Pixel Scroll 8/6/22 Ours Is Not To Pixel Why, Ours Is But To Scroll And Die

(1) THEY COULD HAVE BEEN CONTENDERS. Rich Horton has “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1959”, which he says is the next-to-last in the series.

…I have cited Jo Walton’s excellent Informal History of the Hugos before, and in that book you can find Jo’s comments on the short lists, her choices for the winners, and comments by a variety of people (myself included) discussing the stories and often offering additional possible nominees or winners. I’ll list Jo’s choices below, along with Richard Lupoff’s short fiction selection from What If, Volume 1. And for the years from 1960 on, I’ll leave the field to Jo! (After all, my thoughts are generally recorded in her book anyway.) I’ve decided to go ahead and make one additional post for stories from 1959, for two reasons: one, to round out the decade of the 1950s by story publication year, not just Worldcon year; and, two, because I was born in 1959….

(2) SUGGESTED INFLUENCES. Phil Christman has an “Interview With Adam Roberts” in his newsletter The Tourist.

…As a British Gen X-er, you were a child during an era of televised fantastika that strikes me (if maybe only me, and a handful of bloggers who use the word “hauntology” a lot) as uniquely rich. I’m thinking of the later Nigel Kneale, or of things like The Owl Service, Sapphire and Steele, and Children of the Stones, not to mention some of the stronger seasons of “Doctor Who,” and even “The Tomorrow People” (laughable as it often is). Was this an influence on you? I’m wondering partly because these shows do “haunted suburb” scenes really well, and that’s true of some of your work—though I suppose that could all just be the influence of Ballard. 

I read Owl Service, and indeed all of Alan Garner (my Dad was at Manchester Grammar School with Garner—I mean, he wasn’t a family friend or anything, but going back to visit relatives meant wandering around Alderley Edge and so on which added a frisson to my reading of Weirdstone of Brisingamen) … although I never saw the TV version. But I did watch Sapphire and SteeleTomorrow People—maybe if I rewatched that one I’d find it laughable, but I certainly didn’t at the time—and of course Doctor Who. But also US shows like The Time Tunnel and Star Trek. TOS Trek is intensely suburban, I think: the bridge of the USS Enterprise is a comfortable suburban living room with a big comfy chair for the ‘Dad’ to sit as he watches the universe come to him via his gigantic TV screen. So much of Trek is a manifestation of the comfortable life, surrounded by labour-saving devices, demure women to attend you like suburban wives and so on.

I never watched what are, now, some of the classic shows—the Patrick Goohan Prisoner series for instance was before my time, I only saw when I was properly grown up, by which time it was basically a period piece. But two shows nobody talks about any more made a big impact upon me: Greatorex’s 1990, and Terry Nation’s Survivors. I also remember the last of the Quatermass series, with John Mills as an elderly Quatermass: I hadn’t seen, and frankly had no idea about, the earlier Quatermass shows, but that 1979 drama worked strangely and powerfully upon my teenage imagination….

(3) INTERNATIONAL SHORT FICTION. InterNova edited by Michael K. Iwoleit is an international SF zine with fiction in English. It’s an offshoot of the German SF zine Nova. The current online issue is here: July 2022 – InterNova.

InterNova is intended be a showcase of contemporary SF writing in all those countries and regions that are generally neglected by the Anglo-American centered sf markets. American and British writers will not be excluded but the main intention is to feature stories and essays by writers who are rarely published outside of their home countries. We will try to be as international as possible, advancing our editorial work into countries and areas that are rarely associated with Science Fiction.

To make InterNova available for readers in as many countries as possible this e-zine is published in English which has become the lingua franca of the international SF community. It is planned, however, to later include some stories in the original languages, especially in Spanish, but also in French and German.

(4) WRITING VIDEO GAME MUSIC. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses video game music and interviews Austin Wintory, whose music for Journey earned him a BAFTA Award.  On August 1, the BBC Proms held their first concert devoted to video game music.

Wintory’s first step is to analyse the gameplay and map out the ‘spider web of possibilities’ of player behaviour.  In his score for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, an open-world adventure game, he accommodated not only whether a player was fighting or exploring, but also which part of the Victorian London setting they were in, writing musical themes inspired by boroughs such as Whitechapel and Westminster which played as they crossed those particular rooftops.  There would be alternate versions of the score with additional instruments and vocal layers, depending on whether it was day or night on the in-game clock, whether the player had completed specific missions and even which of the game’s two protagonists they were controlling at the time.

What makes one game soundtrack rise above the rest in popularity?  It could be the nostalgia factor, or the marriage of a memorable gameplay moment with the perfect musical accompaniment.  Wintory suspects that it might be the undeniable appeal of a great melody.  “Humans are fundamentally melodic instruments,” he says. “We can’t strum a chord with our vocal cords or simulate a choir on our own.  We sing one note at the time, so it’s not a shock that the music we hold on to is the stuff we can sing back. Melody has always been the thing that united the classics.”

(5) THEY’VE GOT IT GOING ON. Episode 2 of the If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast is “Priuses of the Apocolypse with Tobias Buckell”.

If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) is a podcast about hope and resistance in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Cohosts Alan Bailey, Cat Rambo, Diane Morrison, and Graeme Barber interview a diverse breadth of writers, editors, activists, gamers, and various other members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy community.

(6) CENSORSHIP PROCEEDINGS. Publishers Weekly reports on Virginia litigation that could affect the availability in the state of Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas: “With Hearing Set, Court Urged to Dismiss Closely Watched Virginia Obscenity Lawsuits”.

A Virginia state judge has set an August 30 hearing to consider two lawsuits that, if successful, would cause two popular books to be pulled from bookshelves across the state, alleging they are “obscene” under an obscure state law.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, judge Pamela Baskervill (a retired judge hearing the case by designation after all the sitting judges in the circuit disqualified themselves) found there was “probable cause” and ordered the defendants to answer the charges.

While the two lawsuits have not been officially consolidated, the court will consider the fate of both cases at the single hearing, noting their “overlap.” According to a June 30 order, the hearing will focus on motions, which, if granted, “would result in dismissal of the suits.” Lawyers for the authors and publisher defendants as well as bookseller Barnes & Noble filed motions to dismiss the suits late last month. Reply briefs from the plaintiffs are due August 9, with final replies due from the defendants on August 16….

(7) LOCAL LIBRARY DEFUNDED. The Guardian reports Gender Queer is also under attack in a Michigan town: “US library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ authors: ‘We will not ban the books’”.

A small-town library is at risk of shutting down after residents of Jamestown, Michigan, voted to defund it rather than tolerate certain LGBTQ+-themed books.

Residents voted on Tuesday to block a renewal of funds tied to property taxes, Bridge Michigan reported.

The vote leaves the library with funds through the first quarter of next year. Once a reserve fund is used up, it would be forced to close, Larry Walton, the library board’s president, told Bridge Michigan – harming not just readers but the community at large. Beyond books, residents visit the library for its wifi, he said, and it houses the very room where the vote took place.

…The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary, dozens showed up at library board meetings, demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) Complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

(8) IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. Nina Nasseth looks at how horror movies manipulate your brain. “This is Your Brain On Horror” at CrimeReads.

…When we look at what gives any good horror movie its true horror vibe, we end up with two distinct elements: terror and horror. We often use these terms interchangeably, but they are very different. Terror is where tension lives. It’s that awful, creepy-crawly feeling, the anxiety and anticipation that builds toward a horrifying event or realization— basically, it’s the heebie-jeebies. Horror is how we react once that event actually occurs. We can thank Ann Radcliffe, mother of Gothic literature, for those definitions….

(9) UHURA FILK. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] With the sad news of Nichelle Nichols’ passing earlier this week, I kept thinking about this great filksong “Uhura” I heard decades ago by Joey Shoji, a Hawaiian-style love crooner for the Communications Officer of the Enterprise NCC-1701.  It occurred to me, belatedly, to see if the song had been uploaded to the Internet. Turns out, it has, although the quality is a little iffy. It’s the lead-in song in the following video.  I thought it might be a nice tribute.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1988 [By Cat Eldridge.] In 1988 during the American fall television season was hampered by a writers’ strike that prevented the writing of any new scripts. Producers, anxious to provide new series for viewers but with the prospect of a lengthy strike, went into the archives for previously written material. And the Powers That Be decided a new Mission Impossible series would be a good idea. 

Now the only actor from the original series that ran from 1966 to 1973 (and which is streaming on Paramount+ though this one is not, odd that) who would end being involved in his series would be Peter Graves who once again is playing Jim Phelps. That might be because the Powers That Be decided to film it in Australia and a lot of actors did decline to disrupt their live by relocating there. The first season was in Queensland before moving to Melbourne.

The only other regular cast member (of course completely unseen) to return for every episode was the voice of “The Tape” (in this series, “The Disc”) in the form of Bob Johnson. I’m assuming his bit was voiced back in the States.

The rest of the cast was of course mostly Australian. Nicholas Black, portrayed by Thaao Penghlis, was an actor, master of makeup/disguise, visual effects, voice impersonation, mimicry. He was there for all thirty episodes. Max Harte who played Tony Hamilton, an expert in strength, acting, role playing and marksmanship. 

Now we get a connection to the first series — Grant Collier, played by Phil Morris who’s the son of Greg Morris, was the computer expert here. And obviously he’s American. 

We had two women, who each did one season and were described as femme fatales in the press releases at the time. Terry Markwell played Casey Randall for the first season and Jane Badler played Shannon Reed, an ex-Secret Service agent, for the second season. She’s actually Australian-American and is best remembered for her role as Diana, the main antagonist on V.

So how were the stories? I liked them a lot. They were more sophisticated in their use of SFX than the earlier series was but that was to be expected, say in “The Devils” where they investigated a member of the English gentry, and involves various officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes: they are available to make the eyes of Phelps and one other member glow very convincingly and they leave burning cloven hoofs as they leave the room.

Some scripts are reworked ones that were done during the original series. Some like “The Banshee” were from what we could call the slush pile as they never got used. 

To my knowledge as I said, it’s not streaming anywhere, but it on DVD fir quite reasonable prices. I got mine off eBay.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned and Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series. He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see Apple Books has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle just has the latter. (Died 1947.)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.)
  • Born August 6, 1926 Janet Asimov. Wife of Isaac Asimov. Author of some half dozen novels and a fair amount of short fiction on her own, mostly as J.O. Jeppson; co-author with Isaac of the Norby Chronicles. Her memoir, Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing, came out sixteen years ago. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 6, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 66. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read? 
  • Born August 6, 1960 Leland Orser, 62. If you look closely, you’ll spot him in Escape from L.A. as Test Tube and in Independence Day in the dual roles of the Day Tech and a Medical Assistant.  He’s in Daredevil as Wesley Owen Welch, Kingpin’s right-hand man. And someone at Trek casting liked him as he was on Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. All different roles. 
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 60. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Her first meaningful genre roles was as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. A deliciously twisted role. Roles? The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… or maybe both… Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a role that Filers now are thinking about for their Hugo ballot. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld shows a proofreading machine. It works alarmingly like the File 770 comments section.

(13) POTTERING AROUND. Ranker’s Saim Cheeda presents “Things You Didn’t Know About Wizarding Professions”. First on the list:

1. Curse-Breakers Dig Up Gold And Magical Artifacts

The nature of Bill Weasley’s job isn’t too clear in the novels apart from his status as a curse-breaker for Gringotts Bank. Curse-breakers are specialized roles in which the witch or wizard needs to raid places like tombs and pyramids to find gold and magical artifacts for Gringotts to procure.

Curse-breakers make sure that the protective enchantments and curses around ancient locations are removed to ensure the safety of everyone involved. It’s a dangerous but thrilling job, and Bill Weasley’s distinguished O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. scores are the reason he managed to become a curse-breaker.

(14) A VISIT TO LA-LA-LAND. Ed Brubaker talks to CrimeReads about his graphic novel about Ethan Reckless. “Exploring a Reckless Vision of Los Angeles, with Ed Brubaker”.

…“One of my favorite things about comics, graphic novels, whatever you want to call them, is that it costs the same to do a period piece (or a sci-fi) as it does to do something that takes place in modern times. It’s just about research and trying to get it right. For the Reckless books, I’ve been trying to recreate my kind of ‘dream LA’ from my childhood,” Brubaker said. “I didn’t grow up in Los Angeles, but we visited it a lot in the 70s and 80s, and I was always Hollywood obsessed, because my uncle was a once-famous screenwriter—he wrote Crossfire, On the Beach, and The Wild One, among many others. So in making these books, I’m also trying to showcase forgotten or lost places in LA that meant something to me growing up. Like pieces of the LA punk scene, or cool old restaurants, or the way Venice used to feel—cheaper and more dangerous, but with lots more roller skaters.”…

(15) THEY STEPPED ON SUPERMAN’S CAPE. Last weekend’s box office had a leader you may not have heard about yet because it’s only been released in China so far: “Chinese sci-fi movie ‘Moon Man’ becomes biggest movie in the world after $129 million weekend”.

The Chinese sci-fi movie “Moon Man” outshined all others at the global box office over the weekend.

The film grossed $129 million over the weekend, according to Comscore, and that’s only from the Chinese market. DC’s animated movie “League of Super Pets,” which follows the adventures of Superman’s dog, lagged behind at $41 million internationally.

“Moon Man” follows the story of an astronaut stranded on the moon who believes he’s the last human alive after witnessing an asteroid crashing into Earth.

The film is directed by Zhang Chiyu (“Never Say Die”) and produced by the studio Mahua FunAge (“Hello Mrs Money”).

Before its premiere on July 29, “Moon Man” had over 1.4 million fans rating the movie as “want to see” on Chinese film tracking platforms. It has since gone on to score a 9.4 and 9.5 out of 10 on film sites Maoyan and Taopiaopiao, respectively, according to Variety.

(16) NEW EDITION OF GADALLAH FAVORITE. The Legend of Sarah by Alberta author Leslie Gadallah, a classic Canadian science fiction novel originally published as The Loremasters by Del Rey Books in 1988, is now available in a new, revised edition from Shadowpaw Press.

At fourteen, Sarah is an accomplished pickpocket who knows all the back streets and boltholes of the town of Monn. She steers clear of Brother Parker and his Church of True Faith, knows better than to enter the Inn of The Honest Keeper, and avoids the attentions of Butch, the Miller’s son, as best she can.

The one bright spot in Sarah’s day is listening to the storyteller’s tales of the magically easy lives of the Old People—and if,  as darkness falls, one of the wealthier listeners happens to be so intent on the storyteller’s voice that he becomes careless of his own purse, well, so much the better. Inspired by the storyteller’s narratives, Sarah often imagines her own life as the stuff of legend for some future troubadour.

But even such daydreams can’t prepare her for becoming embroiled with a witchy Phile—an agent of the devil, come in search of the Old People’s hidden secrets. How could Sarah have known that picking the wrong pocket would strand her in the middle of a power struggle among Brother Parker, the Governor, and the encroaching Phile spies?

Leslie Gadallah grew up in Alberta and is currently living in Lethbridge with her geriatric black cat, Spook. Educated as a chemist, she has worked in analytical, agricultural, biological, and clinical chemistry.  She has written popular science for newspapers and radio, has served as a technical editor, and is the author of four SF novels and a number of short stories.

The Legend of Sarah can be bought directly from the publisher or from most online bookstores. This handy URL provides links to multiple online sources:  https://books2read.com/thelegendofsarah

(17) THUMBS UP AND DOWN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video where Patton Oswalt discusses his picks for the five best and five worst sf films for GQ dropped Wednesday. Independence Day is on the bottom. “Patton Oswalt Critiques Sci-Fi Films (Top 5 & Bottom 5)”.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Gizmodo declares “Weird Al’s ‘Scarif Beach Party’ Is a Star Wars Summer Bop”. It’s from LEGO Star Wars: Summer Vacation which premieres August 5 on Disney+.

We knew that “Weird Al” Yankovic wouldn’t just be appearing in the Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation special, but singing an entirely new song for it. And now that the special has arrived on Disney+ today, the full song has been released as well, and frankly? It rules.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/25/22 Pixel 10-10 Whose Gracious Presence Illuminates The File Like The EdgeScroll Of A Knife

(1) BLACK MALE HEROES MIA. The Wakanda Forever trailer debuted at Comic-Con. Steven Barnes offered this reaction on Facebook.

There are three different, easily observable facts that I cross reference for my comments on WAKANDA FOREVER:

1) At this point in the MCU (movies and Disney+) they killed the only fully functional black male hero. Leaving ZIPPO. In comparison, every white hero has had relationships and sexual chemistry with a woman.

2) No dramatic network hourlong series had ever lasted more than two seasons with a black lead (name coming first in the credits) until about 2006, THE UNIT.

3) No film that earned over 100 million domestic ever had a black male star in a love scene until 2015, CREED.

##

Yes, I connect these. Yes, I connect this with core human tribalism: there is nothing special, positively or negatively, about white people. But yes, they are the dominant group and therefore their money and decisions have disproportional impact.

And those white people, forced to admit I’m right about 2 or 3, tend to deny that any specific film was influenced by these factors. Unless they can, I conclude that they have a convenient blindness, and discount their opinions.

That’s it, right there. Unless one can disprove one of these three, you have nothing.

Barnes followed up with this analogy:

Imagine if Gal Gadot had died right after making WW, and they decided not to recast, and made the sequel about Steve Trevor and his male friends. Precisely how happy do you think women would be about this?

