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 6/7/22 Don’t Step On My Blue Suede Stepping Disks

(1) RUSSIA PUTS SF WRITER ON WANTED LIST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Popular Russian science fiction author Dmitry Glukhovsky has been put on a list for prosecution based on his anti-war comments. He’s one of the first major figures to be targeted under a new law in Russia that criminalizes opposition to the war in Ukraine. “Russia Adds Popular Sci-Fi Writer to Its Wanted List” on Reuters.

 “Stop the war! Admit that this is a war against an entire nation and stop it!” he wrote on Instagram. (The post is here. It’s in Russian.) 

Russia on Tuesday placed Dmitry Glukhovsky, a popular science fiction writer, on its wanted list after accusing him of spreading false information about its military intervention in Ukraine.

…The Interior Ministry’s website listed Glukhovsky, best known for the “Metro 2033” sci-fi novel and its sequels, as wanted under an unspecified article of the criminal code.

Russia has already targeted opposition figures and journalists with a law seeking jail terms of up to 15 years for those convicted of intentionally spreading “fake” news about Russia’s military.

Glukhovsky is the first major cultural figure to be put on the wanted list due to the new law, adopted days after Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24….

Glukhovsky is not in Russia according to the BBC.

(2) PIX THAT SELL TIX. In “‘Prey’: Intense New Trailer Brings Back the Predator in Ferocious, Deadly Fashion”, Variety introduces the trailer.

From 20th Century Studios, the newest installment in the “Predator” saga features a face-off between the alien super-hunter and the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Throughout the two-minute trailer, viewers get to see the Predator in full apex-hunter mode, murdering bears with ease, showing off its skilled hand-to-hand combat and invisibly chasing down human prey through a field.

“Prey” is set to follow the story of a young Comanche woman, Naru, played by Amber Midthunder. The vicious and deadly warrior sets out to protect her people from the horrifying killing machine, vowing that she can kill the creature. Of course, that task is easier said than done. Nevertheless, Naru must use wit and intense skill to stand a chance against the ancient alien being.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg of “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “The Boys,” the filmmakers behind “Prey” aimed to create an accurate portrayal of the Comanche. The film thus features numerous Native American identities in front of and behind the camera, including Native Comanche producer Jhane Myers and a cast made up almost entirely of Native and First Nations talent. Joining Midthunder is Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp and Julian Black Antelope. Dane DiLiegro plays the Predator….

(3) WOODEN YOU LIKE TO BE A PEPPER TOO? Joan Acocello explores “The Transformations of Pinocchio” in The New Yorker. “How Carlo Collodi’s puppet took on a life of his own.”

Of the half-dozen or so films that turned Walt Disney, in the public’s mind, from the father of Mickey Mouse to the creator of the animated fairy-tale feature—thereby making his work a fixture in the imaginative life of almost every American child—“Pinocchio” (1940) feels like the odd one out. Many people say it is their least favorite. It is surely the most frightening. Go to anyone you know who was in grammar school in the nineteen-forties and fifties and ask, What was the Disney movie that scared you the most? Was it “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), where the evil queen falls off a cliff to her death? (Dr. Benjamin Spock once wrote that all the seats in the vast auditorium of Radio City Music Hall had to be reupholstered because so many children wet their pants while watching the film.) Well, what about “Dumbo” (1941), where the baby elephant has to watch as his mother is whipped and chained, howling for her child? O.K., what about “Bambi” (1942), where the fawn’s mother is shot to death a few feet away from him? You can’t beat that, can you?

But, for some reason, “Pinocchio” does. Perhaps the answer lies not in any one scene but in the movie’s over-all bleakness….

(4) FREE READ. Issue 5 of Whetstone Magazine of Sword and Sorcery is now available, and Cora Buhlert has a story called “Village of the Unavenged Dead” in it. There also are stories by G.T. Wilcox, Michael Burke, George Jacobs, Dariel Quiogue, T.A. Markitan, Robert O’Leary, Charles Dooley, Jason M. Waltz, Gregory D. Mele, H.R. Laurence, Anthony Perconti, Chuck Clark, Nathaniel Webb, Patrick Groleau, J. Thomas Howard, B. Harlan Crawford, Rev. Joe Kelly, Rett Weissenfels and Scott Oden as well as an evocative cover by Carlos Castilho. And it’s 100% free.

 (5) VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Steve Vertlieb, who made it through heart surgery, told Facebook friends his recovery from another procedure to fix a pseudoaneurysm and blood clot is not going well and will require more work by the surgeon.

I remain in a weakened and fragile condition due to these latest setbacks. My vital signs for my heart and lungs appear strong, however. Everyone’s continued prayer support would be deeply and most genuinely appreciated. Thanks most sincerely.

(6) OH, YOU RASCAL! John Scalzi will do it his way. Of course!

(7) SHALLOWFAKE. How a crisis actor conspiracy theory rises in times of tragedy: “Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the Man in This Photo” says the New York Times.

In the outpouring of grief immediately after the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, posts appeared on Twitter and other social media platforms about a man named “Bernie.” He was a teacher at Robb Elementary School who died sheltering his students from gunfire, the posts said. Many of the posts included a picture of a grinning, bearded man in glasses.

Some commenters piped up, saying they had seen that face, and that name, before.

On that point, they were right. “Bernie” and the photograph had appeared before on some Twitter accounts that looked as if they were from news organizations like CNN, Fox News and the BBC. One of those accounts said the man was a journalist executed in Kabul by the Taliban. A second one said he was an activist killed in Ukraine by a mine planted by Russian-backed separatists. A third said he was murdered in last month’s massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo.

For those inclined toward conspiracy theories, the conclusion was obvious: “Bernie” was a so-called crisis actor, employed by the left to drum up sympathy for causes like gun control. His repeated appearances were used to prop up theories that major tragedies were hoaxes and that the mainstream media was complicit.

On all those points, the conspiracy theorists were wrong. There is no “Bernie,” he’s not a crisis actor, and news organizations are not behind the posts. And the photo? It is of a 36-year-old online gamer, Jordie Jordan. He’s alive, and he had nothing to do with the posts.

Instead, the posts are part of a yearslong harassment campaign against him, taking place on online platforms like Twitter, Reddit and Discord….

…Mr. Jordan, who streams himself playing video games on YouTube under the Wings of Redemption handle, has nearly 440,000 subscribers. He began playing Call of Duty for an online audience in 2008, after losing a job at a steel mill. Before that, he regularly appeared on a podcast, where he attracted some criticism for his statements, including some homophobic and racial slurs, and comments in support of lowering the age of consent. “I have apologized profusely for the error of my juvenile thought process and live with the ramification of that every day,” he said, attributing the comments to his “shock jock” routine.

He said he had first learned of the “Bernie” meme from Reddit posts in 2020. The photo that is used is a selfie he took on his front porch in 2018 and posted on Twitter….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] If you had HBO back a quarter of a century ago on this night, you might have seen the first episode of the Perversions Of Science series. It is a spin-off of the horror series Tales from the Crypt, another HBO series, and like that series, all of its episodes were based on EC Comics’s Incredible Science FictionWeird Fantasy and Weird Science books.

William Gaines, the publisher and co-editor of EC Comics, gets credit as creator of this series. 

Perversion of Science is hosted by a computer-generated female robot named Chrome which is voiced by Maureen Teefy. Chrome both introduces the story and adds a coda. Unlike the Crypt Keeper who was decidedly grim, Chrome preferred a light banter with element of sex tossed in. 

There was but one season of ten episodes — unlike Tales from the Crypt which lasted seven seasons and eighty-nine episodes. It was supposed to be pure SF with the added elements being HBO of graphic violence, nudity, profanity and sex. I did say it was HBO. 

It really had a lot of well-know performers — Will Wheaton, William Shatner, Sean Astin, Jeffery Coombs, Yancy Butler and Keith Carradine are but some of the actors you’ll recognize there.

The stories I remember as being, well, not bad, not great. HBO never did really get the jones for doing true SF. They were more comfortable with horror. A lot more comfortable. 

As Chris Varner of Dallas Morning anew summed up neatly: “The formula goes something like this: Take liberties with sex and psychopaths whenever possible and let the plot chips fall where they may. ADVERTISEMENT  Unfortunately, they tend to fall in big, ungainly heaps. No one expects Serling-esque profundity from an after-hours HBO fantasy. But with only one of the first four episodes transcending the series’ comic-book source material, the future of Science looks dim.”

It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes because to my knowledge it was never released on any digital media, and it’s not available anywhere to buy, rent or stream anywhere. I think they put it back in the vault and decided to keep it there.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 7, 1915 Graham J. Ingels. Illustrator best remembered for his work in EC Comics during the Fifties, most notably on The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. He illustrated one genre magazine, Planet Stories cover as you can see here. Though he didn’t do any other covers, he was a regular interior artist for both Planet Stories and Planet Comics. (Died 1991.)
  • Born June 7, 1932 Kit Reed. Her first short story, “The Wait” (1958), was published by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She would write more stories than I care to count over her career for which she was nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award three times. I’m not at all familiar with her novels, so do tell me about them please. The usual suspects now have a generous amount of her fiction available which wasn’t true a few years ago. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 7, 1937 Jack Zipes, 85. A truly amazing academic who once royally irritated a friend of mine for having an unrelentingly negative attitude towards Walt Disney whose films, he believes, corrupted the original works of folklorists such as Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Disney, according to Zipes, completely distorted those stories. Need I add that friend lived near Disney World and had met Disney more than once? I like him and think that he’s a folklorist of the first order. His Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales is required reading for anyone interested in that subject, and if can accept if his anti-Disney bias, The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films is fascinating reading. Again setting aside that matter of the anti-Disney bias, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales, Children, and the Culture Industry is really great reading. He did a lot of fairy tale anthologies of which I’ll single out Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and Elves and Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic French Fairy Tales. Both are most excellent reading. 
  • Born June 7, 1952 Liam Neeson, 70. He first shows up in genre films as Gawain in Excalibur and as Kegan in Krull. He plays Martin Brogan In High Spirits, a film I enjoy immensely. Next up is the title role in Darkman, a film I’ve watched myriad times. He’s Dr. David Marrow In The Haunting which I’d contend is loosely off of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Now we get him as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Followed unfortunately by his horrid take as Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins and as a cameo in The Dark Knight RisesNow he voiced Aslan with amazing dignity in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise and I hope voiced Zeus as well in the Titans franchise. Recently he showed up on The Orvillle — who hasn’t? — as Jahavus Dorahl in “If the Stars Should Appear” episode. He’s in the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series as Qui-Gon Jinn in two episodes by using archive material and in the Tales of the Jedi series voicing the same character.  
  • Born June 7 1954, Louise Erdrich, 68. Writer of novels, poetry, and children’s books featuring Native American characters and settings. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Her genre work includes according to ISFDB the Ojibwe series of The Antelope Wife, a work which won a World Fantasy Award, and The Painted Drum, plus stand-alone novels of The Crown of Columbus (co-written with her husband Michael Dorris) and Future Home of the Living God. She’s amply stocked at the usual suspects at reasonable prices.
  • Born June 7, 1955 Mark Schultz, 67. His best work I think is his own written-and-largely-illustrated-by-him Xenozoic Tales book series about a post-apocalyptic world where dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures coexist with humans. He’s done more mainstream work including Star Wars and Aliens (Dark Horse), The Flash (DC) and Prince Valiant currently at King Features.
  • Born June 7, 1960 Bill Prady, 62. Impressively, he’s co-creator with Chuck Lorre of The Big Bang Theory and The Muppets series which he did in 2015 with Bob Kushell. Well maybe not impressively in the case of the second… He wrote one episode of Voyager, “Bliss”.  And he’s the writer of a Munsters film I’ve never heard of, Here Come the Munsters.
  • Born June 7, 1968 Sarah Parish, 54. In “The Runaway Bride“, a Tenth Doctor story, she got to play, with the assistance of extensive CGI, one of the nastiest Who villains to date, The Empress of the Racnoss, an oversized vicious spider with a human face. Great episode. It’s our introduction to Donna Noble, his Companion for quite some time to come. In a much lighter role, she played Pasiphaë on BBC’s Atlantis series. 

(10) UNICORN RETURNING. Paste Magazine boats an “Exclusive Cover Reveal: Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn Reissued in Author’s Preferred Text Edition”. See the design at the link.

…Though the new edition of The Last Unicorn will officially arrive on July 26, 2022, we can exclusively reveal its (gorgeous!) new cover below….

(11) WHEN IT’S EASY BEING GREEN. Quartz offers an explanation why green screens are – guess what color? — in “A brief history of green screens”.

Where would Superman be without the red flutter of his cape, the yellow light of Earth’s sun—and the green screen behind him? The green screen never makes it into the movies, of course; it’s replaced by a sky full of stars, or the skyline of Metropolis. For more than a century, filmmakers have been using the “green screen” technique—or, to be precise, chroma key compositing—to allow us to believe that their actors are doing the impossible. That they’re soaring above the Earth, or investigating a crime in Toontown, or assembling the Avengers, or encountering a T. rex.

In fact, green-screen filmmaking is so easy—and, studio execs will admit thankfully, so cheap—that it’s even used for less fantastic scenes. Men getting out of a car near a motel in David Fincher’s series MindhunterGreen screen: there was no motel, just a sign on a studio set in front of a big ol’ screen of green. Man explaining the cold front on the nightly news? Green screen. It’s gotten to the point where not using green screens, as in the recently released (and box office smash) Top Gun: Maverick, is a matter of sweaty, hard-working pride.

So where did the green screen come from? And why is it so popular? And most importantly: why is it green?….

(12) QUEEN’S PLATINUM JUBILEE. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie found a video of the “Platinum Party at the Palace” that is watchable outside the UK. He advises, “For optimal viewing include one large mug of builders tea and/or pint real ale served at cellar temperature (4 – 5’C) and commence viewing 1 hour 50 minutes before sunset (to get a feel of the live experience).”

(13) YIKES. Meanwhile, Cliff photographed this off-trail celebration of the Jubilee: “Imagine my wife and I’s surprise when, during a hospital visit, we stumbled upon the lair of the Lich Queen of Chelsea And Westminster!”

(14) CLASSIC BRICKWORK. “The Vincent van Gogh ‘Starry Night’ LEGO Set Is Now Available: It’s Created in Collaboration with MoMA” reports Open Culture.

…A collaboration between MoMA and LEGO, the set reinterprets Van Gogh’s thick impasto brushwork in 2316 tiny plastic bricks, including a mini figure of the artist, equipped with paintbrush, palette, easel, and an adjustable arm for positioning him at sufficient distance to gain perspective on his world famous work.

… The set is the winning entry in a LEGO Ideas competition. Designer Truman Cheng, a 25-year-old LEGO fan and PhD candidate focusing on  medical robotics and magnetic controlled surgical endoscopes. He had long wanted to render The Starry Night in LEGO, but its execution required a lightbulb moment…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Fantastic Beasts:  The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the Screen Junkies say the film has “magic politics” and “Magic black-site prisons and execution chambers” that “bleeds the child-like wonder from this franchise like a necromancer’s jacuzzi.”  But what glop is in this film that reminds the narrator of “The Mexican pizza at Taco Bell?”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/1/22 The Ones Who Scroll Away From Pixelas

(1) BURKE TELLS MORE ABOUT HER BALTICON EXPERIENCE. Stephanie Burke has written a 2600-word comment on File 770’s “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels” post that goes into fuller detail about her experience. The link is here. In the last two paragraphs she says —

…It took me close to 20 years to build up my reputation there as a person who did her best to make sure everyone had representation, that willful ignorance would be avoided, to be someone who was safe for anyone to speak to, to offer info, links, and some perspective that may help them as well as learn how I can improv myself, and now it is gone here with no proof and no way to defend myself. All I got was the decision of the board still stands and I still don’t have an idea of what exactly I was supposed to have said. They told me they didn’t have the recordings in the room where ever panel was recorded so unless someone is lying about the recording, I’ll never get the chance to defend myself. Unless of course, the recording is found at the last moment but to me that sounds like looking for proof of guilt than proof of evidence of innocence.

One of the last things I told them and still remains true, was that closest feeling I could aquait with being walked out of that room like that was a time when I was a teen working at a summer camp when some woman claimed that I had stolen her wallet. I was marched out of the room like the cops knew I was guilty, the accusing eyes and twisted lips, only to be let back in a few moments later with the woman happily calling out that she just misplaced her wallet and just found it in her purse and everything was all good and okay now, right? The cops kind of shrugged at me and said okay and that was it but I went into the bathroom and threw up my lunch. This was the closest I had ever come to feeling like that and I never want to feel like that again. I know would feel it again if I walked into another Balticon event….

(2) FIRE DISPLACES SFF WORKSHOP. Taos Toolbox has moved to Albuquerque this year. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook.

Taos Toolbox is not going to be in Taos this year. The two-week intensive science-fiction writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach is usually held at the ski resort of Angel Fire, near Taos, New Mexico. However, the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak wildfire is less than a dozen miles from Angel Fire and not yet close to being contained. Since it’s not good to incinerate workshop attendees, the workshop has moved to a hotel in Albuquerque….

Walter Jon Williams, the event’s founder, filled in the details on Facebook.

So quite a number of plans have gang agley in the last days, so I’ve been putting out fires— nearly literal fires.

Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, starts this weekend, and has been held at the Angel Fire resort for the last decade or more. It’s a deluxe place in a beautiful mountain setting, and unless there’s a mountain bike rally or something, it’s not too crowded or noisy and we can concentrate on our work.

Except this year we have the Hermit’s Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, over 300,000 acres and currently only 60% contained. It’s ten miles from Angel Fire, and when it gets a wind behind it, a fire can race along at 5 miles per day. Angel Fire has been at the “prepare to evacuate” stage for weeks now.

