, ghosts, a parallel universe, time travel, warlocks, werewolves, witches, and even zombies. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something of a fantastic nature that happened there. 

It has never left syndication in forty years. Dark Shadows (later referred to as Dark Shadows: The Revival) was attempted in 1991. That too created by Dan Curtis who was responsible for Dark Shadows, it lasted twelve extremely poorly received episodes. Dan Curtis also did two films set in the Dark Shadows continuity, House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows.

It was somewhat unusual in a small company of performers played many roles; and as performers came and went, some characters were played by more than one performer.

I am not going to comment about Tim Burton directing a film version of this starring Johnny Depp, who finally realized one of his childhood fantasies of being Barnabas Collins. Really. I’m not. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 27, 1909 — Billy Curtis. You’ll best remember him as the small Copper-Skinned Ambassador in Trek’s “Journey to Babel” episode. His genre experience goes all the way back to Wizard of Oz where he was a Munchkin, and later on he’s a mole-man in Superman and The Mole-Men, and later on a midget in The Incredible Shrinking Man. He had lots of one-offs, be it on Batman (twice there), Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Planet of The Apes or Twilght Zone. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 27, 1941 — James P. Hogan. A true anti-authoritarian hard SF writer in the years when that was a respectable thing to be. The group that gave out the Prometheus Award certainly thought so with fifteen nominations and two Awards for two novels, The Multiplex Man and Voyage from Yesteryear. I’m sure that I’ve read at least a few of his novels, most likely Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. A decent amount of his work is available at the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 27, 1952 — Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands, her first novel. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice”. Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available at the usual suspects. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 27, 1959 — Stephen Dedman, 63. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it. He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles.
  • Born June 27, 1966 — J.J. Abrams, 56. Executive Producer of AliasLost: Missing PiecesStar Trek, Lost, FringeStar Trek Into DarknessAlmost Human… Well you get the idea. Most fans really like, a few very vocal ones really hate his guts mostly for his Star Trek work. I love Fringe unreservedly and therefore will forgive any transgressions he committed elsewhere. 
  • Born June 27, 1972 — Christian Kane, 50. You’ll certainly recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before becoming Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. 
  • Born June 27, 1975 — Tobey Maguire, 47. Spider-man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one seriously weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film. 
  • Born June 27, 1987 — Ed Westwick, 35. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarize), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nancy shows a writer with ambitious goals.

(11) TRALFAMADORIAN TOOLKIT. Emily Temple has collected “Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Writing Advice” for Literary Hub.

5. Sound like yourself
The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

(12) HISTORY JUMPS THE TRACKS. Annalee Newitz joins Margaret Atwood on the list of sff writers who didn’t set out to predict the present in “Science fiction, abortion, and predicting the future” at Slate.

A few months before COVID shut the world down in 2020, I published a book called The Future of Another Timeline. Set in 2022, it’s about a group of time travelers who live in an alternate United States where abortion was never legalized. Working in secret, they travel 130 years back to the 19th century to foment protests against the anti-abortion crusader Anthony Comstock. Their goal is to change the course of history. Spoilers: They succeed—sort of. When they return to 2022, abortion is legal in a few states, though it remains illegal in the majority of them.

It is not a good feeling to live through a version of the dark timeline I imagined in my fiction….

(13) A LONG TIME AGO. Craig Miller posted the letter he sent to winner of a contest he ran for The Star Wars Corporation in the Seventies.

In issue two of the Newsletter of the Official Star Wars Fan Club, I announced a contest to come up with an actual name for the newsletter. Fans could send up to three suggestions. We received a huge number of entries. I don’t remember how many but, apparently, there were thousands.

…The winning name: Bantha Tracks. And the winner, Preston Postle.

The letter is dated just 10 months after I started this newzine. I should have asked Craig for some of his discards – I’ll bet there were some better ideas in there than File 770, eh?

(14) THIS REMINDS ME. [Item by Chris Barkley.] When I heard this story, naturally I thought of this quote: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” Listen to the Here and Now report on WBUR: “Don’t worry about the robot revolution: One expert explains why AI is nowhere near sentience”.

For decades, robot revolutions have been a staple of science fiction stories. But earlier this month, the stuff of fiction came a little too close to reality when Blake Lemoine, a Google engineer, claimed that the company’s artificial intelligence had achieved sentience, the ability to experience feeling and thought.

While Lemoine’s claims made waves online, many experts are pretty skeptical. They argue that just because a program can imitate human language doesn’t mean it’s actually human.

One of those critics is Emily M. Bender, a professor at the University of Washington specializing in computational linguistics and grammar engineering. She spoke with Here & Now‘s Celeste Headlee.

(15) GOOD FORM. Walter Jon Williams told readers he recently leveled up in his martial arts training: “Achievement Unlocked”.

…I successfully tested for my 6th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate. In the days since, I’ve been judging at the tests of lower-ranking belts, and participating in a demonstration in front of a live audience.

All with a torn achilles tendon which requires me to walk with a cane much of the time.

Fortunately most of the test consisted of theory and philosophy. I was required to do some forms, but I designed most of these myself, and could alter them when I needed to. (For the demonstration, I was able to do my own kata more or less without modification, and the other form requires me to alter the steps once. It was uncomfortable and a little awkward, but I wasn’t left with the impression I’d bungled anything.)…

(16) POORFEADING. Jon Del Arroz, who styles himself a leading figure of ComicsGate, wrote an article belittling Heather Antos’ work for IDW. A true case of Muphry’s law in action, as Taylor Talks Comics pointedly reveals in a thread that starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(17) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Thanks for a friend alerting me that Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is now available on the Disney+ streaming service for free (well, no $ other than the monthly fee), I’ve got one non-spoiler question (not directly germane to the movie, but I suddenly found myself wondering):

What happens when Blackadar Boltagon (aka Black Bolt), a (Jack Kirby-created) Inhuman usually ruler of Attilan and (often but not always) spouse to (the Inhuman named) Medusa, whose slightest whisper is explosive, burps, hiccups, or sneezes. (Or, for that matter, snores — let’s hope he doesn’t have sleep apnea.)

(18) OLDER THAN LUCY AND PROBABLY DESI. “Ancient fossils in the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ are more than 1 million years older than previously thought” reports Yahoo!

In 1936, archeologists began unearthing a trove of early human fossils in a South African cave. Now, researchers say most of those ancient bones date back 3.7 million years, which makes them more than 1 million years older than previously thought….

To gauge the ages of the hominid skeletal remains, Granger and his team used a technique known as “cosmogenic nuclide dating,” or burial dating, which involves examining the rocks that encased the ancient bones. It works like this: When energetic particles from space, or cosmic rays, hit rocks, they produce elements like aluminum and beryllium that build up and decay at a known rate.

“We’re able to take a rock that was exposed to cosmic rays, and if it falls into a cave, it’s shielded from more radiation,” Granger told Insider, adding, “It’s called burial dating because, really, what we’re doing is dating when the rock was buried.”

Granger used the same method in 2015 to estimate that one set of Australopithecus remains found in the Sterkfontein Caves, nicknamed Little Foot, was about 3.4 to 3.7 million years old. The new study suggests that in addition to Little Foot, all Australopithecus remains on the site are between 3.4 and 3.7 million years old, rather than roughly 2 million years old, as scientists previously thought.

The remains’ shifting age puts the species within roughly the same time frame that the famous human ancestor “Lucy” — which belonged to the species Australopithecus afarensis — roamed what’s now Ethiopia, 3.2 million years ago. According to Granger, that refutes the theory that the Sterkfontein individuals descended from Australopithecus afarensis. “There must be an older common ancestor somewhere,” Granger added…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/22 Make Room Party, Make Room Party

(1) COME THE MILLENNIUM. This year marks 60 years of the iconic Spider-Man. Marvel Comics will celebrate this milestone anniversary with a special issue honoring the comic that started it all, Amazing Fantasy. Arriving in August, Amazing Fantasy #1000 will be a giant-sized one-shot brought together by some of the industry’s most acclaimed creators.

Here’s just some of what fans can expect from this landmark issue:

  • Visionary writer Neil Gaiman’s grand return to the Marvel Universe
  • Emmy Award winning creator behind “Veep” and “Avenue 5” Armando Ianucci’s Marvel Comics debut
  • Spider-Man mastermind Dan Slott and superstar artist Jim Cheung team up to explore the enduring love between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in a story set in the far future
  • Acclaimed artist Michael Cho and novelist Anthony Falcone introduce a new Spider-Man villain
  • Ho Che Anderson crafts a horror-fueled Spidey adventure that cuts to Peter Parker’s core
  • Plus stories by Rainbow Rowell, Jonathan Hickman, and many more!

 “It’s Spider-Man’s 60th and we wanted to celebrate in style by inviting some of the greatest creative minds in the world to celebrate it!” Editor Nick Lowe said.

Join the industry’s top talent in celebrating Spider-Man’s birthday when Amazing Fantasy #1000 arrives in August. 

(2) THE SKY IS FALLING. Chillercon, the Horror Writers Association’s UK event, announced a change of venue after the ballroom ceiling collapsed in their planned facility. The con will still take place in Scarborough from May 26-29.

The convention received news this week that there has been a ceiling collapse in the Cabaret Ballroom of the Grand Hotel, one of our main programming rooms in that hotel, and asbestos has been discovered. The room has been closed off and the hotel declared safe to run by the relevant authorities, but for the last forty-eight hours the convention committee has been working with both hotels towards the best solution for both the ability of ChillerCon UK to run effectively and for the safety of our attendees, as obviously we are keen to ensure there’s no risk to anyone attending.

