Pixel Scroll 12/22/22 Although It’s Been Said Many Times, Many Ways, Scrolling Pixels To You

(1) PHILADELPHIA READ’EM. On January 18, 2023 the Galactic Philadelphia Literary Salon, curated by Lawrence M. Schoen and Sally Wiener Grotta, will host Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and C.S.E. Cooney as they read from their latest work, and “converse with them and other guests in an informal and engaging salon-style conversation.” This will be an in-person event at The Rosenbach Museum & Library – full details and registration cost at the link.

(2) KINDRED FOR TV. NPR’s program The 1A tells how “Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’ is being discovered by new readers, and now viewers”. At the link, listen to a conversation with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kindred’s executive producer and writer.  

Imagine suddenly being pulled back in time, without warning or explanation. Where is the place you’d least like to go? 

In the 1979 novel “Kindred,” author Octavia Butler sent her main character – a Black woman – back to the antebellum south of the 1800s.  Dana lands amongst her ancestors, who were owned as slaves.  

The sci-fi book is a modern classic – a cornerstone of afro-futurism that made waves in a genre dominated by white men. “Kindred” is still being discovered by new readers today – and by viewers.  

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins adapted “Kindred” into a new FX series of the same name on Hulu, which premiered Dec. 13. Jacobs-Jenkins is a talented writer in his own right, having received the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play for “Appropriate” and “An Octoroon.”

He’s also a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama, and was the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” His previous TV production credits include the 2019 HBO series “Watchmen” and the Prime Video sci-fi series “Outer Range.”

(3) IN A WORLD WHERE. According to Gizmodo, “Court Case Ruling Could Make ‘Deceptive’ Trailers Legally Actionable”.

When two fans of Ana de Armas rented Yesterday after seeing de Armas in the trailer, only to realize at the end of the movie that her part had been cut, they were so unhappy that they went to court over it. And won. In a rather bizarre Free Speech case, a federal judge has ruled in favor of movie-goers over the protests of Universal Studios, saying that studios cannot release “deceptive movie trailers.”

The two de Armas fans, Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza, each paid $3.99 to rent Yesterdayan alternate-history speculative film about the disappearance of The Beatles, on Amazon Prime. de Armas’ part was cut after filmgoers responded that they didn’t enjoy the fact that the main character’s love interest (played by Lily James) had competition in the form of de Armas’ character. Woulfe and Rosza are seeking “at least $5 million as representatives of a class of movie customers,” according to Variety….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 73 of the Octothorpe podcast is “A Magic Cave Full of Games”. Listen at the link.

John Coxon is going to Sweden, Alison Scott is going to Australia, and Liz Batty isn’t moving back to Europe. We discuss Smofcon, Eurocon, Mastodon, and bacon lardons. (The last one is a lie.) We also chat about the Fan Funds and do picks (which don’t rhyme).

(5) HEAR FROM KEN MACLEOD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult has just interviewed Ken MacLeod

But we over at SF2 Concatenation have Ken’s science heroes… “SF author and zoologist Ken MacLeod cites the scientists and engineers born in the 20th Century who have influenced him.”

 I’m not really a scientist who became a science fiction writer. I’m a science fiction reader who tried to become a scientist, because science fiction made science cool. At school my progress in mathematics hit a brick wall at calculus, and in physics at electronics. So at university I chose biology — then the least mathematical of the sciences — and specialised in Zoology….

(6) WOOSTER MEMORIES. In “Martin Morse Wooster’s Front Row Seat” Reason’s Thomas W. Hazlett delivers an affectionate farewell.

… Martin devoured entire libraries as after-dinner mints, emerging ever more curious about what great work of history, politics, biography, economics, sports, or science fiction (pardon me, “S.F.”) to hoist next. He cherished baseball, exhibits, museums, stage plays, conventions, the science of beer making, free market capitalism, and the United States. He was bogged down neither by car payments nor dependents. He lived richly on a tidy budget, zipped about on public transport, viewed every parade, and devoured each spectacle. When he paid for a movie, he would always—his sister, Ann-Sargent Wooster, informs me—insist on sitting front row…. 

On the epic fall of the Soviet bloc, Wooster wrote frequently. In a 1989 Reason column introduced by Irving Kristol’s observation that “In Washington, people don’t read enough magazines,” it was game on. 

“This may be true in Washington,” noted Martin, “but out here in Silver Spring, we read magazines by the truckload… Once each day, the factory whistles blow, the police officers stop traffic, and the double-wide tractor trailers lumber chez Wooster with the day’s reading matter.”…

(7) CHRIS BOUCHER (1943-2022). Writer and script editor Chris Boucher, who contributed milestone moments to Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, died December 11. The Guardian paid tribute.

… Having quickly made his mark on Doctor Who in 1977, he was recruited the following year as script editor of Blake’s 7, Terry Nation’s series about a gang of outlaws fighting against a corrupt Federation in the future. Responsible for commissioning and then polishing the scripts, Boucher capitalised on the bristling dynamic between the central characters, highlighted by his gift for caustic dialogue, and exploited the programme’s morally grey areas to give it dramatic complexity.

Among the scripts he wrote himself was the shocking 1981 finale, in which he killed off the whole cast, in a manner emblematic of the show’s flawed protagonists, dour outlook and uncompromising tone….

…Braden’s Week (1968), Dave Allen at Large (1971) and That’s Life (1973) used his material, and he secured himself an agent who pitched him to Doctor Who. He was well versed in science-fiction literature, so his first contribution, The Face of Evil (1977), had a bold concept: a misprogrammed spaceship computer thinks it is God, and so embarks on an exercise in eugenics involving its stranded crew. The story (originally entitled The Day God Went Mad: a tad strong for the BBC) also introduced a new companion for Tom Baker’s Doctor: instinctive, intelligent tribal warrior Leela (Louise Jameson) and contains one of Boucher’s great lines: “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common, they don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views.”

Boucher was immediately hired to write the very next story, The Robots of Death. A fusion of Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert, it became more than a sum of its parts thanks to Boucher’s sardonic exchanges (“You’re a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain”), well-drawn characters, world-building through dialogue and hard sci-fi concepts. Augmented by a strong cast, excellent direction and striking art deco design, the story is still regarded as among Doctor Who’s very best. Image of the Fendahl (1977) is a spooky synthesis of modern technology and ancient horror with some shocking moments and amusing characters (“You must think my head zips up at the back,” says one)….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2000 [By Cat Eldridge.]

Ready for a really happy story? Well we have one for you.

It starts out because J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy,  lived near the hospital, and was well known for donations to charity as he lived rather simply. He is listed as first donating to the hospital in 1908, and became more familiar with the hospital’s work after he hired a personal secretary, Lady Cynthia Asqueth, whose father was the chairman of the hospital board. 

However when the hospital had asked Barrie to help with a fundraising campaign in 1929 by making a generous donation in order to purchase a vacated lot, he declined. That’s not the end of the story as two months later he announced that he would give the copyright of Peter Pan to the hospital. Of course the hospital was rather grateful to say the least. 

(These arrangements should have expired in 1987, fifty years after the death of Sir James Barrie. But special measures were made in the Copyright Designs & Patents Act (1988), so that a single exception was made for the ongoing benefit of the hospital.) 

A year after Great Ormond Street Hospital was given the rights to Peter and Wendy, Barrie asked the hospital to stage it in a ward for the sick children. The production was considered a wonderful affair by all involved and has become a tradition that still continues today. 

There are many Peter Pan tributes within the children’s wing including a cafe and stained windows, some of which we will return to at another time, but today a bronze statue of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell outside the hospital entrance is what were interested in.

A statue of Peter Pan stands at the entrance to the hospital, blowing fairy dust at all visitors, young and old. It was sculpted by Diarmund O’Connor and was unveiled by Lord Callaghan on July 14, 2000. Tinkerbell, who is actually a separate statue, was added to Peter’s uplifted arm in 2005. Tinkerbell is officially London’s smallest statue.

The combined statue bears this inscription:

Peter Pan

In grateful memory of Sir James Barrie (1860 – 1937) for his gift to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and in warm appreciation of the exceptional support of Audrey and James Callaghan.

The Tinker Bell statue once it was carefully attached to the Peter Pan was unveiled by the Countess of Wessex on September 29th, 2005. Although a later addition, it was part of the original conception back in 1999 when Peter was commissioned, but dropped at the time as being too ambitious. It is a credit to Peter’s popularity that the issue was redressed.

Why such a simple addition was considered too ambitious is a mystery. She is a rather simple sculpture after all. Here’s Tinkerbell by herself.

I don’t usually give you two versions of a statue but it’s rare that we get to see the clay version of it. So here is that version in the sculptor’s studio.

And here’s the final bronze state as it is in the garden outside the Hospital. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. (He did not do the voice you heard on film, that was done by Marvin Miller who in-studio replaced what was done originally.) Other than showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 22, 1944 Michael Summerton. One of the original Dalek operators, his work would show up in three First Doctor stories, “The Survivor”, “The Escape” and “The Ambush”. He’s interviewed for “The Creation of The Daleks” documentary which is included in the 2006 The Beginning DVD box set. According to his Telegraph obit, he was the last survivor of the original four operators of the Daleks. So, you don’t need to get past their paywall, here’s the Who part here: “After a lean period, he was excited to be offered a part in a new BBC science fiction series. His agent told him he would not need to learn any lines for the casting, and when he arrived at the BBC workshops he was asked to strip down to his underpants and sit in what appeared to be a tub on castors. Summerton (who was one of the four original Daleks) was instructed in how to move this apparatus about, the director saying: ‘We want to test this prototype for maneuverability. We want you to move forwards, backwards, sideways. Quickly, slowly.’ Presently the director lowered a lid over him with a plunger sticking out of it. Summerton found himself in total darkness. He would later relate: ‘When the lid went on I knew my career as an actor was over.’” (Died 2009.)
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 71. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning, who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics who’s played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 71. I’ve personally known him for some twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here.
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 60. Perhaps best-known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films that just wrapped up and started with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!
  • Born December 22, 1965 David S. Goyer, 57. His screenwriting credits include the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark CityMan of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well there’s there’s a Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh, he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForwardConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, KryptonBlade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann, 44. Author of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations, a steampunk series set in a alternative Victorian England that I’ve read and enthusiastically recommend. He’s also got two Holmesian novels on Titan Books that I need to request for reviewing, Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box. And yes I see that  he’s written a lot more  fiction than I’ve read by him so do tell me what else is worth reading  by him. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has the surly version of a childrens’ book hero.

(11) COPYRIGHT OFFICE REVOKES DECISION. “AI-Created Comic Has Been Deemed Ineligible for Copyright Protection” reports CBR.com.

The United States Copyright Office (USCO) reversed an earlier decision to grant a copyright to a comic book that was created using “A.I. art,” and announced that the copyright protection on the comic book will be revoked, stating that copyrighted works must be created by humans to gain official copyright protection.

In September, Kris Kashtanova announced that they had received a U.S. copyright on his comic book, Zarya of the Dawn, a comic book inspired by their late grandmother that she created with the text-to-image engine Midjourney. Kashtanova referred to herself as a “prompt engineer” and explained at the time that she went to get the copyright so that she could “make a case that we do own copyright when we make something using AI.”…

(12) TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS OF 2022. “Beaton’s ‘Ducks’ Tops PW’s 2022 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” proclaims Publishers Weekly.

Kate Beaton’s widely acclaimed debut graphic memoir Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Drawn & Quarterly) has topped PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll for best work of the year by a significant margin, receiving nine votes from PW’s panel of 15 critics. This is Beaton’s second time winning the poll; she won in 2011 for Hark A Vagrant.

Beaton’s adroitly told personal narrative is a bracing exposé of the sexism and misogyny women face working in the nearly all-male oil fields, as well as a plaintive and incisive critique of the industry’s destructive impact on the environment. Nevertheless, Beaton’s personal story is balanced with humor and rich with canny, wry vignettes of her crusty work colleagues, rendered along with breathtaking depictions of the desolate landscape of the oil fields. One of very few women working in the male-dominated work force, Beaton tracks the two years she spent working various jobs (such as handing out wrenches at a tool crib) in Northern Canada’s remote oil fields, while depicting the lives of her co-workers—all of them separated from family and home lives….

…Indie publishers secured top positions overall in this year’s poll, with second place a tie between two titles that received four votes each: Keeping Two by Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics) and the graphic memoir The Third Person by Emma Grove (Drawn & Quarterly).

(13) THE BLUES. “Don’t give up, never surrender,” is not everyone’s motto. “Edie Falco Assumed Avatar 2 Flopped After Filming Part 4 Years Ago” is what People heard.

Edie Falco didn’t realize when her appearance in Avatar: The Way of Water would be hitting movie theaters.

The 59-year-old actress shot her scenes four years ago and just assumed the movie had been released and potentially flopped since she hadn’t heard anything, she admitted while visiting The View on Friday.

The second Avatar, the one that’s coming out, I think I shot four years ago,” she shared at The View roundtable. “And then I’ve been busy, and doing stuff, and somebody mentioned Avatar, and I thought, ‘Oh, I guess it came out and didn’t do very well,’ cause I didn’t hear anything.”

The actress continued: “And then somebody recently said, ‘Avatar is coming out.’ “

“Oh, it hasn’t come out yet?” she remembered asking, getting laughs from the audience. “I haven’t seen the new one, so I’m excited.”

Talking more about the film, in which she plays one of the few human characters, the Nurse Jackie actress admitted she was a little disappointed when she found out who she’d be playing.

“Well, I wanted to be blue,” she said, laughing. “I was excited – I was going to be blue and very tall… I didn’t get either of those things.”

(14) BEST PICTURES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Nature has open access loads of James Webb pics: “JWST’s best images: spectacular stars and spiralling galaxies” (example attached of Neptune).

Also open access best science pics of the year: “The best science images of 2022”. Example attached of an insect turned into a zombie by fungus. And the Tonga volcanic explosion from space

(15) REST IN DUST. “NASA’s InSight Mission Dies After 4 Years of Listening for Marsquakes” – the New York Times has the “obituary”.

…For months, mission managers have been expecting this as dust accumulated on the lander’s solar panels, blocking the sunlight the stationary spacecraft needs to generate power.

InSight, which arrived on the surface of Mars more than four years ago to measure the red planet’s seismological shaking, was last in touch on Dec. 15. But nothing was heard during the last two communication attempts, and NASA announced on Wednesday that it was unlikely for it ever to hear from InSight again.

“I feel sad, but I also feel pretty good,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview. “We’ve been expecting this to come to an end for some time.”

He added, “I think that it’s been a great run.”

InSight — the name is a compression of the mission’s full name, Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — was a diversion from NASA’s better known rover missions, focusing on the mysteries of Mars’s deep interior instead of searching for signs of water and possible extinct life on the red planet…. 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, SG Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 9/26/21 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) A COLORADO FAN MARRIAGE. “A Wedding 18 Years in the Making for Colorado Governor”. The Governor of Colorado and his spouse first met at a bookstore in 2003, and a month later went to MileHiCon. They finally wed earlier this month.

Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado gets one question a lot about his Sept. 15 wedding to Marlon Reis. “People say, ‘You know, it took you a while to get married,’” Mr. Polis, a Democrat, said. “But what’s important to remember is that Obergefell v. Hodges wasn’t until 2015. So we really only waited six years.”

Obergefell v. Hodges is the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage. Mr. Polis, 46, and Mr. Reis, 40, met 18 years ago. Back then, neither imagined he would one day be able to have a legal union. Finding others who identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in Boulder was hard enough.

“It was a relatively small community here,” Mr. Polis said. “There was no Tinder.” There were chat sites and forums that helped connect the community, though. Which is how Mr. Polis and Mr. Reis ended up meeting at Boulder Book Store in September 2003. First came a browse through the sci-fi section, then came dinner.

Mr. Reis, a writer whose focus is animal welfare and L.G.B.T.Q. rights, was in his last year of college at the University of Colorado. Mr. Polis was an entrepreneur with political aspirations; before he became governor in 2019, he served for a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the bookstore, “we just really hit it off,” Mr. Polis said.

By the time they attended MileHiCon, a gathering for science fiction and fantasy fans, a month later, they were falling in love. The weekend-long convention in Denver was, for Mr. Polis, a yardstick for compatibility. “I remember Jared being slightly nervous about it, saying, ‘This is the test to see if we can be around each other a few days,’” Mr. Reis said. “I had never seriously dated anybody. To my way of thinking, it was, Of course we’re going to be fine.”…

(2) HOW FANTASTIC WAS SHE? At Galactic Journey, John Boston and Cora Buhlert profile a legendary editor in “[September 26, 1966] All that glitters: in praise of Cele Goldsmith Lalli”.

Boston, the blog’s resident Amazing reviewer, comments on Amazing and Fantastic in general:

…Goldsmith’s most often recognized achievement is the significant number of excellent writers whom she discovered and who went on to considerable success. The list speaks for itself: Keith Laumer, Neal Barrett, Jr., Roger Zelazny, Sonya Dorman, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Phyllis Gotlieb, Piers Anthony. She also provided a home for David R. Bunch, who had been publishing in semi-professional and local markets throughout the ‘50s, but who became a regular in Amazing and Fantastic, albeit to decidedly mixed reception. Similarly, she was the first American editor to publish J.G. Ballard, who had made a substantial reputation in the British SF magazines but had not previously cracked the US magazines. Lalli’s lack of background in SF before she came to Ziff-Davis may have served her well by leaving her more open than other editors to departures from genre business as usual….

