Pixel Scroll 1/11/23 A Song Of Fur And Mice

(1) BRINGS THE MESSAGE. During last night’s Golden Globes ceremony CNN reports “Michelle Yeoh would not be played off during Golden Globes acceptance speech”.

Michelle Yeoh won best performance by an actress in a musical or comedy motion picture for her role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at the Golden Globes on Tuesday night, a career first for the veteran actress.

Though she had to stop her acceptance speech momentarily to threaten violence to the Golden Globes powers-that-be for trying to play her off (joking, “Shut up, please; I can beat you up”), her remarks centered on her journey in Hollywood.

“I remember when I first came to Hollywood, it was a dream come true until I came here … Someone said to me: ‘You speak English?’ And then I said: ‘Yeah, the flight here was about 13 hours long, so I learned,” she said….

… “We all know that it’s so hard,” she added on Tuesday night. “I think any immigrant that comes here will tell you how difficult it is and of sometimes failing and not being able to find it.”

(2) SOME WINDOWS OPEN, OTHERS DON’T. Public Domain Review’s post “Happy Public Domain Day 2023!” begins with a caution about what’s not entering public domain this year.

…Each January 1st is Public Domain Day, where a new crop of works have their copyrights expire and become free to enjoy, share, and reuse for any purpose. Due to differing copyright laws around the world, there is no one single public domain, but there are three definitions which cover most cases. For these three systems, newly entering the public domain today are:

  • works by people who died in 1952, for countries with a copyright term of “life plus 70 years” (e.g. UK, Russia, most of EU and South America);
  • works by people who died in 1972, for countries with a term of “life plus 50 years” (e.g. New Zealand, and most of Africa and Asia);
  • films and books (incl. artworks featured) published in 1927 for the United States.

We normally have Canada listed in the second system above, but in a disappointing development, there’ll be no new published works entering the public domain in Canada next year (nor for the next 20 years) after they retroactively extended copyrights on published works from life of the author plus 50 years years to plus 70 years.

There will also be no new sound recordings entering the US public domain this year. Last year we saw a mammoth release of historical sound recordings become copyright-free, but it won’t be until 2024 that those from 1923 will join them.

Some of you may have been following our advent-style countdown calendar which revealed day-by-day through December our highlights for these new public domain entrants. The last window was opened yesterday, and while such a format was fun for the slow reveal, for the sake of a good gorgeable list we’ve exploded the calendar out into a digestible array below….

(3) THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, AND THE NOT-SO-QUICK. “A romance author was believed to be dead. When she appeared to return, the story got more complicated”CNN tries to sort it out.

In September 2020, fans and friends of Susan Meachen received devastating news. The romance writer’s Facebook account posted a message saying she had died. A later post claimed she had taken her own life and suggested her actions were the results of online bullying by others in her thriving, close-knit online writing group.

Over the next two years, her fellow writers and loyal followers helped keep her memory alive through her published works. However, her Facebook account made a shocking claim this month: Meachen was still alive, and she wanted to return to writing.

“Let the fun begin,” the post concluded.

The bizarre post plunged Meachen’s fans and fellow writers into confusion and rage. Did the woman they had considered a friend, a colleague and a mentor stage a devastating, years-long ruse? Those who spoke to CNN say the scandal has threatened to upend the trust and collaboration that keeps their independent publishing community going. More than that, their search for answers after years of mourning has only turned up more questions….

Camestros Felapton also looked at the coverage given to these developments by Michael Gallagher and Declan Finn, who tried to inject their Upstream Reviews blog into the story, in “Twists…”.

…So getting more mainstream promotion by accounts oblivious to the nature of the site was a bit of a coup for them, all fuelled by the possible-zombie Susan Meachen replying to their direct message. However…it is now unclear if Susan Meachen did reply to them at all. After publishing the responses, claims have been made that the Twitter account they DM’d is fake.

Upstream Reviews has since retracted the responses from Susan Meachen…

(4) A LITTLE LIST. Eric Adelson has assembled “An unofficial list of the most influential science fiction works ever” for the Washington Post.

On a Monday evening last September, a NASA spacecraft intentionally blasted into an asteroid in deep space. The goal was planetary defense — protecting our planet from the kind of wayward rock that could end civilization as we know it. The unprecedented moment seemed surreal, with a camera from the craft sending footage back to Earth of a large asteroid getting bigger and bigger until — pow! — impact. It was both incredible and credible — equal parts jaw-dropping and successful in its proof of concept.

Who could have imagined such a thing?

Well, science fiction writers did.

“Crashing big things into celestial objects goes all the way back to the 1930s stories of Edmond ‘World Wrecker’ Hamilton,” Lisa Yaszek, regents professor of science fiction studies at Georgia Tech, wrote in a text message. “In ‘Thundering Worlds,’ we throw Mercury at an invading alien army to save the rest of the solar system.”…

(5) COLLECTORMANIA. Heritage Auctions sent out an email promoting its top 2022 sales. Among them was the “Margaret Hamilton ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ Hourglass from The Wizard of Oz” that went for $495,000, and the “Dracula (Universal, 1931). Fine/Very Fine on Paper. Insert” that fetched $228,000. And there were many more comics and game items at the top of the list.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

2000 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Metheglin from Charles de Lint’s Forest of the Heart

Metheglin figures into Charles de Lint’s Forest of the Heart because the theme here is based heavily upon the pre-British Greenman imagery and the myth that comes out of it, and one the characters here is Welsh. 

There’s also a very great scene of a Celtic music session in this novel.

You can read the first chapter, courtesy of Charles, here.

She took a sip, bracing herself, but the liquid went down smooth as silk, with the full-body of a fine brandy. Not until it had settled in her stomach did she realize the kick it had. She gasped and her eyes began to tear. But a fluttering warmth spread through her and the sour taste was finally gone. The liqueur held a faint bouquet of honey and herbs, of a field of wildflowers. It was like drinking a piece of summer and for a moment she almost thought she could hear the buzz of bees, feel the heat of a hot summer’s day.

‘Wow,’ she said and peered into the mouth of the flask. She caught a glimpse of a light, yellowish-amber liquid. ‘What is this stuff?’

‘Metheglin,’ the man told her. ‘A kind of Welsh whiskey made from hops and honey. Have some more,’ he added when she started to hand the flask back.

Ellie did, this time rolling the liquid around in her mouth before finally swallowing it. She looked down at the flask, noting the fine filigree worked into the metal before her eyes teared up again. She drew in a sharp breath, savoring the bite of the cold as it hit the roof of her mouth.

‘So where would you find it in a liquor store?’ she asked. ‘Under whiskeys or…you said it was made from hops. That’s like beer, right?’

Except she’d never tasted either a whiskey or a beer that was this good.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. It would have made a Hell of a movie with the right script and such. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to the novel. There are three different publishers selling it on the usual suspects, all three legit. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: the Hugo nominated “Mirror, Mirror”, and “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”.  With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which the Hugo nominated Fantastic Voyage series, and Isaac Asimov novel were based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First genre role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with SF film World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time Machine (which I suspect you’ve heard of), Colossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 11, 1952 Diana Gabaldon, 71. I have friends who read her and enjoy immensely her Outlander series. They also avidly look forward to every new episode of the Outlander television series. Any of y’all fans of either? 
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 62. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted word play as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I’ve not, though I may be wrong, read his Shades of Grey books and I know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 60. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly (including the music which was done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of). He also played Jondar in the “Vengeance on Varos” story on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (my least favorite Doctor by far). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins.
  • Born January 11, 1972 Amanda Peet, 51. Not a long SFF précis but an interesting one none-the-less.  She first shows up voicing Maria Montez in Battle for Terra. She was then Harlee in Martian Child which is at least genre adjacent. She was ASAC Dakota Whitney in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Say did you know that Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey was paid for in part by NASA? Way cool. She voiced Ranger in it. 

(8) CAP’S NEXT ADVENTURE. Tensions erupt between Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson as Captain America: Cold War begins. The upcoming crossover between Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty and Captain America: Symbol Of Truth, kicks off in April. More information here from Marvel. 

It’s all been leading to this! Last year, a new era of Captain America began as both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson picked up the shield and embarked on separate journeys in the pages of Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, and Carmen Carnero’s Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty and Tochi Onyebuchi and R.B. Silva’s Captain America: Symbol Of Truth. This April, the two Captains will reunite for Captain America: Cold War, an explosive crossover event that will make them question everything they believe in…and each other….

(9) DR. ARTIE MATIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] What could be more helpful than having your mental and emotional health evaluated by something that doesn’t have a brain or emotions? How about doing so without your knowledge or permission? Ars Technica reports “Controversy erupts over non-consensual AI mental health experiment”.

On Friday, Koko co-founder Rob Morris announced on Twitter that his company ran an experiment to provide AI-written mental health counseling for 4,000 people without informing them first, The Verge reports. Critics have called the experiment deeply unethical because Koko did not obtain informed consent from people seeking counseling.

Koko is a nonprofit mental health platform that connects teens and adults who need mental health help to volunteers through messaging apps like Telegram and Discord.

On Discord, users sign into the Koko Cares server and send direct messages to a Koko bot that asks several multiple-choice questions (e.g., “What’s the darkest thought you have about this?”). It then shares a person’s concerns—written as a few sentences of text—anonymously with someone else on the server who can reply anonymously with a short message of their own….

(10) GO AND CHANGE YOUR ARMOR. The Daily Record remembers “The abandoned Scottish mine that starred as a Monty Python filming location”.

Nestled away in Perth and Kinross is an abandoned mine that may look unimpressive to most, but will be instantly recognisable to any Monty Python fan.

Tomnadashan Mine was constructed in the 19th century by John Campbell, 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane, in an attempt to mine copper, gold, and sulphur. This venture proved unsuccessful and the mine was deserted after his death.

It wasn’t until over 100 years later that the mine would gain a second life as the backdrop for one of the most iconic scenes in comedy history. Those who have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail will no doubt be familiar with the Rabbit of Caerbannog….

(11) STILL A VIRGIN. “Attempt at First Satellite Launch From Britain Fails” reports the New York Times.

Britain’s attempt to get into the space launch business on Monday night came up short when a 70-foot rocket stuffed with satellites failed to reach orbit, Virgin Orbit, the company providing the launch service, said.

An hour after takeoff from an airstrip in Cornwall, in southwest England, a modified Boeing 747 released the rocket, which fired away as planned. It was supposed to take nine satellites up into low orbital positions 300 or more miles above the Earth. But Virgin Orbit said in a statement on Tuesday that the system had experienced an “anomaly” while the rocket’s second-stage engine was being fired. It had been traveling at more than 11,000 miles per hour when the mission ended prematurely.

Dan Hart, the chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said in the statement that “the first-time nature” of the mission had added layers of complexities, and that a “technical failure” appeared to have occurred. “We will work tirelessly to understand the nature of the failure, make corrective actions and return to orbit as soon as we have completed a full investigation and mission assurance process,” he said.

People in Britain’s space industry said the goal — launching satellites from British soil for the first time — would have huge importance even though Virgin Orbit, which was founded by the British entrepreneur Richard Branson, is a California company….

(12) PREHISTORIC COSTUME COMPETITION. [Item by Michael Toman.] “Humans First Started Wearing Clothes At Least 300,000 Years Ago, New Research Finds” at Open Culture.

Artist’s conception….

That people wore clothes back in the Stone Age will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who grew up watching The Flintstones. That show, never wholly reliant on established archaeological fact, didn’t get too specific about its time period. But it turns out, based on recently published discoveries by a team of researchers from the University of Tübingen, the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, and Leiden University, that Stone Agers were dressing themselves as early as 300,000 years ago — over one hundred millennia earlier than previously thought.

“This is suggested by cut marks on the metatarsal and phalanx of a cave bear discovered at the Lower Paleolithic site of Schöningen in Lower Saxony, Germany,” says the University of Tübingen’s site. The location of such marks indicate that the bear was not simply butchered but carefully skinned….

(13) SPIN DOCTORS. Inertia by Mark Everglade (Rockhill Publishing) features a young geophysicist, Ash, and her father who must solve the ecological crisis of a planet spinning out of control, using the latest cybernetics while evading an oppressive regime profiting off the destruction. 

Gliese 581g is the last remaining colony of the human race, located twenty light years from Earth. The planet was once tidal locked to its sun, with one side draped in darkness and the other half always bright. This changed after a radical group called O.A.K. increased the planet’s rotation to bring daylight cycles to all in the name of equality. All was not well, however, as decades passed, and new generations dealt with continual floods as the newfound sunlight melted the icecaps. Entire neighborhoods went aquatic from rising sea levels. Soon, the planet was spinning out of control, with sunrises occurring every few hours.

Ash and her father discover a research lab where Severum uncovers a connection between Geosturm and the Old Guard, a scion of the now defunct Government of Evig Natt led by Eduardo Culptos. The Old Guard seek to restore their power over the hemisphere by accelerating the planet’s rotation at breakneck speed, exacerbating the negative ecological effects, as they convince the public that the planet was better off in darkness. They’re motivated by the wealth they obtained back when light was scarce and commodified, and seek a restoration of their influence.

The book is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. Author Mark Everglade has spent his life studying social conflict. He runs the website www.markeverglade.com where he reviews cyberpunk media and interviews the greats.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Screen Junkies’ “Honest Trailers: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” begins with a spoiler warning. So we’ll not blab further in this introduction.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/6/22 But Here’s My Pixel, So Scroll Me, Maybe?

(1) HARPERCOLLINS STRIKE NEWS. HarperCollins president and CEO Brian Murray, in “An Open Letter to Authors and Agents”, today addressed the company’s stalled negotiations with the United Auto Workers union which represents employees whose strike is now in its 19th day.

… Our current compensation offerings are consistent with our peers in the publishing industry. During recent negotiations, we proposed a fair and reasonable pay structure, including increases to entry level salaries. Based on publicly available information, HarperCollins’s proposed compensation increases would provide for a higher starting salary than any other major New York publisher. As well, we offer a minimum of six and a half weeks paid time off for all full-time employees (increasing with tenure), four “work from anywhere” weeks, overtime pay for those qualifying, and generous health and wellness benefits.

As with the entire industry, HarperCollins continues to contend with ongoing challenges to publishing and its underlying economics. The financial requests made by United Auto Workers, which are many and far reaching, fail to account for the market dynamics of the publishing industry and our responsibility to meet the financial demands of all our business stakeholders—including all employees, authors, and booksellers….

(2) PICKETER SPEAKS. Striking HarperCollins employee Rye White tells readers what’s going on in “HarperCollins Strike Dispatch” at N+1.

… Leading up to this year’s strike, the anxiety and frustration from union members toward the company was palpable even over video meetings and emails. HarperCollins still largely operates remotely (although good old Brian has since issued a mandate to change this), and it’s generally difficult when you work from your own living space to feel fully connected to the whole. Many people, myself included, are pandemic hires. We’ve seldom, if ever, actually come down to work in the office. Even so, our union’s organizing committee met with nearly every individual member for one-on-one chats about questions and concerns, and we were greeted with an enormous amount of careful consideration. What do we do if bosses pressure us to write out instructions for how to handle our everyday tasks? What will happen to our authors? Each of us understood the power in this decision. When it came time to vote, out of 200 or so members, more than 190 voted to authorize.

The first two days of the strike, we asked anyone who could make the commute to come down to 195 Broadway for maximum turnout and maximum noise. In the last two weeks, I’ve met many of my coworkers for the first time, put faces to names I’d only ever seen over email, and have learned about many people’s personal struggles and motivations and frustrations. “I feel closer to you all than ever before,” one picket captain noted in a recent weekly debrief meeting. “This is definitely a weird time, but I feel the camaraderie and it’s really meaningful.”…

(3) AUREALIS AWARDS. The deadline for entering work for the Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards, is December 14.

All work published (or planned for publication) between January 1 and December 31, 2022 needs to be entered by this deadline. Enter your Australian speculative fiction work in the Aurealis Awards here.

(4) IN FRIGHTENING TECHNICOLOR. Headlining “Heritage’s Most Star-Studded Entertainment Auction Ever” is “The Wicked Witch of the West Hourglass — the Most Famous and Recognizable Timepiece in Film History.” They’re looking for an opening bid of $400,000.

….Three decades since it was last offered at auction, and after years of being displayed in myriad museums and traveling exhibitions – including Los Angeles Public Library’s Getty Gallery – it’s time once again for The Wicked Witch of the West’s hourglass to return to market. This meticulously constructed piece – made of wood, papier-mâché and handblown glass filled with red glitter and decorated with gargoyles keeping watch over the witch’s castle – is perhaps the most recognizable timepiece in cinema history. It is the very instrument the Wicked Witch uses to count down the moments Dorothy has to live – a beautiful thing no matter the moment, and forever linked to some of our earliest Technicolor nightmares.

The hourglass, which stands nearly two feet tall, was first available as part of MGM’s landmark 1970 auction, among “the things dreams were once made of.” The studio actually reused the prop a handful of times after its appearance in Oz, including in 1941’s Babes on Broadway – starring, amazingly enough, Judy Garland alongside Mickey Rooney in the Busby Berkeley-directed “Backyard Musical” (with Vincente Minnelli helming his wife’s sequences)….

(5) RAY BRADBURY SQUARE. Ten years ago today the intersection near L.A. library was named for Ray Bradbury. Read all about it in John King Tarpinian’s 2012 post “A Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood”. Plus photos, including this one of the official sign.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1938 [By Cat Eldridge.] Mother Goose in Central Park

Continuing our exploration of characters from the fantasy genre is our look at the Mother Goose statue in Central Park.

The figure of Mother Goose is the imaginary author of a collection of French fairy tales and later of English nursery rhymes. Mother Goose in English dates back to the early Eighteenth Century, when Charles Perrault’s Contes de ma Mère l’Oye fairy tale collection was first translated into English as Tales of My Mother Goose. English writers quickly created their own collections of Mother Goose tales.

This granite statue by Frederick Roth, installed at the entrance to Rumsey Playfield in Central Park in 1938, shows a woman flying atop a goose. She has a pointy hat, purse, cloak, buckled shoe, and one very unhappy-looking cat riding the clouds.