I mean, the pandemic wasn’t enough?

Now the fire is 60% contained, and the odds are Angel Fire would have been fine, but I couldn’t guarantee that. I couldn’t absolutely promise that Hermit’s Peak wouldn’t blaze up again, or that we wouldn’t have to evacuate 20 people to lodging unknown. So I moved the workshop to the Sonesta ES suite hotel in Albuquerque, which is quite luxe, offers free breakfast, and has a fine view of the semi trucks running past on the freeway….

(3) ROYALTY IN GENRE. The British Science Fiction Association anticipated Jubilee Weekend by launching this discussion topic:

Here are two of the many responses.

(4) THE GODFATHER. Craig Miller who created the Official Star Wars Fan Club for Lucasfilm told Facebook friends about his new nickname.

During the Star Wars Celebration panel “Fandom Through the Generations”, Dan Madsen – the founder of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and Star Wars Insider – called me “The Godfather of Star Wars Fandom”.

That actually felt a little weird. I suppose not entirely inaccurate. Part of my job was to take Star Wars to Fandom and to keep Lucasfilm of the mind that fans are important. But I’d never thought of it that way….

The post also contains a photo of the plaque and trophy Craig received this weekend when he was made an Honorary Member of the 501st Legion.

(5) SHOULD IT BE A PERMANENT HUGO? Trevor Quachri expands on a DisCon III panel discussion about the proposed Best Video Game Hugo in “The Play’s the Thing”, his editorial in the May/June Analog.

…So it seems straightforward: games, particularly of a “science fiction, fantasy, or related subject” bent (per the award description) deserve a permanent spot on the ballot, right?

Well, let’s hit the pause button for a moment.

Everyone on that games panel quickly stumbled over the same basic question: Given all of that background, what’s the primary criterion for judging the “best” game in a given year? And what makes the Hugo for Best Video Game different from any of the other already-existing game awards given out by fans, professional game designers, and the like? Is it a “writing in games” award? The Hugos may be primarily literary, but well-written games may not actually be the best games, taken on their own merits. (Chess, for example, isn’t a lesser game because the pieces don’t each have an elaborate backstory.)

And how do you explain what makes a good game to folks unfamiliar with them? Games are built from readily-understandable art to one degree or another—the graphics are art; the music is art; voice acting is acting, which is art; and yes, the stories in games are art—but the thing that makes games unique—the game part—isn’t so easily grasped….

(6) CORA BUHLERT. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Cora Buhlert: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Cora Buhlert is a prolific indie author, champion of independent publishing, blogger, pulp historian as well as a teacher and translator. Based in Germany, her sci-fi writing and reviews are primarily in English but she is also a tireless ambassador for science fiction from beyond the insular English speaking perspective on the genre.

(7) FROM THE START. Wole Talabi shared some “Preliminary Observations From An Incomplete History of African SFF” at the SFWA Blog.

When Did the History of Published African SFF Begin?

Tricky. And there is probably no right answer since publishing from early colonial Africa was problematic and it depends on what you define as SFF. I’ve arbitrarily limited my scope to works published between 1921 and 2021, even though I don’t have any entries from 1921. Why 100 years? To quote Geoff Ryman: Because it’s easy to remember. And the first entry in the database is Cameroonian Jean-Louis Njemba Medou’s Nnanga Kon, a novel published in 1932 in Bulu. I suppose that’s as good a point as any to start. However, that’s only one way to look at things. Another is to observe the rapid increase in published works that begins in 2011, peaks in 2016, and has somewhat stabilized since (although this could simply reflect my inability to keep up with documenting new works).

(8) COVID TRACKING. Balticon 56’s “Covid Reports” page lists five attendees who report they have tested positive.

This page will continue to be updated as COVID-19 positive tests are reported after the con. If you attended Balticon in person and have a positive test result before June 15th, please email covid@balticon.org.

(9) BACK FROM CONQUEST. Kij Johnson reports on a successful Ad Astra Center fundraiser in “Summer starts with a screeching sound, as of hot brakes making a hard turn.”

…Last weekend was a benefit auction for the Ad Astra Center, held at ConQuest, the KC SF convention, this was fantastic fun: we had a great team of six people, and ended up with more than 300 auction items, and made (we think) close to $3000, which is pretty extraordinary, considering this was a small con this year. (I also was on panels with Fonda Lee, Katherine Forrister, and other cool people.) Chris McKitterick and I had a chance to talk about what Ad Astra is looking forward to doing, and I am ever more excited by what’s going to be possible….

(10) SHALLOW ROOTS. Abigail Nussbaum says there’s a reason for the sense of sameness in the series’ second season in “Love, Death, Robots, but no Women” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…There have been thirty-five Love, Death + Robots episodes. Something like thirty of them are based on a previously-published short stories. Only one of those stories is by a woman. (Also, only one of those stories—not the same one—is by a person of color.) And frankly, that’s not only reprehensible in its own right, but it tells in the final product. There’s a certain laddishness to the stories the show chooses to tell, a disinterest in the inner life of anyone but manly, taciturn men. Bug hunt stories abound, and despite the show identifying itself as science fiction, there is no shortage of episodes that are just plain horror, whose appeal seems primarily to be watching a lot of people get torn to bits cinematically (“The Secret War” in season 1; “The Tall Grass”, season 2; “Bad Traveling”, season 3). Though some episodes have female protagonists, there are also a lot of stories where women exist to be ogled (“The Witness”, season 1) or fucked (“Beyond the Aquilla Rift”, season 1; “Snow in the Desert”, season 2).

I watched the recently-released third season over the last couple of evenings and was not impressed…. 

(11) STRANGER TV. In contrast, Nussbaum enthuses about “Stranger Things Season 4, Volume I” on her Tumblr.

Folks, I am somewhat flabbergasted to report that the fourth season of Stranger Things – a show that I would previously have described as “derivative fun, if you don’t think about it too hard” – is not only its best, but genuinely good TV. There are some caveats to this claim – the last two episodes haven’t been released yet, and the protracted episode runtimes (ranging from 63 to 98 minutes) are impossible to justify – though for the most part the show wears them pretty lightly. But even so, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen…. 

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] I still remember The Dune Encyclopedia fondly as it is an amazing creation. Published by Berkley thirty-eight years ago, it was written by Willis E. McNelly and forty-two other individuals not as a work of non-fiction but rather as an in-universe work. Everything in it was something that was supposed to actually be true. It was edited by Hadi Benotto, an archaeologist you’ll find in God Emperor of Dune and Heretics of Dune.

It was authorized by Herbert, who considered it canon, and went into detail such things as character biographies, looks at the worlds in that universe, a look at the spice melange, how such things as the stillsuits and the heighliners of the Spacing Guild function.

Herbert wrote the foreword to The Dune Encyclopedia and said: “Here is a rich background (and foreground) for the Dune Chronicles, including scholarly bypaths and amusing sidelights. Some of the contributions are sure to arouse controversy, based as they are on questionable sources … I must confess that I found it fascinating to re-enter here some of the sources on which the Chronicles are built. As the first ‘Dune fan’, I give this encyclopedia my delighted approval, although I hold my own counsel on some of the issues still to be explored as the Chronicles unfold.” 

Brian Herbert later, being the, well, I can’t use the word I want to use, declared everything here non-canon. That allowed him to write anything he wanted to in the novels he and Kevin J. Anderson have putting out by the armload. He even said his father never intended it to be canon.

If you’d like to purchase a copy today, it’ll cost you dearly, particularly in hardcover. A good copy is now running around two hundred and fifty dollars. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 1, 1926 Andy Griffith. His most notable SFF genre credit is as Harry Broderick on the late Seventies Salvage I which lasted for two short seasons. Actually that was it, other than a one-off on The Bionic Woman. It’s streaming for free on Crackle whatever the Frelling that is. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 1, 1928 Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone. British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were with the critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.)
  • Born June 1, 1940 René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder WomanThe Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic WomanBatman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryEnterpriseStargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions in recent years, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. He directed eight episodes of DS9. And he wrote a lot of novels, none of which I’ve read. Has anyone here read any of them? (Died 2019.)
  • Born June 1, 1947 Jonathan Pryce, 75. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote. 
  • Born June 1, 1948 Powers Boothe. Though not genre, he played saloon owner Cy Tolliver on the Deadwood series, and “Curly Bill” Brocius in Tombstone, one of my favorite films. Now genre wise, he’s in the animated Superman: Brainiac Attacks voicing Lex Luthor, The Avengers as Gideon Malick, Gorilla Grodd and Red Tornado in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and a recurring role as Gideon Malick in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 1, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 68. A filker which gets major points in my book. And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been at least twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. 
  • Born June 1, 1966 David Dean Oberhelman. Another one who died far too young. Mike has an appreciation of him hereThe Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko which he co-wrote with Amy H. Sturgis was published by The Mythopoeic Press. ISFDB lists just one genre essay by him, “From Iberian to Ibran and Catholic to Quintarian”, printed in Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 1, 1996 Tom Holland, 26. He’s known for playing Spider-Man in five films: Captain America: Civil WarSpider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and the recently out Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) IT’S GOT ISSUES. At The Verge, Alex Cranz says, “The merging of Comixology and Kindle has created a hell I’d like to escape”.

In February of this year, Amazon finally completed its consumption of the once independent app for downloading comics, Comixology. Amazon had acquired the app way back in 2013, and apart from removing the ability to buy comics directly from the app, it left it untouched for nearly a decade. But this year, Amazon changed things — incorporating Comixology’s digital marketplace directly into the Kindle ecosystem and totally redesigning the Comixology app. It has taken two distinct mediums — digital comics and digital books — and smashed them together into an unholy blob of content that is worse in every single way. Apparently, if you let one company acquire a near-monopoly in the digital books and comics spaces, it will do terrible things that make the experience worse….

…The new Comixology app is largely just… annoying. That’s the best word for it. Everything you need is still there, but the design isn’t really intuitive, and it can make a large collection of comics (I’ve been using Comixology since 2011) difficult to navigate. It feels sort of like when you go to the grocery store after they move aisles around. Everything is still there, but the change feels so dramatic after years of the familiar.

But where my local Food Bazaar will helpfully label the aisles, Comixology has not. There are no clear labels for useful built-in tools like its “Guided View,” which is designed to fluidly move you from panel to panel with a swipe instead of having each page take up the whole display. The Guided View is still there, but the clear explanation of what it is or how to use it is gone. You access it by double-tapping — which I only know because I was trying to access the menu to leave the book.

(15) CONFRONTING THE BLANK PAGE. Neil Clarke wrestles with the question of what he should be doing in his monthly Clarkesworld editorial: “Managing This Expectation”. He posits several ideas – here are two of them.

…Or perhaps, I’m filing a report of “criminal” acts? Earlier this week I was the victim of an ageist attack suggesting that I was “too old to be editing one of the leading science fiction magazines” and I should “get out of the way” so someone younger can do it. I’m only fifty-five, not the oldest editor I know, and not about to give up the magazine I started over one person’s disrespectful opinion on the matter. Their punishment is measured by the amount of time I continue to edit Clarkesworld.

Could be that it’s like being a referee, outlining how we’d like to see the game played? It’s perfectly fair to criticize or celebrate the finalists or winners of any award. Science fiction is a broad field with a variety of styles that might not appeal to everyone and the awards will reflect some of that. It’s only natural to be thrilled or disappointed when your favorite player wins, loses, or is benched. That said, we want a fair fight here. There should be no punching below the belt–criticizing or campaigning against based on anything other than the work they’ve done….

(16) FANTASY ART ON EXHIBIT. [Item by Bill.] The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, TN is holding this exhibition through September 5: “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration”.

For hundreds of years, artists have been inspired by the imaginative potential of fantasy. Unlike science fiction, which is based on fact, fantasy presents an impossible reality—a universe where dragons breathe fire, angels battle demons, and magicians weave spells. Enchanted offers a thoughtful appraisal of how artists from the early 20th century to the present have brought to life myths, fairy tales, and modern epics like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Featuring nearly 100 artworks, the exhibition explores Greek myths, Arthurian Legends, fairy tales, and modern superheroes.

The Hunter’s description of the event isn’t much, and a better one can be found here at the Norman Rockwell Museum, which organized the event.

There is an accompanying book available from Amazon and Bud’s Art Books.

If you can’t make it to Chattanooga, the exhibition is also travelling to Flint, MI and will be on display at the Flint Institute of Arts from September 24, 2022 – January 8, 2023.

(17) SOME CAN AND SOME CANTON. Camestros Felapton, in “Some Swiss news about far-right publisher Vox Day”, covers Vox Day’s announcement that he’s threatening to sue [Internet Archive link] the journalists who reported his purchase of a Swiss castle.

The journalists’ article includes this paragraph:

…On the internet, Vox Day summarizes the alt-right – to which he avoids being directly attached – as the defense of “the existence of the white man and the future of white children”. The blogger also confesses a certain admiration for Adolf Hitler. “National Socialism is not only human logic, it is also much more logical and true than communism, feminism or secular Zionism,” the Minnesota-born American writes on his blog. …

Vox always objects to being identified with Hitler and Nazis (see “Complaint About Term ‘Neo-Nazi’ Results in Foz Meadows Post Moving from Black Gate to Amazing Stories” from File 770 in 2016).

(18) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch determined these were the “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in May 2022”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
2Sonic the Hedgehog 2Obi-Wan Kenobi
3MorbiusSeverance
4Ghostbusters: AfterlifeStranger Things
5MoonfallDoctor Who
6FirestarterMoon Knight
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomThe Man Who Fell to Earth
8Jurassic WorldThe Time Traveler’s Wife
9The BatmanHalo
10Sonic the HedgehogThe Twilight Zone

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

(19) BAGEL POWER. Accented Cinema is prepared to tell you “The Hidden Meaning of Everything Everywhere All at Once”.

Here it is! My analysis of the metaphors hidden in Everything Everywhere At at Once. Did you know why Michelle Yeoh put a googly eye on herself? Let’s find out!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodhunt,” Fandom Games says while earlier installments of this franchise “turned a bunch of nerds into enerds wearing eye shadow,” this installment is “the latest in the ‘kill people in a rapidly shrinking circle genre.”  The narrator thinks the game is boring and says, “call me when Bloodhunt has Ariana Grande and industrial dancing!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/31/22 A Pixel Of Scrollsea

(1) BURKE FOLLOW-UP. Stephanie Burke told Facebook readers today her Balticon experience is exacting a physical toll. (For background, see “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels”.)

…Still no word but maybe today I can meet with both my psychiatrist and a lawyer because I think I am spent. I am fighting back a flare-up, I am ignoring the costochondritis pain in my chest, and I finally managed to get food down without fear of it coming back up. I think I’ll be good for now but this is still dangling over my head and freaking me out. I have ripped out so much hair on one side that I contemplated cutting it all off again. I just need to breathe deeply and take it moment by moment. The first step, the tests were negative. Remember that. The second step, get my meetings set, and the third step, don’t panic and do my best to carry on.

I love you, Loves. Thank you for keeping me sane. I think without your support I would have crumbled and given up. This is a style of attack that I’m unfamiliar with but with like most things, a Black girl’s tears won’t get you shit so you shake it off and move on. I can attempt to start to do that because of your belief in me. Thank you so very much….

(2) PANEL MODERATOR’S STATEMENT. Sarah Avery, moderator of the “Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them” which is the source of the complaint, made a statement in File 770 comments. (It’s also on Twitter: thread starts here.)

I was the moderator on that panel, and the first moment I heard about what happened to Stephanie was 30 minutes ago from a person whose only involvement with Balticon was as an attendee. I am Not Thrilled about having to go to Facebook and File 770 to get details about this situation. After searching my email inbox, spam, and incoming social media messages, I haven’t found any attempts to contact me from the people investigating the incident. It’s possible there have been attempts I haven’t found, or that the person investigating got my contact info wrong, but it’s not looking great at the moment.

Because I got stuck in traffic on the way into Baltimore, I was a little over 10 minutes late for a panel I was scheduled to moderate. That is mortifying and entirely on me. It is possible that whatever the complaint is about happened while I was not yet in the room.

I’ve been playing back my recollections of the panel from the moment I did arrive, trying to match things Stephanie said with the adjectives in her account of the accusations against her. As a white cishet woman, I know I am not optimally attuned to what is hurtful to all the kinds of people whose lives are unlike mine. (The reason I volunteered to moderate a panel on why writers need diversity readers is that I knew I specifically was a writer who needed them.) Until I can find out more about the contents of the complaint, I’m not able to make any kind of declaration on either the complainant’s assertions or Stephanie’s about the diversity readers panel.

I can say that nothing I saw or heard called for the way Stephanie was pulled out of an ongoing panel. That event shocks me.

(3) ONE AUTHOR’S THOUGHTS GOING FORWARD. Gail Z. Martin on Facebook criticized Balticon’s handling of the code of conduct complaint, and demanded conventions implement specified improvements if they expect authors to accept the risks of appearing on panels. The text of the post can also be read in the following tweet:

(4) WISCON COVID EXPOSURE REPORT. WisCon was held last weekend in Madison, WI and the committee is collecting and sharing reports of positive Covid tests from those who attended in person in this Google spreadsheet: “Possible exposure locations”. There are 10 positives listed to date.

Those who attended the convention in person are receiving email updates:

(5) MUSLIM SF CONSIDERED. “Emad El-Din Aysha on ‘Arab and Muslim Science Fiction’: ‘Our male heroes aren’t criticized for crying’” at Arablit.

What makes Arab and Muslim science fiction special?

