Pixel Scroll 4/14/22 The Golden Age Of Pixel Scroll Is Fifth

(1) A FILER’S ROSES. Today is release day for Heather Rose Jones’ novella The Language of Roses, a queer fairy-tale re-visioning that embraces the darker aspects of Beauty and the Beast, and does not particularly believe in redemption arcs.

(2) IT’S A CRIME NOT TO LIKE SFF.  Adam Oyebanji recommends novels by Asimov, Bagicalupi, and Martha Wells for mystery readers who say they don’t like sf. “Science Fiction For Crime Lovers: a Beginner’s Tour” at CrimeReads.

…It’s anybody’s universe, remember. Bad things can happen there. Crimes. Crimes that need solving. Mysteries. If you’re a lover of crime fiction, science fiction has a lot to offer you. If you’ve never read a sci-fi novel in your life, here are five you should consider—in increasing order of nerdiness from “sci-fi curious” to “irredeemable geek.” But every last one of them is a crime novel. So, buckle up. It’s time to engage thrusters….

(3) DID THE CREAM RISE? Cora Buhlert analyzes the Hugo ballot in “Some Thoughts on the 2022 Hugo Finalists”. Here’s a sample of her commentary on the Best Novella category:

…There’s some wailing and gnashing of teeth that all six finalists in this category were published by Tor.com. Unlike the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth from certain quarters, there is some merit to this, because if a single publisher completely dominates one category it is a problem.

That said, Tor is the biggest SFF publisher in the English speaking world and the Tor.com imprint did a lot to revitalise the novella form, which was limited to small presses, magazines and self-publishers before that. However, while small presses like Subterranean, Prime Books, Meerkat Press, Telos, Crystal Lake or Neon Hemlock do good work and publish some very fine novellas, they can’t compete with Tor.com’s marketing clout. Ditto for indies and magazines.

So rather than complain about Tor.com’s dominance, maybe we should support and talk up the smaller publishers of novellas more. For example, there were three novellas not published by Tor.com on my ballot, The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, published by Subterranean“A Manslaughter of Crows” by Chris Willrich, which appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and “The Unlikely Heroines of Callisto Station” by Marie Vibbert, which appeared in Analog….

(4) LOCAL HERO. And there’s a nice article about Cora’s own Best Fan Writer Hugo nomination in the Weser Kurier (in German): “Cora Buhlert aus Stuhr zum dritten Mal für Hugo Award nominiert”.

Die Stuhrer Autorin und Bloggerin Cora Buhlert ist im dritten Jahr in Folge für den Hugo Award in der Kategorie “Bester Fanautor” nominiert. In den Vorjahren belegte die Seckenhauserin jeweils den zweiten Platz in der Sparte (wir berichteten)….

(5) LEND ME YOUR EARS. The Terry Pratchett website announced new audio editions of 40 of the author’s books: “It’s Discworld like you’ve never heard it before”.

To celebrate 50 years of Terry Pratchett, we’re releasing 40 magnificent new recordings of the bestselling series in audio.

Even better, this is Discworld like you’ve never heard it before, with an incredible cast of names from British stage and screen taking on Terry’s unforgettable characters.

Confirmed names include:

    • Bill Nighy, star of Underworld and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the voice of Terry Pratchett in the footnotes
    • Peter Serafinowicz, star of Shaun of the Dead and Star Wars, as the voice of Death
    • Game of Thrones’ Indira Varma, Fleabag’s Sian Clifford and Merlin’s Colin Morgan as series narrators
    • Andy Serkis, star of Lord of the Rings reading the standalone novel, Small Gods

‘I’m honoured to voice the footnotes and bring to life one of the funniest, quirkiest and best-loved aspects of Terry Pratchett’s world.’ – Bill Nighy.

(6) THAT WHICH IS WASTED ON THE YOUNG. James Davis Nicoll unleashed the Young People Read Old SFF panel on Child of All Ages by P. J. Plauger.

…“Child of All Ages” is a riff on that popular idea, the immortal living unseen among us. See de Camp’s acceptable “The Gnarly Man”, Bester’s execrable The Computer Connection, and Turner’s Australian Vaneglory. To be honest, when I reread Child of All Ages, I was underwhelmed but at least I had fond memories of reading the story for the first time. My young people cannot see that rosy glow of nostalgia surrounding this particular finalist so what will they make of it? 

Go on, take a wild guess.

(7) TRAILBLAZER. Howard Andrew Jones shares a guide to the works of Harold Lamb, the early 20th century historical fiction writer who was a huge influence on Robert E. Howard and others: “Where to Start With Harold Lamb” at Goodman Games.

… Today, though, most of Lamb’s fiction is in print once more,* and fairly easy to lay hands on, just like the histories, many of which are retained to this day by libraries across the United States. So much is out there now it can actually be difficult to know where to start. You need no longer scratch your head in wonder, however – this essay will show you the way.

First, to be clear, Lamb wrote some of the most engaging histories and biographies not just of his day but of all time. His non-fiction reads with the pacing of a skilled novelist and is the polar opposite of the stereotypical dry history book. His histories of The CrusadesHannibalTamerlane, and, of course, Genghis Khan (particularly his March of the Barbarians, which is the history of the Mongolian Empire, not just the life of Genghis Khan) are all great reads, as are many of his other books.

(8) LEONID KOURITS OBIT. Ukrainian fan and conrunner Leonid Kourits was killed by a Russian attack on his hometown reports German sff writer, editor (for the Perry Rhodan line) and fan Klaus N. Frick in “Leonid Kourits ist tot”. The article is in German, but here is the key paragraph via Google Translate:

…Leonid was a science fiction fan who loved international collaboration and lived for it. In 1988, he organized an international science fiction con in the Soviet Union, which took place in a small town on the Black Sea – on March 6, 2022, he fell victim to the Russian war of aggression against his hometown.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1988 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-four years ago, the Probe series started its eight-episode run.

It was co- created by Michael I. Wagner and Isaac Asimov. Asimov had quite some background in television SF series and Wagner was previously known for creating for Hill Street Blues. Here he co-created, produced and wrote several episodes of the series. 

The pilot and series starred Parker Stevenson as Austin James, an asocial genius who solved high tech crimes, and Ashley Crow as James’ new secretary Mickey Castle. 

It was re-aired on Syfy, though they edited the episodes to stuff in extra commercials as they did every series they aired that they hadn’t produced. 

What happened to it? Did poor ratings doom it? No, they didn’t. As one reviewer notes, “Together, these two encounter out-of-control experiments, supernatural events, and mysterious deaths. As you might expect, Probe features heavy doses of scientific knowledge and logical reasoning, but was cut short due to the 1988 writer’s strike.” 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 14, 1925 Rod Steiger. Carl in The Illustrated Man, which is specifically based on three stories by Bradbury from that collection: “The Veldt,” “The Long Rain,” and “The Last Night of the World.” Great film. Genre-wise, he also was Father Delaney in The Amityville Horror, showed up as Charlie on the short-lived Wolf Lake werewolfseries, played Dr. Phillip Lloyd in horror film The Kindred, was Pa in the really chilling American Gothic, played General Decker in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (really, really weird film), Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in Modern Vampires and Peter on “The Evil Within” episode of Tales of Tomorrow series. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and, when needs be, voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet-based shows though Captain Scarlet and the MysteronsFireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on he would move into live productions, with Space: 1999 being the last in partnership with Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 14, 1935 Jack McDevitt, 87. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got time of your own to spare, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races. He won the Robert A. Heinlein Award six years ago.
  • Born April 14, 1935 — Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series that I’ve never heard of. (Died 2019.)
  • Born April 14, 1949 Dave Gibbons, 73. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen, and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” which has been adapted to television twice, first into a same-named episode of  Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”. He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 68. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near-future setting is quietly impressive. (It won a Campbell Memorial Award.) Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s ever been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan” His novel Distraction won the Arthur C. Clarke Award (2000). 
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 64. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar. 
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachael Swirsky, 40. Two Nebulas, the first for her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” novella and the second for her “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” short story.  Both also were nominated for the Hugo. All of her work has been in shorter fiction, all of it superb, and it’s mostly collected in two works, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future.

(11) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe 55 is out! John Coxon is a Hugo Award finalist, Alison Scott is a Hugo Award winner, and Liz’s mum got a folk award once. We’re all very excited about our @TheHugoAwards nomination, and we also talk about @reclamation2022 and @BrandSanderson: “55: Beatboxing Champagne”.

(12) MAKING STEAL. Marion Deeds counts off “Five Unconventional SFF Heists” for Tor.com. Here’s one I didn’t know about!

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Glamorists series started with homage to Jane Austen, but by the fourth book, Jane and Vincent have lost nearly all their material possessions and must out-swindle a swindler to keep from losing their secret magical glamourist process. The book is packed with beautiful settings—Murano and the Venetian lagoon—and wonderful elements like pirates, puppets and Lord Byron swimming naked in a canal, but the heart of the story is the relationship between our two main characters. Jane and Vincent finally reveal fears and issues to each other, and the relationship teeters under the stress of their situation. Is that why I include this book on the list? It is not. This is the only book on the list with heister nuns. Yes, Valour and Vanity includes a convent of feisty nuns who help with the heist. Need I say more?

(13) EUROCON 2022 PHOTOS. German fan and con runner Norbert Fiks shares photos of the 2022 EuroCon LuxCon in Dudelange, Luxembourg: “Impressionen vom Luxcon2022”. The blog is in German, but the post is mostly photos.

(14) FOR GAME LOVERS. This forthcoming series from Aconyte Books sounds interesting: “Announcing our newest series, Play to Win!” Here are the covers of the initial release coming in Fall 2022.

Aconyte Books have today announced the first two books in a brand-new non-fiction series, Play to Win. This new range of non-fiction titles will focus on the wide world of games and gaming, to entertain, inform and intrigue gamers and an interested general audience alike….

Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made chronicles the recent revolution in tabletop gaming through an entertaining and informative look at the winners of the prestigious Game of the Year (Spiel des Jahre) award, known as the Oscars of the tabletop. Acclaimed British author and games expert James Wallis investigates the winners and losers of each year’s contest to track the incredible explosion in amazing new board games. From modern classics like CATAN, Ticket to Ride, and Dixit, to once-lauded games that have now been forgotten (not to mention several popular hits that somehow missed a nomination), this is a comprehensive yet hugely readable study, penned by one of tabletop gaming’s most knowledgeable commentators. Accompanying the book will be a dedicated podcast series, presented by the book’s author, James Wallis.

Rokugan: The Art of Legend of the Five Rings presents stunning art and illustration from the Japanese-inspired fantasy realms of Rokugan, setting for the famed Legend of the Five Rings series of games, in a lavish, large-format hardcover art book. The Emerald Empire is captured in an age of strife and upheaval – war, intrigue, wild magic and celestial turmoil – through the very finest artwork from across the history of the series. Iconic pieces from the L5R roleplaying and collectible card games are presented in their full glory, together with never-before-seen images, taking the game’s many fans and lovers of fantasy art on a journey through this extraordinary world.

(15) PARADIGM SHIFTER. Ngo Vinh-Hoi shares his appreciation for the works of Stanley G. Weinbaum: “Adventures In Fiction: Stanley Weinbaum” at Goodman Games.

Not many authors can be credited with changing the entire trajectory of a genre, yet Stanley Grauman Weinbaum managed to do so with his very first published science fiction story A Martian Odyssey. The story first appeared in the July 1934 issue of the science fiction pulp magazine Wonder Stories, which was a distant third in popularity to Astounding Stories and Amazing Stories. Forty years later, no less a figure than Isaac Asimov would declare that “hidden in this obscure magazine, A Martian Odyssey had the effect on the field of an exploding grenade. With this single-story, Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science-fiction writer, and at once almost every writer in the field tried to imitate him.”