To that end, we are pleased to confirm that all programming and accommodation has now been moved to the Royal Hotel with immediate effect….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join John Appel for a dry-aged burger in Episode 171 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Appel

John’s debut novel Assassin’s Orbit, published last year, was a finalist for the 2022 Compton Crook Award. He’s a former US Army paratrooper, a long-time information security professional, a historical fencer, and a life-long gamer who’s written the occasional tabletop RPG adventure. He co-edited the anthology Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger along with Mary Alexandra Agner. John’s also a graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop and a founding member of the Maryland Space Opera Collective writing group.

We met for lunch at the White Oak Tavern, which is in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center in Ellicott City, Maryland, and if there was ever a proper place to record an episode of Eating the Fantastic, an Enchanted Forest certainly sounds like it.

We discussed how pitching his debut novel as “Battlestar Galactica meets Golden Girls” got him an agent, why his background in table-top RPGs might be the reason he writes novels rather than short stories, how he deals with the “candy bar” scenes of his plots, the way critique groups and sensitivity readers can help make books better, how to juggle multiple viewpoints and still have them all be equally compelling, the political aspects of his novel which make it a different read than it would have been when it was first begun, his particular set of skills which helped bring fight scenes alive, and much more.

(4) BARRIERS REMAIN. Nalo Hopkinson is profiled by Silvia Moreno-Garcia for the University of British Columbia publication Beyond: “As publishing becomes more varied and diverse, challenges remain for writers of colour”.

…Hopkinson believes universities can help enrich the literary landscape by embracing genre fiction, looking at alternatives that deviate from traditional forms of learning and helping students develop a sense of belonging. For example, the traditional workshop model, where students sit around a circle discussing their stories, may be of little value to a student if they are the only writer of colour in a class.

“I encounter a lot of emerging writers who come from a marginalized community who feel that they won’t be welcomed,” she explains.

Hopkinson believes something that helped her become a writer was “middle class entitlement.” She grew up in a place where Black people were in the majority, where her father was a teacher and her mother a librarian and literature seemed an obtainable pursuit.

“There’s a certain type of entitlement because of that. Not wealth, but entitlement,” she says. “That sense of I have a right to be here.”

The hardest lesson for Hopkinson to teach is this self-empowerment….

(5) THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN. “Janelle Monáe: ‘Erasure is happening right under our noses’” the singer and author tells Christiane Amanpour at CNN Style.

…As Monáe wrote on Instagram in December, they have always used sci-fi and Afro-Futurism as “vehicles” for translating ideas into music, art and now literature. But the singer told Amanpour that they believe memory and history are under threat in today’s America.

“I think that there is definitely an agenda for erasure,” Monáe said, pointing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans LGBTQ+ topics in elementary school classrooms, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing legislation that restricts how race and US history is taught in the state’s schools.

“These are real experiences for our ancestors, real experiences for us,” Monáe said. “And erasure is happening right underneath our noses. And it’s being done through lawmaking.”…

(6) VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses TV adaptations of games.

What film directors seem to miss while adapting games for cinema is that games do not resolve around stories we are told but worlds we inhabit. They need to ask what it means for this story to be watched rather than played, and how it might have to change accordingly. In that respect, TV may prove a more natural fit. The length of a series creates space for the spreading storytelling style of games and their myriad characters. This breathing room should also allow showrunners to capitalise on the abundant lore and environmental detail of modern games, which assist in the trendy pursuit of ‘world building.’

Two TV shows that offer hope for the future are both animations. Castlevania, a vampire story based on a series of hit 1990s games, has become a surprise hit on Netflix since launching in 2017.  It is sharply written with mature themes and thoughtful plotting and paved the way for last year’s Arcane. Another Netflix show, Arcane digs into the origin stories of two heroes from the online battle arena game League Of Legends using striking animation that blends hand-painted textures with 3D graphics. Unlike other adaptations, Arcane forgoes fussy plot exposition in favor of character-driven drama and plays loosely with its source material, focusing on the complex relationship between two women and including action only where it meaningfully impacts the narrative.

(7) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is hosting the first annual Sturgeon Symposium on September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. Here’s the call for papers. They are accepting proposals until June 30.

(8) TIME TRAVEL AND SEX. Nibedita Sen is interviewed by Sarah Gailey in “First Times” at Stone Soup.

First Times is structured unlike anything I’ve read before, using recursion in the narrative to expand and deepen the theme of the story. What inspired you to work in this particular structure? How did you approach storytelling in this medium?

A couple of things, actually – the most important of which is that this was my very first time (hah) writing interactive fiction. As such, I really wanted to keep the game as short and simple as possible, having been warned how easily the simplest-seeming idea can balloon once you actually get down to writing multiple branches of a narrative. Another piece of advice I was given, as a first time IF-writer, was to think about replayability – a game shouldn’t be a one-and-done (hah) kind of thing, but something a reader could go back to multiple times, discovering something new every time….

(9) FRED WARD (1942-2022). Actor Fred Ward has passed on at the age of 79. Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell, Earl Bassett in Tremors and sequels, and the lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He was also in The Crow: Salvation, Invasion Earth (miniseries), had parts in episodes of The Incredible Hulk and The Hitchhiker. The New York Times tribute here comments:

…Mr. Ward was likely best known for his performances in “The Right Stuff,” the acclaimed 1983 adaptation of a book by Tom Wolfe, and “Tremors,” a monster movie that ascended to cult classic status since its release in 1990.

But his long career included a broad range of roles in which he applied a sometimes gruff but almost always grounded charisma to parts on film and TV: among other parts, a union activist in “Silkwood,” a detective in “Miami Blues,” Henry Miller in “Henry and June,” and a motorcycle racer in “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann.”…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-eight years ago, The Crow premiered. I saw it at the theatre and yes, I liked it quite a bit. I’m not a horror fan but I found this quite impressive.  I hadn’t realized until now that it was co-written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow but I’ll get back to that in awhile. 

It was directed by Alex Proyas who would later be nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon Three (1999) for Dark City. (The Truman Show won that year.) And he’d also later direct I, Robot.

The Crow was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill. Most would produce the sequels, The Crow: City of AngelsThe Crow: Salvation and The Crow: Wicked Prayer. Pressman was the uncredited executive producer for Conan the Destroyer and Grant Hill was involved in the Matrix films plus V for Vendetta.

Of course the movie starred Brandon Lee, an actor who gave the film a certain tragic edge by dying. The other major roles were held by Ernie Hudson and Michael Wincott. Ernie you know, but Michael Wincott has largely played villains in such films as Alien Resurrection and The Three Musketeers (remember I hold them to be genre). 

So yes, it was written by John Shirley along with David J. Schow. Checking IMDB, I see Shirley has written far too many screenplays too list all of them here, so I’ll just note his work on Deep Space NineBatman Beyond and Poltergeist: The Legacy. Though definitely not genre, he also wrote one episode of the Red Shoe Dairies. Really he did.

The Crow did well at the box office making nearly a hundred million against twenty-four million in costs. 

So what did the critics think? Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune had this to say: “What’s scary about The Crow is the story and the style itself: American Gothic, Poe-haunted nightmare, translated to the age of cyberpunk science fiction, revenge movies and outlaw rock ‘n’ roll, all set in a hideously decaying, crime-ridden urban hell.” And Caryn James of the New York Times said: “It is a dark, lurid revenge fantasy and not the breakthrough, star-making movie some people have claimed. But it is a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth.”

It holds a most exemplary ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 13, 1922 Bea Arthur. Really only one meaningful genre credit but oh but what a credit it is. She’s in the Star Wars Holiday Special as Ackmena. That character in the Star Wars canon was the nightshift bartender in Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley on Tatooine who joined the resistance. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite, as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. No, I’ve not forgotten about his Hugos. Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal.  It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light. His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 13, 1946 Marv Wolfman, 76. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And he worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell, he even wrote a Reboot episode!) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 73. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. 
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 71. His retelling of The Tain is marvellous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific.
  • Born May 13, 1964 Stephen Colbert, 58. Ubernerd who’s currently recovering from his third bout of Covid. He’s hosted charity showings of Tolkien. Genre credits a cameo as a spy in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the voice of Paul Peterson in Mr. Peabody & Sherman and the voice of President Hathaway in Monsters vs. Aliens

(12) THE SLEEPER SYMBIOTE CLAIMS A NEW HOST IN VENOM #11. This cover reveal is really only the first phase of Sleeper Agent’s look. They are symbiotes, after all. Pick up his debut issue when Venom #11 arrives in August.

Writers Al Ewing and Ram V and artist Bryan Hitch’s acclaimed run on Venom continues to reshape the symbiote mythos in each explosive issue! And luckily for Venom fans, the trio of superstar creators have no plans to slow down as the ongoing series enters its’ third terrifying arc this August in Venom #11. Kicking off a three-part story called “VENOMWORLD”, readers will see Eddie and Dylan Brock’s journey take a sharp turn as they deal with the shocking revelations of Venom #10. Dylan is still at the mercy of Bedlam while Eddie battles his way across the cosmos, discovering more about the symbiotes than ever before. And the hits keep coming as the Sleeper symbiote joins the fray with a deadly new look… 

(13) LIVE TWEETING. Cat Rambo did the Writers Corner Live show, talking about The Reinvented Heart with Mary Elizabeth Jackson. 