EA: That’s the million-dollar question. I’d say we place the spirit center stage. We want to shelter it from corrupting influences, technological arrogance included, which is a Quranic injunction. Evil suggestions don’t just come from the devil; they come from within. And the world on the outside is perceived as mystical and miraculous.

We have a lot in common with sci-fi from the Global South, too. Our concerns lie elsewhere, whether it’s turning the deserts green or maintaining family values, or honoring religion. As Arabs especially, we love gardens and vines and family get-togethers in our mini-utopias. As Muslims, we have a much more holistic vision of the future, of what the future should look like, with peaceful coexistence and a much more genteel attitude to everything, from mental and spiritual health, to alien contact and space exploration. Our heroes, while predominantly men, aren’t criticized for crying during profound moments and women are surprisingly well represented and proactive in our stories. There’s still room for improvement though.

Of course not all Arab and Muslim sci-fi is quite so benign and optimistic, especially post-Arab Spring, but you can still feel that positive force in the background, even as younger authors take on the mantle of alien invasion epics and dystopias. You find chivalry and redemption creeping in through the back door. Our humor is very tongue-in-cheek too.

(6) KENOBI STAR SUFFERS RACIST ATTACKS. The Hollywood Reporter tells how “‘Star Wars’ Defends ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Star Moses Ingram From Vile Online Attacks: ‘Don’t Choose to Be Racist’”.

“There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist,” began the message from Disney accounts. “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

Ingram plays Reva Sevander, aka the Third Sister, who is hunting Obi-Wan Kenobi for Darth Vader in the new Disney+ series, shared on her Instagram stories several of the absolutely horrendous online messages aimed at her, some of which included the N-word.

“There’s nothing anybody can do about this,” Ingram said in a video after sharing the spewed venom she’s endured. “There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. I question my purpose in even being here in front of you saying that this is happening. I don’t really know.”

She continued, “The thing that bothers me is this feeling inside of myself, that no one has told me, but this feeling that I have to shut up and take it, that I have to grin and bear it. And I’m not built like that. So, I wanted to come on and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places that I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”

Around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Ewan McGregor posted a message about the abuse via the Star Wars account, both about Obi-Wan Kenobi being the most-watched Disney+ original series premiere, but most importantly about the abuse Ingram has endured.

“It seems that some of the fan base has decided to attack Moses Ingram online and send her the most horrendous, racist [direct messages]. I heard some of them this morning, and it just broke my heart,” he said. “Moses is a brilliant actor. She is a brilliant woman. And she is absolutely amazing in this series. She brings so much to the series, she brings so much to the franchise. And it just sickened me to my stomach that this had been happening. I just want to say as the lead actor in the series, as the executive producer on the series, that we stand with Moses. We love Moses. And if you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re no Star Wars fan in my mind. There’s no place for racism in this world. And I totally stand with Moses.”

(7) COUNT THE CLOCK THAT TELLS THE TIME. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green offers “A Word or Two of Warning” about a defect in Kindle Direct Publishing’s countdown clock.

…Except, the change didn’t take. It didn’t take twice. Additional calls to KDP Support revealed the following:

  1. KDP knows there is a problem with the countdown clock. It does occasionally decide to take time away from the author
  2. KDP knows this but has not, so far at least fixed the issue
  3. KDP techs have no way to override the program, no matter what the reason. Once that timer starts, the software runs everything and humans are helpless. (Hmm, sounds like maybe they are sharing software and/or developers with FB. It worships the power of the ‘bot as well)
  4. And here’s the kicker. The only options you are given when you are at this point is to cancel the pre-order and hope Amazon will waive the penalty of no pre-orders allowed for a year (and there is no guarantee they will) or you can go ahead and upload the file, incomplete though it might be and, as soon as the book goes live, upload the correct file. 

As I later announced on my blog and social media, I chose the latter. Except I’m sure I did it in such a way Amazon won’t exactly appreciate. I uploaded the file with a disclaimer attached saying it is not the final file. That if you have bought the book and you see this particular page, you have the wrong file and this is how to get the correct file. I included instructions on how to download the correct file or contact me–and I set up a special email account for this purpose–in case it doesn’t work….

(8) ASIAN HERITAGE IN HORROR Q&A. “Asian Heritage in Horror: Interview with Angela Yuriko Smith” at the Horror Writers Association Blog.

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

Like many of us that are attracted to horror, it was real-life trauma. I saw and heard things no one else could as a child but the adults around me advised me to ignore it. It became a thing to not talk about because it made everyone around me uncomfortable. As an adult, I understand now what a creepy child I was but at the time it was frustrating. Horror stories were more real to me than daily life because they were populated with people like me in them. People heard disembodied voices, interacted with shadows, and saw people no one else could. They were often told, like me, it was just imagination but they knew—and I knew—these things were real. It made me feel less of an outsider to read these stories. I realized I wasn’t actually so weird, I was just in the wrong story.

(9) ALEX BROWN. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Alex Brown: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Alex Brown is an award-winning SF&F critic (2020 Ignyte Best Critic Award), librarian and fan writer who has written for Locus, Tor.com, NPR and Buzzfeed. They’ve also written two non-fiction books about the Napa Valley…. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1990 [By Cat Eldridge.] I saw Total Recall at a theater when it first came out and yes I really, really like it. 

It was directed by Paul Verhoeven, three years after he had done RoboCop. Though he didn’t get a Hugo nomination for that film, he’d get one for this film at Chicon V. (And Starship Troopers picked one up at BucConeer.) The screenplay was by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusettand and Gary Goldman from a story by O’Bannon along with Ronald Shusett and Jon Povill. It was produced by Buzz Feitshans, who previously produced Conan the Barbarian, and Ronald Shusett.

As you know, it was based (rather loosely) upon Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in April 1966. Shusett was the first individual to option this story. 

Ok, this film is pure SF pulp. It’s not to be taken seriously, the setting is pure pulp, the characters are more fitting for a Thirties serial than the setting they are in and the script is at best just cobbled together. More than one review notes that it went through a lot of rewrites. 

The primary cast of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox are perfect for it. Schwarzenegger had long wanted to play the lead but studio politics kept him from doing so. Eventually it was OKed by a studio that had a studio that had, oh you get the idea.

To this day, no one knows how much it costs to produce but it’s thought to be at least eighty million dollars which was OK as it made a quarter of a billion dollars. Yeah it was a very popular film with the public. 

Now what did the critics think of it? It got a decidedly mixed reception. 

Rita Kempley at the Washington Post really didn’t like it: “Aside from a few terrific effects, ‘Total Recall’ is not good science fiction. Despite the big budget, it is a wasteland of latex prostheses, dreary sets and broken glass. Its main selling point — the story line — betrays the audience with its sheepish ending. And its star gives an unusually oafish performance, a cross between Frankenstein’s monster, a hockey puck with swollen glands and Col. Klink. Like Stallone, Schwarzenegger is a talking cartoon whose objective is to make violence fun. And they called Conan the barbarian.”

But Michael Wilmington at the Los Angeles Times was much kinder: “Verhoeven, working from an often-rewritten screenplay distantly based on Philip K. Dick’s brilliant 1966 short story ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,’ keeps ringing these truth-or-illusion changes throughout the movie. And if they don’t always click, if the movie sometimes seems overwhelmed by its budget and its legendary third-act problems, it’s still entertainingly raw and brutal, full of whiplash pace and juicy exaggeration.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most excellent seventy eight percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 31, 1895 George R. Stewart. As we have noted here, his 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. That was a British award and the first one, this very one, was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 31, 1914 Jay Williams. He’s best remembered for his young adult Danny Dunn SFF series which he co-authored with Raymond Abrashkin. Though Abrashkin died in 1960, Williams insisted HIS CO-author should continue to receive credit as co-author of all 15 books of this series. Though his first novel, The Stolen Oracle was a mystery for adults, he did write mysteries for young adults, such as The Counterfeit African and The Roman Moon Mystery, both written in the Forties. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 31, 1930 Elaine Stewart. Born with the name of the of Elsy Henrietta Maria Steinberg.  She was Jane Ashton in Brigadoon which is surely genre. She also in The Adventures of Hajji Baba as Princess Fakzia. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 31, 1950 Gregory Harrison, 72. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought it did. He was Logan 5 in Logan’s Run which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object and that series actually lasted awhile), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles.
  • Born May 31, 1961 Lea Thompson, 61. She’s obviously best known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it.
  • Born May 31, 1976 Colin Farrell, 46. I remember him first as Bullseye in the much dissed Daredevil film. (It wasn’t that bad.) He was in Minority Report as Danny Witwer, a film I’ve skipped watching. And I see he’s listed as being the third transformation of Tony in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. H’h. Now he was Peter Lake in Winter’s Tale, a take off of Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, a novel no film could do justice to. Oh, he’s Holt Farrier in Dumbo… Now I know he was Douglas Quaid / Agent Carl Hauser in the remake of Total Recall but as you know from the essay above I really, really like the original film so I’ve not watched it. So who here has seen it? 
  • Born May 31, 1979 Sophia McDougall, 43. She has a very well-crafted alternative history series, the Romanitas series, in which Rome didn’t fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novel — Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds me of a Heinlein YA novel. 
  • Born May 31, 1995 Jeremy Szal, 27. He says he was (probably) raised by wild dingoes. He writes about galactic adventures, wide-screen futures, and broken characters fighting for hope in dark worlds. He is author of the dark space-opera novel Stormblood published in February 2020 (more recently launched in the US), and is the first of a trilogy. His short fiction has appeared in Nature, Abyss & Apex, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, The Drabblecast. He is the fiction editor for the Hugo-winning StarShipSofa, which once lead to Harlan Ellison yelling at him on the phone. He carves out a living in sun-bleached Sydney, Australia. He loves watching weird movies, collecting boutique gins, exploring cities, and dark humour. Find him at http://jeremyszal.com/ or @JeremySzal (By Jeremy Szal)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Broom Hilda learns why a bar is popular with a certain kind of deceased customer.

(13) PINK CAT DISINVITED BY TORONTO COMIC ART FESTIVAL. Bleeding Cool reports the event addressed the controversies about its guest Pink Cat by rescinding the invitation: “Pink Cat Fight At TCAF – Saba Moeel & Toronto Comic Art Festival”.

Digital artist Saba Moeel creates her Pink Cat Daily comics on Instagram for around five years, with a following of around a quarter of a million people. Pink Cat is a human/cat hybrid that sports many tattoos, takes drugs, and talks in spiritual slang and punchlines, and is basically what if Tank Girl and Garfield had a kid and left her with a bunch of hippies. Pink Cat has been collected in comic book collections, but it’s not the physical manifestations of Pink Cat that are causing problems, it’s the digital. Of the non-fungible kind.

The committee announced its action here: “TCAF Statement Re: Pink Cat”.

TCAF is rescinding its invitation to Pink Cat, also known as Saba Moeel, due to code of conduct violations and the concerns expressed by the comics community.

TCAF initially extended a programming invitation to Moeel on the basis of their daily digital comics work on Instagram, and the personal importance that work had to one of our team members. At the time of this invitation, the organization was unaware of Moeel’s online conduct, plagiarism, or allegations of tracing. We apologize for programming and promoting this artist.

We made a mistake. As a promise to our community, we will use this as a learning moment as we move forward as an organization, and will re-examine the checks and balances we currently use to process our programming decisions.

Polygon’s coverage includes a response quote from the artist: “The Toronto Comic Arts Festival boots NFT artist: ‘We made a mistake’”.

The controversy around Moeel intensified when social media users went through her online history to find a history of tracing artworktweets disparaging community artistsappropriating Black culture for profit, and transphobic remarks. Polygon contacted Moeel for comment via Twitter; she replied with the following message.

“Yeah these guys invited me to disinvite me. They payed flight hotel etc, i didnt even know who they were. Very weird

“This isn’t my world, I’m a real life artist I don’t care about organizations or trade shows, I have my own following it’s not a cult following it’s mainstream. The LA times called me the Gen Z Garfield, we aren’t in the same league.”

(14) HANDMAID TURNOVER. “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ star Alexis Bledel leaving show before Season 5” reports USA Today.

Alexis Bledel has finished her telling of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The 40-year-old actress announced Friday that she’s exiting the futuristic dystopian Hulu series after the show’s fourth season, which aired last spring.

“After much thought, I felt I had to step away from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ at this time,” Bledel said in a statement provided to USA TODAY by her representative. “I am forever grateful to (show creator) Bruce Miller for writing such truthful and resonant scenes for Emily, and to Hulu, MGM, the cast and crew for their support.” 

Hulu’s flagship drama is expected to return for a fifth season.

(15) PLANETARY INFLUENCES. “Jupiter and Saturn fight over Narnia” is the tagline for Michael Ward’s “The Last Battle, Revisited” at Plough.

…Lewis had a lifelong interest in medieval cosmology. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that Earth was stationary, surrounded by seven concentric “heavens,” each with its own planet which in turn had particular influences on Earth, affecting people and events in various ways. While we might consider this cosmological model entirely outdated, Lewis found some continuing importance in it. He described the planets as “spiritual symbols of permanent value” and wrote about them extensively. The best planet, according to medieval thought, was Jupiter, responsible for “heartsease” and prosperity, bringing about festivity and magnanimity in peaceable kingdoms. The worst planet was Saturn, sponsor of death, destruction, darkness, and disaster. The very word “disaster” means “bad star,” and Saturn was the most malignant of the wandering stars.

Lewis remarked that his own generation had been “born under Saturn,” doomed to experience an especially bleak period in history. Having endured the horrors of the Great War, some of his contemporaries had adopted a fixed attitude of pessimism and cynicism. They had come to believe that the universe was, in Lewis’s term, “Saturnocentric.” Hence the modernist tendency to focus on chaos and disorder, T. S. Eliot’s “heap of broken images” as he calls it in “The Wasteland.” Hence also the new impetus behind such artistic and philosophical movements as absurdism and nihilism. For how could there ever again be purpose and hope in the wake of the Battle of the Somme? On the opening day of that battle, July 1, 1916, almost twenty thousand British soldiers were killed and nearly forty thousand wounded. What further proof need there be that gallantry and patriotism are folly? The poet Wilfred Owen took aim at the schoolboy’s Horatian tag, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (“it is sweet and seemly to die for one’s country”), calling it “the old Lie.”…

(16) MOUNTAIN HIGH. Read Kim Stanley Robinson waxing euphoric about the Sierras. It’s prose poetry – sparing that little bit for the groundlings. “Kim Stanley Robinson on Waking Up in the High Sierra” at Literary Hub.

When the sky gets light in the east I often wake. Pleased that day has almost arrived, I sometimes snuggle back into my sleeping bag for a last snooze; other times I put my glasses on and lie on my back and watch the stars wink out. The dawn sky is gray before it takes on the blue color. Sometimes peaks to the west of camp have a dawn alpenglow, more yellow than pink. It’s cold, but often I’m done with sleeping, and things are visible, and very likely I have to pee….

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was on Jeopardy! patrol tonight when this happened:

Category: Book of the Year

Answer: “Daybreak-2250 A.D.” is by prolific author Mary Alice Norton, better known to sci-fi fans by this first name.

No one could ask, “That name, Andre?”

(18) ANIMATED GREEN LANTERN. Here’s the trailer for “Green Lantern: Beware My Power”, a direct-to-video release, coming July 26.

Witness the action-packed induction of John Stewart to the Green Lantern Corps, and his first thrilling adventure alongside some familiar faces, when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases the all-new animated movie Green Lantern: Beware My Power on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and Digital on July 26, 2022.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ib “Honest Trailers: Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” the Screen Junkies say that Ben Schwartz, who voices Sonic, has played so many characters that are blue that we should look for him in the AVATAR sequel. Also, the second act diversion into a Hawaiian-set rom-com is “the best Tyler Perry movie hidden in a video game project.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/22 I’ll File You, My Pretty, And Your Pixel Scroll Too

(1) NEED TO RELOAD. There will be no TitanCon in Belfast this year announced co-chair Samuel Poots.

We’re very sorry to have to announce that Titan Con is cancelled this year.

I don’t need to tell you that the past few years have been enormously challenging for everyone and many of us are still processing our experiences. While finances are good, the humans and human resources needed to make Titan Con viable have been impacted.

In recent weeks, a number of committee members, including my co-chair, have had to step away due to personal reasons. I’m sorry to lose them, and am extremely grateful for their hard work, but understand it’s the best decision.

After taking stock of the situation with the committee and advisers, it’s clear we do not have the resources for this year’s already smaller con, and unfortunately have to cancel it. This was a very difficult decision and one the committee wished could be avoided, but there was simply no alternative.

A fresh start is called for.

We need to cancel, regroup, and consider our way forward carefully.

We’ll be recruiting some people to help us look at delivering a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror convention with the best elements of our legacy events, while considering how to become sustainable going forward.

All current members will receive a full refund.

Thank you for your support and patience, and we hope to see you in the future to celebrate the wonderful media we are all fans of.

(2) MALIK Q&A. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its “Asian Heritage in Horror” theme in an “Interview with Usman T. Malik”.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Don’t worry about pandering to western stereotypes or the market. Write your own darkness. Spill your own fears onto the page and the audience will follow.

(3) ABOUT THE BROKEN TRUST. Jake and Ron chat with author Juliette Wade about her projected five-book series, The Broken Trust on The Wrath of the iOtians podcast. (Also available on Spotify.)

Juliette Wade is a novelist … and after listening to this interview, you’ll understand why it’s a hard-earned and well-deserved title for this masterclass worldbuilder.

Her background is impressive. She is fluent in French and Japanese, has degrees in linguistics and anthropology, and also boasts a Ph.D. in education.

