Pixel Scroll 2/16/24 The Worm Pixelscrollus

(0) Short scroll today because I need to hit the road. Am driving up to my brother’s for a birthday party – mine! Toot your party horn, or leave your own news links in comments….

(1) LACEY LEAVES CANSMOFS. Diane Lacey has announced her resignation from CanSmofs on Facebook. CanSmofs is a Canadian sf convention running group now bidding for the 2027 Worldcon. 

I wish to announce my resignation from the board of CanSmofs. I can not effectively represent the board given today’s revelations about the Hugos and my part in it. I want to emphasize that nobody has requested this. It is of my own volition, and I wish them and the Montreal bid well.

Lacey shared 2023 Hugo administration team emails Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford for use in “The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion”, and discussed her own work on the Hugos in an open letter.

(2) MORE HUGO REPORT COVERAGE.

NBC News interviewed Paul Weimer for its post “Science fiction authors were excluded from awards for fear of offending China”.

…Among the reasons cited for excluding Weimer was his supposed previous travel to Tibet, a Chinese region where Beijing is also accused of abuses.

“The funny thing is that I didn’t even go to Tibet. I was in Nepal. They didn’t get basic facts right about me,” he said.

Weimer, whose display name on X had as of Friday been changed to “Paul ‘Nepal is not Tibet’ Weimer,” said the vetting went against the spirit not only of the Hugo Awards but of science fiction itself.

“Censoring people based on what you think that a government might not like is completely against what the whole science fiction project is,” he said….

Vajra Chandrasekera has a very good thread on Bluesky which starts here. One thing they discuss is the Science Fiction World recommendation list:

Zionius has a post “2023年雨果奖审核情况初探” at Zion in Ulthos. It’s in Chinese; they dropped an English excerpt into comments here yesterday.

…Content censorship does seem to have an impact on the final shortlist, but the greater impact is likely to be from invalid votes. The opinions of the censors are neglected most of the time (though here we can only see detailed opinions from Western censors), whereas with like 1000 votes declared invalid, the shortlist can be completely changed. None of the top 5 best novels in initial shortlist got through to the final shortlist. In the initial shortlist of the five print fiction categories, 2/3 works are from China, the final shortlist has only 2/15 Chinese works.

The items suffered most from invalid votes basically come from two Chinese publishers, Qidian and Science Fiction World. SFW’s recommendation list is almost identical to the initial shortlist in the Chinese part, which might be the reason why the Hugo team decided to remove most votes related to SFW and Qidian. Slates in thousands is beyond the capacity of EPH.

Last but not the least, the “invitation list” mentioned so many times in “Validation.pdf” appears to have huge impact on the final shortlist. It appears to be a separate ranked list. 5 works on invitation list were not among the top 10 of the initial shortlist, yet still they made it to the final shortlist (Spare Man, Nona the Ninth, Kaiju Preservation Society, DIY, Stranger Things 404). OTOH, 3 works on the initial shortlist were marked as “disappeared on invitation list” (Upstart, Hummingbird, Sandman 106), then they disappeared on the final shortlist….

Publishers Weekly leads with Esther MacCallum-Stewart’s statement in “Glasgow Worldcon Chair Vows Transparency Following Chengdu Hugos Censorship”.

(3) VANDEMEERS SUFFER VANDALISM. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer are reporting their streetside mailbox was intentionally wrecked.

(4) IT’S NEVER TOO LATE FOR THE NEW WAVE. “The 2024 Met Gala theme has been announced — along with four superstar co-chairs” at CNN.

Fashion’s biggest night of the year is just around the corner, and the Met Gala red carpet theme has finally been announced — along with superstars Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny and Chris Hemsworth as this year’s co-chairs.

Organizers announced today that the official dress code for the event, which will take place on May 6, is “The Garden of Time.” The theme takes its title from a 1962 short story written by British author J. G. Ballard, set (as its title suggests) in a garden filled with translucent, time-manipulating flowers….

Ballard, who is closely associated with New Wave science fiction, often set his searingly relevant dystopian stories in eras of ecological apocalypse or rising dissenting technologies.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 16, 1954 Iain M Banks. (Died 2013.) There are deaths that are sad, there are deaths that are just ones you just don’t want to hear about and then there are deaths like that of Iain M. Banks in which, and this is the only way I can express this, what the hell was the Universe thinking when it did this to him? 

Of course the more rational part of me sadly knows that very bad things randomly do happen to very good people that we care about and so that happened here. 

Iain M. Banks

I was just editing the review of his epic whisky crawl when he announced that he was dying. So though not genre, let’s start off with Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about single malt whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. Specifically the one he bought with the advance for this work. Nice, dry nice.

Of course, I’ve read every novel and even the few short works in The Culture series. My favorites? Certainly The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas are also my favs. 

Now “The State of the Art” novella about a Sixties Culture mission to Earth is out on the usual suspects. He’s only written nine pieces of genre short fiction and eight are here. No idea why the ninth isn’t.

Of his one-offs, I think The Algebraist is fascinating but the best of these novels by far is Against a Dark Background, the story of a heist that goes terribly wrong. 

(6) THE SOUND OF A SOLAR ECLIPSE? Maybe in space they can’t hear you scream… “NASA Urges U.S. Public To Listen During April 8’s Total Solar Eclipse” reports Forbes.

April 8’s total solar eclipse will not only be something you see—it will be something you experience on many levels. Part of that is the sights and sounds of how insects, animals and nature react to sudden totality. At many of the eclipses I’ve witnessed, I’ve seen cows return to the barn as the light levels gradually fall, cicadas build to a cacophony then fall silent during totality, and birds panicking as “night” begins when they least expected it.

Sound Of Eclipses

“Eclipses are often thought of as a visual event—something that you see,” said Kelsey Perrett, communications coordinator with the NASA-funded Eclipse Soundscapes Project. “We want to show that eclipses can be studied in a multi-sensory manner, through sound and feeling and other forms of observation.”