(16) A DISCOURAGING WORD. A Politico writer says “NASA’s astronauts aren’t ready for deep space”.

…Over the next five years, NASA intends to start mining the lunar surface for water and other resources in preparation for a long-term human presence on the moon’s surface.

The space agency has yet to develop a specialized training program for the astronauts, lacks critical equipment such as new space suits to protect them against deadly levels of radiation, and is still pursuing a range of technologies to lay the groundwork for a more permanent human presence, according to NASA officials, former astronauts, internal studies and experts on space travel.

“This time you are going to need astronauts that are going to actually get out and start to live on the moon,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in an interview. “We’re going to build habitats up there. So you’re going to need a new kind of astronaut.”

The goal, said Nelson, is more ambitious than ever: to “sustain human life for long periods of time in a hostile environment.”…

Yet as NASA’s Artemis project approaches liftoff, it is becoming increasingly clear that even if the new rockets and spacecraft it is pursuing remain on schedule, the program’s lofty goals may have to be lowered by the harsh limits of human reality.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, says when the writer explains that between the first and second Sonic The Hedeghog movies, the villain Robotnik has been on another planet getting stoked on mushrooms, the producer says, “I’ve been there!”  Also, the writer warns the producer that much of the second act is a “random romantic comedy shoved into the film with side characters who have nothing to do with the plot.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/25/22 In The Clearing Stands A Pixel And A Scroller By Its Trade

(1) WORLDWIDE CHANGE. Reuters Graphics explores how non-binary people identify themselves in highly-gendered languages around the world, using animated examples to explain the challenges to English-language readers. “Beyond pronouns: How languages are reshaping to include nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people”.

Not everyone identifies as a woman or a man. The movement to recognize gender identities beyond female and male is growing in places like Western Europe and the United States, and changing languages around the world.

In English, the pronouns people use — such as ‘she,’ ‘he,’ or ‘they’ — have come to the fore. In some languages, other parts of speech can also be feminine or masculine.

Modifying language to reflect a spectrum of gender identities is a fundamental change that stirs fierce debate….

(2) FIRST CHAIR. Actor Doug Jones will receive the inaugural The Chair Award from the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild (IATSE Local 706). Star Trek: Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green will present the honor during the guild’s awards ceremony on February 19 — The Hollywood Reporter has details.  

He’s known for roles such as the so-called Amphibian Man in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Waterwhich won 2017’s best picture Oscar, and Pale Man in del Toro’s Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth. He was the Silver Surfer in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the blue fish-man Abe Sapien in del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Jones is also the villainous title character in a remake of Nosferatu, currently in postproduction.

TV roles have included such series as Star Trek: Discovery, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Falling Skies….

(3) VILLENEUEVE TO MAKE RENDEZVOUS. Movieweb reports “Denis Villeneuve to Direct Rendezvous with Rama Adaptation”.

It seems as if Denis Villeneuve can’t keep his eyes from the stars. The director of 2021’s Dune has been signed on to direct another science fiction adaptation. This time the subject will be Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

The project was picked up by Alcon Entertainment, who previously worked with Villeneuve on Prisoners and Blade Runner 2049. The rights to the novel had previously been under the control of Morgan Freeman and his partner Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment. The film has been a passion project of Freeman since the early 2000s, but the project was stuck in development hell for many years.

It seems as if the film is finally going to get its wings with this new partnership at last. Alcon will be financing the project….

(4) WHEN NOT ONLY KANGAROOS HAVE POCKETS. At CrimeReads, “Juneau Black” (pen name of Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel) discusses how to write an animal fantasy where the animals have human characteristics: “How To Craft Non-Human Characters With Plenty of Personality”.

… Our problem in a nutshell: Foxes don’t own handkerchiefs. Well, that’s an obvious statement, isn’t it? Of course they don’t. They don’t have hands. Yet in the world of Shady Hollow, our civilized animal denizens do wear clothes and own accruements and if someone starts blubbering into their coffee, it would be downright rude to not offer a clean bit of cloth to soothe them.

But what to call that cloth? It has to be a word that instantly conveys the idea of handkerchief, without the human-centric assumption of hands. We could call it a pawkerchief…but that sounds too cutesy for a book with murders in it. So we looked for alternatives: Hankie? No, it’s a riff on “hand” and therefore isn’t a word that would exist in this world (and its logical equivalent “pawkie” is so twee it’s sickening). Snot rag is accurate but maybe too gross. Pocket square turned out to be our winner, since it describes the object in a way that the characters themselves would understand….

(5) THEY ASKED HIM ANYTHING. Hosted today at Reddit – “I’m Gideon Marcus, science fiction writer, publisher, space historian…and time traveler. Ask Me Anything!” In connection with Galactic Journey he said:

…Our coolest new project is watching the original Star Trek “as it comes out” on the original air dates (minus 55 years). And they’ve got the original commercial breaks in them! It’s been fascinating watching this classic in its original form, and with about a dozen young people who have never seen it before. We’ve also been reading the period trekzines and fanzines of the time, and that’s been a trip.

…Thank you! It’s been really neat. The show was designed with the traditional four act and teaser format, punctuated with little cliffhangers. The commercials give the show room to breathe and marinate. Plus, the period ads give context — you go from Kirk fighting a giant lizard to… cigarette ads.

Hey, they’re both killers!

(6) FANCAST Q&A. Cora Buhlert posted another Fancast Spotlight for GeekShock, a podcast run by several people who met while working at a Star Trek live show in Las Vegas: “Fancast Spotlight: GeekShock”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

GeekShock is a podcast about the week-in-geek. We like to think we’re a funny bunch, so we style ourselves as a comedy podcast. We approach geek topics of the day however they may strike us as humorous, but we get serious when serious subjects arise. We talk about movies and television of course, but we also cover subjects in comics, games of all types (video, board, tabletop rpg), geek accessories i.e., toys, collectables, curiosities, and genre literature.

(7) 17TH CENTURY SPACE EXPLORATION. The Huntington hosts a free Zoom lecture, “Blasting into Space: The Poetics of Faith and Astronomy in 17th-Century England”, by Wendy Wall on February 16, at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register at the link.

In this lecture, Wendy Wall, Professor of the Humanities at Northwestern University, describes how 17th-century woman Hester Pulter, while sick and confined to her bedroom after giving birth to her 15th child, sought solace in an unusual way: she wrote poems about taking off into space to explore planets in the heliocentric universe. While intellectuals of the day feared that new conceptions of astronomy undermined cherished religious beliefs, Pulter was exhilarated in incorporating cutting-edge ideas about space into a new type of devotional poem. How can this relatively newly discovered female poet enlarge our understanding of ways that writers used poetry to interconnect religion, science, and the imagination? How might Pulter’s poetry reveal previously unacknowledged ways that early modern women engaged in intellectual production and the mapping of the heavens, even from their remote estates or bedrooms?

(8) THE SCIENCE IN THIS FICTION. In “Malorie Blackman on seeing her sci-fi novel about a pig heart transplant come true”, the author tells Guardian readers that questions are the best place to start when writing a book.

What some call science fiction, I prefer to call science possible or sometimes science probable. One branch of sci-fi is based on imagined technological or scientific advances, and major social or environmental changes. It was that branch that I embraced when I wrote Pig Heart Boy. I loved the idea of exploring xenotransplantation through the eyes of Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with a bad heart who just wants to live. I found the whole notion of transplanting organs from one species into another fascinating and the perfect subject matter for a children’s book.

Now I hasten to add that I’m not a scientist or expert on xenotransplantation, nor do I claim to be. I’m a layperson with a love of science who occasionally reads science magazines. My approach was from an author’s angle, spending months on research before writing a single word…

(9) ANOTHER NAME FROM APPENDIX N. Ngo Vinh-Hoi profiles fantasy writer John Bellairs, one of the more obscure names listed in the Appendix N to the original D&D Dungeon Master’s Handbook: “Adventures in Fiction: John Bellairs” at Goodman Games.

… The modest success of The Face in the Frost was enough for Bellairs to turn to full-time writing, and his next work The House with a Clock in its Walls was also a dark fantasy. Supposedly Bellairs had difficulty selling the book until a publisher suggested rewriting it as a young adult (YA) book set in the fictionalized Michigan of Bellairs’s childhood. The House with a Clock in its Walls proved to be a huge critical and sales success, so much so that Bellairs became a full-time YA author for the rest of his career, completing a total of 15 books for young readers, most of which were illustrated by the great Edward Gorey….

(10) WILL THE REAL CONAN PLEASE STAND UP. Howard Andrew Jones explains which of the many Conan pastiche novels are worth reading: “The Best Of The Conan Pastiche Novels” at Goodman Games.

… You can fit the sum total of all the Conan that Howard wrote (including some fragments and rejected stories) into one large hardback. That’s not a lot of fiction about such a great character, and so for decades, people have been trying to create new tales of adventure starring Conan, mostly because they wanted MORE!

What makes those stories pastiche instead of fanfic, I suppose, is that many of these writers were paid to write it and the result was distributed widely. You would assume that meant that the work was well-edited and had some kind of consistency, but a lot of people, me among them, would tell you you’re wrong….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-one years ago, City Beneath the Sea premiered on NBC. It had a tangled history as it was originally a pilot for a series that Irwin Allen had pitched to that network several years earlier. The film itself was an expansion of a much shorter idea reel that Allen had shown to the network. 

The story was by Allen, but the screenplay was by John Meredyth Lucas who had written four Trek episodes, “Elaan of Troyius”, “The Changeling”, “Patterns of Force” and “That Which Survives” in addition to direction and production duties there. 

The primary cast was Stuart Whitman, Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Colbert, Burr DeBenning, Robert Wagner, Joseph Cotten and Richard Basehart. Irwin’s suggested cast for the series was Glenn Corbett, Lloyd Bochner, Lawrence Montaigne, Francine York, Cecile Ozorio and James Brolin.

I couldn’t, for love or money, find any critical reviews of the film. Rotten Tomatoes has none which is highly unusual.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes weren’t fond of it giving it a rating of just forty percent.  Here’s the trailer for it. City Beneath the Sea (1967).

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1905 Margery Sharp. Her best remembered work is The Rescuers series which concerns a mouse by the name of Miss Bianca. They were later adapted in two Disney animated films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. I’m reasonably sure I’ve seen the first one a very long time ago. Her genre novel, The Stone of Chastity, is according to her website, based on English folklore. Other than the first volume of The Rescuer series, she’s not really available digitally though she is mostly in print in the dead tree format. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. Jack Belicec in the original and by far the best version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Thirty years later, he’d be Lunartini Husband in Nothing Lasts Forever, a SF comedy film with a contentious history. His only other genre appearance was a one-off on Night Gallery. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1920 Bruce Cassiday. Under two different pen names, Con Steffanson and Carson Bingham , he wrote three Flash Gordon novels (The Trap of Ming XIIThe Witch Queen of Mongo and The War of the Cybernauts) and he also wrote several pieces of non-fiction worth noting, The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, co-written with Dieter Wuckel, and Modern Mystery, Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. The latter done in ‘93 is rather out of date and out of print as well. Checking the usual suspects shows nothing’s available by him for this genre though some of his pulp novels are available with appropriately lurid covers. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 25, 1950 Christopher Ryan, 72. He’s played two different aliens on Doctor Who. First in the Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp”, he was Kiv where he looked akin to Clayface from the animated Batman series. Second in the era of the Tenth Doctor (“The Sontarian Experiment” and “The Poison Sky”) and the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”), he was the Sontarian General Staal Commander Stark.
  • Born January 25, 1958 Peter Watts, 64. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower-linked short stories sound intriguing. He won a Hugo for Best Novelette at Aussiecon 4 for “The Island”.
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 59. Butler’s most important work is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 49. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him is on Batman: Gotham KnightsJustice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to notehis decade long run on the Green Lantern books. He’s the writer and producer on the most excellent Stargirl now streaming on HBO Max.
  • Born January 25, 1975 Mia Kirshner, 47. She was Amanda Grayson in Star Trek: Discovery. Her first genre was in the really not great The Crow: City of Angels as Sarah Mohr. (I editorialize, it is what I do.) she had another run as Isobel Flemming in The Vampire Diaries and one-offs in The War of The WorldsDracula: The SeriesAre You Afraid of the Dark? and Wolf Lake. She had a plum role in Defiance as Kenya Rosewater. 