Juliette started writing fiction in 1999, and her short stories have been featured in Analog, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy & Science Fiction magazines. But she is perhaps best known for her projected five-volume Broken Trust series, whose latest volume, Inheritors of Power, was published earlier this year by DAW. Juliette’s specialty is sociological science-fiction, of which Broken Trust is one of our finest contemporary examples. Each stratum of Broken Trust’s complex caste system has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture, and naturally, they come into a devastating conflict. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive in!

(4) JO FLETCHER NEWS. Publishers Lunch reports, “Publisher Jo Fletcher will leave the Quercus sci-fi, fantasy and horror imprint she founded 11 years ago on September 30. She will continue to edit some of her long-standing authors for the line.”

(5) WARNING LABEL. “’Stranger Things 4′ Warning Card Added Following School Shooting” reports Variety.

Netflix is adding a warning card to the “Stranger Things 4” premiere in light of the shooting on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 21 people dead — including 19 children and two teachers.

The warning card, which will show up for viewers in the U.S. when the episodes launch on Friday, reads: “We filmed this season of ‘Stranger Things’ a year ago. But given the recent tragic shooting at a school in Texas, viewers may find the opening scene of episode 1 distressing. We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”

This warning will appear before the prior season recap that auto-plays at the beginning of “Stranger Things 4” Episode 1 for viewers in the U.S. only. Additionally, Netflix has also edited the description for the premiere to include the note, “Warning: Contains graphic violence involving children,” and added “disturbing images” to the show rating advisories….

(6) LIFT OFF. The New Yorker’s Neima Jahromi analyzes Disney World’s Starcruiser experience in “LARPing Goes to Disney World”.

In February, when it was cold and wet in New York, I rode a jitney under blue skies from the Orlando airport into Disney World. Before reaching the Magic Kingdom, the bus passed a range of gray crags perched on scaffolding—a sliver of Black Spire Outpost, which, in the “Star Wars” universe, is a settlement on a planet called Batuu. Nearby, the Millennium Falcon rested below a control tower built into the rock; Stormtrooper helmets were for sale at a sun-bleached military-surplus garage. Black Spire is also the destination of the Galactic Starcruiser, a spaceship that carries hundreds of interstellar tourists to and from the outpost, on what Disney calls an “immersive adventure.” The Starcruiser begins its journey floating in space, light-years from Batuu and Black Spire. In reality, the spacecraft is a massive brutalist building that sits beside a highway….

In one of the games —

In Calculations, written by Caro Murphy, a veteran larper with a side-swept cyberpunk haircut, Sinking Ship customers play a spaceship pilot delivering medicine to Mars, where colonists have been dying from an illness that causes “shortness of breath.” Murphy adapted the game from a nineteen-fifties sci-fi story by Tom Godwin.

(7) DIAL ‘M’ FOR MILKY WAY. No, E.T. should not be allowed to phone home. Vice looks at a scientific paper: “There Are 4 ‘Malicious Extraterrestrial Civilizations’ in Milky Way, Researcher Estimates”. The author, PhD student Alberto Caballero of Spain’s University of Vigo, readily admits he had to make a number of assumptions. Thus, it’s hard to put error boundaries on his conclusions. 

Stephen Hawking famously said sending messages from Earth into deep space could get human civilization destroyed: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Hawking’s words have often been used to discourage the practice of METI, which is Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence. But how many “malicious” alien civilizations are there? And what are the chances any message we sent into our own galaxy would be received by an evil alien civilization? There is precious little research on this topic, and very few scientists have even posited a guess.

new thought experiment attempts to at least venture a guess in hopes that other scientists will begin to take METI more seriously, and will try to determine how dangerous it actually is to try to contact alien civilizations.

According to this paper, which the author admits has “some limitations,” there are roughly four “malicious extraterrestrial civilizations” in the Milky Way, and we could likely send out 18,000 interstellar messages to different exoplanets in our galaxy and the probability of ensuring our own destruction would still be about the same as Earth being hit by a “global catastrophe asteroid.” 

(8) TWO SF ARTISTS REMEMBERED. “A Vision In Many Voices: The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon” at Unquiet Things.

It must have been fate. Born eleven days apart on opposite coasts, Leo and Diane met, competed artistically, and eventually fell in love while attending Parsons School of Design, each aspiring to a life of art. After their marriage in 1957, the artists initially pursued separate careers in illustration before recognizing their strengths were collaborative in nature. In an effort to work in a particular style that they both could master, they symbiotically and seamlessly melded their personalities and styles, employing pastels, colored pencil, watercolor, acrylic, stencils, typography, woodcut, pochoir, found-object assemblage, collage, and sculpture into an entity/partnership that they came to refer to as “the artist.”

Noted Leo on the gorgeously striking complexity of their distinctive decorative realism and unconventional techniques: “People often comment on the ‘Dillon style.’ I think that someplace, the two of us made a pact with each other. We both decided that we would give up the essence of ourselves, that part that made the art each of us did our own. And I think that in doing that we opened the door to everything.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] Warning: there are lots of SPOILERS here. Go away now if you’ve not watched Babylon 5. Really I do mean it! 

Twenty-four years ago in the last season of Babylon 5, the “Meditations on the Abyss” episode aired. It has three story lines: a mission to the edge of Centauri space, Lennier both teaches and learns; John Sheridan struggles to keep the Interstellar Alliance together; a Drazi agents plant a bug in Londo Mollari’s quarters and faces the wrath of Vir Cotto which happens after Londo Mollari tells Vir Cotto he will have to be more careful if he wishes to be worthy of his new job as Centauri Ambassador to Babylon 5. 

Vir fascinates me. This episode, like so many involving him, upends the apparent light hearted nature of the character and show him to be something much more complex, more dangerous but good for the Empire in fact than Londo is as Londo has no sense of community and Vir does. Vir cares about the Centauri people in a way Londo doesn’t.

“I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike, as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this.” – Vir telling Mr Morden what he wants.

And he gets to do just that. Wasn’t that absolutely thrilling to see Vir looking up at the head of Mr Morden on a stake in the capital city of a devastated Centauri Prime and waving at it? 

And he will become the Emperor of an Empire almost completely shattered after Londo is strangled by the blind G’Kar.  It not known how the Empire fares under him but it has to be better than it did under under previous Emperors. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. Yes, I know he’s written some genre fiction but I’m interested this time in his mysteries. He wrote The Maltese Falcon which was turned into the film you remember and another film a decade earlier. And of course there are Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series that got turned in a six film series. Now my favorite character by him is the Continental Op in Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. And let’s not forget the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip which I think is genre, which artist Alex Raymond of Flash Gordon fame illustrated. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “House of Horrors” sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1929 Burnett Toskey, 93. A Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones and served them in various offices from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the official editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society. His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pitcon, a honor he shared with  F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. 
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the two Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading.  His awards are far, far too numerous to recount here so I’ll need to do an essay on them. His Hugos alone are legion and that’s hardly all of the awards that he was honored with.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 87. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will. 
  • Born May 27, 1951 Stepan Chapman. He wrote but one novel, The Trioka, a most excellent steampunk affair that won that the Philip K. Dick Award. He’s written a lot of short fiction, some of it collected in Danger Music and DossierThe Trioka is available for a reasonable price at the usual suspects. (Died 2014.)
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 55. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I loved. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HORSING AROUND WITH SHATNER. Tomorrow, May 28, the Hollywood Charity Horse Show is offering “An Evening with William Shatner”. One ticket is $400. Or buy a table for 10 and only pay – eh, $4,000.

6:00pm – 7:00pm Dinner.  During Dinner, Mr. Shatner will go around to each table and take a group shot  (Due to Covid restrictions individual photos are not possible.)

7:00pm – 8:00pm Mr. Shatner will  tell stories and answer your questions

(12) SCENES OF HORROR. Cora Buhlert has a new article up at Galactic Journey about a forgotten tragedy: “[May 26, 1967] Flames over Brussels: The À l’Innovation Department Store Fire”.

…The last time I was in Brussel in April, I stopped at the Standaard Boekhandel book shop directly across the street from À l’Innovation to pick up the latest comics. The venerable weekly comics magazine Tintin has launched a slew of new strips to keep up with the competition of Spirou and particularly the French comics magazine Pilote….

(13) BOOK REVIEW. Cora Buhlert also appears in The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies (12.2) with a review of The Weird Tales Story: Enhanced and Expanded by Robert Weinberg et al. The publication is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted to the academic study of Howard’s literary works as well as the literary historical and print culture contexts associated with it. 

(14) DOZOIS AND ADLER TRANSCRIPT. The Eaton Collection shares a bit of history.

(15) AT THE HELM. Gizmodo asks the show creator about those odious comparisons: “Seth MacFarlane Interview: The Orville Versus Star Trek”.

…“I think it’s safe to say that we’re still occupying our own space this year,” MacFarlane told io9 over video chat at a recent Orville press event. “Certainly, the more that’s out there, you do start to become a little concerned that, you know, is it oversaturation? Is there a pocket where our show and only our show exists? And I think that is still very much the case.”

Not wanting to spoil what’s in store, MacFarlane didn’t get too into detail about what specifically sets The Orville apart from Star Trek this season. In more general terms, “It’s this genre that emerged in the 1930s of a ship in space, captained and crewed very much the same way that a sailing ship was,” he said. “It’s something that dates back a lot of decades. Star Trek was really the first to take it and turn it into something that really mattered and was a serious form of storytelling. You know, for us… sci-fi right now is very dark. It’s very dystopian. It’s very grim in a lot of ways. It’s very cautionary. And the optimistic, uplifting part of that genre is something we haven’t really seen in a while. So there was a pretty obvious open pocket for us to kind of slip into when we started. How we fit in now is—it’s really up to the audience, I think—what we’re bringing to the table in tone, in structure, in scope is in a class of its own. But that remains [to be seen], because the verdict [on season three] has not come in yet.”…

(16) GIVE A DOG A BAD NAME. James Davis Nicoll is happy to help.

(17) WE ARE NASA. People sent me links to this 3-year-old NASA video which has been the subject of several posts this week. Take a look.

We’ve taken giant leaps and left our mark in the heavens. Now we’re building the next chapter, returning to the Moon to stay, and preparing to go beyond. We are NASA – and after 60 years, we’re just getting started. Special thanks to Mike Rowe for the voiceover work.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Evil Dead:  The Game,” Fandom Games says this move tie-in “fulfills a need you never knew you had: fighting with four Bruce Campbells.” The narrator suggests that someone convince Lucy Lawless to appear in a game with her Xena armor, “a move that would cause a majority of gamers to regress into puberty.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Andrew (not Werdna), Cora Buhlert, 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 Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/22 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) FAHRENHEIT – NEVER MIND. The Associated Press reports: “Burn-proof edition of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ up for auction”.

Margaret Atwood has imagined apocalyptic disaster, Dystopian government and an author faking her own death. But until recently she had spared herself the nightmare of trying to burn one of her own books.

With a flamethrower, no less.

She failed, and that was the point.

On Monday night, timed for PEN America’s annual gala, Atwood and Penguin Random House announced that a one-off, unburnable edition of “The Handmaid’s Tale” would be auctioned through Sotheby’s New York. They launched the initiative with a brief video that shows Atwood attempting in vain to incinerate her classic novel about a totalitarian patriarchy, the Republic of Gilead. Proceeds will be donated to PEN, which advocates for free expression around the world…

…The Gas Company’s principal owner, Doug Laxdal, told the AP that instead of paper, he and his colleagues used Cinefoil, a specially treated aluminum product. The 384-page text, which can be read like an ordinary novel, took more than two months to complete. The Gas Company needed days just to print out the manuscript; the Cinefoil sheets were so thin that some would fall through cracks in the printer and become damaged beyond repair. The manuscript was then sewed together by hand, using nickel copper wire….

(2) THE NEXT UNICORN. “Peter S. Beagle Returns to the World of The Last Unicorn With The Way Home reports Molly Templeton at Tor.com.

…The Way Home, according to a press release, “continues the story of beloved characters unicorn, Molly Grue, and Schmendrick the Magician from the point of view of a young girl named Sooz.” The two works included in the collection are Two Hearts, which won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novelette in 2006, and Sooz, which has not been previously published. It’s described as “a lyrical story of childhood left behind, dedicated to the love of Beagle’s life, who passed away before it could be published.”

The new edition of The Last Unicorn will be available in July; The Way Home publishes in spring 2023.

(3) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. “‘Stranger Things’ Is Back, and the Duffer Brothers Made It Big” – and the New York Times knows just how big.

…During the two days I observed them, the Duffers, who continue to direct, write and oversee “Stranger Things,” had enough on their plates just getting things manageable. The pandemic had already caused significant delays, and the new season is five hours longer than any previous one. That was the main reason they had decided to release it in two chunks, Ross said. There was just so much material to get through. Demogorgons needed animating. Run times needed tightening.

“How long is the episode right now?” Ross asked their editor Dean Zimmerman about the episode on the screen. Zimmerman glanced my way.

“You want me to say it out loud?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“Two and a half hours.”

With episodes like short movies (three of the first four are 75 minutes or more), one might worry that the Duffers have succumbed to excess. For now, they seem content to let the fans decide; Netflix has proved willing to support their expanding vision. Meanwhile, the tone is decidedly shifting this season (think “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Hellraiser”), and its young cast has been shaving for at least a few years. (Want to feel old? Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink are 20.) Plenty can change in three years, including viewer attention. Will fans still flock to “Stranger Things”?

(4) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. Jeff VanderMeer needs no predictive powers to speak about “The Annihilation of Florida: An Overlooked National Tragedy” in Current Affairs.

…In his 1944 book That Vanishing Eden: A Naturalist’s Florida, Thomas Barbour bemoaned the environmental damage caused by development to the Miami area and wrote, “Florida … must cease to be purely a region to be exploited and flung aside, having been sucked dry, or a recreation area visited by people who …  feel no sense of responsibility and have no desire to aid and improve the land.”

Even then, a dark vision of Florida’s future was clear.

Most of this harm has been inflicted in the service of unlimited and poorly planned growth, sparked by greed and short-term profit. This murder of the natural world has accelerated in the last decade to depths unheard of. The process has been deliberate, often systemic, and conducted from on-high to down-low, with special interests flooding the state with dark money, given to both state and local politicians in support of projects that bear no relationship to best management of natural resources. These projects typically reinforce income inequality and divert attention and money away from traditionally disadvantaged communities.1

Consider this: several football fields-worth of forest and other valuable habitat is cleared per day2 in Florida, with 26 percent of our canopy cut down in the past twenty years.  According to one study, an average of 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation worldwide.

The ecocide happening here is comparable for our size to the destruction of the Amazon, but much less remarked upon. Few of the perpetrators understand how they hurt the quality of life for people living in Florida and hamstring any possibility of climate crisis resiliency. Prodevelopment flacks like to pull out the estimates of the millions who will continue to flock to Florida by 2030 or 2040 to justify rampant development. Even some Florida economists ignore the effects of the climate crisis in their projects for 2049, expecting continued economic growth. but these estimates are just a grim joke, and some of those regurgitating them know that. By 2050, the world likely will be grappling with the fallout from 1.5- to 2-degree temperature rise and it’s unlikely people will be flocking to a state quickly dissolving around all of its edges….

(5) WALDEN WITH AN ELECTRIC SOCKET. And if you need cheering up after that last excerpt – surprisingly, Kim Stanley Robinson is the one about to help you out. “Q&A with Sci-Fi Author Kim Stanley Robinson” in Sactown Magzine.

I hear birds singing in the background. Where are you right now?

I’m outside. My office is my front courtyard on the north side of the house. I’ve got a tarp slung up so that I can be in the shade all the time and see my laptop screen. I also work outside in the rain. I’ve got a waterproof power cord and it powers the laptop and sometimes a little heating pad like you use for your lower back that I throw over my feet. I work all the days of the year out here. In the cold, I wear my winter backpacking gear, including a down hood and [fingerless] wool gloves. I feel like I’m on a little backpacking trip.

My work life has turned into an outdoor adventure. I did this about 15-20 years ago, and it was a great move. I thought I was burning out on writing, but what I was really burning out on was staying indoors all day. When I moved out to this courtyard, the first day that it rained and I slung a tarp up, that was it for me. I have never written a single word of my novels indoors since. I’m looking at white-crowned sparrows now. That’s probably what you’re hearing. And the scrub jays, these are my office mates. I’ve got a couple bird feeders around in this courtyard, and because I’m just sitting here for hours every day, I’m just part of the landscape as far as they’re concerned. I’ve had a scrub jay land on my boot at the end of my footstool and just stare at me like, “Are you alive or dead?”

(6) ACTIVISM. “Workers at an Activision studio vote to unionize, a first for the gaming industry.” The New York Times has the details.

A group of workers at a video game studio that is part of Activision Blizzard has voted to form a union, a first for a major North American video game company.

The vote, which passed 19 to 3, affects 28 quality-assurance employees at Raven Software, the Wisconsin studio that helps to develop the popular Call of Duty game. The workers voted over the past several weeks, and the results were tallied by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. Activision has one week to formally object if it finds grounds for complaint.

The new union, the Game Workers Alliance, is the culmination of months of labor organizing at Activision, which has faced increasing pressure from employees to improve working conditions after a lawsuit accused the company of having a sexist culture in which women were routinely harassed.

Organizing at Raven in particular increased in intensity in December, when quality-assurance, or Q.A., workers walked out to protest the ending of about a dozen workers’ contracts. The Communications Workers of America, a prominent tech, media and communications union, helped lead the unionization effort….

(7) BRING THE HAMMER.  The trailer for Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder dropped today.

“Let me tell you the story of the space viking, Thor Odinson…”

(8) HE MORPHED THOSE CHECKS. The New York Times tells why “A former ‘Power Rangers’ actor is charged with helping steal millions in Covid relief funds.”