Cora Buhlert sets her focus on Cele Goldsmith Lalli’s role in ushering in the sword and sorcery revival of the 1960s: 

…Cele Goldsmith had only just been born during sword and sorcery’s first heyday in the 1930s and certainly did not read Weird Tales in the crib, but she knew a rising genre when she saw one. So she began publishing more sword and sorcery stories by other authors.

Roger Zelazny is one of Cele Goldsmith’s great discoveries. His first professional story “Horseman!”, which appeared in the August 1962 issue of Fantastic, was a sword and sorcery story. It wasn’t even the only sword and sorcery story in that issue. The title story “Sword of Flowers” by Larry M. Harris a.k.a. Laurence M. Janifer as well as “The Titan,” a reprint of a 1934 story by P. Schuyler Miller, were sword and sorcery as well….

(3) PSYCHOHISTORY’S FIRST PAGES. On Cora Buhlert’s own blog, she reviews the first episode of Foundation: “Foundation enjoys “The Emperor’s Peace” and turns out better than expected”.

… But Foundation? Yes, my 16-year-old self would have killed for a Foundation TV show and indeed she is the reason I watched and reviewed it, because she would not forgive me. But my 48-year-old self says, “Ahem, better leave that one alone and film something that’s easier to adapt and also more suited to modern sensibilities.” Because Foundation is less a novel or several, but a series of interconnected short stories from the 1940s, which span a period of 500 years and have no continuing characters except for Hari Seldon’s wisdom dispensing hologram (and Daneel, if you want to include him). Worse, the characters that make up the cast of the individual stories are rather underdeveloped and not particularly memorable. Also, the first five stories, which make up the first book, are a little dull, heavy on the talking and low on action. All the really exciting stuff, which will leave you at the edge of your seat with your jaw dropping open, happens in books 2 and 3. So in short, Foundation is extremely difficult to adapt, probably impossible, if you take Hollywood’s insistence that their audiences are stupid into account.

But no one wants my opinion and so, after decades of trying, Apple has finally adapted Foundation series for its streaming service. …

(4) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. In case it’s the sort of thing you like to keep track of, Screen Rant covers “Foundation Book Differences: All Major Changes The Show Makes”.

… Gaal Dornick isn’t the only one to have been changed significantly. Salvor Hardin has been gender-swapped as well, played by industry newcomer Leah Harvey, and she’s been reinvented as the Warden of Terminus rather than its mayor. This fundamentally alters the dynamics on Trantor, because Salvor’s role is a military one rather than an administrative one. In the books, Hardin was well-known for his many sayings, with the most famous being that “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” But Foundation‘s Salvor Hardin feels like a much more action-oriented character, suggesting her role going forward will be very different….

(5) VISIT TO THE LEIBER ARCHIVE. Michael Curtis gives Goodman Games readers a tour of the Fritz Leiber Papers Archive at the University of Houston: “Michael Curtis Visits Leiber’s Legendary Lankhmar Library in Houston”. This is also where Leiber’s Retro Hugos reside. Not sure about the regular Hugos he won.

…In the meantime, here’s a partial summary of some of the things I examined while in Houston:

The correspondence between Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer, the co-creator of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Amongst many revelations in the letters, I discovered Fischer had plans for another F&GM story he discussed with Leiber but never penned. The story, as Fischer envisioned it, “all ends in a single handed combat with the Mouser unarmed (or so it seems) dressed as a He-whore of Lankhmar against a peculiar foe (axman deluxe).” Am I the only one who wishes I could read a story featuring the Gray Mouser dressed as a gigolo fighting a maniacal axe-wielding warrior empty-handed?…

(6) RETURN TO SENDER OF THE JEDI. An opinion piece published by Scientific American seeks to persuade readers “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion”.

The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocates explicitly allude to.

Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning—and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have.

As we will argue, our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely. Below, we outline five reasons why.

The first reason advanced is —

The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. So it is that Force potential is framed as a dynastic property of noble bloodlines (for example, the Skywalker dynasty), and Force disparities are rendered innate physical properties, measurable via “midi-chlorian” counts (not unlike a “Force genetics” test) and augmentable via human(oid) engineering. The heroic Jedi are thus emblems for a host of dangerously reactionary values and assumptions. Sending the message that justice work is akin to cosplay is bad enough; dressing up our initiatives in the symbolic garb of the Jedi is worse.

This caution about JEDI can be generalized: We must be intentional about how we name our work and mindful of the associations any name may bring up—perhaps particularly when such names double as existing words with complex histories….

Lela E. Buis’ response was: “Scientific American Tries to Cancel Star Wars”. She concludes:

…So, this article was rated on Twitter and mentioned in a couple of news feeds. It did not fare well. The obvious problem is that they’re dissing the Jedi, so Star Wars fans are derisive. The films are built on important archetypes and have entered the cultural consciousness of our society, which means they’re pretty sacred. The other problem hasn’t been pointed out very clearly, which is that this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. Enforced conformity to an ideal? Who’s the absolute worst for that?

(7) TOLKIEN’S THIRD LIFE. Bradley J. Birzer praises Carl Hostetter’s new book, which continues the revelation of Tolkien’s unpublished material: “Book Review: ‘The Nature of Middle-earth’ Reminds Us of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Greatness” at National Review.

When J. R. R. Tolkien (b. 1892) passed away in 1973, he left an immense amount of unpublished writings — much of which consisted of his own personal Middle-earth mythology, known as the legendarium, begun just prior to World War I. After his father’s death, Tolkien’s youngest son, Christopher (1924–2020), became his literary heir, publishing his father’s The Silmarillion in 1977, Unfinished Tales in 1980, the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth (1983–1996), the three great tales of the First Age, as well as several books on various non-Middle-earth mythologies, such as on the Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and King Arthur.

Amazingly, however, even with Tolkien’s writings taking two adult professional lives to publish, the corpus of Tolkien’s work is still not completely available to the public in book form. Just this month, a full year and a half after Christopher Tolkien’s death, Houghton Mifflin has released yet another volume of Tolkien’s mythological writings. Titled The Nature of Middle-earth, it is beautifully and expertly compiled and edited by one of our greatest living Tolkien scholars, Carl F. Hostetter….

(8) DOUG BARBOUR (1940-2021). Canadian fan, poet and academic Doug Barbour died of cancer September 25 at the age of 81. His “Patterns of Meaning in the SF Novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Samuel R. Delany, 1962-1972,” in 1976 was the first Canadian doctoral dissertation in the field of science fiction.

He also co-edited with Phyllis Gotlieb Tesseracts 2 (1987), one of the Tesseracts series of anthologies containing original Canadian stories.

As a fanwriter he contributed to Ash-Wing and Riverside Quarterly. Also, notes Bruce Gillespie, “He has been a tireless writers of letters of comment and articles for my magazines. We shared many enthusiasms, especially music (classical, jazz, and what is now called Americana), some SF writers, and poetry. Doug was a well-known Canadian poet and writer about poetry. …He did several poetry-reading tours of Australia, during which he met and made friends with far more Australian poets than most Australian poets ever meet.”

 The Canadian Encyclopedia entry about him discusses his accomplishments as a poet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1987 – Thirty-four years in syndication, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Encounter at Farpoint” opening episode premiered. It was written by D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry and directed by Corey Allen. The series would run for seven years. It was premiered eighteen years after the original series was cancelled. I’m not going to list the cast as y’all well know who they are. The series would win two Hugos, first at ConFrancisco for the “Inner Light” episode, and then for “All Good Things…” at Intersection. The “Encounter at Farpoint” premier episode was nominated at Nolacon II but lost out to The Princess Bride. It currently holds a ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 26, 1888 — T. S. Eliot. He’s written at least three short poems that are decidedly genre, “Circe’s Palace” “Growltiger’s Last Stand” and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat”. Then there’s his major work,  “The Waste Land” which is genre as well.  It’s worth noting that Lovecraft intensely hated the latter and wrote a parody of it called “Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance”. (Died 1965.)
  • Born September 26, 1941 — Martine Beswick, 80. Though she auditioned for Dr. No, she was instead cast in From Russia with Love as Zora. She also appeared as Paula Caplan in Thunderball. She would appear in One Million Years B.C. opposite Raquel Welch.  She made several Hammer Studio films including Prehistoric Women and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. She showed up on Fantasy Island once. 
  • Born September 26, 1942 — Kent McCord, 79. Several genre roles with his first being an uncredited role as a Presidential aide in Seven Days in May.  His next is in Predator 2 as Captain Pilgrim, then he had a recurring role as Commander Scott Keller on Seaquest DSV, and finally being Jack Crichton on Farscape.  Oh, and if you look very carefully in “The Quadripartite Affair” episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., you’ll spot him as the Man in Hallway. 
  • Born September 26, 1946 — Louise Simonson, 75. Comic editor and writer. She started as editor on the CreepyEerie, and Vampirella titles at Warren Publishing. Working for DC and Marvel, she created a number of characters such as Cable and Doomsday, and written quite a few titles ranging from DoomsdayWonder WomanConan the Barbarian and X-Terminators. She’s written a Star Wars title for Dark Horse. 
  • Born September 26, 1956 — Linda Hamilton, 65. Best known for being Sarah Connor in The Terminator film franchise and Catherine Chandler in the Beauty and the Beast series. (I wonder what the Suck Fairy would do to the latter series. It’s on Paramount+ which I subscribe to.) She is also Vicky Baxter in Children of the Corn, and Doctor Amy Franklin in King Kong Lives. She would be Acacia, a Valkyrie in “Delinquents” of the Lost Girl series, a role she would reprise in two more episodes, “End of a Line” and “Sweet Valkyrie High”. She’s currently playing General Macalliaster in the Resident Alien, the Syfy series based on the comic book series of the same name by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse. 
  • Born September 26, 1957 — Tanya Huff, 64. Her now-concluded Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me.  And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend.
  • Born September 26, 1959 — Ian Whates, 62. The Noise duology,  The Noise Within and The Noise Revealed, are space opera at its finest. As an editor, he’s put together some forty anthologies of which I’ll note only the most recent, London Centric: Tales of Future London, as it’s a quite amazing collection. 
  • Born September 26, 1968 — Jim Caviezel, 53. John Reese on Person of Interest which CBS describes as a “crime drama”. Huh. He was also Detective John Sullivan in Frequency, and Kainan in Outlander. And yes, he played Number Six in the rather unfortunate reboot of The Prisoner

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SET AND MATCH. Trekonderoga 2021 took place this weekend in Ticonderoga, NY. There’s a reason for the location, as we learn from a Gothamist article: “Interview: The Star Trek Fandom Lives Long & Prospers At Trekonderoga”.

First of all: why does Ticonderoga have this incredible replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise? I suppose the answer is “why not?”, but I’d expect to see something like this in Hollywood. Well, here’s the thing. It’s 13,000 square feet, so it’s massive. And as we all know, real estate in Manhattan and Los Angeles is extremely expensive, and this is a permanent attraction — it doesn’t move from place to place. So you’re literally walking into a one-to-one recreation of the Desilu soundstage from 55 years ago. So you have to plan it out and build it appropriately so that it stays in one place. And Ticonderoga is part of the greater Lake George region. We have a very beautiful tourist area up here in the Adirondacks so it’s a great place for it. A lot of people come through here annually and we expect that just to continue to grow.

There’s also the transporter room. Why was this something that you felt like you had to do? It’s more than the bridge and the transporter room. It’s every set that the actors worked on every day, laid out and recreated exactly the way they were when the actors worked on them. So you’re talking about the transporter room, the sick bay, the lab, Dr. McCoy’s office, Captain Kirk’s quarters, the briefing room, engineering, the entire corridor layout. It’s literally like being an actor on a time trip and going back to work on the show. I grew up with Star Trek. I was just enamored with it and never lost the passion for it. So here we are today still celebrating it.

How accurate is the set? Deadly. We worked from the original blueprints. They were given to me by the original costume designer who had them in his possession. We kept thousands of stills from the original series in high definition. We’ve sourced and located hundreds of antiques and antique furniture. We’ve rebuilt every jelly bean button. Everything is laid out, every color, proportionally. Every surviving actor from the main cast has been here, and many of the guest stars. Bill Shatner loves it so much he’s here twice a year.

(13) A WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOING ON. “Mars probe records a big hour-and-a-half Martian quake” reports Mashable.

NASA recently reported that its InSight lander — sent to observe geologic activity beneath the Martian surface — recorded one of its biggest quakes yet on Sept. 18. The 4.2 temblor, a quake that would have been big enough for people to feel had it happened on Earth, lasted an hour-and-a-half….

(14) DROP EVERYTHING! Hypebeast says this seasonal flavor was recently spotted in a SoCal grocery store. OMG! “Kit Kat’s Pumpkin Pie-Flavored Wafers Return”.

As summer comes to an end, Kit Kat is bringing back its seasonal Pumpkin Pie creme-covered wafers. Fall is the season for turning leaves, a new NFL season, and a variety of pumpkin-flavored food and drinks such as Nissin’s “Pumpkin Spice” cup noodles and Kraft’s Pumpkin Spice mac and cheese.

While there may be mixed feelings about the flavor of the season, Kit Kat’s Pumpkin Pie is a highly sought-after rendition…. 

Meanwhile, Taste of Home promises “Gingerbread Kit Kat Bars Will Be Here for Christmas 2021”. Makes no difference if you’re naughty or nice.

…The Gingerbread Kit Kat takes your favorite breakable candy bar and jollies it up for the holidays. Instead of the classic chocolate coating, you’ll instead find yourself biting into a blanket of gingerbread-flavored creme. Ooh, yes please! 

(15) EAT ‘EM ALL. A corporation manipulating the marketplace, imagine that. Food & Wine tells why “Pokémon Oreos Are Listed on eBay for Thousands of Dollars”.

…So here’s some news Oreo probably saw coming: Earlier this month, the world’s best known cookie brand launched a collaboration with the game Pokémon, and in true “catch ’em all” fashion, each specially-branded pack was filled at random in what Oreo billed as its “first-ever cookie rarity scheme.”

In total, 16 different Pokémon characters were embossed onto the cookies, with some being harder to find than others. Oreo even stressed that “the hardest to find (Mew) is featured on an extremely limited amount of the total cookies produced!”

As a result, each pack “does not necessarily contain cookies with all 16 embossment designs.” So what’s someone who’s landed a bag full of worthless Pikachus and Bulbasaurs supposed to do? Turn to eBay, of course.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Bruce Gillespie, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jerry Kaufman.]

Pixel Scroll 4/19/21 The Calamari Of Dr. Cabinet

(1) UP, UP, AND AWAY. “NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Succeeds in Historic First Flight” the space agency reported today. (For a summary of the mission see the Wikipedia: “Ingenuity (helicopter)”.)

Monday, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The Ingenuity team at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight succeeded after receiving data from the helicopter via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m. EDT (3:46 a.m. PDT).

“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky – at least on Mars – may not be the limit.”

The solar-powered helicopter first became airborne at 3:34 a.m. EDT (12:34 a.m. PDT) – 12:33 Local Mean Solar Time (Mars time) – a time the Ingenuity team determined would have optimal energy and flight conditions. Altimeter data indicate Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed maximum altitude of 10 feet (3 meters) and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then descended, touching back down on the surface of Mars after logging a total of 39.1 seconds of flight. Additional details on the test are expected in upcoming downlinks.

(2) ALL THE FEELS. The Atlantic’s Marina Koren captures the emotions of the event in “No, You’re Crying About a Helicopter on Mars”.

… I am not a spacecraft engineer, nor do I know this robot personally. But I am mortal, and we mortals tend to anthropomorphize robots and even have fuzzy feelings toward them. (The exception: If their appearance falls into the “uncanny valley” category, they can creep us out instead). A whole assortment of research on the relationship between people and machines shows that we can’t help attaching our little human feelings to the little mechanical robots we build. And NASA knows it.

As with other robotic missions, NASA maintains a Twitter account for Perseverance, the rover that brought Ingenuity to Mars in February, and dispatches are written from the perspective of the machine. “I love rocks,” Perseverance tweeted in February to its followers, who currently number 2.7 million. “I’m on the move!” it exclaimed in March as it took its first drive. “I’ve taken my first selfie,” the rover said earlier this month, showing us a picture of its robotic frame, with Ingenuity in the background. NASA has already shared imagery of Ingenuity’s flight—from Percy, stationed nearby, and from the helicopter itself, which captured its shadow flitting across the surface of Mars….

(3) A WALK, NOT A GALLOP. Book Riot’s Alice Nuttall points the way: “Slow Sci-Fi: 11 Thoughtful And Low Action Sci-Fi Reads”. A Becky Chambers’ novel is first on the list.

…Slow sci-fi can be a peaceful read between more action-packed books, or can give you the chance to grapple with a futuristic or otherworldly concept on multiple levels. Don’t be fooled — slow doesn’t mean shallow, and sometimes thoughtful sci-fi can give the horrors of a dystopia more time to develop, really drawing back before landing that gut punch. Here are some lower-action, thoughtful sci-fi reads to add to your TBR pile.