(13) NOT JUST ANYBODY. Here they are! Screen Rant’s choices as the “10 Most Nonsensical World Domination Plans In Movie History”. Some of them have better musical accompaniments than others.

Help! (1965)

Given that this movie stars the Beatles and that it is intended as a comedy, it makes sense that its central world domination plan would be nonsensical.

However, even by that standard, the central plot strains the ability of the audience to make sense of anything of what is happening, much of which revolves around a seemingly magical ring. The fact that the movie moves along at a frantic pace makes its plot even more difficult to follow.

(14) SWORD & SORCERY’S ANCESTRY. At DMR Books, Brian Kunde chronicles his research into the life of Clifford Ball, Weird Tales contributor and probably the most obscure of the first wave of sword and sorcery writers: “Who Was Clifford Ball?”

…In this we are in a position similar to that of Shakespearean scholars, who on the basis of surviving records have also put together a threadbare sketch of an outer life while likewise failing to illuminate the inner man. As with them, our surest guides to our subject’s inner life and interests remain those we started with—in Ball’s case, his published works, together with what he and “W. C., Jr.” set down in their letters and notes in Weird Tales. Having left no descendants, whatever else Ball might have left of a personal nature likely perished with him or his near heirs. The who we already had may have led us to a more complete picture of the life he lived, but how that life was reflected in his thoughts, hopes and dreams remains elusive….

(17) TROLL SIGHTINGS. Jim C. Hines has updated the “Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing” webpage: “Among other things, JDA had a friend take pictures of Tomlinson at ConFusion, which JDA posted for mockery.” The screencaps are here.

(18) NEWBERY AT 100. In “The centennial of the Newbery Award: what publishers should do with older winners that don’t hold up”, Slate’s Sara L. Schwebel and Jocelyn Van Tuyl challenge the award winners’ status as canonical children’s books.

…Many of us are increasingly aware that American childhoods can look very different from one another, varying with race and ethnicity, geographic location, economic status, and many other factors. This has always been true, of course, but until very recently, the imagined child reader was monolithic. So your favorite Newbery from childhood may now seem out of touch, hopelessly uncool. Worse yet, it may feature offensive viewpoints and stereotypes.

Some readers may reject older titles for their objectionable content. But some people feel that recent medal books threaten a long-cherished vision of a universal American childhood experience—a vision they still hold dear. This was the case recently when schools in Katy, Texas, retracted (then subsequently reinstated) an invitation for author Jerry Craft to speak. Craft’s 2020 medal winner, New Kid, depicts a Black boy’s first year in a predominantly white prep school, where he faces frequent microaggressions. Concerned that some readers might experience white guilt, agitators claimed the book ran afoul of Texas’ ban on teaching critical race theory….

…The Newbery makes aspirationally high art for children into news.

This is what Newbery founder Frederic Melcher had in mind: Librarians’ professional neutrality would keep prizing above the taint of commercialism, benefiting publishers’ bottom lines and also, of course, children’s minds and spirits. The prize was about building a junior American canon, books that cultivated readers and inspired the highest ideals of democratic citizenship in the nation’s youth. But the result was a canon that is overwhelmingly white and often marked by a colonialist worldview. Today, the Newbery’s mission increasingly encompasses an awareness of past failures to think about all children as future leaders….

(19) SLICE OF THE DAY. “Icelandic pizzeria nods to pagan tradition by serving sheep’s head as special topping”CBC explains it all to you. Photo at the link. (Which I plan to leave at the link.)

On a bed of arugula and carrot slices, an Icelandic pizzeria has laid out an unusual topping for their new, seasonal pizza: a sheep’s head boiled in stout beer.

The head itself is laced with a smoked chili barbecue sauce that plays up the animal’s flavour — more than when it’s traditionally been served for Thorrablot, the midwinter food festival celebrating Iceland’s pagan history.

And that’s because the sauce includes another juicy ingredient — sheep dung.

“It’s really delicious. I mean, it has to be tasted to be able to describe it,” Laufey Sif Larusdottir, the owner of Olverk Pizza and Brewery in Hveragerdi told As It Happens host Carol Off.

(20) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH SAUSAGES. The Guardian has good news:  “Stranded dog saved from rising tide after rescuers attach sausage to drone”.

As the tide rose, it began to look perilous for Millie the jack russell-whippet cross, who had defied the efforts of police, firefighters and coastguards to pluck her from treacherous mudflats.

So the rescuers had to think imaginatively, and came up with the idea of attaching a sausage to a drone and hoping the scent of the treat would tempt Millie to safety. It worked gloriously and Millie has been reunited with her grateful owner after following the dangling sausage to higher, safer ground.

Millie disappeared after slipping her lead in Havant, Hampshire, and after frantic public appeals was spotted on the mudflats, in danger of being engulfed by the tide. She resisted efforts to encourage her to a safer spot until a drone pilot suggested attaching food to one of the unmanned aerial vehicles that had been used to track the dog….

(21) MYSTERY OF EARTH’S DIFFERENT MOON POSSIBLY SOLVED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Massive Moon strike could explain why its near-side and far-side are so different. Even the minerals on the near and far side are different: why does not the far-side have the lava seas seen on the near-side?  One theory has it that a huge object smashed into the early Moon; possibly its South Pole and the Aitken Basin. Whatever the impact researchers at Macau University have modelled what a huge impact would do.  Back then the Moon would have had a thin crust and a molten interior. The impact would have punched through the crust and made the molten interior even hotter and more fluid. Gravitational influences from its orbit about the Earth – and remember, in its early days the Moon orbited closer to the Earth – would have caused a more fluid type of magma to migrate to the near side where it erupted onto the surface. Nature has the abstract: “Lunar compositional asymmetry explained by mantle overturn following the South Pole–Aitken impact”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the chamber of Secrets Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that in the second Harry Potter movie, if you’re wondering how the pipes surrounding Hogwarts could be big enough for a giant basilisk, hey, kids eat a lot!”  Also, the producer wonders why Hogwarts has the Weeping Willow, which is “a tree that bludgeons kids to death.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/4/21 I Have Become Pixel, Scroller Of Worlds

(1) A HARD ROAD. Sue Burke, author of The Immunity Index, and whose Semiosis made the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist and was a John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalist, summarizes the SF novel’s journey from manuscript to print, through editorial and beyond to ‘earn out’ in “Getting a book published” at SF2 Concatenation.

…Here comes the first mistake. I got to work on 20th March 2018, reviewing a folder of notes I have for ideas for stories, and I found one that I liked. Many writers have praised the creative freedom of pantsing (writing by the seat of one’s pants or making it up as you go along) a work, so although I’d previously worked with more or less complex outlines and plotting, I decided to give pantsing a go. It didn’t work. The initial draft was limp and only half as long as it needed to be.

Chastened, I reviewed ideas for ways to improve and expand the failure. This time I made notes and, eventually, crafted a plan. I added another character, rearranged some chapters, and complicated the conflict…

(2) CHARACTER WITH A LONG CAREER. Dark Worlds Quarterly contributor G.W. Thomas shares his appreciation for “The Cappen Varra Stories of Poul Anderson”.

…Shared Worlds of the 1970s

And that should have been the end of our wandering bard, but an unusual thing happened at the end of the 1970s. Robert Aspirin and Lynn Abbey cooked up the idea of the “Shared World“. With Poul’s encouragement the concept of a collection of stories where characters, setting and events coalesce between the authors to create a larger experience exploded as Thieves’ World. (There were others: Ithkar and Liavek being two of the more successful competitors.) The series ran for twelve volumes as well as a dozen novels. Poul saw it as a chance to bring Cappen Varra back! “The Gate of Flying Knives” (Thieves’ World, 1979) was the third story in the first collection. It would be Anderson’s only contribution….

(3) AN APPENDIX YOU CAN’T DO WITHOUT. Howard Andrew Jones pops up again, this time profiling historical adventure fiction author Harold Lamb for Goodman Games, where he explains why Lamb’s work is relevant for SFF fans: “Appendix N Archaeology: Harold Lamb”.

Much as I’d like to hope that Gary Gygax read Harold Lamb, he’s unlikely to have found his way to any of Lamb’s most influential work. It’s not that Lamb wasn’t in print. From the 1940s on, his histories and biographies were a mainstay on library shelves, and many modern libraries retain his books to this day. But as fine as they are – and some of them are very fine indeed – Lamb’s histories and biographies weren’t the texts that were important to Appendix N….

(4) CRIME FICTION CAREER LAUNCH. Astronaut Chris Hadfield has written a murder mystery. According to this review from Shots Mag, it is quite good: “The Apollo Murders”.

When the author has flown two Space Shuttle missions and was the commander of the International Space Station, you know that the technical details in the story are going to be accurate, integral to the story and lend the reader a real sense of being ‘there’….

(5) SHANG-CHI NEWS. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Shang-Chi star Simu Liu, who explains how Liu’s six-year campaign to get Marvel to cast him as a superhero finally paid off. “Simu Liu of ‘Shang-Chi’ finally gets the role he always wanted”.

Long before he became Shang-Chi, Simu Liu was convinced that the only way he’d be an Asian superhero on an American movie screen was to craft the story himself.

So he did. Twice.

At the age of 22, Liu crafted a wholestory bible for the Japanesemutant X-Men member Sunfire, certain it was his best bet to land a Marvel role.Years later, while a member of the Young Emerging Actors Assembly in Toronto, Liu spent $2,000 to direct, write and star in the 2015 short film called “Crimson Defender vs. The Slightly Racist Family,” about an Asian superhero who rescues a family that doesn’t believe he is a superhero because he is Asian.

Neither of those moments resulted in Liu being fitted for capes. But when Marvel Studios announced “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” would be itsfirst movie with an Asian superhero in the lead role, the 32-year-old star of the TV series“Kim’s Convenience” was convinced he was ready before he ever got a phone call. He even tweeted “are we gonna talk or what” at the Marvel Entertainment account….

Kat Moon explains how she as an Asian American feels better represented by Shang-Chi than by any other Hollywood blockbuster: “Shang-Chi Made Me Feel Seen Like No Other Hollywood Film Has” in TIME.

It wasn’t a profound scene in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that made me feel instantly connected to the film—not the Mandarin narration that opened the movie or even the early references to customs specific to Chinese culture like eating zhou, or congee, for breakfast and tomb-sweeping on the annual Qingming Festival. Of course, those storytelling choices told me that the latest Marvel superhero movie was crafted with viewers like me in mind. But it was a moment around 30 minutes in that let me know for certain I was watching my life experiences reflected on the big screen in a way Hollywood has rarely done: when Ronny Chieng’s character, Jon Jon, exclaims, “Wakao!”…

(6) DUNE EARLY RETURNS. The New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan says “Venice Film Festival: ‘Dune’ Leaves Us With 3 Big Questions”. The second is —

Will ‘Dune’ be a major Oscar player?