The actor who led a team of teenage superheroes on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has been accused of helping steal millions of dollars from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program pandemic relief fund.

Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, who played the Red Ranger under the stage name Austin St. John, and 17 others were charged with fraud this week in a Texas federal court over what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to illicitly obtain $3.5 million in P.P.P. loans.

Mr. Geiger and the others he is said to have worked in coordination with used a mix of genuine and sham businesses to obtain loans from the relief program, prosecutors said. According to court filings, they fabricated documents and made false claims about sales and payroll to obtain inflated loans, then spent the cash on jewelry, precious metals and cars.

Mr. Geiger received a loan of $225,754 in June 2020 for his company St. John Enterprises, which sells Power Rangers memorabilia, such as $60 autographed photos and $100 personalized video messages. Instead of using the money to pay workers — the relief program’s intended purpose — Mr. Geiger funneled most of the money to two of his co-defendants, prosecutors said in court filings….

(9) DENIS MEIKLE (1947-2022). In the Guardian, Jasper Sharp pays tribute to his late friend, film historian Denis Meikle.

…In 1996 Denis’s first book, A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer, was published, after almost six years of writing and intensive research during which time he developed a close friendship with Michael Carreras, the head of the studio in its later years. It is considered the definitive history of Hammer Films.

This was followed by Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies (2001), Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (2003), Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion (2004), The Ring Companion (2005) and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out (2006).

With Jane, in 2007 he founded Hemlock Books, specialising in non-fiction publications on film, horror, mystery and the macabre and actor and director biographies, through which he edited and published the journals The Fantastic Fifties, The Sensational Sixties and The Age of Thrills (1930s and 40s), and published his final work, Mr Murder: The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter (2019), jointly researched with Kip Xool and Doug Young.

This recent Tod Slaughter biography encapsulates Denis’s approach to film writing perfectly: scholarly, fact-driven and intensively researched without being dry, and writerly and critical without thrusting his role as the writer to the fore….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] This is the month that saw the publication of John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-by, the first of the Travis McGee novels. (Warning: there’s nothing genre or genre adjacent here. So go away if that’s what you were expecting.) In my opinion, the Travis McGee novels are among the finest mystery series ever done.

I’m listening to them now because Audible dropped the price way, way down on each work. And it’s been at least twenty years since I read them all. So it’s an excellent time to re-experience them. The narrator, Robert Perkoff, is quite excellent, capturing the first person voice of Travis as well as I expect him to. 

This novel was only accepted by in 1964 by Fawcett Publications editor Knox Burger after MacDonald says in a later interview with Ed Gorman: “At the request of Knox Burger, then at Fawcett, I attempted a series character. I took three shots at it to get one book with a character I could stay with. That was in 1964. Once I had the first McGee book, The Deep Blue Good-by, they held it up until I had finished two more, Nightmare in Pink and A Purple Place for Dying, then released one a month for three months. That launched the series.” 

McGee is of an uncertain background, he’s ex-military, but that may be the Korean War or it might be just out of the very early Vietnam War, as MacDonald hints at both. He is a big man and knows how to fight, has a temper, but controls it.  He won the Busted Flush, his house boat, in a card game. Was it a honest game? Who knows? 

The novels really should be read in the order written as both McGee and the America that he’s part of change in a very chronological fashion. Travis has definite strong political opinions and I won’t say I always agree with them, but that’s the character. And no, I won’t say that this character is altogether pleasant as he isn’t as in this novel and in every novel in the series, he will do things that make me cringe. 

If you haven’t read The Deep Blue Good-by, go ahead and read it — if you like it, you’ll like the whole series. The Deep Blue Good-by is reasonably price at the usual suspects for six dollars.

A film version of The Deep Blue Good-by, directed by Oliver Stone, was optioned a decade ago. Christian Bale who is six feet tall to Travis McGee’s stated six feet four was going to the lead. The film was never developed. There’s one film based off a later novel in this series, Darker Than Amber starring Rod Taylor, and one, Travis McGee: The Empty Copper Sea that starred Sam Elliott but which moved McGee to sunny California. McDonald vetoed a television series in the Sixties on the grounds that if it was popular no one would read his novels. 

See? Not a single spoiler! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accidental gunshot wound. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 70. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars which he billed as his Star Wars. (No kidding.) She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series. She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 69. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2 and inSpider-Man: No Way Home, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh, and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot in the modern day version of Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character. 
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 62. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1963 Michael Chabon, 59. Author of what I consider the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland, which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but was Executive Producer for the just concluded season.
  • Born May 24, 1965 John C. Reilly, 57. I honor him for just his performance as Amos Hart in Chicago but as that film is hardly genre I’d better go on and list genre appearances, shouldn’t I? (Chicago is streaming on Paramount +.) He’s Lefty in A Prairie Home Companion which we’ve established is genre followed by being Crepsley in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant and he shows up in the Guardians of the Galaxy as Corpsman Dey. He’s Hank Marlow in Kong: Skull Island. He was Dr. Watson in the film everyone wants to forget, Holmes & Watson. His last genre role that I’m aware of was playing Cap in the Moonbase 8 comedy series. 

(12) KAMALA KHAN. Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel starts streaming June 8 on Disney+.

Good is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do.

(13) MADE (UP) MAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast that Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Ron Perlman.  Perlman is of interest to us because nearly all of his work has been genre-related, beginning with his debut in Quest For Fire.  Perlman says he got his job in the first Beauty and the Beast because makeup artist Rick Baker said Perlman worked well with prosthetics.  Perlman also discusses his long-running collaboration with Guillermo del Toro; Perlman worked on del Toro’s first film, Cronos, and has collaborated with Del Toro on seven other projects, including the forthcoming Pinocchio.  Perlman also discusses what actors do during a daily four-hour stint in the makeup chair and his extensive voice work, including playing Optimus Prime in two Transformers movies. “Maltin on Movies: Ron Perlman”.

In his earliest screen appearances (remember Quest for Fire?) Ron Perlman was buried under a ton of makeup and prosthetics. That’s also how he became the Emmy-winning star of television’s Beauty and the Beast. Since then he’s shown his versatility, especially in his collaborations with the gifted filmmaker Guillermo del Toro like Hellboy and the forthcoming Pinocchio. His new film The Last Victim, casts him as a weary sheriff in the modern-day West. As Leonard and Jessie quickly discovered, Ron has the soul of a poet and the heart of a movie buff. Wait till you hear him singing the praises of Gary Cooper!

(14) I GUESS WE DO TALK ABOUT HIM. Tonight Andrew Porter witnessed another item that stumped Jeopardy! contestants.

Category: Bruno

Answer: “Sylvie and Bruno” was a dreamy 1889 children’s book by this Brit who was comfortable with fantasy worlds.

Wrong questions: “Who was Barrie?” and “Who was Tolkien?”

Right question: “Who was Lewis Carroll?”

(15) GENUINE TRIVIA. It doesn’t get much more obscure than this: “10 actors from The Andy Griffith Show who voiced major cartoon characters” at MeTV.

The Andy Griffith Show hired a sprawling cast to play all the quirky citizens of Mayberry. Many of those actors were skilled at performing in amusing voices. No wonder they tended to have careers in cartoons, too.

Many of the faces from Mayberry were notable animation voice-over artists. Here are some of our favorite that might surprise you.

1. Arlene Gorlonka

Speed Buggy was one of several successful Hanna-Barbera clones of its hit Scooby-Doo. Substitute the Great Dane with a talking anthropomorphic dune buggy and it’s essentially the same show. “Tinker” looked and acted a whole lot like Shaggy. And then there was Debbie, the Daphne, if you will. The mystery-solving teen was voiced by none other than Howard Sprague’s girlfriend, Millie!

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Morbius,” the Screen Junkies say that “Michael Morbius is a doctor living a serious challenge: being Jared Leto.”  Dr. Morbius chugs enough blood at blood banks that the narrator says it reminds him “of the time at camp when we found the Capri Suns.” Also Matt Smith (speaking of doctors) “acts with the freedom of someone who knows he’s in a train wreck.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/20/22 With Great Pixels Come Great Scrolls

(1) AUTHORS SEND CONGRESS LETTER AGAINST BOOK BANNING. We Need Diverse Books reports on the “Letter from 1,300 Children’s and YA Authors on Book Banning” sent to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties this week.

…The letter was drafted by two-time Newbery Honor-winning author Christina Soontornvat, who was informed by a Texas school that they could not invite her to speak to students because they feared that conservative parents in their district would object to her living in a liberal city (Soontornvat resides in Austin). Alarmed by this decision and by the hateful rhetoric that has accompanied the growing list of banned books, Soontornvat decided to organize with other authors and develop a call for action….

In it, the authors condemned “the current wave of book suppression that specifically targets titles by creators who are LGBTQIA+ and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”

The signers include Dhonielle Clayton, Rick Riordan, Jacqueline Woodson, John Green, Raina Telgemeier, Malinda Lo, Alex Segura, Greg van Eekhout, Cecil Castellucci, Fran Wilde, Mark Oshiro, Stephanie Burgis, and Leigh Bardugo. The letter reads in part —

…This current wave of book suppression follows hard-won gains made by authors whose voices have long been underrepresented in publishing. Just ten years ago, less than seven percent of children’s books featured characters who were Black, Indigenous, or people of color (source: Cooperative Children’s Book Center). Representation is finally increasing thanks to the work of groups like We Need Diverse Books. The current banning efforts are part of a strong and purposeful backlash against books written by BIPOC authors. Books with characters who are LGBTQIA+ have been vehemently targeted and frequently misrepresented.

When books are removed or flagged as inappropriate, it sends the message that the people in them are somehow inappropriate. It is a dehumanizing form of erasure. Every reader deserves to see themselves and their families positively represented in the books in their schools. These books are important for all children. Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone’s humanity. At a time when our country is experiencing an alarming rise in hate crimes, we should be searching for ways to increase empathy and compassion at every turn.

A particularly insidious feature of the current attacks is the flood of accusations that anyone who seeks to give readers access to diverse books is a “groomer,” “radical,” or “pedophile.” These charges are abhorrent and without merit, and they have been leveled against not only authors, but against teachers and librarians. We strongly condemn this slander against our colleagues and our nation’s educators.

A book may not be for every student, but—as we know from the many letters we receive from young readers—a single book can matter deeply to an individual student. Nearly all campuses have an existing system to handle a parent’s concern with their own child’s reading material. Pro-censorship groups seek to overwhelm these systems by pressuring schools to pull entire lists of books from shelves “for review.” Some extremists have intimidated authors, educators, and school board members online and even threatened them with violence. This has created an atmosphere of fear that has led to “soft censorship” in many districts. Books are quietly removed or never purchased at all. Authors are never invited to speak, for fear of drawing the wrath of these groups.

Libraries are bastions of the First Amendment. They provide equal access to a wealth of knowledge and ideas for all public school students. When individuals and organizations seek to advance their own political agendas or personal beliefs by censoring books, they infringe upon students’ constitutional rights.

We call upon Congress, statehouses, and school boards to reject the political manipulation of our schools, to uphold the values of freedom and equality promised in the Constitution, and to protect the rights of all young people to access the books they need and deserve.

(2) SLOW DJINN. Camestros Felapton continues his exploration of the finalists with “Hugo 2022 Novel: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark”.

…From a Hugo perspective, there is an obvious comparison to be made with the 2021 Best Novel winner Network Effect, the novel-length Murderbot story. Although quite different genres, both novels are sequels to a successful set of novellas that have received consistent Hugo attention. Both novels are longer stories with established characters that deliver on the qualities that people admired in the earlier works….

(3) ABOUT YOUR DARLINGS. Marissa Lingen mentors writers in “From Panic to Process: What Taking Criticism Actually Means” in Uncanny Magazine.

…. For me any piece of critique, large or small, can raise two questions about a work. First, how does it bring this work into better alignment with what it was intended to be doing? Second, if it challenges or reshapes those intentions, does it do so in a good way? The former question sounds grandiose when applied to small tasks like removing vague or repetitive language, but specificity helps convey your vision. Whether they change punctuation or add entirely new characters and subplots, revisions should have some method for bringing the work closer to its originating vision.

I think the latter question is often neglected because there is a common idea that only the creator can conceive of an artistic vision, which should remain pure and untrammeled. And this is true up to a point. But it is also true that sometimes it is not the execution but the concept itself that can benefit from critique. Those cases are the exception to the rule that revision should bring works closer to their original intention—rather, the entire vision for the work can be improved….

(4) IT’S BAD. Vogon Poetry Slam 2022 will be livestreamed May 25 beginning at 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Register for the free event at Eventbrite.

For the second year running, the Vogon Slam has hacked into Deep Thought and is back to take over your computer for a night of vintage Vogon poetry!

WORST POET WINS! The Vogon Poetry Slam is part tribute to Douglas Adams, part geek-out, and part release valve for the occasional stinker that all creatives occasionally make. Come, hoopy froods, for a night of nerding, gnashing of teeth, and tortuously bad poetry.

We also have:

– Bureaucracy!

– A communal reading of Paul Neil Milne’s “Dead Swans” poem (the worst poem in the universe!)

– Our special guest, the Ambassador of the Azgoths of Kria

– A feature set from reigning Vogon Poetry Slam Champion (and actual real-life good poet) Tim Kiely!

(5) GONE TO HECK. “Hugh Jackman makes his Simpsons debut singing about middle class decline” with an intro by Entertainment Weekly.

The Simpsons has been running so long (the season 33 finale airs this Sunday) that some elements of its basic premise no longer track in the modern economic context. Modern viewers might very well wonder how an oaf like Homer (Dan Castellanata) can afford a house and car on a single income. Well, don’t worry: Hugh Jackman shows up in the upcoming season finale to explain the history of the American middle class — in song, of course! 

… In the episode, Jackman voices a janitor at the nuclear power plant where Homer works. Bart (Nancy Cartwright) has accompanied his father to the job site, where the janitor explains how the post-World War II era brought prosperity to the American middle class that allowed people like Homer to succeed despite their failings. But then “gradually, it all went to hell,” as Jackman sings.

(6) YOU’LL HAVE TO PAY A BOUNTY FOR THIS ONE. “A Boba Fett Watch Costs $120,000 Redefining Star Wars Items” is Gizmodo’s jaw-dropping headline.

…io9 is filled with writers and readers who are wild about Star Wars, but do any of us know someone who could throw down $120,000 on a Star Wars watch?

A company called Kross Studio hopes there are at least 10 of those people out there. It’s created a super high-end, super limited-edition watch inspired by Boba Fett and the recently renamed Boba Fett’s Starship. Composed of 220 parts, one of which is a one-of-a-kind, handmade mini-replica of Boba Fett’s Starship that takes 90 hours to make (each!), the watch has to be seen to be believed. So here are some images….

The photos come from the Kross Studio website: Boba Fett™ Collector Set.

One of the most enigmatic characters in the Star Wars galaxy has inspired Kross Studio’s latest creation, in collaboration with Lucasfilm. The Swiss design studio is proud to reveal a new and limited edition of ten Boba Fett™-inspired collector sets, each complete with a numbered, manual wound Boba Fett™-inspired central Tourbillon timepiece and a watch display by EFX, inspired by Boba Fett™’s famed starship.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago this evening, The Burning Zone series ended its brief run. It lasted but nineteen episodes on UPN (the United Paramount Network) and has had never been released on DVD or Blu-ray, nor licensed to an online streaming service. I’m trying to remember if it showed up on the dumping ground of genre series, Syfy, but I’m not certain it did.

It was created by Coleluck who had previously done the same with Otherworld, which I’ve never heard of, and M.A,N.T.I.S. that I’ve seen. He also did The Equalizer. (He’d write six episodes here.) He executive produced the series along with James Duff McAdams, Carleton Eastlake and Rob Gilmer. McAdams was involved on The Equalizer and M.A,N.T.I.S., Eastlake on SeaQuest DSV and Earth: Final Conflict and Gilmeron Relic Hunter and Knight Rider.

The series was the only drama ordered by UPN for the season that it was on. Everything else was a comedy including the Homeboys in Outer Space series which, yes, was genre.

Think Andromeda Strain crossed with X-Files. And not well done at that. Really I’m not kidding. So how was the reception? Some liked it, some didn’t.

Bret Watson at Entertainment Weekly said of the two genre series at UPN that “The subsequent Homeboys in Outer Space and the sci-fi schlock-fest The Burning Zone, however, have all but crashed and burned” 

Caryn James of the New York Times thought it was fine for what it was: “The idea is ‘Outbreak’ meets ‘The X-Files,’ and everyone involved in ‘The Burning Zone’ keeps a straight face. But the show’s greatest appeal is to more specialized, cultish taste; intentionally or not, it offers the loopy delights of a cut-rate, over-the-top horror movie.” 