Several other nursery rhyme characters are carved into its sides from five of the Mother Goose stories — Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole, Little Jack Horner, Mother Hubbard, and Mary and her little lamb. I’m only going to show you the flying woman atop a goose and the cat as I think it’s the best part of the statue.

The Park went on to commission two more such statues, Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen and the Ugly Duckling.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 6, 1893 Sylvia Townsend Warner. Do yourself a favor and look up a bio of her as she’s a fascinating person. This lovely site is a good place to do so. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes or, The Loving Huntsman, is definitely genre. ISFDB lists four genre collections by her. Kingdoms of Elfin is available on on Kindle Kindle, Lolly Willowes everywhere the usual suspects are. (Died 1978.)
  • Born December 6, 1900 Agnes Moorehead. I’m assuming that the statute of limitations for spoilers has long passed on this particular show. I’m referring to The Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders” in which she never spoke a word as she fought off the tiny Invaders, human astronauts, and she a giant alien. Written especially for her by Richard Matheson. (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1924 Wally Cox. Ok, who can resist the voice of the Underdog series which ran from 1964 to 1967? I certainly can’t. He was in Babes in ToylandThe Twilight ZoneMission: ImpossibleLost in SpaceGet SmartThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E.QuarantinedNight Gallery and Once Upon a Mattress. Warning: anything with him in it on YouTube or Vimeo is still under copyright so please don’t link to it. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 6, 1953 Tom Hulce, 69. Oscar-nominated screen and stage actor and producer. His first genre role was in a highly-praised performance as the lead in the American Playhouse broadcast of The Rise and Rise of Daniel Rocket, about a young boy who discovers that he can fly. Although the bulk of his career has been in the theater, his most notable genre film role was as Henry Clerval in Kenneth Branagh’s Saturn-nominated Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was nominated for an Annie Award for his voice performance of Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and appeared in the films Stranger than Fiction and Jumper.
  • Born December 6, 1957 Arabella Weir, 65. A performer with two Who appearances, the first in “Exile,” a Big Finish audio, released in 2003. Almost a decade later Weir appeared on screen as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of DarknessGenie in the HouseRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and even a genre adjacent Midsomer Murders
  • Born December 6, 1962 Colin Salmon, 60. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories, and was Walter Steele on Arrow. He most recently played General Zod on Krypton He was, alas, Ben in that clunker of films, Mortal Engines.
  • Born December 6, 1969 Torri Higginson, 53. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in one episode of Stargate SG-1 and the entire Stargate Atlantis series. Her most recent genre roles was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients, and Commander Delaney Truffault in the Dark Matter series. 

(8) COMIC SECTION.

  • Sure, Thanksgiving is over, but Herman has another reason not to decorate for Christmas yet.

(9) REALITY OVERTAKES SCIENCE FICTION. ScreenRant lists “10 Pieces Of Technology Where Reality Did Better Than The Movies, According To Reddit”.

It’s been over half a century since science fiction’s golden age of the ’60s and ’70s, and a lot of the movie technology that initially seemed advanced at the time now seems woefully out of date. Today’s reality has surpassed what was once thought of as science fiction and Redditors have come together to discuss some of the examples they think are the most blatant…

For one example:

User Interface

User interface is one of the most complicated fields in technology. They can often be visually striking, but they’re chiefly made to be easily navigated. Movies don’t really get this. As Redditor YZJay comments, UI shown in movies is “hilariously unusable in terms of design, low contrast, weak indicators of what are interactive, waaaay too much animations etc.”

UI in movies animate far too much to be useful, and they have too many transitions and sparkly effects. As mentioned, ease of navigation is the priority and the UI in movies is usually way too complicated or patience-testing to use. It makes one thankful for more basic, minimalist designs.

(10) SHRUNKEN EDS. Open Culture remembers “The Fiske Reading Machine: The 1920s Precursor to the Kindle”.

The Sony Librie, the first e-reader to use a modern electronic-paper screen, came out in 2004. Old as that is in tech years, the basic idea of a handheld device that can store large amounts of text stretches at least eight decades farther back in history. Witness the Fiske Reading Machine, an invention first profiled in a 1922 issue of Scientific American. “The instrument, consisting of a tiny lens and a small roller for operating this eyepiece up and down a vertical column of reading-matter, is a means by which ordinary typewritten copy, when photographically reduced to one-hundredth of the space originally occupied, can be read with quite the facility that the impression of conventional printing type is now revealed to the unaided eye,” writes author S. R. Winters.

Making books compatible with the Fiske Reading Machine involved not digitization, of course, but miniaturization. According to the patents filed by inventor Bradley Allen Fiske (eleven in all, between 1920 and 1935), the text of any book could be photo-engraved onto a copper block, reduced ten times in the process, and then printed onto strips of paper for use in the machine, which would make them readable again through a magnifying lens….. 

(11) WILL WORK FOR APPLAUSE. Here’s what we’ve got to have: “Star Wars (‘The Mandalorian’) The Child Talking Clapper with Night Light”. (See video demo on YouTube.)

From Star Wars Mandalorian it’s The Child Clapper with Night Light! Known as “Baby Yoda” to fans, The Child Clapper is the cutest way to operate an appliance with two claps. Clap 3 times to turn on the night light and hear quotes from the show. Hear, “The kid is coming with me” when the night light is turned on and “Come on baby, do the magic hand thing” when it’s turned off. 

(12) THE HOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS. “Physicists Create ‘the Smallest, Crummiest Wormhole You Can Imagine’” for reasons explained by the New York Times. It’s a simulation, not the real thing, however.

…In their report, published Wednesday in Nature, the researchers described the result in measured words: “This work is a successful attempt at observing traversable wormhole dynamics in an experimental setting.”

… The wormhole that Dr. Spiropulu and her colleagues created and exploited is not a tunnel through real physical space but rather through an “emergent” two-dimensional space. The “black holes” were not real ones that could swallow the computer but lines of code in a quantum computer. Strictly speaking, the results apply only to a simplified “toy model” of a universe — in particular, one that is akin to a hologram, with quantum fields on the edge of space-time determining what happens within, sort of in the way that the label on a soup can describes the contents….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Emergency Awesome delivers a “Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special FULL Breakdown, Marvel Easter Eggs and Things You Missed”.

The special went live (on Disney+) during Thanksgiving weekend. Daniel Dern says, “We finally watched it last night; a lotta fun. It’s also worthwhile to then watch one of the ‘abouts’ for more on the lesser-known characters, in-jokes, cameos, and implications for the Marvel movie universe.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/22 Hush, Little Pixel, Don’t You Cry; Papa’s Going To Sing You A Scroll

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Universal Waste” by Palmer Holton, a story about a small-town cop, a murder, and a massive futuristic recycling operation.

It was published along with a response essay, “The Laws of Thermodynamics Will Not Bend for Landfills” by Josh Lepawsky, a researcher on pollution and waste at Memorial University in Canada.

(2) WISCON 2023. Kit Stubbs, Treasurer of SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, rallies everyone with the hashtag Let’s #RebuildWisCon!

WisCon 46 in 2023 is happening!
We are thrilled to announce that Gillian Sochor (she/her, G is soft like “giraffe”, Sochor like “super soaker”) is joining Lindsey and Sherry as our third co-chair. This means we are going ahead with an in-person con for 2023!…

Finances
Thanks to everyone who donated and offered matching gifts last year, we were able to cover the cost of our 2022 hotel contract. We are now looking to raise $30,000 in this year’s annual fundraiser which will allow us to do all kinds of awesome things for WisCon 46 in May 2023, including:

Offset the cost of hotel rooms for members who need to isolate due to COVID-19 and who otherwise might not be able to due to the financial burden

Purchase more high-quality air filters for con spaces and masks for members

Expand the meal voucher program, introduced last year, which enables members in need to eat for free at local restaurants

Continue to offer CART services for transcription, now that the state of Wisconsin is no longer providing funds to offset that cost

And part of that $30,000 will go towards rebuilding WisCon’s savings after last year.

If you weren’t aware, WisCon can’t pay for itself with registrations alone. We try to keep the cost of registration down to make our con as affordable as possible. But what that means is that we’re counting on the members of our community who can chip in extra to do so! Please donate today to help #RebuildWisCon!…

WisCon Member Assistance Fund
This year we’re also looking to raise $3,000 for our WisCon Member Assistance Fund! The WMAF is a specially designated fund that can only be used to provide travel grants to help members attend WisCon. Please consider making a donation via PayPal.

(3) THIS COULD BE YOUR BIG BREAK! Daniel Dern says he won’t be covering Arisia 2023, and suggests I ask another Filer would be interested in getting a press credential to attend and reporting on the convention The upcoming Arisia will be held from January 13-16, 2023, at the Westin Boston Seaport hotel. Vaccination Verification required. If you’re game, email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will put you in touch with the con. 

(4) GOTHAM AWARDS. Everything Everywhere All at Once, the multiverse-spanning adventure, won Best Feature at the Gotham Awards 2022 reports Variety. And cast member Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Performance.   I don’t know why I’ve never heard of the Gotham Awards before, but if they keep going to sff movies I’ll be talking about them in the Scroll again.

(5) NEXT YEAR’S LOSCON. Loscon 49 will be held over Thanksgiving Weekend in 2023. The theme: “Enchanted Loscon”. Guests of Honor — Writer: Peter S. Beagle; Artist: Echo Chernik; Fan: Elayne Pelz. At the LAX Marriott Hotel from November 24-26, 2023. More information at: www.loscon.org.

(6) ZOOMIN’ ABOUT PITTSBURGH. The last FANAC Fan History Zoom of 2022 will be on December 10, about the major fannish breakout in Pittsburgh in the late Sixties and Seventies. Write to [email protected] if you want to get on the list to see it live.

(7) THE BARD IS OPEN. CrimeReads hears from Mary Robinette Kowal “On Writing a New Take on The Thin Man, Set in Space”, about the experience of creating her latest novel.

…Science fiction and fantasy, on the other hand, are driven by the aesthetic. They are about the look and feel. The sense of wonder. They don’t have an inherent plot structure. 

This means that you can map Science Fiction onto a Mystery structure easily. 

When I decided I wanted to do “The Thin Man in space,” I needed to understand the structure of the Nick and Nora movies specifically. So I began by watching all six of the films. This was a great hardship, as I’m sure you can imagine.  Here are some of the beats that are in all of the films: A happily married couple and their small dog solve crime while engaging in banter and drinking too much. Interestingly, they also contain the element that Nick does not want to investigate and Nora really wants him to.  Nick almost always gets along well with law enforcement. He has an uneasy relationship with the wealth of Nora’s family. There’s always a scene in which he goes off sleuthing on his own and carefully looks over a crime scene. More than one murder. 

From there, I started building the world of the novel. THAT is the hallmark of science-fiction and fantasy. We engage in worldbuilding in which we think about how changing an element or introducing a technology has ripple effects. For this, I knew I wanted to be on a cruise ship in space. There’s a writing workshop that my podcast, Writing Excuses, runs every year on a cruise ship. I based my ship, the ISS Lindgren on the types of things that happen on those and extrapolated for the future…. 

(8) UNDER THE HAMMER: GRRM SIGNED MSS. Heritage Auctions is taking bids the rest of the day on “George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts of Game of Thrones”. Bidding was up to $10,500 when last checked.

George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts of Game of Thrones. Includes: 1 box, 384 leaves. Typed, dated November 1994. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie. [Together with]: 3 boxes, 888 leaves. Typed, dated July 1995. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie.

Two early drafts of the first book from A Song of Ice and Fire, the hit HBO series and international phenomenon.

The impact that A Game of Thrones has had on the fantasy genre, both as a novel and a television series, is almost impossible to exaggerate. Named to the BBC list of “100 ‘most inspiring’ novels” in 2019 alongside C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, it almost single-handedly cemented “grimdark” as a fantasy subgenre and helped inspire the likes of Joe Abercrombie and Marlon James, both masters of fantasy in their own right. The overwhelming success of the HBO show redefined fantasy for the general public and has been lauded by both authors and publishers as responsible for boosted sales in fantasy and science fiction….

…As is his typical process, Martin created five copies of each draft of Game of Thrones. Two were kept for his personal files; one was sent to his editor; a fourth was given to Texas A&M University where the archive of Martin’s oeuvre resides; and this, the fifth and final copy, was initially donated to a ConQuesT charity auction, held annually in Kansas City. Parris McBride, Martin’s wife, hoped the charity would get “a few bucks for them;” alas, no one bid on the items. They were then picked up by one of the original book researchers for A Song of Ice and Fire, and from there found their way to Heritage….

(9) AMAZING STORIES KICKSTARTER FINAL WEEK ANNOUNCEMENT. Amazing Stories is in the FINAL week of raising funds through its Kickstarter for “Amazing Stories Annual Special: SOL SYSTEM by Steve Davidson”.

Our annual special issue – Amazing Stories: SOL SYSTEM – a double-sized issue, both in digital and print, of Amazing Stories. It will be chock full of stories set in exciting futures within our solar system. The publication is set for April 2023.

We’re also planning an online convention for April 2023 to celebrate this issue as well. Most of the contributing authors will be there!

We’re really excited about this and we know you’ll love it. Backers of our Kickstarter can choose digital copies of the magazine, print copies, convention memberships, and many more bonus add-ons as well.

(10) THE WATTYS. The winners of Wattpad’s 2022 Watty Awards have posted. The Grand Prize Winner, worth $5,000, is Nichole Cava’s The Vampire Always Bites Twice.

There are also Category Award winners for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, and Fanfiction, to name a few. The website’s format makes it hard to distinguish the shortlist and the winner – more work than I was willing to invest. If you want to try, they’re all at the link.

– Wattpad, the global entertainment company and leading webnovel platform, announced the 2022 Watty Award winners! With over 500 winners across nine languages, the 2022 Watty Awards were the biggest edition yet. This year’s USD $5,000 English-language grand prize went to Nichole Cava for The Vampire Always Bites Twice (55.1K reads), which follows a criminal necromancer and vampire private eye that unexpectedly team up to solve the case of a missing barista. 

In addition to cash prizes, 2022 Watty Award prizes included multiple publishing and entertainment adaptation opportunities from Wattpad WEBTOON Studios and the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group. Among the more than 30,000 entries for the 2022 Watty Awards, these winning stories were selected…

(11) PYUN OBITUARY. Albert Pyun, director of Cyborg, Interstellar Civil War, Tales of an Ancient Empire,  the Saturn-winning The Sword and the Sorceror and the 1990 version of Captain America, has died November 26 at 69, after several years of dementia and multiple sclerosis.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Dorothy and Toto in Oz Park (2007)

Fifteen years ago, a very special statue went up in Oz. No, not that Oz, but the park in Chicago, so first let’s talk about that park. It had been developed as part of the Lincoln Park Urban Renewal Area during the Seventies, and this park was formally named the Oz Park in 1976 to honor Baum who settled in Chicago in 1891 in an area west of the park. 

During the Nineties, the Oz Park Advisory Council and Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce hired Chicago artist John Kearney to do all the figures for the Park. 

He first created a sculpture of the Tin Man which he fashioned out of chrome bumpers. It was his last such sculpture done that way as the bumpers of chrome were increasingly scarce and thus way too expensive.

Next came the Cowardly Lion which was cast in bronze. Take a look at the detail in the fur — quite amazing, isn’t it? 

Next is the rather colorful Scarecrow that is a seven-foot-tall sculpture, cast in an amazing twenty-two separate pieces in Kearney’s own foundry on Cape Cod.  

Now we come to the last statue, Dorothy and Toto. This final statue to be completed was Dorothy and Toto, using the so-called lost wax technique which you can see an example of here being done. Kearney added paint for the blue dress and the iconic ruby red shoes. The final statue was installed fifteen years ago. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 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 are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and a host of other awards, and has been made into a 2003 television film and a theatrical film directed by Ava DuVernay. She produced numerous loosely-linked sequels, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. In addition to her fiction, she wrote poetry and nonfiction, much of which related to her universalist form of Christian faith. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1997. In 2013, Crater L’Engle on Mercury was named for her. (Died 2007.) (JJ)
  • Born November 29, 1925 Leigh Couch. Science Teacher and Member of First Fandom. Active in fandom, along with her husband and children, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association and one of the editors of its fanzine Sirruish. She was on the committee for the bid to host Worldcon in Hawaii in 1981. She was honored for her contributions as Fan Guest of Honor at the first Archon, the long-running regional convention which grew out of that early St. Louis-area fandom. (Died 1998.) (JJ)
  • Born November 29, 1942 Maggie Thompson, 80. Librarian, Editor, and Fan who, with her husband Don, edited from the 1960s to the 90s the fanzines Harbinger, Comic Art, Rainy Days, and Newfangles, and wrote a column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom. When this became the professional publication Comic Buyer’s Guide in 1983, because of their extensive knowledge of comics, she and her husband were hired as editors; after he died in 1994, she continued as editor until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their editorial auspices, it won two Eisner Awards and the Jack Kirby Award. Together they were honored with the Inkpot Award, and twice with the Comic Fan Art Award for Favorite Fan Writers.
  • Born November 29, 1950 Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than 70 short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 53. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther / T’Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James.  I understand they did a stellar tribute to him in the new Black Panther film.  His Black Panther was nominated at Dublin 2019 for a Hugo but lost to another exemplary film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (Died 2020.)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN PANEL. The 2023 Oxford Literary Festival will host “The Great Tales Never End: in Memory of Christopher Tolkien” on March 28. Tickets available at the link.

The Bodleian’s Tolkien archivist Catherine McIlwaine, writer John Garth and academic Stuart Lee discuss the role of JRR Tolkien’s son, Christopher, in promoting the works of his father and furthering understanding about them.

McIlwaine is co-editor with Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden of The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher Tolkien, while Garth and Lee have both contributed essays. Christopher was his father’s literary executor and published 24 volumes of his father’s work over four decades, more than Tolkien published during his lifetime. The collection of essays includes reflections on Christopher’s work by world-renowned scholars and reminiscences by family members.