Part of what’s so striking about “Dune” is that Villeneuve has a sense of texture that’s rare among big-budget filmmakers. When a character falls in battle, Villeneuve is besotted with the way the man’s eyelashes flutter as he dies. And during the assault on a character’s compound, the camera drifts from the action to show us magnificent palm trees that have been set aflame, their leafy crowns now a starburst of destruction.

Though sci-fi movies can sometimes be a hard sell with Oscar voters, I suspect that Villeneuve’s distinctive eye will distinguish “Dune,” as the movie looks undeniably ravishing. A ton of below-the-line nominations are guaranteed, including Greig Fraser’s cinematography and the production design by Patrice Vermette. The score (by Hans Zimmer), sound and editing are all more daring than this genre usually allows: The aural soundscape and artsy crosscutting feel almost designed to draw you into a spice-induced trance.

And I haven’t even gotten to the fashion! The costume design (by Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan) is a stunner, and especially during the first hour of the film — with Rebecca Ferguson wearing outrageous space-nun sheaths and a veiled Charlotte Rampling dressed like the Green Knight in Gaultier — “Dune” can seem like a moody high-fashion shoot that occasionally includes spaceships. (I mean this as a good thing.)

Villeneuve’s last film, “Blade Runner 2049,” scored five Oscar nominations and won its cinematographer Roger Deakins a long-overdue Academy Award. Still, the movie couldn’t break into the two top Oscar categories, best picture and best director. Does “Dune” stand a better chance?

I’m taking the wait-and-see approach here….

(7) C.S. LEWIS CONFERENCE IN ROMANIA. The 5th International Interdisciplinary Conference devoted to the life and work of C. S. Lewis, “Of This and Other Worlds,” will be held November 18-20 in Iasi, Romania. Register here. Registration deadline: November 1. An excerpt from the call for papers follows:

The fifth C. S. Lewis conference focuses on C. S. Lewis and his literary and academic kin as creators of worlds. His entire work testifies to his fascination with alternative universes, from his scholarly exploration of Medieval literature, with its haunting myths and arcane symbolism, through his fiction, to his apologetics, where Christianity is seen as a parallel kingdom seeking to be reinstated in “an enemy-occupied territory”. From pain to love, through faith and imagination, he opened a spectrum of realities inviting exploration and reflection. The collection of essays by Lewis alluded to in the title of this year’s conference spans both this and other worlds: “this” realm, which we inhabit, is the necessary, unavoidable starting point for any explorers, conquerors, pilgrims, even refugees into the “others”.

Those willing to venture into the exploration of the worlds of imagination created by C. S. Lewis and kindred spirits are invited to contribute papers in the areas of semiotics, narratology, literary studies (with a special focus on fantasy, on possible worlds in language structures, at the crossroads between referential semantics and fiction studies), translation studies (the challenge of translating fantasy for readerships of various ages and its effect on reception), philosophy, logic, theology, cultural and arts studies, including any interdisciplinary permutation or cross-pollination.

Interested participants are invited to send a 200-250-word abstract for peer-review to the Conference Committee via the organizers: Dr. Rodica Albu (rodica.albu@gmail.com), Dr. Denise Vasiliu (denise_vasiliu@yahoo.com), Dr. Teodora Ghivirig? (teoghivi@Yahoo.com)

Deadline for proposal submission: 25 September 2021…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1975 – Forty-six years ago this night, Space: 1999 premiered on such stations as Los Angeles KHJ-TV. It was distributed by ITV and produced by Group Three Productions (the first season) and Gerry Anderson Productions (the second and final season). It starred as its headliners Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, previously of Mission: Impossible fame. It was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson who before this had done only such SF marionette puppetry series as ThunderbirdsStingray and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. It would last but forty eight episodes of around fifty minutes. Setting John Clute aside who thought it had “mediocre acting” and “rotten scripts”, most critics at the time actually liked it and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a very splendid eighty six percent rating. You can stream it on Amazon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 4, 1916 — Robert A. W. Lowndes. He was known best as the editor of Future Science FictionScience Fiction, and Science Fiction Quarterly (mostly published in the late Thirties and early Forties) for Columbia Publications. He was a principal member of the Futurians, and a horror writer with a bent towards all things Lovecraftian ever since as a young fan, he received two letters of encouragement from H. P. Lovecraft. And yes, he’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 4, 1924 — Ray Russell. His most famous story is considered by most to be “Sardonicus” which was published first in Playboy magazine, and was then adapted by him into a screenplay for William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus. He wrote three novels, The Case Against SatanIncubus and Absolute Power. He’s got World Fantasy and Stoker Awards for Lifetime Achievement. “Sardonicus” is included in Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories which is available from the usual suspects. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 4,1924 — Joan Aiken. I’d unreservedly say her Wolves Chronicles were her best works. Of the many, many in that series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase featuring the characters of Bonnie Green, Sylvia Green and Simon is I think the essential work to read even though The Whispering Mountain is supposed to a prequel to the series — I don’t think it’s essential reading. (Or very interesting.) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is certainly the one in the series I saw stocked regularly in my local bookstores before the Pandemic. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 4, 1938 — Dick York. He is best remembered as the first Darrin Stephens on Bewitched. He was a teen in the police station in Them!, an early SF film which is considered the very first giant bug film. He’d showed up in myriad Alfred Hitchcock Presents, several episodes of Twilight Zone and has a one-off on the original Fantasy Island. (There’s now been three series.) He voiced his character Darrin Stephens in the “Samantha” episode of The Flintstones. (Died 1992.)
  • Born September 4, 1957 — Patricia Tallman, 64. Best known as telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5, a series I hold that was magnificent but ended somewhat annoyingly. She was in two episodes of Next Generation, three of Deep Space Nine and two of Voyager. She did uncredited stunt work on Deep Space Nine as she did on Voyager. Oh, and she shows up in Army of Darkness as a possessed witch. Oh, and she was the former CEO and executive producer of Studio JMS. Yeah she ran everything for J. Michael Straczynski. Very impressive indeed. 
  • Born September 4, 1962 — Karl Schroeder, 59. I first encountered him in his “Deodand” story in the METAtropolis: Cascadia audio work, so I went out and found out what else he’d done. If you’ve not read him, his Aurora Award winning Permanence is superb as all of the Vigra series. He was one of those nominated for a Long Form Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo for the first METAtropolis at Anticipation. 
  • Born September 4, 1972 — Françoise Yip, 49. She was a remarkably extensive career in genre productions including, but not limited to, Earth: Final Conflict, Andromeda, Caprica, Fringe, Predator, Robocop: Prime Directives, Seven DaysFlash Gordon, Smallville, Millennium, Shadowhunters, Arrow and Sanctuary.  Genre casting directors obviously really, really like her. Her longest running genre role was as Elizabeth Kepler in The Order, a horror series on one of those streaming services you’ve likely never heard of.
  • Born September 4, 1999 — Ellie Darcey-Alden, 22. Though she’s  best known for playing young Lily Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, she’s here for being  Francesca “Franny” Latimer in the Doctor Who  Christmas special “The Snowmen”, an Eleventh Doctor story. She also played Mary in the “Total Eclipse“ episode of Robin Hood, and was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the New Theatre Oxford. And she appears, as do so many others, in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows how if Worf had known about this, that whole business with the pain sticks could’ve been avoided. 
  • Close to Home shows Spock’s version of “I’m not a doctor, I’m a —“

(11) TBR INCOMING. Fansided’s “Winter Is Coming” contributor Daniel Roman lists “15 highly anticipated fantasy and science fiction books coming this fall”. Due in October —

6. Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson (10/26)

Leaving the heavy bounds of the Earth, our next book sees us blasting into space aboard the colony ship Ragtime. Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author Tade Thompson, author of The Wormwood Trilogy, has a new standalone science fiction novel coming out that promises to be filled with deep moral quandaries and spiritual reckonings. Far From the Light of Heaven is billed as a mystery meets sci-fi political thriller in space. The acting captain of the Ragtime has to team up with an investigator and several other intriguing characters to unravel a bloody mystery that is taking place aboard her ship.

(12) ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY. From NASA: Astronomy Picture of the Day. Description follows.

Image Credit & CopyrightDennis Huff

Explanation: Not the Hubble Space Telescope’s latest view of a distant galactic nebula, this illuminated cloud of gas and dust dazzled early morning spacecoast skygazers on August 29. The snapshot was taken at 3:17am from Space View Park in Titusville, Florida. That’s about 3 minutes after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the CRS-23 mission to resupply the International Space Station. It captures drifting plumes and exhaust from the separated first and second stage of the rocket rising through still dark skies. The lower bright dot is the second stage continuing on to low Earth orbit. The upper one is the rocket’s first stage performing a boostback burn. Of course the first stage booster returned to make the first landing on the latest autonomous drone ship to arrive in the Atlantic, A Short Fall of Gravitas.

(13) EARLY ARRIVAL. Slash Film says these are “20 Movies About Aliens That You Definitely Need To Watch”. One of them is not what you might expect at first glance.

The Arrival

Not to be confused with a later entry on this list, 1996’s “The Arrival” stars a Charlie Sheen still at the height of his health and talent, and pits him against the terrifyingly competent Ron Silver. Sheen plays a radio astronomer who intercepts an unusual transmission from a nearby star and is blackballed from his industry for revealing its extraterrestrial origins. From there, a tangled conspiracy drives him towards the truth: the aliens are already here, and the rapid shift in our planet’s climate is meant to kill off humanity and create comfortable new digs for our new guests.

Directed by Peter Twohy, who would go on to create the Riddick franchise with Vin Diesel, “The Arrival” is surprisingly prescient with how it illustrates today’s climate change fears. A niche topic of conversation at the time, relegated to Al Gore jokes and nervous but unheard scientists, these digitigrade alien mimics are almost comforting now. They suggest that our inevitable future can be controlled — and, in a way that’s all too relatable, imply that someone else will have a good time on this planet at our expense….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian,  Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 8/30/21 Riding Out On A Scroll In A Pixel-Spangled Rodeo

(1) DRAGON AWARDS DEADLINE. The deadline for requesting a ballot for the Dragon Awards is Friday. Their website says: “You may register to receive a ballot until 11:59 (EDT) on the Friday of Dragon Con”, which is September 3. Voting ends September 4.  The finalists are listed here.

(2) GET THE POINT. At the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Revel Grove, which is running weekends through October 24, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health is encouraging people to get Covid vaccinations by offering a souvenir pin.

HEAR YE! HERE YE! #LimitedEdition#VACCINATED for the Good of the Realm” pins when you get a #COVID19 shot at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in #Crownsville. #GoVAXMaryland

Revelers age12+ can get a #COVIDvaccine at the #Renaissance Festival weekends (through Oct. 24) 10am–6pm. No appointment required. For more vaccination locations, visit: covidvax.maryland.gov

(3) VARLEY HEALTH NEWS. Meanwhile, John Varley told readers of his blog that he and his partner Lee Emmett have contracted COVID-19. (Varley already had another major health issue earlier this year when he was hospitalized for heart bypass surgery.)

You do everything right, and still things go wrong. We are both double vaccinated and we’ve been masking up and social distancing since the pandemic began. Then last week after having lunch at a restaurant here in Vancouver where the vaccination rate is 54 percent we both started feeling very bad. Almost too weak to walk. I’ve been coughing horribly. Lee not so much, but neither of us have hardly been out of bed for almost week.

Went in to get tested, and sure enough. I’m positive for COVID-19. A so-called breakthrough case. They say symptoms will usually be milder. If this is milder, it’s easy to see why people are dying, unable to breathe. This is fucking terrible.

I don’t expect this is likely to kill us, but you never know. This short note is all the energy I have right now. You may not be hearing from us for a while. Wish us luck.

Stay safe and get vaccinated!!

