Pixel Scroll 2/8/22 Something Pixel This Way Scrolls

(1) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Somtow Sucharitkul told Facebook friends his movie The Maestro will play in L.A. in June. (See the story of the film here.) He wants help to make its appearance a hit.

To my friends in Los Angeles:

THE MAESTRO will open at one of the Laemmle theaters, probably in June, exact dates and location TBA.

Before then, I would like to mobilize the F/SF/H community, the Thai community, and the Music community to try to make the run a success and even to push it beyond one week.

So happy to be following in the footsteps of Dakota Loesch and Scott Monahan the creators of “Anchorage” which just enjoyed a run with this chain.

Any friends of mine in L.A. who would like to help me organize all our potential viewers, need all the grassroots help we can get! I will fly in for the opening for sure, and maybe some others from the team.

(2) PREGENERATION. “Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker announces pregnancy at Brit Awards 2022”Metro News has the story.

Jodie Whittaker revealed exciting news as she graced the Brit Awards 2022 red carpet, confirming she is pregnant with her second child. 

The Doctor Who actress attended the star-studded awards ceremony at London’s O2 Arena on Tuesday wearing a dress from British designer Chimone. 

(4) ARTIFICER INTELLIGENCE. “Artist uses AI to perfectly fake 70s science fiction pulp covers – artwork and titles”CDM Create Digital Music will tell you how.

The way a lot of press gets this wrong, of course, is to say things like “the AI made some sci-fi book covers.” Even as these algorithms get a lot more sophisticated than averaged pixels or a Markov chain, they are still just algorithms, lacking in agency, albeit with enormous data sets as source material. In turn, though, that makes some of the aesthetic peculiarities they generate all the more interesting, and means that it’s helpful to understand them as generative tools in the hands of artists. They’re the outcome of a lot of human effort in mathematics, code, and ultimately human choice, even if that last bit upsets those in search of general artificial intelligence.

Lewis Hackett is that artist, and cleverly selected what we’re seeing, combining a graphics technique called Clip Guided Diffusion for the imagery with familiar GPT3 techniques for the titles. And he’s done a great job selecting the results and aping the typography style by hand….

(5) SPACE ODYSSEYS – HOW LIKELY? At The Space Review Jeff Foust asks, “Are space movie studios sci-fi fantasies?”

Remember all the excitement a couple years ago when Hollywood media reported that Tom Cruise planned to film a movie in space? The NASA administrator at the time, Jim Bridenstine, confirmed that NASA was in talks with the famous actor for filming some kind of movie—no one was really sure what it would be about—on the International Space Station, but there’s been little overt progress since then. Cruise remains grounded for the foreseeable future: given the schedule of missions to the ISS, the soonest he could go is early 2023.

Those reports did apparently convince the Russians to do their own space movie, called The Challenge, with the cooperation, and maybe financial support, of Roscosmos. A director and an actress flew to the station in October to film scenes of a movie that’s supposed to come out later this year, putting The Challenge in line to become the first feature-length dramatic movie with major parts of it filmed in space (a distinction that’s required for earlier documentaries or Richard Garriott’s short spoof Apogee of Fear.) Take that, Tom Cruise!

Both Cruise’s rumored plans and the upcoming Russian film seem to have convinced people there’s a market for shooting movies in space. Last month, Axiom Space, a company adding commercial modules to the space station that will later become part of a standalone commercial space station, said it had been selected by a company called Space Entertainment Enterprise (SEE) to build an “inflatable microgravity entertainment venue” called SEE-1 that would be attached to its own commercial modules….

(6) SCIENTISTS IN SCIENCE FICTION. Dream Foundry is adding videos of Flights of Foundry 2021’s programming to their YouTube channel.  Some highlights include “The Unhelpful Legacy of Mad Scientists: Writing Scientists as Positive Role Models” with Octavia Cade, Benjamin C. Kinney, and Arula Ratnakar, moderated by Sid Jain. View on YouTube.

(7) MARTIAN HOP. You can still enjoy the online portion of the “Mars. The Red Mirror” exhibit at the Centre de CulturaContemporània de Barcelona: “Inside the red mirror”.

This is a virtual space where you can imagine your own view of Mars: god, symbol and planet in its different metamorphoses. You may have visited the exhibition or simply clicked on to this page skipping between links and other everyday internet browsings. It depends on how much time you want to spend, how much concentration is required and how curious you are….

The voice of the meteorite

I am a rare stone. Call me KSAR Ghilane 002 or whatever name your imagination conjures up. I come from Mars. I have travelled through space for thousands of years until I reached my unexpected destination in the desert you call the Sahara. I was discovered as a result of the insatiable curiosity for exploring that is inherent to your species. Now you can see one of my fragments. I come from the deepest strata on the Red Planet. I have a story to tell you. Because I am also a meteor, like the storms, typhoons and hurricanes you can’t control.

(8) DOUGLAS TRUMBULL (1942-2022). Director and special effects creator Douglas Trumbull died February 7 at the age of 79. He directed Silent Running. Trumbull got three Academy Award nominations for visual effects (for Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and, in 1992, a special scientific and engineering award for his work helping to design the CP-65 Showscan Camera System for motion picture photography. In 2012, he received the Academy’s Gordon E. Sawyer Award, a special technical Oscar for his contributions to the industry. The Associated Press has an extensive tribute: “’2001,’ ‘Blade Runner’ effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull dies”.

(9) ROBERT BLALACK (1948-2022). Oscar-winning Star Wars visual effects artist Robert Blalack died February 2. Deadline highlights his career.

… At the age of 29, he designed and supervised the Star Wars VistaVision Composite Optical production pipeline, which allowed all the groundbreaking 365 VistaVision VFX shots in Star Wars. Much of what he created for the film was built on a (relative) shoestring. With a VFX budget of just $1.6 million for the film, Blalack made use of obsolete VistaVision optical composite equipment from Hollywood’s Golden Years that could be had for a song.

“My task was to scavenge the Hollywood junkyards for any VistaVision Composite Optical mechanics,” he wrote, “figure out how to upgrade those relics with custom state-of-the-art optics, design a photographic process to mass-produce the movie’s 365 VistaVision composites, and then train and supervise the Star Wars Composite Optical crew.”

The result was what he called, “This Rube Goldberg assemblage of ancient composite printer hardware, state-of-the-art optics and the mass-production blue screen color-difference composite techniques were the backbone of the celluloid system…subsequently used on all ILM VistaVision VFX Composite Opticals.”

Blalack was part of the team that founded Industrial Light and Magic, and again the effort was driven by necessity….

In 1983, Blalack added an Emmy to his trophy case for his work on ABC’s The Day After, a TV movie about a nuclear holocaust which captured the public imagination due in no small part to his visual effects. It was seen by 100 million people in the U.S.

His other credits would comprise a career to be proud of unto themselves. They include effects on Carl Sagan’s landmark PBS series Cosmos; transformational visions in Altered StatesWolfenCat People and RoboCop; and FX in service of comedic classics such as Airplane and The Blues Brothers.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifteen years ago on this evening, the short-lived Flash Gordon series that debuted on Sci-Fi on August 10, 2007 ended. The series was developed by Peter Hume who served as executive producer and the showrunner. He wrote the first and last episodes of the series which lasted twenty one episodes as well as many others. He would later be the Executive Producer of Primeval: New World and was involved in Charmed and Fantasy Island as well. 

The primary cast which was all Canadian was Eric Johnson was Flash Gordon, Gina Holden as Dale Arden, Jody Racicot as Dr. Hans Zarkov and John Ralston as Ming the Merciless. Anna Van Hooft had a recurring role as Princess Aura. 

So how was it received? Not at all well as the New York Post stated in a frankly hostile review that it was “a disgrace to the name of the enduring comic-strip-character-turned-movie-and-TV space hero.” And U.K. TV Zone stated that it might  “have worked if the early episodes hadn’t been so dire that no-one but reviewers are still watching.” Ouch. It probably mercifully has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

I have not seen it and would like to know how it was. So, who here has seen it?

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 8, 1828 Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally, I’m on first-hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaJourney to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some sixty works and a lot were genre. And of course, his fiction has become the source of many other fictions in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
  • Born February 8, 1905 Truman Bradley. He was the host of syndicated Science Fiction Theatre series which ran from 1955 to 1957. It aired its last episode on this day in 1957.  On Borrowed Time, a fantasy film, is his only other SFF work. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 8, 1918 Michael Strong. He was Dr. Roger Korby in the most excellent Trek episode of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”. He also showed up in Green HornetMission ImpossibleI-Spy (ok I consider it genre even if you don’t), Galactica 1980Man from AtlantisThe Six Million Dollar ManPlanet of The ApesKolchak: The Night Stalker and The Immortal. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 8, 1938 Ned Brooks. A Southern fan involved for six decades in fandom, and he attended his first  Worldcon in 1963. He wrote two associational works, Hannes Bok Illustration Index and Revised Hannes Bok Checklist back in the days when print reigned surpreme. ISFDB shows that he was quite the letter writer. Mike has an appreciation of him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 8, 1944 Rogert Lloyd Pack. He was John Lumic in the “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”, both Tenth Doctor stories. (He was the voice of the Cyber-Controller in these episodes as well.) He was also Barty Crouch, Sr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And he played Quentin Sykes in the Archer’s Goons series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 8, 1953 Mary Steenburgen, 67. She first acted in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre though I’ll bet some you will dispute that. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was also in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman. 
  • Born February 8, 1962 Malorie Blackman, 60. Her excellent Noughts and Crosses series explores racism in a dystopian setting. (They’re published as Black & White in the States.) She also wrote a Seventh Doctor short story, “The Ripple Effect” which was published as one of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-Shorts. She’s readily available on all digital platforms. 
  • Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 53. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. Chair of the last Worldcon. I’m going to select out Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be more stellar.  She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly amazed by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words on her: “I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my new favorite.”
  • Born February 8, 1979 Josh Keaton, 43. He voiced the Hal Jordan / Green Lantern character in the most excellent Green Lantern: The Animated series which is getting a fresh series of episodes on the DC Universe streaming service. Yea! I’m also very impressed with his Spider-Man that he did for The Spectacular Spider-Man series. 