McIlwaine is the Tolkien archivist at the Bodleian Libraries. Garth is an author and freelance writer and editor. He is author of The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth and Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Lee is an English lecturer at the University of Oxford who lectures on fantasy literature with a focus on Tolkien. Discussions are chaired by Grace Khuri, a DPhil candidate at Oxford and the first Oxford postgraduate to write a PhD solely on Tolkien.

(16) HOW TO CONTACT THE CHENGDU WORLDCON. The Chengdu Worldcon posted this list of its “working emails”:

(17) DOING RESEARCH AND ASKING EXPERTS. Gideon P. Smith steers writers toward resources for “Writing the Science Right” at the SFWA Blog.

Getting the science right in SF can make the difference between writing cute stories and great science fiction. If you are a non-scientist writing SF and want to know how to do that, then this blog post is for you….

(18) LA ARTIST & WRITER. Some of you already know him, and All About Jazz invites the rest of you to “Meet Tony Gleeson”.

Tell Us A Bit About Yourself.

I’m an artist by vocation and a musician by avocation (I’ve played guitar all my life and picked up keyboards a couple of decades back). Music of all kinds has always been a major part of my life, but early on I made the choice to pursue the visual arts as my career. I spent my so-called formative years on the east coast, in upstate New York, Washington DC, and New York City. When I attended art school in Los Angeles, I fell in love with southern California and after a few years back in Manhattan, I persuaded my wife Annie to move there— quite an adventurous step for her as she’d never been on the West Coast. We’ve been Angelenos since 1977. We have three grown kids pursuing their own lives and adventures, but the house is hardly empty or still with our two cats, Django and Mingus, and our bird Charlie.

Annie’s been an NICU RN and I’ve run an illustration and design studio ever since we got here. I figure I’ve had around a thousand illustrations published: magazines, newspapers, book covers, catalogues and product illustrations. I’ve also done concept art for film, TV, advertising, and toy and product design.

I was a bookseller for several years early in the new millennium. I’m also a writer, with ten crime novels published in Britain and the United States. The most recent, A Different Kind of Dead, was released in the U.S. by Wildside in 2021. The new one, Find the Money, also by Wildside, is due for release before this year’s end. I’m kind of a polymath with a lot of interests (including film, baseball, classic mysteries, science fiction, and comic art) that tend to veer into obsessions….

(19) TAKEN BY SURPRISE, IN A GOOD WAY. “Slip Through Your Fingers: Thoughts on Andor by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Look, I was not expecting this. Two years and more than a dozen shows into the Disney+ experiment, I think we’ve all developed a decent enough sense of what to expect from the television incarnations of the two biggest entertainment franchises on the planet. And for the most part, these shows have been fine. Some fun moments. Some actors who are better than their material. Maybe a hint of a political idea. There was no reason for Andor—a prequel to a prequel whose original premise was already quite dodgy—to be any better.

And then it turned out to be good. Not just good for Star Wars, but just plain good. Best TV of the year good. I have to admit that I went a bit Kübler-Ross about this. First there was Anger—this show is too good to be Star Wars. No way does a story this smart, this thoughtful about the compromises of life under fascism, and the costs of rising up to resist it, exist only as a lead-in to a floppy-haired teenager doing an amusement park ride….

(20) FONT FOLLY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A memorable Saturday Night Live skit from 2017 poked a lot of fun at the “lazy choice“ of the font Papyrus for the mega-blockbuster movie Avatar. (You may not be familiar with the controversy, but it’s a real thing.)

The font designer — who was shortly out of school decades ago when he created the font — responded in good humor. Now director James Cameron finally has, too, and Slashfilm is there taking notes: “Avatar Director And Font Connoisseur James Cameron Finally Responds To SNL’s Papyrus Sketch”.

“Saturday Night Live” can be very hit or miss when it comes to their sketches, but it should come as no surprise that “Papyrus” will go down as one of their best. The bit features Ryan Gosling as a man who has disassociated from the world around him because he remembered that James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster “Avatar” used a variation of the Papyrus font for its logo. It’s the kind of thing you may think about for a second or two before moving on with your life, but the sketch from former “SNL” writer Julio Torres dedicates itself to making Gosling’s breakdown look as dramatic as possible.

Like the “Potato Chip” segment, it’s the kind of “SNL” bit that makes you laugh at how seriously everyone is playing their part with something so silly and bizarre. It’s just a logo, and yet Gosling plays it as if the material is worthy of a conspiracy thriller. Since the 2017 sketch, Cameron has given the “Avatar” logo a typeface facelift that gives the series more of an identity, although it’s not that different. It honestly looks as if the graphic designer took the modified Papyrus logo as is, and filled it with air.

The “Terminator 2” filmmaker can change the logo all he wants, but if the internet has taught me anything, it’s that it never forgets. For five years, Cameron has remained silent on the whole Papyrus conversation … until now. With the long-awaited “Avatar: The Way of Water” only weeks away, the blockbuster mastermind is finally breaking his silence.

In the January 2023 issue of Empire, James Cameron finally faces the logo demons that have been haunting him for minutes, as he jokes about how the graphic design choice got in the way of getting even more money. “Just think of how much we could have grossed if it wasn’t for that damn font,” says Cameron…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jeffrey Smith, Danny Sichel, Daniel Dern, Scott Edelman, Joey Eschrich, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 10/22/22 In Dyson’s Sphere, Did Noonian Khan, A Scrolly Fuller Dome Decree

(1) WHAT’S UP AT THE LOST AZTEC TEMPLE OF MARS? Heritage Auctions’ recent article “Harlan Ellison Collection Continues With Showcase Auction November 12th” features an interview with J. Michael Straczynski, giving a substantial update on plans for Harlan and Susan Ellison’s house.  

[Robert Wilonsky]: It’s my understanding that the sale of this artwork in November will go toward turning his home into a landmark and learning center. Can you provide some details on that, in terms of what you’d like to see happen – and how this project came to pass?

[J. Michael Straczynski]: Harlan and Susan wanted the house maintained after their passing as a memorial library, full of books (50,000 by actual count), art (the pieces in the Heritage auction represent only a small portion of what’s there), comics, amazing architecture (complete with a tower, hidden rooms, gargoyles and the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars)…a place dedicated to writing, to creativity and art and music. This is now in progress.

To ensure that things are done properly now and in the event I get hit by a car, the Estate has been transitioned into a nonprofit corporation, the Harlan and Susan Ellison Foundation. Through the Estate and, later, the Foundation, the house has been and is undergoing a series of restorations. New security systems, landscaping, repairs and the like. We want people to be able to come in small groups for tours…fans of Harlan’s work, sure, but also lovers of art and books and architecture, as well as academics who will be able to study his manuscripts and decades of correspondences with some of the most famous writers in and out of the science fiction genre. We want to host speakers talking about writing, rotating displays of art from Disney animation to comics and art deco and rare books…we’re creating an outdoor space for lectures and perhaps a wedding or two. We are also planning to secure historical/cultural landmark status for the house.

There will be scholarships set aside for new writers coming out of high school, and donations to the kind of charitable causes Harlan supported in life. To bring the house alive, we will have audio playing through the house: Harlan reading his stories in one room, speaking at a convention or a party in another, and from the writing room upstairs, his office, the sound of jazz and a typewriter. (In keeping with the Disneyland tradition where the park is never silent at night, we may keep the jazz and typewriter going 24/7.) There will be projected video displays of Harlan and Susan in various rooms, and seminars on his work and his place in literature. We are also arranging for his back catalog of books to be republished, and plan to host launch parties at the house for critics and others in the press.

Harlan deserves a special place in American letters, and his home, the Harlan and Susan Memorial Library, deserves a special place in the geography of Los Angeles, and the funds raised through this auction will be crucial to accomplishing those goals.

(2) SUBTLE AS A SLEDGEHAMMER. Norman Spinrad today sent his mailing list a link to his 2018 song “Donald Trump Agent of Satan” with the admonition, “Do I have to say that this song, video, words, is  more urgent  than ever before ? Pro bono on line, on the air, viralized, in the streets, in the churches, use it in the coming elections.”

(3) YOU’RE THE TOPS. The New York Times analyzes “How Colleen Hoover Rose to Rule the Best-Seller List”. Some of her work is genre.

…She holds six of the top 10 spots on The New York Times’s paperback fiction best-seller list, a stunning number of simultaneous best sellers from a single author. She has sold 8.6 million print books this year alone — more copies than the Bible, according to NPD BookScan.

And her success — a shock that she’s still processing, she said — has upended the publishing industry’s most entrenched assumptions about what sells books.

When she self-published her first young adult novel, “Slammed,” in January of 2012, Hoover was making $9 an hour as a social worker, living in a single-wide trailer with her husband, a long-distance truck driver, and their three sons. She was elated when she made $30 in royalties. It was enough to pay the water bill.

Hoover, 42, didn’t have a publisher, an agent or any of the usual marketing machinery that goes into engineering a best seller: the six-figure marketing campaigns, the talk-show and podcast tours, the speaking gigs and literary awards, the glowing reviews from mainstream book critics.

But seven months later, “Slammed” hit the New York Times best-seller list. By May, Hoover had made $50,000 in royalties, money she used to pay back her stepfather for the trailer. By the summer, with two books on the best-seller list — “Slammed” and a sequel, “Point of Retreat,” — she quit her job to write full time.

Her success has happened largely on her terms, led by readers who act as her evangelists, driving sales through ecstatic online reviews and viral reaction videos.

Her fans, who are mostly women, call themselves CoHorts and post gushing reactions to her books’ devastating climaxes. A CoHo fan who made the following plea on TikTok is typical: “I want Colleen Hoover to punch me in the face. That would hurt less than these books.”

So far in 2022, five of the top 10 best-selling print books of any genre are Hoover’s, according to NPD BookScan, and many of her current best-sellers came out years ago, a phenomenon that’s almost unheard-of in publishing….

(4) IN THE YEAR 2484. “Restored Sci-Fi Series ‘The Visitors’ Unveiled by WDR”Variety tells how it happened.

German broadcasting group WDR is traveling back in time with the newly restored 1983 cult sci-fi series “The Visitors.”

The Czechoslovakian show is set in 2484, a utopian future in which humanity is united under one common government, advised in all decisions by a computer known as “the central thinker,” and where hunger, disease and war have been eradicated. When Earth finds itself suddenly threatened by an imminent collision with a comet, however, leading academic Filip and three comrades travel back to 1984 in a contemporary-looking Lada Niva in search of a lost formula that enables the shifting of planets, which could save Earth.Created by Ota Hofman and Jindřich Polák, the team behind the classic 1970s Czechoslovak children’s series “Pan Tau,” “The Visitors” was known domestically as “Návštěvníci,” “Die Besucher” in West Germany and “Expedition Adam 84” in East Germany….

(5) A MCFLY IN THE BIG APPLE. “‘Back to the Future’ Musical to Open on Broadway Next Summer” reports the New York Times. Coincidentally, this is the production that will follow The Music Man at the Winter Garden Theater.

Filmdom’s most famous DeLorean is getting ready to park itself on Broadway.

A musical adaptation of the hit 1985 film “Back to the Future” is planning to open on Broadway next summer, its producers announced Friday. (Look at your calendar: Friday is Oct. 21, which is when devoted fans celebrate “Back to the Future Day.”)

The musical, with a creative team that combines veterans of the film with some Broadway stalwarts, has already had a life in Britain.

It had an ill-timed opening at the Manchester Opera House on March 11, 2020; that production closed a few days later because of the coronavirus pandemic. The show then transferred to London last fall, where it has had much better luck: It won this year’s Olivier Award for best new musical, and it is still running at the Adelphi Theater.

…“Back to the Future: The Musical” features a book by Bob Gale, the screenwriter who co-wrote and co-produced all three films, and songs by Alan Silvestri, who composed the film’s score, as well as Glen Ballard, a record producer and songwriter. The musical also includes pop songs featured in the film, including “The Power of Love.”

The director is John Rando, who in 2002 won a Tony Award for “Urinetown.”…

(6) DRAWN THAT WAY. “A.I.-Generated Art Is Already Transforming Creative Work” but the creative professionals interviewed by the New York Times don’t sound worried.

…These apps, though new, are already astoundingly popular. DALL-E 2, for example, has more than 1.5 million users generating more than two million images every day, while Midjourney’s official Discord server has more than three million members.

These programs use what’s known as “generative A.I.,” a type of A.I. that was popularized several years ago with the release of text-generating tools like GPT-3 but has since expanded into images, audio and video.

It’s still too early to tell whether this new wave of apps will end up costing artists and illustrators their jobs. What seems clear, though, is that these tools are already being put to use in creative industries.

Recently, I spoke to five creative-class professionals about how they’re using A.I.-generated art in their jobs.

… Patrick Clair, 40, a filmmaker in Sydney, Australia, started using A.I.-generated art this year to help him prepare for a presentation to a film studio.

Mr. Clair, who has worked on hit shows including “Westworld,” was looking for an image of a certain type of marble statue. But when he went looking on Getty Images — his usual source for concept art — he came up empty. Instead, he turned to DALL-E 2.

“I put ‘marble statue’ into DALL-E, and it was closer than what I could get on Getty in five minutes,” Mr. Clair said.

Since then, he has used DALL-E 2 to help him generate imagery, such as the above image of a Melbourne tram in a dust storm, that isn’t readily available from online sources.

He predicted that rather than replacing concept artists or putting Hollywood special effects wizards out of a job, A.I. image generators would simply become part of every filmmaker’s tool kit.

“It’s like working with a really willful concept artist,” he said.

“Photoshop can do things that you can’t do with your hands, in the same way a calculator can crunch numbers in a way that you can’t in your brain, but Photoshop never surprises you,” he continued. “Whereas DALL-E surprises you, and comes back with things that are genuinely creative.”

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Screaming Woman

It’s interesting to discover what has been produced based on the works of Bradbury.  Fifty years ago, the ABC network acquired Bradbury’s “The Screaming Woman” story, first published in The Graveyard Reader in 1958. 

The story was based on his 1948 radio play for the CBS show Suspense. The movie script was written by Merwin Gerard. The film was produced by Universal Television and originally aired as an ABC Movie of the Week on January 29, 1972. Bradbury often wrote stories off radio plays that he had done. 

OOOH SPOILERS BE HERE!

A very rich woman — a released mental patient — is now home on her remote estate to recuperate. While out on the grounds one day she hears the screams of a woman who has been buried alive. Her family, however, adamantly refuses to believe her, and takes the opportunity to prove she’s insane, so they can take control of her estate.

STILL THERE? COME ON BACK. 

Ok, skip this not all horrific version and read on for another version that you should see instead. That version is scary, makes sense and faithful to our writer.  

It had a rather good cast in Olivia de Havilland, Ed Nelson, Laraine Stephens and Joseph Cotten.  However what it did not have is a script that in any manner what so ever resembled the story that Bradbury wrote. Seriously I have no idea why they needed to buy his script given that the plot is an age old one that has been used over and over. 

Now don’t be confused if you think seen a different version as the Ray Bradbury Theater would also do this fourteen years later. Not surprisingly that version was completely faithful to his story as Bradbury wrote the script. The Ray Bradbury Theater is streaming on Paramount +.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1908 John Zaremba. Best remembered for his role as Zaremba in The Time Tunnel, though I’m also noting that he had a rather amazing eleven appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well.  In the Fifties, he appeared in three SF films: The Magnetic Monster as Chief Watson, in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers in the role of Prof. Kanter, and lastly in Frankenstein’s Daughter as Police Lt. Boyle. He had later one-offs on Fantasy IslandTwilight ZoneBatmanInvadersWild Wild West, Munsters, Mission: Impossible and Get Smart!. (Note: If I don’t note which version of a series it is, it’s the original.) (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 84. He was Professor Yana in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s played Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass. I’ll single out that he’s played Macbeth at Barbican Theatre in London as part of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre ensemble.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 84. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in the most excellent Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and played a wonderful Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Though I admit didn’t spot him in that makeup.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas,83. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. “Boobs” won the Best Story Hugo at ConFiction. Her Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast novelette was a nominee at LoneStarCon 2. She’s also won the Otherwise, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, Nebula, Gaylactic Spectrum, and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series? 
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If for three years. He edited the sf line at Ace ad then Tor before starting his own namesake company in 1983. In late 1999, he started Webscriptions, now called Baen Ebooks, which is considered to be the first profitable e-book service. He also was the editor of Destinies and New Destinies which I remember fondly. He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo five times between 1975 and 1981 but never won. At Nippon 2007, he’d be nominated for Best Editor, Long Form. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 70. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Independence Day: Resurgence), but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. Well, I do really like Independence Day. Though not even genre adjacent, he’s got a really nice run on Law and Order: Criminal Intent as Zack Nichols.
  • Born October 22, 1958 Keith Parkinson.  An illustrator known for book covers and artwork for games such as EverQuestMagic: The Gathering and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Book cover wise, he’s remembered for covers for Terry Goodkind, Margaret Weis, Terry Brooks, and David Eddings. He died of leukemia in 2005, just four days after his 47th birthday. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 22, 1960 Dafydd ab Hugh, 62. “The Coon Rolled Down and Ruptured His Larinks, A Squeezed Novel by Mr. Skunk” originally printed in Asimov’s Science Fiction, was nominated for a Nebula Award. He writes a lot of Trek novels, mostly set on the Deep Space Nine series. All of his fiction is media ties save as EoSF notes, “The Arthur War Lord sequence, comprising Arthur War Lord (1994) and Far Beyond the Wave (1994), is sf with a fantasy coloration. This features the adventures of a man who, via Time Travel convention, chases a female CIA agent into Arthurian times, where she is attempting to assassinate the king, and thus to change history.” Sounds potentially interesting. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DON’T BLINK. “NASA’s New James Webb Shot Is Much Better When You Put Googly Eyes on It” decides Futurism.

…On Wednesday, NASA released the latest cosmic photo snapped by its James Webb Space Telescope: an absolutely mesmerizing shot of the space dust-filled star nursery known as the Pillars of Creation.