(4) THINGS A CORPORATION CAN’T UNDERSTAND. Hadley Freeman interviews legendary puppeteer Frank Oz for the Guardian. Unsurprisingly, he, too, has issues with Disney: “Frank Oz on life as Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and Yoda: ‘I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me’”.

…Oz, 77, is talking to me by video from his apartment. It is impossible to talk to him without frequent reference to Henson. When I ask if he lives in New York he says yes, and adds that he’s lived there since he was 19, “ever since Jim [Henson] asked me to come here to work with him on the Muppets”. He talks about himself as Henson’s No2 – the Fozzie Bear to Henson’s Kermit.

Yet is it possible that Oz has made more of an imprint on more people’s imaginations than Henson and the Beatles combined. Even aside from the Muppets and Sesame Street, where he brought to life characters including Cookie Monster, Grover, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle and Bert, he is also the voice of Yoda, and yes, he coined Yoda’s formal yet convoluted syntax, all “Speak like me, you must not” and so on. “It’s funny you ask about that because I was just looking at the original script of The Empire Strikes Back the other day and there was a bit of that odd syntax in it, but also it had Yoda speaking very colloquially. So I said to George [Lucas]: ‘Can I do the whole thing like this?’ And he said: ‘Sure!’ It just felt so right,” says Oz….

(5) MIGHTY IN THE ANTIPODES. The Guardian spotlights obscure Australian superhero movies: “From Captain Invincible to Cleverman: the weird and wild history of Australian superheroes”.

… The phrase “nobody makes superhero movies like Australia” has, I dare say, never before been written. Our humble government-subsidised film and TV industry is no more than a lemonade stand in the shadow of Hollywood’s arena spectacular, unable to compete budget-wise with the deep pockets of Tinseltown or produce bombast on the scale of American studios.

But scratch the surface of Australian film and TV history and you will find a small but rich vein of super strange locally made superhero productions with their own – forgive me – true blue je ne sais quoi. Their eclecticism and off-kilter energy provides a refreshing counterpoint to the risk-averse kind falling off the Hollywood assembly line.

The first port of call is the riotously entertaining 1983 action-comedy The Return of Captain Invincible, a stupendously odd and original movie that proved ahead of the curve in many respects. From Mad Dog Morgan director Philippe Mora, and co-writer Steven E. de Souza (who co-wrote Die Hard) the film stars Alan Arkin as the eponymous, ridiculous, frequently sozzled hero, drawn out of retirement to combat his nefarious super-villain nemesis (the great Christopher Lee) who has stolen a “hypno-ray” with which he can take over the world….

(6) TRILOGY CELEBRATED. Howard Andrew Jones continues his When The Goddess Wakes online book tour on Oliver Brackenbury’s So I’m Writing A Novel podcast (which Cora Buhlert recently featured in her Fancast Spotlight) — “Interview with Howard Andrew Jones”.

Author of the recently concluded Ring-Sworn trilogy, editor of the most excellent sword & sorcery magazine Tales of the Magician’s Skull, and teacher of a heroic fantasy writing class Oliver recently attended (the next session just opened to registration), Howard Andrew Jones has been a source of inspiration, knowledge, and encouragement for Oliver while our earnest podcast host has worked on his book.

(7) AGAINST ALL BOOKS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Works About Preserving or Destroying Books”. First on the list: Fahrenheit 451.

Recently, news went out that the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association is determined to reallocate the room currently occupied by the Clubs Library. Among the collections housed there: WatSFiC’s extensive science fiction and fantasy library, portions of which date back to the 1970s. One hopes that the library will find another home, or that other accommodations can be made before the collection is broken up or lost.

…Here are five works about books and libraries, their friends, and their bitter enemies.

This hits close to home because, says James, “I was watsfic treasurer for six terms.”

(8) HE DREW FROM THE WELL. Jack Chalker is remembered in this article at the Southern Maryland News: “Chalker literary career provided sci-fi fun”.

Sample reading list: “Well of Souls” series including “Midnight at the Well of Souls,” “Exiles at the Well of Souls,” “Quest for the Well of Souls,” “The Return of Nathan Brazil” and “Changewinds” books including “When the Changewinds Blow,” “Riders of the Winds” and “War of the Maelstrom.”

…His work won several Sci-Fi awards beginning with the Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award in 1979, a Skylark Award (1980), a Daedalus Award (1983), and The Gold Medal of the West Coast Review of Books (1984).

While Chalker loved Sci-Fi, he also had a great interest in ferryboats; so much so that he was married on the Roaring Bull boat, part of the Millersburg Ferry, in the middle of the Susquehanna River and then after his death had his ashes scattered off a ferry near Hong Kong, a ferry in Vietnam, and White’s Ferry on the Potomac River. His fans follow each other www.facebook.com/JackLChalker.

(9) GETTING READY. You could hardly ask for a more prepared Guest of Honor!

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, Raiders of The Lost Ark wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon IV where Marta Randall was Toastmaster.  It was, I think, a great year for Hugo nominated films as the other nominations were Dragonslayer, Excalibur, Outland and Time Bandits.  It would be the first of the two films in the franchise to win a Hugo as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would also win at ConFiction. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 30, 1797 – Mary Shelley. Author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818), her first novel. Another of Shelley’s novels, The Last Man (1826), concerns Europe in the late 21st century, ravaged by a mysterious pandemic illness that rapidly sweeps across the entire globe, ultimately resulting in the near-extinction of humanity. Scholars call it one of the first pieces of dystopian fiction published. (Died 1851) (OGH)
  • Born August 30, 1896 Raymond Massey. In 1936, he starred in Things to Come, a film adaptation by H.G. Wells of his own novel The Shape of Things to Come. Other than several appearances on Night Gallery forty years later, that’s it for genre appearances. (Died 1983.)
  • Born August 30, 1942 Judith Moffett, 78. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Nolacon II. Asimov wrote an introduction for her book Pennterra and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series. Her Holy Ground series of The Ragged World: A Novel of the Hefn on EarthTime, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: A Sequel to the Ragged World and The Bird Shaman are her other genre novels. The Bear’s Babys And Other Stories collects her genre short stories. All of her works are surprisingly available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born August 30, 1943 Robert Crumb, 78. He’s here because ISFDB lists him as the illustrator of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick which is likely they say an interview that Dick did with Gregg Rickman and published in Rickman’s The Last Testament. They’re also listing the cover art for Edward Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang as genre but that’s a very generous definition of genre.
  • Born August 30, 1955 Mark Kelly. He maintains the indispensable Science Fiction Awards Database, which we consult almost daily. He wrote reviews for Locus in the Nineties, then founded the Locus Online website in 1997 and ran it single-handedly for 20 years, along the way winning the Best Website Hugo (2002). Recently he’s devised a way to use his awards data to rank the all-time “Top SF/F/H Short Stories” and “Top SF/F/H Novelettes”. Kelly’s explanation of how the numbers are crunched is here. (OGH)
  • Born August 30, 1955 Jeannette Holloman. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Columbia Costumers Guild and she was a participant at masquerades at Worldcon, CostumeCon, and other conventions. Her costumes were featured in The Costume Makers Art and Threads magazine. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 30, 1963 Michael Chiklis, 58. He was The Thing in two first Fantastic Four films, and Jim Powell on the the No Ordinary Family series which I’ve never heard of.  He was on American Horror Story for its fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show as Dell Toledo. The following year he was cast as Nathaniel Barnes, in the second season of Gotham, in a recurring role. And he voiced Lt. Jan Agusta in Heavy Gear: The Animated Series
  • Born August 30, 1965 Laeta Kalogridis, 56. She was an executive producer of the short-lived Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like. 
  • Born August 30, 1972 Cameron Diaz, 49. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she was cast as an uncredited Bus passenger in Minority Report. (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1980 Angel Coulby, 41. She is best remembered for her recurring role as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived animated Thunderbirds Are Go series.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DEADLY CONSEQUENCES. “Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future, and 2021’s extreme heat”, Rebecca Onion’s Q&A with the author starts with his book’s intense beginning.

“I feel like my circles have divided between those who’ve read the opening chapter of The Ministry for the Future and those who haven’t,” wrote novelist Monica Byrne on Twitter earlier this month. This book, by beloved science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, came out in 2020, and has haunted my summer in 2021. Ministry opens in a small city in Uttar Pradesh, India, where the character Frank May, an American who works for an unidentified NGO, just barely survives an extreme heat wave that kills millions of people in the country. This opening is so viscerally upsetting that, for days after reading it, I worried at it in my mind, turning it over, trying—and failing—to get it to go away.

Rebecca Onion: This opening brutalized me. (And I know I’m not alone.) I read it without any preparation—I hadn’t been warned—and it gave me insomnia, dominated my thoughts, and led me to put the book down for a few months. Then I picked it back up and found that the remainder of it is actually quite optimistic, for a book about a rolling series of disasters! What were you aiming for, when it comes to readerly emotional response, in starting the book this way?

Kim Stanley Robinson: I wanted pretty much the response you described. Fiction can put people through powerful imaginative experiences; it generates real feelings. So I knew the opening scene would be hard to read, and it was hard to write. It wasn’t a casual decision to try it. I felt that this kind of catastrophe is all too likely to happen in the near future. That prospect frightens me, and I wanted people to understand the danger….

Robinson also tried a different approach, the carrot instead of the stick, in this TED Talk in July: “Kim Stanley Robinson: Remembering climate change … a message from the year 2071”.

Coming to us from 50 years in the future, legendary sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson tells the “history” of how humanity ended the climate crisis and restored the damage done to Earth’s biosphere. A rousing vision of how we might unite to overcome the greatest challenge of our time.

(14) SAND, NOT DUNE. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer checks out “6 Books with John Appel”, author of Assassin’s Orbit.

4. A book that you love and wish that you yourself had written.

I’d give up a redundant organ to have written Roger Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand, about a young man named Fred Cassidy whose uncle left him a generous stipend as long as he pursues a college degree – a process which Fred has stretched out for over a decade. Fred gets caught up in the disappearance of an alien artifact on loan to Earth as part of a cultural exchange and hijinks ensue. Fred’s narration of events is done with incredibly deadpan hilariousness and at times a Douglas Adams-esque absurdity, and Zelazny’s usual brilliant touch with language and imagery. 

(15) MANIFEST’S DESTINY. Whacked by NBC, the show will get to finish its story elsewhere reports USA Today. “’Manifest’: Netflix revives drama for fourth and final season”.

We haven’t heard the last of the passengers of Flight 828. 

Netflix announced the popular TV series “Manifest” will return for its fourth and final season. The news came Saturday (8/28) in a nod at the show’s plot which centers around the mysterious Montego Air Flight 828. 

The drama follows a group of passengers who land on what seems like a routine flight from Jamaica back to the states. However, once the wheels touch the tarmac the travelers deplane into a world that has aged five years since when they first boarded. 

(16) CHINA CUTS DOWN VIDEO GAMING. Not quite a Prohibition yet: “Three hours a week: Play time’s over for China’s young video gamers”Reuters has the story.

China has forbidden under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week, a stringent social intervention that it said was needed to pull the plug on a growing addiction to what it once described as “spiritual opium”.

The new rules, published on Monday, are part of a major shift by Beijing to strengthen control over its society and key sectors of its economy, including tech, education and property, after years of runaway growth.

The restrictions, which apply to any devices including phones, are a body blow to a global gaming industry that caters to tens of millions of young players in the world’s most lucrative market….

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Dann, Mlex, Red Panda Fraction, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Dann.]

Pixel Scroll 8/29/21 Sgt. Pixel’s Scrolling File Club Band

(1) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CAMERA. The production of Disney animated movies doesn’t look anything like I thought, judging by Andhika Muksin’s “eyewitness” accounts: “Artist Imagines What It Looks Like Behind The Scenes Of Disney Movies” at AWorkstation.