(12) COMICS AS A CASE STUDY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Who knew? I did not: “Not Even a Superhero Could Fix Global Supply Chains” in The American Prospect.

World War II and 9/11 couldn’t halt comic book production; COVID did. In 2020, as the world flipped on its head, even comics couldn’t evade a concentrated economy’s bursting fault lines. Diamond Comic Distributors—the industry titan that distributed Marvel and DC Comics for a quarter-century—shut down operations in April 2020 for nearly two months.

While distribution eventually restarted, the industry has continued to suffer lags. Entering the third year of the pandemic, frustrations run deep among comic book enthusiasts. Paloma Deerfield has worked for more than five years at Vault of Midnight, a comic book shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her favorites include X-Men, Saga, Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, and the indie comic publisher Boom! Studios. It’s disappointing, says Deerfield, “not being able to stock the shelves the way we want to.”

Buyers and sellers alike are feeling the impact not only from comic book distribution delays, but also from a shortage of bags and boards—the materials used to preserve collections in mint condition.

At BCW Supplies, an Indiana-based company that provides over 900 hobby accessories for collectors and retailers, backing boards are processed in their Indiana facility, while plastic bags are produced in their China factories, according to marketing manager Ted Litvan.

The paper industry’s significant price increases, explained Litvan, are due to higher demand outside of the collectibles industry. In early 2021, Amazon and other e-commerce giants snatched up the majority of the world’s cardboard supply. The cost of producing corrugated cardboard tripled last year too. For imported goods, meanwhile, “the ports are a mess,” and BCW can no longer predict when a shipment will be available for final delivery….

(13) FREUD AND C.S. LEWIS DRAMATIZED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews Freud’s Last Session, a 2010 play by Mark St Germain about an imaginary encounter between Sigmund Freud and C S Lewis in 1939, that is on stage at the Kings Head Theatre (kingsheadtheatre.com) through February 12.  It stars Sean Browne as Lewis and Julian Bird as Freud.

Lewis, who finds himself repeatedly drawn to the couch as if by a magnet, talks about his childhood.  For Freud, in physical agony and contemplating his end, arguments about the finality of death feel far from theoretical.

For both men the imminent conflict (of World War II) weighs heavy.  Lewis still bears the scars of his First World War experience; Freud has recently fled Austria.  The conversation is interrupted by a couple of moments of mortal terror–an air road siren; the throes of aircraft overhead–well realised in Darney’s staging. Browne and Bird bring the two adversaries springing to life.

(14) NO MIRACLE ON 35TH STREET. Bob Byrne wrote a series showing members of The Wolfe Pack how Nero and Archie are riding out the pandemic in the Spring of 2020. Black Gate has been reprinting them, and the latest installment is: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 34 and 35”.

…He eyed me levelly. “You know very well that you took that laundry to Lee’s as an infantile response to my insistence that the laundry go out that day. I highly doubt that Swann’s was closed.”

I was nonplussed. He continued. “No doubt, you instructed Mister Lee to put extra starch in my collars. And you added the cuffs out of spite.”

I gave him hurt expression number three. “I did no such thing.” I stared at the wall, thoughtfully. “Although, I did practice my Chinese with him. I might have said, ‘extra’ when I meant ‘less.’ My Chinese is a little rusty.”

He snorted. “Ridiculous. You don’t even speak Chinese.”

“Can’t get more rusty than that.”…

(15) AS YOU WISH. Kotaku explains now a “Sly NYT Crossword Puzzle Tricks Star Wars, Star Trek Fans”.

…The clever puzzle simply asks: “The better of two sci-fi franchises.” Depending on your preference, the answer is either Star Wars or Star Trek. The double entendre was highlighted in Wordplay, the Times’ crossword column along with a note about the choice from puzzle constructor Stephen McCarthy.

“I am a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, so it’s nice to be able to highlight both (not to mention the friendly rivalry between the two fandoms) in one puzzle,” McCarthy says in the column….

(16) SCIENCE IN A VACUUM. “Science and the Sublime” is an exhibit The Huntington in San Marino, CA has assembled around a famous painting temporarily on loan.

Feb. 12, 2022–May 30, 2022

Huntington Art Gallery

One of the great masterpieces from the Age of Enlightenment, Joseph Wright of Derby’s monumental An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) depicts a small group of people gathered around a candlelit table on which a lecturer in natural history is performing a scientific experiment, namely the creation of a vacuum, as described by chemist Robert Boyle in the 17th century. As air is slowly removed from a glass jar, the fate of a cockatiel inside the jar hangs in the balance. The observers’ reactions range from fascination to dismay. In Wright’s hands, the tableau is an exercise in the sublime, a moment of extreme tension recast as a dramatic meditation on the fragility of life. At the same time, the experiment being performed relates to advances in the fields of science and medicine, making the scene a celebration of human achievement.

“Science and the Sublime: A Masterpiece by Joseph Wright of Derby” presents the powerful 6-by-8-foot painting on loan from the National Gallery in London, where it is one of that institution’s most popular paintings, along with 15 works from The Huntington’s own collections, including two smaller paintings by Wright and 13 rare objects from the Library’s holdings. The exhibition’s theme highlights two major strengths of The Huntington’s collections—British art and the history of science—providing a unique opportunity to juxtapose materials that are not normally displayed together. Alongside Bird in the Air Pump, are rare books and ephemera that reveal the real science behind the elements that Wright depicts on canvas, as well as the contemporary moral and aesthetic debates with which he engages.

The loan of Bird in the Air Pump is part of a reciprocal exchange with the National Gallery, where The Huntington’s most famous work, Thomas Gainsborough’s iconic painting of The Blue Boy (ca. 1770), will be on display for London museumgoers for the first time in a century, from Jan. 25 through May 15, 2022.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Tom Becker, Darrah Chavey, Jennifer Hawthorne, John A Arkansawyer, Will R., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4/22 If You Like My File And You Think I’m Pixely, Come On Baby Let Me Scroll

(1) ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES RAISED ANEW. Mari Ness, who recently called out Discon III’s accessibility issues, today tweeted about another setback involving the Viable Paradise writers workshop. Thread starts here.

The “Accessibility at Viable Paradise” webpage discusses the provisions made by the workshop.

(2) SAVE THE CITY COMPOSER Q&A. “’Rogers: The Musical’ composer reveals a deleted ‘Hawkeye’ scene” — an Inverse interview with Marc Shaiman.

HAWKEYE’S POST-CREDITS SCENE was unlike anything we’ve seen before. While Marvel normally teases the future, their latest series ended with a victory lap in a full encore performance of in-universe Broadway sensation Rogers: The Musical’s “Save the City.”

Many fans weren’t pleased with this prime spot looking backwards instead of forward, but the scene paradoxically did something new. After 20-odd teasers and reveals, the most surprising choice was not revealing anything at all. It also allowed the fabulous music and lyrics of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman to take center stage.

Shaiman and his co-lyricist Scott Wittman are Broadway legends, with Hairspray and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among their many collaborations. But Hawkeye posed unique challenges: how do you create a show tune that fans would enjoy but Clint Barton would walk out of? How do you immortalize a classic Marvel moment in a silly but loving way? The answers involve a lot of lore, some speculation, and tons of encouragement from the brains behind Hawkeye….

There’s an official soundtrack (only) of the number here on YouTube. I also discovered a fan-made video performance version by “Stray and the Soundtrack” here which is a lot of fun.

(3) TOLKIEN SAINTHOOD. Francisco García, President of STP, the Peruvian Tolkien Society, reports they offered a Mass for the 130th birthday of JRR Tolkien and for the advancement of his Cause of Canonization on January 3. A video of the service is available on Facebook.

(4) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2021 Costa Book Awards, a UK literary prize sponsored by a coffee company, have been announced. None of the shortlisted genre works are winners.

The prize has five categories – First NovelNovelBiographyPoetry and Children’s Book. The winner of each receives £5,000. The Costa Book of the Year will be chosen from among them and get a £30,000 prize. The overall winner will be announced on February 1.

  • 2021 First Novel Award – Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking)
  • 2021 Novel Award – Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller(Fig Tree)
  • 2021 Biography Award – Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (Viking)
  • 2021 Poetry Award – The Kids by Hannah Lowe(Bloodaxe Books)
  • 2021 Children’s Book Award – The Crossing by Manjeet Mann(Penguin)

(5) A KAIJU FORETASTE. Tor invites readers to “Download a Digital Preview of The Kaiju Preservation Society, the first five chapters of John Scalzi’s forthcoming novel.

When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.

What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.

It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society who’s found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.

(6) BUTLER’S GEOGRAPHY. The Huntington has arranged some companion events and interactive online resources to enrich their “Mapping Fiction” exhibit. These three relate to Octavia Butler.

Lecture – Revisiting Octavia E. Butler’s Pasadena
Saturday, March 19, and Saturday, April 23, 2022
2–3:30 p.m.
Pasadena Public Library, La Pinturesca Branch
Free with reservation; limited capacity [ticket info available soon]
On two Saturdays this spring, Ayana Jamieson, local educator and founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network, will lead a moderated conversation about our desire to locate Butler’s Pasadena.

Walking/Driving Tour – Octavia E. Butler’s Pasadena: A Literary Tour
Visitors can take a self-guided walking or driving tour of the locations around Pasadena where Butler lived, visited, and often found inspiration. Tour maps are available online and in the exhibition gallery. You can also access the tour in Google Maps. After you take the tour, share your pic by tagging it #WalkWithOctavia.

The Literary Life of Octavia E. Butler: How Local Libraries Shaped a Sci-Fi Legend
An interactive map
 by the Los Angeles Times of Octavia Butler’s life in books.

(7) BOGDANOFF TWINS DIE. Twin brothers Grichka and Igor Bogdanoff (b. August 29, 1949) both died on COVID (on December 28 and January 3, respectively).  In 1976, they published Clefs pour la science-fiction, and from 1979-86 co-hosted the science fiction show Temps X, which introduced several British and American science-fiction series to the French public, including The PrisonerStar Trek, and Doctor Who. They also were involved a controversy in which it was alleged the brothers wrote nonsensical advanced physics papers that were nonetheless published in reputable scientific journals.