Then, a day later, a new photo dropped. Twitter user ScienceSocks — definitely not NASA — put googly eyes on the Pillars, because of course they did….

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Halloween Ends Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, has the producer explain that what the writer is pitching is “A Halloween reboot/sequel/sequel/sequel.” Michael Myers, who in the last episode was so strong that he fought an entire town, is now so weak that he has been living in a sewer as “a geriatric Pennywise the clown.” But after a third character’s rise and fall, we get the final battle between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, which pits “an old weak sewer guy versus a grandmother.” “Angry grandmothers are tight!” the excited producer says.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Cat Rambo, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 10/4/22 TANSTAFE! (There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Elevenses)

(1) MEASURED BY ANOTHER YARDSTICK. “Too Dystopian for Whom? A Continental Nigerian Writer’s Perspective” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki at Uncanny Magazine.

It is a common conception that people come to fiction, especially the speculative, to escape reality. And that is indeed one of the purposes it can serve. Another is that conversely to escaping, people come to fiction to encounter or experience reality. A paradox? After all, we already live in reality, one that is ubiquitous. We have it all around us, painfully so sometimes. Hence the need for an escape. But you see, reality has different facets, different windows, like eyes, that reveal different vistas.

This is why the consumption of fiction and SF/F based on other cultures and by people of other demographics is a necessity. Doing so helps us diversify our understanding and encounter all these different realities that lie beyond our immediate purview. What we are often steeped in is our own immediate reality, which is, while occasionally painful, also painfully limited.

It has often been surmised, most especially around discussions of war, climate change, natural disasters, and more recently the outbreak of COVID-19, in articles like this in Wired and on The Apeiron Blog we are living in a dystopia. This realization has weaned many of the need for apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction, and has them preferring instead to immerse themselves in lighter, more upbeat and positive work. This is of course valid, as we all must do what we feel right. But beyond personal preferences of individuals for lighter, “happier” works in this period of gloom, there is a wider and more general assertion that dystopias, apocalypses, grimdark, dark fantasy, and the like are now unnecessary because we live in and have it all around us. A Publishers Weekly piece talks about dystopian fiction losing its lustre due to the pandemic and spells doom for the subgenre of doom. But is this really so? In a viral tweet, the account tweets its disagreement, which I quite agree with, saying that “Dystopian fiction is when you take things that happen in real life to marginalized populations and apply them to people with privilege.” The dystopian reality is not new and has been with us for a while. Its fictionalizing continues till date despite those debates regarding its relevance or necessity….

(2) FINALIST NUMBER ONE. Mark Lawrence has started posting finalists for the 8th Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. The first (and as of today only) finalist is Tethered Spirits by T.A. Hernandez.

(3) NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today announced the winners of “The Nobel Prize in Physics 2022: Entangled states – from theory to technology”.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2022 to
Alain Aspect, Université Paris-Saclay and École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France,
John F. Clauser, J.F. Clauser & Assoc., Walnut Creek, CA, USA and
Anton Zeilinger, University of Vienna, Austria

Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger have each conducted groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states, where two particles behave like a single unit even when they are separated. Their results have cleared the way for new technology based upon quantum information.

The ineffable effects of quantum mechanics are starting to find applications. There is now a large field of research that includes quantum computers, quantum networks and secure quantum encrypted communication.

One key factor in this development is how quantum mechanics allows two or more particles to exist in what is called an entangled state. What happens to one of the particles in an entangled pair determines what happens to the other particle, even if they are far apart….

(4) THE ONION ISN’T KIDDING. “Area Man Is Arrested for Parody. The Onion Files a Supreme Court Brief.”  — the New York Times covers the litigation.

A man who was arrested over a Facebook parody aimed at his local police department is trying to take his case to the Supreme Court. He has sought help from an unlikely source, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Monday.

“Americans can be put in jail for poking fun at the government?” the brief asked. “This was a surprise to America’s Finest News Source and an uncomfortable learning experience for its editorial team.”

The source is, of course, The Onion.

Or, as the satirical website described itself in the brief, “the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.”

The Parma, Ohio, area man in question, Anthony Novak, spent four days in jail over a Facebook page he created in 2016 that mocked his local police department. He was charged with using a computer to disrupt police functions, but a jury found him not guilty.

Mr. Novak says his civil rights were violated, and he is trying to sue the city for damages. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier this year, saying that the police had qualified immunity, and an appeals court upheld that decision. Now the high court is reviewing his request to take up the matter….

(5) STAR TREK SANDWICH. According to Boing Boing, “Harlan Ellison auction includes the world’s most (in)famous “Star Trek” photo”.

Heritage Auction’s upcoming auction of Harlan Ellison’s estate contains a wealth of memorabilia, including a photo of young Harlan flanked by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in full character costume. Nimoy inscribed the photo with, “Harlan, Love you & your great credits,” and Shatner wrote, “Who’s the kid in the middle.”

Heritage says the photo is “sure to be one of the most fought-over, sought-after items in Heritage’s history.”

…Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Harlan and Susan Ellison Foundation, a nonprofit created by Straczynski. The foundation is working to turn the late couple’s Los Angeles home into what Straczynski calls “a place dedicated to writing, creativity, art and music.”

It will be a “memorial library,” he says, “full of books (50,000 by actual count), art (the pieces in the Heritage auction represent only a small portion of what’s there), comics, amazing architecture (complete with a tower, hidden rooms, gargoyles and the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars).” Straczynski says it will serve “fans of Harlan’s work, sure, but also lovers of art and books and architecture, as well as academics who will be able to study his manuscripts and decades of correspondences with some of the most famous writers in and out of the science fiction genre.”

(6) DEBUT NOVEL OF FAMED COMICS CREATOR. Grant Morrison discusses their first novel at CrimeReads. “Grant Morrison on Gender, Genre, and Drag”.

Molly Odintz: Luda is all about the instability of identity, exemplified by drag. What did you want to say about the identities we are assigned, and assume?

Grant Morrison: At the simplest level, I suppose I want to say that ‘identity’, at least from my point of view, appears to be conditional and refuses to be contained by any label; how does the ‘identity’ of a person as a two year old child square with that same person’s alleged ‘identity’ as a 40-year old or as a dying 90-year old in a failing physical frame – our bodies and minds and how we feel about ourselves, and who we are within a larger constantly shifting and rearranging system, are subject to such radical transformations over decades that were we to speed a human life up to last ten minutes rather than 80 years the result would resemble a radical metamorphic shifting of shape and size, intellectual capacity and ‘personality’. The idea of a single label adequate to that process seems absurd.

(7) SOCIAL MEDIA CRITICISM AGAINST GRRM COAUTHORS. George R.R. Martin’s tweet publicizing a forthcoming Westeros reference book opened floodgates of criticism against his coauthors Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr.

Variety reported today “‘Game of Thrones’ Fans Boycott George R.R. Martin’s Next Book, Accusing Coauthors of Racism”.

Bestselling fantasy author and “House of the Dragon” executive producer George R.R. Martin is caught in the crossfire of the heated battle over inclusive casting — and some of his fans are calling for a boycott of his upcoming book due to comments by its coauthors.

Out Oct. 25, “The Rise of the Dragon: An Illustrated History of the Targaryen Dynasty, Volume One” is being touted as a “deluxe reference book” for those itching to learn more about Westeros’ most powerful family. When Martin publicized it on social media last week, thousands of fans responded in outrage, many calling out the problematic behavior and “history of racism” of his coauthors, married couple Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr. “I will not be buying anything with Linda and Elio attached to it,” one wrote, while others urged Martin to sever ties with the pair….

…Antonsson contends that upset fans are criticizing “cherry-picked statements stripped of context.” She tells Variety that it bothers her to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building.” According to the author, she has no issue with inclusive casting, but she strongly believes that “diversity should not trump story.”

“If George had indeed made the Valyrians Black instead of white, as he mused on his ‘Not a Blog’ in 2013, and this new show proposed to make the Velaryons anything other than Black, we would have had the same issue with it and would have shared the same opinion,” Antonsson says.

Vulture carries more documentation: “’Game of Thrones’ Book Co-Authors Accused of Racism by Fans”.

…Married couple Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr., who founded the fansite Westeros.org and have worked as fact-checkers on Martin’s novels, have decried the casting of people of color in Game of Thrones for over a decade. In 2011 and 2012, Antonsson made numerous Tumblr posts saying that most of Westeros, including Dorne, and many of the overseas lands, should be considered “very white indeed,” and getting angry and defensive at any suggestions from “whiny social justice crusaders” to the contrary. Antonsson insists that the only correct interpretation of the books is that “Unremarked skin colour=>white.”

“If you start talking about there being a need — a need outside of what is in the text — to cast actors of certain ethnicites [sic] even if their appearance doesn’t match at all what’s in the text … well, fuck that, plain and simple,” she wrote in May 2012. “I don’t respect that approach, never have and never will, and that is a perfectly valid decision. It has nothing to do with racism, so kindly go fuck yourself with something sharp and pointy.” She disapproved of the casting of a Black actor as Xaro Xhoan Daxos because that character was described as “pale” in the books, and celebrated the casting of a white actor to play Daario Naharis because of his race. In 2021, after the casting of Steve Touissant as Corlys VelaryonAntonsson wrote on Twitter, “Take your woke fucking stupidity and shove it up you ass. Corlys is miscast, there are no black Valyrians and there should not be any in the show.”…

(8) BIG DEALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the appeal of card games.

The influence of cards is more notable in the popular genre of ‘deck-building’ games.  These titles such as Slay The Spire and the enormously popular Hearthstone, from World Of Warcraft creator Blizzard, prove particularly compelling because they augment cards with all the capabilities of digital technology, offering seamless online multi-player modes, visual pyrotechnics and an eternally expanding set of possible cards from which to choose…

…The enduring presence of cards is credit to their adaptability.  Cards are not a game in themselves but a highly flexible medium which can be used as metaphors for combat, vehicles for strategy or links to a long lineage of play that stretches far back into human history.  Today you can build memories out of houses of cards in Where Cards Fall or use cards as units of dialogue in Signs Of The Sojourner.  Rather than killing off the humble playing card, video games have given them thousands of fresh possibilities.

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1965 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-seven years ago on the BBC, Out of this World series first aired. It. produced by the BBC and broadcast on BBC2 in four series. 

It was created and produced by Irene Shubik while she was working on Armchair Theatre as a story editor. In the highly patriarchal workplace of the Sixties BBC, it was unusual that was allowed to do this. 

(Very much to her credit, she was involved in The Jewel in the Crown undertaking, a most impressive series indeed.)

She was aided by the fact that Armchair Theatre had done an adaptation of John Wyndham’s “Dumb Martian” story as a deliberate showcase for the Out of this World series. 

It lasted but thirteen episodes of which one survives today as the BBC bulk erased them, the ass****s. Too bad as Boris Karloff presented it and the stories were based off tales written by Clifford D. Simak (“Immigrant”), Isaac Asimov (“Little Lost Robot”) which is the only one that survives which the British Film Institute has released on DVD and Philip K. Dick (“Impostor”). 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 4, 1860 Sidney Edward Paget. British illustrator of the Victorian era, he’s definitely known for his illustrations that accompanied Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand. He also illustrated Arthur Morrison’s Martin Hewitt, Investigator, a series of short stories featuring the protagonist, Martin Hewitt, and written down by his good friend, the journalist Brett. These came out after Holmes was killed off, like many similar series. (Died 1908.)
  • Born October 4, 1904 Earl Binder. Under the pen name of Eando Binder, he and his brother Otto published SF stories. One series was about a robot named Adam Link. The first such story, published in 1939, is titled “I, Robot”. (A collection by Asimov called I, Robot would be published in 1950. The name was selected by the publisher, despite Asimov’s wishes.) As Eando Binder, they wrote three SF novels — Enslaved BrainsDawn to Dusk and Lords of Creation. There’s lots of Eando Binder available on iBooks and Kindle. (Died 1966.)
  • Born October 4, 1923 Charlton Heston. Without doubt, his best known genre role was astronaut George Taylor in the Planet of the Apes. He returned to the role Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He’s also Neville in The Omega Man, and Detective Thorne in Soylent Green. By the way, once at the LA Music Center he played Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood, opposite Richard Johnson as Dr. Watson. His IMDB credits show him as being on SeaQuest DSV in the “Abalon” episode. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 4, 1932 Ann Thwaite, 90. Author of AA Milne: His Life which won the Whitbread Biography of the Year, as well as The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the Pooh, a scrapbook offshoot of the Milne biography. (And yes, Pooh is genre.) In 2017 she updated her 1990 biography of A.A Milne to coincide with Goodbye Christopher Robin for which she was a consultant. 
  • Born October 4, 1956 Christoph Waltz, 66. He portrayed James Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Spectre and in No Time to Die. Genre wise, he also portrayed Qohen Leth in The Zero Theorem, Benjamin Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet (I lasted ten minutes before giving up), Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, himself in Muppets Most Wanted, Léon Rom in The Legend of Tarzan and Dr. Dyson Ido in Alita: Battle Angel
  • Born October 4, 1956 Bill Johnson. His writing was strongly influenced by South Dakota origins. This is particularly true of his “We Will Drink a Fish Together” story which won a Hugo for Best Novelette in 1998. (It got a Nebula nomination as well.) His 1999 collection, Dakota Dreamin, is quite superb. (Died 2022.)
  • Born October 4, 1960 Annabelle Lanyon, 62. She was Oona in Legend. And she showed as Isabel in the Quatermass franchise, Quatermass series and the Quatermass Conclusion. She’s been in more genre related films and series than I can possibly list here, i.e. The Werewolves of The Third Reich which has a twenty-one rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, 
  • Born October 4, 1975 Saladin Ahmed, 47. His Throne of the Crescent Moon was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and did win the Locus Award for Best First Novel. He has also written for comics characters Kamala Khan (The Magnificent Ms. Marvel), Black Bolt, Exiles and the Miles Morales (Spider-Man) series, all on Marvel Comics. Oddly only his Marvel is available at the usual suspects.

(11) COMPLETELY MAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Sergio Aragones, who is still active at 85 drawing for MAD, about his comic book Groo The Wanderer. “Sergio Aragones, MAD magazine artist, is still spoofing our humanity”.

… “When Mad accepted me, that was a change of life, a change of mind, a change of everything. Somebody liked what I did,” Aragonés says. Yet despite this “radical mind change,” he appreciated: “I didn’t have to change at all. It was what I had been doing since I was a kid, drawing, drawing, drawing.”

Aragonés also cherished the famous annual Mad trips, sometimes to far-flung places. He roomed with his heroes in Switzerland, went on safari with them in Africa, and while onboard near Bermuda, helped surprise Gaines by re-creating the publisher’s favorite Marx Brothers moment: the crowded cabin scene from “A Night at the Opera.”…

(12) IT’S OFFICIAL. “Velma Is a Lesbian: New ‘Scooby Doo’ Film Makes Her Gay Officially” reports Variety.

Velma is officially a lesbian.

Clips from the brand new movie “Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!,” which show the Mystery Inc. member googly-eyed and speechless when encountering costume designer Coco Diablo, have gone viral on Twitter, confirming suspicions held by the “Scooby” fan base for decades.

“OMG LESBIAN VELMA FINALLY,” reads one tweet, which has over 100,000 likes.

It’s long been an open secret among fans and “Scooby-Doo” creatives that Velma is gay. Even James Gunn, who wrote the early live-action films, and Tony Cervone, who served as supervising producer on the “Mystery Incorporated” series, have confirmed the character’s sexuality, but they were never able to make it official onscreen.

In 2020, Gunn tweeted that he “tried” to make Velma a lesbian in the live-action movies. “In 2001 Velma was explicitly gay in my initial script,” he wrote. “But the studio just kept watering it down & watering it down, becoming ambiguous (the version shot), then nothing (the released version) & finally having a boyfriend (the sequel).”

(13) LOCAL ROVING. [Item by Steven French.] Wanted: job for redundant Mars rover! “Planetary rover once intended for Mars tested in Milton Keynes quarry” – the Guardianihas the story.

A planetary rover potentially destined for missions on the moon or Mars has been put through its paces at a quarry in Milton Keynes.

The Sample Fetch Rover (SFR), known as Anon, was intended to collect sample tubes left on the surface of Mars by Perseverance.

But this year Nasa and the European Space Agency announced the rover would no longer be needed for this work, as Perseverance, which landed on the red planet in February 2021, was already collecting samples from the planet.’

… Quarry testing is essential to the development process, providing a unique and dynamic landscape that cannot be replicated within the Mars Yard test facility at Stevenage, and the event marks the first time all the rover’s systems are being tested simultaneously….

(14) PLAYING IN OVERTIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Visual Effects Crisis,” the Royal Ocean Film Society notes that visual effects artists are suffering, with weeks of 100-hour days to make insane deadlines.  The Phantom Menace used one visual effects company; The Rise Of Skywalker used 12, and some Marvel films use 35.  But profit margins are thin, and companies frantically shift locations to take advantage of tax credits.  CATS is exhibit A of what happens when visual effects companies screw up.  The narrator notes that Rhythm and Hues’s work helped Life Of Pi win four technical Oscars but the company went bankrupt because of the many changes they had to do to make director Ang Lee happy.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Avatar (2022 Remastered) the Screen Junkies say that even though they did Avatar in 2012 if there’s a remastered version of Avatar in theatres they can take on the film again.  They say the plot combines Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, and Ferngully, with generic characters they call “Colonel Soldier” and “Doctor Samples” (because Sigourney Weaver’s character is always looking for samples).  The aliens look like a cross between Ugly Sonic and those creatures in CATS.  And if you think “unobtainium” is a silly name, your inner 12-year old can look up the real mineral “cummingtonite” on Wikipedia.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/13/22 Read The Scrolls That They May Teach You, Take The Pixels That They May Reach You

(1) KEEP WATCHING THE SKY WATCHER. At Heritage Auctions bidding is currently up to $62,500 (excluding Buyer’s Premium) on “Clyde Tombaugh’s Renowned Handmade 9″ Reflector Telescope”.