(4) THE QUARTERMASS EXPERIMENT. Texas A&M Libraries will host “The Future at 25 Cents A Copy: The Material Culture of Pulp Science Fiction Magazines”, a virtual talk scheduled for Thursday, April 22 at Noon (US Central). The participants are Jeremy Brett, an Associate Professor at A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, where he is both Processing Archivist and the Curator of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection; Anna Culbertson, head of Special Collections & University Archives at San Diego State University, and Andrew Lippert, Special Collections Processing Archivist at UC, Riverside who works with the Eaton Collection. Register at the link.

“The “Pulp Era” of the 1920s-1940s was crucial to the formation of the science fiction genre in the United States. Pulp magazines were colorful, exciting vehicles for the work of countless creators, many of whom became major names. Librarians from three institutions with major pulp collections—Texas A&M University, the University of California, Riverside, and San Diego State University—will discuss the literary and genre legacy of pulps, including their significance as examples of mid-century American material culture.”

(5) DO YOU KNOW? Lise Andreasen would like to poll the audience.

(1) A French gentleman worked with agriculture, and invented a new drill plough, that was better at sowing. Michel Lullin de Chateauvieux – Wikipedia

(2) In “Surface Tension,” James Blish, talks about sowing people in the universe. The premier scientist is Chatvieux.

Does anybody know, whether this is a coincidence?

(6) EUROVISION SONG CONTEST. In return, Lise Andreasen offers to enlighten people who keep asking: How can this movie be nominated for the Hugo? She forwards these snippets from the Wikipedia plot summary:

Sigrit, who believes in the old Icelandic tradition of elves, asks them to help them in the contest…

Katiana’s ghost appears to (redacted)…

Luckily, unseen elves save (redacted)…

(7) HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOU HANG UP? Marvel dropped a trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The movie will be (only) in theaters September 3.

(8) PROVING LOVE. Netflix will release Love, Death, And Rockets, Volume 2 on May 14.

The NSFW animated anthology returns with a vengeance. Naked giants, Christmas demons, and robots-gone-wild… Consume irresponsibly.

Is there another Scalzi story in the new series? Youth wants to know.

(9) PROGRAMMED FOR FAILURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 12 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber, discusses Disco Elysium, a role-playing game created by “Estonian novelist Robert Kurvitz and his friends during a night of drinking in 2005” and which won three gaming awards at the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of Oscars.

The brew of debauchery, failure, and resilience that marks this origin story is palpable in the 6,000 years of dense history Kurvitz and his team crafted around this detective game.  The story unfolds across the impoverished district of Martinaise, abandoned by the law following a failed communist revolution and now under the heel of a corrupt labor union.

Your protagonist is similarly scarred, beginning the game with a bout of amnesia following a drug-fueled bender so destructive it makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas look like something for children.  As you recover your memory it becomes apparent that you’re a cop with a murder case to solve, a task you are profoundly ill-equipped to handle.  ‘The entire story is about how to react when you’re faced with failure,’ Helen Hindpere, lead writer on the Final Cut, tells me.  ‘How do you come out of it?  What do you do?’

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — In 1981 at Devention Two, The Empire Strikes Back which was released the previous year by Lucasfilm won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other nominated works were Lathe of Heaven, the Cosmos series, The Martian Chronicles and Flash Gordon.  It was directed by Irvin Kershner from the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan with story by being George Lucas. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 18, 1907 Alan Wheatley. Best remembered for being the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Richard Greene playing Robin Hood. In 1951, he had played Sherlock Holmes in the first TV series about him, but no recordings of it are known to exist. And he was in Two First Doctor stories as Temmosus, “The Escape” and “The Ambush” where he was the person killed on screen by Daleks. (Died 1991.) (CE) 
  • Born April 19, 1923 – Lygia Fagundes Telles, age 98.  Camões Prize.  Commander, Order of Rio Branco.  Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres.  Grand officer, Order of Gabriela Mistral.  Third woman elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters.  Called First Lady of Brazilian Literature.  Fifteen stories for us available in English, see collection Tigrela.  Many other works, many other awards.  [JH]
  • Born April 18, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M which you can see here as it’s in the public domain. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.)  He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, the pilot for Search, and Search itself, an SF series. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born April 18, 1933 W.R. Cole. Author of A Checklist of Science Fiction Anthologies, self-published In 1964. Ok, I’m including him today because I’m puzzled. SFE said of this work that ‘Though it has now been superseded and updated by William Contento’s indexes of Anthologies, it is remembered as one the essential pioneering efforts in Bibliography undertaken by sf Fandom.’  Was this really the first time someone compiled an index of anthologies? I seem to remember earlier efforts though I can’t remember precisely who. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born April 18, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 86. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler. (CE)
  • Born April 18, 1946 Tim Curry, 75. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance as a year earlier he’d been in the Scottish Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu  in The Three Musketeers, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player. (CE) 
  • Born April 19, 1947 – Donald Eastlake III, F.N., age 74.  Co-chaired Boskone 11, chaired Boskone 16.  Served as President of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n). Frequent chair of WSFS (World SF Society) Business Meetings, a particularly difficult thankless task.  Fellow of NESFA (service).  Guest of Honor (with wife Jill Eastlake) at Rivercon IX.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1948 – Christopher Yates, age 73.  A dozen covers.  Here is The Committed Men.  Here is The Year of the Quiet Sun.  Here is Solaris.  Here is Rogue Moon.  Here is Toyman.  Here is The Bornless Keeper.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1951 – Patricia Geary, age 70.  Four novels.  Vassar woman.  P.K. Dick Award.  Professor at Univ. Redlands.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1967 – Steven H Silver, age 54.  Chaired Windycon XXIX-XXX, 42 (so some are in Roman, some in Arabic numerals; do you think anyone asked me?); co-chaired Nebula Award Weekend 2010 (with Peggy Rae Sapienza, making SHS a Lawn Mower), chaired 2015-2016.  Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 49, Capricon 32.  Fanzine, Argentus; three guest-editorships on Journey Planet.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1978 – Aleksi Briclot, age 43.  A score of covers, two dozen interiors; comics, films, video games.  Collection Worlds and Wonders in French and English (here is his cover).  Here is the Sep 04 Deep Magic.  Here is Galaxies 42.  Here is The Rose of Sarifal.  Here is Boundless.  Here is Stranger Things 4. [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) NOT DRAWN THAT WAY. CBR.com says “DC’s Karate Kid Was Accidentally Drawn the Wrong Way for Years”.

… One of the other audacious things about Shooter’s story was that he actually added FOUR new Legionnaires to the Legion in that story! Can you imagine pitching an editor with a story where you add four new members to the team? But hey, it worked out! One of the things Shooter felt that the Legion lacked was action characters. He felt that everyone’s powers were too passive. Everyone just pointed and fired a blast from their fingers or whatever. So that’s why Shooter loved the idea of Karate Kid, and wow, devoting PAGES to a fight between Superboy and Karate Kid was a bold, bold gambit at the time…

The problem was, as Shooter explained to my pal Glen Cadigan in Glen’s seminal work, The Legion Companion (I’d link to it, but I think it’s out of print and I don’t think it does Glen any good for me to tell you go buy a used copy on Amazon, ya know?), “In my crummy drawings, he was Half-Asian…when Shelly drew him, he made him like an American. Which is a shame.” As I noted in another old Comic Book Legends Revealed, one of the other Legionnaires introduced in that issue, Ferro Lad, was going to be Black, but Mort Weisinger wouldn’t approve it. Shooter was trying to diversify the Legion and he kept coming up short….

(14) IMPOSTER SYNDROME. The Hollywood Reporter tells why “Tim Curry Once Got Thrown Out of a ‘Rocky Horror’ Screening”.

…[Curry] explained, “I went rather early on at the Waverly [Theatre] in New York where it started, and they thought I was an imposter. And they threw me out.” Curry noted he was not in costume when he was tossed.

The Waverly (now IFC Center) was the original home of the midnight audience-participation screenings of Rocky Horror, which then spread across the country and still takes place to this day.

Asked about his feelings on the audience-participation screening, he said, “I thought it was enormous fun. I was having a ball — and then I got thrown out.”…

(15) TIME TO PLAY. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com entry has nothing to do with curling: “A Game of Stones: Five Novels Set in Asteroid Belts”. On the list is –

Up Against It by M. J. Locke (2011)

By the 24th century, humans can be found everywhere in the solar system, from the inner system all the way out to the Kuiper belt. This is possible in large part thanks to a trade network spanning the system. The network ensures that vital resources like volatiles are transported cheaply and reliably from source to destination. A case in point: asteroid 25 Phocaea (and its one settlement, Zekeston) flourish because the settlement can import the volatiles it lacks.

What Zekeston accepts as necessity, others see as opportunity. A disaster leaves Zekeston short on volatiles. Ogilvie and Sons is the only company in a position to resupply Zekeston in time to save its population. Ogilvie and Sons is more than willing to do this, provided Zekeston submits to rule by Ogilvie and Sons. Zekeston’s head of resource management, Jane Navio, is determined to save her adopted community from the predatory corporation. Whether she can do so with the resources at hand—some sympathetic functionaries and a gang of plucky kids—is unclear.

(16) BIG EARS. YouTube has a sketch from last night’s The Simpsons called “Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You)” where Quilloughby of The Snuffs (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) shows up in Springfield and charms Lisa Simpson. Morrissey of The Smith’s manager Peter Katsis loudly complained the show was making fun of the artist.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Man’s Chest” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says there are “enough nautical-themed Maguffins to fill an entire movie” in the first ten minutes, but he notes that it’s never clear in the movie why Davy Jones has an octopus face.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/16/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Pixel’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) CONTRACT GUIDES NOW OPEN ACCESS. The Authors Guild has released its Model Book Contract to the public for the first time. They have also produced a separate Literary Translation Model Contract for U.S. translators and literary agents.

“We updated the Model Trade Book Contract last year right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We never could have predicted just how deleterious the crisis would be on working writers, with 71.4 percent of authors reporting losing, on average, 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income, based on our latest member survey,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Given this situation, we have been exploring various ways to help ease the lives and careers of professional writers, which is why the Authors Guild Council recently voted to remove the Model Trade Book Contract from behind our member paywall and make it freely accessible for all writers, publishers and anyone interested in book contracts. We hope that publishers will look to its terms in creating their own or adopt it, and we want authors around the globe to have access to it so they can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before signing any book deal.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. “Wakandans Featurette/Marvel Studio’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube is a trailer from Disney+ that announces that Wakandans have shown up in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.

(3) SPFBO. Mark Lawrence has announced that he will be starting the next Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off on June 1st.  They need another blogger/reviewer.

(4) FINALS EXAM. Cora Buhlert has 2,000 well-chosen words to share on the subject: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists”.

… When the Best Series Hugo was proposed, the argument was that a lot of popular and long-running series are overlooked by the Hugos – or the Nebulas for that matter – because the individual novels don’t stand alone very well and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

However in practice, such series, no matter how popular, are rarely nominated. Particularly The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is notable by its absence, even though the Best Series Hugo seems tailor-made for this series.

Instead, the Best Series ballot tends to consist of trilogies by authors Hugo voters like and where individual volumes have often made the ballot before as well as of works set in the same wold that form a series if you squint really hard. I guess most Hugo voters simply aren’t series readers.

That said, the actual Best Series ballot looks pretty good this year. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a hugely popular series where prettty much every installment has either been a finalist or would have been, if Martha Wells hadn’t withdrawn two Murderbot novellas from consideration in 2019. It’s also a great series….

(5) HAVE YOU RED IT TOO? The Heinlein Society has a good reason for suggesting that you watch this trailer and note what books the kids are reading at about 28 seconds.

(6) IT’S JUST TAKING A KIP. Meanwhile, back at the Red Planet, NASA’s InSight lander is “in crisis”: “NASA’s InSight Mars Lander to Hibernate so Batteries Don’t Die” at Business Insider.

… Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers — including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter — powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called “cleaning events,” are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA’s robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, and it’s struggling to absorb sunlight.InSight’s solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to start incrementally turning off different instruments on the lander. Soon the robot will go into “hibernation mode,” shutting down all functions that aren’t necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather,” Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, said in a statement.

InSight is still in good condition — it’s even using its robotic arm — but an out-of-season storm could cause a power failure. If the lander’s batteries die, it might never recover.

“We would be hopeful that we’d be able to bring it back to life, especially if it’s not asleep or dead for a long period of time,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator, told Insider. “But that would be a dicey situation.”

(7) THE HOLE NINE YARDS. Let James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five Books That Use Wormholes to Plug Plot Holes” at Tor.com. First on the list –

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953)

This novel long predates the heyday of wormholes; it doesn’t even use the phrase. But it uses spacetime anomalies, which are just like wormholes. With one exception: they don’t just have an entrance and an exit. They can take you all sorts of interesting places if you enter the anomaly with the wrong approach vector. A small error calculating the vector and a hapless ship could find itself light-millennia off-course, with no clear idea how to get home. No prizes for guessing if this happens to the Asgard, the very ship on which the eponymous Starman Jones is serving. Nor is this worst that will happen to the unfortunate castaways.

(8) MCCRORY OBIT. Actress Helen McCrory, OBE, (1968-2021) died April 16 reports GEEKchocolate.

We are hugely saddened to hear of the death of the wonderful Helen McCrory, known to us as Rosanna Calvierri’s in Doctor Who’s Vampires of Venice, but with a resume which stretched from Interview with the Vampire, Charlotte Gray, The Count of Monte Cristo, Skyfall, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, a recurring role in Harry Potter as Narcissa Malfoy, and a long stint as Polly Grey on Peaky Blinders, as well as two appearances as Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship.

(9) FELIX SILLIA OBIT. The actor who played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, Felix Sillia, has died at the age of 84 reports SYFY Wire.

In addition to playing Cousin Itt, Silla’s other best-known roles include playing the robot Twiki / Odee-x on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and an evil miniature “Hitler” in 1975’s The Black Bird. He also had smaller parts in much-loved movies, such as playing an Ewok on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Dink in Spaceballs. He also worked as a stuntman on E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Temple of DoomHoward the Duck, and Batman Returns.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 16, 1955 –On this day in 1955, Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 16, 1891 – Dorothy Lathrop.  Illustrator and author.  Historically a lot of good fantasy has been written for children; folks who appreciate fantasy know to look there.  DL illustrated twoscore books, writing nine herself, also nonfiction.  Rachel Field’s Hitty, illustrated by DL, won RF a Newbery Medal; DL’s illustrations for Helen Fish’s Animals of the Bible won DL a Caldecott Medal.  Here is DL’s cover for an ed’n of The Little Mermaid.  Here is a dandelion soldier.  Here is an interior for Mopsa the Fairy.  This is from DL’s Fairy Circus.  Here is Across the Night Sky.  Here is a 2011 appreciation with another score of pictures.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. Genre adjacent (well sort of), he played Hercule Poirot twice. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Anti-Death League and The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction which was published in the late Fifties sounds fascinating as he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube despite there already being some. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both an excellent radio and a superb television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. The film version would be nominated for a Hugo finishing sixth in the balloting at Noreascon I, a year where No Award was given. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1953 – J. Neil Schulman.  Four novels, half a dozen shorter stories; collection Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories (speaking of Hobbes’ Leviathan, I used to joke that the tiger should have been Calvin, and the boy Hobbes because he was nasty, brutish, and short); “Profiles in Silver” for The Twilight Zone; two Prometheus Awards.  I can’t remember ever agreeing with him, but I miss him.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1954 Ellen Barkin, 65. Usually I don’t do a birthday listing for just a few genre appearances but I make an exception for those performers who appeared in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Barking played Penny Priddy in that film and that was her only genre appearance other than playing Kathleen in the Into The West film about Irish Travellers and a very special horse named Tír na nÓg. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 59. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb. She has a most excellent website — Kathryncramer.com. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1970 – Brandon McKinney, age 51.  Here is a fine cover for John Whitman’s novelization Star Wars.  Here is a cover for JW’s Phantom Menace.  Interiors for both.  Here is Batman, here is Robin.  Here is Spider-Man.  Here is Bruce Lee in The Dragon Rises.  Also Elfquest; see here.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 46. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of  animated DAC films, to wit  Son of BatmanBatman vs. Robin,,Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1978 – Amy Ruttan, age 43.  Four novels for us; two dozen others.  “Half the fun of writing historicals and being swept away in a different time period is the research….  let someone else you trust have a look over your work.  You’ll be surprised what you as an author won’t pick out.”  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1983 – Thomas Olde Heuvelt, age 38.  Too little (say I) of his work has been translated from Dutch into English.  “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was and won a Hugo, which may be some encouragement.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories; one novel, five shorter stories in English so far.  Three Paul Harland prizes.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1990 – Kusano Gengen, age 31.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Only three stories yet translated into English; one is “Last and First Idol” – yes, alluding to Olaf Stapledon – which won a Seiun, and is the lead story in a 2018 collection with the other two.  KG drew a thousand words from Jonathan Clements, of which I’ll quote a few about “Idol”: “Described by one of the Hayakawa Sci-Fi Contest [which “Idol” won – JH] panelists as ‘stupid’, and by an employee of his own publisher as ‘abysmal’, Kusano’s work of recursive SF provocatively combines the breathless, vapid prose of a teenage school story with the portentous, epic concerns of Space Opera, turning each into a wry commentary on the pomposity of the other.”  Meanwhile Kusano-san went off to Hokkaidô University for a Ph.D.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) IMAGINARY PAPERS ON YOUR DOORSTEP. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today published the 6th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.  