(8) JAY WOLPERT (1942-2022). Screenwriter Jay Wolpert has died at age 79. Before he started writing movies, he also created The Price Is Right TV game show. The Hollywood Reporter mentions his credit for Disney’s film The Count of Monte Cristo, and for helping to start another Disney franchise —  

…Wolpert then found himself as the first writer hired by Disney to tackle a movie adapting its classic theme park ride, The Pirates of the Caribbean. Once again, he channeled his Classics Illustrated love plus his affinity for pirates — he had once made a pilot for a swashbuckling game show titled Duel in the Daytime  — to write the script for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).

Three other scribes joined the film, but when the movie that starred Johnny DeppOrlando Bloom and Keira Knightley was released, Wolpert received a story by credit, and he would also receive a credit for creating characters in the four subsequent feature sequels. He spent the next decade or so working on several Disney movie projects, including a reimagining of The Sword and the Stone.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2001 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty one years ago, the first of four episodes of the RoboCop: Prime Directives series first aired on Space in Canada. The series, created by Fireworks Entertainment, consists of four feature-length episodes: Dark JusticeMeltdownResurrection, and Crash and Burn. It follows up directly on the first Robocop film. 

It was directed by Julian Grant as written by Brad Abraham and Joseph O’Brien who I guarantee hadn’t done anything that you’d heard of. Robocop here was Paige Fletcher who played the narrator in the HBO genre anthology series The Hitchhiker. Other primary cast were Maurice Dean Wint, María del Mar Geraint Wyn Davies, Leslie Hope and Anthony Lemke. 

Reception for the series was generally good. Allan Johnson writing for the Chicago Tribune said that it was “worthy of Verhoeven’s movie, never letting up on the satirical nature of the original, not shying away from the mayhem, and making good use of special effects.”  It didn’t do well on the Scifi Channel because, as usual, that channel didn’t bother to publicize it at all. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book by publishing original material in the early Thirties instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.)
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 75. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb. 
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 64. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom and Edison Carter on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly, I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well-crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist  and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon.  His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out Supergirl,  Honey, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like.
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 62. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could say are genre adjacent. But no, I’ve honored him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! 
  • Born January 4, 1982 Kerry Condon, 40. She provides the voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y. in the Marvel Universe films. More impressively, she was the youngest actress ever to play Ophelia in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet. She also played Clara on three episodes of The Walking Dead, and I see she was Dr. Zoe Boyle In Believe, one of those many series that disappeared before anyone knew they existed. 
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 37. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She played also Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012. And she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” of Black Mirror.
  • Born January 4, 2000 Addy Miller, 22. She is on the Birthday List for being Sarah in Plan 9. Really? They re-made that movie? Why? And yes she played A Walker in that other show. My fave role by her is because of the title, it was a short  called Ghost Trek: Goomba Body Snatchers Mortuary Lockdown, in which she was Scary Carrie Carmichael. And yes you can watch it here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Marc de Wolf relays news from Mars.

(12) GOING FOURTH. Arturo Serrano is on fire! Check out his review of Matrix Resurrections — “In ‘Resurrections,’ the toxic legacy of ‘The Matrix’ is the new villain to defeat” — at Nerds of a Feather. Beware Spoilers.

Lana Wachowski is very much aware of how dangerous it was to ask for another Matrix movie.

In the first scene of The Matrix Resurrections, a self-professed fan of Neo watches a deliberately inaccurate remake of The Matrix, one where the female lead loses. Then this fan intrudes into the narrative, rescues one of her heroes, and exits a movie theater, running for her life.

The title of the movie she’s desperately fleeing? The Root of All Evil.

What, pray tell, is the root of all evil? The love of money.

That’s the horror Resurrections is trying to avoid, and despite its corporately mandated existence, it manages to not lose itself.

(13) SOLE SURVIVOR GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews “battle royale” games where, like The Hunger Games or Squid Game, all the characters fight each other until only one survives.

In the world of gaming, the first titles to imitate Battle Royale, such as the visual novels Dangonrompa and Zero Escape, explored similar themes, but the big successes today are shooters with no such intellectual pretensions.  Here a group of players are dropped from a plane across a large map and must scavenge weapons and fight until only one survives.  These have become the dominant form in online gaming…

…The genre has also proved versatile. A number of non-violent games have offered eccentric takes on the battle royale, ranging from the candy-coloured obstavle course Fall Guys to Tetris 99, where 99 players stack blocks in a last-man-standing competition.  Today there is truly a battle royale for every player, and last week I finally found one for me–new release Babble Royale, a spin on Scrabble in which players parachute letter tiles on to a board and compete to be the last speller standing.

(14) THE BOTTOM LINE. For the fourteenth year, Jim C. Hines has shared his professional earnings results in “2021 Writing Income”.

… So while I produced almost two books, 2021 was a year with no original Jim C. Hines publications, which is a bit frustrating and discouraging. It also makes the income numbers more interesting, at least to me.

2021 Income: The biggest check came from the Delivery/Acceptance payment for Terminal Peace. While I delivered that manuscript in September 2020, the payment didn’t make its way through the system and get to me until 2021. I’m kind of glad, because otherwise this year’s numbers would be a lot more depressing…

(15) GET YOUR BETS DOWN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has just tweeted; its first advance post ahead of its seasonal edition (slated for mid-month). This advance post relates to its team’s informal bit of fun as to the best books and film or the past year. The SF² Concatenation have been doing this for quite a few years now and have something of a track record of some of their choices going on to be short-listed for awards (a few even winning). See here and scroll down.

(16) TRAILER PARK. From Disney+, The Book of Boba Fett Episode 2 trailer.

(17) A LITTLE OOPS. There were a lot of eyeballs on the big reunion – too many to miss a mistake like this: “Harry Potter reunion special mixes up Emma Watson and Emma Roberts: ‘How did this happen?’”

…The makers of HBO Max’s hit reunion special, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, accidentally swapped in a childhood photo of Emma Roberts for franchise star Emma Watson…. 

(18) A CENTURY AHEAD. Isaac Arthur lays out his “Challenges & Predictions for the Next 100 Years” – that will sober you up!

Every year has new challenges, every generation faces its own unique crises, and as we move into the New Year, we will look at the challenges facing us in the next century and set out Top 10 Predictions for life in the year 2121.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Meredith, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/21 Down Slupps The Pixel-Ma-Phone To Your Ear

(1) NAVIGATING LITERATURE. The Huntington Library’s “Mapping Fiction” exhibit will run January 15-May 2. The Pasadena, CA institution timed the event to coincide with the centennial of the publication of James Joyce’s groundbreaking 1922 modernist novel, Ulysses. Maps from J.R.R. Tolkien, Octavia Butler and other creators will also be displayed.

Octavia E. Butler, Map of Acorn from notes for Parable of the Talents, ca. 1994. (Detail)

“Mapping Fiction” is an exhibition focused on the ways authors and mapmakers have built compelling fictional worlds.

Drawn entirely from The Huntington’s collections, “Mapping Fiction” includes a first edition of Joyce’s novel and a typescript draft of one of its chapters, cartographically inspired intaglio prints of Dublin as described in the book, other mappings of the novel and the famous texts to which it alludes, and materials related to the annual celebration of Bloomsday in Dublin on June 16—the single day in 1904 during which the novel takes place.

About 70 items will be on view, focused on novels and maps from the 16th through the 20th century—largely early editions of books that include elaborate maps of imaginary worlds. Among the highlights are Lewis Carroll’s 1876 edition of The Hunting of the Snark, Robert Louis Stevenson’s maps from Treasure Island and Kidnapped, J. R. R. Tolkien’s map from the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, and science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler’s hand-drawn maps from notes for Parable of the Talents (1998) and her unpublished novel Parable of the Trickster. In addition to Butler’s archives, the show draws on The Huntington’s archival collections of Jack and Charmian London, Christopher Isherwood, and others, as well as the institution’s rich print holdings in travel narratives, English literature, and the history of science.

There will be related events, including this Butler-themed tour of Pasadena.

Revisiting Octavia E. Butler’s Pasadena
March 19 and April 23, 2022
2–3:30 p.m.
In conjunction with “Mapping Fiction,” The Huntington has produced a map of Octavia E. Butler’s Pasadena. Visitors can take a self-guided walking or driving tour of the locations around Pasadena where Butler lived, visited, and often found inspiration. Tour maps will be available online and in the “Mapping Fiction” exhibition gallery. On two Saturdays this spring, Ayana Jamieson, founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network, will lead a moderated conversation about our desire to locate Butler’s Pasadena. Registration information and locations to come.

(2) TALKING TOONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast by Leonard Maltin with cartoon historians Jerry Beck and Mark Evanier — Maltin on Movies: “Talking Toons with Jerry Beck and Mark Evanier”. Jessie Maltin wasn’t on the podcast because she just gave birth to Maltin’s first grandchild.  (Playing with his granddaughter, Maltin joked, was “more fun than television!”

All three men are Boomers whose love of cartoons went back to when they were kids and Channel 9 in New York City and Channel 11 in Los Angeles would show anything (remember Colonel Bleep? They do.)  They have deep knowledge of animation history.  Did you know that the first Peanuts cartoons were done for the Tennessee Ernie Ford show?  Or that when The Bugs Bunny Show aired in prime time for two seasons on ABC in the early 1960s it had all sorts of original footage, including work by Chuck Jones and Bob McKimson, that no one has seen in 50 years?)

Jerry Beck is involved with the international animation association ACIFA, and discussed his efforts at cartoon preservation.  He noted that Paramount, unlike Disney and Warner Bros., doesn’t think they can make money from old cartoons.  ACIFA is working with the UCLA and Library of Congress archives to preserve significant work by Terrytoons and Max Fleischer that only exist in flammable negatives.  ACIFA also helped restore a 16-minute Smell-O-Vision cartoon (with voice work by Bert Lahr) that was shown before the smelly The Scent Of Mystery.