April 8 is an opportunity like no other. On that day, over 30 million people in the U.S. already live within the path of totality—the track of the moon’s shadow as it sweeps across the planet—despite it being just 115 miles wide. That’s compared to 12 million people that lived within the path during the last total solar eclipse in the U.S. in 2017. Cue a large-scale citizen science project, which will seek to collect the sights and sounds of a total solar eclipse as recorded by members of the public. The end result will be, scientists hope, a better understanding of how an eclipse affects different ecosystems….

(7) FOR THE BOOKS NEXT DOOR. Amazon is one place to buy the “Bookend Magic House Building kit”. 1488 pieces – holy cats!

This bookend is carefully assembled from 1400+ blocks, presenting the unique charm of the classic magical house building in the film, every detail shows the high quality of production workmanship.

Compared with traditional bookends, our block bookends incorporate the magic elements of the film, which instantly fills your bookends with the charm of the wizarding world, giving a brand new visual experience and making the reading time more fun, it will add a chic and unique to your bookshelf…

(8) YOU CAN’T FIGHT IN THE WAR ROOM! TechCrunch tells how “Bluesky and Mastodon users are having a fight that could shape the next generation of social media”. Because of course they are.

People on Bluesky and Mastodon are fighting over how to bridge the two decentralized social networks, and whether there should even be a bridge at all. Behind the snarky GitHub comments, these coding conflicts aren’t frivolous — in fact, they could shape the future of the internet.

Mastodon is the most established decentralized social app to date. Last year, Mastodon ballooned in size as people sought an alternative to Elon Musk’s Twitter, and now stands at 8.7 million users. Then Bluesky opened to the general public last week, adding 1.5 million users in a few days and bringing its total to 4.8 million users.

Bluesky is on the verge of federating its AT Protocol, meaning that anyone will be able to set up a server and make their own social network using the open source software; each individual server will be able to communicate with the others, requiring a user to have just one account across all the different social networks on the protocol. But Mastodon uses a different protocol called ActivityPub, meaning that Bluesky and Mastodon users cannot natively interact.

Turns out, some Mastodon users like it that way….

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/23 Doctor Who And The Scrolls Of Pixeldon

(1) GLASGOW 2024 INITIATES CONSULTATIVE VOTE. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon committee announced they will hold a “Consultative Vote on Hugo Rule Changes” – specifically, about the two new Hugo categories given first passage at the Chengdu Worldcon Business Meeting. Only WSFS members of the 2024 Worldcon will be eligible to vote. None of the other 12 rule changes passed at Chengdu will be part of the poll.

(Note that despite the phrasing below it was not a “resolution” but multiple amendments to the WSFS Constitution that were passed in Chengdu. A mere resolution would have no binding effect.)

…A resolution passed at the 2023 WSFS Business Meeting in Chengdu would create two new Hugo Award categories: the Best Independent Short Film Award and the Best Independent Feature Film Award. This resolution would need to be ratified by the 2024 WSFS Business Meeting in Glasgow to come into effect from 2025 onward.

At present, we plan to invite all WSFS members of Glasgow 2024 to express their views on the proposed change, in a straight yes-or-no online vote, in the weeks before the convention takes place in August 2024. The proposers will be invited to write a short statement in support of their proposal, and we will offer a similar facility to opponents….

The vote will be conducted immediately before Glasgow 2024—no earlier than the close of Hugo voting, no later than the start of the convention….

Doesn’t this usurp the Business Meeting’s role in changing the constitution?

No. The consultative vote will have no constitutional force. The decisions made by the Business Meeting will be final. Within certain limits, the 2024 Business Meeting can also amend the current proposal before it is ratified, subsequent to the consultative vote.

Why are you doing this?

Among the many potential reforms to WSFS Business Meeting procedures, putting proposals and other matters to a vote of WSFS members is an innovation that has often been mentioned. But it has never been tried. In 2016, the idea of an approval vote for Hugo finalists, as a third round in the nomination process, was passed at the Business Meeting but not ratified in 2017. We therefore propose to test the operation of a consultative vote, to explore if and how such a procedure could become part of the permanent rules….

Why are you not also calling a consultative vote on any other constitutional amendments that are up for ratification in 2024, or on any changes to the standing rules?

Several other constitutional amendments were indeed passed in Chengdu, most notably a proposal to set up an Asian regional convention under the remit of WSFS. Those amendments will also be subject to ratification by the Glasgow Business Meeting, but we do not think that they are suitable material for a consultative vote. Likewise, we don’t believe that amendments to the standing rules, either recent or envisaged, are suitable for this exercise. The Hugo proposal is more straightforward and perhaps of more general interest….

(2) PEAK TV. Variety has ranked “The 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time”. The overall number one show is I Love Lucy.

Here are the sff programs on the list. The original Star Trek isn’t on it, only Star Trek: The Next Generation. No, I’m not including St Elsewhere, regardless of its sff ending. Should I have included The Simpsons (4) or BoJack Horseman (55) or South Park (59)?

14. The Twilight Zone

21. Game of Thrones

27. Twin Peaks

32. Lost

38. The X-Files

40. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

44. Star Trek: The Next Generation

49. Watchmen

58. The Good Place

79. The Muppet Show

83. Stranger Things

95. Black Mirror

(3) DID THEY MISS THE POINT? Charles Stross says “Tech Billionaires Need to Stop Trying to Make the Science Fiction They Grew Up on Real” in an article at Scientific American. (Possibly paywalled, or not. I had a 50-50 success getting to read it.)

Science fiction (SF) influences everything in this day and age, from the design of everyday artifacts to how we—including the current crop of 50-something Silicon Valley billionaires—work. And that’s a bad thing: it leaves us facing a future we were all warned about, courtesy of dystopian novels mistaken for instruction manuals.