This issue features writing from media scholar Lisa Yin Han, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and learning sciences researcher Ruth Wylie.

Here is a link for subscribing to future issues.

 (14) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has scheduled three more FanHistory Project Zoom Sessions. To attend, send an RSVP to [email protected] in order to receive a link. 

  • April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  

Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and  Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. 

  • April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. 

Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. 

  • May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. 

Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more. 

(15) BEAMING INTO YOUR HOME. Stay tuned as Galactic Journey boldly goes through 1966!

(16) BIG BUCKS. Smaug’s dead, so they can’t borrow it from him.“Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Costs $465 Million for Just Season 1” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings television show is going to cost all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Amazon will spend roughly NZ$650 million — $465 million in U.S. dollars — for just the first season of the show.

That’s far above previous reported estimates that pegged the fantasy drama as costing an already record-breaking $500 million for multiple seasons of the show.

“What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about $650 million in season one alone,” Stuart Nash, New Zealand minister for economic development and tourism, told Morning Report“This is fantastic, it really is … this will be the largest television series ever made.”

The figures were released as part of as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act and initially reported by the New Zealand outlet Stuff. The documents also confirmed the studio’s plan to film potentially five seasons in New Zealand — as well as possible, as-yet-unannounced spinoff series.

By comparison, HBO’s Game of Thrones cost roughly $100 million to produce per season, with its per-episode cost starting at around $6 million for season one and eventually rising to around $15 million per episode in season eight….

(17) THE TRAIN TO NOWHERE. Mashable’s reviewer Belen Edwards says “’Infinity Train’ Season 4 is a strong end to a show that deserved more”.

… However, part of the beauty of Infinity Train has always been its conciseness. The animated series takes on an anthology format. Each season follows a different passenger on the titular train, where each car holds a new world. Passengers are assigned a glowing green number that goes down as they learn more lessons and work to resolve the problems in their life. When their numbers reach zero, they can exit the train. Each season is only 10 episodes long, and at 11 minutes each they pack in an astounding amount of character development and heart. …

(18) KING OF THE MOVIES. There will be an online “Dollar Baby film festival” hosted by Vancouver’s Baker Street Cinema of unreleased Stephen King movies from April 23-25. Full details at the link.  

Hosted by Canadian film production company Barker Street Cinema, the virtual festival, called STEPHEN KING RULES, will screen 25 submissions by filmmakers from all over the world, many of which have never been seen by a global audience before.

Since 1977, the Master of Horror – Stephen King – has allowed emerging filmmakers to adapt his previously unproduced short stories into films that may help launch their careers through what is called the Dollar Baby Deal. Barker Street’s STEPHEN KING RULES Dollar Baby Film Festival will showcase an exciting line-up of these independent movies, including interviews and panel discussions with the filmmakers themselves….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Dann, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MixMat and Cliff with an assist from Jack Lint and Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/21 The Unpleasant Pixel Of Jonathan Scroll

(1) COSMIC RAY. The Waukegan Public Library is taking submissions to its Cosmic Bradbury Writing Contest through January 29. Complete guidelines at the link. The winning submission will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card and will be formally recognized on the library website.

…Venture into the deep expanses of space and the planets it contains. Show off your imagination and creativity by writing an original short story with the theme of space and space travel.

Does your universe have alien life forms or is it slowly being colonized by a vastly expanding human race? If you impress the judges and make Ray Bradbury proud, you will be beamed a $50 Amazon gift card!

Submission Deadline is January 29, 2021. For writers 14 years and older. Submissions limited to 5 pages (single-spaced, 12-point font).

(2) ANOTHER AGE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF reaches the end of its run through Journey Press’ Rediscovery anthology with Pauline Ashwell’s “Unwillingly to School.” 

Ashwell is an author whose work I have read before Rediscovery Vol 1. Less than entirely usefully, the sole work of hers I have read was 1992’s Unwillingly to Earth, which collects the Lizzie Lee stories, of which Unwilling to School is the first. I do not, therefore, have much sense of her skills outside this particular series. Unwillingly to Earth struck me a bit old-fashioned in 1992. Since the first instalment was written in 1958, that’s not terribly surprising.

Still, readers nominated Ashwell’s fiction enough to nominate her for the ?“Best New Author” Hugo. Twice. Not only that but twice in the same year, courtesy of a pen-name and the difficulty fans had discovering that Pauline Ashwell and Paul Ash were the same person. Will my Young People think as highly of her story? Let’s find out.

(3) MAKING CHANGE. Sarah Gailey talks about worldbuilding – building the one we’re in — at Here’s the Thing. “Building Beyond”.

Humans are built to imagine. That, to me, is one of our best qualities: the ability to hypothesize, to wonder, to create whole universes out of nothing at all. Whether or not you think of yourself as a writer, you can generate a world with your mind. Isn’t that just fucking amazing?

Part of why I love this ability we all share is because it can be used to change the shape of reality. When we let ourselves imagine new worlds, we start to realize that the world we live in is just as mutable as the worlds we imagine. When we start to believe that change is possible at all, all the doors fly open, and we start to believe that we can make change happen.

I think we could all use some of that belief right now, in a world where things are different. In a world we can build, together….

(4) READ AGAIN. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar signal boost several authors whose novels deserve a new look in “Let’s talk about fantasy and science fiction books that have fallen off the radar” at the Washington Post.

…Tanith Lee was a literary great: She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for a novel. I loved her Secret Books of Paradys, a series of Gothic, interlinked stories set in an alternate Paris, but she worked in all kinds of modes. Alas, she eventually had trouble selling her work. Her titles came out from smaller and smaller presses and were difficult to find. Lee died in 2015 and recently DAW/Penguin began reissuing her catalogue. You can now find titles such as “The Birthgrave,” “Electric Forest” and “Sabella.”

(5) WORLDCON LAWSUIT UPDATE. Jon Del Arroz today reported he gave a deposition in his lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation.

In February 2019, the court tossed four of the five causes of action, the case continues on the fifth complaint, defamation. (Not libel.)

(6) STATE HAS EYE ON AMAZON. “Connecticut probes Amazon’s e-book business” according to The Hill.

Connecticut is probing Amazon’s e-book distribution for potential anticompetitive behavior, according to the state’s attorney general. 

“Connecticut has an active and ongoing antitrust investigation into Amazon regarding potentially anticompetitive terms in their e-book distribution agreements with certain publishers,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) said in a statement. 

Tong noted that Connecticut has previously taken action to protect competition in e-book sales. 

When the Justice Department sued Apple in 2012 alleging it conspired with major publishers to raise the price of e-books, Connecticut was among states that filed their own lawsuit against Apple, The Wall Street Journal noted. The Journal was the first to report on Connecticut’s Amazon probe…

(7) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. In “Nine Great Science Fiction Thrillers” on CrimeReads, Nick Petrie recommends novels by Heinlein, Dick, and Leckie that are based on crimes.

The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch (2018)

The Gone World was recommended to me by my local indie bookseller and I was immediately smitten.  The protagonist is Naval investigator Shannon Moss, who is chasing the killers of a Navy Seal’s family and trying to find his missing teenage daughter. 

The wrinkle is here is a secret Navy program sending astronauts forward in time to solve the riddle of the impending end of the world that gets closer with each attempt to solve the problem. The storytelling is complex, lyrical, and metaphysical without sacrificing intensity—I could not turn the pages fast enough.  Sweterlitsch is very, very good and I can’t wait for his next book.

(8) REACHING THE END OF THE UNIVERSE. The Horn Book has “Five questions for Megan Whalen Turner” who’s wrapping up a series.

Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (with that never-to-be-bettered twist at the end!) was published in 1996. Now, after six books set in that unforgettably detailed world, full of political machinations, double crosses, dubious motivations, and familial obligations, the series comes to a close with Return of the Thief (Greenwillow, 12 years and up).

1. You’ve spent almost twenty-five years in the universe of Attolia. What will you miss most about writing about it?

Megan Whalen Turner: This has been such a bewildering year, I’m not sure of my own feelings anymore, but I think the answer is…nothing? I know that other authors have gotten to the end of their long-running series and felt a sense of loss, but I don’t. Very much to the contrary. I feel like I hooked a whale twenty-five years ago, and after playing the line for so long, I’ve finally landed it — maybe because, for me, finishing this book doesn’t mean shutting the door on the whole world. There’s room left for more storytelling — if I ever want to go back and write about Sophos’s sisters and their mother, or to follow up any number of loose threads left to the imagination. It’s this one narrative arc that has finally reached its conclusion, and that’s just immensely satisfying.

(9) MARVEL PRIMER. Vanity Fair tutors readers in “WandaVision: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to the New Marvel Show”. Useful for people like me who mostly know about the kind of comics found on tables at the barber shop. (Need to know anything about Sgt. Rock?)

Who Is Wanda? Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, has a long history in Marvel comics. She officially joined the film franchise in 2015, with Avengers: Age of Ultron. As you may or may not recall, that movie was a Joss Whedon joint—so if you’re a fan of his non-Marvel work, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, it may come as no surprise that his version of Wanda was an angsty, troubled, superpowered teen girl with a tragic backstory. Think of her as Buffy Summers meets River Tam meets Willow Rosenberg. She also sported an outrageous Eastern European accent, which the MCU, in its infinite wisdom, decided to randomly drop without ever really mentioning it again. 

So yes: Wanda hails from a fictional Eastern European country called Sokovia. In much of her time in the comics she’s a mutant, like the X-Men (you know, Wolverine, etc?). But because Marvel Studios did not, at the time of her film debut, own the rights to the X-Men, the films instead called her—vaguely—a “miracle.” (More on that in a bit.) Wanda had a twin brother named Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who could run very fast—but died, tragically, in Ultron…. 

(10) SPREADING THE WORD. E. Everett Evans, for whom the Big Heart Award was originally named, was responsible for what may have been the first appearance of the word “fanzine” in a newspaper, when he was interviewed for this Battle Creek [Mich.] Enquirer article published on October 5, 1941 (p.26) about the “Galactic Roamers” organization. The word had been coined only a year earlier by Louis Russell Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine, Detours

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 14, 1981 Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy 64% rating. 
  • January 14, 2007 — The animated Flatland film was released on DVD.  It was directed by Ladd Ehlinger Jr., the animated feature was an adaptation of the Edwin A. Abbott novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The screenplay was written by author Tom Whalen with music was composed by Mark Slater.  It starred Chris Carter, Megan Colleen and Ladd Ehlinger Jr.  It was well received by critics snd currently has a rating of seventy percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 14, 1915 – Lou Tabakow.  Founding Secretary-Treasurer of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group, then its long-time head (“Dictator”).  Co-founded Midwestcon, chaired many, also Octocon (the Ohio one, not e.g. the Irish one).  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon I, Dubuqon II, Rivercon V.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  At SunCon the 35th Worldcon entered the Masquerade (our costume competition) with Joan Bledig as “TAFF and DUFF, visitors from the planet FIAWOL”, winning Best Aliens and Best Presentation.  Wrote “The Astonishing Adventures of Isaac Intrepid” stories with Mike Resnick; MR’s appreciation here.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1921 – Ken Bulmer.  First (honorary) President of British Fantasy Society. Guest of Honor at Eastercon 19, Novacon 3, SfanCon 5, Shoestringcon I, BECCON ’83, Cymrucon 1984.  TAFF delegate.  Fanzines e.g. Steam and the legendary Nirvana.  A hundred novels, as many shorter stories; eighty “Kenneth Johns” science essays with John Newman; historical fiction.  Edited Foundation and New Writings in SF.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1921 – Don Ford.  Chaired Cinvention the 7th Worldcon.  Co-founded Midwestcon and chaired the first one.  Collector.  CFG long celebrated the Tabakow-Ford birthday.  TAFF delegate; first U.S. TAFF Administrator.  Ron Bennett’s appreciation here – note, Skyrack the RB fanzine is skyr ack the shire oak.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series.  (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1931 – Joe Green, age 90; hello, Joe.  Guest of Honor at Palm Beach Con, Necronomicon ’97.  Phoenix Award.  Opened his home to pilgrim fans watching the Apollo launches.  Eight novels, five dozen shorter stories (two with Shelby Vick, two with daughter Rosy Lillian a second-generation fan, one in Last Dangerous Visions).  Appreciation of Ray Lafferty in Feast of Laughter 4.  [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other SFF creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1950 – Arthur Byron Cover, age 71.  Fifteen novels, a score of shorter stories including one for Wild Cards, one in LDV; also television.  Long career with the Dangerous Visions bookshop in Los Angeles.  Interviewed Dick, Ellison, Spinrad for Vertex.  Essays, review, letters in Delap’sNY Rev SFOmniSF Eye.  [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1964 Mark Addy, 57. He’s got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost, followed by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Games of Thrones, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1967 Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow is in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1973 – Jessica Andersen, Ph.D., age 48.  A dozen novels for us, twoscore all told.  Landscaper, horse trainer.  Has read a score of books by L. McMaster Bujold.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd has rules for living in a 1/10,000th scale world. Very helpful for people who are taller than Godzilla.

(14) TINTIN ON THE BLOCK. If the late Fred Patten had a few million Euros to spare he’d have bought this. “Tintin cover art sells for record breaking €3.2m”The Guardian tells why it went for so much.

A rejected Tintin cover illustrated by Hergé that was gifted to a child and kept in a drawer for decades has set a new world record as the most expensive comic book artwork, selling at auction for €3.2m (£2.8m) on Thursday.

Le Lotus Bleu was created in 1936 by the Belgian artist, born Georges Remi, using Indian ink, gouache and watercolour. It had been intended for the eponymous cover of his fifth Tintin title, which sees the boy reporter head to China in order to dismantle an opium trafficking ring.

Hergé was told the painting would be too expensive to mass produce because it featured too many colours, so he painted another version with a black dragon and a blank red background, which became the cover. He then gave the first artwork to Jean-Paul Casterman, the seven-year-old son of his editor, Louis Casterman. It was folded in six and put in a drawer, where it stayed until 1981, when Jean-Paul asked Hergé to sign it….

(15) POWDER MAGE. [Item by Paul Weimer.] I’ve read and really enjoyed these novels, so I do hope this come to fruition. “Joseph Mallozzi To Adapt Fantasy Novel ‘Powder Mage’ As TV Series”Deadline has the details.

…The drama series will take place in the Nine Nations, a fictional world in which magic collides with 18th century technology against the backdrop of political and social revolution. At the heart of the story are Powder Mages, unique individuals who gain magical abilities from common gunpowder.

The series is a fight for survival as mythical gods return to battle for a world that has changed in their absence. It will feature epic battles, gritty magic, heart-stopping duels, cunning political maneuvers, intrepid investigators, and shocking betrayals.

The Powder Mage trilogy was first published in 2013 and has sold over 700,000 copies. Mallozzi will exec produce with No Equal’s J.B. Sugar, Frantic’s Jamie Brown, and McClellan….

(16) DRILL ENDS. Part of NASA’s InSight lander was unable to perform its mission: “RIP: Mars digger bites the dust after 2 years on red planet”.

NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.

Scientists in Germany spent two years trying to get their heat probe, dubbed the mole, to drill into the Martian crust. But the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter) device that is part of NASA’s InSight lander couldn’t gain enough friction in the red dirt. It was supposed to bury 16 feet (5 meters) into Mars, but only drilled down a couple of feet (about a half meter).

Following one last unsuccessful attempt to hammer itself down over the weekend with 500 strokes, the team called it quits.

… The mole’s design was based on Martian soil examined by previous spacecraft. That turned out nothing like the clumpy dirt encountered this time.

InSight’s French seismometer, meanwhile, has recorded nearly 500 Marsquakes, while the lander’s weather station is providing daily reports. On Tuesday, the high was 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 degrees Celsius) and the low was minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 49 degrees Celsius) at Mars’ Elysium Planitia, an equatorial plain.

The lander recently was granted a two-year extension for scientific work, now lasting until the end of 2022.

(17) NUMBER NINE. Running online from February 13-18, the “I Heart Pluto Festival 2021 – Celebrating the 91st anniversary of Pluto’s discovery” is organized by the Home of Pluto, Lowell Observatory.

The I Heart Pluto Festival is going virtual! Show your love for our frosty ninth planet that was discovered in cold and snowy Flagstaff, Arizona by Clyde Tombaugh 91 years ago on February 18, 1930.

(18) THE NEW NUMBER ONE. In “Video games have replaced music as the most important aspect of youth culture” at The Guardian, Mike Monahan argues that video games are as central to the lives of today’s teenagers as music was to earlier generations.