(14) BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Doctor Strange 2 writer Michael Waldron, in a spoiler-packed article, discusses his screenplay and the Star Wars film he is working on for Kevin Feige. BEWARE SPOILERS! “’Doctor Strange 2′ Writer on Wanda, Mr. Fantastic, ‘Star Wars’ Movie” in Variety.

SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses major plot points in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, currently playing in theaters. Do not read until you’ve seen the movie.

As an alum of “Community” and “Rick and Morty,” screenwriter Michael Waldron certainly knows outré, genre-hopping science fiction; with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Waldron found a kindred spirit in director Sam Raimi, who invented outré, genre-hopping horror with his “Evil Dead” trilogy.

Together, Raimi and Waldron have made one of the most distinctive — and, for some, controversial — movies ever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To wit (the big spoilers start here): Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) goes full Scarlet Witch and brutally murders anyone who gets in the way of her mission to find a universe in which her sons from the 2021 Disney+ series “WandaVision” are still alive. It’s a heel turn that has shocked many — including Olsen — especially when Wanda decimates the Illuminati, the team of superheroes from an alternate reality that includes Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier (from 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” movies), Anson Mount’s Black Bolt (from ABC’s “Inhumans” TV series), and John Krasinski’s Reed Richards, the first time the leader of the Fantastic Four has appeared in the MCU….

(15) IT WILL BECOME ROUTINE. “Huntsville International Airport becomes first commercial airport allowed to land a space vehicle” reports WAFF.

The Huntsville International Airport was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow commercial space vehicles to land at the airport….

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser is a space utility vehicle that is designed to transport crew and cargo to destinations such as the International Space Station.

Sierra Space was awarded six missions by NASA to resupply the International Space Station. The FAA could grant the Dream Chaser the option to land in Huntsville in 2023.

“This is a significant milestone for Huntsville International and for our community in the pursuit of landing a commercial space vehicle right here in Rocket City U.S.A.,” Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Port of Huntsville/Huntsville International Airport, Mark McDaniel, said in a statement. “That’s going to be an exciting day, not just for the Airport but also for the talented and dedicated partners in this effort.”

(16) EATING OUTSIDE THE BOX. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Marylou Tousignant says that May 11 was National Eat What You Want Day and recommended ten foods kids could try, including Japanese tuna eyeballs, Vietnamese coconut worms, and Marmite. “On Eat What You Want Day, try something new”.

… It’s easy to think of foods you love and want to eat. We decided to tinker with the idea and tell you about 10 unusual dishes from around the world that you may never have heard of. We’re calling it International Give It a Try Day….

She alerted me to all the damage Paddington caused in this commercial when he switched from marmalade to Marmite sandwiches! “Paddington Bear Marmite TV Commercial “.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Dan’l, Paul Weimer, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

2022 Theodore Sturgeon Award Finalists 

Sturgeon Award trophies

The finalists for the 2022 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction story have been selected.

  • “If the Martians Have Magic,” P. Djeli Clark, Uncanny Magazine, Sept 2021
  • “Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma,” R.S.A. Garcia, Clarkesworld, Jan 2021
  • “The Album of Dr. Moreau,” Daryl Gregory, Tordotcom Publishing, May 2021
  • “Broad Dutty Water,” Nalo Hopkinson, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Dec 2021
  • “Proof by Induction,” José Pablo Iriarte, Uncanny Magazine, May 2021
  • “The Dark Ride,” John Kessel, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan 2021
  • “The Metric,” David Moles, Asimov’s, May 2021
  • “Sarcophagus,” Ray Nayler, Clarkesworld, April 2021
  • “Bots of the Lost Ark,” Suzanne Palmer, Clarkesworld, June 2021
  • “The Necessity of Stars,” E. Catherine Tobler, Neon Hemlock, July 2021

The Sturgeon Award was established in 1987 by James Gunn, Founding Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon. The winner will be announced later this summer and will be presented with their award and a cash prize as a guest of honor at our first annual Sturgeon Symposium this fall to be held on September 29-30.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/22 When A Pixel’s Not Engaged In Its Enscrollment

(1) BIG GREEN NUMBERS. Brandon Sanderson shares a lot of information about his successful Kickstarter and his progress on other projects in “Some FAQs You Might Enjoy”. Also includes a long analysis of Amazon’s effect on his business.

How Are You Going to Spend the Money?

I got this question from the journalist from the Associated Press who interviewed me.  He gave an excellent interview, and we had a really great conversation.  But this question stopped me for a moment.  It’s a valid question, but it took me by surprise, as I haven’t been looking at this the way that some people seem to be.  I didn’t hit the lottery, any more than any other business hits the lottery when they have a product that connects with their market.

I will spend the money as I spend the rest of my money.  Part into savings, part into paying salaries (along with nice extra bonuses because the Kickstarter did well), part reinvested into the company.  (We’re still planning on building a physical bookstore, and this will help accelerate those plans.  Also, it’s not outside of reason that as I move into doing more film and TV, I will want to partially fund some of the projects.)

While this Kickstarter is an incredible event, and (don’t get me wrong) is going to earn me a good chunk of money, it’s going to be comparable to other projects I’ve done.  Also, don’t underestimate how much money it costs to maintain the infrastructure (like a warehouse–or in this case, probably more than one) it takes to be able to ship several hundred thousand books.  It will likely be years before we can be certain how much this actually earned us after all expenses.  More than we’d get from New York on the same books, but potentially not that much more.

That said, I will almost certainly buy myself some nice Magic cards.  Still have a few unlimited duals in my cube that could use an upgrade to black border.

Did You Anticipate This Level of Success for the Kickstarter?

I did not.  I knew the potential was there, but I didn’t think it (getting to this astronomical number of backers) would happen.

My guess was that we’d land somewhere in the 2–4 million range, though I really had no idea.  My team can attest to the fact that in the lead-up, I was very conservative in my estimates and expectations.  This was an experiment from us that I’d been wanting to try for a while.  (I’ll talk more about that below.)  I didn’t have any idea how well it would go.

…How many of those potential 250k–800k people who normally buy a Sanderson book in the first year could be convinced instead to move and preorder it through Kickstarter?  Our guesses, it turned out, were way low.  But at the same time, it is interesting that (not disregarding our huge success, which I’m not at all complaining about) even this huge Kickstarter breaking all records is only grabbing a fraction of my normal audience.  So maybe you can see why we knew we had potential, but were conservative in our estimates. … 

There is also much inside baseball about what indie authors have to face:

…These days, according to some of my indie author friends, you have to spend a great deal to sell on Amazon.  Not everyone’s experience is the same, but I hear this time and time again.  To make it as an indie author, you need to shell out for expensive advertising on the very website selling your books.  I have indie author friends who are spending a good portion of their income on these advertisements–and if they don’t, their sales vanish.  Amazon has effectively created a tax where indie authors pay back a chunk of that glorious 70% royalty to Amazon.  (And this is for the authors lucky enough to be allowed to buy those advertising spots, and therefore have the chance at selling.)….

…Regardless, this has been bothering me for over a decade.  I feel that the current system has a gun to my head.  Heck, all that has to happen is for someone at Amazon read this blog post or see my Kickstarter and decide they just want to make an example out of me.  Poof.  85% of my sales gone.  And while some people might go to another vendor to get my books, the painful truth is that many would not.  Time and time again, studies of contemporary tech media consumption have shown that the person who controls the platform is the one who controls the market. …

(2) MAIL CALL. In “An Open Letter to the 2022 Hugo Finalists, Whoever They May Be”, Cora Buhlert once again shares her experience and advice.

… Right now, no one except for possibly the Hugo administrators knows who those finalists will be. However, sometime in the next two weeks or so, some of you will receive an e-mail from Chicon 8, informing you that you are a finalist for the 2022 Hugo Award and asking you whether you want to accept the nomination. Some of you will have received such e-mails before, for others it will be the first time.

But whether it’s your first or your twentieth nomination, congratulations! That’s awesome.

As a first time recipient of such an e-mail in 2020, here are a few things I’ve learned…

(3) UNIVERSE WILL KEEP EXPANDING. Sharon Lee’s biggest news in “Liaden Universe® Updates” is that she and Steve Miller have accepted an additional three book contract with Baen for Liaden novels.

…The contract’s call-name is Traveler’s Trio, and we have no idea where those novels will take us, yet, but we do have delivery dates.  Those are:

Traveler’s Trio ONE:  September 2024
Traveler’s Trio TWO:  September 2025
Traveler’s Trio THREE:  September 2026

Note A:  In September 2026, I will be 74 years old.  Steve will have celebrated his 76th birthday three months prior.  This by way of reassuring those folks who have been worrying about our retirement that, err — writers don’t retire.  At least, writers at our level of the game don’t retire.

Here ends the Updatery.

(4) GUNN CENTER EVENTS. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF has posted the selections and dates for the next several meetings of their virtual book club, and another event. Zoom info and further details at the links. 

Discussion of Colson Whitehead’s first novel, The Intuitionist. This choice anticipates Whitehead’s visit to Lawrence for the Paper Plains Literary Festival in early April! https://www.paperplains.org

Discussion of Angelline Boulley’s young adult thriller, Firekeeper’s Daughter. More aligned with conversations about Indigenous belief systems and spirituality than conventional science fiction; also in anticipation of the Paper Plains festival. Co-sponsored with Haskell Indian Nations University, KU’s First Nations Student Association, and others. Teens welcome!

Discussion of Franny Choi’s Soft Science. In celebration of National Poetry Month!