Billionaires who grew up reading science-fiction classics published 30 to 50 years ago are affecting our life today in almost too many ways to list: Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. Jeff Bezos prefers 1970s plans for giant orbital habitats.  Peter Thiel is funding research into artificial intelligence, life extension and “seasteading.” Mark Zuckerberg has blown $10 billion trying to create the Metaverse from Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash. And Marc Andreessen of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has published a “techno-optimist manifesto” promoting a bizarre accelerationist philosophy that calls for an unregulated, solely capitalist future of pure technological chaos….

(4) BRING ME THE HEAD OF E.T. “Screen-Used E.T. Animatronic Head Nets Big Money at Auction” – and SYFY Wire knows how much.

…An animatronic E.T. head used during the production of Steven Spielberg‘s coming-of-age sci-fi classic (the film is available to rent and/or own from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) recently sold for a whopping $635,000 in a bidding war hosted by California-based auction house, Julien’s Auctions. The lot — which was initially estimated to bring in between $800,000 to $1 million — also included a DVD of the movie, just to sweeten the deal a little. Because if you’re going to drop a load of cash on an immortal piece of cinema history, you might as well get a slightly outmoded form of home entertainment for your troubles….

(5) KERFUFFLE COVERAGE. The year could not end without another writerly uproar. Anne Marble has a full roundup in “Can You Copyright the Sun?. The Latest Author Attack of 2023” at Medium. Account required to read the complete story.

So what happened? An author named Lauren M. Davis accused another author of copyright infringement.

Wow. Oh, no! That sounds serious.

But wait. The targeted author — Marvellous Michael Anson — is innocent.

All Marvellous Michael Anson did was promote her upcoming book — an adult fantasy romance called Firstborn of the Sun. Like many acclaimed fantasies in recent years, this one is influenced by West African culture and magic. In this story, everyone is able to draw power from the sun. Except the heroine, Lọ́rẹ. She instead yields a shadow magic…

Note that Anne Marble is a bit concerned that people may be giving the accuser too much attention, because the complaint is so dubious some suspect she may be doing this to get sales. Or simply trolling everyone.

(6) FIGURES REVEALED. “The December Comfort Watches, Day Nineteen: Hidden Figures” – a John Scalzi review at Whatever.

…History, as taught in school, is about choices made. When I was a kid, this story was not one of the choices made.

This can be, I will note, one of the great advantages of film. Hollywood is always looking for stories, and while it is not afraid of recycling the same ones over and over and over, it still from time to time unearths one that is new, or at least new to a general audience. Some of those stories come from history, recent or otherwise. And while one must always take the history that Hollywood provides with a massive grain of salt (including this one; the general arc of Hidden Figures’ story is true, but specific incidences are pumped up and rearranged for dramatic purposes, and certain characters outside of the three main roles are made up out of whole cloth), it nevertheless has the effect of saying: This is a thing that happened, you didn’t know, and we, in our fashion, are telling you about it….

(7) DARK MATTER MAGAZINE TO BE RETIRED. “Issue 018 Will Be The Final Issue Of Dark Matter.” An announcement from Rob Carroll, Founder & Publisher.

When I started Dark Matter three years ago, I wondered if anyone would even care. There are so many excellent short fiction publications out there. Why should people pay attention to this one?

I don’t have an answer to how or why readers and writers and artists jumped on board, but I’m forever grateful they did. Thanks to them, Dark Matter will end its third year of publication in December of 2023, having published 21 issues (18 regular issues plus 3 Halloween special issues), more than 180 stories, more than 40 art features, and a number of interviews with industry greats. These past three years have been a dream come true for me. The joy of creating and editing my own science fiction magazine was an honor and a privilege, and one that I’ll never forget. Helping in a small way to create something that people truly enjoy is the best feeling in the world.

So why close now? Well, there are two simple reasons. One is bandwidth. Starting in 2024, Dark Matter will focus exclusively on our growing trade imprints and audio division. The Dark Matter staff is the most talented and dedicated group of people I’ve ever worked with, but we’re still small in number. In order to continue producing the quality readers have come to expect, I needed to streamline our business model and refresh our focus. The last thing I want is to overextend staff or fail to meet promises made to the readers and contributors that trust us with their time, money, and hard work.

The second reason: it’s time to give others a chance….

The publisher is transitioning to producing Dark Matter Presents line of anthologies, published by Dark Matter INK. 

(8) GREAT LIVES FEATURES BALLARD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives this week looked at the SF author J. G. Ballard. Among the programme’s contributors was his daughter, so the show had some real insights. For example, J. G. Ballard never objected to being called a science fiction writer, but equally did not like being pigeon-holed. Also covered were his predictions including climate change (Drowned World, 1962) and socially divisive housing (High Rise, 1975) and things like YouTube/streaming (accessible video on demand) which he predicted back in the 1970s. The 25 minute programme also covered his life beyond his writing. 

Philosopher John Gray chooses as his great life the iconic British writer of dystopian and speculative fiction, J.G. Ballard, in conversation with the author’s daughter Bea Ballard. 

You can download it here.

(9) BOB JOHNSON (1944-2023). [Item by Steven French.] I remember buying that Steeleye Span album Below the Salt! “Bob Johnson obituary” in the Guardian.

…Exhausted by the touring, Johnson left the band to work with Knight on a 1977 concept album, The King of Elfland’s Daughter, based on the 1924 fantasy novel by Lord Dunsany. Johnson and Knight were joined by a star cast that included Christopher Lee and the blues hero Alexis Korner, but it was not a commercial success. “It was a lovely project and completely Bob’s idea,” said Knight, “but the record company had no intention of promoting it.”

Johnson re-joined Steeleye for the 1980 album Sails of Silver, but by now folk-rock was out of fashion, swept away by punk and disco. The band’s schedule was far less hectic, allowing him to study for a degree in clinical psychology at Warwick University, followed by an MA at the University of Hertfordshire and occasional work as an occupational therapist in Harley Street. Ill health forced him to leave Steeleye once again in 2002, but he returned to contribute two songs and guest vocals for the band’s 2013 concept double-album, Wintersmith, which was based on stories by the author Terry Pratchett, a Steeleye fan….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 63. Our Birthday guest tonight is the Jamaican-Canadian writer who I first encountered when I read her Brown Girl in the Ring with its magic realism Afro-Caribbean folklore rooted culture. She won the 1999 Astounding Award for Best New Writer, was a GoH at the 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki, and named a SFWA Grand Master in 2021.