It would be incorrect to say video games went mainstream in 2020. They’ve been mainstream for decades. But their place in pop culture feels far more central – to gamers and non-gamers alike – than ever before. In part, this is due to desperate marketers hunting for eyeballs in a Covid landscape of cancelled events. Coachella wasn’t happening, but Animal Crossing was open was for business. Politicians eager to “Rock the Vote” looked to video games to reach young voters. (See: Joe and Kamala’s virtual HQ and AOC streaming herself playing Among Us.) The time-honored tradition of older politicians trying to seem young and hip at a music venue has been replaced by older politicians trying to seem young and hip playing a video game. Yes, quarantine was part of this. But, like so many trends during the pandemic, Covid didn’t spark this particular trajectory so much as intensify it. Long before the lockdowns, video games had triumphed as the most popular form of entertainment among young people.

(19) STEP IN TIME. Dick Van Dyke is one of the “2021 Kennedy Center Honorees”NPR has the story.

…Master of pratfalls, goofy facial expressions and other forms of physical humor, 95 year old Dick Van Dyke danced on rooftops in Mary Poppins, tripped over the ottoman on The Dick Van Dyke Show and wise-cracked with his fellow security guards in the Night At the Museum movies “with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, says Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter. To join the “illustrious group” of just over 200 artists who’ve received Kennedy Center Honors, says Van Dyke in a statement, “is the thrill of my life.”

(20) BIT OF A MYSTERY. Keith Thompson, a longtime 770 subscriber, says he got a strange result when he searched for Chuck Tingle’s new book.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In his latest appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Neil Gaiman explained

that a previous appearance’s aphorism that “Writers need to find their way to boredom to inspire creativity,” only applies if you’re not actively terrified at the same time. Calling living under stifling COVID precautions like “being locked in the cellar with a bomb—and several poisonous snakes,” Gaiman said that he’d been talking more about being stuck on the tube when the world isn’t embroiled in self-devouring madness so that your creative mind can wander, happily untroubled that it might be killed at any moment.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Paul Weimer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/20 Using The Robotic Arm To Push The Mole

(1) JEMISIN EVENT CONVERTED TO LIVESTREAM. N.K. Jemisin’s in-person appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has been converted to a virtual event, due to steps being taken to protect the health of the UC San Diego community and slow the spread of COVID-19. Use the Eventbrite link to secure access.

N.K. Jemisin’s in-person event for The City We Became has, unfortunately, had to be canceled, but we are pleased to be able to offer you access to an exclusive virtual event streamed live. You’ll get a chance to hear about The City We Became and ask Jemisin questions. Only ticket-holders will have access-plus, you will still receive a copy of the book, with an option to sign up for a signed bookplate from Orbit during the event.

The virtual event will take place at the same time as the original event, 7pm on Friday, April 3rd. Tickets are still available through Eventbrite. If you have already purchased a ticket and would like to request a refund, you may do so through Eventbrite. However we hope you choose to join us in celebrating The City We Became! All ticket purchases help support the author, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, the publisher, and this thing we call human imagination.

And you have to buy the magazine to see this next Jemisin-related item. Kevin Hogan reports: “I was surprised but pleased to see a one-page The Making of the Book segment in Entertainment Weekly (April 2020, issue # 1586, page 90) on N.K. Jemisin and her upcoming novel, The City We Became. It’s always nice to see genre covered in ‘popular media’-type publications.”

(2) BALTICON NEWS. Dale S. Arnold, the Balticon 54 Hotel Liaison, asks for understanding about how reservation cancellations were sent by the hotel before the con could notify its members.

We sent a letter to the Balticon hotel asking for their opinion as to if they would be able to host Balticon this year and if they could not do so we would need to cancel the event.

The hotel management determined that it was very unlikely they would be able to host Balticon 54 and at a staff meeting on the morning of 03/18/2020 the general manager told his staff to send us an email explaining that it was unlikely they would be able to host Balticon and to cancel reservations once we confirmed we had told our people. Apparently, the head of reservations did not hear the part about waiting for us to send out notice and took immediate action by using an automated cancellation program.

Cancellations from the reservations department went out several hours before the email to us from the general manager letting us know they could not host Balticon 54 and would not attempt to collect cancellation fees and that they hope to see us next year was sent. A follow up email with apology for sending the cancellations before we told the hotel we had announced the cancellation of Balticon has already been received from the hotel. Given the stress many people are under during this pandemic I hope we can all forgive the hotel reservations department jumping the gun by a day or so.

A message concerning membership refunds (and roll-overs if you want to Balticon 55) and dealers tables refunds  etc. with the process to let us know what you want to do will be sent out soon.

(3) THE MAN WHO LEARNS BETTER. “Heinlein’s Juveniles, Pt. 1” is a fine article by Sourdough Jackson in the latest DASFAx clubzine. Click here – then scroll down to the March (202003) issue. Starts on page 2.

…When discussing the juveniles, I’ll be taking them two books per column. The first pair are Rocket Ship Galileo(1947) and Space Cadet (1948), both products of a troubled time in the author’s life—a typhoon was blowing his marriage toward the rocks, and the prospects for his writing career weren’t much better. Among his attempts to claw off that marital and literary lee shore was a projected series of books for boys: The Young Atomic Engineers. He thought to begin with a blockbuster—a trip to the Moon.

(4) MONSTROUS DISCOVERIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 16 Financial Times, Simon Ings reviews “Monsters of The Deep,” a show about giant aquatic creatures that will be at Britain’s National Maritime Museum through January.

Back in 1893, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in The Times:  ‘There is not an a priori reason that I know of why snake-bodied reptiles, from fifty feet long and upwards, should not disport themselves to our seas as they did those of the cretaceous epoch, which, geologically speaking, is a mere yesterday.’

Palaentologist Darren Naish, who is lead curator of the Falmouth exhibition,, is willing to entertain Huxley’s theory.  “His was the right attitude at the time, because the life of the deep oceans was only just being discovered. (Monsters of the Deep makes much of the ground-breaking research led by HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 discovered 4,700 species of marine life.) Large fossil dinosaurs and early whales, and amazing gigantic living animals, had been discovered only relatively recently,’ Naish pints out.’The whale shark, the world’s biggest fish, was a mid 19th century discovery.

(5) AGAINST THE LAW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Six Great Novels About Crime That Aren’t Quite Crime Novels” on CrimeReads, Mat Osman looks at six novels, two of which, China Mieville’s The City & The City and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, are Hugo winners.  He also writes about Michel Faber’s Under The Skin, noting the novel is a “very different beast” than the filmed version.

The joy of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the way it lures you in with the most comforting of literary tropes. It’s a hard-bitten detective story about a boozy, lovelorn policeman with a seemingly unsolvable case. There are hard-drinking cops. There are underworld kingpins. There are unspoken codes of honor. So far, so Raymond Chandler. But under the surface another kind of book is flexing its muscles. It’s a what-if novel in which the post-WWII Jewish homeland is Alaska rather than Israel and the Messiah may (or may not) be on his way. It’s a setting that lets Chabon riff on his favored themes. Tall tales are told, language is toyed with (the Alaskan Jews call themselves The Frozen Chosen) and it builds to a denouement as vast as it is unexpected.

(6) BABY YODA ON THE COVER. That made me 1000% more interested. On sale May 26 from Titan Comics, Star Wars: The Mandalorian The Art & Imagery–Collector’s Edition Vol.1.

This deluxe edition collects the stunning artwork from the first four chapters of the Disney+ smash hit, highlighting the characters, creatures, allies, enemies and environments of this all-new Star Wars story.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 19, 1990 Repo Men premiered. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It starred Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber and Alice Braga. It was based on Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo who co-wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner. It wasn’t well-received by critics at the time, nor does the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes care for it giving it a 21% rating.
  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.  The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1821 Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist when that term wasn’t a curse word, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. And the translator of an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Along with Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. (Died 1890.)
  • Born March 19, 1919 Patricia Laffan. She was the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars, a Fifties pulp film which you can see here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was  active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Creator, along with George Markstein, of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but does comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 84. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. Too bad their original website doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still view captures at the Wayback Machine. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 65. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? So even setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down),  Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). 
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 56. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series, and on The Great War of Magellan film. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON COMICS MARKETING. “Image Comics Publisher Asks for Retailer Relief Amid Coronavirus Pandemic”. The Hollywood Reporter explains the new returns strategy adopted by the publisher of Saga, The Walking Dead, Monstress and many other famous titles.

As the comics industry reacts to the social isolation response to the coronavirus, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson has released an open letter about what his company — the third-largest publisher in the U.S. market — is doing to lessen pressure on retailers struggling with reduced traffic to stores and enforced closures. He is also asking other publishers to follow suit.

In normal times, comic book stores must estimate how many issues of each comic they will sell, and pay upfront for inventory from publishers. However, as the coronavirus has dramatically shifted how many customers are coming into shops, Stephenson said Image will allow comic book stores to return orders for the next 60 days. 

(11) THE WAY THROUGH. Elizabeth Bear, in her latest newsletter, looks for the tunnel that has the light at the end of it: “Adapt, improvise, overcome. And some strategies for coping with that cabinet full of shelf-stable STUFF.”

One of the precepts of emergency response is the title of this email: Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s a phrase that gets mentioned several times in Machine, and I found myself thinking of it last night as I chatted with friends in various corners of the internet about the economic repercussions of the current xombie apocalypse. I see a lot of fear, and a lot of people saying “If we have to do this quarantine bullshit for 18 months the economy will never recover.”

A problem here is that we’ve been taught (by entertainment) to think of massive catastrophes as The End Of The World because that makes a better story. And I don’t want to minimize the grief and suffering that we endure in a catastrophe, be it a hurricane or an earthquake or a war or a pandemic. That is real.

But it’s also true that we adapt….

(12) AS CHAYKIN SEES IT. “Graphic Content: At The Intersection Of Comics And Crime With Howard Chaykin” is a fascinating profile by CrimeReads’ Alex Segura.

….Like the best crime fiction, Chaykin’s work is well versed in the morally ambiguous protagonist, as opposed to the steel-jawed, superheroic superman.

“My work more often than not betrays that hero with a wound thing, with a protagonist who is far from morally sound—and informs my interest in telling stories without a hero who does the right thing, that right thing as defined by an audience trained to love this romantic vision of the world,” Chaykin said. “And don’t get me started with the “rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight and turns to wage war on crime” model, either.”

(13) COME TIME TRAVEL WITH ME. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be doing a “Come Time Travel with Me” show on March 27. Sign up online.

It’s been a pretty difficult set of weeks lately.  In addition to normal life grinding to a halt, conventions and gatherings have been canceled.  Galactic Journey was scheduled to present at a number of venues over the next several months.  That’s all fallen by the wayside.

But!

Thanks to the miracle of TELSTAR, SYNCOM, and RELAY, Galactic Journey can still perform for you, coming to you Live, Coast to Coast, in the comfort of your own living rooms!

That’s right — we are reviving Galactic Journey’s “Come Time Travel with Me” show, an hour-long (more or less) trip back in time exactly 55 years.

We’ll be covering science fiction, the Space Race, the recent civil rights march in Alabama, fashion, politics — you name it.  And we mean YOU.  After our introduction, it’ll be your questions that guide the course of the program.  And the best questions will win a prize!

So come join us, March 27, 1965 (2020) at 6PM PDT.  All you need is a screen and an hour.  We’ll provide the rest.

See you there!

(14) IT FEELS SO GOOD WHEN I STOP. “At long last, NASA’s probe finally digs in on Mars” – the PopSci version.

NASA unsticks its Martian digging probe by whacking it with a shovel.

Every day, the InSight lander’s suite of instruments sends back data proving that the Red Planet isn’t really dead. Marsquakes rumble the seismometer. Swirling vortices register on onboard pressure sensor. And temperature sensors help track the weather and changing of the seasons.

Despite the lander’s successes, however, one gauge has met with resistance from the Martian environment while trying to carry out its mission. Something has stopped InSight’s 15-inch digging probe, dubbed “the mole” for its burrowing prowess. Instead of diving deep into the Martian sand where it could take the planet’s temperature, it’s been stuck half-buried. An intercontinental team of MacGyvers has spent a year devising successively daring plans to get the mole digging again, but still it flounders on the surface. Now their final gambit—directly pushing the mole into the soil—has shown tentative signs of success, NASA announced Friday on Twitter.

The goal of the mole, which is the measurement probe of InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (or HP3), is to track the temperature variations of Mars itself. This heat comes from Mars’s core, which, like Earth’s core, remains warm from the planet’s birth. By measuring it, researchers hope to learn about Mars’s formation—but from the rod-shaped mole’s current position they can get readings only of the surface temperature. Mission planners hope to ideally reach 15 feet underground to escape the warming and cooling from the Martian seasons that would interfere with reading the planet’s true temperature.

“I always thought, ‘let’s ask Mark Watney [the fictional protagonist of the book The Martian] to just go over there and just push a little bit on the mole,’” said Tilman Spohn, the HP3’s principle investigator.

But without any Martian explorers to lend a hand, Spohn and his colleagues on the “anomaly response team” have had to improvise with the only tool available—a small shovel-like “scoop” on the end of InSight’s robotic arm. Over the last year they’ve tried to punch down the walls of the hole around the mole, to fill in the hole with nearby sand, and to give the mole more purchase by pinning it against the side of the hole with the scoop. But to no avail.

(15) UNDER DEADLINE. Nature reports “How China is planning to go to Mars amid the coronavirus outbreak”.

China’s first journey to Mars is one of the most anticipated space missions of the year. But with parts of the country in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus, the mission teams have had to find creative ways to continue their work. Researchers involved in the mission remain tight-lipped about its key aspects, but several reports from Chinese state media say that the outbreak will not affect the July launch — the only window for another two years…

(16) BEHIND THE SCENES. “We Spent 24 Hours Searching for the Elusive ‘Butthole Cut’ of Cats”. You probably don’t really need the Vanity Fair article – you intuited the whole story immediately.

You can blame—or thank—Seth Rogen.

On Tuesday, the actor and writer partook in the ancient theatrical tradition that is trying to understand the baffling, inscrutable movie-musical Cats (recently available on digital). Rogen wrote a long Twitter thread about the experience, marveling at the impossibly small cat shoes worn by several characters and wondering what the hell a “Jellicle” is, anyway. (For the record, that made-up word is a play on how posh Brits pronounce “dear little” cats).

In the process, Rogen also tweet-quoted a post from screenwriter Jack Waz, who claimed to know a visual effects artist who had been tapped to work on Cats back in November. That VFX person’s job? “To remove CGI buttholes that had been inserted a few months before,” Waz wrote. “Which means that, somewhere out there, there exists a butthole cut of Cats.”

(17) AREA 51. “Rise of Skywalker Has An Awesome John Williams Easter Egg You Missed”ScreenRant points the way.

…With The Rise of Skywalker concluding the iconic Skywalker saga and wrapping up Williams’ time in a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams made sure to put Williams in front of the camera in the film. Williams has a minor Rise of Skywalker cameo, appearing in a seedy establishment on Kijimi as the Resistance heroes make their way to meet Babu Frik. Getting the opportunity to see Williams onscreen was thrilling enough for fans, but the scene also includes several nods to his unparalleled career.

The making-of documentary in the Rise of Skywalker home media release has a segment focused on Williams. In it, Abrams reveals each of the props surrounding Williams represents the 51 Oscar nominations Williams received up to that point. Examples include Indiana Jones’ whip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and the iron from Home Alone….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/20 How Many Files To Babylon? Fifth Score Files And Ten

(1) BELATED RECOGNITION. BBC explores “Why Octavia E. Butler’s novels are so relevant today”.

The visionary sci-fi author envisaged an alternate future that foresaw many aspects of life today, from big pharma to Trumpism. Now she has a cult following, writes Hephzibah Anderson.

It’s campaign season in the US, and a charismatic dark horse is running with the slogan ‘make America great again’. According to his opponent, he’s a demagogue; a rabble-rouser; a hypocrite. When his supporters form mobs and burn people to death, he condemns their violence “in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear”. He accuses, without grounds, whole groups of people of being rapists and drug dealers. How much of this rhetoric he actually believes and how much he spouts “just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule” is at once debatable, and increasingly beside the point, as he strives to return the country to a “simpler” bygone era that never actually existed.

You might think he sounds familiar – but the character in question is Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, the fictional presidential candidate who storms to victory in a dystopian science-fiction novel titled Parable of the Talents. Written by Octavia E Butler, it was published in 1998, two decades before the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

…Fourteen years after her early death, Butler’s reputation is soaring. Her predictions about the direction that US politics would take, and the slogan that would help speed it there, are certainly uncanny. But that wasn’t all she foresaw. She challenged traditional gender identity, telling a story about a pregnant man in Bloodchild and envisaging shape-shifting, sex-changing characters in Wild Seed. Her interest in hybridity and the adaptation of the human race, which she explored in her Xenogenesis trilogy, anticipated non-fiction works by the likes of Yuval Noah Harari. Concerns about topics including climate change and the pharmaceutical industry resonate even more powerfully now than when she wove them into her work.

And of course, by virtue of her gender and ethnicity, she was striving to smash genre assumptions about writers – and readers – so ingrained that in 1987, her publisher still insisted on putting two white women on the jacket of her novel Dawn, whose main character is black. She also helped reshape fantasy and sci-fi, bringing to them naturalism as well as characters like herself. And when she won the prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ grant in 1995, it was a first for any science-fiction writer.