Clyde Tombaugh’s Renowned Handmade 9″ Reflector Telescope [circa 1927]. Presented here is the most notable telescope ever built by legendary astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Constructed by hand entirely of materials salvaged from the family farm in Burdett, Kansas. Presents signs of weather and wear; however, fully operational and intact.

Tombaugh’s fascination with astronomy led him to begin building telescopes in 1926 to explore the night sky. Using handmade lenses and mirrors, he began construction on his most prominent telescope in 1927. Fabricated from the hardware he was able to collect, including a grain elevator tube, a cream separator base, a 1910 Buick axle, tractor flywheels, and other farm machinery parts, Tombaugh produced one of the most outstanding achievements of American ingenuity of the twentieth century.

Tombaugh used this exact piece of equipment to illustrate his interpretation of the planets Jupiter and Mars. He, in turn, sent these drawings to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona for critique. His only wished to know if his home-made telescope was an accurate interpretation of the Cosmos. Instantly recognizing Tombaugh’s gift for astronomy, the Observatory wasted no time in offering him employment. Shortly after he began his work at Lowell, Tombaugh started his long list of new astronomical discoveries. The most famous of these is unquestionably his discovery of what was, at the time, the ninth planet in our solar system, Pluto. Clyde continued to work throughout his life as both an astronomer and professor at New Mexico State University.

The telescope itself is approximately 93 inches tall (depending on configuration) and sits on a custom metal base measuring 40 x 40 inches square. As previously stated, it is constructed from farm equipment remains and has some interesting aspects that only add to its character. One is the can of Coca-Cola attached to a chain that protects the eyepiece. According to his son, Alden, the telescope is in the same working condition it was when his father last used it. In fact, in the 1990’s the Smithsonian Institution inquired if the telescope could be loaned to them for display. Clyde politely declined stating, he was still actively using it to search the skies.

(2) PILOT REACHES PORT. Marc Scott Zicree’s Space Command: Redemption premieres at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on July 21.

Space Command Red-Carpet Premiere at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood July 21st! It’s finally here! The WORLD PREMIERE of Space Command Redemption at the famed Chinese Theater in Hollywood! This is the full TWO-HOUR PILOT of Space Command, starring Doug Jones, Mira Furlan, Robert Picardo, Bill Mumy, Ethan McDowell, Bryan McClure, Sara Maraffino, Nathaniel Freeman and Bruce Boxleitner!

(3) PLAYING SATURNALIA. Mark Lawrence rediscovered the text of a play-by-mail game he helped write 40 years ago: “Off Topic – big time!”

Back in 1987 I helped run a Play-By-Mail game called Saturnalia. I ran it full time for a year with a bunch of other folk in an office. And I ran my area for another 12 years after that in my spare time.

There was an extensive Wikipedia page about it – but they decided in their wisdom to reduce it to a very brief summary.

I found the original text online today (I wrote a fair bit of it), and have copied it here for posterity in case that last site vanishes….

(4) VANISHING POINTS. Amanda S. Green has experienced some more Kindle Direct Publishing accounting adventures: “Check Your KDP Emails” at Mad Genius Club.

Welp, it finally happened. My KDP/KU sales report for the month has been changed from one day to the next. No, I’m not talking about the move to the new format Amazon decided to go to. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that makes it even more difficult to get a snapshot view of what is going on with your sales and promotions. What I’m talking about is the disappearance of page reads under Kindle Unlimited….

(5) KSR’S DAYS AT BU. “Kim Stanley Robinson on the Importance of Imagination” in Bostonia.

…I’m happy to say that my career as a science fiction writer had its tentative beginnings at BU. Between my classes I would go to the library, find an empty carrel, sit down, and immediately plunk my head on the table and fall asleep. Faced with the overwhelming task of writing fiction, my mind would shut down for a while, perhaps reorganizing itself to face the strange task I was imposing on it. We’ll learn more about the mysteries of sleep in one of the articles in this issue.

For me, my naps would last around 20 minutes, after which I would wake up and work on a story I later titled “Coming Back to Dixieland.” It concerned asteroid belt miners who played jazz on the side—not a great idea for a story, but it got published a few years later in the anthology Orbit 18, edited by my great teacher and mentor Damon Knight. …

(6) IS IT YOU? Do Filers have what it takes to be America’s Next Great Author? “Kwame Alexander to present new reality show America’s Next Great Author” – the Guardian has details.

… The six finalists, locked together for a month, will face “live-wire” challenges as they attempt to write an entire novel in 30 days. The winning novelist will be crowned America’s Next Great Author.

Bestselling author and Newberry Medal winner Kwame Alexander is presenting the show, and is listed as executive producer. In a promotional video posted on the show’s Twitter feed, Alexander said it will be “the first reality show for writers produced by writers. This is your chance, if you’re writing the Great American Novel or the great memoir masterpiece or something, this is your chance to get published.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

2018 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just four years ago, a film called 7 Splinters in Time premiered in limited release in the States. With a great title, it had the premise of a down at the heels detective who investigates a murder, only to find that the victim is himself. Over and over and over again. Soon, he discovers multiple versions of himself, not all of them who want him to investigate what’s happening. 

It was written by Gabriel Judet-Weinshel who has no other genre creds unnless you think a writing the weekly series with comedy icons Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara talking about whatever is on their minds is somehow genre adjacent…

Darius Lefaux Is played by Al Sapienza, best known as Mickey Palmice on The Sopranos. It had a large cast of French performers. 

This film is writer-director Judet-Weinshel’s debut full-length feature, and most critics weren’t thrilled by it though the Austin Chronicle said of it that it was “free jazz, and Judet-Weinshel finds echoes and frequencies in the form and the content.” not at all sure what that means. 

The Variety review was much more understandable in that they said it was “edited to ribbons in a schizoid manner that likely only makes complete sense to its maker.” (I wonder if they ever read any Heinlein time travel stories.) 

And the Los Angeles Times thought that “the neo-noir sci-fi indie is a fractured narrative that can’t achieve what its lofty ideas intend.”

It however did pick up the New Vision Award from Cinequest San Jose Film Festival the year that it was released. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes aren’t terribly impressed by it giving it just a forty-three percent rating. Oh well. 

I think it sounds fascinating and have added it to my To Be Watched list if I can find it somewhere. One second… Ahhh. I can watch it on Amazon Prime which I have. Good.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1926 Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor who claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart 82. Jean-Luc Picard starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up through the current Star Trek: Picard. (They’re filming two seasons of Picard back-to-back.) Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though only slightly genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in the second version of The Lion in Winter
  • Born July 13, 1942 Mike Ploog, 80. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. His work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost RiderKull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, Little Shop of HorrorsThe Dark CrystalLabyrinth and The Storyteller series.
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 80. Three great roles of course, the first being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second of course being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh, and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. 
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 67. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1960 Gary A. Braunbeck, 62. Horror writer primarily who has won a very impressive six Stoker Awards. Interestingly his first was SF, Time Was: Isaac Asimov’s I-Bots which was co-written with Steve Perry.
  • Born July 13, 1981 Monica Byrne, 41. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back seven years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay in The Atlantic, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds something that makes a bird flip.

(10) JOE QUESADA’S AMAZING FANTASY #1000 COVER REVEALED. Here is Joe Quesada’s wraparound variant cover for Marvel’s giant-sized Spider-Man 60th anniversary one-shot hitting the stands on August 31.

(11) SOME FACTS ARE TRUTHIER THAN OTHERS. YardBarker says there are “20 facts you might not know about ‘Men in Black’”:

For a couple years in the ‘90s, Will Smith was apparently all about interacting with aliens. Independence Day was the big, crowd-pleasing action film, but personally, we’ll go with Men in Black any day of the week. It’s a weird, more cynical film, but with plenty of fun in the mix. Here’s 20 facts about the movie….

But is #15 – “The movie was a box-office success” – a fact? According to Sony, the movie has yet to turn a profit, or so they tell Ed Solomon: “1997 hit ‘Men In Black’ is still yet to make a profit says screenwriter”.

(12) ALL EARS. Paul Weimer recommends you listen to “The voice of Eru Ilúvatar: The Silmarillion in Audio” at Nerds of a Feather.

Back when, after I read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I tried to read The Silmarillion. I was still in my early teens and frankly, reader, I didn’t know what I was in for, and I bounced off of it and did not try it again for a decade. It took the second effort for me to understand the power and beauty that was to be found within, but even then, it was not the easiest of reads. Portions of it are like the Appendices to the Lord of the Rings, other parts myth and legend, other parts resembling the outline of a tale that could be told in many more pages (and in some cases, subsequently has)

But, friends, I am here to rescue you from those fears and difficulties and to get you into this Silmarillion, today. I am here to provide you a way to experience and absorb the book and get a feel for Tolkien’s earliest parts of his Legendarium, and that would be the audio edition, narrated by Martin Shaw….

(13) TODAY’S HISTORY & MORAL PHILOSOPHY HOMEWORK. It’s in Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Malnazidos (aka Valley of the Dead)”.

Is it OK to ally with fascists during a (localised) zombie apocalypse? That is today’s moral conundrum brought to you by the Spanish film Valley of the Dead (the Spanish title Malnazidos sounds cooler though).

I’ve seen Korean train zombies, Korean school zombies, British remake of Day of the Triffids zombies, Korean historical zombies, Las Vegas Casino zombies and WW2 zombies. Today’s spin on the genre is Spanish Civil War zombies….

(14) WIRE PALADINS. Also at Nerds of a Feather, “Review: The Saint of Steel Series by T. Kingfisher” is Roseanna Pendlebury’s overview of a three-book arc.

What happens when a god dies, but His berserker paladins are left behind without a hand on the holy reins? If T. Kingfisher’s Saint of Steel series is anything to go by, the answers are: angst, romance, lawyers, angst, tutting, solving murders, angst, exasperated bishops, angst, magical morticians and a lot of pragmatic, down to earth do-gooding. Each book (three currently published but more promised) follows one of the seven remaining paladins of the Saint of Steel as they rebuild their lives with each other, find love, and… yes, angst a bit….

(15) GOING SOLAR. Matt reviews “She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan”, a 2022 Hugo finalist, at Runalong the Shelves.

I often think exploration of power is a big part of fantasy. The rise of one; the search for power to defeat another and how power can work are all themes you can explore in tales from Tolkien, Abercrombie to Pratchett. One less explored theme is why do people do it? What makes someone decide out of all the things in the world they could do this is what I’ll choose to do with my life and the inevitable huge consequences this will have on their country, close relationships, and themselves? In Shelley Parker- Chan’s stunning She Who Became The Sun we get an examination of how the need to be great or to have revenge can send people down quite unexpected paths delivering a fascinating historical fantasy….

(16) FIRST EYES ON THE JWST PRIZE. The New York Times introduces readers to those who performed “The Lonely Work of Picking the Universe’s Best Astronomy Pictures”.

After the image flashes up on the projector, a few quiet beats tick by, punctuated only by a soft “wow.” Everyone is processing.

Then more “wows” bubble out, and people are talking over one another, laughing. Suddenly two astronomers, Amaya Moro-Martin and Karl Gordon, are out of their chairs, sticking their noses closer to the space fantasia onscreen, agog — “It’s a jet! This is full of jets!” — at the crisp, hallucinatory grandeur of new stars sprouting from a nebula like seeds from a flower bed.

The screen zooms in, in, in toward a jutting promontory many light-years long that stands out in sharp relief.

“Oh my god,” someone says — only that someone was me, accidentally.

“Welcome to the team,” someone else responds.

On Tuesday morning, this view of the Carina Nebula was made public alongside other new observations from the James Webb Space Telescope. But it made an earlier debut on another Tuesday morning — this one in June, when a small team clutching coffee cups gathered around a conference table at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore for one of many morning meetings to receive, process and repackage for public consumption what humanity’s latest and greatest set of eyes could see — after the team members had first signed nondisclosure agreements to ensure no early leaks….

(17) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. NBC News lets viewers “Compare photos from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope”.

The first images from the James Webb Space Telescope are just a preview of the impressive capabilities of NASA’s $10 billion, next-generation observatory. Billed as the successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, which launched into orbit in 1990, Webb was designed to peer deeper into space than ever before, with powerful instruments that can capture previously undetectable details in the cosmos. 

Here’s how the Webb telescope stacks up to its famous predecessor….

(18) WHO ARE YOU? (DOC WHO, THAT’S WHO!) According to the Huffington Post, “This NASA Picture Is Giving Brits 1980s Nostalgia”. They’re referring to the first JWST image released the other day.

The image is a photo composite made from images at different wavelengths, adding up to 12.5 hours, and it shows the galaxy cluster as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.

Despite the significance of the new release though, there were plenty of people who couldn’t help noticing it reminded them of something: Doctor Who.

More specifically, the opening credits to the long-running fantasy/science-fiction show during earlier seasons.

Several people referenced Peter Davison, the fifth doctor who was in the role between 1982 and 1984, and pointed out that the image reminded them of this particular era….

Others joked about it clearly being a nod to the fourth doctor, Tom Baker, who starred in the series between 1974 and 1981.

(19) INSIDE JOB. A special trailer from Disney celebrates that Tron and Tron: Legacy are now available on Disney+.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, John A Arkansawyer, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, 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 7/10/22 And In The Naked Light, I Saw Ten Thousand Pixels, Maybe More

(1) HOW THE BALLOT SHOULD HAVE LOOKED. Rich Horton has posted his latest Hugo nomination ideas, for the 1952 Hugo year (that is, stories from 1951). He makes a “Special recommendation to ‘Beyond Bedlam’, a story I knew of but had not read until just now. It is wonderful, original, wrenching.” “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1952” at Strange at Ecbatan.

The 1952 Worldcon was Chicon II, in Chicago, the tenth World Science Fiction Convention. (This year will be Chicon 8!) As noted, they gave no Hugo awards. The International Fantasy Award went to John Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights, a remarkable book, though as a story collection not eligible for a Hugo in this or any year. There was also a non-fiction award, to The Exploration of Space, by Arthur C. Clarke.

(2) A DOCTOR WHO PRACTICED IN THE SIXTIES. The Guardian shares a gallery of behind the scenes photos from the 1960s Doctor Who movies: “The Daleks invade 60s Surrey: on the set of the classic Doctor Who films – in pictures”.

Dalekmania inspired Amicus films to buy up the cinema rights to the Saturday tea-time television adventures of Dr Who, leading to two films starring Peter Cushing.

(3) GOING POSTAL. At Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein, Bobby Derie takes a look at the correspondence between Margaret St. Clair and Clark Ashton Smith: “Her Letters To Clark Ashton Smith: Margaret St. Clair”. About a letter written by Smith in 1940:

… A major point of the letter involved the change in editorship at Weird Tales; Farnsworth Wright had been fired and was replaced with Dorothy McIlwraith. There was some hard feelings among the older guard of writers about Wright’s treatment, and Wright himself apparently floated the idea of forming a competing weird magazinebut this would not come to pass, and Wright himself would pass away on 12 June 1940. On a lighter note, Smith also noted that the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy had been established not far away from his cabin. In a postscript to the letter, Smith wrote jocularly:

Can’t we start some sort of coven in opposition to that nunnery?

(4) THE UNKINDEST CUT? Also at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein, Cecelia Hopking-Drewer talks about her experiences reading H.P. Lovecraft: “An Australian Woman Looks At Lovecraft”.

… My involvement with Lovecraft scholarship goes back some twenty-seven years. At one stage I was a huge Stephen King fan, and I found a reference in King’s non-fiction work Danse Macabre to Lovecraft (see King, 1982:132-5). I was studying English literature at Master’s level, around 1992/3, and in the realm of academia, historical writers were more acceptable research subjects than contemporary writers, so I approached the department about a project. The project was approved, but the resident Gothic expert was unable to provide supervision, and I struggled along against a curtain of institutional resistance regarding texts associated with popular culture. My assumption that as a ‘dead white male’ to quote the cliché, Lovecraft would be respected academically was incorrect, and instead he proved to be a controversial and polarizing figure…. 

(5) CREDITS CHECK. K.C. McAbee has an article about Leigh Brackett at Luna Station Quarterly“Her Majesty the Queen of Space Opera: Part One”.

Leigh Brackett will always be a name to conjure with, and not just because she wrote the first draft of a little movie you may have heard of called The Empire Strikes Back. Though she died before it went into production and hers was not the final filmed screenplay, she created many of the story beats that ended up in the movie. City in the clouds: check. Battle of Hoth: check. Deadly trip through an asteroid field: yep, it’s there. Love triangle between Luke, Leia and Han: check, check, and check….

(6) MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I posted another of those Masters-of-the-Universe photo stories that people have been enjoying entitled “Consent Is Sexy, Harassment Stinks”.

The small toy aisle at the German drugstore chain Rossmann has turned out to be an unlikely source of Masters of the Universe toys, because they tend to have even hard-to-find figures like Clawful or the Horde Trooper at regular prices. I didn’t find a Clawful during my last visit to the local Rossmann store, but I did get lucky and snapped up none other than Stinkor, Masters of the Universe‘s very own walking fart joke….

(7) HEAR SF POETRY READINGS. In 2022, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, in an effort to further engage Rhysling Award voters and speculative poetry audiences at large, Akua Lezli Hope organized and hosted three virtual gatherings on Zoom at which poets with work nominated to the short poem category of the Rhyslings read their work aloud. You can watch the recordings on the SFPA YouTube channel; click here for the full playlist.

SFPA is now creating a series of Rhysling Award Readings for the 2022 Long Poem Nominees. There presently are two videos; more will be added.

(8) MEMORY LANE

1970 [By Cat Eldridge.] “This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours: Obey me and live, or disobey and die.”

If you were in West Germany on this date, you could have enjoyed the premiere there of Colossus: The Forbin Project. It was from a screenplay by James Bridges who based it off  Dennis Feltham Jones’ Colossus novel. It would be his only genre movie script. He’d later do one for the Alfred Hitchcock Hour off Ray Bradbury‘s 1944 “The Jar” short story. 

SPOILER ALERT!