Now I’m going to gush like a true fan here as everything she has done since her impressive debut is most stellar. 

Midnight Robber, that draws off the Trinidadian culture and puts it in a SF setting, was nominated for a Hugo Award at The Millennium Philcon and shortlisted for the Nebula Award and the Canadian Sunburst Award. It is an extraordinary coming of age story.

2017 Worldcon GoH session: Nalo Hopkinson. Photo by Daniel Dern.

So what’s next? Her short fiction must not be overlooked and Skin Folk which garnered a much deserved World Fantasy Award for Best Story Collection is well worth your reading time.“The Gloss Bottle Trick” herein got nominated for an Otherwise Award, and “Something to Hitch Meat To” got a World Fantasy Award nomination. 

And that is one eerie cover, well as done by Mark Harrison. 

Back to novels…

The Salt Roads is not light reading. Depending on your trigger points, it definitely could be depressing. Or worse. I can’t say as you’ll need to read it to find out. The best review of it by far was by Gwyneth Jones in the 91st issue of Foundation.

Everyone but Hugo nominators loved her tale of an orphaned child with a mysterious past and the fantastic troubles it causes in the life of a Caribbean woman as told as in the New Moon’s Arms. I’m not kidding. It won both Sunburst and the Prix, and had nominations for a Campbell Memorial, Mythopoetic Award and a Nebula.

She says the sources for her novels often comes from songs or poems with Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” is that for her Norton Award winning Sister Mine which is the complicated tale of two sisters. Fascinating read.

I’ll finish off with her writing for The Sandman Universe: House of Whispers which I think is some of the best work done for that series. It is available, as is all of her work, from the usual suspects. 

Nalo Hopkinson at 2023 Boskone. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

(11) TIME TO OPEN YOUR GIFTS. The Robert Bloch Official Website tells everyone they’re just in time to receive two “presents” for the holidays.

(12) FICTION STORIES FROM THE JOURNAL NATURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature “Futures” now seems to be open access again. They seem to vacillate between being open access and being behind a pay wall (only a couple of weeks ago when I last checked they were behind a paywall as I had to log in to see them (I am a Nature subscriber)).

SF² Concatenation has an arrangement with Nature to re-post what it considers to be the four best of these stories a year subject to author approval. These ‘best of’ ‘Futures’ are all open access. http://www.concatenation.org/futuresindex.html.

(13) HARD-R TREK. One of the director’s collaborators claims to know “Why Quentin Tarantino Stark Trek Movie Was Never Made” and Variety has the story.

Quentin Tarantino fans were sent into a frenzy in late 2017 after it was announced that Paramount and “Star Trek” producer J.J. Abrams had accepted Tarantino’s pitch for a new “Star Trek” movie and were working with “The Revenant” screenwriter Mark L. Smith to iron out the script. The project ultimately never got made, but Smith recently told Collider while promoting his latest project, the George Clooney-directed drama “The Boys in the Boat,” that it would’ve been “the greatest ‘Star Trek’ film.”

“Quentin and I went back and forth, he was gonna do some stuff on it, and then he started worrying about the number, his kind of unofficial number of films,” Smith said. “I remember we were talking, and he goes, ‘If I can just wrap my head around the idea that ‘Star Trek’ could be my last movie, the last thing I ever do. Is this how I want to end it?’ And I think that was the bump he could never get across, so the script is still sitting there on his desk.”

…Tarantino has long said he will retire from feature filmmaking after making his 10th movie. He has nine movies under his belt (he views the two “Kill Bill” movies as one movie), which means there’s only one Tarantino-directed film left. That will be “The Movie Critic,” not a “Star Trek” movie.

“I know he said a lot of nice things about it. I would love for it to happen,” Smith said. “It’s just one of those things that I can’t ever see happening. But it would be the greatest ‘Star Trek’ film, not for my writing, but just for what Tarantino was gonna do with it. It was just a balls-out kind of thing.”

“But I think his vision was just to go hard. It was a hard R. It was going to be some ‘Pulp Fiction’ violence,” Smith continued. “Not a lot of the language, we saved a couple things for just special characters to kind of drop that into the ‘Star Trek’ world, but it was just really the edginess and the kind of that Tarantino flair, man, that he was bringing to it. It would have been cool.”…

(14) MORE CAT VIDEOS, PLEASE. “Orange tabby cat named Taters steals the show in first video sent by laser from deep space” reports AP News.

An orange tabby cat named Taters stars in the first video transmitted by laser from deep space, stealing the show as he chases a red laser light.

The 15-second video was beamed to Earth from NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, 19 million miles (30 million kilometers) away. It took less than two minutes for the ultra high-definition video to reach Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, sent at the test system’s maximum rate of 267 megabits per second.

The video was loaded into Psyche’s laser communication experiment before the spacecraft blasted off to a rare metal asteroid in October. The mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, decided to feature an employee’s 3-year-old playful kitty.

The video was streamed to Earth on Dec. 11 and released by NASA this week. Despite the vast distance, the test relayed the video faster than most broadband internet connections here on Earth, said the project’s Ryan Rogalin.

NASA wants to improve communications from deep space, especially as astronauts gear up to return to the moon with an eye toward Mars. The laser demo is meant to transmit data at rates up to 100 times greater than the radio systems currently used by spacecraft far from Earth….

(15) SCANSION. “Black holes, love and poetry — an artistic exploration of intimacy and adventure” at Nature.

The Warped Side of Our Universe: An Odyssey through Black Holes, Wormholes, Time Travel, and Gravitational Waves Kip Thorne & Lia Halloran Liveright (2023)

Physicist Kip Thorne and visual artist Lia Halloran began to collaborate on a magazine article about the strange, warped space-time in and around a black hole more than a decade ago. It was never published — but it inspired a much more ambitious project.