The best find in previously lost cartoons was when Maltin’s classic Of Mice And Magic was translated into Russian, and Russian cartoon fans reported they discovered the last lost Betty Boop cartoon, featuring Boop’s nephew, Buzzy Boop.  The cartoon is currently being restored.

This was a fun hour.

(3) ERASMUSCON. There’s a Dutch bid for Eurocon 2024. They propose to hold the con in Rotterdam in August 2024. They are taking presupports:

Become a supporter of the bid for €25,-
or a Friend of the bid for €100,-

(4) BIG SIX. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer gets recommendations in “6 Books with Marjorie B. Kellogg”, who’s the author of Lear’s Daughters, Harmony, and The Dragon Quartet series.

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

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula LeGuin. 

This book I have reread, more than once, and still find moving and magical. Her portrayal of an alien civilization is so deeply drawn, so compassionate, so non-comic-booky, and yet so relevant and relatable to our own Earth-bound issues and selves. It’s what Science Fiction can do like no other genre.

(5) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. Jessica Holmes tries to figure out who this confused fellow is who sees Doctor Who’s face in his mirror…in 1966. That year isn’t a trick of the TARDIS — it’s today’s date at Galactic Journey! “[November 20 1966] Doctor…Who? (Doctor Who: The Power Of The Daleks [Part 1])”

It was with a mix of curiosity and trepidation that I tuned into Doctor Who this month. The character we know and love has vanished forever, and in his place is a stranger– A stranger who calls himself the Doctor. But is it really the same man? Once again, we have to ask the essential question that the programme was founded on. Doctor…who?

(6) I’M FEELING BETTER. James Davis Nicoll is in tune with “I Will Survive: Five Stories About Living to See Another Day” at Tor.com.

This year Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated on October 11th. American Thanksgiving will fall on November 25th. In both cases, they are glorious feasts celebrating the end of harvest season. However, the first European Thanksgiving in the New World may have been Martin Frobisher’s on May 27th, 1578. As you might guess from the date, Frobisher and his crew were not giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. They were grateful to have survived their latest quest for the Northwest Passage. And isn’t simple survival something for which to be grateful?

The characters in the following five works would no doubt agree that while survival has its challenges, it is far superior to the alternative….

(7) TUNE IN. “Pee-Wee Herman to Host Radio Show on KCRW” reports Variety.

The short version is that legendary star of the screen Pee-Wee Herman will launch a radio show on KCRW, the popular National Public Radio station based in Santa Monica, Calif., and will be accompanied by his pals Chairry, Magic Screen and Miss Yvonne. A rep for the station tells Variety that for now, it will be just one show on Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. PT (and available on demand for one week after airing), but who knows?

(8) LEFLEUR OBIT. Actor Art LaFleur died at the age of 78 on November 17 reports Deadline. The character actor had many genre roles in his resume: Jekyll and Hyde . . . Together Again, The Invisible Woman, WarGames, Trancers and Trancers II, Zone Troopers, The Blob (1988), Field of Dreams (he’s the one who tells Moonlight Graham “Don’t wink, kid”), Forever Young, The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (as the “Tooth Fairy”), Speed Racer.  On TV, LaFleur appeared in episodes of The Incredible Hulk, Wizards and Warriors, Tales from the Crypt, Space Rangers, Strange Luck, A.J.’s Time Travelers, Angel and Night Stalker (2005).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 — Fifty-seven years ago, the second adaptation of H.G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon was released into theatres, this one complete with the superb special effects of Ray Harryhausen. The first time it was adapted was a 1919 British black-and-white silent film version, directed by Bruce Gordon and J. L. V. Leigh. (It is currently lost with film prints known to exist.) This screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Jan Read. The primary cast was Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries.

I have no idea what it cost as that’s not recorded but it only made one point three million. Most critics liked with Variety saying that “Ray Harryhausen and his special effects men have another high old time in this piece of science-fiction hokum”, though the New York Times called it “tedious, heavyhanded science-fiction vehicle that arrived yesterday from England”. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are currently lukewarm on it giving it a fifty-three percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 20, 1923 Len Moffatt. He’s a member of First Fandom. Len and his second wife June helped organize many of the early Bouchercons for which he and June received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bouchercon staff. He was a member of LASFS. He wrote far too many zines to list here. Mike has an excellent look at his memorial here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born November 20, 1923 Nadine Gordimer. South African writer and political activist. Her one genre novel was July’s People which was banned in her native country under both governments. Her three stories are collected in Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black and Other Stories. She received the Nobel Prize in Literature, recognized as a writer “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity”. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels than one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films, License to Kill and GoldenEye. He’d also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed due to a lack of funding. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 92. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum LeapStarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voice Long John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 77. Her novel Wild Life won the 2000 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She has two more SF novels, The Dazzle of Day and Outside the Gates. Her “Lambing season” short story was nominated for a Hugo at Torcon 3, and “The Grinnell Method” won a Sturgeon. 
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 65. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as well as the two Sharknado films she just did. A friend of Ray Bradbury, she was the presenter when Kirk Douglas received the 2012 Ray Bradbury Creativity Award.
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 62. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in the original Dune which I’d completely forgotten. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. But who isn’t? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe has a little wizardry joke.
  • The Flying McCoys depicts a super embarrassment.
  • I was today years old when I discovered Bogart Creek.

(12) A BOOKTUBE PODCAST. Cora Buhlert’s latest Fancast Spotlight interviews Robin Rose Graves of The Book Wormhole:“Fancast Spotlight: The Book Wormhole”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Book Wormhole is a monthly updating BookTube channel where I provide spoiler free reviews and discussions of the books I read. Science Fiction makes up the majority of what I cover on the channel, and while I lean more towards female, POC and/or LGBT authors, I read both classics as well as contemporary releases. I balance popular books with indie and underrated titles. I promise there will be at least one book you’ve never heard of before on my channel.

(13) EIGHTIES HIT POINT PARADE. Meaghan Ball recalls three D&D Choose Your Own Adventure-style fantasy romance novels from days gone by: “Roll for Romance: The Forgotten D&D Romance Novels of 1983” at Tor.com.

… Seeking a way to get more young women involved in the roleplaying game (despite the fact that girls have been playing since the beginning, but that’s another story entirely), Dungeons & Dragons also branched out and commissioned a series of Choose Your Own Adventure-style romance novels. Since you probably haven’t heard of them, you can rightly assume they didn’t set the publishing world on fire—but they are fascinating relics, especially for fans of D&D and/or ’80s romance novels…. 

(14) BIG WINNER. Lela E. Buis covers Amazon’s sf book of 2021 and a Dragon Award winner: “Review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir”.

…Weir fuels a constantly rising action line with various emergencies that go wrong and have to be solved by the application of science and engineering expertise. This is brilliantly plotted; the ship and the characters are well developed, and the science is well-research and applied….

(15) A BOOK WITH CHARACTER(S). Paul Weimer tells what makes this humorous sff book work in “Microreview [book]: Obviously, Aliens by Jennie Goloboy” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The novel also has a lot of heart. It treats its characters, even the ostensible antagonists, rather gently and with love and respect. You will get to know Dana, Adam, Jay, Sophie and the rest and get to know them, road trip style. (If this book were ever turned into an audiobook, this novel would be really fun to listen to on a driving adventure). Sure, the characters go through all sorts of disasters, reversals, and “can you believe THIS?”  but it is a very lighthearted tone….

(16) FORWARD PROGRESS. There’s a new form of space propulsion that could change the satellite and space probe game. From Nature’s “News & Views” overview: “Iodine powers low-cost engines for satellites”.

Satellites organized in flexible networks known as constellations are more agile and resilient than are those operating alone. Manoeuvring satellites into such constellations requires inexpensive, reliable and efficient engines. Many networked satellites have electric propulsion thrusters, which generate thrust by using electrical energy to accelerate the ions of a propellant gas. However, the choice of gas presents a problem. Ionizing xenon requires a relatively small amount of energy, but xenon gas is expensive and needs to be compressed in high-pressure tanks to fit on board a satellite. Krypton is cheaper, but still requires a complex and heavy gas-storage and -supply system. …Rafalskyi et al. report a successful demonstration of an iodine-ion thruster in space — offering a cheaper and simpler alternative to xenon or krypton…

Research paper here (Open access).

(17) HEARTWARMING AND OTHERWISE. “10 Weirdest Charlie Brown Parodies Of All Time”is a roundup of YouTube videos at Yahoo!

This special, along with the Halloween and Christmas productions featuring Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters, have become staples of pop culture. They also inspired a genre of parody productions that frequently reconfigure Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and the others in ways that Schultz would never have imagined, let alone condoned.

For those with a warped sense of humor and no squeamishness over occasional deep-dives into NSFW entertainment, here are the 10 weirdest Charlie Brown parodies that you’ll be able to find online.

“Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown.” One of the earliest works by Jim Reardon of “The Simpsons” fame was this 1986 cartoon made during his studies at the California Institute of Arts. Reardon spoofs Sam Peckinpah’s “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” in a comically violent tale that shows Charlie Brown being ruthlessly hunted by his many antagonists before he gets his revenge in a massive shootout….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy,” Fandom Games says this game answers the question, “What if Cowboy Bebop was written by Joss Whedon?” and its premise is “you love these characters so much you’d pay $60 to have them talk for 15-20 hours.”

[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 Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 8/2/21 Don’t Talk About Scrolldays! You Kidding Me? Scrolldays? I Just Hope We Can Scroll!

(1) SWEET AND SOUR NOTES. Kameron Hurley shares her answer to a professional challenge: “When Should You Compromise? How to Evaluate Editorial Feedback” at Locus Online.

…There is also a huge variance in the quality of editorial and stakeholder feedback. Some­times you get notes that make it clear that the person making them was reading (or wants to read) an entirely different book than the one you’ve written.

So how do you determine which notes to take to heart, and which to ignore?

For me, it all comes back to understanding my novel and the story I want to tell. The feedback I get that gets me closer to refining and communicating that story is the feedback I take. The notes I get that that are clearly moving off into a direction that takes me away from the story I want to tell are the ones I toss….