Dennis Feltham Jones did a trilogy of Colossus novels, and a lot of other SF as well. Ok the premise here is Colossus is an AI that wakes up, assumes controls of all Earth’s military resources and won’t relinquish control. In time, it fuses with its Soviet counterpart. The film is taken directly off his first novel. 

END SPOILER ALERT!

Critics generally liked it. Victor Canby of the New York Times said it was “no Dr. Strangelove, but it’s full of surprising moments of humor and intelligence”. And David Kher of the Chicago Reader declared that it was “Above-average science fiction”. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-six percent rating. 

It’s been in remake Hell since 2007. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 John Wyndham. His best-known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. The usual suspects have an impressive selection of his novels including these titles though little of his short fiction is available, alas. The Day of the Triffids is currently a buck ninety-nine there. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 10, 1914 Joe Shuster. Comic book artist best remembered for co-creating Superman with Jerry Siegel. It happened in Action Comics #1 which was cover-dated June 1938. Need I mention the long fight with DC over crediting them as the creators and paying them? I think not. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr. Though much better known for writing and producing The Waltons, he wrote eight scripts for the Twilight Zone including “Black Leather Jackets” in which an alien falls in love with a human girl and “The Hunt” where raccoon hunters enter the Twilight Zone. He also wrote the script of the Hanna-Barbera production of Charlotte’s Web.  (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1929 George Clayton Johnson. He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including “A Game of Pool”, “Kick the Can”, “Nothing in the Dark”, and “A Penny for Your Thoughts”, and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap”. (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. At age 21 she chaired TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon in Chicago. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at the Sasquan Worldcon. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”.  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading, and they’re available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 Susan Seddon Boulet. Another one who died way, way too young after a long struggle with cancer. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight which also features her art. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 10, 1945 Ron Glass. Probably known best genre wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and the sequel film Serenity. His first genre work was the role of Jerry Merris in Deep Space, a SF horror film, and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it has a very impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nancy prepares to explain two literary terms to a friend.
  • Tom Gauld has a gag about a combat robot workshop at New Scientist.
  • Tom Gauld again on the tradition of “last orders” in the Guardian.
  • Macanudo’s Tolkienesque joke is truly bizarre.

(11) A SLIGHT DELAY. Sunday Morning Transport’s story is “The Daily Commute” by Sarah Gailey.

We love how Sarah Gailey’s story merges magic and public transport with a wonderful, wrenching effect. ~ Fran Wilde, July 10

(12) KELLY’S HEROICS. “Try to remember the kind of September, When you were a tender and callow fellow.” (P.S. This is Scott Kelly in the video, not his twin brother Mark Kelly.)

(13) FOR THOSE WITH DEEP POCKETS. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Getcher Stormtrooper Helmet now (actual person’s head not included): “’Blast ‘Em!’: Heritage Auctions Offers in July Stormtrooper Helmet and Blaster Used in 1977’s ‘Star Wars’”.

A long time ago in a theater probably not too far from your house, Star Wars was released — May 25, 1977, long before the original space opera was rechristened Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. To celebrate that 45th anniversary, Heritage Auctions is thrilled to offer in its July 22-23 Hollywood & Entertainment Signature® Auction two of the rarest and most coveted items featured in the film that spawned a never-ending franchise: a screen-matched stormtrooper helmet and a screen-used hero E-11 blaster shared by stormtroopers, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

….Of these six original sandtrooper helmets, only two are confirmed to exist in private hands. Heritage Auctions is offering one of the two.

In addition to being one of the surviving original first-produced and first-filmed stormtrooper helmets from the original Star Wars, this specific helmet can be conclusively identified on-screen across multiple sequences. It was also worn by one of the few stormtroopers who delivered dialogue — the very one who speaks to the bartender after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s, let’s say, disarming encounter in the Mos Eisley cantina….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/1/22 Who Will Buy This Wonderful Pixel?

(1) NETFLIX GOES UPSIDE DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apparently, fans of Stranger Things are night owls. When the final two episodes of ST Season 4 were released—at about 03:00 Eastern today—the Netflix streaming site was hammered hard enough to experience scattered but significant outages. “Netflix Down: Streaming Service Outage After Stranger Things 4 Release” reports Variety.

Netflix’s streaming service was unavailable for a brief period early Friday after the highly anticipated release of the final two episodes of “Stranger Things 4.”

According to global uptime-monitoring site Downdetector.com, user reports of problems with Netflix spiked around 3 a.m. ET — when “Stranger Things 4” Volume 2 went live. Complaints about errors with Netflix peaked at nearly 13,000 at the top of the hour, before the situation seemed to be resolved within a half hour.

“Stranger Things 4” already has set the record as the No. 1 English-language series on the service in its first four weeks of release, as reported by Netflix based on total hours watched. The two episodes in Season 4 Volume 2 clock in at nearly four hours of runtime total: Episode 8 is 85 minutes and Episode 9 is 150 minutes.

(2) BOB MADLE DOING FINE AT 102. [Item by Curt Phillips.] I just got off the phone with Bob Madle and thought I’d give you an update. He sounds great, and his daughter Jane told me that Bob’s health is excellent. Neither of them ever caught Covid, and Bob spends a lot of time enjoying beer and baseball. He is, as you might guess, an Oakland A’s fan. He’s been following that team since the 1930’s when they were the Philadelphia Athletics. We spent 45 min or so discussing sf magazines, and Bob’s memory is as solid as a rock. He recalled pulp trivia from 90 years ago as if it happened yesterday. So, 102 years old and going strong. A fannish immortal in every way!

(3) STEPHENSON PROFILE.  In the Washington Post, Theo Zenou interviews Neal Stephenson on the 30th anniversary of Snow Crash.  The interview focuses on Stephenson’s role in tech projects, including founding (with Bitcoin Foundation co-chair Peter Vessenes), Lamina1, “a start-up that will use blockchain technology to build an ‘open metaverse.’” Zenou explains that Stephenson has been involved part-time with tech his entire life, and became employee #1 of Blue Origin after he and Jeff Bezos went to a screening of October Sky in 1999. “Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash’ predicted metaverse and hyperinflation”.

…Stephenson’s vision for Lamina1 (meaning “layer one” in Latin) is to empower the creators of these experiences. He explained, “We want to create a structure of smart contracts and other utilities that will make it easier for people who want to build Metaverse applications to do that in the first place, and then to get compensated if it turns out that people like and want to pay for the experiences they’re creating.”…

(4) FIGURING OUT THE ENDING. If you didn’t see Cora Buhlert’s story when we linked to the tweets in May, you can now read “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘The Rescue’” as a post on her blog.

“You had one job, Corporal, one job. Protect Prince Adam, with your life, if necessary. And you failed. I swear, if something happens to Adam, you will be scrubbing toilets for the rest of your life.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Don’t be so hard on the Corporal, Teela. It wasn’t his fault.”

“I know. I should have gone with Adam. Oh Father, what if something happens to him?”

“We’ll find Adam and save him. I promise.”

Meanwhile, in the dungeons of Snake Mountain…

(5) HAVE AN IDEA FOR A SPACE FORCE STORY? C. Stuart Hardwick is editing an anthology for Baen, Real Stories of the US Space Force, and has put out a Call For Submissions. See full details at the link.

The US Space Force has a PR problem. Several, in fact. It was not Donald Trump’s idea. It did not steal its iconography from Star Trek. It is not just a lunatic scheme to expand the military-industrial complex by sending battleships into space. Yet judging from social media, many think all these things and more.

Space has become critical not only to the military but to the economy and all aspects of daily life, and as we stand at the dawn of a new age of space commerce, that’s only going to intensify, and several nations have already developed capabilities  to deny, degrade, and disrupt access to and utilization of space–based assets, whether to degrade US Military capability or as a direct economic attack.

Like it or not, the militarization of space started long ago, threats are already up there, and wherever people and their interests go next, so too will go conflict, intrigue, heroes and villains, everything that comprises good stories….

WHAT WE WANT

Stories that grab us from the start and stay with us for days. Scientifically plausible drama about people facing interesting challenges related to the US Space Force or more generally, the policing and defense of near-Earth space and related issues, now or in the foreseeable future (the next century or so).

Stories don’t have to take place in space, involve the actual US Space Force, or be hard sci-fi, but they should help illustrate in some way how space technology shapes modern civilization in critical, often overlooked ways, how it is now or soon may come under threat, and how it might be defended now and into the future. See this page for ideas and background.

(6) A SEVENTIES LOOK AT FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has added “Minicon 10 (1975)-History of the MFS-Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, Bob Tucker” to its YouTube channel.

Minicon 10 (1975) – History of the MFS – Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, Bob Tucker & more: 

Minicon 10 was held April 18-20, 1975 in Minneapolis. This panel discussion, orchestrated by Gordy Dickson, majors in history and anecdotes of the 1940s Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS).  Particpants: Kenny Gray, Poul Anderson, Oliver Saari, Gordon Dickson, Grace Riger, Bob Tucker, and Clifford Simak. A high percentage of the MFS members went on to sell professionally to the magazines.

The panel begins with the flowering of MFS after Clifford Simak moved to town, to anecdotes about late night hero-saving plot sessions to the true identity of Squanchfoot (hint: Simak’s City was dedicated to him). 

You’ll hear about the softball games in which many Saaris participated, the origin of Twonk’s disease, how Poul became an MFS member and more. 

There’s silly story writing, an imitation Red Boggs, and a mass induction into the MFS.  For those that live(d) in Minneapolis, and for those that didn’t, this recording provides an affectionate look at the early MFS…Many thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(7) WHERE DID THE TIME GO. Lincoln Michel tackles the question “Why Does It Take So Long to Publish a Book?” in his Counter Craft newsletter.

… For this post, I’m just talking about the last part: how long it takes to publish a book once you sell it to a traditional publisher. Often, unpublished and self-published authors are baffled at turn around time for books. This discourse was most recently kicked off by a tweet asking authors how they would feel if a publisher offered to publish their book yet it would take 2 years and they’d have to cut 10,000 words. The replies were filled with a lot of unpublished authors saying “that’s way too long!” and/or “that’s way too many words to cut!” and then a lot of published authors saying “uh, this is completely standard in publishing?”

…To be very clear, getting published by a good publisher in no way guarantees you’ll get much attention or sell many copies. Yet if you want any chance of getting those things, your publisher needs a lot of time to pitch your book to distributors and bookstores and to do all of the publicity and marketing.

This—the general publicity, marketing, and distribution—is where much of the publishing time disappears. And it’s the kind of stuff you might not realize if you aren’t a traditionally published author. Things like major bookstore orders (including Amazon) are set long before a book is published. Anticipated book lists and “buzz” begins well in advance, sometimes before books are even finished being written. Review copies get sent to reviewers months before books are published, so that reviews can appear when the book does. And so on and so forth.

In addition to the distribution, marketing, and publicity there are other important steps if you want a professional book, especially editing (big scale stuff), copyediting (line level stuff), proofreading (typos). There are many other steps here too such as getting blurbs and getting cover art but thankfully many of these can be done concurrently with the other steps timewise….

(8) SWIFT DEPARTURE. Deadline reports “‘Tom Swift’ Canceled By CW After One Season”.

Tom Swift has swiftly gotten the boot at CW.

The low-rated, Nancy Drew spinoff only launched on May 31 and has aired six episodes to date. The series, which features a predominantly Black cast, started off as an unconventional backdoor pilot, with only Tian Richards (as Tom) getting an introduction on Nancy Drew last season. The rest of the characters were cast after the project was picked up to series in August.

We hear CBS Studios, which is behind Tom Swift, is trying to extend the options on the cast, which expire today, and plans to shop the series elsewhere.

The CW brass have said that they like the show creatively. The cancellation is said to be performance-based as Tom Swift is among the CW’s least watched series on linear, with 535K viewers in Live+7, as well as on streaming….

(9) THERE IS CRYING IN TV. A show you may not have even known was in the works has also stumbled before making it out of the cornfield:  “‘Field of Dreams’ TV Series Dropped at Peacock”.

A series adaptation of Field of Dreams has struck out at PeacockThe Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The Mike Schur-created drama based on the 1989 Kevin Costner-starring baseball-focused film was picked up straight to series in August 2021 but will not stream on the platform, according to a source with knowledge.

Universal Television, where Schur’s Fremulon shingle holds an overall deal, is in the process of talking to interested buyers.

Schur is the creator of NBC’s The Good Place, along with serving as the co-creator of Parks and RecreationBrooklyn Nine-Nine and Rutherford Falls. Among other credits, he is an executive producer on HBO Max’s Emmy-winning Hacks and Freevee’s upcoming Primo….

 (10) 124C41+. Holden Karnosky’s article “The Track Record of Futurists Seems … Fine” at Cold Takes tries to find another way of testing whether it would be a waste of time to put artificial intelligence to work as futurists. One idea was to look at the futures posited by some famous sf writers.

…The idea is something like: “Even if we can’t identify a particular weakness in arguments about key future events, perhaps we should be skeptical of our own ability to say anything meaningful at all about the long-run future. Hence, perhaps we should forget about theories of the future and focus on reducing suffering today, generally increasing humanity’s capabilities, etc.”

But are people generally bad at predicting future events? Including thoughtful people who are trying reasonably hard to be right? If we look back at prominent futurists’ predictions, what’s the actual track record? How bad is the situation?

…Recently, I worked with Gavin Leech and Misha Yagudin at Arb Research to take another crack at this. I tried to keep things simpler than with past attempts – to look at a few past futurists who (a) had predicted things “kind of like” advances in AI (rather than e.g. predicting trends in world population); (b) probably were reasonably thoughtful about it; but (c) are very clearly not “just selected on those who are famous because they got things right.” So, I asked Arb to look at predictions made by the “Big Three” science fiction writers of the mid-20th century: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein.

These are people who thought a lot about science and the future, and made lots of predictions about future technologies – but they’re famous for how entertaining their fiction was at the time, not how good their nonfiction predictions look in hindsight. I selected them by vaguely remembering that “the Big Three of science fiction” is a thing people say sometimes, googling it, and going with who came up – no hunting around for lots of sci-fi authors and picking the best or worst.2

Alan Baumler kept score while reading the article:

  • One (Asimov) who looks quite impressive – plenty of misses, but a 50% hit rate on such nonobvious predictions seems pretty great.
  • One (Heinlein) who looks pretty unserious and inaccurate.
  • One (Clarke) who’s a bit hard to judge but seems pretty solid overall (around half of his predictions look to be right, and they tend to be pretty nonobvious).

(11) MEMORY LANE

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] Yes, I know I wrote up Bewitched earlier this year. Or at least I think II did. I do lose track after a while. At any rate, tonight we’ve come to eulogize its ending fifty years ago on this evening. The show aired from September 17, 1964 to July 1, 1972 on ABC for two hundred and fifty-four episodes — seventy-four in black-and-white for the first two years, 1964 to 1966) and one hundred eighty in color for the final three years, 1966 to 1972.

I cannot say that I’ve watched all of the series, but I’ve watched a fair amount of it and it will unashamedly admit that I really do like it. It’s not a complicated series, nor a particularly deep series, but it’s both fun and charming, and it is inoffensive. 

So why did Bewitched come to an end? Was it the ratings? That certainly was part of that problem as by by the end of the next-to-last season the ratings for it had noticeably dropped and the show did not even rank in the list of the top thirty programs. But that wasn’t the actual reason it got cancelled.

That was down to Elizabeth Montgomery who had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on to new roles. Well, they didn’t happen. The only thing she was on Password, a game show where she was a celebrity contestant for nearly ninety episodes. 

She died at aged sixty-two of an untimely diagnosed cancer. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1934 — Jean Marsh, 88. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Whovian affairs. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly StrangerDark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling
  • Born July 1, 1935 — David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been  a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he then played the role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few years later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1942 — Genevieve Bujold, 80. We would have had a rather different look on Voyager if things had played out as the producers wished, for Bujold was their first choice to play Janeway. She quit after a day and a half of shooting, with the public reason being she was unaccustomed to the hectic pace of television filming. What the real reason was we will never know.
  • Born July 1, 1952 — Dan Aykroyd, 70. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Raimis though he himself came up with the Ghostbusters concept), Ackroyd actually showed up in his first genre role a year earlier in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprised his role in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. And he was the narrator of the Hotel Paranormal series that just ended.
  • Born July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot, aged, well, 67. Yes, this is this official birthday of the robot in Forbidden Planet, which debuted a year later. Over the years he would also be seen is such films and series as The Invisible Boy,Invasion of the Neptune MenThe Twilight ZoneLost In SpaceThe Addams Family, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.  He was in a 2006 commercial for AT&T. Well very, very briefly. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 58. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best known work. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction where many of his stories have since been published.  Editor for six years of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction until February of last year. At the World Fantasy Awards in 2021 he received the Special Award – Professional for editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
  • Born July 1, 1981 — Genevieve Valentine, 41. Author of the superb Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows what would happen if Hollywood added “improvements” to Noah’s Ark. (Which, of course, they’ve already done, but play along with the joke.)

(14) AMAZON PRIME TEASER TRAILER FOR PAPER GIRLS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The comic book Paper Girls — which involves time travel among other tropes, so it’s inarguably science fiction — which I may have stumbled on either browsing my library’s “new graphic novels” or during the year-ish I subscribed to ComiXology’s monthly streaming digital comics service, or a mix, is about to be an Amazon Prime series, per this trailer I just saw:

It looks promising, to say the least.

Want to read ’em first? If your public library (or interlibrary loan) doesn’t have them, you can e-borrow/read issues 1-30 free through HooplaDigital.com — either as Volumes 1-6, or in 3 borrows (remember, Hoopla allows a set # borrows/month) by going for the Deluxe Edition Books (10 issues each), as this search shows.

(I’ve read ’em; recommended!)

(15) USHERING IN THE ATOMIC AGE. Now on the block at Heritage Auctions is Capt. Robert Lewis’ ‘Enola Gay’ logbook documenting the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Bidding was up to $400,000 when last checked.