The pair have just released an illustrated book portraying space-time storms generated by colliding black holes and neutron stars, as well as wormholes and the possibility of time machines — with explanations and illustrations all guided by cutting-edge computer simulations. It’s an intimate account, too. Halloran’s paintings depict her wife, Felicia, with her body stretching, spinning and contorting as she nears the gravitational maw of a black hole. Thorne expresses his words in verse….

(16) HOLIDAY TUNE. Return now to those thrilling days of 1979: “John Denver & The Muppets – The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together is a 1979 Christmas television special starring Jim Henson’s Muppets and singer-songwriter John Denver. The special first aired December 5, 1979, on ABC.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Daniel Dern doesn’t want you miss the Pink Panther & James Bond EPIC Theme Song Mashup” (first posted in 2022.)

This time I took the famous Pink Panther theme song by Henri Mancini and the also famous James Bond Theme by Monty Norman. In my opinion the two themes fit perfectly together but judge yourself. For this Epic song mashup I used my Korg Kronos 61 and Korg Kronos 88. All the sounds you hear are specially designed for this classic theme song mashup.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/11/23 Pixelmancer

(1) BOTTOM FALLS OUT OF THE CORRAIN MARKET. Cait Corrain, a debut author who was on Goodreads dropping one-star reviews on several others’ debut novels (see Pixel Scroll 12/7/23 item #1 and Pixel Scroll 12/8/23 item #4) has lost her agent, her publisher has pulled the book, and Ilumicrate has dropped her book from the upcoming crate.

The story even made NBC News today: “Author Cait Corrain loses book deal after accusations of review bombing on Goodreads”.

A first-time author has been dropped by her U.S. publisher and her agent after readers and fellow authors accused her of posting fake negative reviews to a popular book recommendation website.

Many within the book community last week appeared to publicly turn against Cait Corrain, the author of the coming sci-fi fantasy novel “Crown of Starlight,” after allegations surfaced that she made fake accounts on the Amazon-owned book review platform Goodreads to post negative user reviews online about fellow authors — a practice known as review-bombing….

(2) WORLDCONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has interviewed the writer of “Worldconned: How China Co-Opted Sci-Fi’s Crown Jewel Amidst the Uyghur Genocide”, recently linked in the Scroll: “Human Rights & Worldcon: An Interview with Danielle Ranucci of the Human Rights Foundation”.

ASM:  In moving forward, do you think that WSFS and its members should be taking a host country’s politics and human rights into consideration when accepting bids for host countries?

D.R.: It’s essential for WSFS and its members to take a host country’s politics and human rights into consideration when accepting bids. There are many reasons for this. First, self-protection. How safe would it be for an attending member to publicly criticize China for its genocide at the 2023 Worldcon? For reference, when China hosted the 2022 Olympics, it warned Olympic athletes not to criticize the regime or they would face consequences. Given how China had handled protestors during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the consequences for speaking out against the regime are all too evident: intimidation, arrests, and killings.

It would be downright perilous for anyone to criticize China while at Worldcon. Now, I doubt that state repression is a common conversation topic at Worldcon, but the extreme danger that members would face for even broaching this topic means that they are never truly secure. For every second they spend in a dictatorship like China, their safety is always jeopardized. Clearly, it is unconscionable to ignore a country’s human rights record and so jeopardize the safety of attending members in this way.

Considering human rights also helps protect Worldcon from being twisted into a tool of totalitarian repression. Hosting events like Worldcon helps dictatorships distract from, and legitimize, ongoing repression. I wrote about the effect such reputation-laundering has on outside countries, but it also has an important effect on those living within the dictatorship: It isolates them. Americans praise China’s futuristic-looking sci-fi museum while Chinese citizens can’t even find employment. Yet their lived experiences become invalidated. Their reality is made unimportant. And for people being persecuted by the regime, to diminish their suffering in this way is to forsake them. In a sense, it’s to render their pasts, presents, and futures meaningless….

(3) A CONFEDERATE HELICOPTER? An Alabama inventor tried to design a helicopter for military use during the Civil War. What could be steampunk-ier than that? “Helicopters During the Civil War? Almost” at Historynet.

…What if Confederates had invented a helicopter capable of dropping bombs?

It came closer to happening than many people realize. An innovative inventor in Alabama saw the potential for such an aircraft and actually drew up plans for how it might fly. Those drawings are preserved today in the archives of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

By January 20, 1862, Union ships had managed to prevent most vessels from entering or leaving the major Confederate port of Mobile Bay. While certainly not a complete cordon, the blockade cut off delivery of supplies and, more important, the export of cotton to other nations—a much-needed source of income for the Southern war effort.

William C. Powers believed he had the answer to breaking the blockade: a motorized airship capable of bombing the Northern fleet. Known today as the Confederate helicopter, his idea offered a revolutionary look at solving a bothersome military problem….

…And to many historians as well. Powers’ plans and a small-scale model he built were donated by his family to the Smithsonian Institution in 1941. Since then, researchers and aeronautical engineers have pored over his design to determine the scope and feasibility of his idea….

(4) GETTING IT RIGHT AND GETTING IT WRONG. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This weekend’s Infinite Monkey Cage on BBC Radio 4 looked at the depiction of space in SF film compared to reality.

Infinite Monkey Cage is a light-hearted look at science co-hosted by a comedian and a physicist (other sciences are available). This week they were accompanied by an Oscar winning SFX person and three astronauts.

There was much covered during the course of the show including how one aspect of space craft SFX they deliberately got wrong for Interstellar because it looked right.  And in Gravity Sandra Bullock would not have worn those undies as nappies are the order of the day…You can listen to the 25-minute programme here.