(2) HOT WORDS ABOUT A COLD CLASSIC. The report in yesterday’s Scroll about Cora Buhlert’s takeoff on a classic, “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign”, prompted Filers to remember Richard Harter’s epic analysis “The Cold Equations – A Critical Study” (thanks to Andrew for finding the Usenet link.)

… Science fiction has been described as a literature of ideas, a literary arena in which the idea is hero. This may well be true. Too often, however, it is a flawed literature of ideas, marked by shoddy treatments received with uncritical enthusiasm. The Cold Equations has been cited an instance of the “literature of ideas” at its best.

In the original article I argued that the story is no such thing but rather that it is an example of systemic blindness to morally obtuse assumptions. This argument is considered in detail below. Given that, one asks: Why is the story so ardently defended – and attacked? Why has the story made such an impression?…

(3) HITLER BACK ON SALE. Amazon admits it simply makes criticism-driven decisions – “Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’” – the New York Times has the story.

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” late last week, part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself.

The retailer, which controls the majority of the book market in the United States, is caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. But the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

Booksellers that sell on Amazon say the retailer has no coherent philosophy about what it decides to prohibit, and seems largely guided by public complaints.

Over the last 18 months, it has dropped books by Nazis, the Nation of Islam and the American neo-Nazis David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell. But it has also allowed many equally offensive books to continue to be sold.

(4) IN LIKE FINN. Camestros Felapton calls it “Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever” – Declan Finn’s account of touring Italy with his wife when the coronavirus outbreak shut down the country. Camestros ends his I-read-it-so-you-don’t-have-to summary:

The short version therefore of how right wing blogs are reacting plays out in a personal level in Declan’s story. Initial scepticism and eagerness to carry on as if it is all a fuss over nothing which then collides with an escalating reality and blaming the government.

Not that you really ought to deny yourselves – Finn fits quite an epic in between requests for money and Dragon Award nominations.

…We went to the Al Italia counter and the moderately long line. It was processed quickly. We came to the counter.

“Americans?”

I showed her the passports. 

“No,” she said.

No? What do you mean no? Are you going to cancel our flight again? Am I going to have to leap across your sad, pathetic Corona rope line and throttle you into giving us a boarding pass out of this Hell hole? How much more ransom do we have to pay to get us out of here!

She took an abnormally long breath, thought about what she had to say next, and continued, “Other check in, around the corner.”

Whew. No manslaughter charges for me today…. 

While trying to get to their flight they stepped through the wrong door at the airport, ended up on the tarmac, and were corralled by security. Talk about the cold equations — for that violation Italian authorities slapped them with a 4000 euro fine, which is 4497.00 in US dollars. A friend has started a GoFundMe to try and help them recoup some of the money.

(5) WORKING AT HOME, LIKE USUAL. George R.R. Martin began his post “Strange Days” telling about how his theater and other ventures in Santa Fe are closed by the coronavirus outbreak, then gave his personal status:

For those of you who may be concerned for me personally… yes, I am aware that I am very much in the most vulnerable population, given my age and physical condition.   But I feel fine at the moment, and we are taking all sensible precautions.  I am off by myself in a remote isolated location, attended by one of my staff, and I’m not going in to town or seeing anyone.   Truth be told, I am spending more time in Westeros than in the real world, writing every day.   Things are pretty grim in the Seven Kingdoms… but maybe not as grim as they may become here.

Inverse took this to mean “Winds of Winter release finally back on track for one unexpected reason”.

 For now, we’re just excited to hear that George is back at work on The Winds of Winter (of course, it’s possible he’s referencing the script for the upcoming HBO prequel House of the Dragon, but that seems unlikely given the phrasing here).

Winds of Winter was originally scheduled for release in November 2018, but the book got delayed so Martin could focus on Fire & Blood, a “historical” account of House Targaryen that serves as the basis for House of the Dragon. Back in May 2019, he joked in a blog post that if he hadn’t finished the book by 2020 Worldcon New Zealand, he should be locked up on New Zealand’s White Island until he finished it.

In other words, Martin really wants to be done with Winds of Winter by the end of July when the annual conference takes place.

(6) HYPERFEASANCE. The Balticon committee was surprised when the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel started sending out room cancellation notices before they could make an announcement.  On March 12, the Governor of Maryland established a ban, of indeterminate duration, on all gatherings of more than 250 people in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The con had been scheduled for May 22-24. The committee told Facebook readers:

After we shut down online registration over the weekend pending a conversation with the hotel, continuing developments with COVID-19 and discussions with the convention committee had convinced the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Board of Directors we likely needed to cancel the convention. However, we had not yet identified a process for doing that with minimal confusion, nor had we had a conversation with the hotel discussing the process. Today we learned that the hotel had started canceling registrations. We were as surprised as everyone else to hear about the canceled reservations and see that our reservations were getting canceled.

(7) NO ÅCON. Finland’s Acon 11 has been postponed:

…We could have waited, made the decision closer the convention, but honestly, having spent some weeks following the evolving situation, listening to epidemiologists and public officials in both Finland and Sweden, our conclusion is that the chances of the situation having stabilised in May seem very slim indeed. It’s not just a question of whether we would be legally permitted to hold the con in May, but whether we could do it in a responsible manner.

We need to spare everyone involved the unnecessary work and costs. Adlon, our hotel, will take a financial hit. We need to let them know and plan. We want to avoid our members paying for non-refundable travel at a time when the committee don’t believe it will be possible to arrange a convention.

Fortunately, we have few costs we can’t recoup. …

The con was to have been held May 21-24 in Mariehamn.

(8) A DREAMER ROLE. Trans actress Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, on Supergirl, was interviewed by SYFY Wire. “Supergirl’s Nicole Maines tells us why Dreamer is more than just a trans character”.

Supergirl is not known for its subtlety. Aliens in the show are a thinly veiled metaphor for immigrants, LGBTQ people, and “others.” The current story arc is coming to a head with the Agent Liberty storyline, in which a TV personality rises through the ranks of government thanks to his anti-alien rhetoric — which sounds familiar, even his real-world equivalent doesn’t have Lex Luthor providing him with fancy gear.

That said, the show is remarkably subtle about a milestone it reached last year: Supergirl features TV’s first openly transgender superhero, Dreamer. Rather than make Nia/Dreamer’s trans-ness a huge deal, after she came out as transgender, the other characters matter-of-factly accepted her, and it never became an issue….

(9) WORDEN OBIT. Astronaut Al Worden died March 17 at the age of 88 reports Florida Today.

“We remember this pioneer whose work expanded our horizons,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Worden was one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon. He was also the first astronaut to conduct a deep-space extravehicular activity, or EVA, during Apollo 15’s return to Earth in 1971.

During the mission, he orbited the moon dozens of times while astronauts David Scott and James Irwin explored the surface.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 18, 1981 The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had  to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”).  You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliché Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J. G. Hertzler, 70. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. 
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 61. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. 
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 59. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions.
  • Born March 18, 1973 Max Barry, 37. He’s written a number of novels of which I’ve read his superb dystopian Jennifer Government and Machine Man when it was online serial. His newest is Providence which sounds fascinating though his book tour in the US got canceled he notes on his blog. 

(12) CRUSADING FOR A CAPE. The Guardian’s “80 years of Robin: the forgotten history of the most iconic sidekick” is really a call for the character to be written as a woman again – and reminds fans that it wouldn’t be the first time.

….Why we’ve not had more female Robins – or better served ones – is a symptom of a much wider problem. Of the 11 writers announced as contributing to DC’s anniversary issue for Robin, only two are women: Devin Grayson and Amy Wolfram. Between January and March last year, women accounted for 16% of the credits on comics released by DC; of writers, only 13% were women. The studio celebrated 80 years of Batman last year, but in that time not a single woman has been at the helm of Batman or Detective Comics. Aside from Grayson’s work on Nightwing and Gotham Knights, no female writer has ever written a Batman series. Given how many women are working on Batgirl, Catwoman and Batwoman, it would seem they are restricted to writing female heroes.

(13) A VERY SERIOUS QUESTION. This will make some folks cranky. Tom Morton asks “Avenue 5: Why Is Sci-Fi Comedy So Unfunny?” at Frieze.

… Given the impregnable humourlessness of most sci-fi – from the rigorously logical ‘hard sf’ of the novelist Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (1951–53) to the dreamy vision of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris (1972) – the genre’s tropes should be an open goal for the comic imagination. Why, then, do so many sci-fi themed comedies fail to raise a smile? Partly, it’s that parody, as a form, is hard to sustain – witness Seth Macfarlane’s television series The Orville (2017–20), a directionless send-up of Star Trek (1966–69), or Mel Brooks’s movie Spaceballs (1987), a staggering unfunny Star Wars (1977) take-off. Comparatively better were the first two seasons of British sitcom Red Dwarf (1988–2017). Drawing on the aesthetic of John Carpenter’s slackers-in-space movie, Dark Star (1974), the show centred initially on a classic odd-couple relationship between the last human in existence, a warm-hearted scouse wastrel, and his foil, an uptight, socially ambitious hologram. However, when Red Dwarf’s popularity and budget increased, it fell into two traps familiar to makers of ‘straight’ on-screen sci-fi: an overreliance on special effects and (fatally) a fan-servicing emphasis on the lore of its own fictional universe, which destroyed any tension that once existed between the show’s ‘situation’ and its ‘comedy’.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Gizmodo says things are looking up for a NASA Mars probe: “And Now for Some Good News: The Mars InSight Heat Flow Probe Is Digging Again”.

…But the probe faced trouble on deployment. Impeded by an unexpectedly crusty soil texture that didn’t generate enough friction for the probe to dig, it only made it down to around a foot and a half. 

(15) JEOPARDY! Some of tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants didn’t get these sff references. (Honestly, I’d have missed all three myself.)

Category: Places in Fantasy

Answer: The name of this 2-word ancestral dwelling in Tolkien is a play on the translation of the French “cul-de-sac”.

Wrong question: “What is Middle Earth?”

Correct question: “What is Bag End?”


Answer: Much of the action in the “files” of this guy, the city’s resident practicing professional Wizard, takes place in Chicago.

No one could ask, “Who is Harry Dresden?”


Answer: In Bill Willingham’s graphic novels, Bigby, this foe of Rising Hood, is the sheriff of Fabletown.

Wrong question: “What is Nottingham?”

Correct question: “What is The Big Bad Wolf?”

(16) FUN WITH YOUR NEW HEAD. Will you be The One? An interview with the CEO of Valve: “Gabe Newell: ‘We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize'”.

“The area that I’m spending a lot of time on has been growing out of a bunch of research that occurred a while ago on brain-computer interfaces,” Newell said. “I think that that’s kind of long lead stuff, so that’s kind of the background thread that I get pulled back into when other things aren’t demanding my attention.”

Human brains can already communicate with computers directly, though in very limited ways compared to the sci-fi systems of The Matrix or William Gibson’s Neuromancer, where physical reality can be totally replaced with a simulated, virtual one. But Newell doesn’t think that kind of sci-fi tech is as far off as it might seem.

“We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize,” Newell said. “It’s not going to be The Matrix—The Matrix is a movie and it misses all the interesting technical subtleties and just how weird the post-brain-computer interface world is going to be. But it’s going to have a huge impact on the kinds of experiences we can create for people.”

(17) I CAN GET A WITNESS. A participant remembers “Launching the Hubble Space Telescope: ‘Our window into the Universe'” – video.

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, putting into orbit one of the most remarkable scientific instruments that has ever existed.

But initially the mission ran into problems, including a flawed mirror that meant the first images from Hubble were blurry.

Nasa astronaut Kathryn Sullivan was one of the five crew members who launched the Hubble.

(18) IT’S A BIRD. Free range dino — “Fossil ‘wonderchicken’ could be earliest known fowl”.

A newly discovered fossil bird could be the earliest known ancestor of every chicken on the planet.

Living just before the asteroid strike that wiped out giant dinosaurs, the unique fossil, from about 67 million years ago, gives a glimpse into the dawn of modern birds.

Birds are descended from dinosaurs, but precisely when they evolved into birds like the ones alive today has been difficult to answer.

This is due to a lack of fossil data.

The newly discovered – and well-preserved – fossil skull should help fill in some of the gaps.

“This is a unique specimen: we’ve been calling it the ‘wonderchicken’,” said Dr Daniel Field of the University of Cambridge.

“It’s the only nearly complete skull of a modern bird that we have, so far, from the age of dinosaurs and it’s able to tell us quite a lot about the early evolutionary history of birds.”

(19) TUB THUMPING. Don’t miss the Special “Social Distancing” Edition of The Late Show.

If you’re watching this from home right now, you’re doing the right thing. If you’re watching it from your bathtub bunker like our host, please remember to save some hot water for the rest of us. Either way, we’re glad you’re with us. So stay hunkered down and please enjoy this episode of The Lather Show with Scrubbin’ Colbath!

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Iphinome, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Contrarius, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/3/19 Who You Gonna Scroll? Ghostpixels!

(1) CLEANUP ON SPACE AISLE ONE. Daniel Dern gives NASA’s news a sff perspective: “In Space, Nobody Picks Up Your Trash: NASA Recycling in Space Award Winners” at Earth911.

…According to NASA, “The three winners brought a variety of approaches to the table for the challenge. Zabciu’s submission proposed incorporating space savings features and camera-actuated ejectors to move trash through the system, before bringing it to another mechanism to complete the feed into the reactor. McFall’s submission indicated it would use a hopper for solid waste and managed air streams for liquids and gaseous waste. Hamdallah proposed using air jets to compress the trash and cycle it through the system instead of gravity.”

Mary Robinette Kowal, a three-time Hugo Award winning science fiction author whose recent novels, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, include a lot of space mission planning and action, says, “As space missions get longer in duration — and farther from Earth — recycling and repurposing will be even more important.”

I asked Kowal in her capacity as both a science fiction writer and reader if she had any observations or suggestions for the creators inventing new space tech — and the people who will be using it on-site.

“There is a difference between policy and the way people actually live,” says Kowal. “For long-duration missions, you have to look at the latter. One way to get some real-world insights is by looking at communities like Iceland and other island nations where people have a fixed set of resources to draw upon.”

(2) POKEMANIACS ASSEMBLE. Michael Rechstaffen gives one thumb up in his “‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’: Film Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Those anticipating another Golden Raspberry-worthy contender like last year’s The Happytime Murders, another spoof of classic pulp fiction, can park their preconceived notions at the door.

It turns out Pokemon Detective Pikachu isn’t half bad.

Set in Ryme City, a neon-soaked experimental world in which humans and Pokemon co-exist in relative harmony, the truly trippy production has its fitfully entertaining charms. There were a couple of telling clues that pointed in that direction, primarily the welcome presence of Ryan Reynolds, who has brought a generous sampling of his sardonic Deadpool sensibility to the voicing of the title role.

(3) BEST SERIES. Steve J. Wright has completed his Best Series Hugo Finalist reviews:

(4) COLBERT AND TOLKIEN TOGETHER. Forbes details Fathom Events’ special showing for the forthcoming biopic: “The Late Show Meets Middle-Earth: Stephen Colbert Hosts National In-Cinemas Preview Of ‘Tolkien'”.

Moviegoers looking to venture to Middle-earth will be able to see the highly anticipated new film, Tolkien, in cinemas three days prior to its national release with a special screening hosted by The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert. The event, which takes place on May 7, three days ahead of the national release of the film on May 10, is presented by Fathom Events and Fox Searchlight Pictures. Tolkien superfan Colbert will host an exclusive live Q&A with stars Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins and director Dome Karukoski from the Montclair Film Festival.

(5) ROANHORSE CONVERSATION. Brandon Crilly conducts a ”Wordsmiths: Interview with Award-Winning Author Rebecca Roanhorse” at Black Gate.

Everything that I’ve read of yours — this story, “Indian Experience(TM)”, Trail of Lightning — carries undertones about a variety of indigenous issues. Why discuss these topics through fantasy as opposed to contemporary literature?

I’m a nerd. I’ve always been a Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) reader and writer from my earliest memories of reading Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander as a kid and then Eddings and Jordan and Herbert as I got into high school, and as an adult Butler and Le Guin, among many, many others. I’ve always written SFF, too, from my very first stories in middle school. It’s what I love. What else would I write?

I’ve spoken with other indigenous authors who worry about being pigeonholed into only writing about those kinds of indigenous-centric topics. Does that sort of thing ever worry you?

Not really. I am going to write what speaks to me as a creative. I’m lucky enough to have editors that support that. And I do have a couple of projects coming out over the next year or so, one of they pretty big, that are not Indigenous-centric. Although being Indigenous, my sensibility and approach will always be influenced by my heritage. That’s just who I am; it’s a part of my worldview and, like any other author, that will always show through.

(6) DRAMATIC WHEELS. A 308-picture gallery accompanies Motor Trend’s post “Your Favorite Sci-Fi Movie Cars Are Coming to Life at the Petersen Museum”.

The Petersen Automotive Museum goes Back to the Future and beyond its new “Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy” exhibit opening on May 5. We’ve seen some truly amazing vehicles at the L.A. car museum in the past but this new show is literally out of this world. Here are just some of the more than 40 cars and motorcycles from classic movies and video games that will be on display.