  • Friday, MAY 20th* @ noon (CT) – [no link yet] Discussion of Sarah Pinsker’s Two Truths and a Lie

Winner of the 2021 Nebula Award & 2021 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. (*) Please note that this is not the last Friday of the month, which falls on Memorial Day Weekend.

(5) ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT YOU? The Silmarillion Writers’ Guild seeks the meaning of it all in “A Sudden Outcry: The Tolkien Estate and Fanworks”.

…When the Tolkien Estate recently presented their newly revamped website, it did not take fans long to see past the new artwork and other features to find that the Tolkien Estate has a policy on fanworks. The past several days have seen a whirl of discussion about what it all means that can be distilled down to a single burning question:

Did the Tolkien Estate just ban fanworks?

In short, no, the Tolkien Estate did not just ban fanworks. The fanworks you have posted, are in the middle of creating, or are even thinking about creating are not affected by what the Estate says on their website.

The longer answer depends on if you’re interested in the just or the ban part of that question (or maybe both!). While the following is not legal advice, we hope it will lessen the worry that the existence of fanworks is in jeopardy.  As always, bear in mind that laws vary from country to country. If you have specific concerns, the Organization for Transformative Works’ legal committee, while unable to give legal advice, can answer questions you might have.

The article contains an extensive history of the Estate’s policies towards fanworks. The writers come to this paradoxical conclusion:

…The Tolkien Estate is anti-fanwork and always has been. For all that the “other minds and hands” quote gets tossed about by fans eager to believe that Tolkien would have condoned their activities, Tolkien himself was anti-fanwork when it came to his books,2 unless it was something that he liked. This has neither changed nor prevented Tolkien fanworks from being made in the almost seven decades since The Lord of the Rings was published…

(6) OMELAS. The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog tweeted a crusher yesterday. There are nine tweets in the thread, which starts here.

(7) THE SAND OF MUSIC. Hans Zimmer tells Vanity Fair about the score for Dune in a video that dropped today: “How ‘Dune’ Composer Hans Zimmer Created the Oscar-Nominated Score”.

“Something I wanted to always do. Invent instruments that don’t exist. Invent sounds that don’t exist.” Hans Zimmer, ‘Dune’ composer, gives his in-depth analysis and insider’s look at how the score was created for Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film.

(8) MORE FROM DISCON III. Morgan Hazelwood posted her notes from the DisCon III panel “Ask An Editor: Longform Writing” with participants George Jreije, Katherine Crighton, Navah Wolfe, and Trevor Quachri, plus Joshua Bilmes as moderator. (The material is also presented in a YouTube video.)

The description for this panel was as follows:

What makes a good novel? How do you know it’s ready? Where should you send it and how should you respond to comments? This is your chance to ask burning questions to a panel of respected agents and editors.

(9) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share deep-fried wontons with Library of Congress curator Sara Duke in episode 167 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sara Duke

Library of Congress curator Sara Duke and I were supposed to have lunch two years ago, way back in March of 2020, but then … something happened. I suspect you can guess what that something was. We finally managed to break bread — or rather, share Pad See Ew — last week at D.C.’s Young Chow Chinese restaurant.

Sara Duke has been at the Library of Congress for more than 30 years, the past 23 as the curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in the Prints and Photographs Division. She’s in charge of cartoons, documentary drawings, and ephemera. Starting with Blondie Gets Married in 2000, she’s been responsible for curating many exhibits relating to popular culture, including Comic Art: 120 Years of Panels and Pages, and most recently, Geppi’s Gems.

We discussed the first piece of artwork she longed to get her hands on after a 13-month pandemic absence, our joint loathing of slabbed comics, the misconceptions many people have about the Library of Congress, the things most people no longer remember about Blondie, her comic book exhibit cancelled by COVID, the serendipitous way a PhD in 17th century Irish history led to her becoming a curator, her early (and continuing) love of MAD magazine, and much more.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge] On this evening forty-one years ago, the show that Warner Bros. sued for copyright infringement in Warner Bros. Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. premiered on ABC. The Greatest American Hero starred William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley in a suit that allowed him to fly and which looked sort of like that Super-Hero. The Court ruled, “as a matter of law, The Greatest American Hero’ is not sufficiently similar to the fictional character Superman.” 

It was created by producer Stephen J. Cannell and was his only genre undertaking.

The rest of the regular cast consisted of just Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson. ABC wasn’t going to deal with a bloated salary line here.  Culp of course had been Kelly Robinson on I Spy, but more importantly was in The Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand”, written by Harlan Ellison. Sellecca played Pamela Edwards in a recurring role in the Beyond Westworld series.

It would last three seasons and have a proper conclusion in which the story was wrapped up. That conclusion lead to the pilot for another series which was not picked up by another network. A reboot with a female lead was in the works at ABC several years back but not even a pilot was shot.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliche Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible, which if you not seen it you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J.G. Hertzler, 72. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap sac Weathers Farrington in the  “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 63. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and comments leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less.
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. Another way too young death on Babylon 5 as he appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney.  (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 61. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group reads and comments on prior-to-Eighties SF and fantasy.

(12) SENDING UP DISNEY. “This Young Artist Successfully Wows Disney Fans With Hilarious Disney Fanarts” at Aubtu.

Disney fans tend to redraw Disney characters with their unique ideas, but Jorge D. Espinosa has taken it to another level. As a talented artist, Jorge has recreated several famous Disney characters with different settings. They can be about Aurora’s hangover or Jasmine as a dancer enjoying Beyonce’s song. There is no doubt that these unique and funny drawings can make even The Beast laugh….

(13) IDIOMATIC ACCESSION. I need one of these. Don’t I? Archie McPhee’s “Murder of Crows”.

(14) SQUEEZING OUT THE WATER. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Wonderfully Concise SFF Books”.

Olden-time SF authors, limited as they were to pen and paper, typewriters, and other now archaic methods of production, and trying to sell to markets uninterested in purchasing lengthy works, often delivered works that seem startlingly concise and to the point by modern standards. There’s nothing like not having a choice to urge people to make the right choices.

However, even in this age of word processing software and publisher enthusiasm for meandering series of enormous story-fragments, there are authors who deliver short, effective books that contain within them all of the necessary narrative elements. They even include that most elusive ingredient—an actual ending. Consider these five comparatively recent examples of books that are wonderfully short and to the point….

(15) THAT OTHER JAMES. ScienceAlert says “Webb Just Sent Back Its First-Ever Sharp Image of a Star, And It’s Breathtaking”.

…To demonstrate its capabilities, Webb focused on a single star, named 2MASS J17554042+6551277, more commonly known as TYC 4212-1079-1.

This bright object, around 2,000 light-years away, is just over 16 times intrinsically brighter than the Sun – a nice, clear target for Webb. A red filter was used to optimize visual contrast; and, although the telescope was just looking at the star, its instruments are so sensitive that background stars and galaxies can also be seen.

“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science,” said Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA Goddard….

(16) PARADOX RESOLVED. “Scientists claim hairy black holes explain Hawking paradox” reports BBC News. I have nothing to say about that headline at all.

Scientists say they have solved one of the biggest paradoxes in science first identified by Prof Stephen Hawking.

He highlighted that black holes behave in a way that puts two fundamental theories at odds with each other.

Black holes are dead stars that have collapsed and have such strong gravity that not even light can escape.

New research claims to have resolved the paradox by showing that black holes have a property which they call “quantum hair”….

(17) ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS. “’Muppets Mayhem’ Series a Go at Disney+”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Disney+ is taking another swing at a Muppets TV series.

The streamer, following a lengthy development process, has handed out a series order to comedy The Muppets Mayhem, with Lilly Singh set to star.

The comedy will follow the Electric Mayhem Band as it records its first-ever album. Singh will star as the human lead, Nora, the junior A&R executive who is tasked with managing and wrangling the band that originally debuted in the pilot for The Muppet Show in 1975. (Watch the band’s debut below.) Sources say the 10-episode comedy will begin filming in April.

The series — which will feature Dr. Teeth, Animal, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot and Lips — is described as a music-filled journey in which the 45-year-old band comes face to face with the current-day music scene as they attempt to go platinum….

(18) ALIEN SCHOOL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or, how to be a Thermian in six “easy“ lessons. 

Digg.com has, um, dug up a short docu-feature on how the Thermans came to be so wonderfully quirky in Galaxy Quest. It’s a Class A lesson in the collaborative nature of filmmaking – where the screenwriter, director, actors, and everyone else contribute to what is eventually seen on the screen.

The singsongy, pitchy, sound of the aliens was originated by character actor Enrico Colantoni, who absolutely nailed his audition for the Thermian leader when he broke out that voice. Then they had to develop the walk, their native speech when the translator box breaks, and mannerisms for all sorts of situations. And the whole alien ensemble had to nail all of it. 

Just watch the video. You’ll love it. 

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/22 I Have Tasted The Pixels In The Scroll Of The Universe, And I Was Not Offended

(1) TRIPLE TIP. What he tells you three times is true: “Hand Holding” by Mark Lawrence.

This is a blog-post about hand holding. The previous sentence was hand-holding, since the title and the image below make it obvious what the blog-post is about. 

Fantasy stories can be complicated beasts. They’re potentially confusing even if we forget all the technicalities and twistiness of battles, wars, duels, mysteries, espionage, lies etc that might well bedevil other genres….

…And the question through all of this is how much hand-holding the author does. Does the writer put the pieces of the puzzle in front of the reader and assume they’ll put them together? Does the writer put the pieces together for them then repeat the answer for the reader three times in three different ways?