Brian Cox and Robin Ince put Hollywood under the microscope to unpick the science fact versus science fiction of some of the biggest movies set in space. They are joined by a truly out of this world panel of space experts including astronauts Tim Peake, Nicole Stott and Susan Kilrain alongside Oscar winning Special FX director Paul Franklin, whose movies include Interstellar and First Man. Tim, Nicole and Susan fact check how space travel and astronauts are portrayed in movies such as Gravity and The Martian, whilst Brian and Robin argue about Robin’s lack of enthusiasm for Star Wars. They look back at some of the greatest Space movies including Alien and 2001 A Space Odyssey and ask whether some fictional aspects of these blockbusters may not be so far from our future reality?

(5) BLACKLOCK Q&A. The Arthur C. Clarke Award blog has a piece about “The Nonfiction of J.G. Ballard: An interview with editor Mark Blacklock” at Medium. Blacklock’s new book is The Selected Nonfiction of J. G. Ballard.

MARK: … Once it was all gathered, my first instinct was to include everything, but wiser counsel prevailed: it would have been unmanageable. I made sure to include anything significant that had been ignored for A User’s Guide or turned up since — the Introduction to the French Edition of Crash, for example, which I think he felt was not for a general audience; all the commentaries on his own work that had appeared in forewords and introductory glosses; and a sample of the reviews he wrote for Chemistry & Industry at the start of his career. I cut the number of book reviews that make up the majority of A User’s Guide too, in favour of showing a greater range of his work — the lists and glossaries, the “capsule commentaries.” The major decisions then were over which of the book reviews to include, because he was so prolific as a reviewer. I have about 30 of some 180. I printed them all off, read them several times and gave them all star ratings and then selected from the top-starred for a representative range across dates and publications. This felt like quite a heavy responsibility, but all the reviews are included in the bibliography so geeks like us can go and find those that aren’t in the book….  

(6) CHENGDU WORLDCON COVERAGE CONTINUES. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] There have been several con reports and related news items since the last update in a Scroll; the following are a fairly arbitrary selection of recent and older items, with more to follow at some point.

Sylvia Hildr con report

This is a unique – I think – report, in that it’s written in English by a Chinese person.  Given that this report isn’t subject to the vagaries of machine translation, I’ll just include a short extract here

Did I have a good time? Well, I met with fans and writers who share the same deep passion for science fiction and it was fascinating experiences. I learned of lots of sci-fi magazines and databases where organizers put their best efforts to make it easier for Chinese fans to open their eyes. I will always cherish these memories. But, the difficulties that these people had to overcome truly blew my mind. Not a single conversation could end without any reasonable complaints. I could not take the stance for them but as I checked WeChat groups and Moments, or talked with friends, the situation was the same.

Hugo finalist Yang Feng receives WSJ magazine award

On Saturday, Best Editor (Short Form) and Best Related Work Hugo finalist Yang Feng received an award from the Chinese edition of the Wall Street Journal magazine; relevant Weibo posts are herehere and here.  I’m not sure exactly what relevance is of the guy with the shamisen-esque stringed instrument, but traditional music seems to have been a running theme of the awards ceremony.

I don’t think this is directly Worldcon/Hugo related, as the award seems to have been for business innovation, so it was possibly more due to her being CEO of the 8 Light Minutes publishing company?

Chengdu kids write about their Worldcon experiences

In early November, Character Weekly – which seems to be a magazine aimed at a young audience – published several short write-ups and photos (alternative link) from Chengdu children documenting their thoughts about attending the Worldcon.  A couple of examples (via Google Translate, with manual edits):

I felt very honored to visit the World Science Fiction Convention that was held in Chengdu. In the science fiction museum, I communicated with an intelligent robot dog, walked through a fantasy universe, and saw various science fiction works that I had never heard of before. I was particularly fortunate to have a brief exchange, and to take a photo with, Mr. Ben Yalow, Chairman of the Worldcon. Through this event, I truly felt the infinite imagination of human beings and the charm of science fiction.

_________________

A few days ago, my mother and I participated in the 81st World Science Fiction Conference held in my hometown of Chengdu. In the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, which is like a vast nebula, we experienced The Wandering Earth, Benben [the giant robot/vehicle structure], Kemeng [aka Kormo, the mascot), and the Hugo Awards with science fiction fans from all over the world, wonderful lectures by science fiction celebrities, etc., I also collected a book full of autographs, and took photos next to the beautiful Hugo Hall. This is the closest experience I have to science fiction, and I hope that one day I can do follow the same path, winning the Hugo Award for writing good science fiction works.  I will meet the future with my scientific dreams.

Lukyanenko ends China tour

This Weibo post from his Chinese publisher covers the final event in Shanghai on Sunday 10th.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 64. Tonight’s Birthday is that of M. Rickert who I must say never disappoints me. I loved her writing ever since I read her very first short story nearly a quarter of a century ago, “The Girl Who Ate Butterflies”. It’s certainly a wonderful story. 

I’d say that two-thirds of her nearly fifty pieces of short fiction were published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Very impressive indeed. Some picked up well deserved awards— “Journey into the Kingdom” won a World Fantasy Award, and “The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece” a Shirley Jackson Award.  Many more were nominated for Awards. 

There are three collections of her short fictions, both well worth your time on these cold nights. The first, Map of Dreams, covers a wide spread of her stories, and won a World Fantasy Award and the Crawford Award. The “Map of Dreams” novella herein was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award.  

The second, Holiday, showing how prolific she is as a short fiction writer as it is filled with just stories from 2006 and 2007. You can find “Journey into the Kingdom” here. 

The third, You Have Never Been Here: New and Selected Stories, to a certain extent is less necessary than the first two as a large part of it is already in the first two. If you’re a fan of hers, by all means pick it up.

Now her novels, her interesting novels. Both are very impressive with my favorite being The Memory Garden which sort of tangentially reminds me of McKillip’s The Solstice Wood in tone if not story.  I’ll say The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie is one quirky novel. Really quirky novel. Not quite what to make of it. 

Since this is the Christmas season, I should note her “Lucky Girl: How I Became a Horror Writer” is a Krampus story. It’s available as an actual paperback book or an epub. 