(7) KUBRICK AND DESIGN. Behind the Financial Times paywall, an architecture critic reviews a show about Stanley Kubrick at the Design Museum in London.

This is not a new show.  But placing it in a design museum, rather than a film-focused or art gallery, shifts the angle and allows us to see how architectural Kubrick’s work was, and how obsessive he was about design, from landscapes to graphics, products to technology.

The opening is stunning, a layered series of screens like stage flats displaying some of Kubrick’s best-known scenes, all using his characteristic single-point perspective.  Little Danny pedaling his tricycle down the hotel corridor in THE SHINING, the Rococo/disco mish-mash of the final room (presumably created by a superior intelligence) in 2001:  A SPACE ODYSSEY, the dolly ride through the French trenches in PATHS OF GLORY. It is wonderfully immersive, propelling us into an obsessional world which is unsettilngly strange yet weirdly familiar.

The website for the show, which runs through September 15, is designmuseum.org,

(8) VALE, CHEWBACCA. The Hollywood Reporter did a roundup of celebrity goodbyes to the actor played Star Wars’ Chewbacca: “Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, George Lucas and More Remember Peter Mayhew”.

And they focused on the reaction of the actor who worked most closely with him: “Harrison Ford Remembers ‘Star Wars’ Co-Star Peter Mayhew: ‘I Loved Him'”

Harrison Ford, like the rest of the Star Wars fans across the globe, was devastated when he learned on Thursday that his friend and Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew had died at the age of 74.

The two men made up the iconic duo of Han Solo and Chewbacca, which they played together in four films since 1977. 

Ford said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that he loved his dear friend. 

“Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character,” said the actor. “These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.”

Anthony Breznican, in “Peter Mayhew remembered: How he said goodbye to playing Chewbacca” in Entertainment Weekly, takes the occasion of Mayhew’s death to reprint a 2015 interview with Mayhew on the occasion of his last appearance as Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I guess it’s fair to say that that relationship between Han and Chewie is like a brotherhood, right? It’s something that will never go away — no matter the years?
Peter: As Han — I mean, Harrison— was quoted: It’s an old married couple. [Laughs.] Yes, Chewie is older; he is also a character that is going to last and has lasted for 40 years, almost. When you think about it, Star Wars was in ’77, and we have stayed with each other in a long, great relationship. People don’t have many relationships like that. It’s kind of like Laurel and Hardy!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 3, 1939 Dennis O’Neil, 80. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the late Nineties, and the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement. He has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas.
  • Born May 3, 1951 W. H. Pugmire.  S. T. Joshi has described Pugmire as “perhaps the leading Lovecraftian author writing today.” Let the debate begin. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 3, 1958 Bill Sienkiewicz, 61. Comic artist especially known for his work for Marvel Comics’ Elektra, Moon Knight and New Mutants. He worked on Elektra: Assassin!, a six-issue series which written by Frank Miller and it was amazing. He both wrote and illustrated the 1988 miniseries Stray Toasters, an delightfully weird work published by Epic Comics, and collaborated with writer Andy Helfer on the first six issues of DC Comics’ The Shadow series.
  • Born May 3, 1974 Joseph Kosinski, 45. He made his directorial debut with Tron: Legacy, the sequel to the original Tron. His second film was Oblivion based on his unpublished graphic novel of the same name. Interestingly he got his start doing CGI adverts for the Halo 3 and Gears of War games. 
  • Born May 3, 1975 Christina Hendricks, 44. Not long genre credits but she voiced Lois Lane and Super Women in All-Star Superman, did more voice work work as Zarina in Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy and yet more voice work as Gabby in Toy Story 4. Which brings me to her live work on Firefly as she’s a con artist in two episodes under various names of Bridget / Yolanda / Saffron. Oh and she was a Bar Maid on Angel once.
  • Born May 3, 1982 Rebecca Hall, 37. Lots of genre work — first role was Sarah Borden in The Prestige followed by being Emily Wotton in Dorian Gray and Florence Cathcart in The Awakening which in turn led to her being Maya Hansen in Iron 3. Next up? Mary in Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Is she done yet? No as next is the English dub of the voice of Mother of Mirai no Mirai. She might’ve wanted to have stopped there as her most recent role is Dr. Grace Hart in Holmes & Watson which won four Golden Raspberries! 

(10) DUCK! SYFY Wire warns “There’s an asteroid coming Deep Impact-levels of close to Earth”. Or is “warns” the right word – they sound a little too cheerful.

If you look up at the sky on April 13, 2029, you’ll see a streak of light that looks like cinematic special effects, except this won’t be a sci-fi movie.

What that blaze in the cosmos really will be is the asteroid 99942 Apophis. You could almost legit call it a shooting star, since it’s expected to shine as bright as some of the stars that twinkle in the Little Dipper and to zoom across the full moon. This thing will also be a shocking 19,000 miles above the surface. That is as close as some of the spacecraft orbiting our planet, except a 340-meter-wide space rock is going to make people nervous. It even made NASA nervous. And thrilled.

(11) END OF DAY. Is sunset on Mars just as dark as a night outside Winterfell? You decide! “Incredible photograph shows sunset on Martian horizon” on Australia’s 9News.

NASA’s stationary InSight lander is spending two years on Mars learning everything it can about the deep interior of the Red Planet.

But it’s also providing Earth with details such as a daily Martian weather report and, now, a glimpse of what it looks like when the sun rises and sets on Mars.

The lander used the camera on its robotic arm to take photos on April 24 and 25, capturing sunrise at the equivalent of 5.30am and 6.30pm local time.

(12) ONE FOR ORWELL. Some places Big Brother really is watching… Just up on Beeb Beeb Ceeb, “Russia tightens grip on its national net”.

Russia has formally adopted a law that gives its government more control over its domestic internet.

The law means the systems that exchange data between the networks forming the Russian internet must share more information with government regulators.

It also lets regulators exert direct control over what Russians can post, see and talk about online when national security is threatened.

Russian net firms have until 1 November to comply with the law.

Widespread protests were mounted in a bid to stop the law being passed.

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to float away with Annalee Flower Horne in episode 94 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

…At Annalee’s suggestion, we met at Mark’s Kitchen, which has been serving customers in Old Town Takoma Park since 1990. It had a comfortable family feel, and an extensive menu, one which seemed suitable for all tastes and dietary sensitivities.

We discussed the incident at their first con which was a catalyst for wanting to become a writer, the way a glare from Mary Robinette Kowal caused them to submit — and then sell — their first short story, how the intricacies of game design can teach fiction writers to write better, why writers shouldn’t complain when editors reject stories too quickly, the first story they wrote while angry (and what was learned from the experience), the cuss word they wish they’d thought of in time to get into their first published story, the novel-in-progress that’s a feminist take on The Demolished Man, how codes of conduct can (and should) help make fandom better, and much more.

(14) THEY’RE JUST DRAWN THAT WAY.Inverse: “Superhero Study Explains the Sexy Reason We’re Drawn to Marvel Characters”.

The bulging muscles of Captain America and the va-va-voom curves of Black Widow are no surprise to fans of comic books and action films. People have known since Superman’s debut in 1938 that superheroes are exactly that — they’re super. However, a recent study applies a new analysis the idealized bodies of heroes. They aren’t just super strong and super fast — they’re also “supernormal sexual stimuli.” 

In other words, the outrageous features of superheroes are exaggerations of what humans have long found attractive. Researchers explain in the April edition of Evolutionary Biological Sciences that hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine features — think cut jawlines and low waist-to-hip ratios — signal primal, powerful associations in the human brain. These are traits we’ve evolved to pay attention to and we pay extra attention to superheroes because their traits are beyond what humans are capable of.

[…] These hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine forms are exaggerated reflections of endocrine markers that we interpret as signals for youth, health, and fertility. […]

“I was surprised at how exaggerated the drawings were, but not about what parts of the bodies were being exaggerated,” [co-author Dr. Rebecca] Burch says. “We expected they would be exaggerated according to testosterone and estrogen markets.”

(15) BAY AREA FANS, DON’T MISS OUT. Gizmodo/io9 reports an sf art exhibit will be in San Francisco this weekend for two days only:  “Sci-Fi Art Gets Quirky Cool With ‘A Match Made in Space’”.

Argentinian artist Max Dalton has a style that’s instantly recognizable, simplistic, and quirky. Those words may not scream “science fiction,” but that’s exactly why his style works so well in that genre.

Dalton’s latest exhibit, “A Match Made in Space,” opens May 4 at Spoke Art in San Francisco, CA. The artwork fuses Dalton’s playful style with science fiction properties—with pieces ranging from sleek and futuristic to gritty and lived-in, and it all looks damned adorable in his style. […]

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs the File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 3/6/19 Fortune Favors The Scrolled

(1) PICARD. ThatHashtagShow.com is reporting “STAR TREK: PICARD Series Update With Character Breakdowns”. There are eight descriptions in the post. Here are the first four —

The first character in the list is the main man himself, Jean-Luc Picard, Male. And that’s all we’ve got for him. From interviews and assorted other information that’s been released, we know that Picard will have been affected by the destruction of Romulus due to his close involvement with building a bond between the Romulan Empire and the Federation.

Next, we have Starton, a male of any ethnicity in his early 30s. He specializes in positronic brains and is terrified of space. He’s charming in a self-deprecating way and is excited about the research opportunities on Picard’s mission. It goes on to say that his demeanor will evolve over the series, but it does not say in what way.

Connie, a female who is also in her early 30’s. She’s African-American and has a quick temper, but is also quick to forgive. In addition to dealing with the loss of her husband, she is also avoiding a death sentence on her home planet. She’s a mercenary pilot who uses her ship to transport people to and from an artifact of some kind, though the ship is massively overqualified for that job.

Lawrence is a handsome man in his 30’s of any ethnicity. . . who has a dodgy moral compass. He’s the pilot of the ship Picard takes on his mission. Being a capable (and enthusiastic) thief, his loyalties are questionable.

(2) GOOD OMENS TRAILER. Here’s the latest trailer for the Good Omens series which premieres May 31 on Amazon Prime.

With Armageddon just days away, the armies of Heaven and Hell are amassing and The Four Horsemen are ready to ride. Aziraphale, an angel, and Crowley, a demon, agree to join forces to find the missing Anti-Christ and to stop the war that will end everything. Based on the best-selling novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens follows an unlikely duo and their quest to save the world.

(3) RSR FACTORS IN STURGEON AWARDS. Eric Wong says Rocket Stack Rank’s annual annotated 2018 Sturgeon Award finalists list is posted, now merged with our RSR’s 2018 Best SF/F list to facilitate analysis of the 11 finalists against the top 286 stories of the year based on award finalists, year’s best anthologies, and prolific reviewers.

Unlike the Nebula finalists this year, there were few surprises with the Sturgeon finalists, with 8 of the 11 finalists already being in the top 10 in their respective categories (Novella, Novelette, Short Story) and 7 were top scoring stories in their respective magazines before being Sturgeon finalists. It’s also nice to see three stories by Campbell Award-eligible writers.

Details with links to pivot the table by Length, Publication, and New Writer are available in the article.

(4) ROUTINE. NPR’s Glen Weldon says “‘Captain Marvel’ Takes Flight — Through Very Familiar Skies”.

There are several moments in Captain Marvel — most of them intimate two-hander scenes between Agent Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson) and the main character (Brie Larson) — where the performances click, the comic chemistry catalyzes, the dialogue buzzes and everything in this latest million-dollar superhero blockbuster seems downright … breezy.

Now: It’s a practiced breeziness. A studied breeziness. A breeziness that doesn’t feel forced, exactly, but that certainly feels enforced. Because as they trade quips and cracks and grins while expositing about an intergalactic war between two alien races, you react to the quips and cracks and grins with a sense of satisfaction, as down deep in your forebrain, your unconscious knows that this right here is the part of the Marvel superhero movie where they do the quips and cracks and grins. And that they will soon get interrupted by the bad guy. And that there will then be some (quite good) fight choreography. And that some venerated veteran actor (why, hello, Miss Annette Bening!) will show up in a goofy outfit to deliver hokey dialogue at precisely 23 percent of their ability and stand around looking just you know wildly incongruous.

You know all this not because you saw the trailers (though the trailers give away all the best stuff, including far too much of the plot), but because Marvel has been churning out million-dollar superhero blockbusters for over a decade now. They know how to do them — and you know how to watch them. And that means knowing, for example, that when the Big Reveal shows up to kick off the third act, right on schedule, it’ll be neither big nor particularly revelatory. It never is. And that’s fine….

(5) SECOND VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST. The BBC roundup shows a lot of reviewers adopting that tone: “Captain Marvel: Female-led superhero film labelled ‘perfunctory’ by critics”.

Captain Marvel is an “entertaining” and “robust” superhero movie but is not the game-changer Black Panther and Wonder Women were, according to critics.

The film, the first from Marvel to have a stand-alone female lead, stars Oscar-winner Brie Larson as an intergalactic warrior with untapped super powers.

According to the Telegraph, the Room actress gives a “terrific” performance that is “big on girl-boss attitude”.

Yet other reviewers are less impressed, calling the film “perfunctory”…..

SiImilarly, Dana Stevens’s review of Captain Marvel for Slate is called “Finally, Women Have Their Own Mediocre Marvel Movie.” She says that Captain Marvel “somewhat resembles the sort of low-budget sci-fi that might have played on Saturday afternoons when this movie is set.” However, Stevens ends with this optimistic look at the near future —

It’s less two months until Carol Danvers will be back in theaters in Avengers: Endgame, an all-star Marvel megamovie that will settle the fates of our current crew of super-friends. The last we saw of the Avengers, their ranks had been cut in half by the cruel machinations of Thanos (Josh Brolin), a brooding purple supervillain who proved to be the first immovable object heroes of the franchise had yet encountered. It remains to be seen what the mega-chinned Mauve One will do when he comes face to face with this new heroine’s unstoppable force. From what we’ve seen of her so far, Captain Marvel may not be the most complex or finely shaded of the MCU protagonists. But given that she’s the first woman to be charged with the duty of saving this cinematic universe, I for one totally support her avenging.

(6) TOMORROW’S HOUSE, YESTERDAY. If you have a few million dollars to remodel a house you don’t own, you can live in the House of Tomorrow (Chicago Curbed: ‘Live in the ‘House of Tomorrow’ from the 1933 World’s Fair“).

Overlooking Lake Michigan from windswept Indiana bluff, the groundbreaking glass house architect George Fred Keck created for Chicago’s 1933-34 Century of Progress World’s Fair is seeking a dedicated lover of modern design to cover its $3 million restoration. In return, the deep-pocketed patron will be granted a 50-year sublease to use the structure as a one-of-a-kind single family home. 

When it debuted at the Century of Progress, Keck’s creation offered an optimistic vision of the future and was nothing short of cutting edge. Its innovative use of a glass curtain wall was a precursor to the homes of Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson that came to define modern architecture. Other technological oddities included central air conditioning, an “iceless” refrigerator, and a push-button attached garage and airplane hanger.

(7) LIFETIME IN CRIME. Britain’s Crime Writers Association has announced the recipient of its: 2019 Diamond Dagger Award.

The Crime Writers’ Association is delighted to announce that Robert Goddard is to receive the 2019 CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing. The Dagger award recognises authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.

(8) HAMMETT. The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers also have announced the Hammett Prize nominees for a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a US or Canadian author. 

  • The Lonely Witnessby William Boyle (Pegasus Crime)
  • Under My Skinby Lisa Unger (Park Row)
  • Cut You Downby Sam Wiebe (Random House Canada)
  • November Roadby Lou Berney (William Morrow)
  • Paris in the Darkby Robert Olen Butler (The Mysterious Press)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 6, 1917 William Eisner. He was one of the first cartoonists to work in the comic book industry, and  The Spirit running from the early Forties to the early Fifties was noted for both its exceptional content and form. The Eisner Award is named in his honor, and is given to recognise exceptional achievements each year in the medium. He was one of the first three  inductees to the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. Though I wouldn’t call A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories genre, I do strongly recommend it. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 6, 1928 William F. Nolan, 91. He became involved in fandom in the Fifties publishing several zines including The Ray Bradbury Review. He best known for co-authoring the novel Logan’s Run with George Clayton Johnson. I see that he has a number of other series. Has anyone read these? 
  • Born March 6, 1937 Edward L. Ferman, 82. He’s known best as the editor of F&SF from 1966 to 1991 when he won multiple Hugos. He was also recognised by a special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1979 and by the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1998. He was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009. I discovered that he in 1969 and 1970 also the editor of F&SF‘s sister publication Venture Science Fiction Magazine, a publication I’ve never heard of.
  • Born March 6, 1942 Christina Scull, 77. Tolkien researcher who’s married to fellow Tolkienist Wayne Hammond who all her books are co-authored with. Their first book was J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator and I’ll single out just The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide and The Art of The Lord of the Rings as being worth your time to seek out.
  • Born March 6, 1957 Ann VanderMeer, 62. Publisher and editor, and the second female editor of Weird Tales. As Fiction Editor of Weird Tales, she won a Hugo Award. In 2009 Weird Tales, edited by her and Stephen H. Segal, won a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. She is also the founder of The Silver Web magazine, a periodical devoted to experimental and avant-garde fantasy literature.