Captain Robert A. Lewis, the co-pilot of the B-29 Superfortress called the Enola Gay, wrote those immortal words shortly after 8:16 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, moments after he and his crewmates dropped the atomic bomb on the citizens of Hiroshima. The course of history changed at that precise moment: A beautiful day exploded into a blinding bright light, a nuclear fireball leveled a city, at least 100,000 died, and a world war neared its end.

And there, high above it all yet so much a part of the devastation below, was Robert Lewis to chronicle every spectacular and awful moment. He was among the dozen Enola Gay crewmen who delivered the 15-kiloton bomb codenamed “Little Boy” to Japan and the only person aboard who kept a detailed account of the top-secret mission that changed the world.

Lewis’ 11-page chronicle of those few minutes is among the most important documents of the 20th century, a harrowing and oft-heartbreaking account of those very moments between the pre-atomic and post-atomic world – before Hiroshima was struck by the noiseless flash, consumed by fire and swallowed by a mushroom cloud. The public has not seen it since it sold in 2002 during a famous auction of publisher Malcolm Forbes’ American historical documents.

(16) COULD WE DECODE ALIEN PHYSICS? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Matt O’Dowd at PBS Space Time asks “Could We Decode Alien Physics?”

How hard can it really be to decode alien physics and engineering? It’s gotta map to our own physics – I mean, we live in the same universe. We start by noticing that the alien technology seems to use good ol’ fashioned electronics, even if it is insanely complex. We know this because the particle carried by the alien circuitry looks like the electron. We decide this through a process of elimination.

(17) FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch tracked themoviedb.org data to measure “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in June.”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Everything Everywhere All at OnceObi-Wan Kenobi
2Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomFor All Mankind
3Jurassic WorldSeverance
4Spider-Man: No Way HomeTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
5Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessWestworld
6MorbiusStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
7Jurassic ParkDoctor Who
8Ghostbusters: AfterlifeNight Sky
9Crimes of the FutureThe Man Who Fell to Earth
10MoonfallThe Twilight Zone

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(18) THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTED. Gizmodo takes stock of its accomplishments as “LightSail 2 Mission Poised to Burn Up in Earth’s Atmosphere”.

For the past three years, a tiny loaf-of-bread-sized spacecraft with gigantic wings has been sailing on sunbeams in low Earth orbit. LightSail 2 has far exceeded its life expectancy and proven that solar sails can indeed be used to fly spacecraft. But its journey around our planet is sadly coming to an end, as Earth’s atmosphere drags the spacecraft downward where it will eventually burn up in atmospheric flames.

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 launched in June 2019 and unfurled its 344-square-foot (32-square-meter) solar sail a month later. Just two weeks after spreading its wings, LightSail 2 gained 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of altitude, making this experiment a success….

(19) NIMOY THEATER UPDATE. A new era for the Center for the Art of Performance UCLA is underway as they continue to develop the UCLA Nimoy Theater. “The Nimoy sets new horizon for the arts community”. You can see an overview of the project here.

Located near the UCLA campus on Westwood Boulevard, The Nimoy is a reimagining of the historic Crest Theater as a flexible, state-of-the-art performance space.

Opening in late March 2023, the intimately-scaled venue is named for artist, actor, director and philanthropist Leonard Nimoy. Shawmut Construction has been working steadily to renovate the venue, which will be equipped with new and green technologies to support the creation and presentation of innovative work. 

The Nimoy will be a home for artists representing a broad diversity of voices, viewpoints, ideas and creative expressions in music, dance, theater, literary arts, digital media arts and collaborative disciplines. The inaugural season will feature a large slate of amazing shows, including new work by the legendary Kronos Quartet, “live documentarian” filmmaker Sam Green, and a collaboration between two essential musical voices of Los Angeles, Quetzal and Perla Batalla. 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King asks, “What if Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson got email from spammers claiming to be “sexy women from Moldova?” “Hot Detectives in Your Area”.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/21/22 The Upside Down

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

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers, Halo” the Screen Junkies say that Microsoft has been trying to develop Halo as a movie or TV series for 20 years (Ridley Scott and Neill Blomkamp were attached to the project so it’s a bad sign the show has landed at Paramount Plus. The show features three battle scenes in nine hours, one character who runs the only “libertarian paradise” with a churro stand, and “a girl with a backstory as tragic as her haircut.”  The narrator suggests that gamers may find more entertainment playing Halo than watching this plodding series.

(16) A HAMMER FILM. Gizmodo declares “Thor Love and Thunder Footage Is Pure Marvel Studios Excitement”.

This new featurette for Thor: Love and Thunder is more exciting than all of its trailers combined. Which is saying something: the trailers for Taika Waititi’s latest, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Christian Bale, have been excellent. There’s just something about seeing all that footage cut with the actors and filmmaker gushing over it that gives a whole new level of energy….

(15) NAPTIME FOR VOYAGER. “NASA is starting to shut down the Voyager probes, which launched in 1977 and made it deeper into space than anything since”: Yahoo! has the story.

The epic interstellar journeys of NASA’s acclaimed Voyager probes are due to come to an end as the agency starts switching off their systems, Scientific American reported.

The probes launched 45 years ago, in 1977, and have pushed the boundaries of space exploration ever since. They’re farther away from Earth than any other man-made object, a record that will likely stay unbroken for decades.

The decision to reduce power on the probes is meant to extend their life span a few more years and take them to about 2030, Scientific American said….

…The instrument’s hardwired electronics have survived the test of time remarkably well, in spite of its age.

The primitive computers onboard the probes don’t require much power. All of the data collected by the instruments on Voyager is stored on an eight-track tape recorder and sent to earth using a machine that uses up about as much power as a refrigerator light bulb, Scientific American said.

They have “less memory than the key fob that opens your car door,” Spilker said.

(14) GLUE GUY. Joe Moe holds forth on “The Importance of Building Monster Models!” for Heritage Auctions.

…Amidst the deluxe monster masks, 8mm film reels, books, magazines, and other horror novelties, there lurked the coveted monster models. These cast-plastic, puzzle figures came in a cardboard box with a glorious full-color lid featuring a vivid image (painted by the brilliant James Bama) of your favorite movie monster, which we’d ultimately use as our paint master. Once newspapers were spread across the kitchen table, the tight-fitting lid would vibrate and practically hum as we pried it off the box bottom to reveal, first, the industrial perfume of fresh plastic. Next, we’d regard all the split, hollow pieces of our particular creature, suspended in a plastic spider’s web matrix of flashing that we would twist each model piece free of as carefully as you’d extract a loose, wiggling baby tooth. Once the pieces were laid out, we’d unfold the graphic instructions, which weren’t needed, but served to get you even more excited about the finished masterpiece you were about to assemble and paint. Unlike other collectibles you could buy, once you’d finished painting and detailing, your monster model would be a one-of-a-kind display piece – unique from anyone else’s…. 

(13) ONE TOKEN OVER THE LINE. Archie McPhee expects the people who like their catalog will want to play “Go Go Gargoyle! The Game”.

The Horrible Horseman has defeated the gargoyles that defended Crowning Castle and thrown everything into chaos. A new batch of baby gargoyles has been birthed from the fire demon to retake the castle and protect it from future attacks. These gargoyles have got to save the kingdom! This simple game takes you through a magical kingdom full of ghosts, cryptids and grumpy wizards. Includes a fantastic detail-filled game board, four 1-1/8″ tall gargoyle tokens and 54 standard-sized, 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ illustrated cards.

(12) BRITISH TV NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Gabriel Tate discusses “The Lazarus Project,” which premiered on Sky Max and NOW in Britain on June 16.

The series begins on July 1,with George (Paapa Essiedu) waking up to his partner, Sarah (Charly Clive).  Later that day, he secures funding for his start-up app.  In the months that follow, Sarah becomes pregnant and the couple marry before the escalating pandemic puts everything off-beam.  Then one day George wakes up and finds it is again that same July 1. Everyone else seems oblivious…

…The field of time-loop-based fiction is a crowded one, from Groundhog Day and Source Code to Looper, among others. Yet while its predecessors have used the premise as a technical exercise, an excuse for action-packed thrills or a vehicle for humour, an eight-episode run allows “The Lazarus Project” to delve more deeply into moral considerations.  What could be a slightly silly show with good gags and terrific stuntwork becomes something else, asking serious questions about a modern world that feels increasingly out of control.  Who wouldn’t want to take hold of the tiller?

(11)  THEY PUT THINGS IN OUR EARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As an sff fan you might be forgiven for thinking that NextSense was founded by a bunch of zombie Ferengis. They are, after all, obsessed with ears—but what they’re really interested in is brains. “This Startup Wants to Get in Your Ears and Watch Your Brain” at WIRED.

… For years, people have been shifting from tracking their health through sporadic visits to a doctor or lab to regularly monitoring their vitals themselves. The NextSense team is gambling that, with a gadget as familiar as an earbud, people will follow the same path with their brains. Then, with legions of folks wearing the buds for hours, days, and weeks on end, the company’s scientists hope they’ll amass an incredible data trove, in which they’ll uncover the hidden patterns of mental health.

For now, that’s the stuff of dreams. What’s real is that on one day in 2019, a patient tucked a bud into each ear, fell asleep, and proceeded to astound NextSense’s scientists—by churning out brain waves that showed exactly how this product could save a person’s life.

Jonathan Berent is the CEO of NextSense. On a recent evening, the 48-year-old was talking like a podcast at 1.5 speed while we waited for our entrées on the patio of an Italian restaurant in Mountain View, California. The subject of his filibuster was how he’d gotten into brain health. His obsession wasn’t ears or wellness; it was sleep….

(10) “EVERYTHING IS SEEN IN CHINA”. “US TikTok User Data Has Been Repeatedly Accessed From China, Leaked Audio Shows” reports BuzzFeed News.

For years, TikTok has responded to data privacy concerns by promising that information gathered about users in the United States is stored in the United States, rather than China, where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company, is located. But according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States….

Adweek carried the corporation’s denial: “TikTok Looks to Counter Report That US User Data Was Repeatedly Accessed in China”.

…TikTok fired back, asserting that no user data was shared in China, but the Trump administration kept applying pressure. No action was taken during the remainder of his term, however.

Calamug stressed in his blog post that TikTok’s data center in Virginia “includes physical and logical safety controls such as gated entry points, firewalls and intrusion detection technologies,” adding that the Singapore data center served as a backup….

TechCrunch says the company is trying to restore confidence: “TikTok moves all US traffic to Oracle servers, amid new claims user data was accessed from China”.

TikTok said on Friday it is moving U.S. users’ data to Oracle servers stored in the United States. Overshadowing its migration announcement was a damning report that followed, claiming that TikTok staff in China had access to its U.S. users’ data as recently as this January.

The report from BuzzFeed News, which cites recordings from 80 TikTok internal meetings it obtained, claims that U.S. employees of TikTok repeatedly consulted with their colleagues in China to understand how U.S. user data flowed because they did not have the “permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own.”

“Everything is seen in China,” the report said, quoting an unnamed member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department as saying in a September 2021 meeting….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 21, 1969 — Christa Faust, 53. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one novel with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final DestinationFriday the ThirteenthFringeGabriel HuntNightmare on Elm StreetSupernatural and Twilight Zone universes.  Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this. 
  • Born June 21, 1965 — Steve Niles, 57. Writer best  known for works such as 30 Days of NightCriminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film. 
  • Born June 21, 1964 — David Morrissey, 58. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest of seeing as I don’t do zombies) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m not at all ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve listened the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. 
  • Born June 21, 1957 — Berkeley Breathed, 65. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is explicitly genre as they are fantastic creatures. And he contributed three cartoons to the ConFederation program book.
  • Born June 21, 1952 — David J. Skal, 70. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of items in his CV with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
  • Born June 21, 1947 — Michael Gross, 75. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well armed and very paranoid graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (based on the Niven story I assume) and voicing a  few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters.
  • Born June 21, 1940 — Mariette Hartley, 82. She’s remembered by us for the classic Trek episode “All Our Yesterdays”, though, as OGH noted in an earlier Scroll, probably best known to the public for her Polaroid commercials with James Garner. She also had a role as psychologist Dr. Carolyn Fields in “Married”, an episode of The Incredible Hulk. 
  • Born June 21, 1938 — Ron Ely, 84. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  Other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] There are some films that I just like without reservation. One of these is The Rocketeer that premiered on this date thirty-one years ago. I’ve seen this one at least three or four times. It’s proof that the Disney can actually be creative unlike the Marvel films which have all the weakness of a franchise undertaking. (End of rant.) 

It was directed by Joe Johnston whose only previous genre film was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and produced by a committee of Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin. None had done anything that suggested they’d be up to this level of excellence. (Yes, my bias is showing.) The script was by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo who did the most excellent Trancers. Bilson wrote the story along with Paul De Meo and William Dear.

Now the source material was the stellar Rocketeer graphic novel series that the late Dave Steven was responsible for. If you’ve not read it, why not? It’s a Meredith moment at the usual suspects at a mere six dollars.  

The cast of Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Sorvino and Timothy Dalton was just damn perfect. And there wasn’t anything the film from the design of Rocketeer outfit itself to the creation of the Nazi Zeppelin which was a thirty-two-foot-long model that isn’t spot on. Cool, very cool. The visual effects were designed and done by George Lucas’ ILM. 

Disney being Disney never did actually release an actual production budget but Variety figured that it cost at least forty million, if not much more. It certainly didn’t make much as it only grossed forty seven million at the very best. 

So what did critics at the time think of this stellar film? Well, Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times liked it: “The movie lacks the wit and self-mocking irony of the Indiana Jones movies, and instead seems like a throwback to the simple-minded, clean-cut sensibility of a less complicated time.” And Pete Travers of the Rolling Stone was equally upbeat: “But then the film is awash in all kinds of surprises that are too juicy to reveal. The Rocketeer is more than one of the best films of the summer; it’s the kind of movie magic that we don’t see much anymore — the kind that charms us, rather than bullying us, into suspending disbelief.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent sixty-five rating. 

(7)  TODAY’S PHRASEOLOGY QUESTION. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the subject line of a press release I just got: “Eleven Madison Park went vegan. Then chaos unfolded.”

This is not, I think, intended as an SFnal reference, so, not a nod to Joanna Russ (And Chaos Died), David Gerrold (The Man Who Folded Himself), etc.

A quick web search shows that, much to my surprise, “unfolding chaos,” “chaos unfolding,” etc. this is a relatively common phrase/image, everywhere from economic to political news coverage, not to mention a company name, a poetry anthology (and no doubt, although I did not check, a magic trick).

I guess my questions include:

  • “Did it start as folded chaos?”
  • “If so, who/how folded it?”
  • “Can unfolded chaos be folded back again?”
  • “Is unfolded chaos bigger than folded chaos?”
  • “What did somebody roll to get this?”

(6) THINKING DEEPER. “Robotics expert Robin Murphy explains why ‘Star Wars’ robots don’t reflect reality” at Space.com.

Space.com: What are your particular associations with “Star Wars” and early gateway into science fiction?

Murphy: For the first book I read that wasn’t like a McGuffey Reader or “See Dick and Jane” stuff, I had snuck in and got my dad’s copy of “The Green Hills of Earth” anthology, by Robert Heinlein. It was game on! I consider myself, to this day, a Heinlein babe. The first story in that book is “Delilah and the Space Rigger,” about a space station under construction. [G.] Brooks McNye, the female electrical engineer in the story, was mouthy and guys might push on her, but she just pushed right back and kept going. And that’s pretty much been my career.

I stood in line to see “Star Wars” the second week it was out back in 1977, when it became the phenomenon. Then, years later, I saw Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” and thought, “Ah-ha!” and realized all the similarities, especially with “Star Wars'” two sidekick droids….

Space.com: If you had the keys to the “Star Wars” kingdom, what would you change in its depiction of robots? Or does it not matter to audiences?

Murphy: I don’t think it matters for entertainment purposes. But there’s one thing that I think is really inconsistent that would be interesting to try and figure out. In “The Mandalorian,” the insect-looking droid, Zero, tells Mando that it decided to join a criminal gang. How did it decide that? How does that work? Because C-3PO and R2-D2 were owned, and they just decided that they’re suddenly not owned by people anymore. Then, you’ve got the whole thing with IG-11. He’s constantly threatening to self-destruct, which could potentially kill or maim innocent bystanders. 

That self-destruct sequence is hard-coded by the manufacturers to protect their intellectual property, but they’d be liable for all that collateral damage. If they looked a little more consistently about the rules of when can a droid be free, when can it be its own agent and who built it, that would help. What are the legal and ethical liabilities associated with them?

(5) STRANGER THINGS. Entertainment Weekly warns us: Stranger Things 4 trailer teases possible fatalities in two-part finale: ‘Your friends have lost'”.

Queue up the Kate Bush because things are not looking good for our pals in Hawkins.

The full-length trailer for Stranger Things season 4’s two-episode finale comes with a warning: “It might not work out for us this time.” That can’t be good.

Adding to the ominous vibe of the teaser is Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). “It’s over. Now I just want you to watch,” he says. The psychic demo-creature then tells Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown): “Your friends have lost.”

It’s the penultimate season and Netflix split the last two episodes into their own Volume 2, releasing on July 1. Together they run nearly four hours, so basically they are two back-to-back Stranger Things movies. It’s clear the stakes are high. Might someone — or several someones — not make it out alive? (You know, for real this time.)…

(4) AMBITIOUS PROJECT. African sff writers will create “The Sauúti Fictional World: A Partnership Between Syllble and Brittle Paper “.

Once every generation, there are defining events that reshape the landscape of the speculative fiction literary realm, this time ten African science fiction and fantasy authors from five African nations have gathered over the past few months of this year to bring to life a new and intricate fictional world called Sauúti

Born out of a partnership between Syllble, a sci-fi and fantasy production house based in Los Angeles that produces fictional worlds, and Brittle Paper Magazine, The Sauúti Collective has produced a unique science-fantasy world for and by Africans and the African Diaspora. 