Before I was published I used to share short stories on the now vanished Yahoo Groups. During that time I developed through observation and experience, what I called The Rule of Three.

The Rule of Three: If you want 90% of your readership to take onboard an important fact then you need to repeat it three times in the text….

(2) IAFA’S NEW LEADER. Dr. Pawel Frelik is the next President of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts.

A two-term Division Head of the IAFA, Pawe? Frelik is Associate Professor and the Leader of Speculative Texts and Media Research Group at the American Studies Center, University of Warsaw, Poland. His teaching and research interests include science fiction, speculative visualities, and video games. He has published widely in these fields, serves on the boards of Science Fiction Studies (USA), Extrapolation (USA/UK), and Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds (UK), and is the co- editor of the New Dimensions in Science Fiction book series at the University of Wales Press. In 2013-2014, he was President of the Science Fiction Research Association, the first in the organization’s history from outside North America. In 2017, he was the first non-Anglophone recipient of the Thomas D. Clareson Award. Within IAFA, he has served as Science Fiction Division Head since 2017. Dr. Frelik will assume the presidency at the end of the 43rd ICFA in March.

(3) DISCUSS RING SHOUT. The Gunn Center for Science Fiction Virtual Book Club will meet February 25 and Director Giselle Anatol invites you to the meeting.

(4) WIDE LOAD. Reddit’s r/printSF raised the question, “Are sci-fi books much longer than they used to be? If so, any idea why?” John Scalzi contributed a detailed reply which begins:

Novel lengths in science fiction and fantasy are essentially dictated by methods of publication *and* distribution.

For example, during the “golden age” of science fiction, the main publishing action of SF/F was in the short fiction arena, with novels (many of which were “fix-ups” of previously published shorter work) largely printed as cheap paperbacks which were fitted into racks at drug stores, groceries and other such places. Because distributors (and publishers!) wanted to fit a larger number of books into each rack, novel lengths were commensurately shorter — 40,000 to 60,000 words on average….

(5) BACK TO THE FUTURAMA. “’Futurama’ Revived at Hulu”The Hollywood Reporter says they’ve lined up the creators and the cast.

Nearly 10 years after it signed off, Futurama has been revived for a 20-episode run on Hulu, the third platform for the animated comedy from creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen.

The series that aired its first five seasons on Fox before being revived for three more at Comedy Central will return to production this month for a 2023 premiere. Following an extended deal-making period, original stars Billy West (Fry) and Katey Sagal (Leela) along with ensemble players who voiced multiple characters Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr and David Herman will all return. John DiMaggio, who provided the voice behind the wise-cracking robot with the “shiny metal ass” Bender, is finalizing a deal to return as well though a deal has not yet closed.

(6) SCIENCE PLUS. The National Book Foundation Science + Literature Program “identifies three books annually, steered by a committee of scientific and literary experts, to deepen readers’ understanding of science and technology with a focus on work that highlights the diversity of voices in scientific writing. The selected titles will act as a catalyst to create discourse, understanding, and engagement with science for communities across the country.” Authors will receive a $10,000 prize. The inaugural winners are:

(7) IMAGINARY PAPERS 9. The latest issue of Imaginary Papers, ASU’s quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination, features an essay by science fiction and global futures scholar Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay on the oft-forgotten science fiction docudramas of the filmmaker George Haggerty, and CSI staffer Bob Beard on Richard Linklater’s 2006 PKD adaptation A Scanner Darkly and the dramas of self-presentation. There’s also a writeup of the “Speculating the Future” essay series from the Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures. “Imaginary Papers, Issue 9”.

The Films of George Haggerty, Parts 1 and 2 (1975-1994)

What exactly counts as a “forgotten future”? One can google George Haggerty, the director, whose six docufiction films are presented in two anthology DVDs, released in 2017 by Screen Edge and MVDvisual. All six films—Hamburger Hamlet (1975), Mall Time (1988), Robotopia (1990), Home on Wheels (1992), LA Requiem (1993), and Cyberville (1994)—were produced by Mike Wallington, but searching that reveals little about the director or the films. It was the sleeve descriptions, which make Haggerty appear a maverick outsider figure, that first drew my attention to these anthologies. The films are unreservedly about the future, even as they operate at the interstices of the vanishing past and present. As a documentary producer and SF researcher, there is something disconcerting about finding a set of films that one is unable to locate easily in the developing history of the medium. (Drew Barrymore even appears in one of the films, but the title is absent from her IMDb profile.)…

(8) PEEK EXPERIENCE. Leonard Maltin says this was “Douglas Trumbull’s greatest visual effect” in “Remembering Douglas Trumbull” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

Sometime in the late 1980s my wife and I were invited to a warehouse-type building in Marina del Rey for a demonstration of Douglas Trumbull’s Showscan. A new film format from the man who was largely responsible for the incredible look of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and the modern era of visual effects? The same guy who directed Silent Running? Who could turn down an invitation like that? …

(9) MAKING TIME. GQ is convinced that “The Lazarus Project is your next sci-fi TV obsession” – at least for those in the UK who can access Sky.

Archie recruits him for the clandestine Lazarus Project: an organisation composed of people with the same vanishingly rare ability with which George finds himself stuck. They harness the time-bending power to prevent global catastrophes and apocalyptic scenarios (as a famous philosopher once said: “With great power, comes great…”) But when Sarah, the love of George’s life, is involved in a car accident, the ethics of such an extraordinary gift take centre stage — and what is George willing to sacrifice?

(10) TOM DUPREE (1949-2022). Writer, critic, and editor Tom Dupree died February 7. He was employed as the line editor for Star Wars novels with Bantam Spectra from 1992-1997. He was charged with handling the X-Wing series of novels. The character names “Dupas Thomree” (in Assault at Selonia and Showdown at Centerpoint by Roger MacBride Allen) and “Ree Duptom” (in Hard Merchandise by K.W. Jeter) are playful nods to him.

He had around a dozen published short stories. “With a Smile” (from Mob Magic, 1998) received an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best.

He co-wrote John Maxwell’s critically acclaimed one-man show based on the life of William Faulkner (filmed in 2006).

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-six years ago this evening, the thrilling sight of Lost In Space’s “War Of The Robots” first happened. In one corner of this fight, we have Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet.   And in the other corner of the ring (metaphorically speaking), we have B-9 from Lost in Space

Aired as the twentieth episode of the first season, the story is that while returning from a fishing trip, Will and B-9 find a deactivated Robotoid. Against the wishes of B-9, Will proceeds to repair and restore the Robotoid which apparently becomes a humble servant of the Robinson family. Sure.

The best part of this episode is the slow motion rock ‘em, sock ‘em battle between the robots. And yes it’s a very, very silly battle indeed as you can see from the image below. 

Lost in Space is available to stream on Hulu and Netflix.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1928 Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers he painted were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did overly muscular barbarians very well! Oh, and he also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. Just saying. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party? and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1935 R. L. Fanthorpe, 87. He was a pulp writer for UK publisher Badger Books during the 1950s and 1960s during which he wrote under some sixty pen names. I think he wrote several hundred genre novels during that time but no two sources agree on just how many he wrote. Interestingly nothing is available by him digitally currently though his hard copy offerings would fill a wing of small rural library. He’d be perfect for the usual suspects I’d say.
  • Born February 9, 1936 Clive Walter Swift. His first genre appearance was as Snug in that version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968). Several years thereafter he was Dr. Black in “A Warning to the Curious” (based on a ghost story by British writer M. R. James).Then he’s Ecto, whoever that character is, in Excalibur. He shows up next in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Revelation of a The Daleks” as Professor Jobel. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 9, 1940 David Webb Peoples, 82. Screenwriter of Blade RunnerLadyhawkeLeviathan, and Twelve Monkeys which is not a full listing. He’s also been writing for the Twelve Monkeys series .
  • Born February 9, 1942 Marianna Hill, 80. Doctor Helen Noel in the excellent “Dagger of The Mind” episode of the original Trek. (This episode introduces the Vulcan mind meld.) She also had roles on Outer Limits (in the Eando Binder’s “I Robot“ story which predates Asimov’s story of that name), Batman (twice as Cleo Patrick), I-SpyThe Wild Wild WestMission: Impossible and Kung Fu (ok, the last one has to be least genre adjacent, isn’t it?). 
  • Born February 9, 1951 Justin Gustainis, 71. Author of two series so far, one being the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series which he’s written three superb novels in so far, and the other being the Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations series which has seven novels and which I’ve not read yet. Who’s read the latter series? 
  • Born February 9, 1956 Timothy Truman, 66. Writer and artist best remembered in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, volumes one and two. For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve now overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1981 Tom Hiddleston, 41. Loki in the Marvel film universe. And a more charming bastard of a god has never been conceptualised by screenwriters. Outside of the MCU, I see he shows up in Kong: Skull Island as Captain James Conrad and The Pirate Fairy as the voice of James Hook as well in a vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive as Adam. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home illustrates a friend who doesn’t quite get it.
  • Tom Gauld free associates.

(14) VERBATIM. The Comics Journal has posted the “Transcript of the McMinn County Board of Education’s Removal of Maus”. It’s been extensively discussed here in comments, but may still be news for others.

On January 10, 2022, the McMinn County Board of Education in Tennessee voted unanimously to remove Art Spiegelman’s Maus from its eighth-grade language arts curriculum, citing its use of profanity and depictions of nudity. This public document represents the unedited minutes of that Board’s meeting, presented as a service to all impacted parties.