(10) THE SIMPSONS. Guillermo del Toro showed up but the episode still didn’t win the approval of the A.V. Club’s reviewer: “A disappointing Simpsons doesn’t quite get under the skin of Jerk-Ass Homer”.

…And the episode, interestingly, allows Lisa’s signature clever plan (one of those “sentencing mitigation” videos that, apparently, the writers found out are a thing) to go nowhere. Snyder isn’t buying Lisa’s Final Cut Pro, babies-and-dogs opus after Comic Book Guy makes his case with an unexpectedly affecting (boom-box-aided) plea for justice. Even the inspiration from an episode-derailing but fun sample video that Lisa shows Homer and Marge can’t steal the win, despite Mr. Burns having enlisted Guillermo del Toro (voicing himself) to helm a typically fanciful film about why even monsters deserve love, too. “He stripped away the darkness and found beauty at the core,” pronounces Lisa in admiration. If only “101 Mitigations” were up to the same task.

(11) A CREDENTIAL IS BORN. There’s a “Hello Kitty movie in the works at New Line Cinema” according to UPI.

New Line Cinema said it is working on an animated, English-language movie starring Hello Kitty.

This is the first time Japan’s Sanrio design and licensing company has granted a major film studio the rights to its 45-year-old characters Hello Kitty, Gudetama, My Melody and Little Twin Stars, which have inspired toy lines and appeared as images on apparel.

(12) TIME FOR THAT TALK. John Scalzi explains it all to you….

(13) EXIT POLL. “What do the people of the world die from?” has fascinating numbers and some plausible conclusions from them.

Around the world, people are living longer.

In 1950, global average life expectancy at birth was only 46. By 2015, it had shot up to over 71.

In some countries, progress has not always been smooth. Disease, epidemics and unexpected events are a reminder that ever-longer lives are not a given.

Meanwhile, the deaths that may preoccupy us – from terrorism, war and natural disasters – make up less than 0.5% of all deaths combined.

But across the world, many are still dying too young and from preventable causes.

The story of when people die is really a story of how they die, and how this has changed over time.

(14) THIS COULD BE A REALLY SHORT TRIP. “Nasa InSight probe: Mars ‘mole’ hits blockage in its burrow” reports BBC.

The Insight probe’s efforts to drill down below the surface of Mars appear to have hit some stony obstructions.

The US space agency lander’s HP3 “mole” was designed to dig up to 5m into the ground and began burrowing last week.

But controllers back on Earth called a halt to operations when no progress was being made despite repeated hammering.

Analysis suggests the 40cm-long mole mechanism, which will measure Mars’ temperature, has barely got out of the tube that was guiding its descent.

(15) HERBERT’S WORLDBUILDING. Extra Credits’ video “Dune – Muad’dib” is Extra Sci Fi’s fourth installment about the novel.

Charismatic leadership can conceal corruption, and Frank Herbert saw how dangerous this was in the political events he lived through. Leto Atreides, Valdimir Harkonnen, and Paul Atreides (Muad’dib) each represent different types of charismatic but very faulty leadership practices.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Cycle of Life” on YouTube explains what happens when a can of chicken noodle soup acquires the power to talk.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 2/13/19 The Fast And The Furriest

(1) REST IN PEACE, MARTIAN ROBOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] We know where it is, but with communication now long lost NASA has declared one of its Mars rovers dead (Popular Mechanics: “NASA Says Goodnight to Opportunity, Its Most Enduring Mars Rover”).

Opportunity colored our modern understanding of the red planet. Now, it’s time to say goodbye.

The craft, which arrived at the Red Planet in July 2004, has been out of communication since last summer. Many months’ worth of attempts to contact the craft failed. Today, NASA is officially saying goodbye to the craft that, for years and years, couldn’t be stopped. At 2 p.m. Eastern, the space agency will give a press conference on the rover and is expected to say that the last attempts to reach it have failed.

Opportunity had been roving the surface of Mars for 15 years before the ominous, giant global dust storm that sealed its demise came along. This wasn’t the first time a dust storm had made Oppy go silent. But a subsequent “cleaning” event—what NASA calls it when weather conditions clear, exposing the solar panels and allowing the craft to recharge—never happened.

The press conference referenced above did happen and the expected announcement was made. RIP Opportunity. A short farewell video was posted by NASA/JPL-Caltech here.

(2) HEART TREK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Valentine’s Day is coming. Prepare to cuddle up on your comfiest couch with your loved one and watch a marathon of, um, Next Gen? (Den of Geek: “10 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes Awkwardly Romantic Enough For Valentine’s Day.”)

Don’t want to go boldly into dating disaster on Valentine’s Day? Beam these Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes onto your screen.

So you’re not into mail-order teddy bears or heart-shaped boxes of bonbons. Neither is the crew of the Starship Enterprise. There are plenty of reasons, human and otherwise, that Star Trek: The Next Generation wouldn’t be considered Valentine’s Day viewing. Androids like Data aren’t programmed to feel human emotion, and just a few minutes of getting to know Worf makes it clear the Klingon race will do just about anything to avoid it.

Even the homo sapiens on board (with the possible exception of Riker) aren’t exactly temptresses or Casanovas. Some need an operating manual just to get through a date, while others wouldn’t show affection if the Federation mandated it. Could you possibly imagine Captain Picard waltzing over to Dr. Crusher’s quarters with a bottle of Magus III’s finest vintage and a bouquet of chameleon roses? Point made.

Space fairytales aren’t about to happen when you’re beaming alien diplomats or racing across galaxies at warp nine. Still, the crew of the Enterprise tries to fumble their way through romance between all the Calrissian conflicts and Ferengi negotiations. From Riker’s interplanetary (and often interspecies) liaisons and Data’s failed attempt at programming human emotions to the embarrassingly amorous antics of Deanna Troi’s mother, it appears love in 24th century space isn’t nearly as advanced as the technology.

There’s lots of info about the episodes… but herewith just the list:

  • “Haven” Season 1, Episode 10 (1987)
  • “The Dauphin” Season 2, Episode 10 (1989)
  • “Manhunt” Season 2, Episode 19 (1989)
  • “The Emissary” Season 2, Episode 20 (1989)
  • “Booby Trap” Season 3, Episode 6 (1989)
  • “The Vengeance Factor” Season 3, Episode 9 (1989)
  • “Ménage à Troi” Season 3, Episode 24 (1989)
  • “Data’s Day” Season 4, Episode 11 (1991)
  • “Qpid” Season 4, Episode 20 (1991)
  • “In Theory” Season 4, Episode 25 (1991)

(3) YEAR OF THE VILLAIN. It’s not quite free, but CBR.com figures it might as well be (“DC Declares 2019 the Year of the Villain With a 25-Cent One-Shot Comic”).

DC Comics readers can begin their Free Comic Book Day celebration a few days early when the publisher releases [it’s] DC’s Year of the Villains one-shot on Wednesday, May 1.

The issue, which will retail at 25-cents, not only celebrates DC’s most popular bad guys, it is designed to set up the next year’s worth of major storylines and events for the company’s biggest titles.

(And by the way, Free Comic Book Day arrives on May the Fourth.)

(4) GETTING INTO THE BUSINESS. A Publishing Perspectives columnist imparts wisdom gained from experiences producing his firm’s first book — “Richard Charkin: Nine Lessons From a Small Indie Publisher”.

Lesson 3. Treat your suppliers with respect. I’ve taken a policy decision to pay cash owed into a freelancer’s account the same day I receive the invoice. My cash flow is important but respecting other people’s cash flow generates goodwill, and better relationships are vital for a small enterprise—perhaps for big enterprises too.

Lesson 4. Everything costs more than estimated, and income is always less. Those who see publishers, large or small, as greedy monsters making large profits should try it for themselves.

Lesson 5. All the fine comments, tweets, and reviews about a book count for little if they don’t generate readership and sales. The best—and only?—viral campaign remains word of mouth.

(5) FROZEN II TRAILER. Since not long after Frozen hit theaters, a significant contingent of fans has been advocating for Disney to make Elsa the first gay Disney Princess. Now that a trailer is out for Frozen 2 (due in theaters 22 November), the clamor is ratcheting up (Wired: “Frozen 2 Trailer: Twitter Asks, Where Is Elsa’s Girlfriend?”).

One hour. That’s all it took for the tweets to start coming in. No sooner had Disney dropped the trailer for Frozen 2 than the question started popping up: Where was Elsa’s girlfriend? Was she gonna be a lesbian, or nah? Disney fans and LGBTQ advocates alike were demanding: Make Elsa Gay, Dammit.

This call for Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) to embrace her Sapphic side didn’t come from out of the blue. For one, her theme song, “Let It Go,” has been embraced as a coming-out anthem, beloved at karaoke nights and piano bars the world over. For another, there’s been a Twitter campaign for it that dates back to 2016, when a young woman named Alexis Isabel Moncada noted how “iconic” it would be if Disney made the character into a lesbian princess. “The entertainment industry has given us girls who have fallen in love with beasts, ogres who fall for humans, and even grown women who love bees,” Moncada wrote in a piece for MTV about her tweet. “But we’ve never been able to see the purity in a queer relationship.” Soon #GiveElsaAGirlfriend was trending and a movement was born.

(6) BALLANTINE OBIT. Betty Ballantine (1919-2019) died February 12 — “Paperback Pioneer Betty Ballantine Dead at 99”.  She and her husband Ian (d. 1995) helped create Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books in 1952. They became freelance publishers in the 1970s. The Ballantines were Worldcon guests of honor in 1989, and voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008. Betty was given the World Fantasy Convention’s Life Achievement Award in 2007.

She was also a writer — her novel, The Secret Oceans (1994), was marketed as “a modern-day, ecology-oriented 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for kids.”

The New York Times obituary begins —

Betty Ballantine, the younger half of a groundbreaking husband-and-wife publishing team which helped invent the modern paperback and vastly expand the market for science fiction and other genres through such blockbusters as “The Hobbit” and “Fahrenheit 451,” has died.

…Charging as little as a quarter, they published everything from reprints of Mark Twain novels to paperbacks of contemporary best-sellers. They helped established the paperback market for science fiction, Westerns and other genres, releasing original works and reprints by J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke and H.P. Lovecraft, among others. They made their books available in drugstores, railroad stations and other non-traditional outlets. They issued some paperbacks simultaneously with the hardcover, instead of waiting several months or longer.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1932 Barbara Shelley, 87. She was at her most active in the late Fifties (Blood of the Vampire) and Sixties when she became Hammer Horror’s best known female star with DraculaThe Gorgon Prince of Darkness and Rasputin, The Mad Monk as some of her credits.
  • Born February 13, 1938Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and  Return of the Musketeers. Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 60. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. 
  • Born February 13, 1961 Henry Rollins, 58. Musician and actor of interest to me for his repeated use in in the DC Universe as a voice actor, first on Batman Beyond as Mad Stan the bomber, also as Benjamin Knox / Bonk in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, then on Teen Titans as Johnny Rancid and finally, or least to date, voicing Robot Man in the “The Last Patrol!” of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  I’d be remiss not to note he’s Spider in Johnny Mnemonic, andin Green Lantern: Emerald Knights as the voice of  Kilowog.
  • Born February 13, 1966Neal McDonough, 53. He first shows up in an SF role on Star Trek: First Contact as Lieutenant Hawk. He’s then in Minority Report as Officer Gordon ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. (Anyone see this? Just curious.) He next plays Frank Gordon in Timeline before going off into Loren Coleman territory as Ned Dwyer in They Call Him Sasquatch. He voices Green Arrow in the most superb DC Showcase: Green Arrow short which you on the DC Universe service. Where can also also find Batman: Assault on Arkham with him voicing the Deadshot / Floyd Lawton character. (End of plug.) Series wise, I see he’s appeared as  Dum Dum Dugan on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. Did he time time? He’s also played Damien Darhk in the Arrowverse. And he played Wyatt Cain in the Tin Man series. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • A new comic universe is mooted in Frazz. (Which sounds a lot more sophisticated than the joke.)
  • Last Kiss’ Valentine’s Day gag is even less tasteful…

(9) FUTURE HUGO CATEGORIES. John Scalzi has a dream:

(10) ANOTHER SMALL STEP. “Nasa’s InSight mission: Mars ‘mole’ put on planet’s surface”. Chip Hitchcock says, “With all this spreading, I’m just waiting for a cop to show up and ticket Insight for parking outside the lines.”

The US space agency’s (Nasa) InSight mission has positioned the second of its surface instruments on Mars.

Known as HP3, the heat-flow probe was picked up off the deck of the lander with a robot arm and placed next to the SEIS seismometer package, which was deployed in December.

Together with an onboard radio experiment, these sensor systems will be used to investigate the interior of the planet, to understand its present-day activity and how the sub-surface rocks are layered.

(11) NOT THAT ONE. BBC reports “Black panther: Rare animal caught on camera in Kenya”.

Black Panther has been everywhere in recent years – but spotting one of the animals the famous superhero is named after in the African wilderness is a little more rare.

Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas managed it – and there are even claims this is the first time anyone has captured a melanistic leopard on camera in Africa in 100 years.

Very few images of these iconic, secretive creatures exist.

Will heard rumours of a black panther – which is a loose term for a black leopard or black jaguar, depending where in the world it’s from – at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

(12) THE NEXT ASTRONAUT SENATOR? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mark Kelly wants to join an exclusive club: astronauts turned US politician (CNN: “NASA astronaut Mark Kelly launches Senate campaign”). John Glenn (Mercury-Atlas 6 and Shuttle mission STS-95) served as Senator for 24 years and campaigned for president in the 1984 cycle. Both Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) served one term as Senator and Jack Swigert (Apollo 13) was elected to the Senate but died before he took office. Jake Garn (Shuttle mission STS-51-D) was a Senator for a bit over 18 years and went to space in the middle of that. Bill Nelson (Shuttle mission STS-61-C) has served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, flying on the Shuttle while in the House.

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly’s “next mission” is to be a US senator for Arizona.

“I care about people. I care about the state of Arizona. I care about this nation. So because of that, I’ve decided that I’m launching a campaign for the United States Senate,” Kelly said in a video released Tuesday announcing his run as a Democratic candidate.

Kelly, 54, is the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Arizona, who survived a shooting in 2011. The two appeared together in Kelly’s announcement video, recounting that difficult period in their lives and Giffords’ rehabilitation from the gunshot wound.

“I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer,” Kelly says in the campaign announcementvideo. “But what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.”

(13) NO CROSSOVERS, PLEASE! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Reboots are us,” James Cameron seems to be saying (Yahoo! Entertainment: “James Cameron reveals dark title for new ‘Terminator’ movie, teases a ‘hardened’ Sarah Connor” and Consequence of Sound: “James Cameron reveals new Terminator title, hints at Aliens sequel”). In the Yahoo story, we see that:

Now, Cameron is headed back to Terminator’s less-than-hopeful future for the first time since 1991’s action classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The writer-director is serving as executive producer on the Tim Miller-helmed sixth entry in the franchise, which will reset the continuity clock back to Judgment Day, erasing the subsequent sequels Rise of the Machines (2003), Salvation (2009) and Genisys (2015) from the timeline. And while Sarah Connor appeared to avert the machine uprising at the end of T2, the proposed title for the new Terminator — due in theaters on Nov. 1 — makes it clear that there’s plenty of darkness still ahead. “We’re calling it, Terminator: Dark Fate,” Cameron reveals. “That’s our working title right now.”

And in the Consequence of Sound article:

[…] Last week, the director also teased that he might be doing the same for the Alien franchise, specifically that would-be followup to Aliens that Neill Blomkamp dreamed up years ago (and Ridley Scott promptly destroyed). If you recall, the idea would be to bring back Sigourney Weaver and Biehn, ignoring Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection.

On a recent red carpet interview […], Cameron was asked about calling up Blomkamp and pivoting to Aliens, to which he confirmed, saying: “I’m working on that, yeah.” It’s exciting news given that Blomkamp is currently doing something similar for RoboCop, and the idea of a legacy sequel is all the rage right now in Hollywood (see: HalloweenGhostbusters).

(14) GHOSTFACE MILLIONAIRE. A Jamaican lottery winner went to ex-Screams, um, I mean extremes to hide his (or, despite the headline, it could be her) identity while completing the paperwork and accepting the souvenir oversized check (BuzzFeed: “Baller Move By This Lottery Winner Who Wore A Scream Mask To Pick Up His Prize”).

(15) WEIRD CITY. The new anthology series created by Jordan Peele and the “Key & Peele” writer Charlie Sanders, Weird City, streams on YouTube Premium. The first couple episodes are currently available free.

A sci-fi potpourri that wears its influences on its sleeves, this imagines a socially stratified dystopia whose upper- and lower-class citizens are separated by a physical barrier called “the line.” But while it’s dystopian, it’s also funny; the show plays as if “Black Mirror” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” had a love child, and then that child chose a career in comedy. Many recognizable actors — including Steven Yeun, Awkwafina, Dylan O’Brien, LeVar Burton and Rosario Dawson — portray the citizenry of this middle-class-less society.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge Carl Slaughter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]