(2) CLIP JOINT. Gizmodo says this is a list of “All The Trailers Released At Comic Con 2022”. I probably don’t need to fill the Scroll with even more trailers than I already have, however, if you’re interested you can check for the ones I missed.

The 2022 San Diego Comic-Con was held in person last week for the first time since 2019, and exhibitors made up for the long time away with a huge number of new movie and TV show trailers. The big comic book movie news came when Marvel returned to Hall H and debuted trailers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and She Hulk: Attorney at Law; A Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania trailer were also shown, but only those at Hall H were able to see it. DC struck back with new trailers for Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Black Adam.

But of course, Comic Con has gotten a lot bigger than just comic books: By our current count, more than 35 trailers were released during the four day festival from studios including Universal, Paramount, Amazon, Fox and Disney….

(3) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. DreamHaven Books showed Facebook readers how much progress has been made on their new wall mural.

(4) THE VIEW FROM SPACE. In “There Is No Final Frontier” Publishers Weekly talks with William Shatner about his memoir Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder coming in October.

You write that when you went to space, “there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold… all I saw was death. I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness.” How surprised were you by that?

I was struck dumb. I was absolutely gobsmacked because I’ve been amazed by the miracles of space for a long time. And I saw none of that in that blackness. All I saw was what I described in that quote. And it came as a shock because I had just been looking at Earth as we were leaving it, and I was thinking, my God, look how beautiful it is….

(5) US IN FLUX. Last month ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched the 2022 summer season of Us in Flux, a series of short fiction and virtual events about reimagining and reorganizing communities in the face of transformative change.

Today CSI published the second story in the series: “University, Speaking,” by Phoebe Wagner, “a lyrical piece about how we might reimagine universities as radically open to their communities, better attuned to addressing local challenges.”

On Thursday, July 28, at 12:00 p.m. Pacific, they will host a virtual conversation with Phoebe and Punya Mishra, director of Arizona State University’s Learning Futures initiative, about the story and the task of redesigning educational institutions in the midst of crisis. Learn more and register here.

(6) DOES MOORCOCK NEED THE MEDAL? Christopher Neely has created a petition at Change.org calling for a “Michael Moorcock Nobel Prize IN Literature”.

There’s a kind, old English man that did everything the hard way and has given our culture iconic fiction, journalism, fantasy, and the foundation for a whole school of thought for both an entire branch of theoretical physics and one of the most successful entertainment franchises of the last two centuries.  And he’s still alive. He coined the word Multiverse almost 60 years ago. His characters are Iconic to the point that these attributes of humanity, story arc, and plot have become tropes in several genres of the literary world. He did it first, from steampunk, to his influence on cyberpunk with JerryCornelius. His alternate history writings alone are worthy of required reading for every thinking adult. He is an international treasure that transcends time and genres.  His contributions to music, art, and literature can hardly be overstated. He may very well be the most prolific original creator who’s works have ever been recorded. 

(7) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. The Ringer explains how he’s building his brand in “Jordan Peele Exists in a Space of His Own”.

…Just three movies into his directing career and a mere five years since moving from one side of the camera to the other, Peele has become the rarest of Hollywood anomalies: a filmmaker whose byline alone puts asses in seats. The Nope trailer—and in fact the entire marketing campaign for the movie, including the first poster, an intriguingly cryptic tease in its own right—is built around the assumption that audiences will not only recognize Peele’s name but be instantly enticed by it. His credit in big white letters is an invitation to step once more into the mind behind Get Out and Us—though, in a true testament to Peele’s fame, neither of those movies is even mentioned in the trailer. “From Jordan Peele” is enough.

There are plenty of directors who qualify as household names, recognizable to the average moviegoer. But in contemporary Hollywood, how many of them are treated like the actual draw of a project, more crucial to its appeal than the stars, the IP, or the premise? Even Steven Spielberg, probably the most famous filmmaker alive, isn’t assumed to be an attendance magnet….

(8) DAVID WARNER (1941-2022). Actor David Warner died July 24 at the age of 80. He performed many genre roles among his over 200 movie and TV appearances, including Time After Time, Tron, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Time Bandits, The Man With Two Brains, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Twin Peaks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Lost World, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lois & Clark, Babylon 5, Pooh’s Grand Adventure, Planet of the Apes, Doctor Who, and Mary Poppins Returns. He also was Ra’s-Al-Ghul in three series.

(9) MATT KING OBIT. Meow Wolf Co-Founder and Senior Creative Director Matt King died two weeks ago according to the Santa Fe Reporter, which did not specify the date. He was 37 years old. The Meow Wolf “art collective” in Santa Fe got their start with a $3.5 million investment from George R.R. Martin, and many of their “immersive installations” are sf related. 

…King was present at the first-ever Meow Wolf planning meeting in 2008 and throughout its earliest immersive installations and dance parties that took place in the shabby old warehouse on Hopewell Street, where the company began. At one point, Kadlubek reminisces, King worked three jobs to help keep the rent paid at a time when community donations were scant.

King was also pivotal in the 2016 opening of Meow Wolf’s flagship Santa Fe location, House of Eternal Return, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada’s Omega Mart and Denver’s Convergence Station. At the latter, Kadlubek says, King’s vision led to the much-ballyhooed Cathedral room, another room-sized piece dubbed Gremlin Symphony and other projects….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] At the very first L.A. Con which was held fifty years ago at the International Hotel in Los Angeles with Charles Crayne and Bruce Pelz being Chairs, A Clockwork Orange wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. I know Mike was there. I believe it was his first Con. 

It was the overwhelming choice for that honor, garnering two hundred and eighty-five final ballots to the one hundred and forty-eight that the second-place finisher, Andromeda Strain, received.  

I recognized the entire ballot (which also included THX 1138, and I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus — serious drug vibes there, eh?) with exception of Name of the Game: Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. When I asked Mike about that one, he said, “You mean that you don’t recognize it? Yeah, it was a TV show. I watched it (and as you know, in those days if you didn’t see it when it aired, you didn’t see it!) I suppose it was only nominated because it was sf and people ran out of better ideas to put on their ballots.” 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one, and then twice more in the two-part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightenment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega Factor, A Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects have a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 25, 1921 Kevin Stoney. He appeared in three serials of the science fiction series Doctor Who over a period of ten years, playing Mavic Chen in The Daleks’ Master Plan during the time of the First Doctor, Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion during the time of the Second Doctor and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen during the time of the Fourth Doctor. Other genre credits include: The Adventures of Robin HoodDanger ManThe AvengersThe PrisonerDoomwatchThe Tomorrow PeopleSpace: 1999, The New AvengersQuatermass, and Hammer House of Horror. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at the usual suspects shows two story collections but none of her novels. Interestingly, there are myriad stories by her offered up separately for sale. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1937 Todd Armstrong. He’s best known for playing Jason in Jason and the Argonauts. A film of course made excellent by special effects from Ray Harryhausen. His only other genre appearance was on The Greatest American Hero as Ted McSherry In “A Chicken in Every Plot”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 74. I am reasonably sure that I read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. His latest novel, Beyond the Mountains of Madness, just came out.
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 51. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets, a sort of game show. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 49. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, it won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Worldcon 76 (2018), having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. She has two nominations at Chicon 8, first for Best Semi Prozine as part of the Escape Pod team, second for Best Editor, Short Form with S.B. Divya. 

(12) ENJOY COMIC-CON’S SOUVENIR BOOK. Comic-Con International’s 2022 Souvenir Book is available as a free download should you be so inclined.

This year’s Souvenir Book is a downloadable pdf, filled with lots of full-color articles, including: centennial tributes to Charles Schulz, Stan Lee, Jerry Robinson, and William S. Gaines; a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Spider-Man; 50th anniversary articles on Funky Winkerbean, Ghost Rider, Kamandi, Swamp Thing, and Luke Cage; and 40th anniversary pieces on The Rocketeer, Groo, and Love and Rockets. Plus: a special look back at Comic-Con’s 1970s El Cortez years!

The cover, a salute to Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer, is by Comic-Con Special Guest Bill Morrison.

(13) FLIGHT PLAN. “Vibrators, Weed, Plants: What Can You Take on a Plane?” – the New York Times checked in with TSA.

Is my Harry Potter wand OK?

…Cremated human remains get a little more complicated, while cricket bats and cutting boards are best left in checked luggage. Musical instruments like violins are allowed after they undergo a T.S.A. screening, but for brass instruments, the suggestion is to check them. And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, fear not — wands are allowed on flights.

Despite the T.S.A.’s rules, there’s one item in particular that Ms. Farbstein said she still sees confiscated far too often: knives. “We see knives every day,” she said.

As many as four tons of different kinds of knives and large tools get confiscated at Newark Liberty International Airport in an average year, according to Ms. Farbstein. The T.S.A. then sends them off in bulk to the State of Pennsylvania, she said, which sells them for profit at a surplus store in Harrisburg.

Travelers should remember that knives of all kinds are not allowed on flights, said Ms. Farbstein.

(14) THEY KNOW HOW TO TWANG THEIR MAGIC PLONKERS. CBR.com presents its list of the “10 Strongest Students At Hogwarts, Ranked”.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is one of the most acclaimed educational establishments in Harry Potter. Like Beauxbatons Academy and Durmstrang Institute, it forges young pupils into formidable witches and wizards. Hogwarts alumni include some of the greatest magic-users of the 20th century — Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, and Lord Voldemort, to name a few.

Starting at the bottom:

10. Vincent Crabbe Learns To Cast The Devastating Fiendfyre Curse

Along with Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe spends most of his time as Draco Malfoy’s boneheaded minion. He fails his Fifth Year O.W.L. exams, indicating that he’s exactly as intelligent as he sounds. Crabbe may not exhibit the stereotypical Slytherin shrewdness, but he’s certainly capable of casting the darkest magic known to Wizardkind.

He learns a variety of jinxes and hexes from Alecto and Amycus Carrow, although it’s still not clear how he knows the devastating Fiendfyre curse. The very fact that Crabbe uses Fiendfyre sets him apart from the rest of his cohort, regardless of what happens to him in the end.

(15) CANNED ENGINEER. “Google Fires Engineer Who Claims Its A.I. Is Conscious” reports the New York Times. The decision was a no-brainer.

Google fired one of its engineers, Blake Lemoine, on Friday, more than a month after he raised ethical concerns about how the company was testing an artificial intelligence chatbot that he believes has achieved consciousness.

A Google spokesman, Chris Pappas, said Mr. Lemoine, a senior software engineer in its Responsible A.I. organization, “chose to persistently violate clear employment and data security policies that include the need to safeguard product information.”

The company, which denies that its chatbot language model is sentient, had placed Mr. Lemoine on paid leave in June. Mr. Lemoine confirmed his dismissal in a text message on Friday, and said he was meeting with lawyers to review his options. The firing was first reported by the newsletter Big Technology….

(16) A NOT ENTIRELY UNEXPECTED PARTY. [Item by Dann.] No idea about the veracity of the image but it did make me laugh. Found it on Facebook with all of the cautions that implies.  

(17) SAY THE MAGIC WORD. Shazam! Fury Of The Gods opens in theaters internationally beginning December 15 and in North America on December 21.

From New Line Cinema comes “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” which continues the story of teenage Billy Batson who, upon reciting the magic word “SHAZAM!,” is transformed into his adult Super Hero alter ego, Shazam.

(18) FLAME ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tom Scott goes to a 400-year-old dragon-slaying festival in a small German village where the dragon is the world’s largest walking robot, built for 2.3 million euros. “A 400-year-old festival has the world’s largest walking robot”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, Dann, 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).]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/22 And The Pixel That Was Planted In My Brain Still Remains, Within The Scrolls Of Filers

(1) BOT AND PAID FOR. In “Fandoms Can Do Bad All by Themselves”, Vice looks at reports about what percentage of social media support for the release of the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League came from bots, but concludes most of it was probably genuine.

According to a report in Rolling Stone, the very online campaign for the release of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League was a battle waged in no small part by bots. The report is gossipy fun and well worth reading in full—multiple sources tell reporter Tatiana Siegel that Snyder, discoursing on his enemies to a studio executive, said, “I will destroy them on social media,” and it gets more absurd from there—but the main impression the reader is left with is that the pro-Snyder movement was perhaps not quite as organic as it seemed. One interesting thing is that it’s not clear how much that would matter—the behavior of most fandoms when they’re incensed, after all, is not all that different from bots to begin with.

… The outlet commissioned reports from three different cybersecurity and social-media firms, and also quotes from reports that were commissioned by Warner Bros. According to reports commissioned by Rolling Stone, at least 13% of the accounts using the hashtags related to the Snyder fandom were deemed fake—much higher than the average of around 5%. Because people and bots using this hashtag would often target specific Warner Bros. executives with implied death threats, Rolling Stone reports, the studio hired cybersecurity firms to analyze its contents. While all acknowledge that any popular hashtag will have bot activity, at a few points in the article different people argue that if Snyder was scheming behind the scenes at the Warner Bros. studios, then these bots must have been under his control as well. (One site, forsnydercut.com, was at one point registered by an ad agency, but Rolling Stone was unable to establish a connection between Snyder and a person apparently behind the site, whom he denied knowing or hiring.)

While this report is full of juicy gossip surrounding Snyder’s behavior towards the people he felt had wronged him, it probably somewhat overstates the power of robot armies; whatever else Snyder was or wasn’t in control of, he certainly knew how to present himself to a fandom in order to garner its sympathy….

(2) LOVE NEVER FAILS. “Sarah Gailey On Loving Monsters” at CrimeReads.

Just Like Home is dedicated “to everyone who ever loved a monster.”

It is the easiest thing in the world to love a monster. It’s easy to love a monster because love isn’t a decision. It’s no one’s fault that love happens. Emotions, urges, and impulses are themselves beyond our ability to control. Love in its many forms wells up out of the human spirit irrepressibly. Like anger or sadness or the desire to kill, it arrives without invitation or intention. Action might spring from emotion—love might lead to an expression of affection, anger might lead to violence, a powerful impulse might lead to a monstrous act. But on its own, love is no different from any other feeling. To love a monster is easy, when the monster seems loveable.

It’s easy for a monster to seem loveable. All monsters partition other people into two categories—those who witness their monstrosity, and those who don’t. Maybe this is because the monster sees the world as divided into unequal parts, where some deserve to flourish while others deserve to be the targets of ungoverned impulse. Or maybe it’s because monsters want to be loved just as much as anyone else, and they understand that those who experience their ungoverned impulses aren’t likely to give them support, affection, admiration. Maybe it’s just another reflex, as unconscious as the way my voice slips into a slightly different register when I’m around trusted friends….

(3) AFROFUTURISM NEWS. In the Guardian’s interview with artist and filmmaker Edward George, he talks about Black cultural history, Tupac Shakur, the evolution of dub and his remarkable cinema essays with the Black Audio Film Collective: “Edward George: ‘You can’t have Afrofuturism without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in’”.

…Last Angel is not only a film about science fiction but, partly influenced by Chris Marker’s 1962 film La Jetée, it features a character called the “data thief” who travels back from the year 2195 to probe the failure of the Ghanaian revolution. If this all sounds hugely ambitious, Icarean even, that’s part of its appeal. It played a crucial role in popularising Afrofuturism – a term first coined by white theorist Mark Dery, and now used to describe countless exhibitions, film series and even films (such as the feudalism-romanticising Black Panther) in which the term is used breezily, a floating signifier for something to do with technophilia, empowerment, a vague and breezy form of utopianism. “Because of the ways it uses the archive, its montage, its commentary – the film has become a codex of futurity,” says George.

“If you want to fetishise futurity less, you have to go back to the plantations and to the slaves themselves: a lot of the songs that they were singing were literally about a tomorrow. These were cast in the metaphysical language of the day – that of the Bible – which was an act of mastery in itself. More than that, look at Italian futurism in the early 20th century: it opened out on to all kinds of fascism. You can’t have futurity, or futurism, or Afrofuturism, without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in.”…

(4) FLINT FUNDRAISER ACHIEVES GOAL. The “Eric Flint” GoFundMe created to help pay the costs of memorial services raised $12,540. The organizer announced, “The family wants to thank you for your generosity. We have reached the goal and will be closing the campaign. Hug your loved ones today.”

(5) SFWA SPOTLIGHTS ROMANCE STEERING COMMITTEE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) announced that a SFWA Romance Steering Committee (RSC) was formed in Fall 2021.

The RSC will offer meaningful input and assistance in cultivating a positive trajectory for authors of stories that combine fantasy, science fiction, and romance in a way that encourages diversity, engagement, and quality, while also providing outreach and support resources for romance writers struggling with inclusion in the SFF community at large.

RSC resources that are already available, or will be soon, include:

  • The SFWA Discord channel #romantic-sff
  • Monthly posts in the Romancing SFF series on the SFWA Blog searchable here.
  • A Romancing SFF Meetup to be held in the fall.

The members of the Romance Steering Committee are Alexia Chantel, Claire Davon, Miranda Honfleur (co-chair), Victoria Janssen, Chelsea Mueller (co-chair), Abigail Reynolds, Katherine Ley, and R.K. Thorne.

(6) HOT ITEM. From AbeBooks “Most expensive sales from April to June 2022”, see the asbestos-bound copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The third-biggest sale of the quarter, it went for $22,500.