(2) TRUE PRO TRUTH. John Scalzi announced “Dispatcher 3: Finished!” Soon after he tweeted —

(3) STAND BY. Vanity Fair says the LOTR for television is coming out in 2022. “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Unveils a First Image and Release Date”. Someone – not the Vanity Fair writer — pointed out the September 2 release date coincides with the anniversary of Tolkien’s death in 1973. (Actually, the Vanity Fair article names two different September release dates, but the second presumably is a typo.)

Ever since 2017 when Amazon first announced the massively expensive deal that would send TV audiences back into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, fans have been eagerly wondering when their journey might begin. The folks behind the as-yet unnamed series have picked a very auspicious date indeed. Break out the Longbottom Leaf and mark your calendars for September 2, 2022 so you can see what Amazon has had cooking over in New Zealand these last few years.

The date announcement comes with a first image of the series to celebrate the wrap of filming in New Zealand, and fans will be sure to eagerly pore over every pixel. We can confirm that the image is from the first episode though sources close to the production are declining to confirm the identity of the figure seen there. This could be an image of a city in Valinor. The trees in the background, at least, are very interesting. …

(3) DREAMS. Read Aaron Starr’s amazing parable “Feathers or Stones” at Black Gate. Today!

Once, long ago, there was a poor writer who lived in the depths of a forest with his wife. He would spend his evenings putting words to page while his wife rested by the fire. As she did so she would read those stories which were complete, and yet not yet ready for market. Using a special red pencil, she would note occasional errors and put to him questions the writing had left unresolved, in order that his next version of the story might be improved.

During the day she would walk out into the forest and spend her time hewing mighty trees, for she was a woodcutter by trade. He, meanwhile, would tend to the small garden, and every few days journey into the nearby town, riding down the river on a mighty raft formed of entire tree trunks she had stripped, all lashed together, and he would walk back home before sundown. Thus they had a modest supply of silver, and the wife was content they be together every evening.

But the writer was not content….

(4) INTERRUPTED DEBUT. Galactic Journey reviews the latest (in 1966) issue of If, including this story by a brand new author: “[August 2, 1966] Mirages (September 1966 IF)”.

The Empty Man, by Gardner Dozois

Jhon Charlton is a weapon created by the Terran Empire. Nearly invulnerable, incredibly strong and fast, he can even summon tremendous energies. Unfortunately for him, for the last three years, he has shared his mind with a sarcastic entity called Moros, which has appointed itself as his conscience. Now, Jhon has been sent to the planet Apollon to help the local rebels overthrow the dictatorial government.

Gardner Dozois is this month’s new author, and this is quite a debut. It’s a long piece for a novice, but he seems up to it. There’s room for some cuts, but not much. The mix of science fiction and almost fantasy elements is interesting and works. The only place I’d say a lack of experience and polish shows it at the very end. The point is a bit facile and could have been delivered a touch more smoothly, but it’s a fine start to a new career. Mr. Dozois has entered the Army, though, so it may be a while before we see anything else from him.

(5) FROM MASHUPS TO SMASHUPS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 28 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses video game crossovers.

Most crossovers are like this:  Brawlers created solely to let fans collide fictional DNA of their favourite characters against each other,  Their storylines are little more than a set dressing,usually involving a convenient tear in the space-time continuum. Kingdom Hearts, a collaboration between Disney and Final Fantasy developer Square-Enix, took narrative more seriously to offer a role-playing game with original characters and complex lore.  Sending plucky anime heroes out adventuring with Donald Duck to learn the true meaning of friendship may sound like a painfully trite exercise, but the games proved a runaway success. Kingdom Hearts developed into a stranger, darker story than anyone expected.

Today we are at peak crossover. There is The Little Prince- in -Sky:  Children of the Light, Assassin’s Creed in Final Fantasy, DC Comics heroes in Mortal Kombat and dozens of franchises distilled into costumes for party game Fall Guys.  Sometimes these make sense:  Yes, ace attorney Phoenix Wright and kindly Professor Layton could plausibly solve crimes together while Pirates of the Caribbean nestles neatly into the nautical fiction of Den of Thieves.  Others are plain wrongheaded: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing pits the blue hedgehog against other Sega characters in go-karts, blithely ignoring his defining trait–Sonic doesn’t need a vehicle to go anywhere fast. 

(6) MIDSOUTHCON HONORS. Nominations are being taken for the 2022 Darrell Awards through December 1. See complete guidelines at the link.

In order to qualify, the work must either be written by an author who is living in the greater Memphis area (as defined below) when the work is published OR have at least one significant scene set within that area. Broadly defined, the area is west Tennessee, north Mississippi and northeast Arkansas.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 – Thirty years ago, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel wins a HOMer Award. The HOMer Awards were given by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe. Locus notes that the winning authors were active there. (The novel was set in Cornwall though the music in it is influenced by Northumberland bagpiper Billy Pigg as the principal character is smallpiper Janey Little.) It was also nominated for the Aurora, Locus, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and World Fantasy Awards as well. It’s just been released as an audiobook, and it is available from the usual suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 2, 1917 Wah Chang. Of interest to us are the props he designed for the original Star Trek seriesincluding the tricorder and communicator. He did a number of other things for the series — the Rabbit you see on the “Shore Leave” episode, the Tribbles,  the Vulcan harp first seen in “Charlie X“ and the Romulan Bird of Prey. Other work included building the title object from The Time Machine, and the dinosaurs in Land of the Lost. (Died 2003.)
  • Born August 2, 1920 Theodore Marcuse. He was Korob in “Catspaw”, a second season Trek episode that aired just before Halloween aptly enough. He had appearances in The Twilight Zone (“The Trade-Ins” and “To Serve Man”), Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaWild Wild West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes “The Re-collectors Affair,”  “The Minus-X Affair,”  and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 2, 1932 Peter O’Toole. I’m tempted to say his first genre role was playing King Henry in A Lion in Winter as it is alternate history. Neat film. Actually before that he’s got an uncredited role in Casino Royale as a Scottish piper. Really he does. His first genre role without dispute is as Zaltar in Supergirl followed by being Dr. Harry Wolverine in Creator. He’s Peter Plunkett in the superb High Spirits, he’s in FairyTale: A True Story as Arthur Conan Doyle, and Stardust as King of Stormhold. Not surprisingly, he played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 2, 1948 Robert Holdstock. Another one who died far too young. His Ryhope Wood series is simply amazing with Lavondyss being my favorite volume. And let’s not overlook his Merlin Codex series which is one of the more original takes on that character I’ve read. The Ragthorn, co-written with Garry Kilworth, is interesting as well. Tor, which has the rights to him in the States, has been slow to bring him to the usual suspects. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 2, 1949 Wes Craven. Swamp Thing comes to mind first plus of course the Nightmare on Elm Street franchiseof nine films for which he created Freddy Krueger. Let’s not forget The Serpent and the Rainbow. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 2, 1954 Ken MacLeod, 67. Sometimes I don’t realize until I do a Birthday note just how much I’ve read of a certain author. And so it was of this author. I’ve read the entire Fall Revolution series, not quite all of the Engines of Light Trilogy, just the first two of the Corporation Wars but I’ve got it in my to be finished queue,and every one of his one-off novels save Descent. His Restoration Game is quite chilling. I should go find his Giant Lizards from Another Star collection as I’ve not read his short fiction. Damn it’s not available from the usual suspects!
  • Born August 2, 1955 Caleb Carr, 66. Ok, I’ll admit that this is another author that ISFDB lists as genre that I don’t think of as being as genre. ISFDB list all four of his novels as being genre including The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness which are not even genre adjacent by my reading. So is there something in those novels that I missed? 
  • Born August 2, 1976 Emma Newman, 45. Author of quite a few SF novels and and a collection of short fiction. Of interest to us is that she is co-creator along with her husband Peter, of the Worldcon 75 Hugo Award winning podcast Tea and Jeopardy which centers around her hosting another creator for a nice cup of tea and cake, while her scheming butler Latimer (played by Peter) attempts to send them to their deaths at the end of the episode. Her Planetfall series was nominated for a Hugo at CoNZealand.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows even an animated celebrity’s prosthetics can’t get past TSA.

(10) SOMETIMES THEY DO GROW WEARY. R.H. Lossin revisits “William Morris, Romantic Revolutionary” at the New York Review of Books.

At the end of William Morris’s News from Nowhere, or, An Epoch of Rest (Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance), a woman named Ellen explains to the visitor, William Guest, that he cannot stay in this perfect place of clean air, meaningful work, and satisfying leisure. Not because of any fictional science of time travel, nor because he poses a threat to this particular future’s social harmony, but because his very being has been so thoroughly deformed by the social conditions of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism that he is incapable of experiencing the pleasures and desires of a world freed of competition, exploitation, and suffering. “You belong,” explains Ellen, “so entirely to the unhappiness of the past that our happiness even would weary you.”

…Many aspects of News from Nowhere set it apart from other utopian fiction of the time—it is decidedly socialist, conscious of the environmental costs of industrialization, backward-looking rather than futuristic, and free of prescriptiveness about any particular social arrangements—but Ellen’s melancholy observation on the psychic life of the capitalist subject is singularly important. If no other argument for revolutionary change made within the novel seems persuasive, this line, appearing late in the narrative, should give us reason to consider the insufficiency, even the costs, of a pragmatic reformist mindset. At a moment in history when social reform and conservationist policy have appeared on the political horizon, William Morris offers a reminder of the constitutive limits of our imaginations. He urges us to wish harder, not plan better….

(11) INSIDE HIS STRUGGLE. SFF Book Reviews’ “The State of SFF – August 2021” roundup has an excellent lead-in to Scott Lynch’s recently-made-public newsletter update.

…Scott Lynch has always been transparent about his battle with depression and the resulting delay in publishing further books in the Gentleman Bastard series. When The Republic of Thieves came out years after the previous volume, me and the other Locke Lamora fans were happy and excited and hopeful that the series would continue soon. In 2019, Lynch mentioned that the next instalment, The Thorn of Emberlain, was as good as finished. It had a cover and everything. But as of 2021, the book hasn’t been published yet.