(8) SPIRIT OF THE SEASON. Bobby Derie looks at what remains of Lovecraft’s Christmas verses to his correspondents: “Her Letters To Lovecraft: Christmas Greetings” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

H. P. Lovecraft spent most of his adult life in genteel poverty, slowly diminishing the modest inheritance that had come down to him from his parents and grandparents. He had no cash to spare on expensive gifts for his many friends and loved ones. So Lovecraft was generous with what he had—time, energy, and creativity. While not religious or given to mawkish displays, when it came to Christmas, Lovecraft poured his time and energies into writing small verses to his many correspondents, a body of poems collectively known as his “Christmas Greetings.”…

… In looking at Lovecraft’s Christmas Greetings to his women correspondents, we catch a glimpse at Lovecraft’s thoughtfulness. Their response, unfortunately, is often lost to us; though some few of them certainly responded in kind. We know Elizabeth Toldridge, for example, wrote her own Christmas poems to Lovecraft, because at least one survives….

(9) RAYMOND CHANDLER POEM REVEALED. Apparently located in the Bodleian, it may be a poetic response to the loss of his wife: “’A moment after death when the face is beautiful’: rare Raymond Chandler poem discovered by US editor”, a news item in the Guardian.

… Published on Monday in the 25th-anniversary issue of the Strand magazine, the poem, titled Requiem, dates back to 1955 and was discovered by the magazine’s managing editor, Andrew Gulli….

Grappling with loss, grief and what it describes as the “long innocence of love”, Requiem opens with: “There is a moment after death when the face is beautiful / When the soft, tired eyes are closed and the pain is over.”

For two stanzas, Requiem describes the moments after death when the “long innocence of love comes gently in / For a moment more, in quiet to hover”, as well as the fading of “bright clothes” and a “lost dream”. It adds that “silver bottles”, “three long hairs in a brush” and “fresh plump pillows / On which no head will lie/ Are all that is left of the long, wild dream”….

(10) MAKING A LIST AND CHECKING IT TWICE. “Big Bang observatory tops wish list for big US physics projects” reports Nature.

The United States should fund proposed projects to dramatically scale up its efforts in five areas of high-energy physics, an influential panel of scientists has concluded.

Topping the ranking is the Cosmic Microwave Background–Stage 4 project, or CMB-S4, which is envisioned as an array of 12 radio telescopes split between Chile’s Atacama Desert and the South Pole. It is designed to look for indirect evidence of physical processes in the instants after the Big Bang — processes that have been mostly speculative so far.

The other four priorities are experiments to study the elementary particles called neutrinos, both coming from space and made in the laboratory; the largest-ever dark-matter detector; and strong US participation in a future overseas particle collider to study the Higgs boson.

An ad hoc group called the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) presented the recommendations on 7 December. The committee, which is convened roughly once a decade, was charged to make recommendations for the two main US agencies that fund research in high-energy physics, the Department of Energy (DoE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)….

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark me as one of Today’s 10,000. I just learned there’s a Roblox game based on the Hamilton musical. “Hamilton X Roblox”.

Enhanced battle, squad upgrades, and a new rebirth mode to keep the adventure going. Check out the newest Hamilton Roblox update now!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Bruce D. Arthurs, Anne Marble, Steven French, Ersatz Culture, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist.]

Pixel Scroll 11/27/23 What’s In The Daily Scroll? I’ll Tell You What’s In The Daily Scroll — An Item About A Credential Who Didn’t Pay Their Air-And-Gravity Dues And Now Has Got Those Vacuum Blues

(1) REGRESS REPORT. Mari Ness says the 2025 World Fantasy Con is bringing the convention back to a venue it used a decade ago that still has substantial accessibility problems. Thread starts here.

On Bluesky Ness added:

The organization behind 2025 World Fantasy Con, HWS Events, replied on Bluesky:

(2) THE END IS NEAR. Brian Keene says he will end his revived Jobs In Hell newsletter in March 2024.

…One thing I’ve definitely noticed between JIH’s original incarnation back in the late-1990’s and early-2000’s versus now is the speed at which market listings and industry news happen. During the original Jobs In Hell’s run, we were the absolute fastest way for those kind of things to travel. Email was then a brand-new thing for most homes, and email newsletters were the fastest way of disseminating information, because social media did not exist yet.

These days, by the time I get the information to you once a month, you have probably already seen it elsewhere on Facebook or X (formerly known as Twitter) or a dozen other places. Thus, the question becomes — how do I overcome that?

And the answer is, I don’t….

… So, what I have decided is that Jobs In Hell will cease publication next March. Why wait until then? Because many of you paid for a full year’s subscription in advance, and I want to make sure you are served….

(3) PRESENT VALUE IS NO GIFT. “’Doctor Who’ Writer Residuals Shaken Up After Disney+ Boards BBC Show” reports Deadline.

Doctor Who, the long-running BBC sci-fi series, has shifted away from a residual model for its writers since Disney+ came on board as a partner, we understand.

The series, which is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary with a trio of specials from returning showrunner Russell T. Davies, has moved towards a buyout model for writers, Deadline has been told.

Sources said that episodic writers are now being paid a large fee upfront rather than a smaller fee plus residuals that has seen previous scribes earn additional compensation when Doctor Who is repeated.

Doctor Who, which has aired nearly 900 episodes over six decades, has been one of the most lucrative British sources of residuals for former writers down the years as it is so heavily repeated. The entire back catalog has just landed on BBC iPlayer, for example.

While Deadline understands that contracts were freely negotiated and agreed with writers and their agents, the move comes at a topical time for writers’ compensation, particularly given the recent labor action in the U.S. Doctor Who remains a British show and thereby doesn’t have to abide by WGA contracts but the optics are interesting given that the move comes after Disney+ boarded the series last year as a partner outside of the UK and Ireland….

(4) TIME TO TALK ABOUT A TROPE. Alyssa Shotwell tells readers of The Mary Sue “I Will Be Seated for ‘The American Society of Magical Negroes’”.