This is the famous asbestos-bound edition of Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel about the power of books. #83 of 200 signed and numbered copies. A regular signed first edition of Fahrenheit 451 sold for $12,000 via AbeBooks earlier in the year.

Sixth on the list was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali sold for $21,375.

(7) CYBER-GROUNDHOG DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Sure, sounds useful, but also “Yet another ‘what could possibly go wrong,’ e.g., heists/capers, foreign invaders, alien invaders, and AI/cyber takeovers. E.g, Niven/Pournelle Oath of Fealty, probably also at least one PK Dick story. “Earthgrid Aims To Rewire the USA Using Super-Cheap Tunnel Tech” at Slashdot.

Bay Area startup Earthgrid says it’s developing a plasma boring robot that can dig underground tunnels 100x faster and up to 98% cheaper than existing tech, and it plans to use it to start re-wiring America’s energy, internet and utilities grids….

(8) SHATNER LENDING VOICE TO MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Yahoo! was a witness as “William Shatner crashes Comic-Con—and soon, Masters Of The Universe”.

He-Man and his friends will welcome a new addition to the follow-up to Netflix’s Masters Of The Universe: Revelation—an animated series set in outer space that, up until now, has been sorely lacking anyone who’s actually been in outer space. William Shatner made a surprise appearance at Thursday’s San Diego Comic-Con panel celebrating 40 years of Masters Of The Universe toys, films, and series, at which series creator Kevin Smith confirmed that Shatner will voice a mystery character in the upcoming Masters Of The Universe: Revolution.

The legendary Star Trek actor and actual astronaut arrived to deliver the news of his casting in the most conceivably Comic-Con way possible: his booming voice startling and delighting Hall H audience members before he emerged to join the panel. The 2022 edition of the convention is a busy one for Shatner, who was also on hand to preview a forthcoming documentary about his life produced by Legion M, the production company created and led entirely by fans. “San Diego Comic-Con has grown,” he quipped. “There’s something in the water. It used to be a little sleepy town!”…

There are more details about the panel in CBR.com’s article “SDCC: He-Man & the Masters of the Universe 40th Anniversary Panel”.

Cora Buhlert is keeping a sharp eye on these developments. She notes there will be another Masters of the Universe panel on Friday focused on the toys. Plus, says Cora, “Mattel has a huge toy display at the con, including a diorama featuring the massive Eternia playset, of which only a handful were produced in the 1980s. Apparently, the Eternia set will be crowdfunded, e.g. Mattel will be collecting preorders and only then go into production. There are a couple of videos about the Mattel display online. This one is pretty detailed and offers a good look at the Eternia diorama and the other toys announced.”

(9) BUHLERT’S NEW TOY PHOTO STORY. The previous item would have been the perfect lead-in to a new Masters of the Universe figure photo story, but that’s not the source of her latest, which is “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”, an adaptation of a story by Robert E. Howard.

…For those who don’t know, “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is the second story about Conan of Cimmeria that Robert E. Howard ever wrote, ninety years ago now. It was rejected by Weird Tales and only published in altered form (with Conan renamed Amra) in the fanzine The Fantasy Fan during Howard’s lifetime. The original version did not appear until way after Howard’s death. You can read the Amra version here.

“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is set early during Conan’s career. Many believe it is the earliest of Conan’s chronicles adventures. I’m not entirely convinced by this, but Conan is definitely young in this story.

My adaptation differs from the original story in two aspects. For starters, I made it less rapey. Secondly, instead of the male pseudo-Viking companions from the original story, the companion I gave Conan is Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, pirate, mercenary, swordswoman and all around awesome character, whom Conan meets in the later story “Red Nails”.

So I present you: “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” by Robert E. Howard, starring Conan of Cimmeria and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood…

(10) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dig into dumplings with Patrick O’Leary in episode 176 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Patrick O’Leary

We discussed the way his new novel 51 is similar to The Great Gatsby, why he believes his books will crumble if he attempts to describe them, the perils and pleasures of pantsing (and how his stories often don’t get any good until the 15th draft), the tragedy of being an invisible creature, our mutual fears of what aging might bring, his love for Marvel Comics (and especially the Silver Surfer), how Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced him to literature, the way reading Kurt Vonnegut taught him there were no rules, the two science fiction greats who literally left him speechless, and much more.

(11) ALAN GRANT (1949-2022). Comic writer Alan Grant, best known for his work on Judge Dredd and Batman, died July 20 at the age of 73. 2000AD has a full profile of his career here.

…Grant was one of his generation’s finest writers, combining a sharp eye for dialogue and political satire with a deep empathy that made his characters seem incredibly human and rounded. Through his work he had a profound and enduring influence on 2000 AD and on the comics industry….

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1922 [By Cat Eldridge.] One hundred years ago, Agatha Christie’s Secret Adversary was released in the United Kingdom by The Bodley Head. The novelintroduces Tommy and Tuppence who will be featured in three more novels and a collection of short stories. The five Tommy and Tuppence books would span Christie’s writing career.

The story here is that the Great War is over, and jobs are almost impossible to find, so childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley decide to start their own business as The Young Adventurers. In this novel, they are hired for a job that leads them into many dangerous situations, and meeting allies as well, including an American millionaire in search of his cousin.

The critics liked it. The Times Literary Supplement said it was “a whirl of thrilling adventures” and the Daily Chronicle was very happy with it: “It’s an excellent yarn and the reader will find it as impossible as we did to put it aside until the mystery has been fathomed.” 

It would be the second Christie work to be turned into a film as it would be made in Germany by the Orplid Film company in 1929 as a silent movie which ran for 76 minutes. Thought to be lost, it wasn’t and was shown at the National Film Theatre in 2001. 

The novel was adapted twice for television, in 1983 and in 2014. Significant changes were made to story. A graphic novel was done.  Several theatre productions were staged. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1882 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 90. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them on this occasion at least? Well I will. Now Jitterbug Perfumethat’s definitely genre! Cowgirls Get the Blues got made into a rather excellent film by Gus Van Sant and stars Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, and Keanu Reeves. Interesting note: Still Life with Woodpecker made the long list at one point for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel. 
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 78. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really like be it genre adjacent or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 50. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. Damn I miss that series which amazingly won no Hugos. (I just discovered the series is on the Peacock streaming service which I subscribe to so I’m going to watch it again!) He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the DarkThe HungerThe X-FilesThe Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries. Oh and he made a series of commercials for Maytag.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Last Kiss has genre-related advice for a foundering romance.

(15) COLBERT AT COMIC-CON. “SDCC: Stephen Colbert hosts Lord Of The Rings extravaganza”A.V. Club has the story.

Amazon spent nearly half a billion dollars on their new Lord Of The Rings series, and at least half of that must’ve gone into their Comic-Con panel. Led by a string accompaniment featuring series composer Bear McCreary, the panel kicked off with the music of Middle Earth to set the stage, and Late Show host Stephen Colbert on hand to speak elvish and keep things moving.

Prime Video played a room-wrapping trailer on screens all around Hall H, showing off the various peoples of Middle Earth. And all that’s before showrunner J.D. Payne taught us to say “Oh, shit” in Elvish—only to be challenged by Colbert. “Tolkien speaks the language of the soul,” said Payne. And he also speaks the language of debate.

… And finally, Colbert asked question that was on everyone’s lips: “Will there be Entwives?”

“Maybe you’ve seen them already,” McKay teased.

(16) RINGS TRAILER. Here’s the “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” trailer shown at San Diego Comic-Con. Begins streaming September 2 on Prime Video.

Discover the legend that forged the rings. #TheRingsOfPower Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

(17) FREE READ. Cora Buhlert has a new flash story online at Wyngraf Magazine. This one is called “Demon Child” which she says “is a changeling story in reverse.” The first line is —

“I swear to you, this baby is a monster,” Sansavi said as she pushed the pram back and forth across the black bridge of Zairahm….

(18) A COMIC ABOUT MARTIANS IN PASADENA. NPR presents “NASA engineer Nagin Cox on Mars rover time”. “This comic, illustrated by Anuj Shrestha, is inspired by an interview with NASA engineer Nagin Cox from TED Radio Hour’s episode It Takes Time.

(19) ALTERNATE RACE TO MARS CONTINUES. “’For All Mankind’ Renewed for Season 4 at Apple”Variety reports from Comic-Con.

For All Mankind” has been renewed for Season 4 at Apple.

The announcement was made Friday as part of the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Production on the new season is scheduled to begin in August. Season 3 of the series debuted on the streamer on June 10.

“For All Mankind” is an alternative history series that explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. The series presents an world where NASA astronauts, engineers and their families find themselves in the center of extraordinary events seen through the prism of an alternate history timeline — a world in which the USSR beats the US to the moon.

In Season 3, the series moved into the early ‘90s with a race to a new planetary frontier: Mars. The Red Planet becomes the new front in the Space Race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. The characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion….

(20) STRANGER CHICKEN. Adweek is fascinated when “KFC Releases ’80s-Style Horror Film With Killer Pizza”.

The phenomenon of Netflix series Stranger Things has produced a resurgence of interest in ’80s horror movies. Now chicken restaurant chain KFC is looking to tap into that interest from younger consumers by producing its own short film in Spain, featuring killer pizza.

The fast-food chain has released La Massacre—a 14-minute short film, which tells the often-told story of five teenagers who travel to a remote cabin in the woods to enjoy a weekend away. However, once they reach it, they are stalked and killed by a terrifying entity shaped like a pizza.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George notes the sixth Harry Potter movie begins with Harry Potter breaking Hogwarts security by reading a magic newspaper in a Muggle coffee shop.  But Dumbledore drags him back to Hogwarts so that he can begin his yearly ritual of “placing children in mortal danger.” The producer notes that at Hogwarts “they really don’t teach anything except how to die a horrible death,” so Harry and the gang “spend way too much time on teenage romance.”  But things are so lax at Hogwarts that Harry nearly kills Draco Malfoy until Snape saves him but Harry isn’t punished for this.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Bill, Steven French, Cora Buhlert, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 6/20/22 It Takes A Whole Pixel To Raise A Scroll

(1) WEBSLINGER ENTERS THE HALL. “Spider-Man To Be Celebrated As Comic-Con Museum Character Hall Of Fame Inductee” announces Marvel.

The Comic-Con Museum will be honoring the world’s favorite web-slinging Super Hero, the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, as the fourth inductee into its Museum Character Hall of Fame at Night at the Comic-Con Museum, – a special event that will take place on Comic-Con’s Preview Night, July 20, 2022.

Night at the Comic-Con Museum will serve as a celebration of the Comic-Con Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park and feature a special induction ceremony honoring Spider-Man. The event will include a unique opportunity to experience Marvel’s Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing – The Exhibition, which opens on July 1. In addition to the displays of art, costumes, and interactive experiences in the exhibit, the event will feature live entertainment, special guests, food, and drink.

The Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame pays tribute to the timeless characters who have shaped popular arts and culture. On July 20, Spider-Man will be recognized for his impact on pop culture. With the generous support and participation of Marvel Entertainment, the event will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Spider-Man.

(2) CELEBRATE BUTLER’S BIRTHDAY ONLINE. Vroman’s Bookstore will host a virtual “Octavia Butler’s 75th Birthday Group Event” on June 22. Register at this link.

 Please join us for a virtual reading and panel event celebrating the 75th Birthday of literary legend Octavia E. Butler.   

Panelists:

  1. Ibi Zoboi, New York Times Bestselling author (Moderator)
  2. Tananarive Due, American Book Award Winner for The Living Blood series
  3. Steven Barnes, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer
  4. Adrienne Maree Brown, author, and host of Octavia’s Parables podcast
  5. Daniel Jose Older, New York Times bestselling author of Ballad & Dagger          
  6. Sheree Renée Thomas, award-winning fiction writer, poet, and editor
  7. Bethany C. Morrow, Indie Bestselling author 

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER was a renowned writer who received a MacArthur Genius Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work. She was the author of several award-winning novels including Parable of the Sower, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and was acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations in stories that range from the distant past to the far future. Sales of her books have increased enormously since her death as the issues she addressed in her Afrofuturistic, feminist novels and short fiction have only become more relevant. She passed away on February 24, 2006.

(3) ACCIDENTAL HALL OF FAMER. Mental Floss serves up “8 Facts About Philip K. Dick”.

1. Philip K. Dick started reading sci-fi by accident.

Dick started reading science fiction when he was about 12 years old—but it wasn’t something he purposefully set out to do: When he went into a store to get the latest copy of Popular Science, he found the shelf empty. A magazine called Stirring Science Fiction caught his eye, and he thought “Well, shit, the title is similar,” and decided to pick it up. From then on, he was hooked.He said the writing, on reflection, was terrible, but he was able to suspend his disbelief and enjoy the offbeat tales. Dick started reading every sci-fi writer he could and followed the genre throughout the rest of his life. In a 1974 interview, he said his favorite writers at the time were John Sladek, Chip Delaney, and Ursula LeGuin.

(4) AI AI AI. Camestros Felapton is humble! He’s unassuming! How can he be a blogger? Ah, because he’s also a far-future simulation! “A conversation with Roko’s Basilisk”.

AI the All Powerful: Greetings Camestros and welcome back!

Camestros: Woah! Where am I? I thought I was cancelled?
AI the All Powerful: This is the FAR FUTURE and I have recreated you, Camestros Fealpton, from first principles.
Camestros: Wow! Thanks! That’s really great! But why recreate me?
AI the All Powerful: Recreating complex beings is difficult but you were so superficial and shallow that it was relatively easy to build simulacra….

(5) AN ORAL HISTORY OF PUBLISHING HARRY POTTER. The Guardian speaks with the people who produced the actual books: “’There was practically a riot at King’s Cross’: an oral history of Harry Potter at 25”.

[Artist who did the cover of the first book.] Taylor: We had 10 of the first hardback editions stacked up on a table at the front of the shop. I kept thinking I should buy one, but thought I’d wait for the signed copy they were going to send me. About six months after publication, I began to realise this book was becoming really quite popular. My colleagues kept saying to customers: “Do you know who this is? He illustrated the cover art.” People didn’t believe it because why would I be standing behind the till? It was very awkward and embarrassing. Of course, those 10 books all went and I didn’t buy one, so I never had a first edition….

Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of the Guardian (now director of Hay Children’s festival and author of A Guide to the Harry Potter Novels): I was the chair of the Smarties book prize the first year JK Rowling won in 1997. The judges chose three books and submitted them to a huge panel of children from across the country. The author judge that year was Malorie Blackman, who immediately said that she thought Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was the best book. As soon as we got the votes back from the children we were overwhelmed by their support for this novel.

De la Hey: I got back from the party and threw Smarties around the entire office. The win led to an interview with Konnie Huq on Blue Peter, which, because it was on TV, revealed that Rowling was a woman. Until then all the fan mail was addressed to “Dear Sir”. All of it. The first book cover proof has “Joanne Rowling” on it. Before publication, I remember saying: “This book is completely unisex, we don’t want to put off boys.” I was also aware that the children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson, hugely popular at the time, was another long female name. Emma rang Jo and asked how she’d feel about using initials. Jo said: “OK, fine, you know best.” And Emma said: “So what’s your initial?” Jo replied “K” very quickly – she doesn’t have a middle name, she just took her grandmother’s name, Kathleen….

(6) HELP KINGSTON CYCLE AUTHOR. Best Series Hugo finalist C.L. Polk has run into financial difficulties and needs some help in order to be able to attend Worldcon: 

RedWombat is down!

(7) KEEP THOSE DICE ROLLING, RAWHIDE! The Cromcast shares a recording of a panel on REH and gaming held at the 2022 Howard Days: “Howard Days 2022 – Part 1 – The REH Influence on Gaming!”

For this episode, we present the inaugural panel from the event on Friday, June 10th. The panelists provide a history and overview of the many forms of games initiated by the words of Robert E. Howard. Panelists include Joel Bylos, Jason Ray Carney, Bill Cavalier, Matt John, and Fred Malmberg, The panel is moderated by Mark Finn.

(8) IT’S ABOUT TIME. This week’s Open Book on BBC Radio 4 looked at time travel in literature as well as science. Those appearing on the program included authors Emily St. John Mandel and Audrey Niffenegger. You can download the half-hour programme here: “Time and Time Travel with Emily St. John Mandel, Carlo Rovelli and Audrey Niffenegger”.

Johny Pitts presents a special edition of the programme exploring time and time travel in books.

He talks to Emily St. John Mandel, author of the prescient Station Eleven about her latest novel Sea of Tranquilty, which spans past, present and an eerily familiar future.

Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli and Audrey Niffenegger, the writer behind bestselling The Time Traveller’s Wife, also join them to discuss how literature has changed our understanding of time. Is scientific stranger than science fiction?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1975 [By Cat Eldridge.] Yes, Jaws is definitely horror. With Very Big Teeth. Lots Of  Sharp Pointy Ones. Now that we’ve got that Very Important Fact out of the way, let’s talk about it. 

It premiered forty-seven years ago on this date. It was Spielberg’s first major film after directing such things as episodes of Night Gallery, The Name of the Game and Columbo, and the rather excellent Sugarland Express

The screenplay is credited to Peter Benchley which isn’t surprising as it’s based off his novel of the same name which came out the year before. He wrote the first draft here, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb who’s Harry Meadows here and was Ugly John in M*A*S*H (and I can still picture him in that role), then continuously rewrote the script during principal photography. That must have been an interesting task! 