Scott has recently posted an update about his struggle with anxiety and his difficulties letting go of his work (handing it in to the publisher, making posts public, etc.). I found the post both brave and educating. I am no stranger to anxiety but it can take so many shapes and forms and not all of them are well-known. Scott is now taking medication to help him and as far as comments on the internet go, I think we all agree that we wish him the best! Whether the next book comes out soon or not isn’t even a point of discussion. We just want Scott to be okay.

(12) WATCH ALONG WITH JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has made public another Synced Straczynski Commentary for Babylon 5 for the “And the Sky, Full of Stars” episode.

Originally created for Patrons of my page at: https://www.patreon.com/syntheticworlds This is an original full-length commentary/reaction for And the Sky, Full of Stars, one of our most important season one episodes. Sync up at the start of the commentary, and hit play.

(13) UNBREAKABLE. SYFY Wire is astonished: “Coulson (Still) Lives?! Marvel Confirms Clark Gregg Is Back For ‘What If…?’ Series”.

Phil Coulson just can’t be killed! Thanks to a production brief for Marvel’s What If…? (debuting next week), we now have it confirmed that Clark Gregg officially recorded dialogue for the animated anthology series. While the document doesn’t go into specifics about the episode Gregg’s featured in, we’d say it’s not too far-fetched to assume that he’ll reprise the role of the Corvette-loving S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who has a rather impressive talent for sticking around the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Coulson, whose MCU tenure can be traced back to the very beginning in 2008’s Iron Man, was a regular recurring character across the movies until he was murdered by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in 2012’s The Avengers. As Mobius (Owen Wilson) was kind enough to remind us in the season premiere of Loki, the agent’s death was the catalyst for bringing together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

(14) WHY PROVO IS FANNISH PT. 64. [Item by David Doering.] Here at the Provo City Cemetery is another reason why our city is suitably fannish–even Daleks come here to die… 

A Dalek Named Thomas… kids’ book maybe?

(15) REANIMATION. The Huntington knows our day won’t be complete without a timelapse video of the blooming of one of its famous Corpse Flowers.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on Loki in this episode with spoilers. “Villain Pub – Into the Loki-Verse”.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Richard Horton.]

The Huntington Awards Octavia E. Butler Fellowship to Alyssa Collins

Alyssa Collins. Photo by Shane Lin.

Alyssa Collins, assistant professor of English Language and Literature and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina, has been awarded The Huntington’s year-long Octavia E. Butler Fellowship worth $50,000 for the study of the renowned science fiction writer. Butler (1947–2006) was the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur “genius” award and the first African American woman to win widespread recognition writing in that genre. The Huntington holds Butler’s archives.

The research grant provides support for a scholar to spend a full academic year working with Butler’s literary archive, which, over the past seven years, has become the most frequently requested collection at The Huntington.

Collins’ project is titled “Cellular Blackness: Octavia E. Butler’s Posthuman Ontologies.” Her project treats Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy of novels as a central touchstone and explores Butler’s interest in genetics, evolution, and cellularity. Collins uses “cellularity” to refer to Butler’s engagement with the story of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose cancer cells were harvested without consent in 1951 for medical research and became known as the HeLa immortal cell line, and Butler’s representation of cellular replication as a mode of Black feminist survival.

“There are four areas in the Butler archive that are fundamental to my research: subject files and research materials, commonplace notebooks and notecards, drafts, and correspondence,” said Collins. “Each category offers a different, discrete moment of development for Butler’s frameworks on cellularity and evolution. Given the ambivalent presentation and voice of some of Butler’s novels and characters, Butler’s notations—information stowed in newspaper margins, on notecards, and as floating ideas on commonplace notebook pages—offer keys to how we might think about the intersections of her work and that of the scientific discourse of the period in which she wrote.”

Collins will join a cohort of 14 long-term fellows who will be coming into residence at The Huntington for the full 2021–22 academic year. Five of the incoming research fellows are trained in history, another five in literature, two in art history, one in philosophy, and one in Chicano studies. Ten of the fellows are either postdoctoral students or assistant professors; 11 are female; and six are people of color.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/21 Good Gollum Miss Molly

(1) MANDO ABOUT TOWN. Yahoo! Entertainment says people have seen “A Mandalorian and Baby Yoda spotted speeding through Los Angeles streets”.

For several weeks, a masked Mandalorian and his Baby Yoda has been zooming around the streets of Los Angeles, spreading some good cheer during the pandemic.

…The man behind the homemade mask is comedian Tim Brehmer, who told NBC he’s out of work and his goal was simply to make people laugh during a tough time.

“This whole thing got started because I’m a big box of stupid and I love making people laugh,” he told NBC. “…with some people with depression, a pill can help, with some people therapy can help, with me, this is my therapy.”

(2) FANTASY FORERUNNER. In “Why George MacDonald Matters” at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Timothy Larsen gives an introduction to the great Victorian fantasist who was a major influence on the Inklings.

…MacDonald’s grandmother decided that the musical interests of one of her sons were becoming idolatrous and so she threw his violin into the fire.  Likewise, MacDonald’s own father confiscated a copy of a novel by Sir Walter Scott that the future author had managed to get his youthful hands on.

George MacDonald is a central figure in the generation that changed all this. One possible way for children to escape from relentlessly didactic and moralizing literature was to find a portal into fairyland. When MacDonald’s mother died, his father remarried.  The family patriarch also mellowed with age and regretted his Puritanical decision regarding the Waverly novel.  As a young adult, MacDonald insured that his little half-sister, Bella, received a copy of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

In 1858, George MacDonald published his novel, Phantastes. He called it “a sort of fairy tale for grown people.”  On his twenty-first birthday, Anodos is transported into his fairyland….

(3) RANSOMWARE. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron hosts “Ransomware Negotiators: Professionals Talk” on Saturday, January 23 at 3 p.m. US Eastern. Register for the Zoom session at the link.

Ransomware gangs demand millions, from millions of victims. Then there are specialized negotiators that talk to them on behalf of organizations. In this episode, Gadi and Karen will host two such masters, Christoph Fischer and Moty Cristal, who will share their experience with incident response, negotiation, and communication with criminal organizations.

(4) FIRESIGN THEATRE. In an interview with two surviving members of the troupe, Wisconsin Public Radio recalls “How The Firesign Theatre Predicted The Future”.

…And the Firesigns did not shy away from social commentary. Their work predicted the downfall of the Soviet Union, the undoing of a president, the computer revolution, and a modern-day plague.

Ossman puts it this way: “I think at heart, although we loved mystery, we were really science fiction writers in that big genre, it holds everybody from futurists to fantasists to surrealists. Over the course of our entire career, we developed all kinds of worlds and characters and universes. I mean, it was fantasy combined with science fiction, combined with comments about what was going on at that moment.”

The Firesign Theatre has just released their first new record in 35 years — “Dope Humor of the Seventies.” It’s a two-disc set that includes 83 minutes of freeform radio mayhem, and madness from 1970 to 1972…. 

(5) SOME REALLY SMALL BITES. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s series Science Fiction TV Small Bite presents “short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.” The next one on February 4 features a short sf film about genetically engineered mosquitoes followed by a discussion. Register here.

Our latest Small Bite is Akoota, a science fiction film about genetically engineered mosquitoes and social control written and directed by Dilman Dila. We’ll screen the 20-minute film, and then have a conversation with Dilman, an award-winning filmmaker, speculative fiction author, and storyteller based in Uganda, and Andrew Maynard, director of the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University, professor and associate dean in the College of Global Futures, and author of the books Films from the Future and Future Rising.

We’ll also feature a segment on future cuisine by Corey S. Pressman, an educator, anthropologist, poet, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.

This virtual event is free and open to everyone. Register today!

(6) YOU’RE NOT FROM AROUND HERE, ARE YOU. It’s like one of those Ancestry.com DNA searches that finds you a whole new set of parents. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Classic SF in Which Humans Come From ‘Beyond the Stars’”.

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Stories

Ages ago, humans evolved on Hain. The Hainish exuberantly settled a large number of worlds in our galactic neighbourhood before apparently abandoning interstellar travel for long enough that worlds like Earth forgot they were Hainish colonies. When a new era of interstellar contact began, terrestrial humans discovered worlds already occupied by their cousins.

On the plus side, even though time and evolution—or alternatively, an ancient Hainish fad for genetic engineering—led to considerable diversity between the various branches of humanity, the communications gap is still less than that which exists between any group of humans and the truly alien entities found elsewhere, such as on Vaster than Empires and More Slow’s World 4470. On the minus side, human vices manifest in diverse native forms on each world: thus, the interstellar civil disorders seen in Rocannon’s World, the political strife featured in The Dispossessed, and brutal exploitation in The Word for World is Forest.

(7) GODFALLSTALK.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Godfall,” Fandom Games says that Godfall is the sort of low-imagination game for times when “you just want to hit a bunch of guys with a big sword until they fall over” and has characters so generic they look like “sketches from a fifth-grader’s science notebook.”

This episode dropped today.  It is dedicated to Brad Venable, long time voice for Honest Game Trailers, who died on January 7 at 43.

(8) CONSTANTINE (1956-2021). David Barnett has written an excellent appreciation of the late Storm Constantine for The Guardian: “’A force to be reckoned with’– fantasy world pays tribute to Storm Constantine”.

… Constantine was never less than wildly enthusiastic about all her books, including the three of mine that Immanion published. If her imprint had started as a way to get her own work back into print, it quickly evolved into a personal mission to bring books to readers that the mainstream publishers often overlooked.