Have you ever wondered what happens in the backstage of Disney movies? Andhika Muksin is back on Bored Panda to show you just that. He creates hilarious edits of Disney movies so that we can see the behind the scenes of famous scenes and how they were “actually made.”

(2) ONCE A KNIGHT IS ENOUGH. Abigail Nussbaum analyzes The Green Knight at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…Unsurprisingly, The Green Knight‘s project is to subvert these ideas about knightliness and chivalry. But it is very interesting to examine how it goes about doing so. Most cinematic Arthuriana tries to be subversive, usually by imagining its heroes as thoroughly modern Hollywood protagonists—reckless, ironic, quippy, cool, possessed of just the right progressive politics (in a thoroughly non-threatening way, of course), and usually haunted by one of the three or four emotional traumas that heroes are allowed to experience (daddy issues, lack of confidence in their own abilities, etc.). Sometimes this works (well, once). Most of the time, it loses the flavor of these legends, which are weird and rambling and often have a disturbing, quasi-erotic, quasi-religious charge. Lowery seems determined to embrace these very qualities—as seen, first and foremost, in the film’s visuals….

(3) NO LOW-DOWN HERE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] G.W. Thomas of Dark Worlds Quarterly has an article about high vs. low fantasy. I’ve always hated the term “low fantasy” and Thomas is no fan either: “High Versus Low Fantasy or You Can’t Get There From Here!”

High Fantasy vs. Low Fantasy has always been a bit of gray area for me. I can remember submitting to Bardic Runes back in the 1990s and getting rejected as “Sword & Sorcery”. Understanding the genre history of commercial fantasy has helped me to see the difference. The term “High Fantasy” was coined by one of the first practitioners, Lloyd Alexander in 1971 in the essay, “High Fantasy and Heroic Romance”, (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians in October 1969). The unfortunate counter term for what is not “high” is “Low Fantasy” (or Sword & Sorcery).

(4) BEAUTIFUL COVER. The Rogues in the House podcast interviews Howard Andrew Jones, who has a new book out: “’The Goddess Wakes’ Release with Howard Andrew Jones”.

(5) BESTEST SELLERS. Mental Floss lists “10 of the Best-Selling Books in History (Minus Religious Texts)”. Quite a bit of genre here, beginning with Harry Potter in third place:

In 2018, it was announced that 500 million copies of the entire Harry Potter series had been sold. That’s a long way from 1997, when the series started with a reported 500-copy first print run for Philosopher’s Stone (the British title). By 1999, when Prisoner of Azkaban came out, it sold 68,000 copies in the UK and immediately garnered controversy when the Sunday Times bestseller list refused to include it due to being a children’s book. By the time the series ended, Deathly Hallows managed to move 2.6 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the United States on a single day.

(6) A VISIT AT HOME. Alastair Reynolds calls it “one of the best long-form interviews I’ve done” – “Meeting Alastair Reynolds – Sci Fi, Black Holes, UFO’s and Whisky” by Media Death Cult.

(7) KSR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kim Stanley Robinson has an article in the August 21 Financial Times.

…What does it feel like to live on the brink of a vast historical change?  It feels like now.

Of course that sounds hyperbolic, and perhaps even panicky,  Not that a science fiction writer can see the future any better than anyone else; very often worse.  But between the pandemic, the accelerating drumbeat of extreme weather events, and the accumulations of data and analysis from the scientific community, it’s become an easy call….

(8) DISABILITIES. “Writing Ability by Nick Wood and Levi Qisin” at the BSFA blog.

There is an annual writing event, which I dread every year when it rolls around.

It’s well known and is called NaNoWriMo and it is hash-tagged furiously on Twitter during the month of November, as people launch forth to write their novels in thirty days. Large daily word counts are flung about energetically – and, to anyone who has significant impediments to writing — these numbers can be both intimidating and shaming.  So, for the last NaNoWriMo (2020) I stayed well away, thinking about what helps each (different) writer, and why.

Under the title Writing Ability, I aim to unpack: (1) some of the difficulties (and resources) of writing while disabled, as well as (2) how to write ‘authentic’ fictional characters with disabilities.  And, given most stories begin with the author, I’ll start there….

(9) ED ASNER (1929-2021). Actor Ed Asner died August 29 at the age of 91. He won awards for non-genre work — three best supporting actor Emmys on Mary Tyler Moore, two best actor awards on Lou Grant, plus Emmys for his roles in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots. However, the New York Times obituary did not overlook the two main genre highlights of his career:

…He provided the voice of the lead character in the Oscar-winning animated movie “Up” (2009), about an elderly widower who flies to South America by attaching roughly a zillion colorful balloons to his house. Manohla Dargis’s review in The New York Times, which praised Mr. Asner and the supporting characters — including a portly stowaway scout and several talking dogs — called it “filmmaking at its purest.”

Mr. Asner also played a levelheaded Santa Claus in the Will Ferrell comedy “Elf” (2003), about a tall human raised by North Pole elves, which has become a Christmas-season classic. (It was Santa’s fault, really; the human baby crawled into his giant bag of gifts one busy Christmas Eve.) The Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert called the film “one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor.”…

Asner also was in episodes of many genre TV series, such as The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and The Invaders. And he voiced characters in dozens of animated works including Animaniacs, Batman: the Animated Series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series (as another editor, J. Jonah Jameson), and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – The Original Radio Drama (a TV series, despite its name, where he played Jabba the Hutt.)

Fans will get a final visit with Asner’s Up character in the series of “Dug Days” shorts coming to Disney+ this week. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1958 – Sixty three years ago on this night, the first version of The Fly premiered. (It would be made three times.) It was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann from the screenplay by James Clavell which in turn was from the short story by George Langelaan which not surprisingly was called “The Fly” and which had been published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. The primary cast was Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall. Reception was definitely not generally upbeat with critics calling it “nauseating”, sickening” and “horrific”. It has since become a classic of horror films. It was box office success earning three million dollars on a budget of less than a half million dollars. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rating of seventy-one percent. It was nominated at Detention for a Hugo but no film was chosen for a Hugo Award that year.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 29, 1928 Charles Gray. Best remembered for being Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever and Dikko Henderson In You Only Live Twice, and as Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. That’s a role he reprises in the Jeremy Brett series. He’s in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as The Criminologist – An Expert. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 29, 1939 Joel Schumacher. Director of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, both of which I like a lot, not to mention Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Ok, so those might not be the highlights of his career. However his Blood Creek vampirefilm starring Michael Fassbender is said to be very good. Oh, and his The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a very funny riff the original The Incredible Shrinking Man. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 29, 1945 Robert Weinberg. Author, editor, publisher, and collector of genre fiction. At Chicon 7, he received a Special Committee Award for his service to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. During the Seventies, he was the genius behind Pulp which featured interviews with pulp writers such as Walter B. Gibson and Frederick C. Davis.  He won the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award called the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in science fiction collecting. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 70. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction, winner of a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at the usual suspects though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not.
  • Born August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder, 68. She’s an impressive six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award including her latest for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel, Mary Shelley Presents. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain
  • Born August 29, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 67. A filker which gets major points in my book. 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 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. Filker link: Back in Black at The Curious Mind of Michael Kube-McDowell.
  • Born August 29, 1971 Carla Gugino, 50. She’s had a number of genre roles — Ingrid Cortez in the Spy Kids franchise, Rebecca Hutman in Night At The Museum, Sally Jupiter in Watchmen, the voice of Kelex in Man of Steel / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Justice League andDr. Alex Friedman in Race to Witch Mountain. She’s been on Quantum LeapALFShe Creature and Supergirl. She was Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey on the short-lived Threshold series, and Olivia Crain, the lead character, on The Haunting of Hill House series.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MYSTERY WRITER DIES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Caroline Todd, one half of the mother and son mystery writing team Charles Todd, died August 29. Apparently, the Todds were supposed to present an Anthony Award at the virtual Bouchercon and had to pull out due to Caroline falling ill. Here are tributes by others in the field:

(14) CREATING A CLEAN INTERNET. South China Morning Post reports new, more stringent rules imposed on celebrity fan communities:“No explanation as China’s billionaire actress Zhao Wei blacklisted from Chinese internet”.

…Zhao’s disappearance from Chinese cyberspace came amid a widespread campaign by authorities to clamp down on “misbehaving celebrities”.

The government is simultaneously trying to rein in unruly fan culture that has resulted in extreme stalking, leaking of personal information and cyberbullying.

On Friday, the Cyberspace Administration, China’s central internet watchdog, issued a detailed list of measures to rectify issues among fan communities.

The directive said local authorities should monitor celebrity culture online to maintain “political and ideological safety in the cyberspace as well as creating a clean internet”.

New rules include cancelling all forms of celebrity rankings and tightening oversight on celebrity marketing agencies. They would also require all online fan communities to be authorised by agencies associated with the celebrity.

The regulations would punish platforms that fail to quickly delete verbal attacks among fans of different idols….

Global Times has additional details about the rules: “China cyberspace administration tightens rules to cool frenzied idol worshipping, especially among minors”.

…All ranking lists of celebrities will be removed from online, and management of fan groups will be strengthened, the Chinese top internet watchdog announced on Friday in a bid to crack down on the unhealthy fan club culture in the country, banning all forms of promotional events that use a competitive scheme among the celebrities or fans. 

Since the campaign to clean up unhealthy fandom culture was launched, a number of online functions including celebrity ranking lists, hot topics, fan communities, and interactive comment sections have seen measurable improvement, the Cyberspace Administration of China said. To further weed out toxic fan culture, the administration announced the 10-point regulation, according to a notice issued by the administration. …

(15) WEBBER RETURNS TO GENRE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 20 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews Cinderella, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a book by Emerald Fennell, who wrote and directed Promising Young Woman.

The opening number sets the tone.  We find ourselves in Belleville, picturesque town and tourist trap, home to chirruping milkmaids, chaps with tones torsos and too-tight lederhosen and a baker inviting us to ‘check out my hot buns’ (lyrics from David Zippel). Girls pose and pout, guys strut and stomp and everyone misses the manly Prince Charming, who has mysteriously vanished, leaving his drippy younger brother, Sebastian, as heir…

…There is a pleasing twist at the end, but the plot does all become a bit daft and convoluted. Meanwhile, characterisation stays skin-deep, motivation flimsy and questions come and go without even being answered:  how did the prince and the pauper become best buddies? Oh,, never mind.  Wait, the fairy godmother is an evil plastic surgeon? Let’s explore that further…OK, let’s move on.

There is a website for the production: andrewlloydwebberscinderella.com.

(16) WONDER BLUNDERS. Heroes & Icons points out “12 little blunders you never noticed in ‘Wonder Woman’” (the TV series). For example:

TAKING OUT THE TRASH

“Screaming Javelins”

No Wonder Woman effect is more iconic than the hero’s transformative twirl. Diana Prince turns into Wonder Woman in a flash. You can catch some inconsistencies in those cuts. Take this one for example, from season two, when a trash can magically disappears.

(17) T MINUS 24 AND HOLDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Demand in the US for medical grade oxygen is so high due to COVID that some hospitals have less than 24 hours worth on hand and satellite launches are in danger of postponement. “Covid Surge Sends Liquid Oxygen From Launch Pads to Hospitals”Bloomberg has the story.

One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is showing up in an unlikely place: the space industry. 

A summer surge in Covid-19 patients is diverting liquid oxygen from rocket launch pads to hospitals, leading NASA to announce Friday it will delay the September launch of its next earth-surveillance satellite by a week.