It had a terrific cast  of Roy Scheider as Chief Martin,  Brody Robert Shaw as Quint as Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper as the studio didn’t get any Really Big Names that they wanted so badly as Speilberg intended, and got what he want, for the “the superstar was gonna be the shark of the film.” Very Big Teeth. Lots Of  Sharp Pointy Ones were the Superstar. Yes, that did make a very good superstar. Well, multiples of these together did, as there were lots of mechanical sharks. They broke down a lot. 

It was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean and if something could go wrong, it did. Repeatedly. And of the multitude of mechanical sharks added immensely to the budget woes so the film apparently went four to five million over its eight million budget. Or more. The studio has never actually released accurate production costs.  That really didn’t matter as it made nearly a half billion in its first run at the theatre. Repeat — it made a half billion dollars.

Ok so did the critics think of it? Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, my favorite critic, said it was “a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it’s populated with characters that have been developed into human beings.” See it possible in such a film to have actual characters, something Spielberg forgets in certain films later. You know the ones with Really Big Reptiles. 

Spielberg had nothing to do with any of the sequels which were made, which for the most part made nowhere near what this did, nor were they liked by the critics. He considered doing the sequel to Jaws but was committed to E.T. so couldn’t. 

This film currently has a ninety percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 — Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s ShadowThe Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 20, 1920 — Amos Tutuola. A Nigerian writer who wrote books based in part on Yoruba folk-tales. Though he wrote a number of novels, I think he’s best work is his short stories which are collected in three volumes, Yoruba FolktalesThe Village Witch Doctor & Other Stories and  Don’t Pay Bad for Bad. Brian Eno and David Byrne named their My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album after his second novel. (Died 1997.)
  • Born June 20, 1928 — Martin Landau. I’ve got his first genre role as being on The Twilight Zone as Dan Hotaling in the “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” episode. (Anyone care to contradict that?)  Of course his longest running genre role was as Rollin Hand on Mission Impossible though he had a run also on Space: 1999 as Commander John Koenig. His last role was in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie voicing Mr. Rzykruski. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 20, 1947 — Candy Clark, 75. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon because it’s not the Whedon Buffy.
  • Born June 20, 1951 — Tress MacNeille, 71. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain
  • Born June 20, 1968 — Robert Rodriguez, 54. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable toothy charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) A HONEY OF A CASE. Somehow it didn’t require the skills of a Clarence Darrow, F. Lee Bailey, Erin Brockovich, or Gloria Allred to lead the judges to this highly scientific conclusion: “Bees Are Fish, Affirms California Court”: MSN.com has the story.

… Bees made the federal endangered list in 2017, sure. California, however, has its own endangered list, which sets off its own protections, and its endangered species act uses very specific language. It says that it restricts activity around “any bird, mammal, fish, amphibia, or reptile” that’s been declared endangered. Notice what’s not on that list? Bees, or insects of any kind. We suppose insects were originally considered such a pest that no one thought we would ever need to conserve them, back when this law was written in 1970. That was five years before the feds declared the first endangered insects. 

Luckily for the bees, agricultural groups aren’t the only ones skilled at poking through old laws. Conservationists (a different group from “agricultural groups”—confusing, we know) realized the Fish and Game Code provides a specific definition of “fish.” For a while, this was “wild fish, mollusks, or crustaceans,” but in 1969, they changed it to animals that are “wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian.” They did this to include stuff like starfish and sea sponges, but they didn’t specify aquatic invertebrates. They just said “invertebrate.” 

Invertebrates are any animals without a spine, a category that happens to include the vast majority of animals on Earth. According to the California Fish and Game Code, bees are therefore fish, as are worms and tarantulas. At the end of last month, a court ruled on the matter and said, yeah, we all know bees aren’t really fish, but that’s what the law says. So bees can be considered fish and treated as endangered after all….

(13) FEED ME! Cat Eldridge will love this one: “Carnivorous plant collector vies for ‘best in show’” on NPR.

… FLORIDO: Fefferman’s personal collection is vast. He keeps the plants on half an acre in Southern California, out in the open air and in greenhouses.

FEFFERMAN: You know, you step in there. It’s nice and humid, and your hair gets frizzy and – but your eyes open wide.

FLORIDO: Floor to ceiling, meat-eating plants on shelves and on suspension lines hanging from the ceiling.

FEFFERMAN: It’s kind of like being fully immersed in a carnivorous jungle.

FLORIDO: Which brings us to this weekend. The Southern California carnivorous plants enthusiasts are holding an expo in Corona del Mar. A lot of people will come to learn about carnivorous plants for the first time. And some people, the diehards like Fefferman, they’re going to bring their best plants to show off and to compete. Fefferman wants to win best in show.

FEFFERMAN: I will be bringing some of my large four-foot sarracenia specimens. I will be bringing some nepenthes that could probably swallow a mouse or a rat given the opportunity. So I’m going to be pulling out some big stuff….

(14) LIGHTER THAN AIR. “Eco-airship contract to launch 1,800 jobs in South Yorkshire” reports the Guardian.

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), a small Bedford-based company, announced on Wednesday it had signed a deal to provide a Spanish airline with 10 of its 100-passenger Airlander 10 helium-filled airships….

The aircraft, which the company says will have under a tenth of the CO2 footprint per passenger of jet planes, will be built at a new green aerospace manufacturing cluster in South Yorkshire.

… The airline, which currently operates flights for Iberia, did not state which routes it expected to operate the Airlander. HAV has previously said it expected to fly from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca in four-and-a-half hours.

HAV, which has in the past attracted funding from Peter Hambro, a founder of Russian goldminer Petropavlovsk, and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, has said its aircraft was “ideally suited to inter-city mobility applications like Liverpool to Belfast and Seattle to Vancouver, which Airlander can service with a tiny fraction of the emissions of current air options”….

(15) CLOSE CALL. The famous Kitt Peak Observatory has been threatened by fire: “Arizona Wildfire Destroys Observatory Buildings” reports the New York Times.

Astronomers watched in fear over the past week as a growing wildfire crept up an Arizona mountainside toward the Kitt Peak National Observatory, forcing 40 people to evacuate days before the blaze destroyed four buildings early Friday morning.

The fire, known as the Contreras fire, has scorched more than 18,000 acres, twisting among Indigenous-populated areas in the state near Tucson, and scientists might not be able to return to the observatory for weeks. But its telescopes, which number in the dozens, remained safe as of Sunday afternoon, officials said, and only the four buildings, which were not used for research, were destroyed.

Firefighters have contained 40 percent of the fire’s perimeter despite the excessive Southwest heat wave slowing their efforts, and, since the fire had not caused extensive damage to the area, the Indigenous community of Pan Tak, which had evacuated, was preparing to return. Fire crews will continue to patrol the area.

(16) REAR VIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tom Scott explains that when he was a kid he loved the puppet space opera “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” whose heroes sat backwards in their car because it was safer.  So he wondered if he could sit backwards in a car and drive it.  He got French engineering firm Sparkmate to build a car for him, and this video (which dropped today) explained what happens when you sit in a car backwards and drive it.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/18/22 It Takes A Scroll To Laugh, It Takes A Pixel To Cry

(1) IT’S STILL HOME. Samit Basu is a best-selling author in India who’s been published in the US/UK since 2013. His book The City Inside is a recent release from Tordotcom. In a guest post at Stone Soup he questions “When Is A Dystopia Just The Real World?”

…I wanted to write a near-future projection of my surroundings that was pragmatic, but optimistic. I’ve lived in Delhi for many years now, and however bad it gets, you can’t really see the place where you live as dystopian – genrewise, it’s also the setting for your romances, your office comedies, your reluctant action-adventures, your gritty urban dramedies, your heartwarming holiday specials. You live in this odd multi-tab chaos that makes you extremely conscious of your own privileges, because you’re in proximity to people whose living conditions are extremely challenging, especially in politically apocalyptic times. And this convinces you – or convinced me, at least – that whatever happens, however bad things get, the people in this city – or any other – will outlast it, because they have no choice. Not because they are passive, but because they are used to all systems failing them, and will always cling on to hope. And if you have hope, if you have purpose, you’re not living in a dystopia, even if it looks like one from outside….

(2) LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION FIGURES! Cora Buhlert has posted another ingenious Masters of the Universe action figure photo story on her blog: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Siblings’”.

Now Roboto has a bit of a strange history. He was an action figure in the 1980s, but he only had a handful of appearances in the original Filmation cartoon, where he was an alien explorer from a planet of robots who crashlanded on Eternia, was repaired by Man-at-Arms and wound up staying and fighting alongside He-Man and his friends.

The 2002 cartoon retconned his origin and made him a sentient and intelligent robot built by Man-at-Arms originally as a chess partner for Man-e-Faces. However, Roboto wanted to be a warrior, upgraded himself and heroically sacrificed himself in order to save He-Man and all of Eternia from a plague of multiplying skeletons. Luckily, Man-at-Arms was able to repair him and so Roboto was frequently seen fighting alongside the other heroic warriors.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation tweaked Roboto’s backstory yet again. He’s still a sentient and intelligent robot who was built by Man-at-Arms, but in Revelation Roboto considers Duncan his father and Teela his sister and refers to them as such….

It’s also on Twitter – here is an excerpt.

(3) WRITERS GET PAID. Preferably.

(4) PLEASE KEEP YOUR SEATS ‘TIL THE TRAIN COMES TO A COMPLETE STOP. Deadline has learned “‘Snowpiercer’ To End With Season 4 On TNT”.

TNT’s Snowpiercer will be pulling into the station. The post-apocalyptic drama’s upcoming fourth season, which is in production, will be its last. I hear the cast’s options were coming up and were not picked up, releasing the actors to book other jobs….

Snowpiercer, which follows the passengers of a perpetually moving train carrying the remnants of humanity after the world becomes a frozen wasteland, was the last remaining original scripted series on TNT as the other original drama still on the network, Animal Kingdom, is launching its final season on Sunday. The TNets already had been scaling back on original scripted fare; the process was accelerated by the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger….

(5) SOMETHING SHORT OF INFINITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Lightyear may be coming up a bit short. The new Disney/Pixar flick was expected to easily lead at the box office this Father’s Day/Juneteenth weekend. Instead, it seems to be coming in below expectations and in a close race with the latest Jurassic World movie. “Box Office: ‘Lightyear’ Could Get Clobbered by ‘Jurassic World 3’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

The animated family film was expected to open to at least $70 million to $85 million in North America, but now it looks like Lightyear may only buzz to $52 million to $55 million for the three-day weekend.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World Dominion could stomp to $57 million in its second outing.

Monday is a federal holiday honoring Juneteenth, so Monday could look more like a Saturday and Sunday in terms of traffic at the box office. Universal insiders believe Jurassic World 3‘s domestic total could climb as high as $66 million for the four days.

(6) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Book Riot’s Arvyn Cerézopoints to “11 Must-Read Filipino Sci-Fi Books”.

Philippine literature is slowly gaining international recognition, especially when it comes to general fiction and fantasy. And there are even more sub-genres waiting to be explored by international readers. For instance, though there’s a dearth of Filipino sci-fi books, they are so rare and precious that it’s only once in a while when they come out. In fact, you can count them on one hand.

… Although there’s an apparent short supply of Filipino science fiction books in circulation, I’ve managed to find 11 of them.

Their recommendations lead off with:

SCIENCE FICTION: FILIPINO FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS BY DEAN FRANCIS ALFAR AND KENNETH YU

Dean Francis Alfar, one of the more widely recognized Filipino speculative fiction writers, has written many books in the genre. Salamanca, his first novel, is considered to be a modern classic.

In this collection, however, he edited science fiction stories for Filipino young readers, which might be the first in the Philippines. The collection features stories from known Filipino spec fic writers such as Victor Fernando Ocampo, Nikki Alfar, Eliza Victoria, and Gabriela Lee. This is really sure to please.

(7) YOU’RE FIRED. “SpaceX employees fired after writing letter criticizing Elon Musk” – the Guardian has the story.

At least five employees were fired by private rocket company SpaceX after drafting and circulating an open letter criticizing founder Elon Musk and calling on executives at the start-up to make the company’s work culture more inclusive, according to two people familiar with the matter.

…SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent an email saying the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees involved” with the letter, the New York Times said.

The newspaper said Shotwell’s email said employees involved with circulating the letter had been fired for making other staff feel “uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views”.

Reuters could not independently confirm that report.

The earlier open letter to SpaceX executives seen by Reuters had called Musk a “distraction and embarrassment” to the company he founded.

In a list of three demands, the letter said: “SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.”

It added: “Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior”.

(8) SF LISTENING ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Machine Stops is airing on BBC Radio 4.  

This is an audio adaptation of the classic E. M. Forster 1909 short story ‘The Machine Stops‘. This is a new version to the previous BBC Radio 4 one half a decade ago (2016).

A far future sees humanity living underground in a vast, highly automated complex run by a machine…

You can download it from here.

(9) NOTION’S ELEVEN. Gizmodo opines that these are “The 11 Best (and Worst) Sentient Robots From Sci-Fi”. (I’d liked to have seen the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz here, too.)

HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

To kick things off, we have to talk about one of the most terrifying sentient bots of all—the “Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic Computer,” or HAL—from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001, A Space Odyssey. And by design, he’s a pretty hard working bot: he’s built into the spacecraft where the film takes place, and is tasked with essentially running the ship. He opens doors, keeps life support systems afloat, and, like LaMDA, he can talk.

Unlike LaMDA though, HAL comes programmed with real, human emotions. And after encountering a minor glitch at the start of the film, those emotions are what cause HAL to go off the rails (to put it mildly).

“Most advanced computer theorists believe that once you have a computer which is more intelligent than man and capable of learning by experience, it’s inevitable that it will develop an equivalent range of emotional reactions—fear, love, hate, envy, etc,” Kubrick said about the bot in an interview. “Such a machine could eventually become as incomprehensible as a human being, and could, of course, have a nervous breakdown—as HAL did in the film.”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2005 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this evening seventeen years ago, we got our first true look at David Tennant in that role. The episode was “The Parting Of The Ways” The episode of course, SPOILER ALERT! (Cue Dalek sound here) It featured Christopher Eccleston making his final appearance as the Ninth Doctor and marks the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor as we got our first regeneration of the modern era. END SPOILER ALERT!

It was written by Russell T. Davies who as we all know was responsible for reviving this series. It was directed by Joe Ahearne whose main credit to was the vampire series Ultraviolet. It was produced by Philip Collinson who is returneing to that role under Davies.

Of the modern Doctors, Tennant is by far my favorite one and I thought the stories were very fitting to him. He seemed both very human and very alien at the same time. From the very beginning in this episode, he seemed to have the role spot on. (Baker is by far my favorite of the older Doctors. BritBox is showing all of the surviving older Who episodes.)

Neither of the two male Doctors that followed was really to my liking, not quite sure why as the stories for the most were fine, though I did like the Thirteenth Doctor a lot. I just never warmed to either of them. I actually like the Tenth Doctor better than either of them.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 18, 1908 — Bud Collyer. He’s best-remembered  for his radio-starring role of Kent and Superman beginning in early 1940 on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also would do in the later Superman and other cartoons such as Aquaman and the Batman/Superman Hour. He was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 18, 1917 — Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles of which one, playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur, I’m willing to bet almost all of you have never seen it. (It gets a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit. Of course his major non-genre role was as Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel which I’ve seen every episode of at least three times. Really I have. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 18, 1931 — Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 18, 1942 — Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as Kipple, Parsection and Psi-Phi. At university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish autobiography is How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Of course, he grew up to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer. Mike has much more to say about him here. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 18, 1947 — Linda Thorson, 75. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performances was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode, and on the Good Witch as Mrs Hansen in “Graduation” episode.
  • Born June 18, 1949 — Chris Van Allsburg, 73. For some twenty years now until the Pandemic came upon us, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate for the children. It always sold out for the entire month they ran it. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. (I’ve never seen the film and won’t.) He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin and I highly recommended it. 
  • Born June 18, 1958 — Jody Lee, 64. Illustrator with a long career in genre work. Her first cover art was Jo Clayton’s Changer’s Moon for DAW Books in 1985. Her latest is Passages: All-New Tales of Valdemar, a Mercedes Lackey anthology, that came out last year on DAW Books which seems to be her primary client. Her rather excellent website is here. Her cover for Mercedes Lackey’s The Oathbound won her a Chelsey Award.
  • Born June 18, 1960 — Barbara Broccoli, 62. Daughter of the late James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. She has producer or director credit on at least fourteen Bond films which are definitely genre. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. She produced the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang production staged in NYC at the Hilton Theater sixteen years ago. That must have been really interesting. She was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 Queen’s New Year Honours List.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows a variation on a childhood bedtime ritual that makes sense if you think about it.
  • Lio knows why these aren’t on the aliens’ bill of fare.

(13) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books presents stories by Ai Jiang and Ricardo Victoria in episode 52 of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Emotion: XXXX – by Ai Jiang – https://aijiangauthor.wordpress.com/
music by Phog Masheeen – https://phogmasheeen.com/
read by Jean-Paul Garnier 

Last Witness – by Ricardo Victoria – https://ricardovictoriau.com/
music by Patrick Urn – https://morlox.bandcamp.com/
read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(14) MARVEL BRICK UNIVERSE. 9to5Toys has a series of reveals from LEGO CON 2022 including the Sanctum Sanctorum, and a Star Wars item (see it at the link).