(15) DAY-OLD NEWS. Someone – probably Upstream Review’s Michael Gallagher in “A Whitewashed Tomb: SFWA’s Best Can’t Sell Books” – got what you get when you poke the bear.

(16) POKÉMON TIME TRIP. “Pokémon Legends: Arceus review: breathing new life into Pokémon” promises The Verge.

…Which is what makes Pokémon Legends: Arceus so refreshing: it’s genuinely surprising. It does this by shifting the timeline back to long before the modern games in the series, during a period when pokémon were still barely understood. Instead of a world where humans and pokémon live in harmony, and anyone can buy an electronic device full of information on hundreds of species, players are thrust into a wild, untamed region where people are just doing their best to survive while surrounded by largely unknown and seemingly dangerous creatures….

(17) NEGATORY, GOOD BUDDY. If you’re sensitive to robotic (and other violence), do not watch the trailer for the game Atomic Heart. No, no, no.

(18) LONG MEMORY. Beckett’s “History of the Obscene 1977 Topps Star Wars 207 C-3PO” includes the interesting note that unlike most collectibles that have to be withdrawn, it’s easier to find the original version of this trading card than the censored replacement edition.

“C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)” is about a mundane caption as you can get.

To those working on the set at Topps and the licensor, nothing seemed to stand out.

Once the cards were out there, it didn’t take long for people to notice that something definitely was.

(19) BLOWN AWAY. BBC News reports “SpaceX loses 40 satellites to geomagnetic storm a day after launch”.

SpaceX has lost dozens of satellites after they were hit by a geomagnetic storm a day after launch, causing them to fall from orbit and burn up.

Such solar “storms” are caused by powerful explosions on the sun’s surface, which spit out plasma and magnetic fields that can hit the Earth.

The company, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, said up to 40 of 49 satellites from last week’s launch were hit.

They had been due to join its Starlink satellite internet project.

Starlink is Mr Musk’s bid to provide high-speed internet using thousands of orbiting satellites….

(20) ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK. “Asteroid sharing Earth’s orbit discovered – could it help future space missions?” asks The Conversation.

Research has shown that the Earth trails an asteroid barely a kilometre across in its orbit about the Sun – only the second such body to have ever been spotted. It goes round the Sun on average two months ahead of the Earth, dancing around in front like an excited herald of our coming.

This object, known as 2020 XL?, was first spotted in December 2020 using Pan-STARRS telescopes on the summit of Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui. But determination of its orbit required follow-up observations using the 4.1-metre SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) telescope in Chile….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Arcane:League of Legends,” the Screen Junkies find an animated series based on a video game that “taught your 13-year-old cousin all his favorite slurs” is actually pretty good.  The series features “cyberpunk, steampunk. skatepunk, and Punky Brewster” and is in a world where “magic is like science, and science is like Crossfit.”

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

Meet the New Gunn Center Director

Giselle Anatol, the new Director of the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, has written to introduce herself to those who have worked with the Center and to the broader SFF community as well.


Director Giselle Anatol

Greetings from the Gunn Center!

My name is Giselle Anatol. As you might have heard, I started as the new director of the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (Gunn CSSF) at the beginning of the month. I am honored to have been asked to serve in this capacity; I know I have enormous shoes to fill. Former Director Chris McKitterick and former Associate Director Kij Johnson have my deep gratitude for helping to ease the transition in leadership. I look forward to continuing to work with them, and to hearing from you as we begin plans for the next few years of CSSF programming. Currently, we anticipate establishing a monthly virtual book club, a fall symposium in conjunction with the presentation of the Sturgeon Award for Best Science Fiction Short Story, and a variety of speakers and workshops; we’re eager to foster diverse community engagement, so please let me know if there are other events that you’d like to see and participate in!

This letter also serves as an introduction. My childhood introduction to science fiction came in the early 1970s, sitting beside my father as he watched Star Trek. I was fascinated by Spock’s stoicism, proud to see Uhura—who was brown and female, like me—on the bridge, and determined to figure out how to teleport. I recall, some years later, being a 5th grader and proudly handing my father a library copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which I had just finished. I was awestruck by this book that blended the science of tesseracts, sheet-stealing “witches,” and a poignant reflection of my own pangs of adolescent anxiety about not fitting in. The story conveyed a preteen’s feelings of devotion to her father; it also conveyed science fiction’s power to deepen the bond between me and my father—in essence, establishing bridges between readers of different ages, genders, nationalities, and a host of other experiences.

My family is from Trinidad & Tobago, so when I decided to pursue my doctorate in English literary studies, I focused on Caribbean women’s writing. The study of children’s and young adult literature was also compelling to me. These fields overlap in many of my courses and my scholarship on Black Speculative Literature—works by artists from African nations and the African diaspora (especially the Caribbean) that engage the imaginative considerations of “What If?” My most significant publication in this area is The Things that Fly in the Night: Female Vampires in Literature of the Circum-Caribbean and African Diaspora (Rutgers University Press 2015). For an early lecture I gave on the subject, click here.

I was hired as an assistant professor of English at KU in 1998, and promoted to full professor in 2016. I served for two terms as the department’s Director of Graduate Studies, and have had the chance to teach and learn from a host of students with interests in speculative literatures. One of these students is Jason Baltazar, an exceptionally talented young writer who is completing his doctoral degree this semester. I am delighted to have the chance to work with him again; he has extensive experience working in the Gunn Center and has been appointed as the CSSF Graduate Research Assistant for Spring 2022.

You can contact either of us at gunn.sf.center@gmail.com or by phoning (785) 864-4520. If you are interested in being put on our contact list for news about future events, please email us at this address with your most updated contact information. I will be reaching out to the CSSF Board of Advisors in the near future to ascertain their interest in continuing to work with the Gunn Center.

In the meantime, please accept my very best wishes for 2022!

Ever onward,

Giselle

Gunn Center Gets New Director   

The creation of Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction and the Speculative Imagination led by former Gunn Center director Chris McKitterick, a new part of the Achievement & Assessment Institute (AAI) at the University of Kansas, raises the question of what will become of the Gunn Center, its annual conference, and the Sturgeon and Campbell Awards presented there.    

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) was founded by James Gunn in 1982. Gunn (1923-2020), a SFWA Grandmaster, was superseded by McKitterick as Director of the CSSF in 2010.

Giselle Anatol, a University of Kansas English Professor, and Interim Director of Graduate Studies, is the incoming Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. She responded to File 770’s questions with this update:

Thank you so much for reaching out to me about the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. I am excited to take the helm, continuing many of the rich programs for which the Center is known, as well as developing new opportunities for creating and thinking about speculative fiction.

We would love to keep the Sturgeon Award at the Gunn Center, and are currently negotiating the terms with the Foundation. We are also still working out the management of the Campbell Award. The annual Campbell Conference was initially put on hold due to the pandemic, but since the leadership transition at the CSSF is occurring in the middle of the academic year, it might be too late for all administrative tasks to be accomplished for a summer gathering. Chris McKitterick has stated, however, that he plans to host and lead all types of workshops at the Ad Astra Center. 

Kij Johnson, Associate Director of CSSF, also commented:

The Gunn Center remains in control of the Conference and the Campbell Award, and it will be up to them to decide what comes next. The Sturgeon Award was hosted by the Gunn Center but is under the control of the Sturgeon Literary Trust, and it will be up to that organization to do what they feel is best for the award.

Jason Baltazar, a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the University of Kansas Department of English, served as the Sturgeon Award Administrator this year, sending out press releases about the 2021 finalists and winner. The award has continued to be presented annually without interruption, although due to COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person ceremony has been postponed until a date to be announced.

However, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel has not been given since 2019. Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech at Dublin 2019 for a different award also named after the late editor, in which she called Campbell a fascist who exalted “the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists”, stirred enough controversy that the award’s sponsors promptly renamed it the Astounding Award. And a week later, Chris McKitterick, then the CSSF Director, announced that the Gunn Center was changing the name of the annual Campbell Conference and was “discussing alternatives” for the Campbell Memorial Award.

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction acknowledges and condemns the problematic words and actions of John W. Campbell.

We had already been discussing changing the name of the Campbell Conference to the Gunn Center Conference, which is in any case more accurate, as we’ve added other awards and events during to be presented there; recent events expedite that decision. We’ve already begun changing the name on our website and in promotional materials.

As for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science-fiction novel of the year, the Center directors and Award jurors are currently discussing alternatives; when a decision is made, we will announce it.

Earlier this year on McKitterick’s web domain (christopher-mckitterick.com) a statement was posted that the “Best of Pandemic” finalists and a new name for the Campbell Award were “to be announced [in] Fall 2021.”

However, since that time there has been no news about the award, which has not been given again since Ng’s speech. Its fate and its relationship with CSSF will be one of many things on the incoming Director’s agenda.

Pixel Scroll 1/30/21 Hiding In The Hamburger Menu

(1) WINTER IS HERE. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop will host the Winter Writers Series, monthly conversations via Zoom between Clarion alumni and instructors about the art of speculative fiction and their writing careers. The conversations are co-hosted by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore. The online events are free and open to the public. Each conversation will include time for Q&A with the audience. RSVP to each event individually via the links below.

Writing the Magic and the Real. February 24, 2021, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

A conversation between Andrea HairstonKiik Araki-Kawaguchi and Sanjena Sathian about how they approach blending elements of realism—including historical events and contemporary culture—and the fantastic in their fiction.