Donna Scott, now a writer, editor and standup comedian, was assigned by Storm to edit Hinterland. “It’s no exaggeration to say she changed my life. She was so encouraging and supportive to new writers, and fan fiction writers, which is rare among writers held in similar esteem,” said Scott. “The heart of fantasy literature is going to ache from the loss of Storm. Not only was she one of the most powerfully unique and creative voices we had, but also a welcoming friend to new talent.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 19, 1990 Tremors premiered in theaters. It was directed by Ron Underwood, and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, and written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood off the story by Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson and Ron Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. Five direct-to-video sequels followed, plus a series. The first film was well-received by critics for its story, special effects and acting alike, it currently has an eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Later films and the series are more varied in their audience ratings. (CE)
  • January 19, 2016 DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the centre for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up. It holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of seventy percent. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 19, 1924 Dean Fredericks. Actor best known for his portrayal of the comic strip character Steve Canyon in the television series of the same name which aired from 1958–1959 on NBC. His first genre role is in Them! followed by appearances in The Disembodied and the lead in The Phantom Planet which you can watch here. (Died 1999.) (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination SpaceThe InvadersTwilight ZoneMission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name but a few of them. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born January 19, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 77. I’ve first got visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearances in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring in her late Forties from acting.  (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The SaintThe Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1956 Geena Davis, 65. Her first genre was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.   She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it?  Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten episode FOX sequel to the film. (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1962 Paul McCrane, 59. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio warns us about a new reason for alien abductions.
  • “Spaceman Spiff” (Calvin) learns that evading alien Zarches is much like evading your parents at Calvin & Hobbes.
  •  The Far Side tells how an alien invasion will be stopped.

(12) DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. A.V. Club describes DC’s new plan: “DC launches DC Universe Infinite with massive library of comics”.

With its movies and TV shows moving to HBO Max, DC Comics is taking its remaining assets (the comics, guys, it’s the comics) over to a brand-new platform. DC Universe Infinite launches this Thursday, January 21, and boasts over 25,000 comic books and graphic novels—including several frequently-requested titles that weren’t available on the previous app, like Grant Morrison’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and Brian Azzarello’s Joker. Described as a “premium digital comic book service and community,” DC Universe Infinite will offer a library of the largest collection of DC Comics anywhere, with plans to “continuously add selections from DC’s iconic labels, Vertigo, DC Black Label and Milestone Media.” New comic books will be available on the platform six months after release. The platform is available directly online, as well as on iOS and Android devices. Subscriptions cost $7.99 a month or $74.99 per year, billed annually.

(13) PROVING AUTHENTICITY. The Huntington’s article “Securing Election Results in 1640” shows how it was done old-school, with photos of the kind of specialized document involved.

…The need to ensure accurate reporting of election results is nothing new. In 17th-century England, local officials used documents called “indentures” to report the winning candidate in parliamentary elections.

The earliest use of the word “indenture” dates to the 1300s, when it described a feature of the document itself. Long before the widespread use of paper in the western world, scribes wrote contracts or deeds on parchment (treated animal skins). Then, as now, documents typically were executed by more than one party, so scribes wrote mirroring copies of the agreement on a single piece of parchment.

Using a pen knife, the scribe then sliced the parchment in two with vertical cuts that resulted in a pattern that looked like either jagged jack-o-lantern teeth fitted together or rolling, interlocking, scalloped edges. The word “indenture” derives from the Latin dentatum (toothed) because the cut along the top of each of the documents resembled teeth.

Parties would affix their wax seal to one copy of the indenture. If the contents of the document were ever disputed later, the parties could retrieve their copies and set them together. If the indents along the edges of the documents fit together like puzzle pieces, they knew neither of the halves had been forged. The indents served as a security measure….

(14) TITAN TALK. The American Museum of Natural History will livestream “Toxic Titan: Life on Saturn’s Moon?” on January 27. Ticket purchase information at the link.

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is unique in our solar system: below its thick organic haze layer, rivers of methane carve channels into an icy bedrock and flow into large hydrocarbon seas. Could this moon’s lake-mottled surface and thick, organic rich atmosphere be an ideal setting for life as we do not know it?

Planetary scientist Sarah M. Hörst explores this question and all that’s left to be discovered about our own home from studying a moon worlds away. 

(15) I’LL TAKE DONOVAN’S BRAIN FOR $100. Daniel Dern says he’s reminded of Niven’s story “The Coldest Place.” In “Superconducting Microprocessors? Turns Out They’re Ultra-Efficient”Slashdot reports an IEEE Spectrum news item: 

Computers use a staggering amount of energy today. According to one recent estimate, data centers alone consume two percent of the world’s electricity, a figure that’s expected to climb to eight percent by the end of the decade. To buck that trend, though, perhaps the microprocessor, at the center of the computer universe, could be streamlined in entirely new ways.

One group of researchers in Japan have taken this idea to the limit, creating a superconducting microprocessor — one with zero electrical resistance. The new device, the first of its kind, is described in a study published last month in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits 

(16) RAMPANT MUPPETRY. Seems like every day brings a new selling point for Disney+ that I can’t ignore. “Muppet Show coming to Disney Plus in February 2020” reports A.V. Club.

Oh, The Muppet Show15 seconds to curtainThe Muppet Show! Or, make that one month: Disney+ has announced that all of five seasons of Jim Henson’s pioneering variety show will join its library February 19—the show’s streaming debut, if you don’t count all the YouTube rips we’ve been watching while waiting for the show to come to streaming.

And speaking of YouTube rips, how about Gilda Radner doing a G&S Pirates of Penzance bit on the original Muppets series?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/28/20 This Irrepixel-Able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-Produced Crime

(1) FRONT AND CENTER. Octavia Butler is on the cover of Huntington Frontiers, published by the Huntington Library in Pasadena. Read the cover article here: “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky” by Lynell George.

When I last encountered Octavia E. Butler, it was 2004 and she was slated to deliver the keynote at the Black to the Future Festival in Seattle, Washington. Time has flattened or obscured some of the details of days spent reporting on panels, lectures, and post-event gatherings. I don’t remember the precise order of events of that opening evening, but I do recall some of Butler’s heartfelt words about finding and making community in this brief but special moment when we were assembled together. I sat, scribbling notes in my reporter’s notebook, making shapes of letters in the darkness of the auditorium. Her voice didn’t seem to need amplification—it was warm and deep and burnished with authority, as if she was not just leading things off, but leading a country….

(2) NOT OUT OF LEFT FIELD. First Fandom Experience solves three eofannish mysteries in “V is for Vincent, Vernon, Vytautas”. Learn more about a famous photo taken over the weekend of the First Worldcon in —

V is for Vincent

Below is one of early fandom’s most iconic images. On Independence Day, 1939, this carload of irascible youth from states far and wide ventured forth from the World Science Fiction Convention in New York to Coney Island. It’s a who’s-who of prominent First Fans: Madle and Agnew from Philadelphia, Korshak and Reinsberg from Chicago, Rocklynne from Ohio, and one very tanned Ray Bradbury from Los Angeles.

But among the who’s-who, there’s a “who’s that?” V. Kidwell. …

During the first Worldcon, fans took the opportunity to visit Coney Island where this foto-op took place: Front: Mark Reinsberg, Jack Agnew, Ross Rocklynne Top: V. Kidwell, Robert A. Madle, Erle Korshak, Ray Bradbury Coney Island, July 4, 1939)

(3) JAPANESE BOFFO BOX OFFICE. [Item by N.] “’Demon Slayer’ Overtakes ‘Spirited Away’ to Become Japan’s Biggest Box-Office Hit Ever”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. (Also it’s the fifth highest grossing film of the entire year, surpassing Sonic the Hedgehog, which is a coherent sentence I have just typed.)

Demon Slayer is based on a popular 2016 manga by Japanese artist Koyoharu Gotoge. But the property didn’t become a pop cultural phenomenon until it was adapted into an anime series for television. Produced by Tokyo-based studio Ufotable, the 26-episode series aired on Tokyo MX and other channels in 2019, but later became a sleeper smash hit when it re-aired on Netflix and Fuji TV. The popularity of the series reignited interest in the manga, making it a runaway bestseller. As of December, the Demon Slayer manga series has sold nearly 120 million copies.

When Ufotable’s big-screen adaptation of the series hit Japanese cinemas this fall, conditions were ripe for a box-office bonanza. Japanese cinemas nationwide had fully reopened nationwide after a brief period of COVID-19 shutdown in the spring. Since the Hollywood studios had postponed most of their releases until 2021, Demon Slayer had limited foreign competition and Japanese cinemas were highly motivated to wring as much earnings potential as possible for the local blockbuster. 

(4) WILL POWER. “Brain-controlled gaming exists, though ethical questions loom over the tech” reports the Washington Post.

As the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shut its laboratories following the covid-19 outbreak, Nathan Copeland, a 33-year-old volunteer, collected the equipment that would grant him transformative abilities during lockdown. Paralyzed from the chest down with only limited arm movement, Copeland took home an advanced brain-computer interface, a device that allows him to control on-screen actions using only his mind.Copeland is part of cutting-edge research into brain-computer interfaces at the University of Pittsburgh, recently awarded over $8 million by the National Institutes of Health. The team’s experiments are a peek into a potential transhumanist future more commonly associated with cyberpunk movies “The Matrix” and “Ghost in the Shell.” Since 2015, Copeland has lived with a transistor-like chip, known as a multi-electrode array, surgically implanted directly into his brain. Copeland’s chip records the rapid-firing of cellular neurons — an almost inscrutably complex neurological signal — which is ferried over to a computer for what’s referred to as “decoding.” This signal is subsequently “translated” into the desired, seemingly telekinetic actions of its user.

To date, one of the team’s biggest successes has been decoding the complicated neural signals to allow Copeland to control a nimble robotic arm…. 

(5) JEDI CONSERVATION MOVEMENT. Musings on Mouse analyzes “Star Wars ‘nostalgia fatigue,’ and Marvel’s bankruptcy lesson”. BEWARE SPOILERS. I don’t think I included any below, however, definitely some in the linked article.

…Quality, some may argue, isn’t just representative of one episode or one movie, but the franchise as a whole. Case in point: The Mandalorian finale….

That, many critics argued in the days after the episode aired, is precisely the problem. As Matt Zoller Seitz wrote on Vulture, “the series succumbs to the dark side of parent company Disney’s quarterly earnings statements, which keeps dragging Star Wars back toward nostalgia-sploitation and knee-jerk intellectual-property maintenance.” Other fans rolled their eyes at the criticism, pointing out that Star Wars has always returned to the franchise’s most popular characters, most noticeably in the Expanded Universe’s novels, comics, and video games. 