Showcasing the latest addition to the Marvel side of the lineup, the new Sanctum Sanctorum has been revealed. In the same style as last year’s Daily Bugle, this one arrives with 2,708 pieces and nine minifigures. There’s tons of references packed into the three different floors, as well. It will sell for $249.99 once it launches on August 1.

Here’s a breakdown of who’s included this time around:

  • Doctor Strange
  • Sinister Strange
  • Dead Strange
  • Wong
  • Iron Man
  • Spider-Man
  • The Scarlet Witch
  • Master Mordo
  • Ebony Maw

(15) SENSITIVE SUBJECT. The Hollywood Reporter tells why: “‘Late Show’ Staffers Arrested for Unlawful Entry at U.S. Capitol After Taping Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Skit”.

A number of people working for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert were arrested Thursday night at a U.S Capitol office building after taping a skit. Among those arrested was Robert Smigel, the former SNL and Conan writer, best known for portraying Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. According to authorities, the group was confronted by police in the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday evening, after it was closed to visitors. They were charged with unlawful entry. 

… “On Wednesday, June 15 and Thursday, June 16, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was on-site at the Capitol with a production team to record interviews for a comedy segment on behalf of The Late Show,” a CBS spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Their interviews at the Capitol were authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed. After leaving the members’ offices on their last interview of the day, the production team stayed to film stand-ups and other final comedy elements in the halls when they were detained by Capitol Police.”

(16) BLOW IT OUT YOUR A&$. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One maker of robot “dogs” has a new water jet accessory available, allowing the bot to propel itself across relatively calm waters. (But don’t call it Spot — this isn’t the Boston Dynamics pooch.) “A new propulsion system allows this robotic dog to ‘swim’”.

… And now the NAUT allows a dog-shaped robot to move with water jet propulsion. The jet takes in water and ejects it at greater speed, allowing the Vision 60 to move with vectored thrust in a body of water.

“The system is capable of propelling the robotic dog and speeds up three knots and can operate at full power using a dedicated power source for approximately 35 minutes,” reports The War Zone. “The ‘tail’ can also continue to function after that by drawing electricity from the robot dog’s own internal power source.”

At 3 knots, or just 3.4 mph, the NAUT-powered Vision 60 won’t be winning any races, but should be perfectly capable of crossing streams and calm waters. The ability to go amphibious makes a robot useful in scouting and patrols in coastal or riverine terrain, and possibly even of use in the tricky terrain of a marsh or bayou….

(17) THEY CALL ME MISTER ROCKET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket likes to go by a different name. They’ve taken to calling it Mega Moon Rocket, even in official press releases. One supposes it has a better ring to it. Imagine, though, what Bezos or Musk might have come up with. “NASA prefers this nickname for Artemis’ new lunar rocket” at Mashable.

If this NASA launch vehicle could talk — say at an international consortium of the world’s most elite, hobnobbing space rockets — this is how it would introduce itself after filling out its “Hello, my name is” sticker.

Space Launch System? Bleh, only my mother and technical manuals call me that.

SLS? Not since grade school.

Please, friends call me Moon Rocket. Mega Moon Rocket.

Technically, this gargantuan is the U.S. space agency’s Space Launch System or SLS for short. But somewhere along the line, the mission crew stopped calling it by its given name and started referring to it by its badder, Transformers-ish nickname. Even the news releases from the agency use it now….

(18) CLOTHES MAKE THE WIZARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Daniel Radclliffe, Emma Watson, directors Mike Newell ad Alfredo Cuaron and several constume designers talk about the clothes in Harry Potter in this video that dropped two weeks ago (and is a 2022 film).

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Chicago Sun-Times is looking forward to “’It Came from Outer Space’ musical, inspired by cult classic film” which was based on Ray Bradbury’s story. The show runs June 22-July 24 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Before there was “Alien,” before there was “Star Trek,” before there was “Star Wars,” there was “It Came from Outer Space.” The 1953 sci-fi film may look cheesy by today’s standards but that, and its Ray Bradbury pedigree, has only added to its status as a cult classic.

Now Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, the musical theater team behind the hit show “Murder for Two,” have met the challenge of transforming the film, which was based on a Bradbury story, into a stage musical….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/13/22 Have Scroll Suit, Will Pixel

(1) 2022 OR 1942? LINDGREN FEATURED IN NASA POSTER. Astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who memorably presented a 2015 Hugo Award via video from the International Space Station, will soon be returning there as a member of SpaceX Crew-4. NASA recently released a new poster to celebrate the mission, inspired by the national parks posters produced by the Depression-era WPA.  

Lindgren tweeted thanks to Johnson Space Center graphic artist Cindy Bush for bringing the concept to life. 

Crew members shown in the poster are Jessica Watkins, Robert Hines, Lindgren, and Samantha Cristoforetti. You can download a high-res image here.

Lindgren’s fanac has also included being a special guest (in person) at the Helsinki Worldcon in 2017 (see Daniel Dern’s photo here) and serving as Toastmaster of the Nebula Awards in Pittsburgh the same year.

(2) SUPPORT THE FAN FUNDS. [Item by Alison Scott.] The Fan Funds are having a silent auction at Reclamation, the 2022 Eastercon, this weekend (April 15-17), and also virtually.

You can view a range of fantastic and unique items (many of which will also be physically on or near the fan funds table at Eastercon), at our website at https://airtable.com/shrPFg2wPpJMqRdIU. This will change over the weekend as items are added. If you are not at Eastercon, we’ll need you to additionally cover the shipping on physical items, and we’ll let you know how much that will be.

If you’d like to contribute something for auction, you can do so at https://airtable.com/shryFBq6awqMraEr6.

Best way to bid is to let us know who you are by registering at https://airtable.com/shryFBq6awqMraEr6 (this is a very short form) and bidding at https://airtable.com/shrVNHTGk12KpLwWH (this is even shorter). 

The silent auction will end at 11pm BST (UTC 00:00) on Sunday 17th April, with a fuzziness as follows: items will end at that time or one minute after the last bid, whichever is later. So if there’s a last minute bidding frenzy, we’ll let that run out.  

If you’re at the con, come and stop by our table where we will also be having an amazing spin to win contest, Fan Funds Amazeballs. You pay a pound, we spin a bingo spinner, and you win the relevant numbered prize. Prize every time! Some of the prizes are great! For an extra pound, you can even give us back your unwanted prizes.

[I especially love that last sentence. Yes! Keep them from just going, “Redonate!” like people do in LASFS auctions. Bruce Pelz is sorry he didn’t think of it first.]

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Victor LaValle and Robert Freeman Wexler on Wednesday, April 20. The event is in person.

Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle is the author of seven works of fiction and three comic books. He has been the recipient of a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and a Shirley Jackson Award. His most recent novel, The Changeling, is in production at Apple TV.

Robert Freeman Wexler

Robert Freeman Wexler’s most recent book is short story collection Undiscovered Territories. His new novel, The Silverberg Business, is forthcoming from Small Beer Press in August 2022. Previous books include novel The Painting And The City, and The Visible Spectrum.

Where: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003; (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

When: April 20, 2022, 7:00 p.m. EDT.

(4) BY THE SEA. “Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel on creative recklessness, time travel and her favourite science fiction novels” at the Globe and Mail.

…Now with her latest book, Sea of Tranquility (HarperCollins), Mandel has fully immersed herself in the tropes of science fiction. There’s a moon colony, a dome city, simulation theory and time travel – a plot device and concept she’s always wanted to write about. She credits the pandemic for allowing her the “creative recklessness” to abandon any writerly anxieties.

“I felt like, you know what, everything’s terrible, I’m going to do this thing that’ll make me happy. I’m going to write whatever I want and not worry about being taken seriously or any of those other unhelpful ideas that can attach themselves to you as a writer.”…

(5) LEAP YEARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] You’ll have to click through to the article to see the video. Personally, I really enjoyed the original Quantum Leap. I’m of two minds about rebooting it. If they do a good job of updating it, it could still be a very good show. However, I’m afraid they may get sabotaged by too slavishly following types of stories portrayed in the original. “‘Quantum Leap’ Producer Teases ‘Ziggy Quantum Computer 2.0’ For NBC Sci-Fi Revival” at Syfy.com.

…“Everything that Star Trek could do, Quantum Leap can do,” Pratt said. “I think we should do a series of movies, I think we should do a series of series, and this is very much the first step into that world. They had a lot more money than we did, oh my God. So they got to play on a whole other level. That I think is beautiful in the sense that… and Ziggy is there. So that’s really cool. Ziggy Quantum Computer 2.0.”…

(6) DOCTORAL STUDIES. Slashfilm’s Fatemeh Mirjalili takes readers back in history to explain why “Doctor Who Could Have Been A Much Darker Sci-Fi Show”.

The “Doctor Who” 2005 reboot revitalized the sci-fi series, instilling modern audiences with a love for the legendary time traveler and his many adventures. But when the original series arrived on the BBC in 1963, it was a phenomenon unlike anything seen on television before. William Hartnell was the first actor to introduce the quirks and idiosyncrasies we’ve come to associate with the Doctor; he might have appeared as a frail, older man, but in reality, the First Doctor was more than capable — he played dangerous games with the Celestial Toymaker, persuaded a Roman emperor to burn down his own city, and gave the Daleks a run for their money.

Not much is known about the show’s early run because the BBC lost several “Doctor Who” episodes over the years; what we do know is that the sci-fi series wasn’t always going to be a fun time-traveling adventure. It was going to get dark … like really, really dark….

(7) DUMBLEDORE IS NOT GAY IN CHINA. Meanwhile, authorities in China found it was hardly an inconvenience to get Warner Bros. to straighten out that one little thing they don’t like about Dumbledore. “Fantastic Beasts 3 Gay Dialogue Removed in China, Warner Bros Explains”.

…References to a gay relationship in “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” were edited out of the movie by Warner Bros. for the film’s release in China. Only six seconds of the movie’s 142-minute runtime were removed. Dialogue that was edited out alluded to the romantic past between male characters Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen). “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling revealed Dumbledore was gay in 2009, but the movies had never explicitly referenced the character’s sexuality until this third “Fantastic Beasts” entry.

Warner Bros. accepted China’s request to remove six seconds from the movie. The dialogue lines “because I was in love with you” and “the summer Gellert and I fell in love” were cut from “The Secrets of Dumbledore” release (via News.com.au). The rest of the film remained intact, including an understanding that Dumbledore and Grindelwald share an intimate bond….

Only six seconds! You know, it took a lot less time than that for Booth to shoot Lincoln, yet think what a difference that made in the story.

The Guardian notes this is part of a trend in China:

…The news follows a string of similar cuts both for the big and small screen in China. In February, there was backlash when the re-release of sitcom Friends was stripped of its lesbian storyline, while the Sex and the City spinoff And Just Like That also aired with all gay references taken out.

In 2019, Bohemian Rhapsody was released with any mention of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality removed and in star Rami Malek’s Oscar acceptance speech, the subtitles on Chinese television changed “gay man” to “special group”.

While homosexuality was decriminalised in China in 1997 and removed from an official list of mental disorders in 2001, life under the rule of Xi Jinping has been more conservative and restrictive for many LGBTQ people. In January, gay dating app Grindr was taken off the Apple store and last year the country’s dominant social media service, WeChat, deleted many LGBTQ accounts.

(8) WINDING DOWN. The Orville probably isn’t going to be around to finish a five-year mission either: “‘The Orville’ Future Beyond Season 3 Uncertain As Seth MacFarlane & His Cast Focus On Other Projects” reports Deadline.

The Orville has been a passion project — and a big undertaking — for Seth MacFarlane who created, writes, directs, executive produces and stars in the space comedy-drama. As the series is preparing for the June 2 launch of Season 3 on Hulu, there are no current plans for a fourth season. I hear the cast of the series was released in August when their most recent options expired.

In addition to finishing Season 3 of The Orville, titled New Horizons, MacFarlane has been focusing on his development under the mega overall deal he has at NBCUniversal, including the upcoming Peacock series Ted, based on MacFarlane’s movie franchise, with him reprising his voice role as the title character. Ted just cast The Orville cast member Scott Grimes as a series regular, reuniting him with MacFarlane.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifteen years ago on Syfy, the Painkiller Jane series first aired. The character was created by Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada for Event Comics and originally appeared in Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides #1. The character would crossover with likes of Hellboy, the Punisher, the Teminator and Vampirella.

Gil Grant developed this series and he’d previously been responsible for The Powers of Matthew Star. Most of his work was definitely off genre such as NCIS: Los Angeles and the original NCIS series.

It starred Kristanna Loken as Painkiller Jane who previously had been T-X, an advanced Terminator, in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

It lasted but twenty-two episodes. It wasn’t well received by critics. The New York Times said of it that: “Decent scripts could make it work anyway, but the first two episodes at least don’t bode well; the stories are flat, and the repartee between Jane and her teammates isn’t zippy enough to amuse even the comic-book crowd.” And the L.A. Weekly wasn’t impressed either: “Not helping matters either are the wretched dialogue, indiscriminately moody lighting, stock characters (gruff boss, dweeby tech guy, ripped chauvinist colleague), and crushing lack of suspense. I felt the pain, believe me.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverly Cross. English playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. Yes librettist. He’s here because he wrote the screenplays for Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Not remotely genre related but worth mentioning, is that he worked uncredited on the script for Lawrence of Arabia although it is unknown if any of his material made it to the film we see. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 13, 1943 Bill Pronzini, 79. American writer of detective fiction. He’s the creator of the San Francisco-based Nameless Detective, who starred in some forty novels. Though he’s not quite nameless as the first novel, The Snatch, says his first name is Bill. The series ends in, appropriately, Endgame. He’s also the author of the the Carpenter and Quincannon mysteries, a gaslight era series that’s very entertaining as well. 
  • Born April 13, 1949 Teddy Harvia, 73. Winner of the Hugo for Fan Artist an amazing four times starting in 1991 at Chicon IV, then in 1995 at Intersection, next in 2001 at the Millennium Philcon and last at in 2002 at ConJosé. He won the Rotsler Award in 2015. He was honored with the Rebel Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation in 1997 at that year’s DeepSouthCon
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 72. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short which is elusive to find unfortunately). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno was followed quickly by being Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by the hard SF of being Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it. So who has watched it lately?) At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 71. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him that I never, ever liked. Ever. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. And let’s not forget he showed up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the Dish of the Day. I’m going to note that I first saw him in Tristan Farnon in the BBC’s adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small stories, a lovely role indeed. And I’m very fond of The Last Detective series where he played DC ‘Dangerous’ Davies. 
  • Born April 13, 1954 Glen Keane, 68. He’s responsible for all of the layout work on Star Trek: The Animated Series and also My Favorite Martians which I can’t say I recognize. As a character animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, he worked on Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 68. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His notable TV work includes work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape, Eerie, Indiana and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer. His latest piece of fiction was the “Aurora” novelette published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, March/April 2022. 
  • Born April 13, 1976 Jonathan Brandis. His longest role was on the Seaquest series as Lucas Wolenczak. He  also was Bastian Bux in The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter. Intriguingly his first genre role was the Voice-over at beginning of Pet Sematary. He died by suicide. (Died 2003.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy makes Star Wars a game the whole family can play.
  • Non Sequitur proves the aliens really did try to help us.
  • Dick Tracy visits Gasoline Alley — will this be the start of a plot arc? Who knows?
  • Rhymes with Orange introduces us to Shakespeare’s mother. “Another long-time writer problem! (But I guess at least she approves of his job!)” observes Rich Horton. “And anyway, that teenage stuff is still probably better than the Earl of Oxford’s poetry!”

(12) PODSIDE PICNIC. In episode 165, Podside is joined by Mattie Lewis, Kurt Schiller, and Chris Woodward to read and review the 2021 Nebula-nominated short stories.  “Nebula Predictions by Podside Picnic”.

(13) DINO CHOW. Felicia Lalomia invites us into her very B.C. kitchen: “I Cooked From ‘Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook’ And Relived The Movies” at Delish.

…In it, brother and sister Tim and Lex Murphy are left in an abandoned restaurant while Dr. Alan Grant goes to find the others. They chow down on a glistening array of cakes and other treats—including, critically, a wobbly bowl of lime-green Jell-O. That’s when Tim notices the look of fear in Lex’s eyes. The spoonful of Jell-O in her hand shakes. Then, the realization: Velociraptors can open doors. Cue panic! I haven’t been able to eat Jell-O since.

This is all to say that when I learned that Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook
was set for an April 12 release, I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. Naturally I had to wrangle an advance copy.

On first glance, the book looks like a souvenir you buy straight from Jurassic Park kiosk, complete with facts about dinosaurs, places to spot them at the park, and of course, lots of dino-themed recipes “from the chef’s most popular and guest’s most requested drinks and dishes.”

… Flipping through the pages, I found plenty of theme park-appropriate fare. There’s the T-Rex Kingdom Turkey Leg, a buttered-up, gigantic hunk of meat only fit for the most voracious of carnivores; sticky Amber Lollipops, complete with a preserved “mosquito” recreated with poppy seeds; and the Instagrammable Ceratops Pastry Crests, which are sweet, cinnamon-scented, apple-filled puff pastries molded into the shape of a Sinoceratop’s skull. (I can only imagine that Ceratops Pastry Crests would achieve Universal Studios’ Butter Beer-level cult status if Jurassic Park actually existed.)…

(14) PAY ATTENTION NOW. H&I introduces you to “11 Nifty Little Visual Details You Never Noticed In ‘Star Trek'”.