  • Andrea Hairston is a playwright, novelist, and scholar. She has published three novels.
  • Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi writes dreampop speculative fictions and darkwave minimalist poetry that can be enjoyed on a bus ride or in line for coffee.
  • Sanjena Sathian was raised in Georgia by Indian immigrant parents. She’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an alumna of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and a former Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. Her debut novel, Gold Diggers, will be released by Penguin on April 6, 2021.

Science Fiction: Balancing Worldbuilding and Narrative. March 24, 2021, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

A conversation about the art of creating science fictional worlds and the stories that bring them to life with Cory DoctorowKaren Osborne, and Kali Wallace, three incredible writers and Clarion alumni.

  • Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, and journalist.
  • Karen Osborne is a speculative fiction writer and visual storyteller living in Baltimore. Architects of Memory is her debut sf novel and its sequel, Engines of Oblivion, will be released on 2/9/21.
  • For most of her life Kali Wallace was going to be a scientist when she grew up. Only after she had her shiny new doctorate in hand did she admit that she loved inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked exploring the real one. Her newest novel, Dead Space, comes out on 3/2/21.

(2) 2021 WESTERCON. Westercon 73, the one-year delayed Westercon in Seattle, posted on their website that the delayed in-person conference will now be a virtual/online conference. Also, due to health concerns Sally Woehrle has stepped down as convention Chair. Gene Armstrong has moved from Vice Chair to Chair of Westercon 73. The committee says she will be assisting the convention in going forward once her health improves. Meanwhile, Armstrong explained the move to a virtual event:

Since winning the Westercon 73 bid in 2018 our committee has been excited about planning and holding this Westercon! However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a number of changes in the last year no one could have foreseen and this Westercon wasn’t exempted from any of those challenges. We’ve all had to be patient and adjust to new ways of keeping in contact and that has also meant new ways of holding conventions. Even though vaccinations are starting to be available it doesn’t look like there will have been enough to make major gatherings safe by our original convention dates. That has led to hard conversations and decisions as to how Westercon 73 will go forward. Westercon 73 will NOT be an in-person physical convention.

In order to ensure the safety and health of all participants Westercon 73 will be a virtual/online convention. We are still working out key details of what this will entail but some decisions have been established. Virtual Westercon 73 will be held on the originally planned weekend of July 1-4, 2021. Westercon 73 will be offering a film festival, filking, and all the programming that can be managed effectively in an online format. The cost of a full attending membership has been dropped to $35 for the weekend to reflect the online nature of the convention. Please check our website or Facebook page for more information and updates as they become available.

(3) LEPRECON GOES VIRTUAL, TOO. LepreCon 47, a fan-run sff convention based in Phoenix, will be virtual from March 19-21, 2021 via Zoom.

Artist Guest of Honor (GoH) is Jeffrey S. Veregge, an award-winning Native American artist and writer from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Also participating: artist David Dace, and authors Maxwell Alexander Drake, Gregory Benford, Larry Niven, and Evan Currie. FtM Musician Alexander James Adams will be doing a Filk Concert.

(4) FUTURE TENSE. Simon Brown’s short story “Speaker” which looks at human-hyena communication is the latest story from Future Tense Fiction, and the first in a series presented by Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, as part of its work on Learning Futures and Principled Innovation

Akata woke before sunrise because a question occurred to her.

“What is joking?”

Samora, 300 kilometers away, rubbed sleep from his eyes and said, “Repeat?”

“What is joking?” Akata repeated.

“Umm.” Samora sat up straighter. He realized the question could mark one of those turning points that Project Sentience referred to as Levers, a window to wider dialogue between Speakers. It was a word the Project always spelled with a capital L, as if those working there needed to be reminded of its importance. Samora played for time. “Why do you ask?”…

Iveta Silova’s response essay asks “If nonhumans can speak, will people learn to listen?”

Living in the Anthropocene is fraught with paradox. For centuries, we have convinced ourselves that we, humans, are special and superior to other species and the rest of the natural world. We stand as self-appointed speakers for the planet, as though no other beings can feel, think, or communicate.

Today, however, we are forced to acknowledge that we are not so special after all. On the one hand, we wonder and worry whether artificial intelligence will become conscious, leading us down a dystopian spiral of human irrelevance. On the other hand, we see a major shift in scientific thinking about plant intelligence and animal consciousness, suggesting that the difference between human and nonhuman species is just a matter of degree, not of kind. Meanwhile, our hyperseparation from the natural world is threatening every species on Earth—including humans….

On Thursday, Feb. 4, at noon Eastern, author Simon Brown and Iveta Silova, professor and director of the Center for the Advanced Studies in Global Education, housed under Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, will discuss this story in an hour-long online discussion. RSVP here.

(5) TRAINING DAY. First Fandom Experience, in “Via Freight Train, A Travelogue Tragically Truncated”, has pulled together as many installments as they could find of two Denver fans’ accounts of traveling to the 1940 Worldcon in Chicago via boxcar.

[For Olon F. Wiggins and Lew Martin] at the Chicago gathering was essential, for they had already hatched a plan to propose that the following Worldcon in 1941 be held in Denver. So — how to get to Chicago?

According to Martin:

“It all began one meeting of the Denver Science Fictioneers when I asked Chairman Wiggins if he planned to attend the Chicago 1940 World’s Science-Fiction Convention. He replied that he was and I told him of my desire and determination to go. He planned to go via bus and I had planned to hitch-hike, picking up Al McKeel at Jefferson City, Missouri. Several meetings elapsed before we had compromised on accompanying each other via freight train.”From “Via Freight Train” by Lew Martin, TSFF, v5n7, April 1941

(6) FELLOWSHIP OF TELEPHONE RING. [Item by rcade.] The science fiction author Cherie Priest has a Twitter thread about being hit up for professional book deal advice by somebody in desperate need of a come-to-Jesus. Thread starts here.

Spoiler alert: The guy was a major-league [redacted]. But her conclusion about the friendship of writers is quite nice, and includes —

(7) MENTORING OPPORTUNITY. Vanity Fair shares “A Wrinkle in Time Author Madeleine L’Engle’s Letters to Ahmad Rahman”.

Madeleine L’Engle’s mail arrived in prodigious batches by the summer of 1976, 14 years after the publication of A Wrinkle in Time. From her study in Manhattan’s Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, where she served as librarian, the 57-year-old author attended to editorial correspondence, fan art, manila envelopes stuffed with middle-school-reader responses, royalty statements, and speaking requests from around the world. Amid the usual haul, one correspondent stood out: Ron Irwin, inmate #130539 at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, a 25-year-old former member of the Black Panther Party.

Irwin, who later converted to Islam and adopted the name Ahmad Rahman, had just received an honorable mention in the nonfiction category of the 1976 PEN America Writing Award for Prisoners. PEN had recently launched a correspondence program pairing writers in prison with established writers on the outside. Rahman signed on, welcoming the opportunity for literary growth while completing his bachelor’s degree through Wayne State University. He articulated only one wish: that the correspondent not be antagonistic to his interests. “I do not subscribe to the so-called universalist school of Black literature that tries to downplay the uniqueness of the ways and politics of Black people in our American dilemma,” he explained. “I am not a writer first and then a Black man.”

A young PEN administrator named John Morrone played matchmaker. L’Engle, he knew, had asked to be a mentor. He forwarded Rahman’s concerns and writing samples. L’Engle saw raw talent. “I believe that literature is, in fact, a strong common meeting ground,” she responded to Morrone, “but he may not agree. I certainly have no objection to his writing out of his own background. That’s all any of us has to work from.” She typed an introductory letter to Rahman and had a copy of Wrinkle sent to the prison because, she told Morrone, “science fiction/fantasy transcends barriers of race.”

It was a match made of opportunity—as for alchemy, time would tell what no one then could have predicted: that a “mystical connection,” in Rahman’s words, would bind them for life; that their surviving letters—more than 200 pages—would lay bare the senselessness of excessively punitive “justice” and the ravages of mass incarceration; that the integrity of two extraordinary people would breed a leveling intimacy, making way for a mutual mentorship that purposefully, sometimes painfully, worked through the obstacles of politics, class, race, religion, gender, and generation….

(8) GUNN TRIBUTE. Catching up here with the photo-filled announcement “Founder James Gunn has died” posted December 23 by Chris McKitterick on the KU Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction site.

When he was teaching – and for at least a decade after retiring – Jim would go to his office each day and write there, door open to passers-by. If anyone had a question, he’d pause in his work and welcome their questions. I once asked him if I had what it takes to become a writer, because it’s a difficult and painful calling. He asked me why I keep doing it if I felt that way. I said that if I don’t write, I get grumpy and unhappy, and then went on to excitedly explain what I was trying to say in my newest story. As I spoke, he smiled, then nodded and said, ‘Anyone who can be discouraged from becoming a writer should be. The rewards are small and delayed, few people will ever care about your work, and there are no guarantees. Only those who cannot be discouraged find success. You have what it takes.’