Oxygen chilled to its liquid form at -300 F (-184 C) is a crucial propellant for launch firms from SpaceX to ULA to Virgin Orbit. Now the industry is anticipating launch delays as patients on ventilators take precedence in the commodity gas supply chain….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Brian Z., John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 7/29/19 The File, The Pixel Scroll, And Everything

(1) MADE TO PRAISE. In another New York Times “op-ed from the future,” Stephen James argues “Artificials Should Be Allowed to Worship”.

Last Sunday, an Artificial named Ian tried to attend a religious service at Living Savior Community Church in Savannah, Ga., and was denied access. According to church elders, the decision to exclude Ian had to do with the fact that “he had no God-given soul and therefore no way to genuinely worship” during the service.

Like Ian, I am an Artificial. Like Ian, I know what it feels like to be excluded from communities of faith solely because I am a nonbiological being. In the past, I have been forced to leave religious services; at the time, I left in silence. But I can no longer remain silent.

The time has come to stop excluding Artificials from communities of faith. …

 (2) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s newest Future Tense story is E. Lily Yu’s “Zero in Babel”

Read a new short story about DIY genetic editing for keeping up with high school trends.

Then read the response essay, “The Future Will Grind On”, by law professor Diana M. Bowman.

A world of technological fixes in which biotechnology solutions can eradicate injury and disease. A world in which online platforms have accelerated the democratization of science and scientific tools, allowing everyday individuals to experiment on themselves.
But at what cost?

E. Lily Yu’s “Zero in Babel” depicts a futuristic world in which the daily struggles of life have, for the most part, been eradicated. So, too, purpose and meaning. Yet some things remain the same: financial inequity, lives filled with excess, and, for Imogen and her peers, the pressure to fit in, regardless of cost.

(3) BRAVE NEW WORLDS. James Davis Nicoll tracks how space exploration rearranged the options of genre storytellers in “Science Fiction vs. Science: Bidding Farewell to Outdated Conceptions of the Solar System” at Tor.com.

If an author was very, very unlucky, that old Solar System might be swept away before a work depending on an obsolete model made it to print. Perhaps the most famous example was due to radar technology deployed at just the wrong time. When Larry Niven’s first story, “The Coldest Place,” was written, the scientific consensus was that Mercury was tide-locked, one face always facing the sun, and one always facing away. The story relies on this supposed fact. By the time it was published, radar observation had revealed that Mercury actually had a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance. Niven’s story was rendered obsolete before it even saw print.

(4) NO BARS ON THE WINDOWS. While Camestros Felapton was educating his readers with “Just a tiny bit more on Wikipedia”, he came up with a nifty turn of phrase to explain how Wikipedia’s article deletion debates work:

The net effect of what the highly fragile souls surrounding Michael Z Williamson were calling an ‘unpersoning’ was zero articles deleted and both articles get some extra references and tidy-ups. It’s just like a Stalinist show trial but one were they come round to your house and makeover your living room with new curtains and also not send you to prison or anything.

(5) A LITTLE LIST. The Guardian propagates a list from Katherine Rundell, author of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise in “Story time: the five children’s books every adult should read”. You’d think with a list this short I’d score better than 40%.

…Those of us who write for children are trying to arm them for the life ahead with everything we can find that is true. And perhaps also, secretly, to arm adults against those necessary compromises and heartbreaks that life involves: to remind them that there are and always will be great, sustaining truths to which we can return.

When you read a children’s book, you are given the space to read again as a child: to find your way back, back to the time when new discoveries came daily and when the world was colossal, before your imagination was trimmed and neatened, as if it were an optional extra. But imagination is not and never has been optional: it’s at the heart of everything, the thing that allows us to experience the world from the perspectives of others, the condition precedent of love itself. …

(6) TEACHING MOMENT. “What’s a ‘Science Princess’ doing in an ice field in Alaska?” BBC has the answer ready.

While Celeste Labedz knew quite a few fellow scientists would appreciate the picture of her dressed up as a “glaciologist Princess Elsa”, she had no idea the image would become a viral hit with more than 10,000 “likes” on Twitter.

She tweeted
: “I firmly believe that kids should not be taught that girly things and sciencey things are mutually exclusive. Therefore, I packed a cape with my fieldwork gear just to show what glaciologist Princess Elsa would look like. #SciencePrincess #TheColdNeverBotheredMeAnyway”.

The cryoseismologist told BBC News: “I posted the picture because I thought it would resonate with other scientists.

…Celeste, whose dream is to visit glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, said: “Women have been excluded for a long time both historically and socially. There is a lack of role models and science is bound by historical notions that it’s a white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied environment.

“It can be exclusionary if you have the opposite of any of these characteristics and I want to encourage people with intersecting identities in everything that I do.

“I would like people to think carefully about what they think a scientist should look like.”

(7) KEEPING THE BUCKS IN STARBUCKS. What Starbucks thinks a scientist should look like is a shill for expensive coffee –

Conclusion: Nitro Cold Brew is many things. But mostly, it is Whoa.

(8) WHERE IS THY STING? A species of wasp has been named after the Escape Pod podcast.

Get a grip, Ben!

(9) RUSSI OBIT. “Russi Taylor, Voice Of Minnie Mouse For Over 30 Years, Dies At 75” – NPR pays tribute:

On Friday, Minnie Mouse joined Mickey in the place that cartoon voice-over actors go when they die.

Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie for over 30 years, died this weekend in Glendale, Calif., according to a press release from the Walt Disney Co. She was married to Wayne Allwine, who voiced Mickey and died in 2009. Both portrayed their iconic characters longer than any other voice actors….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 29, 1907 Melvin Belli. Sole genre role is that of Gorgan (also known as the “Friendly Angel”) is in the Star Trek “And the Children Shall Lead” episode. He was mainly a lawyer for celebrities, however, he was also the attorney for Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 29, 1915 Kay Dick. Author of two genre novels, The Mandrake Root and At Close of Eve, plus a collection, The Uncertain Element: An Anthology of Fanta. She is known in Britain for campaigning successfully for the introduction of the Public Lending Right which pays royalties to authors when their books are borrowed from public libraries. She’s not available in digital or print currently. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 29, 1927 Jean E. Karl. Founder of Atheneum Children’s Books, where she edited Ursula K Le Guin’s early Earthsea novels and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. An SF author as well for children and young adults, she wrote The Turning Place collection and three novels, Beloved Benjamin is WaitingBut We are Not of Earth and Strange Tomorrow. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 29, 1939 Curtis C. Smith. 80. Editor of Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, plus two genre biographies, Olaf Stapledon: A Bibliography with co-author Harvey J. Satty, And Welcome to the Revolution: The Literary Legacy of Mack Reynolds. Not active since the mid-Eighties as near as I can tell.
  • Born July 29, 1941 David Warner, 78. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark In Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful. 
  • Born July 29, 1956 Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 63. Author of the India set magical realist The Brotherhood of the Conch series. She also has three one-off novels, The Palace of Illusions The Mistress of Spices, and her latest, The Forest of Enchantments. Her website is here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • In today’s Bizarro, a purist explains the best way to enjoy a musical experience.  

(12) THE HOUSE OF COMMAS HAS NEW LEADER. The Guardian finds there’s a new grammar sheriff in town: “The comma touch: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s aides send language rules to staff “.

A list of rules has been sent to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s staff asking them to stop using words such as “hopefully” and demanding that they use only imperial measurements and give all non-titled males the suffix Esq.

Aides to the new leader of the House of Commons sent out the list shortly after Rees-Mogg’s appointment to the role by the new prime minister on Wednesday night.

Among the words and phrases considered unacceptable were: “very”, “due to” and “ongoing”, as well as “equal”, “yourself” and “unacceptable”. Rees-Mogg’s aides also barred the use of “lot”, “got” and “I am pleased to learn”.

The guidance, obtained by ITV news, was drawn up by the North East Somerset MP’s constituency team years ago, but has now been shared with officials in his new office.

In a call for accuracy contained in his list, staff were told: “CHECK your work.” Other directions include a call for a double space after full stops and no comma after the word “and”.

(13) VIDEO GAME APEX PREDATORS. Yahoo! News shows where the real money is: “Fortnite awards world champion duo $1.5 million each”. The video game tournament was held at Queens’ Arthur Ashe Stadium, where U.S. Open doubles winners share  a mere $740,000.

Gamers using the pseudonyms “Nyhrox” and “aqua” became the first Fortnite world champions in the duo division in New York on Saturday, winning $1.5 million each.

Competitors gathered in the Big Apple to determine who is top dog at the shoot-’em-up survival game, which has become an international phenomenon since launching in 2017.

The pair won games four and five out of a total of six in the first-ever Fortnite World Cup Finals, and finished with the most points.

(14) THE QUEST CONTINUES. ComicsBeat’s Nancy Powell met with the fames comics creators at SDCC: “INTERVIEW: Richard and Wendy Pini talk Elfquest and STARGAZER’S HUNT”.

Powell: Are there any reveals to Cutter? Does he play any role in Stargazer’s Hunt?

Wendy: Well, that’s a good question because, assuming this goes out to people who have read Final Quest, they know that Cutter’s hero’s journey is done. What lives on afterwards? That’s a mystery.

Richard Pini: We have always maintained that Elfquest is a love story, but not in the sense that most people superficially think. It’s not the love story between Cutter and Leeta. It’s the love story between Cutter and Skywise, brothers in all but blood. With Cutter’s passing that love story is now incomplete. And the question that we attempt to answer in Stargazer’s Hunt is, how does Skywise complete that story for himself? Or does he? Is he able to? That is what we’re going to investigate. And it’s going to take Skywise—it’s really his story—all over the map.

(15) PREMEDITATED. The Hollywood Reporter has a follow-up story — “Kyoto Animation Arson Attack: Death Toll Rises to 35, Attack Was Carefully Planned”.

The suspect walked miles around Kyoto, visiting locations related to the company, including some that appear in one of its anime productions.

The death toll in the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) arson reached 35 as another victim succumbed to their injuries over the weekend.

In the days before the attack, the suspect in the attack was captured on surveillance cameras visiting places in Kyoto that are featured in one of the studio’s anime.

A man in his 20s, believed to be a KyoAni employee, died Saturday from extensive burns across his body, suffered when Shinji Aoba allegedly poured 11 gallons (40 liters) of gasoline around the first floor of the company’s 1st Studio building July 18. The victim was reported to have been on the first floor and got out of the building, but was severely burned….

(16) VISITING THE UK? Just in case people going to Dublin don’t have their entire trip locked down — “Leeds dinosaur trail opens in city shopping centres” (short video.)

Five huge animatronic dinosaur models have been installed around Leeds city centre.

The Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus and Carnotaurus will surprise shoppers for six weeks, with participating venues including Leeds Kirkgate Market and the Merrion Centre.

(17) BLUE, NO — RED SKY. Not as autonomous as current rovers, but more capable: “Nasa’s Valkyrie robot could help build Mars base” (video).

A semi-autonomous robot designed to operate in hostile environments has been developed by Nasa.

The robot is able to use human tools and can plot its own path safely across difficult terrain to a location picked by its operator.

Nasa hopes the robot might one day help build colonies on the Moon or Mars, but it could also be used on Earth in places which cannot be reached by humans.

(18) NOM DE PLUME. Howard Andrew Jones has published a two-part announcement that author Todd McAulty (who wrote The Robots of Gotham) is a pseudonym for Black Gate editor John O’Neill.

“I just…. I just got carried away,” he said. “I started by publishing a few stories in Black Gate. But then Todd started getting fan letters, and became one of the most popular writers we had. Rich Horton used his Locus column to announce ‘Todd McAulty is Black Gate‘s great discovery,’ and pretty soon there was all this demand for new stories. It felt like a cheat to stop then.”