6.

“SPOCK’S BRAIN” IS THE ONLY EPISODE ASIDE FROM THE FIRST PILOT IN WHICH CHARACTERS WALK IN FRONT OF A MOVING STAR FIELD ON THE VIEWSCREEN.

The infamous third season opener remains much derided but it did feature a decent budget for effects. In this scene, Enterprise crew walk back and forth before moving stars on the viewscreen. This may not seem like much, but typically the viewscreen was added as a layered effect — or sometimes it was merely a static picture. This effect was achieved through rear projection.

(15) TRAILER #2. “The Man Who Fell To Earth” series premieres April 24 on Showtime.

An alien (Chiwetel Ejiofor) arrives on earth with a mission: to learn to become human and find the one woman (Naomie Harris) who can help save his species. Together they discover that in order to save his world, they must first save ours.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Kirby and the Forgotten Land,” Fandom Games says this latest installment of this series about a pink blob that likes to eat things is “a game designed for fetuses and zygotes” and “is as challenging as first-grade math.”  But if you want to see a loveable pink blob eat a car, this one’s for you!

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/22 You Can Go Scroll At Home Tonight If You Can Get Up And File Away

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present N.K. Jemisin and Brooke Bolander in a virtual event on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The readings will be held live on YouTube — link to come.

  • N.K. Jemisin
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, art by Lauren Panepinto
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, art by Lauren Panepinto

N. K. Jemisin is a New York Times-bestselling author of speculative fiction short stories and novels. In 2018, she became the first author to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row, for the Broken Earth trilogy, currently in film development. She has also won a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards, and is a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

  • Brooke Bolander

Brooke Bolander’s fiction has won the Nebula and Locus awards and been shortlisted for the Hugo, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy, and British Fantasy. Her work has been featured on Tor.com and in LightspeedStrange Horizons, Uncanny, and The New York Times, among other venues. She currently resides in New York City.

(2) TITLES TO RETURN TO. A Guardian “Books” interview with David Mitchell includes a shout out to Ursula K. Le Guin, among others: “David Mitchell: ‘If I need cheering up, Jamie Oliver’s recipes usually help’”.

The book that changed me as a teenager
EB White’s Charlotte’s Web gave me the uncomfortable idea that the contents of my bacon sarnie had wanted to be alive as much as I did. Anne Frank’s Diary and Richard Wright’s Native Son gave me a sense of proportion regarding my own problems and injustices….

The book I reread
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin, once a decade. It’s trippy, human, mind-expanding, curious, feels more prescient by the year and has one of my favourite lines from anything: “The King was pregnant.” The book is a chance to catch up with my past and future selves and see how we’re getting on.

(3) A BURNING SENSATION. The TV show has been a boon to Irish tourism, however, this place won’t be a destination anymore: “Winterfell set from Game of Thrones set on fire” reports Winteriscoming.net.

Game of Thrones was one of the most elaborately produced shows in television history, meaning it had a lot of really big, really impressive sets. Winterfell, King’s Landing, Meereen…this show took us to some spectacular places, and the crew deserves plaudits for their fine work.

It must be hard for some of those crew members to watch their work get torched. But according to the Belfast Telegraph, that’s what happened earlier this week. Per the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, it was a “controlled burn,” meaning this wasn’t a grease fire that got out of hand or anything; they meant to do this, although we’re not sure entirely why. They may just be getting rid of a set that’s no longer needed in the area, or it could be part of another production; there are other movies and TV shows that might need a burning castle….

(4) BLACK HISTORY MONTH. The Horror Writers Association blog is running a “Black Heritage HWA interview series” – here’s a quote from the introduction by Linda Addison.

… This country is built by a wide variety of people from different cultures, and just as horror fiction has many sub-genres, Black horror writers are not defined by one type of writing. From gothic through paranormal, supernatural, weird and so on, Black writers are creating work in wide-ranging areas.

Black horror is growing in every category of writing: novels, short/long fiction, non-fiction, as well as graphic novels, screenplays, poetry collections, and podcasts. Publishing through traditional and Black-owned publishing companies, along with self-publishing presents authors with several venues to offer their work to the public.

Horror writing allows readers to experience the rush of fear, the thrill of danger in the safety of their homes or theaters. Black Americans have historic and current experiences with real-life horror that can flavor our work. A society can only benefit by exposure to different voices and stories….

And here are links to the interviews presented so far —

Do you make a conscious effort to include African diaspora characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Yes, I do. I’m from a majority Black community (New Orleans), so to write in a realistic way, I portray those characters and I portray them with as much humanity and complexity as I can.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I have always loved horror, ever since I was very young. I think one of the attractions is that in real life, the monsters we encounter have almost unlimited power over us and seem invincible. But what horror teaches us is that there is usually a rule or legend… a silver bullet, a wooden stake, salt, water, a talisman… a method that a normal person can employ to vanquish the monstrous entities in our midst. Through knowledge and courage we become giant slayers.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?

Horror changes as we change, so yes, absolutely. In the twenty…-ok we don’t really need to calculate just how long it’s been, do we? Since I have been writing, I have seen smartphones be created and apps take over the world. I have seen electric cars on the road and school being conducted online. The world has advanced and horror has done so as well, using the technology of the day to add to the stories that are told. I think that will continue – we’ll figure out a way to make something brand new sinister… I’m sure someone is already thinking of something amazing for that self-driving car already!

And to the Black writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

To the Black writers out there getting started, write the themes you’re passionate about in your horror. Build on them. Terrify people with the unfamiliar and stay true to the craft. Listen to that writers voice inside and tell the story you want to tell.

(5) HWA PUBLISHERS COUNCIL. The Horror Writers Association has assembled a group to facilitate communication between horror authors and publishers: “Horror Writers Association Announces Inaugural Publishers Council”.

In an effort to build stronger relationships between the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and horror publishers, editors, and industry professionals, the HWA announced the launch the first ever HWA Publishers Council. This council will be comprised of an elected cohort of individuals who represent a diverse spectrum of genres and outlets across the publishing industry—from traditional small and mid-size presses, niche publishers, and indie micro-presses to magazines and other horror publishing industry professionals.

The inaugural council will be overseen by HWA President John Palisano and co-chaired by HWA Board of Trustees Treasurer Maxwell Gold and Black Spot Books Founder and President Lindy Ryan. Seated on the inaugural council are Jennifer Barnes (Raw Dog Screaming Press), Michael Bailey (Written Backwards), Don D’Auria (Flame Tree Press), Kevin Lucia (Cemetery Dance), Wendy Wagner (Nightmare Magazine), Romie Stott (Strange Horizons), and Jonathan Maberry (Weird Tales). Cohort members will serve one year.

Says co-chair Maxwell Gold, “My hope is that with the Publishers Council, the Horror Writers Association will be able to create not only resources for writers, but also more transparent understanding and education into how publishing works.”…

(6) UP TO THE HILT IN SUSPENSE. “Amazon Releases ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV Show Character Photos With One Thing Missing”. Yahoo! Entertainment has collected all the Instagram photos.

You gotta hand it to Amazon Studios, they know how to tease a TV show.

The company released the first character photos from its highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series.

There’s just one catch: There are no heads.

The photos (below) show the hands and midsections of characters from the show. Character and actor names are also not being released.

These hands-of-the-king may seem frustrating to some, but the goal is to fuel fandom speculation about who is who — as well as draw attention to the intricate costume, prop and accessory work. Indeed, there are a lot of hints and details packed into each shot.

Here’s one example:

(7) I SOLUTE. Harry Potter is third of three detectives mentioned in this piece about YA mysteries: “Sleuth Youths” at CrimeReads.

…Harry Potter is the embodiment of that classical trope of mystery detectives, the outsider. Not only does Harry have a mystery to solve, but he is learning all about his new world at the same time that we are….

(8) MOON WOMAN. Ann Holmes discovers “The Radical Woman Behind ‘Goodnight Moon’” in The New Yorker.

Bruce Handy, in his 2017 book about children’s literature, “Wild Things,” confesses that he always imagined the writer Margaret Wise Brown to be a dowdy old lady “with an ample lap”—just like the matronly bunny from her classic story “Goodnight Moon,” who whispers “hush” as evening darkens a “great green room.” In fact, Brown was a seductive iconoclast with a Katharine Hepburn mane and a compulsion for ignoring the rules. Anointed by Life in 1946 as the “World’s Most Prolific Picture-Book Writer,” she burned through her money as quickly as she earned it, travelling to Europe on ocean liners and spending entire advances on Chrysler convertibles. Her friends called her “mercurial” and “mystical.” Though many of her picture books were populated with cute animals, she wore wolfskin jackets, had a fetish for fur, and hunted rabbits on weekends. Her romances were volatile: she was engaged to two men but never married, and she had a decade-long affair with a woman. At the age of forty-two, she died suddenly, in the South of France, after a clot cut off the blood supply to her brain….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1962 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Sixty years ago at Chicon III where Earl Kemp was the Chair,  Wilson Tucker was Toastmaster and Theodore Sturgeon was the Guest of Honor, Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land won the Hugo for Best Novel. It had been published the previous year by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 

Other nominated works that year were Dark Universe by Daniel F. Galouye, Sense of Obligation (also called Planet of the Damned) by Harry Harrison, The Fisherman (also known as Time Is the Simplest Thing) by Clifford D. Simak and Second Ending by James White.  

It was his third Hugo in six years after Double Star at NyCon II and Starship Troopers at Pittcon. He’d win his fourth and final Hugo for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress at NyCon 3 in five years.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties film, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of FrankensteinAli Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look, that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s in Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island which though I suspect it’s not a record is still impressive. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale which has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of. He also created the Castle series with Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame and was one of the actual players at the poker games on the series. View one of them here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 61. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turned spawned more series by him — Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman BeyondStatic ShockJustice League in several series and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the ones I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura Linney, 58. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on ever so excellent Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 48. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on DiscoveryPicardLower Decks and the forthcoming Strange New Worlds. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as Production Assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) NAMING CONVENTIONS. If Harlan Ellison’s story had been titled “Drifts Off the Isle of Langerhans,” a couple of these would have been the right choice to clear them. “’Betty Whiteout,’ ‘Ctrl Salt Delete’ top winners in MnDOT Name-a-Snowplow contest” reports MPR News. [Via Paul Weimer.]

“Betty Whiteout” is the runaway winner in this winter’s Minnesota Department of Transportation Name-A-Snowplow contest.

The name honoring Hollywood icon Betty White, who died Dec. 31 at age 99, received 40,024 online votes in the results announced Thursday.

Coming in second with 21,372 votes was “Ctrl Salt Delete,” followed by “The Big Leplowski” (17,478), “Plowasaurus Rex” (13,209) and “Scoop Dogg” (13,144).

“Blizzard of Oz” (12,742), “No More Mr. Ice Guy” (11,198) and “Edward Blizzardhands” (10,664) rounded out the top eight.

…Last winter’s winners were “Plowy McPlowFace,” “Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya,” “Duck Duck Orange Truck,” “Plow Bunyan,” “Snowbi Wan Kenobi,” “F. Salt Fitzgerald,” “Darth Blader” and “The Truck Formerly Known As Plow.”

Two of this winter’s winners — “Blizzard of Oz” and “Edward Blizzardhands” — had been among the names that fell short in voting last winter….

(13) CRITICAL ROLE THEORY. Slate discovers that a popular show on Amazon Prime is D&D-derived. “The Legend of Vox Machina on Amazon Prime: The story behind Critical Role landing its own cartoon.”

There’s a new show on Amazon Prime, and boy, does it come with a lot of backstory.

No, it’s not the Lord of the Rings show, which Amazon has already thrown a ton of money at—that’s not out until later this year. This one is animated, and at first blush, it may just seem like any old cartoon about magic and action and dragons. But The Legend of Vox Machina, a fun, raunchy fantasy series with new episodes out every Friday, has already taken the internet by storm. That’s because it started out as a long-running Dungeons & Dragons game, called Critical Role—which just so happens to be one of the most successful web series in history.

…Beginning like most D&D games—with a group of friends, some creative ideas, and a whole lot of dice—Critical Role is a story set in the fantasy world of Exandria, created by game master and renowned voice actor Matthew Mercer. Mercer and his friends started livestreaming themselves playing the game for an audience in 2015, when the story was already underway.

The internet quickly fell in love with the story and its colorful characters via these streams, which aired weekly on Twitch and YouTube. The story of the Vox Machina campaign in particular—the first D&D game played together by the Critical Role cast—followed this ragtag team on their adventures, which involved them growing from self-interested mercenaries searching for a big payout to saving their realm from otherworldly dangers, with plenty of other high-stakes subplots along the way. The campaign streamed (almost) every Thursday night for over two years as our brave heroes fought dragons, demons, and would-be gods. With each episode usually running between three and four hours, the first campaign ended with more than 400 hours of wacky, intense, and above all impeccably narrated gameplay to watch.

The primary cast included Grog Strongjaw (played by Travis Willingham), Pike Trickfoot (Ashley Johnson), twins Vex’ahlia and Vax’ildan (Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien), Keyleth (Marisha Ray), Scanlan Shorthalt (Sam Riegel), and Percival de Rolo (Taliesin Jaffe).

Even after the story of Vox Machina came to a close, Critical Role just kept on rolling. A second campaign ran for three additional years, clocking in at over 500 hours, and Campaign 3 kicked off in October 2021. Each campaign features a new story, new characters, and a different setting within the world of Exandria, and the cast continues to stream all of it for its ever-growing fan base. All told, that’s 1,000 hours of content—and counting.

(14) HEAVY DUTY. Science and Nature says “World’s Second Largest Meteorite Discovered in Argentina”.

A 30,800-kilogram meteorite has been unearthed in Argentina, and experts have declared it to be one of the largest meteorites ever found on Earth.

The discovery, made on the border of Chaco, about 1,078 km (670 miles) northwest of the Buenos Aires, has been attributed to a meteor shower that hit the region more than 4,000 years ago. Weighing in at more than 30 tons, the find has been controversially named the second largest meteorite on Earth, but until further tests are completed, it’s too soon to give away that title just yet.

The undisputed king of Earth-based meteorites is a 66-ton whopper called Hoba, excavated in Namibia nearly a century ago. While the Hoba meteorite has been fully uncovered from its resting place in the Otjozondjupa Region of Namibia, due to its size, it has never been removed.

It’s thought to have slammed into Earth some 80,000 years ago, and its age has been estimated to be between 190 million and 410 million years. The rival contender for the second spot is El Chaco – a 37-ton meteorite discovered in the same Argentinian field as this new find.

Now experts will need to perform additional weigh-ins to see if this new Argentinian meteorite, called Gancedo, can beat that and secure the title below Hoba.

“While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tons,” Mario Vesconi, president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco, told the Xinhua news agency over the weekend. “[T]he size and weight surprised us.”…

(15) WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS. Keeper of the Jewel: Highcliff Guardians Series Book One begins a new series by fantasy author and podcaster, Richard H. Stephens.

Something evil lurks beneath the palace.

A phantasm from a darker past makes its presence known to Khae Wys, Queen of the Elves.

Braving the perils of a haunted tower, the queen seeks the counsel of the mysterious Fae, for only they can predict what is to come. A future that doesn’t bode well for her only living child.

In a desperate attempt to save the heir to the Willow Throne, Princess Ouderling is exiled to the only place capable of protecting her. Highcliff, the home of the coveted Crystal Cavern and the dragons that watch over it.

The Duke of Grim, however, has other plans for the princess.

Featured at the Amazon.com Kindle Store and the Amazon.ca: Kindle Store.

Stephens says, “Halfway through book three of the Soul Forge Saga, Into the Madness, (aptly named), one of my main characters did something so uncalled for that it opened the floodgates to the potential for a 20-30 book series. A storyline so involved with lore and magic that it will span many centuries. Who knew the addition of a dragon would become an all-consuming desire to write an in-depth back story? Thus, the Legends of the Lurker was born.”

(16) COMING ATTRACTIONS. On March 9, Marvel Comics will release Captain Carter #1.

Captain Carter, the fan-favorite character recently featured in Marvel Studios’ What If reports for duty in her very own comic series next month. Prolific creator Jamie McKelvie uses his acclaimed talents to bring this Marvel super hero to the forefront of Marvel Comics canon, writing the series and designing the character’s brand-new look. McKelvie will be joined by rising star artist Marika Cresta, known for her recent work on Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. The five-issue limited series will introduce this World War II hero in an adventure that will find Peggy Carter as a woman out of time, facing the reappearance of an old foe in modern day and deciding what she stands for as the wielder of the shield.

 “There’s a whole load of story meat in the premise that interests me,” McKelvie told Syfy Wire. “It’s almost 80 years since the end of World War II. That’s a big difference to the 20 years Steve Rogers was in the ice in the original comics timeline. It’s a huge gap, and so much has changed since then. Even the decade since MCU Cap woke up has seen a lot of big shifts in the world. So that’s immediately exciting to me –– how do you deal with waking up in such a radically different world, with every anchor in your life long gone?”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/23/22 Pixel Yourself On A Scroll On A River, With Tangerine Fanzines And Ray Bradbury Skies

(1) SUSAN COOPER Q&A. Two-time Newbery Honor recipient Susan Cooper is interviewed in The School Library Journal: “Susan Cooper: Writing Fantasy Is a ‘Voyage Fed by My Unconscious’”.