… It all began after Dr. Ainehi Edoro, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Brittle Paper, Wole Talabi, Nigerian author and Editor of Africanfuturism: An Anthology, and I met to discuss what this collaboration could look like and the importance of bringing African voices together. Wole, now a Syllble Brain Trust member, has been facilitating the collaborative sessions between these nine creative minds leading to the creation of the Sauúti Universe.

Sauúti is taken from the word “Sauti” which means “voice” in Swahili. This world is a five-planet system orbiting a binary star. This world is rooted deeply in a variety of African mythology, language, and culture. Sauúti weaves in an intricate magic system based on sound, oral traditions and music. It includes science-fiction elements of artificial intelligence and space flight, including both humanoid and non-humanoid creatures. Sauúti is filled with wonder, mystery and magic….

In addition to Wole Talabi, the members are Kalejaye Akintoba, Eugen Bacon, Stephen Embleton, Dare Segun Falowo, Adelehin Ijasan, Cheryl Ntumy, Ikechukwu Nwaogu, Xan van Rooyen, and Jude Umeh. Each participant does a Q&A as part of the announcement here.

(3) 1932: A VERY GOOD YEAR FOR HOWARD FANS. The Cromcast shares another recording of a Howard Days panel on REH in 1932, which was a landmark year for him (among other things, he created Conan): “Howard Days 2022 – Part 2 – Robert E. Howard in 1932!”

The panelists discuss the 90th Anniversaries of Conan, Worms of the Earth, the poem “Cimmeria” plus other notable REH events in 1932. Panelists include Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Deuce Richardson, and Paul Sammon. The panel is moderated by Bobby Derie.

(2) PEN PINTER PRIZE. Malorie Blackman, author of the Noughts and Crosses dystopian YA series, has won the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize reports the Guardian.

Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman has become the first children’s and YA writer to be awarded the PEN Pinter prize.

The prize is given by English PEN annually to a writer of “outstanding literary merit” who is based in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. The recipient must also, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel prize, cast an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze on the world and show a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.

Blackman said she was “incredibly honoured” to get the award, and said she was sure she would not be the last children’s and YA author to win the prize, as many “fearless” authors were writing for young people and “tackling complex issues in an entertaining, informative, and understandable way”.

… Blackman will receive the Pinter prize in a ceremony in October, where she will deliver an address. The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage, who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty. Blackman will choose that winner from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The author said she was grateful to be given the chance to pick the writer of courage. “Such authors who seek to write their truth in spite of often intractable opposition define the word courage,” she said….

(1) IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, LETHEM THINKS IT’S TIME YOU MET HIM. “An Introduction to Stanislaw Lem, the Great Polish Sci-Fi Writer, by Jonathan Lethem” at Open Culture.

…Represented best in the pages of Astounding Stories and other sci-fi pulps, hard sci-fi “advertises consumer goods like personal robots and flying cars. It valorizes space travel that culminates in successful, if difficult, contact with the alien life assumed to be strewn throughout the galaxies.” The genre also became tied to “American exceptionalist ideology, technocratic triumphalism, manifest destiny” and “libertarian survivalist bullshit,” says Lethem.

Lem had no use for these attitudes. In his guise as a critic and reviewer he wrote, “the scientific ignorance of most American science-fiction writers was as inexplicable as the abominable literary quality of their output.” He admired the English H.G. Wells, comparing him to the inventor of chess, and American Philip K. Dick, whom he called a “visionary among charlatans.” But Lem hated most hard sci-fi, though he himself, says Lethem, was a hard sci-fi writer “with visionary gifts and inexhaustible diligence when it came to the task of extrapolation.”…

Pixel Scroll 6/2/22 The Left Hand Of Pixelness

(1) NOBEL MEDAL AUCTION. Heritage Auctions is taking bids for the “Dmitry Muratov 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Medal”, being sold to benefit children and their families forced to flee Ukraine and those internally displaced since the start of the war in February. All proceeds will support UNICEF’s humanitarian response for children in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

Dmitry Muratov is the editor-in-chief of the influential Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta. Bidding will conclude with a live auction at The Times Center in Manhattan on World Refugee Day, June 20.

“The editors of Novaya Gazeta decided it was necessary to help those in desperate need,” says Muratov, who in 1993 co-founded the Moscow-based publication that is now the last independent newspaper in Russia. “Everyone understood that we had to help, and the sale of the Nobel medal through Heritage Auctions gave us a powerful opportunity to help Ukrainian refugees. We hope that everyone around the world supports us and contributes to this movement, however they can.”

Muratov shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa. The Norwegian Nobel Committee celebrated their “fight for freedom of expression in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

(2) ORIGINS AWARDS HELD OVER TO 2023. The Game Manufacturers Assocation (GAMA) told Facebook readers:

We are not having the Origins Award this year. We will be bringing them back for 2023 and will have information this fall on categories and submission process.

The awards also were not given in 2021, which prompted this comment from Jason Williams:

Can I ask then what happened to all the physical games which were entered as the awards were open for entry in 2021,(this is for game titles produced in 2020) and publishers did invest time and resources on making entries. Maybe those games which were entered need to have awards in 2023 recognized if there are enough staff available then. The fact that in 2021, submissions were accepted, but no awards were ever given, seems pretty wrong. Especially since titles are only able to be entered for the awards in the year they are published and these titles can never be considered for these awards in the future.

GAMA did not reply.

(3) JASON SANFORD. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Jason Sanford: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Jason Sanford is a fan journalist, reviewer and award-nominated novelist. He is having a busy year with two different streams of his work being recognised in 2022: he was a Nebula Award & Philip K Dick Award finalist for Best Novel with The Plague Birds and he is a Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fan writer.

As well as being a published fiction writer, Sanford is a prolific fan writer with an active interest in news and invents within fandom and genre publishing…. 

(4) NKWETI Q&A. “Nana Nkweti on Writing Cameroonian American Experiences & Crossing Genres” at Open Country.

Nana Nkweti started writing at nine years old. A sci-fi lover even then, her earliest stories saw her in future worlds, going on space adventures. Like most writers, she was a voracious reader, digging through her father’s books, the good fortune of having a home library. She read everything from fantasy to the realist classics, and began to imagine herself and girls who looked like her reflected in those stories.

It is no surprise then that the 10 stories in her collection Walking on Cowrie Shells centre Cameroonian women. The characters share her intersectional identity, as a Black woman, a hyphenated American, an ethnic African. But the stories also speak to the universal idea of people charting next steps, growing and evolving along the way.

The title “Walking on Cowrie Shells” is a play on the English idiom. She deploys it in the book to embody that sense of being in a threshold, in liminal spaces, of teetering between choices, between cultures or identities. Her characters are tentative; they are about becoming and figuring life out, who they are, who they want to be….

(5) BARRIERS TO PUBLICATION FOR AFRICAN SFF WRITERS. The If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast takes up “Publishing in Africa: Publishing Platforms Or the Lack Therof with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”. The cohosts are Alan Bailey, Cat Rambo, Diane Morrison, and Graeme Barber.

In our 3rd audio column about publishing in Africa we chat with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki about how Africans are being deplatformed within the publishing business. We also discuss the The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction. As this episode was recorded before the 2022 Nebulas, we’d also like to congratulate Oghenechovwe on his award.

(6) SAULSON REPORTS ON CONVENTIONS. Sumiko Saulson reports “StokerCon 2022 was like a Black family reunion, but the struggle is far from over” at SF Bayview. Includes quotes from Craig L. Gidney, Steve Van Patten, and L.M. Wood.

…“The best part of going to cons these days is seeing the increase of diverse creators in the community. When I first started going to cons, I was one of a few folks of color. Now I’m one of many. And it feels great!

“I love that there are other Black queer creators out there – such as yourself [referring to Saulson], Kai Ashante Wilson and Marlon James. And even in that cohort, there are immense differences! For years, I wrote my fiction in isolation, collecting rejection slips like some people collect decoder rings. Now, not only is there a readership, there are other authors. It’s a great time to be publishing!” rejoiced Craig L. Gidney, author of the “Nectar of Nightmares.”

Another positive outcome for the new in-person conventions is an increase in POC representation amongst the Guests of Honor. For instance, Floyd Norman, an 86-year-old African American animator, writer, and comic book artist who was the first Black person to be a regular employee on Walt Disney’s animation staff will be the artist guest of honor at WorldCon in Chicago this year….

Saulson also covered the discussion here of SFWA’s removal of Mercedes Lackey from the Nebula Conference:

…In the wake of the incident, the power dynamics remained in play, as older, white authors have flocked to the File 770 article on the situation in defense of Mercedes Lackey, many of them citing Samuel Delaney’s personal lack of offense at the comment in their sometimes mean spirited comments about Jen Brown. Many such comments were removed from the “r/fantasy” Reddit…. 

Many comments weren’t approved for File 770, either, but speaking about the ones that were, including two welcome additions from Saulson, my goal for having that discussion was to let some in the File 770 commenting community who needed to do so alleviate their ignorance, while others came alongside to battle the excuse-makers and set proper boundaries for future discussion. I’ll point to what I said in that discussion:

Introducing the word shibboleth is an unwelcome attempt to ask white people to give intent priority over the clear statements from black people who take offense at the word. Even if Delany or Steve Barnes aren’t condemning Lackey, the status of the word is plain to see.

(7) TIME FOR A ROYAL FLUSH? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Various members of my book club and I have been jabbering away about monarchy in SFF at various points over the past several years. So when we realized that the vestigial monarch of England (and various former vassal states) was marking an arbitrary anniversary of a meaningless ceremony, Amanda and I decided was a good opportunity to talk about the various kings, tsars, emperors, etc. that populate so much SF. So we collaborated with some other folk in pulling this blog post together quickly this week. “The Tsars Like Dust” at the Hugo Book Club Blog.

…Given that there are few places that are still governed by monarchs of anything other than a vestigial variety, it might seem reasonable that few authors choose to engage critically with the consequences of the monarchies they depict. Americans under the age of 244 and British people with no recollection of what things were like before Peterloo don’t have any direct experience with just how truly awful it would be to live in a polity governed by Emperoxes. (Even if there’s a good ruler like Greyland once in a while, they end up being hamstrung by the weight of tradition.) 

Authors seeking to more accurately depict what a space empire might look like should probably look to the few modern-day examples of absolute monarchy that still exist, places like the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Eswatini, and the Kim Family Protectorate of North Korea. To put it bluntly, in the real world there is a strong correlation between the authority of monarchs, and a lack of human rights, and this is rarely depicted in science fiction….

(8) TONOPAH NEWS. The Westercon 74 in Tonopah program schedule is now online. Strangely, it seems to be in alphabetical order by title of the program item – rather than in chronological order.

The Virtual Program schedule is in chrono order.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2015 [By Cat Eldridge.] Seven years ago this evening, on what was ABC Family, the Stitchers series premiered. The premise is simple: Kirsten Clark, who has been recruited into a covert government operation is to be “stitched” with the memories of people recently deceased to investigate murders. 

It was created by Jeff Schechter who as near as I can tell had little genre background other than Strange Days at Blake Holsey High and Animorphs, but I will single him out for the very non-genre series, Transporter: The Series which was off Luc Besson’s Transporter film. 

Kirsten Clark was played by Emma Ishta. In addition, you’ll recognize two other cast members — Salli Richardson-Whitfield from Eureka who is Magritte “Maggie” Baptiste here and Allison Scagliotti of Warehouse 13 who is Camille Engelson in this series. The only other actor worth noting is Kyle Harris as Cameron Goodkin. 

Stitchers was popular enough that it made through three seasons before getting canceled. It did not accrue a lot of episodes, being treated like a British series as each series had only only ten episodes save the first that had eleven.

So did the critics like it? No, they didn’t. 

Variety’s review was typical: “About as slim as a sci-fi-inspired premise gets, ‘Stitchers’ joins a long list of series built around wide-eyed youths with an unusual skill who are recruited to join a save-the-world-type enterprise. In this case, the protagonist is a beautiful and brilliant Caltech student with temporal dysplasia, which means she doesn’t feel the passage of time. Most viewers, however, will likely feel it acutely while wading through this tired and predictable hour, which centers on a secret program that hacks into the brains of the recently deceased to solve crimes. While its heroine might not know it, skipping ‘Stitchers’ will save you time.”

Collider wasn’t any kinder: “The show’s premise thematically belongs to Syfy, and the cast is very CW, but nothing about Stitchers really comes together for ABC Family. Kirsten is described as emotionally void, and the show shares the same fate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t also happen to be brilliant to offset its other faults. The show is all over the place with its story and its tone, portraying Kirsten as a hacker, and then as a super-sleuth. Though there is some potential and humor present with its minor cast, the series pulls together elements of many other series — like CSI and Bones — without improving upon them. A missed opportunity, Stitchers is looking for signs of life, but hasn’t found them yet.” 

Eighty six percent of audience members at Rotten Tomatoes liked it. Good for them.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 2, 1921 Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly is SF and related fields. She represented R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.)
  • Born June 2, 1920 – Bob Madle, 102. Helped start his local sf club in 1934, went to what he considered to be the first-ever sf convention in 1936, and attended the first Worldcon (Nycon I) in 1939. Bob Madle named the Hugo Awards. He was the first North American TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to an overseas con (Loncon, 1957). Twenty years later he was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1977 Worldcon. First Fandom has inducted him to their Hall of Fame, and given him the Moskowitz Award for collecting. He’s a winner of the Big Heart Award).  This post about his centennial birthday two years ago includes photos and a summary of his fannish life in his own words. (OGH)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, it is said that he met Jules Feiffer who illustrates that work when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth an evening spent reading. He wrote a lot of other works, none of which I recognize. (Died 2021.)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman. You know she was in Star Trek as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  But did you know she also appeared on the Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsLost HorizonThe InvadersThe Ray Bradbury Theater, and finally Boris and Natasha: The Movie in which she played Natasha Fatale? Quite a genre record, isn’t it? (Died 2022.)
  • Born June 2, 1941 Stacy Keach, 81. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with being The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999 followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really like. More horror, and a really silly title, await him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return where The Hollow has a tasteful title which the Man with the Screaming Brain does not provide him. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo.
  • Born June 2, 1965 Sean Stewart, 57. Fantastic author whose Galveston novel that won the World Fantasy Award I highly recommend as well as the Resurrection Man novels. I’ve not read his most recent set of novels, The Cathy’s Book series, but it’s take on augmented reality sounds intriguing.
  • Born June 2, 1979 Morena Baccarin, 43. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and  Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in the Deadpool franchise; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham. She also did an exemplary job of voicing Black Canary in Justice League Unlimited
  • Born June 2, 1982 Jewel Staite, 40. Best known as the engineer Kaylee Frye in the Firefly verse. She was Jennifer Keller in Stargate Atlantis, Catalina in the Canadian series Space Cases, Tiara VanHorn in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show and “Becca” Fisher in Flash Forward. Genre one-offs? Oh yes: The Odyssey (twice), Are You Afraid of The Dark (again twice), The X-FilesSo WeirdSabrina: The Animated SeriesThe ImmortalSeven DaysStargate AtlantisSupernaturalLegends of TomorrowThe Order and The Magicians.

(11) DANGER ZONE. Lawyers, Guns & Money’s Robert Farley compares Pete Mitchell (from Top Gun: Maverick) to Luke Skywalker: “Pete Mitchell and Luke Skywalker”.

… As it happens, the distance between Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick is 36 years, while the distance between Return of the Jedi and the Last Jedi is 34 years. In both films those numbers are fully realized; Hammill and Cruise each play characters with the weight of three and a half decades on their shoulders. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the mission in Top Gun: Maverick is modeled on nothing so much as Luke Skywalker trench run against the Death Star in A New Hope. I find it awfully interesting that Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and Luke “Red Five” Skywalker each returned to the screen thirty-five years after the completion of their triumphant 80s arcs. I would not have guessed that the former would have been much more favorably received than the latter, and I think it’s worth investigating why….

(12) SFWA AUCTION RESULT. The second SFWA Silent Auction brought in nearly $18,400. Over 200 items, tuckerizations, and virtual sessions were offered. The funds will go to support SFWA’s ongoing work to promote, advance, and support SFF storytelling.

(13) UNFINISHED SYMPHONY. Paul Weimer delves into “the final, and incomplete, work by a master of science fiction and fantasy” — “Microreview [book]: Aspects by John M. Ford” at Nerds of a Feather. But first he issues a warning:

…If reading incomplete books is not your cup of tea, if the fact that this story does end abruptly without resolution, then, honestly, you probably don’t need to continue on with this book review and can go, read The Dragon Waiting or something else. I admit that it poked and prodded at my brain, but I think the book and what it does, what we have of it, is worth discussing, even in an incomplete stage. Inside baseball, perhaps, but it is akin to being shown the first chapters of a book or part of a novella from a friend writer, asking for what they think of it and what works and what does not….

(14) A NICE WAY TO SPEND 100 HOURS. Joe DelFranco is gung ho about Elden Ring: “Review [Video Game]: Elden Ring by From Software” at Nerds of a Feather.

Elden Ring is a vast, seemingly endless experience, that delivers wonders and death at every turn. A hit in all spheres of the industry, loved by fans and journalists both, not just for its generous amount of content but for its ability to transport the player firmly into the Lands Between without loosening its grip for hours on end. From Software has delivered a game that lets the player go on the adventure that they wish without holding their hand, a rarity in video games nowadays; a risk that paid off….

(15) THEY AIM TO PLEASE. The Corridor Crew wants to show you have different the series would be if Stormtroopers could hit what they shoot at: “We Made Star Wars Stormtroopers Accurate”.

Jordan and Fenner set out to correct the most glaring mistake in the original Star Wars trilogy–the lack of affordable health care for the Stormtroopers.

(16) UNLIKELY HERO RETURNS. Willow is an original series streaming on Disney+ beginning November 30.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says when Dolores Umbridge shows up in the fifth Harry Potter movie, she’s “super-snotty and mean: because she interrupts Dumbledore’s annual speech on the many ways Hogwarts students can die. Also, the vision of Voldemort Harry conjures up is even more terrifying because Voldemort’s wearing a zip-up hoodie!”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bonnie Warford, 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 Steve Davidson.]