It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes which is not surprising given it has largely if not completely been absent for viewing over the last quarter of a century. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner F Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including fifteen hundred for just DC Comics. For DC, he created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 94. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries which is definitely genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. And the audiobooks as narrated by Susan Boyce are a great deal of fun listening. She also did some more traditional genre fiction, none of which I’ve read in the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. 
  • Born May 20, 1936 Anthony Zerbe, 86. Zerbe played the major role of Matthias, the news anchor turned mutant albino cult leader determined to kill Charlton Heston’s Richard Neville in The Omega Man, the loosely-adapated 1971 film version of Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend. He  was the villain Milton Krest in the Licence to Kill bond film;  Roger Stuart in Steven King’s The Dead Zone; Admiral Dougherty in Star Trek: Insurrection; and Councillor Hamann in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Series wise, he showed up on the Wild, Wild West and five episodes of Mission: Impossible as five different characters, he was Dr. Charles Napier on the Asteroid series on NBC in 1997 that I never heard of. 
  • Born May 20, 1940 Joan Staley. She showed up twice as Okie Annie on Batman in “It’s How You Play the Game” and “Come Back, Shame“. She played Ginny in Mission Impossible’s two-parter, “The Council”, and she was in Prehistoric Valley (Dinosaurs! Caveman! Playboy mates in bikinis!) She also played Fiona in Brigadoon which has to be genre, isn’t it? (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 76. Yes she was Alexandra Medford in The Witches of Eastwick, a film that I absolutely love and adore, (and no I’ve not read the novel) which is really her only genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she’s voicing herself in The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1951 Steve Jackson, 71. The UK game designer (not to be confused with the owner of Steve Jackson Games). With Ian Livingstone, he founded Games Workshop and also the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the two most dominant aspects of the UK games industry before it came to be essentially wiped by the advent of videogames. I’m fairly sure the only one of his works that I’ve played is Starship Traveller which I’d have been playing around the same time as Traveller.
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 61. Best known role is as Alliser Thorne on the just-concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy. I read most if not all of that series and it’s quite excellent. Keeping with my firm belief of never watching a series based on fiction that I really, really liked, I have not seen the series. 
  • Born May 20, 1968 Timothy Olyphant, 54. He’s been cast in the second season of The Mandalorian where he might be Sheriff Cobb Vanth which in turn would mean he’d be wearing Bobo Fett’s salvaged armor. And he was Sheriff Seth Bullock in the Deadwood franchise which must be at least genre adjacent given the great love of it by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Or not. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) STRANGE NEW WORLDS CAST Q&A. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] The Hollywood Reporter is publishing a series of interviews with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds actors.

I so appreciate that, right off the bat, the series deals with Spock’s exploration of his inner turmoil and conflict — trying to find his true self, as opposed to who he thinks others want him to be. You’re really pulling double duty at times in that battle.

Absolutely. I’ve been really fortunate with the level of nuance they’ve given to me in the writing. It’s also been very scary. This is such a precious character, not just to the fans, but to me. And like I said, one of the gifts of the episodic format is that every episode’s a new adventure, not knowing what Spock is going to be doing. So I feel like I’m constantly kind of searching for the character and understanding the inner details, which again is a gift.

Spock wants to be accepted by Vulcan, by his people whom he’s grown up with, but he has never been accepted because he’s half human. This is a struggle that exists on our planet, and I may not be the best representative of that, but we have amazing writers who do experience that today. I know that they contribute quite heavily to Spock’s life in that way. His human side is undeniable. He must explore it. And I think eventually his understanding of his humanness is what makes him who he will become later in the Original Series. His emotional side draws in valuable information that he can use in his problem-solving. He’s a beautiful person to be portraying and to be discovered.

What does Broadway represent to you?

Broadway has been a haven for me since I was a little girl. The opportunity to leave my troubles backstage and be whisked away to a completely different world was everything to me, especially growing up as a young Black person in predominantly white institutions. Of course, as I grew up, I learned that the things I was trying to escape are inescapable, but live theater still was a means of escape to me.

When you were auditioning for the role of Uhura, what attracted you to the character?

Fun fact, actually: I didn’t know that I was auditioning for the role of Uhura until after I booked it. Casting went about it in a very interesting way, and I think they actually gave me a bit of grace because I auditioned under a pseudonym. But her character description really got to me: She was described as a bright, young prodigy who is deciding whether or not the place that she’s in is where she wants to be right now. And as someone who is very young in this industry and is still figuring out what my explicit goal and dream is in this life, I found that a lot of her story and a lot of her mentality mirrored mine — in a different industry.

I’m glad that you talked about diving into the character. He’s so mythic in Star Trek lore. Were you given a backstory to help you develop the character, or did you develop your backstory, or was it all canon?

April was Gene Roddenberry’s original pitch back in 1964 to CBS for the captain role, but he was changed to Capt. Pike later when NBC accepted it. That was cool to discover. And then, in the 1974 animated series, he was really introduced in “The Counter-Clock Incident.” So, it’s cool how it all came together.  I’m learning a lot. I grew up a big sci-fi fan.

A friend of mine is friends with LeVar Burton, and LeVar was so kind. He sent me a video welcoming me to the franchise, and I was just so moved by his generosity. He basically said, “Welcome. We are family, and we’re just proud to have you.” He said that when Gene set out to make Star Trek, he knew that as human beings, we could get our shit together. And if we were to become a space-faring civilization, we had to solve the problems that lie in here now. That is the core of Star Trek‘s ethos. It’s about us all working together to build a better future.

The uniforms appear to be different from those on Discovery. They look more comfortable even. How were they changed for Strange New Worlds

The uniforms are a world of difference from the Discovery uniforms. (Laughs.) They’re a lot more forgiving, they fall more naturally, and there are fewer zippers involved. They are more of a throwback.

The sets are just incredible. Working on those had to make you feel like a kid in a candy store, fair to say? 

Jonathan Lee did a phenomenal job as our production designer. I feel like he really accomplished a lot of different goals, balancing a lot of different elements. You want something that pays attention to canon and is a homage to the past and yet accomplishes the scale of television today. And he then retains a very specific mid-century modern look from the 1960s. There are some pieces that you might find in a super upscale version of Macy’s in 1967. It retains that cool ’60s vibe, but in an updated way, which I really dig.

(11) BOEING BACK IN THE SPACE RACE. “Boeing successfully launches Starliner spacecraft to orbit in do-over test flight”The Verge supplies details of the May 19 flight.  

Nearly two and a half years after its first launch didn’t go to plan, Boeing’s new passenger spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, successfully launched to space this afternoon, reaching the right orbit it needed to achieve to rendezvous with the International Space Station tomorrow evening. The successful launch marks the beginning of a crucial test flight for Starliner that will play out over the next week in space, one that will help demonstrate if the capsule is capable of carrying humans to space one day.

Starliner is a private spacecraft that Boeing developed in partnership with NASA, primarily to help transport the agency’s astronauts to and from the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. The capsule is one of two vehicles, along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, that NASA helped to fund in order to transition space transportation from the government to commercial companies. But before NASA’s astronauts can ride Starliner, the space agency wants Boeing to demonstrate the capsule can perform all of the tasks of a normal spaceflight mission without a crew on board.

(12) LOST THEIR SHIRT. H&I has another little anecdote that explains “The Redshirt Massacre: What Really Went Down In The Enterprise Laundry Room”. Click and learn!

(13) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. The For All Mankind Official Season 3 trailer.

In season three, the Red Planet becomes the new frontier in the Space Race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. Our characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Chrono Cross,” Fandom Games says this is a classic “only because people have been arguing about it for 20 years.” You fight with a “battle toothpick” that’s a cross between , “a pole, a Q-tip, and that thing they fought with in American Gladiators.”  But how many games have a talking mushroom named “Funguy?”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, 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 Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/22 Never Scroll Pixels After Midnight

(1) JEMISIN ON BBC. The BBC World Service’s In the Studio program features “N K Jemisin: Writing new worlds”. (Also available at BBC Sounds.)

New York-based writer N. K. Jemisin is one of the biggest names in modern science-fiction. She’s the first in the genre’s history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards, for each book in her Broken Earth trilogy. 

In conversation with presenter Dr Vic James, Jemisin talks in-depth about world-building. She reveals how the initial idea for Broken Earth came to her in a dream. This then led her to a NASA writing residency and a trip to Hawaii, flying over its volcanoes in order to accurately visualise the trilogy’s setting: a super-continent called The Stillness that is ravaged by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. 

Jemisin reflects on how it all came together, how she gives voice to the oppressed, and why she thinks these books have resonated with so many people around the world. 

(2) GET YOUR IMAGINARY PAPERS. Imaginary Papers is a quarterly newsletter about science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and the imagination from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

Imaginary Papers Issue 10 features an essay by writer, editor, and scientist Pippa Goldschmidt on the 2014 short film Afronauts, and humanities scholar Paul Cockburn on Ignatius Donnelly’s 1890 novel Caesar’s Column and its vision of a gridlock-free New York City. There’s also a writeup of UNICEF’s Imagining Health Futures project.

(3) SFF IS WHERE YOU FIND IT. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] Finally made it back to Mongolia, and here’s pictures of two of the recent SF translations in a local bookstore.

(4) STAND BY FOR NEWS. The Guardian takes a teasing tone as it communicates that Russell T Davies is back in charge of Doctor Who, and changing everything – with the trans actor Yasmin Finney playing Rose Tyler and David Tennant returning, too: “Two Doctors, and a trans actor playing Rose? How Russell T Davies is mixing things up in the Tardis all over again”. The article ends —

A black Doctor? A trans Rose? This is political correctness gone mad. You’re right. There is no way on earth that a shapeshifting ancient alien god and an interdimensional explorer trapped in a parallel dimension should be played by anything other than a white British guy and the woman from I Hate Suzie respectively.

This isn’t the Doctor Who I am used to. But it is. The transgender actor Bethany Black had a role on Doctor Who in 2015. In an episode in 2006, Jack Harkness said that he had a trans co-worker. If you factor in the audio episodes, you’ll find yourself inundated with trans characters, actors and writers.

Wait, so I’m the one who’s wrong? Exactly right. Stop watching. The rest of us will have a blast.

Do say: “It’s great that Rose Tyler is being played by a trans woman.”

Don’t say: “Oh God, does this mean I have to start watching Doctor Who again?

(5) HEAR FROM THREE LEADING FANTASY WRITERS. Waterstones Bookshops offers “Shelley Parker-Chan, Tasha Suri and C. L. Clark in conversation” on Monday May 30 at 18:30 British Summer Time — livestream tickets for £5. (The in-person component is sold out).

Join us for what promises to be a brilliant evening of conversation with bestselling fantasy authors Shelley Parker-Chan, Tasha Suri and C. L. Clark.

Masters of sapphic fantasy literature, these three authors will be talking about their most recent books: Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel She Who Became The Sun (publishing in paperback this June), Tasha Suri’s epic fantasy The Jasmine Throne and C. L. Clarks’s political fantasy The Unbroken.

(6) REWARDS FOR ADVENTUROUS READERS. Simone Heller, in the fourth installment of “Speaking the Truth with Oghenechovwe Ekpeki”, asks the Nigerian author about the intricacies of writing from a complex multilingual background for a global audience. 

Your stories are usually set in a (futuristic) Nigeria. Do you include bits and pieces or even chunks from the languages surrounding you? And if so, is it accepted by international editors and readers?

Well, there’s a bit of truth telling to my writing. Chunks of my reality mixed in with it. Set in Nigeria as you observed, my themes usually touch on issues that are relevant here, and this is also reflected in my language. The dialogue of my characters shifts between pidgin English and regular English as a speaker in my position would. The subject matter, humour, delivery of the conversation also aims to reflect the way we communicate. It’s as I said, your culture and identity are reflected in your language. So it does come across as unfamiliar or odd to Western or other readers removed from that culture and identity. It’s definitely created a difficulty in publishing sometimes, it’s led to odd and overediting requests and an inability to connect or be properly appreciated by readers and reviewers who are not open to these diverse tongues and see everything different as inferior. But I suppose that is the price for speaking my truth with the tongue in my mouth in a world that sees the other as inferior. So yea.

(7) A COUPLE OF MIDWESTERNERS. Hear John Scalzi fielding questions on the “Page Break with Brian McClellan” podcast.

Brian’s guest this week is science fiction author John Scalzi. John is known for a massive variety of work, including his early career as a reviewer and columnist, his bestselling breakout novel Old Man’s War, his time as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and his well-known blog, Whatever.

John and Brian talk about paradigm shifts in their industry, being a longtime public figure, and his well-publicized thirteen-book contract with Tor. They also talk about living and working in the Midwest, and the real nature of professional jealousy.

(8) STUDIO 54. Rich Horton shared on Facebook a post with his picks for “potential Hugo awards from the year 1954 (that is, alternate 1955 Hugos, since two of the 1955 Hugos went to stories from 1955, and the one winner from 1954 is widely regarded as the worst Best Novel Hugo winner of all time. Short version: I actually came up with what I think is a quite strong list of novel nominees…”

(9) PROTACTILE. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] The New Yorker reports ways that “DeafBlind Communities May Be Creating a New Language of Touch”. Being an SF fan of a certain age, I can’t help think of John Varley’s “Persistence of Vision.”

…Protactile is full of a kind of tactile onomatopoeia, in which a hand resembles the feel of the thing it’s describing. In what the linguists call “proprioceptive constructions,” the speaker recruits the receiver’s body to complete the word, say, by turning her hand into a tree (five fingers as branches) or a lollipop (fist as candy). At one point, I asked Nuccio where she was from, and she told me to make my hand into a fist, which represented the globe. “You and I are in America, over here,” she said, touching my first knuckle. “And this is the ocean.” She traced a finger to my wrist to find the country where she was born, Croatia. She accomplished all of this in a series of movements that Edwards said followed consistent grammatical rules. At another point, Nuccio described how difficult her life had been when she’d worked as a technician in a genetics lab as she went blind. She had me point my finger up, and told me that it was now the flame of the Bunsen burner that she’d used in her lab. She demonstrated how to adjust the flame on one of my knuckles, and how delicate the apparatus was. I was astonished by the precision of this tactile illustration, which felt, in the moment, more vivid than any verbal description could have….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-five years ago, Man from Atlantis: The Killer Spores aired on NBC. It was the third of four pilot episodes that preceded the regular Man from Atlantis television series which only lasted thirteen episodes. Calling them pilot episodes is I think just a bit disingenuous — they were full blown episodes of the series. 

The extended episode, I hesitate to call it a movie, was directed by Reza Badiyi and written by John D.F. Black. Badiyi is best known for directing episodes of shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Phoenix and Deep Space Nine. Black was associate producer on ten episodes of Trek including “The Man Trap”, “Mudd’s Women” and “The Corbomite Manuever”. 

It of course starred It Patrick Duffy as Mark Harris and Belinda Montgomery as Doctor Elizabeth Merrill. 

Just in case, someone here hasn’t seen it, I won’t discuss the story which was actually a damn good SF one. Unfortunately the series itself was doomed as it has very high production costs and an audience that dropped way too fast, so NBC didn’t pick up its option after the first thirteen episodes were made. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 17, 1913 Peter B. Germano. Though neither of his SF novels was of great distinction, The Interplanetary Adventures and The Pyramids from Space (written as Jack Berlin), his scriptwriter output was as he did work on The Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the LostBattle of the Planets and the revival version of The Next Step Beyond, which warrants his being noted here. (Died 1983.)
  • Born May 17, 1936 Dennis Hopper. I think his first genre film would be Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, an Andy Warhol film. Queen of Blood, a vampire film very thinly disguised as SF film, was his next genre film. My Science Project was his next outing before he took part in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And now we get to the Super Mario Bros. where he played King Koopa. What a weird film that was! He followed that by being Deacon on Waterworld… And then doing Space Truckers. Ouch. No, I didn’t like it. He’s El Niño in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a film I barely remember. His final role was voicing one of the animated wolves in Alpha and Omega. He was also in Blue Velvet but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to call that genre. Would you?  (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 17, 1946 F. Paul Wilson, 76. I’ve read, let me check, oh about half I see of the Repairman Jack novels. Anyone here finished them off, and should I do so? What else by him is worth my time? He’s won five Prometheus Awards for Best Libertarian SF Novel, very impressive indeed. 
  • Born May 17, 1950 Mark Leeper, 72. As Mark says on his site, “In and out of science fiction circles Mark and Evelyn Leeper are one of the best known writing couples on the Internet. Mark became an avid science fiction fan at age six with TV’s ‘Commando Cody.’ Both went to the University of Massachusetts in 1968.” And as Bill Higgins says here, their MT VOID is one of the longest published fanzines still going. 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 68. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. Greenland’s The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. And yes, he won the Clarke Award for that Take Back Plenty novel.
  • Born May 17, 1954 Bryce Zabel, 68. A producer, director and writer. Genre wise, he’s been involved as a producer or director with M.A.N.T.I.S.Dark SkiesBlackbeardLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Writing wise, he written for most of these shows, plus the screenplays for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
  • Born May 17, 1956 Dave Sim, 66. Did you know there was a Cerebus radio show at one point? Well there was. Need I say that I read the entire run of Cerebus. The three hundred issues ran from 1977 until 2004. It was created by Sim, written and drawn by him and remained solely his undertaking until background artist Garhard joined up with sixty-fifth issue. As Cerebus continued, it incorporated more and more of Sim’s very controversial views, particularly on women, feminism and the fall of Western Society from those factors. Collected Letters: 2004 and Dave Sim’s Collected Letters 2 contains his responses to the letters he got criticizing him but not the letters themselves. 
  • Born May 17, 1967 Michael Arnzen, 55. Winner of four Bram Stoker Awards, one for his Grave Markings novel, another for Goreletter and yet another for his poetry collection, Freakcidents. Very impressive indeed. Not to mention an International Horror Guild Award for Grave Markings. 

(12) GODDESS HISTORY. Read an extract from Queens of the Wild by Ronald Hutton at the link.

Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Witch, returns with Queens of the Wild, a history of the goddess-like figures who evade both Christian and pagan traditions, from the medieval period to the present day.

In this riveting account, Hutton explores the history of deity-like figures in Christian Europe. Drawing on anthropology, archaeology, literature, and history, Hutton shows how hags, witches, the fairy queen, and the Green Man all came to be, and how they changed over the centuries.

Looking closely at four main figures—Mother Earth, the Fairy Queen, the Mistress of the Night, and the Old Woman of Gaelic tradition—Hutton challenges decades of debate around the female figures who have long been thought versions of pre-Christian goddesses. He makes the compelling case that these goddess figures found in the European imagination did not descend from the pre-Christian ancient world, yet have nothing Christian about them. It was in fact nineteenth-century scholars who attempted to establish the narrative of pagan survival that persists today. In this extract, Hutton focuses on the how the goddess-like figure of Nature develops during the Middle Ages and early modernity….