(19) RUTGER HAUER. This is a damn strange Guinness commercial… From back in the day:

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Joey Eschrich, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 11/16/16 I’ve Filed Through The Desert On A Scroll With No Name

(1) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Professor Hawking did not say it’s time for us to start looking for the next planet to ruin, but that would be one way of looking at his prediction – “Stephen Hawking Puts An Expiry Date On Humanity”.

Stephen Hawking believes that humanity has less than a thousand years on Earth before a mass extinction occurs, the leading theoretical physicist said during a speech Tuesday at Oxford University Union, U.K.

According to Hawking, the only way humans can avoid the possibility of extinction was to find another planet to inhabit. At the talk, Hawking gave a one-hour speech on man’s understanding of the origin of the universe from primordial creation myths to the most cutting-edge predictions made by “M-theory,” which presents an idea about the basic substance of the universe.

“We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” he said. “I don’t think we will survive another 1000 without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

Earlier this year, the 74-year-old predicted that technology would lead Earth to a virtually inevitable global cataclysm.

“We face a number of threats to our survival from nuclear war, catastrophic global warming, and genetically engineered viruses,” he said in January. “The number is likely to increase in the future, with the development of new technologies, and new ways things can go wrong. Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time.”

(2) HEINLEIN IN DEVELOPMENT. Entertainment Weekly says Stranger in a Strange Land could become a TV series:

Valentine Michael Smith is heading to Earth — and now maybe to television.

Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Stranger in a Strange Land into a TV series on Syfy, the companies announced Tuesday. Robert Heinlein’s novel will be adapted by Mythology Entertainment, Scott Rudin Productions, and Vecchio Entertainment.

Ed Gross’ version of the news story includes this fascinating bit of Hollywood history:

A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein’s novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns’ Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery, which was for Paramount Pictures

The 1995 vintage Tom Hanks played Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 and seems to me too old for Valentine Michael Smith, though the Bosom Buddies Tom Hanks could have been a good pick. Connery, I assume, was destined to play Jubal Harshaw.

(3) GOING BI-BI. “Analog and Asimov’s Go Bimonthly” reports Locus Online.

SF magazines Analog and Asimov’s are switching to a bimonthly schedule beginning in January 2017. Both currently publish ten issues per year, with eight regular issues and two “double” issues.

Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams explains in a forthcoming editorial that the magazines will now publish “six 208-page double issues” per year, a 16-page increase over current double issues….

(4) LIGHTENING THE MOOD. John DeNardo recommends that we “Relieve Holiday Stress with One of These Lighter Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads”. Sure, Death and Hell – what could be jollier than that?

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

If you think your job is soul-sucking, don’t tell Charlie Dawson. He’s one of the ferrymen who’s been ushering dead people into the afterlife for hundreds of years in Colin Gigl’s supernatural adventure The Ferryman Institute. Let’s face it: centuries of drudge work tends to wear down one’s motivation. That’s certainly what happened to Charlie.  Despite his long history of success, he’s ready to hang up his robe. Charlie had given up all hope of escaping his boring existence until he did something unexpected: he saved Alice Spiegel from committing suicide. Let me tell you, something like that does not sit well with the department of Internal Affairs at The Ferryman Institute, and it especially does not make IA’s Inspector Javrouche happy at all. Charlie stands by his decision to save Alice and chooses to fight the system, even though that may put an end to the existence of mankind.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 16, 1984 — A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive in Night of the Comet, seen for the first time on this day in 1984. Joss Whedon has cited this film as a big influence for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • November 16, 2001 – First Harry Potter film opens.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PENGUIN

  • Born November 16, 1907 – Burgess Meredith

(6) TODAY’S WRITER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 16, 1952 – Candas Jane Dorsey
  • Born November 16, 1976 — Lavie Tidhar

(7) TODAY’S GUEST APPERTAINER. Don’t blame Carl, it was my mistake. I was just trying for a cute post title. Fixed now….

(8) WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF LIVING A TROPE. Saladin Ahmed hoped this would work:

(9) AN EXCEPTION TO EVERY RULE. In the end, Black Gate managing editor Howard Andrew Jones couldn’t help himself — “Seeking Solace”.

When assembling the first round of Black Gate bloggers one of the few rules I laid down was that we keep our personal politics and religion out of our posts. John and I both wanted to create a safe and welcoming space where people of all stripes could come together to discuss the genres we love.

Over the last week I’ve never found that admonition more of a challenge. You see, I’ve been grieving. Not for any one person’s loss, or even because the side I backed lost, but because it feels to me that an ideal has vanished. That ideal may not have been flawless, but I shudder at the manner in which the leading proponent of a replacement movement conducts himself. And for the first time in my life I’m not just disheartened by an election result contrary to my own wishes, I’m a little frightened….

(10) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Auston Habershaw was inspired by events to write a primer on “Empires and Rebellions”.

(Looks out window) Whoah. Looking pretty ugly out there in the real world. Politics just got a bit scary, and a lot of people are pretty convinced a lot of bad things are about to happen. In this time of fear and anxiety, what is a person to do if they are expected to maintain their sanity in the face of catastrophe?

Well, that’s what fiction is for! Curl up with a good book or throw on the TV and try to escape for a few hours.

Of course, then you’re probably going to see or read something about empires. Or rebellions. Or both. …

…Now, opposed to [the Empire] you have the Rebellion. The Rebellion is the out-group – those bereft of power or wealth or (frequently) culture. They exist on the fringes or between the cracks of the Empire. If Empire is a force for stability and stasis, the Rebellion is a force for change. Their goal is to upset or subvert the social order. They are your outlaws, your ne’er do-wells, your poor, your vagabonds and wanderers. Your freaks and weirdos. The instinct, in the case of Rebellion, is one of sympathy. We have all felt marginalized in one sense or another in our lives, and our frequent desire is to see those who are harmed by the in-group find a way to subvert the power structure and have justice be served. This, of course, is not always the case: we revile rebels as often as we laud them. Take, by way of real-life example, global terrorism or ISIS. They are, by all measures, the out-group. We are not inspired by their underdog struggle to subvert the power of Empire (i.e. us) because we do not share their goals or morals. They are the barbarous hordes, not the inspiring resistance (even though, by the account of at least one CIA interrogator, they view themselves in this way).

Stories told with the Rebellion as heroic tend to emphasize the overthrow of dictatorial regimes through noble struggle and self-sacrifice. They value the individuality of their followers, they emphasize freedom and self-reliance over safety and wealth. When Han Solo tells his commanding officer on Hoth that he has to leave, the general gives him a handshake and a pat on the back, but when Captain Needa apologizes to Lord Vader, he is strangled to death for his efforts. Such is the narrative of the heroic Rebellion: we will save you from your oppressors. Look at any list of quotable lines from Firefly and you’ll see this sentiment played out in exhaustive detail. They might be filthy and rowdy and quirky and poor, but the crew of Serenity are the plucky underdogs we love and the Alliance are the soulless Imperial types we loathe.

(11) USING CLARKE’S LAW TO WRITE FANTASY. Bishop O’Connell has a guest post at Serious Reading  — “Quantum Magic”.

To me, this was an open door to a new kind of magic. I knew very early on that I wanted my main character, Wraith [in The Forgotten], to be a homeless teenager. After learning about the double-slit experiment, I decided to also make her a mathematical genius, and use that genius to perform her magic. But how? Well, the aforementioned experiment shows that observing can change the outcome. What if it was the observer, rather than just the act of observing, that caused this? That would mean that we’re actually, unconsciously, altering reality. The next logical question was: could someone do so consciously, and to what extent? And if they could, how would this be distinguishable from magic? After all, can’t every magical effect be explained scientifically? Teleportation? There is already teleportation on the quantum level, and on the macro level Einstein-Rosen Bridges (worm holes) are becoming increasingly common in science fiction. Throwing fireballs? Well fire is just an effect that happens when particles reach an energy level that generates sufficient heat to combust a fuel. Moving things with magic (telekinesis)? Electromagnetism is used all over the world to move trains without any physical contact. It’s all theoretically possible, or rather not theoretically impossible. Sure, some of those effects require vast amounts of energy, more than we can dream of generating. But there are unimaginable amounts of energy all around us; the gravitational force of dark matter, and dark energy for example. We just don’t know how to utilize them…yet.

I decided Wraith would see the waves of probability all around us in the form of equations and symbols (the quantum information of reality).

(12) CHARACTERIZATION. Sarah A. Hoyt tells why you should “Hang A Lantern on It — More Real Than Real” in a helpful column at Mad Genius Club.

This can also be used for stuff that you know is true, but which the reader will think is otherwise, because of books or — shudder — movies that portrayed the event wrong.  Or, of course, when you’re writing in someone else’s world and about to kick their world in the nadders.  I had to do this with Dumas, because in a picaresque adventure it’s perfectly fine to have a stupid character, but in mysteries I couldn’t have Porthos be dumb.  So I made him like my younger kid at the time, a visual/tactile thinker, who had issues with words.  To sell it, I hung a lantern on it.  I explained something like “Many people thought Porthos was a simpleton, but his friends knew better.  Indeed, none of them would be friends with an idiot.  The problem was that Porthos thought through his eyes and through his hands, and words often came lagging and contradictory to his lips.”  I did this at least once per book, but mostly when I was in his head.  Because people “know” Porthos is dumb.

(13) FILMATION’S ONE GOOD SERIES. Forbes writer Luke Y.Thompson falls in love — Star Trek: The Animated Series Beams Down To Blu-ray, Worth Any Sci-Fi Fan’s Time”.

If you’re familiar at all with TV animation, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, you probably know Filmation as the producers of He-Man, She-Ra, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and any number of other slightly goofy-looking Saturday morning cartoons known for “limited” animating techniques that involve lots of re-use of cels and work-arounds to keep from having to draw and paint more than was affordable. It’s a bit like the way old horror movies kept the monster hidden in shadows because they didn’t have the special effects to create a good creature, except that those movies frequently won praise for leaving much to the imagination, while Filmation gets mocked for being sub-Hanna Barbera technical quality. As a kid raised on Disney, I frequently rejected shows that evinced such obvious cheats and workarounds, and often, it’s true, the writing isn’t great either (I love He-Man more than most, primarily for the toys, but I cannot defend it as any kind of masterpiece)….

Star Trek wound up being the only Filmation show to air for two consecutive, full seasons on NBC, and won the first Emmy for both Filmation and the Star Trek franchise, which bought it six extra episodes, though NBC ultimately decided it wasn’t kid-oriented enough, and passed on an additional year. They’re right: as seen in the new Blu-ray boxed set, these episodes may be crudely animated, but the stories are true, cerebral sci-fi. Mostly (there are Tribbles). And airing almost exactly halfway between the end of the original live-action series and the first movie, the animated episodes kept the property alive–yet because of the stigma of Filmation cartoons being formulaic and cheesy, there are a whole lot of fans today who haven’t seen them.

The new Blu-ray set, released today, is remastered in 1080p high definition with a 5.1 DTS-HD audio, which is arguably both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s the best version of every element available, but it’s so restored, and from cheap elements, that you can blatantly spot cels being pulled across the screen, see scratches and dust on the original material, and hear that the voice cast often sound like they’re in different rooms. A documentary featurette mentions the whole cast recording in the same studio for the first time, but it seems possible, if not likely, that this was not the case on many of the subsequent episodes. And if the limited animation weren’t already limited enough, one of Filmation’s directors was color blind, which is why the Tribbles are now pink. But it’s not like Trek fans are necessarily put off by such things–the original series, after all, is full of bad make-up jobs and obvious soundstages, but it doesn’t really affect our affection for them. Story-wise, they hold up, favoring clever reversals and moral dilemmas rather than the typical Saturday morning adventure schlock.

(14) DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. John Scalzi is not one to settle for success in just one field.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]