Sound familiar? It should — it’s the exact same debate that popped up in 2017 after Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi hit theaters. What is Star Wars? It’s an argument we’ve come back to with The Mandalorian’s second season finale. I’m not a critic, and this newsletter doesn’t exist to critique art. What I’m more acutely interested in is determining Star Wars’ future business. Let’s be clear: Star Wars is more than fine, but as Star Wars expands under Disney, there’s always room to figure out how to ensure it grows at a healthy rate instead of risking alienating parts of its consumer base every year.

(6) PUTTING THEIR STAMP ON THINGS. JSTOR Daily’s Livia Gershon points to the introduction of a new academic work that overviews “James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ: Sci-Fi Pen Pals”.

At first glance, the classic science-fiction authors James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ might not seem to have much in common. Behavioral psychologist Alice Bradley Sheldon began writing under “James Tiptree Jr.” in 1968, when she was in her fifties. She used the fictional male name and real knowledge of science and the military to infiltrate male-dominated science-fiction magazines. Russ, two decades younger, was an outspoken radical feminist, English professor, and critic. And yet, as Nicole Nyhan writes, the two writers exchanged hundreds of letters over fifteen years. Nyhan provides the introduction to a selection of writing from Tiptree’s side of the correspondence.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 in Heidelberg, Germany, “Ship of Shadows” by Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella. (It would also be nominated for a Nebula.) It was published in F&SF in July, 1969 which as you can see was billed as a Special Fritz Leiber Issue. This was a bizarre story of Spar, a blind, half-deaf barman at the Bat Rack. We’ll say no more. The other finalists were “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison, “We All Die Naked” by James Blish, “Dramatic Mission” by Anne McCaffrey and “To Jorslem” by Robert Silverberg.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in such a way that the company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list.  I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1929 – Janet Lunn.  Three novels, two shorter stories, one anthology for us; much else.  Metcalf Award, Matt Cohen Award, Order of Ontario, Governor General’s Award, Order of Canada.  Quill & Quire obituary here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 88. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon. (CE)
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 86. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 78. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 – George Zebrowski, age 75.  A score of novels (Macrolife particularly applauded), a hundred shorter stories, several with co-authors.  Clarion alumnus.  Edited Nebula Awards 20-22; four Synergy anthologies, half a dozen more e.g. Sentinels with Greg Benford in honor of Sir Arthur Clarke.  Three years editing the SFWA Bulletin (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) with Pamela Sargent and Ian Watson.  Nonfiction anthologies Beneath the Red Star (studies on international SF), Skylife (with Benford; space habitats), Talks with the Masters (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Gunn).  Book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Campbell Memorial Award.  “Never Forget the Writers Who Helped Build Yesterday’s Tomorrows” in SF Age.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1946 – Sheryl Birkhead, age 74.  Long-time fanartist and (it serves us right) veterinarian.  Here is a cover for Tightbeam.  Here is one for It Goes on the Shelf.  Here is one for Purrsonal Mewsings.  Here is one for The Reluctant Famulus.  Kaymar Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1952 – Ramona Wheeler, age 68.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Essay “The Sailor of No Specific Ocean” in the Hal Clement memorial anthology Hal’s Worlds.  Here is her cover for her collection Have Starship, Will Travel.  Here is her cover for her collection Starship for Hire.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1963 – Robert Pasternak, age 57.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us.  Interviewed in On Spec.  Aurora Award.  Here is Leslie Fiedler’s biography of Stapledon. Here is the May 93 Amazing.  Here is the Dec 00 Challenging Destiny.  Here is the Summer 13 On Spec.  Here is a review of a Jun – Jul 07 exhibition.  Here is an image from a Winnipeg Free Press interview.  Here is an ink-drawn face; see here.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1979 – D. Renée Bagby, age 41.  Eight novels for us, five dozen others (some under another name).  Air Force brat, now wife; born in the Netherlands, has also lived in Japan, six of the United States.  Has read The Cat in the HatPersuasionThe Iliad and The OdysseyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  “The voices start talking and I type what they say.” [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 39. The Baroness in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.  (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) A DISH BEST SERVED LOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Zachary Pincus-Roth discusses how a bunch of Millennial Disney musical fans came up with “Ratatouille: The Musical,” created songs, cosplayed characters from the imaginary musical (including enlisting their parents to play older characters) and even creating a fake cover of Playbill for the imaginary musical.  Disney Theatrical Productions stated “although we do not have development plans for this title, we love when our fans engage with Disney stories.” — “How TikTok and social media are changing Broadway fandom”.

(11) OBI BUT NO OBI-WAN. This happened last year, but it’s news to me… “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars” in The Guardian.

The Star Wars franchise is about to breach the artistic final frontier with a one-off performance of a kabuki adaptation starring one of Japan’s most revered stage actors.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery….

(12) UNFINISHED TOLKIEN. John M. Bowers asks “Did Tolkien Write The Lord of the Rings Because He Was Avoiding His Academic Work?” at Literary Hub. The trouble with this headline is that it’s not as if Tolkien didn’t procrastinate about working on his fiction, too.

…Already by 1932 he admitted to Chapman the weight of the Chaucerian incubus upon his conscience. His Gawain edition, “Chaucer as a Philologist,” and “The Monsters and the Critics” had all appeared before the Second World War. Set against this relatively slender résumé were undelivered assignments such as his Pearl edition, the book-length “Beowulf” and the Critics, and his EETS edition of Ancrene Wisse. If his own harsh remarks about George Gordon holding up their Chaucer edition did not quite qualify him as a “slanderer,” these complaints did de?ect blame from his role as an “idler” who failed to reduce his annotations to a publishable length. He would confess during a newspaper interview in 1968, “I have always been incapable of doing the job at hand.”

(13) AROUND AND AROUND. “Animation reveals invisible center of solar system that’s not the sun”Business Insider knows where it is. In a minute, you will too.

It’s common knowledge that the sun is the center of the solar system. Around it, the planets orbit — along with a thick belt of asteroids, some meteor fields, and a handful of far-traveling comets.

But that’s not the whole story.

“Instead, everything orbits the solar system center of mass,” James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency, JAXA, recently explained on Twitter. “Even the sun.”

That center of mass, called the barycenter, is the point of an object at which it can be balanced perfectly, with all its mass distributed evenly on all sides. In our solar system, that point rarely lines up with the center of the sun…

(14) THOUGHT OF THE DAY. From Mike Kennedy: “I just realized that the various dings, buzzes, and clicks our phones/watches play to get our attention are clearly intended to train us to understand R2-D2.”

(15) EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC IP LAWYERS. CinemaBlend will explain “Why James Bond’s Studio Once Sent A ‘Very Stern Letter’ To Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Crew”.

Star Trek is a franchise that primarily deals in the world of sci-fi, but it’s not unheard of for the franchise to attempt parody other genres every so often. Such was the case in the Deep Space Nine episode “Our Man Bashir,” in which an accident in the Holosuite traps the crew in Bashir’s spy fantasy program. The episode is a fun nod to the genre of ’60s spy films but apparently was not well-received by James Bond studio MGM.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matters sets the frame for a DUST short in “Sci-Fi Saturday Film: The Robot Tries To Learn About Grief”.

An elderly woman, Sheila, whose daughter has been in a high-conflict zone in a military environment, learns to manage with a robot—ordered apparently off the internet, with a manual—that can learn to do homework and hang Christmas decorations.

It’s an agreeable story and good Christmas fare!

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

The Huntington Will Host Virtual “Inspired by Octavia E. Butler” Event with Author Lynell George

Lynell George discusses her forthcoming book, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, and her experience in The Huntington archives, on August 26 from 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Free: register here. The Zoom link will be sent in a registration confirmation email.

George will join in conversation with William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute for California and the West and professor of history at USC, and Karla Nielsen, curator of literary collections at The Huntington.

Based in San Marino, the Huntington is the home to Butler’s archives, including 386 boxes of drafts, notes, essays, letters and more. 

George is a local journalist and essayist. She is the author of three books of nonfiction including After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame. She began working in the Octavia E. Butler archive at The Huntington soon after it opened for research.

Lynell George’s  A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler is available for pre-order.  

[The book] offers a blueprint for a creative life from the perspective of the award-winning science-fiction writer and “MacArthur Genius” Octavia E. Butler. It is a collection of ideas about how to look, listen, breathe?how to be in the world. This book is about the creative process, but not on the page; its canvas is much larger. Author Lynell George not only engages the world that shaped Octavia E. Butler, she also explores the very specific processes through which Butler shaped herself?her unique process of self-making. It’s about creating a life with what little you have?hand-me-down books, repurposed diaries, journals, stealing time to write in the middle of the night, making a small check stretch?bit by bit by bit. Highly visual and packed with photographs of Butler’s ephemera, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky draws the reader into Butler’s world, creating a sense of unmatched intimacy with the deeply private writer…. It offers a visual album of a creative life?a map that others can follow. Butler once wrote that science fiction was simply “a handful of earth, a handful of sky, and everything in between.” This book offers a slice of the in-between.

Lynell George taught journalism at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, in 2013 was named a USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow, and in 2017 received the Huntington Library’s Alan Jutzi Fellowship for her studies of California writer Octavia E. Butler. Her liner notes for Otis Redding Live at the Whisky a Go Go earned a 2018 GRAMMY award.

Huntington Library Creates
Octavia E. Butler Fellowship

Butler at Machu Picchu in 1985.

The Huntington Library has announced a new Octavia E. Butler Fellowship worth $50,000.

Butler was  the first science fiction writer to receive a prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ award and the first African-American woman to win wide acclaim writing in that genre.

The Huntington received her papers in 2008, two years after her death. A 2018 article said the institution’s Octavia E. Butler Collection is one of the top two most actively researched archives at The Huntington.

The fellowship is open to —

… Applicants [who] may be working from a variety of disciplinary perspectives on the ideas and issues explored by Butler in her published works, ranging from speculative fiction through Afrofuturism to environmental studies and biotechnology, but preference may be given to candidates who intend to make extensive use of the Butler archive during their residency.

Applications will be accepted beginning Aug. 31, 2020, with a submission deadline of noon PST on November 16, 2020.  The tenure of the fellowship runs between nine and twelve months, beginning on June 1, 2021.

[Via Locus Online.]