(13) PARANORMAL CRIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I didn’t know there were people who collected “haunted dolls!” “Haunted Dolls, Curses, and a True Crime Voodoo Cold Case” by Susan Furlong at CrimeReads.

In writing my crime novel What They Don’t Know, I wanted my lead character to have an unusual relationship with her collection of dolls. As a psychological thriller, what better than to include haunted dolls? Not knowing a lot about haunted dolls and wanting to learn more, my research took me to Alabama where I met with Kevin Cain, ghost hunter, haunted doll collector, and author. There we discussed real doll-infested crimes, proving once more, that reality is sometimes stranger than fiction….

(14) WHERE TO GET YOUR GEAR. The Octothorpe podcast – John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty – have unfurled a logo short at the Octothorpe Fans shop.

Octothorpe the Podcast

The shop has quite a few other things for sale. I laughed out loud when I saw this quote on a pillow: “Dave Kyle says You Can’t Sit Here“.

(15) A START TO YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST. Meanwhile, others of you may need this “Edward Gorey Sterling Cat Reading a Book Pin”.

This sterling silver pin is adapted from a drawing by Edward Gorey that is part of a series of renderings of fanciful cats engaged in unusual activities. Here a casually seated cat is reading a book with obvious delight. Edward Gorey’s initials are engraved on the back. 

(16) THIS SIDE UP. Thanks to David Dyer-Bennet linking to this on FB I learned today “Why do refrigerator magnets only stick on one side?”. EngineerDog.com explains Halbach Arrays.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Moon Knight” the Screen Junkies say that having used up its A team, its B team, and its C-team, Marvel was down to either doing Moon Knight or Hellcow. “Are you ready for action?” the narrator says.  “Moon Knight isn’t.  When danger strikes, he blacks out.”  There are so many blackouts in this series “that it reminds me of when Four Loko was legal.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Ferret Bueller, Rob Thornton, Joey Eschrich, Andrew (not Werdna), 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 Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/11/22 Pixelled In The Scroll By A Chuck Tingle Pixel Scroll Title

(1) STAR TREK SPOILER WARNING. Let that be said right up front. Anybody that doesn’t want Picard Season 2 spoiled, please skip to the next item.

Okay. Now for the rest of you: “Star Trek Producers Fought Over Which New Shows Get To Bring Back Wesley Crusher” reports TrekMovie.com.

Today Paramount released a “Wesley Crusher’s Return” video feature that was also included in The Ready Room. The video features executive producers Akiva Goldsman and Alex Kurtzman discussing the fact that after the idea of Wesley returning on Picard was brought up, it started a sort of Crusher conflict with at least one other series…

Actor Wil Wheaton commented on Facebook:

I had no idea that the showrunners of the different Star Trek shows were fighting over who could write Wesley into their story.

This just feels like such a huge validation and such a huge win for Wesley, for me, and for all the other kids who were weird, unseen, awkward, or any of the other qualities we all had in common that made him important to us.

And as long as I have your attention: I feel seen and celebrated right now, in a way I never have before. I feel like it’s personal in a way that is brand new, that *belongs* to me, because it is a gift that was given to me.

I don’t know who all the people were, at every step of the way, who made Wesley’s return to Star Trek canon happen, but I am so grateful to all of them for making this happen.

And I’m so grateful to everyone who has celebrated me, and Wesley. It feels really good and it means a lot to me.

Here’s the clip:

(2) LMB MAKES HISTORY. “Bujold interview by Asena Ideus, 23 March 2022” was posted by Lois McMaster Bujold at Goodreads.

Raw version of an email interview I did for a college student for her history thesis paper. I was rather bemused to have my teen fannish enthusiasms viewed as history; my parents would have been quite surprised…

When it comes to Star Trek zines, you are featured in Spockanalia 2 (issued 1968) for your short piece The Free Enterprise. Could you talk more about that, especially since fanzine culture is so different (practically nonexistent) today? What were fanzines like during the ‘60s and ‘70s? The first documented fanzines began in the 1930s, but were they extremely popular among SF fans when Star Trek: TOS was airing or were they still an emerging medium?

LMB: Fanzine culture is thriving today, its content just moved online. It’s just called blogs and websites. It may not know its own history in some cases, true.

One commenter described the internet hitting fanfic as like throwing a gasoline tanker truck onto a campfire, which sounds about right to me….

(3) COMICMIX BACK IN THE SEUSS BUSINESS. Publishers Weekly has the details. “ComicMix Launches Campaign to Publish Public Domain Seuss Stories”. The Kickstarter is here. (People have pledged $4,813 of its $5,000 goal at this writing.)

Less than a year after settling a lawsuit with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, ComicMix is launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of The Zaks and Other Lost Stories by Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, to be released in July. The stories, which are in the public domain and available digitally on the Seussville website, include the titular story The Zaks, and The Sneetches, among others. ComicMix plans to release the titles of the other stories in the compilation as successive crowdfunding goals are met.

Between 1950 and 1956, Geisel published 23 stories in Redbook, including the seven that will be published in this compilation…. The ComicMix edition of the stories was created with high-quality scans from the original Redbook stories, tracked down from collectors of the magazine. Redbook reverted the copyright to these stories to Geisel, but the copyright was not renewed, so the versions that appeared in the magazines are now in public domain. 

ComicMix issued an official comment about the publication, stating, “This book is not associated with, nor approved by, nor even particularly liked by Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P., a California limited partnership, which owns some of the copyrights of the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the author and illustrator who created many works under the pseudonym ‘Dr. Seuss.’ ” Hauman, who preferred to comment about the upcoming book in Seuss-like rhyme, had this to say:

“We found Dr. Seuss stories, once thought to be lost,
that we’re bringing to you at a reasonable cost.
Some tales are familiar, though not quite this way,
but all fine examples of Seuss’s wordplay!
We spruced them all up, and now are good times
to rediscover his artwork and rhymes.
We filled up a book to put on your shelf
So that you can at last read them for yourself!” OY

Dr. Seuss Enterprises declined to comment on the story.

(4) WOKE SF TROLLS. [Item by Mlex.] A thoughtful discussion of the flap of people complaining about “woke” sf by Christopher Reeves, commentator for DailyKos. “Right-wing trolls accusing science fiction of being ‘woke’ are messing with my childhood”.

Sometimes, I fall into a rabbit hole I didn’t even know was going to happen. I was following along with a YouTube thread regarding Stargate SG-1 when it was pointed out a reboot was possible. I, having followed the series, thought, “Cool, cool, I might really enjoy this so tell me more.” I sat down to watch and learned a few things, but within the first three minutes, something interesting came about. According to a video on the subject: “Fans have become concerned following the recent release of The Wheel of Time series, and the upcoming Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series. Both of those series have taken significant creative license to change the characters and story to fit what many science fiction and fantasy fans believe is a ‘woke’ or progressive agenda at a cost to the canon of the original stories.

Wait, what? I’ve read almost all of Tolkien. I’ve watched every Star Trek series. I’ve read some of Ringworld, and in general, I devoured science fiction. What on Earth are these fans so upset about? What am I missing here? I decided last night to do a little bit of looking, and I regret some of the time I sacrificed but it certainly left me with some thoughts. I can always tell things are going wrong when people use terms like “woke” which is just one of those right-wing slurs that they use to replace “compassionate” or “reasonable” it seems….

(5) FREE READ. The “Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog,” a Best Fanzine Hugo finalist, has made their submission to the Hugo Voter Packet available as a free read at the link. And a very nice job they did, picking the material and creating the design.

(6) JDA SNEAKS BACK ONTO TWITTER. You knew that wouldn’t take long. Jon Del Arroz after being ousted from Twitter on May 6 simply opened another account and immediately resumed tweeting the usual links to his crowdfunding appeals, comics, and books. And misogynistic BS. (The last image below wasn’t posted by JDA, but I bet he wishes he’d thought of it.)

(7) LYNN HARRIS DIES. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Long-time Midwestern and Southern fan Lynn Harris passed away on May 10, 2022. She was 70 years old. Lynn was an artist who was known for running and/or working on many convention art shows, including at the late lamented Rivercon and Kubla Khan. She received the Rebel Award at the 2000 Deep South Con.

(8) PATRICIA MCKILLIP (1948-2022). World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement honoree Patricia A. McKillip died May 6 at the age of 74. Her best-known works included the books in the Riddle-Master trilogy, The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), Heir of Sea and Fire (1977), and Harpist in the Wind (1979) — the latter her only Hugo finalist, also a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, British Fantasy Award, and winner of a Locus Award.

Four of her books won the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature or Adult Fantasy, Something Rich and Strange (1995), Ombria in Shadow (2003, which also won the World Fantasy Award), Solstice Wood (2007), and Kingfisher (2017). Her other World Fantasy Award winning book was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (1975), which was published in 1974, the year after the appearance of her first published work, The Throme of the Erril of Sherrill (1973), a novella.

McKillip’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction entry written prior to her death summed up her career: “Over the past two decades, eschewing the use of fantasy backgrounds for inherently mundane epics, McKillip has become perhaps the most impressive author of fantasy story still active.”

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] The considerable joy of doing these anniversaries is finding these weird little shows that I’ve never heard of. So it is with a Disney series called So Weird whichran for sixty-five episodes. So Weird could best be described as a younger version of the X-Files and it far darker than anything which was on Disney when it debuted in 1999. It lasted for just three seasons. 

It was centered around teen Fiona “Fi” Phillips (played by Cara DeLizia) who toured with her rocker mom Molly Phillips (played by Mackenzie Phillips). They kept running into strange and very unworldly things. For the third and final season, she was replaced by Alexz Johnson playing Annie Thelen after the other actress gets the jones to see if she could make in Hollywood. (Well she didn’t.)

The story is that one of the characters, Annie, while visiting an Egyptian museum encounters a cat who once belonged to Egyptian queen that now wants her very much missed  companion back. Yes, both the cat and the princess are either immortal or of the undead. 

The writer of this episode, Eleah Horwitz, had little genre background having written just three Slider episodes and a previous one in this series. He’d later be a production assistant on ALF. 

Now if you went looking to watch So Weird’s “Meow” on Disney + after it’s debuted, the streaming service pulled the second season within days of adding the series but returned it a month later within any reason for having pulled it. The show has never been released on DVD. 

However the first five episodes in the first season of the series were novelized and published by Disney Press as mass-market paperbacks, beginning with Family Reunion by Cathy East Dubowski. (I know the Wiki page says Parke Godwin wrote it but the Amazon illustration of the novel cover shows her name. So unless this is one of his pen names, it is not by him.) You can find the other four that were novelized in the Amazon app by simply doing So Weird + the episode name. No they are not available at the usual suspects.

I didn’t find any critics who reviewed it, hardly surprising given it was on the Disney channel but a lot of folks really liked including John Dougherty at America: The Jesuit Review: “As a kid, my favorite show was about death. Well, not just death: it was also about faith, sacrifice and trying to make sense of life’s ineffable mysteries. Strangest of all, I watched it on the Disney Channel. ‘So Weird’ ran for three seasons from 1999 to 2001. It was Disney’s attempt to create a kid-friendly version of ‘The X-Files,’ tapping into an in-vogue fascination with ghosts, alien encounters and other paranormal phenomena. In practice, it became something more: a meditation on mystery and mortality.” 

I think I’ll leave it there. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 11, 1930 Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into  SpaceTwilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 11, 1935 Doug McClure. He had the doubtful honor of appearing some of the worst Seventies  SF films done (my opinion of course and you’re welcome to challenge that), to wit The Land That Time ForgotThe People That Time ForgotWarlords of the Deep and even Humanoids From The Deep. Genre wise, he also appeared in one-offs in The Twilight ZoneOut of This WorldAirWolfAlfred Hitchcock PresentsFantasy Island and Manimal. Some of which were far better. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 11, 1936 Gordon  Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.)
  • Born May 11, 1952 Shohreh Aghdashloo, 70. Best known genre role is Chrisjen Avasarala on The Expanse series. (I’ve not seen it, but have listened to all of The Expanse series.) She also had a recurring role as Farah Madani on The Punisher. She was also in X-Men: The Last Stand as Dr. Kavita Rao, but her role as The Chairman in The Adjustment Bureau didn’t make it to the final version. She was Commodore Paris in Star Trek Beyond, and she had a recurring role as Nhadra Udaya in FlashForward
  • Born May 11, 1976 Alter S. Reiss, 46. He’s a scientific editor and field archaeologist. He lives in Jerusalem, and has written two novels, Sunset Mantel and Recalled to Service. He’s also written an impressive amount of short fiction in the past ten years, which has appeared in Strange HorizonsF&SF, and elsewhere. 

(11) DISNEY, PAY THE WRITER. LA Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik reports at length about #DisneyMustPay in “Disney’s unpaid artists”.

Given its immense appetite for entertainment content to keep its movie and television pipelines filled, you would think that Walt Disney Co. would do its best to treat its creative talent fairly.

You would be wrong.

For years, Disney has been cheating the writers and artists of tie-in products — novelizations and graphic novels based on some of its most important franchises — of the royalties they’re due for their works. That’s the conclusion of a task force formed by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and joined by the Writers Guild East and West and several other creator advocacy organizations.

…[Mary Robinette Kowal] and others say that Disney has refused to take a proactive approach to identifying the creative artists who are owed money and paying what it owes. The company has ignored pleas by the task force and individual agents to post a portal on its website and a FAQ page to inform writers how to file claims and to whom their claims should be addressed.

The company has also refused to accept names and contact information from the SFWA for writers and artists who have reached out to the organization. “Disney gets away with this by using the exhaustion tactic,” Kowal told me. “They wear people down.”

The tactic works, she says: “Some authors have just given up because Disney puts up roadblocks and makes people jump through hurdles.”

The company, according to Kowal, has told some authors who stopped receiving royalties or royalty statements that this happened because it didn’t have their addresses. “They tell that to authors they’ve sent author copies of books to,” Kowal says, “so clearly they have their mailing addresses.”…

(12) FLASHBACK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BECCON’s 40th anniversary reunion has been held – a year late due to CoVID.

BECCON was a series of biennial conventions in the 1980s: 198119831985; and the 1987 UK Eastercon. BECCON standing for the Basildon Essex Centre CONvention with ‘Centre’ becoming ‘Crest’ when the hotel changed its name. The 40th anniversary reunion would have taken place last year but was postponed due to CoVID. The gathering took place in Arlesey, Bedfordshire, where previous reunions had taken place so as to give one of BECCON’s film projectionists, Graham Connor, a fan experience (Graham had severe mobility issues several years prior to his passing and could not get to conventions). BECCON may be a thing of the past but those involved with it, for the most part, are still very active in fandom and BECCON did spawn two spin-out ventures still going today: Beccon Publications (a number of whose books have been short-listed for Hugos) and the SF² Concatenation (the winner of a number of Eurocon Awards).

Those present at the reunion were from far left and clockwise: John Stewart,Roger Robinson (Beccon Publications), Jenny Steele (sadly obscured), Brian Ameringen (Porcupine Books), Peter TyersArthur Cruttenden, Caroline Mullan (2023 Eastercon committee), Anthony Heathcote and Jonathan Cowie (SF² Concatenation),

The BECCON ’87 programme book front cover. This was back in the days (prior to the 2010s) when Eastercons had a souvenir programme book in addition to the schedule timetable booklet.  It is particularly notable as being the first British Eastercon programme book to have a full colour cover. The cover art was by one of the convention’s GoHs, Keith Roberts.

(13) DOCTORAL THESIS. At Nerds of a Feather, Arturo Serrano concludes “’Doctor Strange 2′ is visually delightful and narratively bland”.

Despite the refreshing shift in visual style brought into the MCU by director Sam Raimi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is far from the milestone it was expected to be. The ongoing saga of the Avengers was supposed to expand into a wealth of possibilities with the addition of alternate realities, character variants, and reclaimed franchises just acquired by Disney from Fox. But what this movie delivers is smaller than the sum of its parts….

(14) LOST IN SPACE. Serrano also finds another franchise lacking: “‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 2 is aimless and inconsistent”

Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard bites more than it can chew. In the span of ten episodes, it tries to explore xenophobia, eugenicism, the weight of self-blame, repressed trauma, the tragedy of finitude, the tension between open and closed societies, the human yearning for intimate connection, the fear of loneliness, the responsibilities that come with parenthood, immigration policy, the purpose of life in old age, the narcissism inherent to the search for a legacy, authoritarianism, temporal paradoxes, suicide, and the uncertainty about the turbulent direction of humankind in the 2020s. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t manage to say anything insightful about any one of its myriad themes….

(15) SAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. Inverse presents “The 8 best movie time machines of all time, ranked by scientists”. You’d be surprised what kind things scientists have to say about the TARDIS.

These time-defying contraptions fill us with wonder because, while we’re innately curious with a desire to explore, we also love fawning over shiny screens and elaborate gadgetry. Humans are hardwired to push any button we see. No matter the ramifications….

6. DOCTOR WHO’S TARDIS

WHAT IT DOES: It takes you to another realm that enables you to move through time (the time vortex).

Everyone we spoke to mentioned this iconic machine, which looks like an old, blue, British police box.

“What other time machine gets a decorating job every few years, keeps updating its canon, and has an Olympic-sized swimming pool? Or even a personality?” Šiljak says. “The way the TARDIS operates and interacts with the Doctor is also a great suspension of disbelief catalyst that allows me to enjoy a plot that has holes.”