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1996 Twenty-five years ago, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel went to Christopher Priest for The Prestige. Runner-ups were James Blaylock’s All Bells on Earth, Tim Powers’ Expiration Date, Vikram Chandra’s Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Graham Joyce’s Requiem and Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s The Silent Strength of Stones. The film version of The Prestige would be nominated for a Hugo at Nippon 2007. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 30, 1866 – Gelett Burgess.  Famous – in my opinion, deservedly, but he hated it – for “The Purple Cow”; see the original, his reply, and more here.  Coined “blurb”, which most folks now take as neutral without bothering to learn GB’s distaste.  We may claim – although there is something fantastic about all he did – three novels, half a dozen shorter stories; he drew things, too; Don Markstein concurrently calls him a cartoonist, although as you can discern, DM’s description is defective.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1924 – Lloyd Alexander.  (See 28 Jan 57 note for  Joanne Findon.)  Five novels, eight shorter stories in the Prydain Chronicles; another score of novels, and another of shorter stories, for us; other books, some nonfiction.  Cats recur.  Newbery Medal, two Nat’l Book Awards.  Co-founder of Cricket magazine.  A story and a drawing in the Oz Hundredth Anniversary Celebration.  Two translations of Sartre.  Also a violinist; once sent this Christmas card.  See a blog and a documentary about him. (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1926 Peter Brachacki. Set designer for the very first episode of Doctor Who. Everything I’ve been able to read on him and that work says that he was not at all interested in working on the series and did so reluctantly under orders. Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert would later recount that she was impressed with Brachacki’s work on the TARDIS interior even though she personally did not like him at all. His design elements have persisted throughout the fifty years the series has been produced.  His only other genre work that I’ve been able to find was Blake’s 7 and a short series called the The Witch’s Daughter done in the late Seventies. The BBC wasn’t always great at documenting who worked on what series. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1930 – Doll Gilliland.  Beloved late wife of Alexis Gilliland and, with him, active in WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  They hosted WSFA meetings in their home 24 years and ran six Disclaves together.  For Inside “2001: a Space Opera” see the ConStellation Program Book (41st Worldcon).  Here is AG’s appreciation.  Not every such widower is lucky enough to remarry but, like Kelly Freas, he did.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1937 Vanessa Redgrave, 84. I think her role of Guinevere in Camelot is her first genre role. Yes, that’s a fantasy. From there I see she’s Lola Deveraux in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Max in Mission: Impossible, Robin Lerner in Deep Impact, Countess Wilhelmina whose The Narrator of Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story in which Jim Henson reworked the story to give it “a more ethical, humanist view”.  Really. Truly. She next shows in the adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord as Sister Antonia. I’ve only got two series appearances for her, one on Faerie Tale Theatre as The Evil Queen in, surprise not, the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” episode; the other on the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Mrs. Prentiss in the “London, May 1916” episode. (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1941 – Jim Benford, age 80.  Identical twin of Greg Benford (see Cat Eldridge’s note).  Active as a fan, often with G; famously they both did the fanzine Void; since 2012, Motley; J has been in LofgeornostSF ReviewTrap DoorVertex, with and without G.  Some pro work: three short stories together, two Science Fact pieces in Analog – more recently J did one with Dominic Benford; anthology with G Starship Century.  [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1941 – Gregory Benford, 80. His longest running series is Galactic Center Saga, a series I find a little akin to Saberhagen’s Beserker series. I’ve not read enough of it to form a firm opinion though I know some of you of have done so.  Other novels I’ve read by him include Timescape (superb) and A Darker Geometry: A Man-Kzin Novel which was actually was quite excellent. (Yes, I do read Baen Books). (CE)
  • Born January 30, 1953 Michael J. Anderson, 68. He’s known for being as The Man from Another Place in David Lynch’s television series Twin Peaks, the prequel film for the series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and as Samson Leonhart on Carnivàle. He had one-offs on MonstersDeep Space NineX-FilesThe Phantom Eye and Charmed. (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1955 Judith Tarr, 66. I’m fond of her Richard the Lionheart novels which hew closely to the historical record while introducing just enough magic to make them fantasy. The novels also make good use of her keen knowledge of horsemanship as well. Her Queen of the Amazons pairs the historical Alexander the Great, with a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. Highly recommended. (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1962 – Todd Hamilton, age 59.  A novel and two shorter stories with Patricia Beese; mostly active in visual art: two dozen covers, ten dozen interiors.  One Chesley.  Served a term as ASFA (Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists) President.  Here is the Nov 87 Analog.  Here is Through Darkest Resnick with Gun and Camera.  Speaking of identity, here is A Case of Mistaken Identity.  Here is TH’s Chicon in 2000 trading card.  He also did the hippocampus for Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; it’s on p. 1 of the fine Program Book, see here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1963 Daphne Ashbrook, 58. Grace Holloway, Companion to the Eighth Doctor. Need I say more? And yes, she kissed him. Unlike so many other Who characters, she has not shown up in a Big Finish production. She’d show up as the title character in the “Melora” episode of Deep Space Nine, and she was Katherine Granger in the “A Knight in Shining Armor” episode of Knight Rider. (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1973 Jordan Prentice, 38. Inside every duck, is a self-described person of short stature. In the case of Howard the Duck from the movie of the same name, one of those persons was him. He’s not in a lot of SFF roles after his performing debut there though he shows up next as Fingers Finnian in Wolf Girl,  playing Sherriff Shelby in Silent But Deadly, Napoleon in Mirror Mirror and Nigel Thumb in The Night Before the Night Before Christmas. (CE)
  • Born January 30, 1986 – Rebecca Green, age 35.  Of course a book called The Glass Town Game appeals to me; here is RG’s cover.  See more, including Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea (AAAS/Subaru Prize), at her Website.  How about a Wikipedia entry?  [JH]

(11) PEEKING INSIDE THE GLASS BALLOT BOX. Marvel tweeted an in-progress report on the fan vote to pick the final member of the X-Men team.

(12) AFRICAN SUPERHEROES. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Roye Okupe, whose line of African superheroes self-published through YouNeek Studios has just been acquired by Dark Horse Comics, a transaction which makes Okupe “one of the rising stars of a comic industry that has made attempts to diversify over the past decade.” “Roye Okupe dreamed of creating his own African superhero universe. Now it’s finally paying off”.

…By the time he graduated from George Washington University with a degree in computer science (while also studying animation at the Art Institute of Washington), Okupe was shopping around an eight-minute animated trailer for an African superhero. Years before “Black Panther” would go on to make $1 billion at the box office, Okupe received little interest from the TV world. One producer told him his ideas might work if he changed the race of his heroes.

But Okupe never lost confidence in his dream, and in 2015 he decided to introduce his heroes to the world by self-publishing comic books.

Now, in 2021, Okupe’s dream will become mainstream….

(13) TOP OF HIS FIELD. David Morrell on writing novels is the first of a series of Zoom seminars by notable writers hosted by SouthWest Writers. Takes place February 6, at 10 a.m. The author who created Rambo (in First Blood)is also a three-time Bram Stoker Award winner.

Zoom Meeting Information:
Topic: SWW Saturday Meeting – February 2021
Time: Feb 6, 2021, at 10:00 AM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Join the Zoom Meeting. Click here to join the meeting. (Meeting ID: 446 372 3340, no password required.) For all sign-in options, go to the Zoom Meeting Sign In page.

(14) PAY THE ARTIST. Here’s Steve Wagner’s response to a t-shirt design contest.

(15) DOWN THE HATCH. Somebody’s getting paid for this effervescent “AYE! – Star Trek – T-Shirt” – hopefully that includes the artist.

Star Trek’s “Scotty” always says “Aye!” to a wee dram of Auld Aberdonian scotch whisky! Look for the distinctive red top. Since 1966.

(16) MY MIND IS BLOWN. In “The Kerminator” on YouTube, Pixel Riot asks, “What happens if you fuse The Terminator and Kermit the Frog?”

(17) THEY’RE PINK. File this under “horror genre” Food & Wine headlines that “Kraft Mac and Cheese Comes in Pink Candy Flavor” for Valentine’s Day. You could be a lucky winner. (Or a luckier loser?)

…Kraft doesn’t want to overdo it, so you can’t buy Candy Kraft Mac & Cheese in stores. Instead, from now until February 8, interested fans need to go to CandyKraftMacandCheese.com to enter a random drawing. Kraft says 1,000 winners will be selected and have one box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and one candy packet to turn the Mac & Cheese pink delivered to their door by February 14.

(18) BEAMING FROM THE PAST. Facebook invites you to “Watch: That Time William Shatner Appeared As Captain Kirk In 1970s Kids’ ‘Hollywood Squares”. The Hollywood Squares game show did some episodes for kids that aired on Saturday morning called The Storybook Squares, where celebrities appeared as characters out of fiction or history. Shatner is first introduced at the 45-second mark and contestants call on him a couple times during the show.

(19) SANDMAN CAST. “Oh bless, Gwendoline Christie is going to play Lucifer in Netflix’s The Sandman”Yahoo! Entertainment is excited – maybe you will be too!

Netflix has finally set the main cast for its forthcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s DC comic, The Sandman, a dark fantasy that has been in the works for quite some time now. (In fact, it was first picked up a year and a half ago. Can anyone even remember a single thing about 2019 at this point?) While there were early concerns that this project might roam Development Hell for a while, Gaiman recently assured fans and Seth Meyers that there was an active set after a brief COVID-related pause. Today, Netflix reveals the players that are on said hot set: Tom Sturridge, star of Starz’s Sweetbitter, will take on the role of Dream, Lord of the Dreaming realm. Netflix also added Vivienne Acheampong, Boyd Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry, and Sanjeev Bhaskar to the intriguing ensemble.

And for a serious kicker, Gwendoline Christie will step in to play Lucifer…. 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Cat Rambo reads her short story “Acquainted with the Night”. Trigger warning: child murder, violence. Rambo says: “This is an early superhero fiction story of mine that originally appeared in Corrupts Absolutely?

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, Frank Catalano, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, rcade, Woody Bernardi, Steve Wagner, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Anna Nimmhaus and Colin H.]