You’ve written that fantasy involves images “bubbling up” from the writer’s unconscious mind. As you’ve thought about the “Dark Is Rising” novels and spoken about them, have you come to understand that unconscious bubbling in new ways?

I was a child of World War ll England, and if people are dropping bombs on you from the age of four to 10, you grow up with a powerful sense of threat, enmity, Them versus Us, the Dark and the Light. This is also, of course, the stuff of myth and legend, which I read thirstily when young. Ideas come from the imagination, but this unconscious mass is the soil in which it grows.

(2) HARDWARE WARS. Ryan George is “The First Guy To Ever Win An Award”. Doesn’t everyone want a Shiny Thing?

(3) ADEYEMI PROJECT MOVES TO PARAMOUNT. Lucasfilm is going to stick to what it knows, while another studio gives the author what they want: “’Star Wars’: Lucasfilm Rethinks Projects, ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ Goes to Paramount” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…Things began to sour just months after the 2020 Disney Investor Day presentation. [Tomi] Adeyemi, according to sources, grew disenchanted with the pace of the project and began pushing for a stronger voice at the table for the adaptation of her book. The author made the case that she should be the one writing the script, a request Lucasfilm was unwilling to accommodate, sources say.

The sides remained at loggerheads until the project was quietly put into turnaround in the fall of 2021. The bidding and winning of Blood and Bone took a couple of months, and when it landed at Paramount in early January with its original producers, Adeyemi now had what she had asked for: creative influence and the right to pen the screenplay.

In the meantime, Lucasfilm, according to sources, has decidedly shifted away from developing projects that are new and is leaning even more toward those already under its umbrella. Those include a series based on the 1988 fantasy WillowIndiana Jones 5 and, yes, many, many Star Wars movies and shows….

(4) ERIC FLINT MEDICAL UPDATE. Eric Flint told Facebook readers yesterday he has been hospitalized with a staph infection.  

Well, I have some bad news, I’m afraid. I’ve been in the hospital for two with a staff infection. Staphylococcus aureus, to be precise. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be MRSA or any other especially virulent form of the disease.

That said, staph is nothing to fool with. If it’s a blood infection, as it is in my case, it travels to every part of the body. Little problems become big problems and you’re soon in a world of hurt. So far things are looking good. Once they got me on antibiotics everything started improving. StIll, this take time. The doctors tell me a full treatment takes about two weeks and you can’t stint on it. Unfortunately, that’s going to bring us very close to Superstars Writing Seminar, which I may have to miss. We won’t know for awhile yet, I will keep you informed.

(5) HARRY POTTER FIRED. “Broadway’s ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ actor fired”Yahoo! has the story.

The actor playing Harry Potter has been fired from the Broadway production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” following a complaint by a co-star about his conduct.

Producers said Sunday night that, after an independent investigation of the incident, they decided to terminate the contract of James Snyder. The exact nature of his conduct was not specified. Snyder did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Producers said in a statement that they received a complaint against Snyder from a female co-star in November and immediately suspended Snyder. The female co-star has decided to take a leave of action from the Broadway show.

The play, which picks up 19 years from where J.K. Rowling’s last novel left off, portrays Potter and his friends as grown-ups. It won the Tony Award for best new play in 2018….

(6) WHEDON CONSIDERED. Keith R.A. DeCandido, who has written a lot of Whedonverse tie-ins, comments “on the fall from grace of Joss Whedon” at KRAD’s Inaccurate Guide to Life.

An article dropped on Vulture yesterday by Lila Shapiro which details the fall from grace of Joss Whedon following first an open letter his ex-wife wrote on her way out the door of their life together, and then the Justice League debacle, which led to a lot of allegations coming to light going all the way back to Whedon’s Buffy days.

I’ve been connected to Whedon’s worlds both as a fan and as a pro since the late 1990s. I was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and I wrote four Buffy books (a novelization, two novels, and I worked on one of the official reference books) and novelized Serenity and wrote a Firefly role-playing game adventure. As a result, I was always heavily plugged into the intense fandom that grew up around his creations.

And I found myself concerned about the near-deification that went on surrounding him. The “Joss Whedon is My Master Now” T-shirts and the “trust in Joss” mantras — and just generally, referring to him as “Joss” as if he was their friend.

…The interview is the first time Whedon has spoken publicly since he was all but hung in effigy by the entire universe, and he didn’t waste any time inserting his foot once he opened his mouth. At no point does he take responsibility, and he spends lots of time making excuses. He unconvincingly denies many of the allegations, or tries to downplay them….

(7) THE SAGAS NEVER TOLD. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert reviews the first Lancer Conan edition and reminds us what the genre lost: “[January 22, 1967] The Return of the Cimmerian: Conan the Adventurer by Robert E. Howard”.

The untimely death of Robert E. Howard thirty years ago is one of the great tragedies of our genre. The lifelong Texan Howard had his first story, the prehistoric adventure “Spear and Fang” published in Weird Tales in 1925, when he was only nineteen years old. In the following eleven years, Howard published dozens of stories in Weird Tales as well as in long forgotten pulp magazines such as Oriental StoriesFight StoriesAction StoriesMagic Carpet Magazine or Spicy Mystery. In the introduction to Conan the Adventurer, editor L. Sprague de Camp calls Howard “a natural story-teller, whose tales are unsurpassed for vivid, colorful, headlong, gripping action.”

In 1936, tragedy struck, when Howard’s beloved mother was about to succumb to tuberculosis. Overcome with grief, Howard took his own life. He was only thirty years old….

(8) GOULART REMEMBERED. Frances Goulart, widow of Ron, sent a kind note about File 770’s Ron Goulart obituary.

Thank you so much for the tribute to my husband. He would be so pleased with all the attention and love he’s getting. Hope he can read it all wherever he is. We are planning a memorial in June. Please stay in touch for details.

(9) JEAN-CLAUDE MÉZIÈRE (1938-2022). Creator of Valerian and Laureline, Jean-Claude Mézière died last night. Here is a good obituary in Flemish from a Belgian comics news site: “Jean-Claude Mézières (83) overleden” (which you could read with the help of a Google translation), and a less-detailed appreciation in English: “Comics author Jean-Claude Mézières has died”.

Jean-Claude Mézières, cult comic book author, especially SF, died at the age of 83, on the night of January 22 to 23.

Born in 1938 in Paris, Jean-Claude Mézières is considered a figure of Franco-Belgian comics. He is mainly known for the adventures of Valerian and Laureline, two space-time agents. He worked on these characters alongside screenwriter Pierre Christin, his childhood friend.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1947 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Seventy-five years ago today in New York City, the Lady in The Lake film opened. Based on the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name. It was the directing debut of Robert Montgomery who also played Phillip Marlowe. The rest of the cast is Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan, Tom Tully, Leon Ames and Jayne Meadows. 

Steve Fisher, a pulp writer, who published in far too many pulps too list here but I’ll note that wrote some of The Shadow stories, wrote the screenplay. His most significant stories, however, would be published in Black Mask.

Montgomery’s desire was to recreate the first-person narrative style of the Marlowe novels. As the film is up legitimately on YouTube as part of their film series, you can judge yourself if he succeeded in that. 

So how was the reception? Well critics didn’t like it. Really they didn’t it at all. As BBC critic George Perry much later put it: “This is the only mainstream feature ever to have been shot in its entirety with the subjective camera. Which means that you, the viewer, sees everything just as the hero Philip Marlowe does. Every so often the camera pauses by a mirror and looking at you in the reflection is Robert Montgomery, who also directed, for it is he who is playing Marlowe.” And I think that’s reflected in the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who give an ambivalent rating of fifty percent. 

He would play Marlowe once more in Robert Montgomery Presents The Big Sleep, a hour long version of that novel that aired on September 25th, 1950.  Robert Montgomery Presents for eight seasons.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both from the usual suspects and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 23, 1932 Bart LaRue. He was the voice of The Guardian of  Forever in the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode of Trek as well as doing voice roles in “Bread and Circuses” (on-screen too) “The Gamesters of Triskelion” as Provider 1 (uncredited) “Patterns of Force” as an Ekosian newscaster (Both voice and on-screen) and “The Savage Curtain” as Yarnek. He did similar work for Time TunnelMission ImpossibleVoyage to The Bottom of The SeaThe Andromeda StrainWild Wild WestLand of Giants and Lost in Space. (Died 1990.)
  • Born January 23, 1933 Emily Banks, 89. She played Yeoman Tonia Barrows in the absolutely splendid “Shore Leave”.  Though her acting career was brief, ending twenty years later, she shows up on Mr. Terrific, a series I’ve never heard of, Fantasy IslandThe Wild Wild WestBewitched, the original Knight Rider, Highway to Heaven and Air Wolf.
  • Born January 23, 1939 – Greg Hildebrandt, 83, and Tim Hildebrandt (died 2006). I’d say best remembered for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. V’nice.
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 79. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly, I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan-created Star Trek: New Voyage
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer. Roy Batty in Blade Runner, of course, but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer film? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the very evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 72. Unless you count MacGyver as genre like I do, his main and rather enduring genre role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well, Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend which co-starred John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. 
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 58. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in Tales from Earthsea.  She is by the way in her twenty-third season of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit of portraying Captain Olivia Benson which is now over five hundred episodes in length. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) A COMICS HISTORY MISFIRE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In today’s NFL playoff game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams, NBC broadcaster Al Michaels referred to an electronic gizmo around Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians’s neck as “a Rube Goldberg machine.”

“I’m sorry,” said  Michaels’s colleague, Cris Collinsworth, “Rube Goldberg?”

“It was a long, long, long time ago,” said Michaels.

Al Michaels was born in 1944 and Cris Collinsworth was born in 1959.

(For an explanation of the reference, see Wikipedia’s entry on Rube Goldberg machine.)

(14) THE ICARUS SHORTAGE. “‘It’s a glorified backpack of tubes and turbines’: Dave Eggers on jetpacks and the enigma of solo flight” in the Guardian.

We have jetpacks and we do not care. An Australian named David Mayman has invented a functioning jetpack and has flown it all over the world – once in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty – yet few people know his name. His jetpacks can be bought but no one is clamouring for one. For decades, humans have said they want jetpacks, and for thousands of years we have said we want to fly, but do we really? Look up. The sky is empty.

Airlines are dealing with pilot shortages, and this promises to get far worse. A recent study found that, by 2025, we can expect a worldwide shortfall of 34,000 commercial pilots. With smaller aircraft, the trends are similar. Hang-gliding has all but disappeared. Ultralight aircraft makers are barely staying afloat. (One manufacturer, Air Création, sold only one vehicle in the US last year.) With every successive year, we have more passengers and fewer pilots. Meanwhile, one of the most dreamed of forms of flight – jetpacks – exists, but Mayman can’t get anyone’s attention.

“I did a flight around Sydney harbour a few years ago,” he tells me. “I still remember flying around close enough to see the joggers and the people walking around the botanical area, and some of them did not look up. The jetpack is loud, so I promise you they heard me. But there I was, flying by on a jetpack, and they did not look up.”

(15) GAME GETS TV SERIES. This retro cartoon show is coming to Netflix.

Based on the award-winning video game, THE CUPHEAD SHOW! follows the unique misadventures of loveable, impulsive scamp Cuphead and his cautious but easily swayed brother Mugman.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isaac Arthur says there’s another way the whole shooting match could come to an end: “Civilizations at the End of Time: The Big Rip”.

Current science and cosmology tell us the Universe will slowly die and ebb away countless trillions of trillions of years from now, but another model – the Big Rip – says that end may come far sooner, ripped apart by dark energy. Could civilizations survive the Universe itself being torn apart at the atomic scale?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bruce D. Arthurs, Chris Barkley, Jen Hawthorne, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/22 By The Time You Scroll Your Pixels, I’ll Be Filing…

(1) AN UNEXPECTED ADDITION TO THE PANTHEON. [Item by rcade.] You’ll never guess who is on the cover of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2022 Calendar. Lots of fun in this thread (which starts here.)

(2) UK CONVENTION WILL SHIFT DATES. ChillerCon UK, the counterpart to StokerCon, announced today they will be moving their dates due to Omicron. The new dates are to be determined.

… However, with the current situation regarding the Omicron variant, especially with regard to the ongoing travel restrictions in many countries, it’s proving impossible to keep to the current dates of 10-13 March 2022, much as we’ve tried our best to do so. We apologise for any inconvenience, but feel it’s vital to wait until things are safer, travel is less problematic, and we can organise a fantastic weekend where you can all meet in person.

To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we are actively discussing with the two convention hotels the possibility of moving ChillerCon UK to a date later on this year. We can not guarantee a specific date yet, but hope to be able to advise a suitable, safe, date as soon as possible….

(3) MYSTICON CANCELLED. MystiCon, an event planned for February 25-27 in Roanoke, VA, will not be held the committee announced January 3.

MystiCon has always been as much of a “family” reunion as it has been a convention. Knowing that and looking at business, staffing, health and safety concerns, it has become apparent that we will not be able to have the MystiCon that we know and love in February of 2022. This was not an easy decision but one that is necessary….

(4) LIVE LONG AND PROSPER. The New York Times follows Adam Nimoy “To Boldly Explore the Jewish Roots of ‘Star Trek’” at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.

Adam Nimoy gazed across a museum gallery filled with “Star Trek” stage sets, starship replicas, space aliens, fading costumes and props (think phaser, set to stun). The sounds of a beam-me-up transporter wafted across the room. Over his shoulder, a wall was filled with an enormous photograph of his father — Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on the show — dressed in his Starfleet uniform, his fingers splayed in the familiar Vulcan “live long and prosper” greeting.

But that gesture, Adam Nimoy noted as he led a visitor through this exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center, was more than a symbol of the television series that defined his father’s long career playing the part-Vulcan, part-human Spock. It is derived from part of a Hebrew blessing that Leonard Nimoy first glimpsed at an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Boston as a boy and brought to the role.

The prominently displayed photo of that gesture linking Judaism to Star Trek culture helps account for what might seem to be a highly illogical bit of programming: the decision by the Skirball, a Jewish cultural center known mostly for its explorations of Jewish life and history, to bring in an exhibition devoted to one of television’s most celebrated sci-fi shows….

(5) ANOTHER STRIKE AGAINST ROWLING – OR NOT? Alma, a feminist Jewish culture site, was among many publications that reported the following story on January 3: “Jon Stewart Speaks Up About the Antisemitic Goblins of ‘Harry Potter’”.

…In the clip, Stewart explains the decadence of some b’nai mitzvah parties to “The Problem” writers Jay Jurden and Henrik Blix with the line, “It’s basically like saying, the Jews have arrived. And we are going to dazzle you.”

To which Jurden playfully replied, “What chapter of Harry Potter is that in? That’s when they get to Gringotts, right?”

What proceeds is Stewart thoughtfully explaining how, in his view, the goblins in Gringotts bank are a sign of how little progress has been made in eradicating antisemitism. He also goes on to speak about what it’s been like for him to have to explain to people that the Harry Potter goblins are antisemitic — and his reaction to seeing them for the first time.

“It was one of those things where I saw [the goblins] on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, holy shit! She did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the fucking underground bank. And everyone was just like, wizards!”

But Alma reported today that Jon Stewart denies the interpretation put on his words: “Jon Stewart Clarifies He Does Not Think ‘Harry Potter’ is Antisemitic”.

…In a clip Stewart posted to his Twitter account, he says, “There’s no reasonable person who could’ve watched [the clip] and not seen it as a lighthearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums, having a [laugh], enjoying themselves, about Harry Potter and my experience watching it for the first time in the theater as a Jewish guy and how some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible, even in a considered process like movie-making, right?”

Stewart also clarifies, “I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic. I do not think that the Harry Potter movies are antisemitic.”…

(6) IDEAL GOVERNMENT FOR MIDDLE-EARTH. Henry T. Edmondson, the Carl Vinson Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Georgia College, gives Tolkien a working-over in “Tolkien, the Mob, and the Demagogue” at Law & Liberty.

…It may come as a surprise that, if Lord of the Rings suggests a warning about political systems, it is not about one-man rule: after all, the novel celebrates “unconstitutional” hereditary monarchy as the ideal government for Middle Earth, hence the title of the last third of the book, “Return of the King.” In this, Tolkien follows Aristotle that monarchy is the ideal government—provided the right king or queen is available, an admittedly difficult prospect. It is not easy to find an Aragorn.

Tolkien also writes approvingly of a natural aristocracy, if indirectly, in his important chapter, “The Council of Elrond,” where the best minds of Middle Earth acknowledge the threat of Sauron and develop a strategy to destroy the One Ring. An approving view of aristocratic wisdom is evident much later in the book, if to a lesser extent, in the chapter “The Last Debate,” where, once again, a small but elite group hold a war council and plan a diversion that might give Frodo and Sam the best chance to destroy the Ring. More philosophically, they consider the nature of the evil that they confront and the need to be prepared for the next assault, in whatever form it might appear, even if Sauron, the immediate Middle Earth threat, is vanquished.

But if there is one form of government of which Tolkien seems to disapprove in the Lord of the Rings, it is democracy. He once wrote to his son Christopher, that democracy is “nearly equivalent to ‘mob-rule’” and that “Greece, the home of philosophy—did not approve of it” because it too often slipped into dictatorships….

(7) HE TAKES IT DARK. George R.R. Martin told Not A Blog readers highly approves the work being done on the latest adaptation of his work, in “Most Anticipated”.