Its properties are bizarre, but its time-travel abilities are appealing to real scientists.

“The core of the TARDIS is a tesseract, which is a four-dimensional cube,” says Dr. Erin Macdonald, an astrophysicist, writer, producer, and Star Trek science advisor. “The reason this is great scientifically is our universe is four-dimensional, but we can only control three of those dimensions (space, not time). It logically makes sense that if we had an object that had four dimensions, that extra dimension could be time and could have more control than just space.”

Jan J. Eldridge, a theoretical astrophysicist and associate professor in the physics department at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, adds that the TARDIS’ ability to travel freely through both space and time also helps explain another of its key features: the interior doesn’t match the exterior.

“Any technology that allows you to bend space-time to travel through time would also leave you with the ability to stretch and square space-time itself,” she says.

(16) JEOPARDY! A whole category about sci-fi trilogies on tonight’s Jeopardy!, and Andrew Porter was tuned in. Unfortunately, the contestants weren’t!

Category: Sci-Fi Trilogies

Answer: This Alphanumeric book series follows up on the “Judgment Day” film, telling more of the story of Skynet & John Connor.

No one could ask, What is T-2?

Answer: The first in a Cixin Liu trilogy, this numerical novel is partially set during China’s Cultural Revolution.

No one could ask, What is ‘The 3-Body Problem”?

(17) SPACE EXTRICATION. “I hate that MS Word considers this an error,” says John King Tarpinian. “Double Space” at Nerdy Tees.

(18) CEREAL KILLER. Today’s Heather Martin says, “I tried Tropicana Crunch, the new cereal designed to be eaten with orange juice”.

Tropicana Crunch Honey Almond Cereal is a limited-edition offering for the “cereal curious” released to honor National Orange Juice Day on May 4. It’s the first cereal made specifically for pairing with OJ, and the company claims it’s “crispy and ready to get citrusy.” It comes thoughtfully packaged with one of Tropicana’s famous red-striped straws, so you can finish the cereal … juice … with class instead of lapping it from the bowl like a dehydrated Labrador….

It’s hard to swallow, I’ll grant you, but hear me out: It might be a sound concept. I often talk to clients who either don’t like milk or are allergic to it, and just like the box says, many times they tell me that they have tried orange juice on cereal.…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  The Batman,” the Screen Junkies say Robert Pattinson is the first Gen-Z Batman, because the “villains are influencers, he’s worse off than his parents, and his home town will very soon be under water.”  Also, the Riddler “talks a big game abou cleaning up the city while dressed like a garbage bag.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Cat Rambo, Joel Zakem, Michael J. Walsh, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Adam Rakunas, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, 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 Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/3/22 Click HERE For A Witty, Never-Before-Seen, Cleverly Referential Scroll Title, Generated Possibly By A Million Hamsters Running On Top Of Discarded BlackBerries

(1) A BIT OF HISTORY. The Finnish Postal Museum is looking for letters from Tove Jansson. “Have you received or are you in possession of a letter written by Tove Jansson?”

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was a prolific letter writer all her life. She also wrote short stories and other texts throughout her life and became known for her books about the Moomins. She devoted the last decades of her life almost entirely to literature aimed at adults.

During Tove Jansson´s lifetime letters were a natural way for people to keep in touch as electronic media either did not exist or was expensive to use. When translations of the Moomin books were published in different parts of the world in the 1950s and 1960s, Tove Jansson’s number of contacts increased and her correspondence became international.

… In the first phase of this project, we will explore the kinds of letters in existence. We will then decide on the basis of the material whether it would be possible to produce an exhibition or publication of Tove’s letters….

(2) POD PERSON CAMESTROS. He speaks! Camestros Felapton was interviewed by Eric Hildeman of the Milwaukee Science Fiction League on their podcast Starship Fonzie, as he explains in “My Podcast Debut”. Camestros shyly says:

I haven’t listened to it yet because I then had a long day at work and also I find my own voice too weird. But if you want me to say “umm” and “ahh” and talk over the host too much (that’s what I recall of what I said) then now is your chance!

Does Camestros jump the shark? Find out here: Starship Fonzie #15.

(3) SF IN HUNGARY. [Item by Bence Pintér.] Csilla Kleinheincz, an influential author/translator/editor of Hungarian SFF, does a Q&A with Guest Editors Vera Benczik and Beata Gubacsi at SFRA Review: “Interview with Csilla Kleinheincz”.

Guest Editors: How does the Hungarian fantastic incorporate and/or subvert the themes and tropes of Anglo-American fantastic tradition? Do you think there’s a pressure to follow international trends?

Csilla Kleinheincz: …What Hungarian SF can offer is its own unique blend of the fantastic that could be written only by Hungarian authors, reflecting on our own cultural and historical influences and leaning on our own surroundings. Hungarian weird fiction is especially strong nowadays, perhaps because our history and our present are so rich in grotesque and dystopian elements and also because a small but very active creative community has formed around the main publisher of weird fiction, The Black Aether….

(4) PROFILE ON A HUGO FINALIST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In their Special Issue on Contemporary African Literature, Open Country profiles Hugo finalist Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. “Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s Curation of African Speculative Fiction”.

“A lot of people were pleasantly perplexed,” Ekpeki says of the initial reaction. “Almost every review had a phrase like ‘this is unusual speculative fiction based on unusual cultures,’ so they still find African speculative fiction unusual. There is still a lot of ground for us to cover, it would seem.”

(5) AND THE VOTERS SAY! When the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM reopens this weekend, here are what poll respondents picked as the “Upcoming Events” from 10 options offered by theater owner George R.R. Martin.

Thank you to the nearly 300 folks who voted in our audience poll to choose the movies for the Jean Cocteau Cinema’s grand re-opening weekend! Unveiling the top 5 films, the first films to play in the newly renovated theater, May 6-8th:

Spirited Away 
Beauty & the Beast (1946)
Forbidden Planet
War of the Worlds (1952)
Cabaret

All screenings will be seated FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED. Theater doors will open 20 minutes before showtime. Anyone who isn’t able to get a seat is most welcome to hang out with a cocktail in the lobby bar, or a coffee over at Beastly Books!  

(6) NOT QUITE TRUE NORTH. At Grimdark Magazine, Matthew John reviews “The Northman”.

The Northman is a film that should not exist–not at its scale, not in this day and age. It is an unflinching epic of fire and ice, of burning love and cold-served vengeance. It is a story rooted in legend, but most viewers will probably be familiar with the bones of this tale from Hamlet, the Lion King, or Conan the Barbarian. Our protagonist, Prince Amleth, must avenge the death of his father and rescue his mother from the clutches of his uncle (or so he thinks). How director Robert Eggers managed to convince a studio to pay northward of a hundred million dollars so he could adapt this legend into an R-rated, ultra-violent, artistic yet historically-accurate viking film is beyond this reviewer’s ken. But man…am I glad he did!…

(7) USE THE VOICE, LUKE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This tweet by Mark Hamill suggests that there will be a second season of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, which was probably the most pleasant TV surprise of the year for me last year: 

The fact that there may be a second season is itself another pleasant surprise, since I feared the show would fall victim to toxic fanboys complaining that Teela having muscles ruined their childhood or some such thing as well as to Netflix ditching its entire animation department to focus more on soap operas about rich people in pretty dresses.

(8) DEFLECTING THE CUT DIRECT. “Sony Refuses Chinese Demand to Delete Statue of Liberty from Latest ‘Spider-Man’” reports National Review, and the studio ultimately did not release the film in China.

Chinese authorities asked Sony to delete the Statue of Liberty from the climactic sequence of Spider-Man: No Way Home before distributing the movie in China, Puck reported on Sunday citing multiple sources.

The climactic sequence of the movie features an action sequence of over 20 minutes in which characters battle amid scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty.

When Sony refused to delete the statue from the movie, Chinese authorities asked if the company could diminish the statue’s presence. Sony considered the request, the sources told Puck, but ultimately decided against editing the movie and did not release it in China. It’s unclear whether Chinese censors blocked the movie’s release or if Sony preemptively opted against releasing it….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-six years ago, Forbidden Planet opened in New York City in general release, following a March debut at a science fiction convention and a limited release elsewhere.  

It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack, and directed by Fred M. Wilcox. The screenplay was by Cyril Hume who had previously written several Tarzan films from a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler.  (A year later, he’d write The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) which had Robbie the Robot as one of the characters. No, I’ve never heard of it. Here’s the poster for it.) 

It had a primary cast of Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Edward Morbius, Anne Francis as Altaira “Alta” Morbius and Leslie Nielsen as Commander John J. Adams. Les Tremayne was the Narrator. And no, I’ve not forgotten Robbie the Robot which had Frankie Darro as the Robot and Marvin Miller as the voice of the Robot. I could write an entire essay on Robbie the Robot and if I remember correctly I have.

Forbidden Planet was released to film theaters during 1972 as one of MGM’s Kiddie Matinee features with some six minutes of film cut to make it receive a “G” rating from the MPAA, including a Fifties-style nude scene of Anne Francis swimming sans a bathing suit. (It’s debatable if she was actually nude.) 

So what was the reception for it upon its release? Well it turned a very modest profit of eight hundred thousand over its budget of two million. 

Critics were generally impressed with it. The New York Times critic said he “had a barrel of fun with it. And, if you’ve got an ounce of taste for crazy humor, you’ll have a barrel of fun, too,” while Variety proclaimed “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the Nicholas Nayfack production a top offering in the space travel category.”

And let’s give the Los Angeles Times the last word: “a more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a spectacular eighty-five percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 3, 1928 Jeanne Bal. In Trek’s “The Man Trap” episode, she played Nancy Crate, a former lover of Leonard McCoy, who would be a victim of the lethal shape-shifting alien which craves salt. This was the series’ first-aired episode that replaced “The Cage” which the Network really didn’t like. She also had one-offs in Thriller and I-Spy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born May 3, 1939 Dennis O’Neil. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the Nineties, and was the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement, which makes him there when Ed Brubaker’s amazing Gotham Central came out.  He himself has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas. He also did a rather brilliant DC Comics Shadow series with Michael Kaluta as the artist. A police procedural series from Matt Reeves was in development, to be set in the same continuity as The BatmanGotham Central was very seriously being considered as the name for the series. It unfortunately will not happen. (Died 2020.)
  • Born May 3, 1949 Ron Canada, 73. He’s one of those actors who manages to show up across the Trek verse, in this case on episodes of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He also showed up in the David Hasselhoff vanity project Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD as Gabe Jones, and had further one-offs on The X-FilesStar Gate SG-1ElementaryGrimm and The Strain. He has a recurring role on the Orville series as Admiral Tucker.
  • Born May 3, 1958 Bill Sienkiewicz, 64. Comic artist especially known for his work for Marvel Comics’ Elektra, Moon Knight and New Mutants. His work on the Elektra: Assassin! six issue series which written by Frank Miller is stellar. Finally his work with Andy Helfer on The Shadow series is superb.
  • Born May 3, 1965 Michael Marshall Smith, 57. His first published story, “The Man Who Drew Cats”, won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. Not stopping there, His first novel, Only Forward, won the August Derleth Award for Best Novel and the Philip K. Dick Award. He has six British Fantasy Awards in total, very impressive indeed. 
  • Born May 3, 1985 Becky Chambers, 37. My last encounter with her was the most excellent The Galaxy, And The Ground Within. Her Wayfarers series won the Best Series Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. A Closed and Common Orbit was a finalist at WorldCon 75 for Best Novel but lost out to another exemplary novel, N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk GateRecord of a Spaceborn Few would be on the ballot at Dublin 2019 but lose out to yet another exemplary novel, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars. (A digression: The Wayfarers are the best series I’ve listened to in a long time.) “To Be Taught, if Fortunate” was a finalist at ConZealand in the Best Novella category but lost out to “This Is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.
  • Born May 3, 1986 Pom Klementieff, 36. In the MCU film universe she plays Mantis and first she’s up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but then is in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game and two films in production, Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Plus forthcoming on Disney +, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. It’s amazing what a pair of very, very cute antennae will do! (Also been in Black Mirror, Westworld, and voiced characters on The Addams Family.)

(11) AUTHOR PUSHES BACK. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This isn’t SFF, but I think there is a lot of audience crossover. Luke Jennings, author of the novels that the TV show Killing Eve was based upon, speaks out regarding the controversial finale of the TV series (which killed off a major lesbian characters) and says that he does not feel bound to what the TV show has done: “’Villanelle will be back!’ Killing Eve’s author speaks out over the catastrophic TV finale” in the Guardian. Beware spoilers!

…When Phoebe Waller-Bridge and I first discussed Villanelle’s character five years ago, we agreed that she was defined by what Phoebe called her “glory”: her subversiveness, her savage power, her insistence on lovely things. That’s the Villanelle that I wrote, that Phoebe turned into a screen character, and that Jodie [Comer] ran with so gloriously.

But the season four ending was a bowing to convention. A punishing of Villanelle and Eve for the bloody, erotically impelled chaos they have caused….

(12) INCOMING. No one goes unsplattered in Raquel S. Benedict’s latest bid for attention, “The Sterility of Safe Fiction: Who Are We Protecting?” at Seize the Press. This circular accusation kicks off the piece:

…And yet an influential faction of authors, editors, publishers and critics within contemporary sci-fi and fantasy speaks as though safe is the greatest quality a work of art can aspire to. Fiction must be safe, they say. If it’s not safe, then it might cause harm. What kind of harm? Who are we harming? That’s not important. The important thing is to avoid harm by making your fiction as safe as possible. By making our fiction safe, we will make the sci-fi/fantasy community safe….

It’s an introduction, but not to what follows the immediate three-asterisk break. In the next section Benedict’s new topic is that there’s trouble my friends, right here in the sff genre, and apparently anybody who pays to attend one of the workshops in the field is to blame for whatever that ill-defined trouble might be. Benedict recites the dollar costs involved in attending Clarion West and the Odyssey Writing Workshop and judges:

…But those who can pay the gatekeeper get to determine what it means to be safe. And so our notions of safety are shaped by bourgeois sensibilities…. 

(13) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson Simon tells BBC Live Breakfast in 2012 that his grandfather would not have liked any film that depicted his imaginary world and “my grandfather knew what an elf looked like, and it did not look like Orlando Bloom.”

(14) WEIRD TRAILER. Is the world ready for Daniel Radcliffe as…Weird Al Yankovic? Coming this fall to the Roku Channel. “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”.

(15) MINI SERIES. According to Slashfilm, “Rebecca Romijn Insisted On Wearing A Starfleet Dress On Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”.

The original “Star Trek” series remains spellbinding for its forward thinking science fiction ideas. But it remains equally spellbinding for being a show so firmly entrenched in the ’60s that all female crew members on board the USS Enterprise wear short miniskirts while the men get to strut around in far less revealing uniforms. And while “Trek” has gone a long way in the decades since to make Starfleet uniforms work for all genders and body types (“The Next Generation” even featured male officers in the Starfleet minidress, or “skant,” uniform), that classic short-skirt look has at least one major fan: “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” star Rebecca Romijn. 

Una Chin-Riley, better known to Captain Christopher Pike and “Star Trek” fans as “Number One,” rocks the Starfleet dress look throughout the first five episodes of “Strange New Worlds,” with the tough-as-nails first officer of the Enterprise making a strong case for this seemingly outdated look to make a major comeback. And you can consider this mission accomplished for Romijn, who not only requested that Una wear a Starfleet dress, but that she actively wear it during action sequences…

(16) SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Scientists are describing a theoretical new telescope that could be used to image exoplanets. It would use the gravity of the sun as the objective lens.

Positioning the telescope proper in a line with the Sun and the exoplanet in question would take significant advances in space propulsion. The telescope would have to be positioned many times further away from the Sun than any of the planets & moved around to line up the shot. It would then need to be repositioned for the next planet of choice.

The paper, “Integral Field Spectroscopy with the Solar Gravitational Lens,“ was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

“Scientists describe a gravity telescope that could image exoplanets” at Phys.org.

In the time since the first exoplanet was discovered in 1992, astronomers have detected more than 5,000 planets orbiting other stars. But when astronomers detect a new exoplanet, we don’t learn a lot about it: We know that it exists and a few features about it, but the rest is a mystery.

To sidestep the physical limitations of telescopes, Stanford University astrophysicists have been working on a new conceptual imaging technique that would be 1,000 times more precise than the strongest imaging technology currently in use. By taking advantage of gravity’s warping effect on space-time, called lensing, scientists could potentially manipulate this phenomenon to create imaging far more advanced than any present today.

In a paper published on May 2 in The Astrophysical Journal, the researchers describe a way to manipulate solar gravitational lensing to view planets outside our solar system. By positioning a telescope, the sun, and exoplanet in a line with the sun in the middle, scientists could use the gravitational field of the sun to magnify light from the exoplanet as it passes by. 

(17) JUSTWATCH – TOP 10S IN APRIL. JustWatch – The Streaming Guide says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in April 2022.

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeSeverance
2The BatmanMoon Knight
3Sonic the HedgehogHalo
4MoonfallFrom
5Ghostbusters: AfterlifeDoctor Who
6Venom: Let There Be CarnageOutlander
7DuneStar Trek: The Next Generation
8Spider-Man: Far From HomeThe Walking Dead
9Spider-Man: HomecomingStar Trek: Picard
10Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseGhosts

*Based on JustWatch popularity score

(18) YOU WILL BELIEVE A DOG CAN FLY. Just because they’re super – doesn’t make them heroes. In theaters July 29, “DC League of Super-Pets”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghostwire: Tokyo,” Fandom Games says this game is very good at describing Japanese folklore, but “feels like an anime you really have to convince people to watch.”  SJWs will like the cat who runs a convenience store, but another plot point is a character who’s really constipated.

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