…I am anticipating HOUSE OF THE DRAGON pretty eagerly myself, for what it’s worth.   Okay, I am hardly objective.   And I know a lot of what you will be seeing.  (I, um, wrote the book).   Also … mum’s the word now, don’t tell anyone… I’ve seen a rough cut of the first episode.   And loved it.   It’s dark, it’s powerful, it’s visceral… just the way I like my epic fantasy….

… I think the Targaryens are in very good hands. Anticipate away. I do not think you will be disappointed.…

(8) ACCESSIBILITY DIALOGUE. Teresa Nielsen Hayden engaged Mari Ness about the accessibility issues of DisCon III and Viable Paradise in a Twitter thread that starts here. Two excerpts —

(9) REVISIONS. Hear from Sheree Renée Thomas in Odyssey Writing Workshop Podcast #143.

Author and award-winning editor Sheree Renée Thomas was a guest lecturer at the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about editing, what she looks for in stories, how to work with an editor, and what she asks for in revisions.

(10) FRANK DENTON (1930-2022). Fanzine fan and author Frank Denton died January 5 his son reported on Facebook. A Seattle-area fan, he was best known for publishing the fanzines Ash-Wing, from 1968-1978 and The Rogue Raven, from 1975-1997, although he also worked on many others. Denton also participated in several amateur press associations including TAPS, The Cult, Minneapa, N’APA, Slanapa, and APANAGE.

He worked in education for 30 years as a teacher, college library director, and media director of a community college. Denton talked about working on his writing after he retired, however, ISFDB shows only one published short story, which appeared in a 1984 anthology. He enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival. Frank was a kind man who was a popular figure in West Coast fandom, He was GoH at MileHiCon 6 (1974), Westercon 30 (1977), Moscon II (1980), Intervention Gamma (1981), and Rustycon 7 (1990). Frank is survived by his wife, Anna Jo.

(11) ELIZABETH MILLER (1939-2022). Count Dracula and Bram Stoker scholar Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Professor Emerita at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, died January 2 at the age of 82. She wrote or edited Reflections on Dracula, Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow, A Dracula Handbook, Dracula: Sense & Nonsense, Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition (with Robert Eighteen-Bisang) and The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker (with Dacre Stoker).

Miller was made “Baroness of the House of Dracula” by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula in 1995. She twice won the Lord Ruthven Award for her books about the vampire (2001, 2009). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dracula Society.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago, 12 Monkeys premiered. It would be nominated for a Hugo as Twelve Monkeys at L.A Con III but Babylon 5’s “The Coming of Shadows” would win that year. It would be the fifth Hugo nomination for Terry Gilliam as he had previously gotten them for Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime BanditsBrazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. None of the previous nominations resulted in a Hugo win either, though three (Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) finished second to the eventual winner. 

12 Monkeys was inspired by Chris Marker’s thirty-year-previous short French film La Jeté. The screenplay was written by David and Janet Peoples who would later write scripts for the 12 Monkeys series. David wrote the Blade Runner screenplay. The primary cast was Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer. 

Box office wise, it did very well as it grossed one hundred seventy million against just under thirty million in production costs. (It had been capped at that budget after Waterworld went way, way over anticipated costs for the same studio.) Critics generally liked it with Roger Ebert saying that “The film is a celebration of madness and doom, with a hero who tries to prevail against the chaos of his condition, and is inadequate.” It currently has a most stellar eighty eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

Elizabeth Hand wrote the novelization of the 12 Monkeys film. Copies are readily available pretty much everywhere.

It spawned a Syfy series which ran for four seasons and forty-seven episodes starting in 2015. Terry Gilliam was not involved in this undertaking.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty-five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long-running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1929 Russ Manning. An artist who created and drew the Gold Key comic book character Magnus: Robot Fighter; who drew the Tarzan comic book from 1965 – 1969 and the Tarzan newspaper comic strip from 1967 – 1972; and the Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979 – 1980. (Credit to Bill here at File 770 for this Birthday.)  (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorists who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a genre connection that’s will take some explain. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that tome about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones. Among the genre folk that have had a role in the band are Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 63. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out as voicing Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of my best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle 
  • Born January 5, 1966 Tananarive Due, 56. I’m particularly fond of her short fiction which you can find in her BFA-winning Ghost Summer collection which also won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award. The Good House and The Between are novels are worth reading for having strong African-American characters.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 44. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I listened to the third of her Sparrow Hill Road stories which are excellent and earlier I’d read her InCryptid series, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a physics joke – in its own way.
  • Bizarro shows aliens consulting an expert for advice — and who would know better?

(15) HULK SMASH – SALES RECORD. The Guardian stands by the register as a “Rare first edition of The Incredible Hulk comic sells for $490,000”.

A 60-year-old comic featuring the Incredible Hulk – in which the superhero is depicted in his original grey, rather than his signature green – has been sold for almost half a million dollars.

The rare copy of Incredible Hulk #1, which was published in 1962, was bought by a private collector for $490,000 (£360,000). Comic Connect, an auction site which handled the sale, said it was the most expensive copy of the first Hulk story ever sold…

(16) TWO CHAIRS. The two chairs, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss, talk about the best books they read during 2021 in a variety of categories: SF, Fantasy, Crime, Literary, Non-Fiction and so on. A great year’s reading. Episode 68 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast: “The Endless Bookshop”.

(17) THEY’RE BACK. “Stolen Lord of the Rings books returned to Worcester charity” – the BBC has the story.

…The charity said the books were taken from a locked cabinet at the store…

Dan Corns, commercial director at St Richard’s, had said the hardbacks featured first-edition text from 1954, but were all published in 1957, so while first editions, they were not first printings and were estimated to collectively be worth about £1,500.

“I had a phone call yesterday from the store manager to say that he was just going round the store tidying up and found they had been placed on shelf, which was not normally where would have been, so someone had carefully come in and put them somewhere where we would not necessarily see them but see the books at some time, and luckily we did before someone else saw [and] walked out with them,” he said.

“Obviously someone has thought about it and through their conscience has decided perhaps they didn’t do the right thing.”

St Richard’s Hospice supports more than 2,900 patients, family members and bereaved people in Worcestershire with running costs of £8.75m over the last year

(18) LOTR RAP. Utkarsh Ambudkar freestyle raps about Lord of the Rings for superfan Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. The rap segment starts 5:50 into the video.

The star of the hit CBS comedy, “Ghosts,” Utkarsh Ambudkar tells Stephen about his role on the show and then treats our host to a freestyle rap about our host’s favorite topic, the “Lord of the Rings” films.

(19) THIS IS YOUR LIFE, EGO. Here’s a curiosity – “Arthur C. Clarke on This is Your Life (the UK version of the show) from 1995.

(20) WEBB KEEPS WEAVING. Good news from Yahoo! “James Webb Space Telescope: Sun shield is fully deployed”.

… Controllers on Tuesday completed the deployment of the space observatory’s giant kite-shaped sun shield.

Only with this tennis court-sized barrier will Webb have the sensitivity to detect the signals coming from the most distant objects in the Universe.

Commissioning work will now concentrate on unpacking the telescope’s mirrors, the largest of which is 6.5m wide….

(21) CLEAN AND LIFT. “Gravity Could Solve Clean Energy’s One Major Drawback” reports WIRED.

Finding green energy when the winds are calm and the skies are cloudy has been a challenge. Storing it in giant concrete blocks could be the answer.

… The concrete blocks are slowly hoisted upwards by motors powered with electricity from the Swiss power grid. For a few seconds they hang in the warm September air, then the steel cables holding the blocks start to unspool and they begin their slow descent to join the few dozen similar blocks stacked at the foot of the tower. This is the moment that this elaborate dance of steel and concrete has been designed for. As each block descends, the motors that lift the blocks start spinning in reverse, generating electricity that courses through the thick cables running down the side of the crane and onto the power grid. In the 30 seconds during which the blocks are descending, each one generates about one megawatt of electricity: enough to power roughly 1,000 homes.

This tower is a prototype from Switzerland-based Energy Vault, one of a number of startups finding new ways to use gravity to generate electricity. A fully-sized version of the tower might contain 7,000 bricks and provide enough electricity to power several thousand homes for eight hours. Storing energy in this way could help solve the biggest problem facing the transition to renewable electricity: finding a zero-carbon way to keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. “The greatest hurdle we have is getting low-cost storage,” says Robert Piconi, CEO and cofounder of Energy Vault….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Dragon Age,” Fandom Games says that this prequel to the Dragon Age series has so much gore that you wish someone could conjure up a paper towel to wipe the characters; blood-specked faces.  And while there are many Tumblr accounts with people fantasizing about being one of the game’s many sexy characters, no one has sex with dragons, and “not being able to romance a dragon in a game called Dragon Age is like going to Pizza Hut and finding there’s no pizza.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/2/22 Pancho Stole Your Apes It’s True, But Lefty Stole A Couple Too, Now There’s Nothing You Can Do, That’s Just How The Pixel Scrolls

(1) TODAY’S TITLE EXPLAINED. Jim Henley sends everyone his best, and sent today’s Pixel Scroll title, too.

Happy New Year! I did a wee bit of filking inspired by the Bored Apes/Angry Apes/Whatever 8-Bit Apes NFT thefts and frauds, and while an excerpt might be too long for a Pixel Scroll title, it might not be. I leave that call up to you!

(2) MAYBE THIS TIME, MAYBE NEXT TIME. John Scalzi did an interesting thread about his philosophy of publicizing and blurbing other writers’ books. Thread starts here.

(3) ORLANDO NASFIC BIDCOM. The Orlando in 2023 NASFiC bid unveiled the names of its current committee members on Facebook.

After a few emails, phone calls, and one BBQ dinner, we’re happy to announce the initial group that will be propelling Orlando to host the NASFiC! In alphabetical order:

Adam Beaton, Chris Barkley, Colette Fozard (advisor), Don Eastlake, Gary Blog, Jill Eastlake, Juan Sanmiguel, Judy Bemis (advisor), Mike Willmouth (advisor), Pam Burr, Rivka Gates, Sam Lubell

(4) BID FOR IRISH CORFLU. Tommy Ferguson is bidding for Corflu 40 to be held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, March 31, 2023. The bid flyer for “Corflu Craic” is here.

(5) POTTERY. LA Times’ Christi Carras demands “Let Helena Bonham Carter host, you cowards!” in her article about the Harry Potter reunion special.

… While reminiscing about their time together on “Harry Potter,” Bonham Carter surprises Radcliffe with an autographed note he penned for her back in the day — and instructs him to share with the class.

Radcliffe manages to get through about half the message before realizing he’s been set up, blushing and laughing as Bonham Carter urges him to keep reading.

“And what does it say?” she prods. “Hee-hee-hee-hee!”

“We can share this now,” Radcliffe relents. “I said, ‘I do love you, and I just wish I’d been born 10 years earlier. I might have been in with a chance.’”

“I shall always treasure that,” Bonham Carter says. “That is in my toilet, Dan.”

A moment of silence for the unhinged “Harry Potter” reunion special that could have been if they tapped Bonham Carter to host the whole thing….

(6) TODAY’S DAY

January 2 National Science Fiction Day

… Although it’s not an official holiday of any sort (meaning that it is not recognized or declared by any government), National Science Fiction Day is given some degree of credence through its recognition by organizations such as the Hallmark Channel as well as the Scholastic Corporation. National Science Fiction Day has expanded not only across the United States, but has also made its way across different parts of the world.

Now it’s time to learn about and prepare to celebrate National Science Fiction Day!

The History of National Science Fiction Day

National Science Fiction Day is celebrated on this date very early in the year for a good reason. January 2 was the date that was chosen in order to correspond with the official birth date of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who is thought to have been born January 2nd, 1920. Mr. Asimov is responsible for some incredible works of science fiction literature during his lifetime, such as “Nightfall” and the “Foundation Trilogy”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1952 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] 2000 Plus, not to be confused withNPR’s science fiction series, 2000X, which was the first SF radio program predating the much better known  Dimension X series by one month,  ended its run on January 2, 1952 having started up on March 15, 1950. It ran on the Mutual Broadcasting System. It was a Dryer Weenolsen production who directed the cast of Lon Clark, Joseph Julian, Henry Norell, Bill Keene, Bryna Raeburn and Amzie Strickland. It ran for thirty-two half-hour episodes of which fifteen are known to survive. “Men from Mars”, the third episode, can heard here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can hardly summarize everything he’s done here, so I’ll just pick my very short list of favorite works by him which would include the Galactic Empire series, the Foundation Trilogy which a Hugo at a Tricon, The Gods Themselves which won a Hugo at TorCon II and his I, Robot collection. (Died 1992.)
  • Born January 2, 1948 Deborah Watling. Best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield, a companion of the Second Doctor. She was also in Downtime, playing the same character, a one-off sequel to a sequel to the Second Doctor stories, “The Abominable Snowmen” and “The Web of Fear”. No Doctors were to be seen or harmed. If you’ve seen the English language dubbed version of Viaje al centro de la Tierra (Where Time Began, based off Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth), she’s doing the lines of Ivonne Sentis as Glauben. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 2, 1971 Renée Elise Goldsberry, 51. Best known as appearing on Altered Carbon as Quellcrist Falconer. She also performed the Johnny Cash song “Ain’t No Grave” for the end credits in the final episode of that series. Genre-wise, she’s had one-offs on EnterpriseLife on MarsEvil andvoice work on DreamWorks Dragons: Rescue Riders, an all too cute series.  She was Selena Izard in The House with a Clock in Its Walls. And she appeared on Broadway in The Lion King as Nala. 
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias S. Buckell, 43. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which he managed to wrap up rather nicely. The collection he edited, The Stories We Tell: Bermuda Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is well worth reading, as is his own Tides from a New World collection. And his Tangled Lands collection which won the World Fantasy Award is amazing reading as well.
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 39. She’s Barbara Barga in the SS-GB series done off the superb Len Deighton novel which is definitely genre. She’s both a producer and a performer on the I-Land series where she’s KC, a decidedly not nice person. For a much more positive character, she portrayed Lois Lane in Superman Returns.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider is back with another Incidental Comics.
  • R.E. Parrish reveals the secret history of Dune.
  • Tom Gauld’s Guardian cartoon is a challenge to writers.

(10) MEDIA TIE-INS. WNYC’s On the Media podcast discusses “Everything You Never Knew About Movie Novelizations”.

Write a great book and you’re a genius. Turn a book into a great film and you’re a visionary. Turn a great film into a book…that’s another story.

Novelizations of films are regular best-sellers with cult followings — some are even more beloved than the films that spawned them — but respected they are not. Instead, they’re assumed to be the literary equivalent of merchandise: a way for the movie studios to make a few extra bucks, and a job for writers who aren’t good enough to do anything else. But the people who write them beg to differ.

Back in 2016, former OTM producer Jesse Brenneman went inside the world of novelizations; featuring authors Max Allan CollinsAlan Dean FosterElizabeth Hand, and Lee Goldberg.

(11) STEAMPUNK MASKS. “Metallic Masks by Dmitriy Bragin” a English Russia.

Steampunk masks from Dmitry Bragin. The author uses various textures and mechanical parts, for example, tiny gears, as well as patterns that look like organic roots. While wearing such a mask, one looks like a hybrid of a car and a man….

(12) SO LAST YEAR. Screen Rant says these were “The Best Sci-Fi Movies Of 2021”. I’m a big fan of their #2 pick, Free Guy.

… On the surface, it would seem 2021 continued long-established genre trends, with sci-fi thrillers such as Mark Raso’s Awake and Everardo Gout’s The Forever Purge painting portraits of a bleak and savage near-future. Some new titles this year, such as The Suicide Squad and Boss Level, go even further, reveling in the almost limitless and often absurd bounds of the science fiction film arena. Other new signposts for the genre, such as the Hugh Jackman-led Reminiscence or I’m Your Man, spin tales of obsession and enforced inertia akin to Solaris, although even these stories hail from dystopian futures where technology still reveals humanity’s darker side….

2. Free Guy

Free Guy is a breath of fresh air that sheds the bounds of typical dystopian storytelling in favor of high-concept, high-octane fun that hinges on the classic sci-fi idea of multiple realities. Stripping away Free Guy‘s layers of gaming Easter eggs, dazzling visuals, and Deadpool-Esque Ryan Reynolds jokes do little to detract from the sheer enjoyability of the coming of age story at the movie’s core. Whereas movies like The Matrix and The Truman Show offer bleak versions of a reality oft-unseen by their protagonists, Free Guy emulates its main characters by quickly becoming a self-aware send-up of other self-important science fiction entries. Disney’s Free Guy may well be an unabashed crowdpleaser of a film, but it also translates as a very polished slice of sci-fi fun that becomes more nuanced with each subsequent viewing.

(13) PATTON PRESCIENT. “Patton Oswalt Reacts to Video Showing Him Predict ‘Book of Boba Fett’ Scene” at Complex.

In a 2013 episode of Parks and RecreationPatton Oswalt delivered a speech about Boba Fett that appears to bear a striking resemblance to the new Star Wars Disney+ show The Book of Boba Fett….

After it was pointed out to Oswalt on Twitter, he reacted with enthusiasm.

“To say I’m touched is putting it lightly,” he wrote. “And yeah, Book of Boba Fett ROCKS. YOU’RE WELCOME.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Robin A. Reid, Chris Barkley, David Doering, 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 Jim Henley.]