…Directed by writer/actor Kobi Libii (DoubtMadam Secretary), the satirical fantasy film looks to turn the storytelling trope of the Magical Negro on its head and into a fantastical adventure. As a refresher, the trope occurs when a fictional work uses its primary Black character to serve the interests of its white character. They have little to no importance to the plot and exist as a tool to help the white characters on their journey. Unfortunately, this is not a trope of a bygone era. In 2019, the Oscars awarded Green Book, a movie that turned an important Black American composer, Don Shirley, into a Magical Negro. Even into the 2020s, the trope has reappeared in popular media like The Queen’s Gambit and The Strand. You can learn more about the trope in former TMS writer Princess Weekes’s video on Magical Negros in Stephen King’s work.

The American Society of Magical Negroes stars Justice Smith (Detective PikachuDungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves) as Aren. After a secret society of magical Black people recruits Aren to help join their cause, his life changes forever. What’s their cause? Making white people’s lives easier….

(5) BALLARD’S NONFICTION. This week’s Open Book on BBC Radio 4 had its last third devoted to J. G. Ballard: “Open Book, Alexis Wright”.

Also on the programme, Roland Allen explores the history of writers and their notebooks; and Mark Blacklock and Toby Litt discuss J G Ballard’s non-fiction.

(6) LA WORLDCON BID. Craig Miller told Facebook readers that the LA in 2026 Worldcon bid was active at Loscon last weekend.

…One other thing that kept me occupied was the bid to host a World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in the Los Angeles-area again in 2026. The bid had a table on the convention floor and we held a party on Saturday night in the hotel’s main party suite. Our theme is “intergalactic adventure” taking the form “of come to our Worldcon and be launched into adventure”. We decorated the room with large format posters of alien worlds and had special “intergalactic taste treats”.

The foods were named for various planets, some from fiction some real, and they each had appropriate descriptions. Quite a few people took photos of the food and their descriptions. I, of course, didn’t think to, even though I was noticing people doing so.

For Hoth, we had “Sweet snow caps topped with blue glacier shavings from ice caves”. Actually meringues topped with blue-colored white chocolate.

For KOI-5Ab (an actual exoplanet with three suns) we described this as giving different spectrums for growth resulting in blue, ruby, and brown outer coatings of crimson fruit. The food was really pomegranate seeds in either dark, ruby, or blue-colored white chocolate.

Perhaps my favorite was one we didn’t tie to a planet. We had fresh rambutan (which are sort of like lychee) served with the top half of their skin removed, leaving the round, white fruit exposed in a “hairy” base. I called them “alien eggs served in nest”.

And, yes, I’m that crazy, getting involved with running another Worldcon….

(7) SO WASN’T IT POPULAR ENOUGH? The magazine is gone, but the website remains. “After 151 years, Popular Science will no longer offer a magazine”The Verge has the story.

After 151 years, Popular Science will no longer be available to purchase as a magazine. In a statement to The Verge, Cathy Hebert, the communications director for PopSci owner Recurrent Ventures, says the outlet needs to “evolve” beyond its magazine product, which published its first all-digital issue in 2021.

PopSci, which covers a whole range of stories related to the fields of science, technology, and nature, published its first issue in 1872. Things have changed a lot over the years, with the magazine switching to a quarterly publication schedule in 2018 and doing away with the physical copies altogether after 2020….

…In addition to dropping its magazine format, PopSci laid off several employees earlier this month, leaving around five editorial staff members and “a few” workers on the publication’s commerce team, according to Axios. The digital media group Recurrent Ventures acquired PopSci in 2021 and named its third CEO in three years just one week before the layoffs hit.

PopSci will continue to offer articles on its website, along with its PopSci Plus subscription, which offers access to exclusive content and the magazine’s archive…. 

(8) BE FREE. The Guardian’s Alex Clark says take the labels off those bookstore shelves: “The big idea: should we abolish literary genres?”

…Genre is a confining madness; it says nothing about how writers write or readers read, and everything about how publishers, retailers and commentators would like them to. This is not to criticise the many talented personnel in those areas, who valiantly swim against the labels their industry has alighted on to shift units as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Consider the worst offender: not crime, horror, thriller, science fiction, espionage or romance, but “literary fiction”. It can and does contain many of the elements of the others, but is ultimately meaningless except as a confused shorthand: for what is thought clever or ambitious or beyond the comprehension of readers more suited to “mass market” or “commercial” fiction. What would happen if we dispensed with this non-category category altogether? Very little, except that we might meet a book on its own terms.

Is last year’s Booker prize winner, Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a ghost story because its central character is dead, or a thriller because he has to work out who has murdered him? A historical novel because it is set during the Sri Lankan civil war, or speculative fiction because it contains scenes of the afterlife? And where do we place previous winners such as Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders or A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James?…

… I’m returning now to a new novel, Orbital by Samantha Harvey, one of my favourite contemporary novelists. It is set in space, on board a craft circling the Earth, filled with astronauts from different countries and cultures, undergoing physical, mental and emotional changes. Her last novel, The Western Wind, was set in 1491, and she has also written about Alzheimer’s disease, Socrates, infidelity and insomnia. Categorise that….

(9) GROW MOUNT TBR. Becky Spratford introduces readers to “Largehearted Boy’s Essential and Interesting Best of 2023 Book Lists”.

I am talking about Largehearted Boy’s Best of 2023 Book Lists. For the past 15 years, David Gutowski has spent his end of each year trying to give you access to every single best books list in America. This year, for his 16th go-round, he has streamlined the process a bit. From this year’s page:

“For the past fifteen years, I have aggregated every online year-end book list I have discovered into one post.

“This year, I will collect essential and interesting year-end book lists in this post and update it daily.

“Please feel free to e-mail me with a magazine, newspaper, or other online list I have missed.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 27, 1907 L. Sprague de Camp. (Died 2000.)  So what’s not to like about L. Sprague de Camp?  

Let’s start with his excellent The Incorporated Knight series comprises some 1970s short stories by de Camp and two novels written in collaboration with his wife Catherine Crook de Camp, The Incorporated Knight and The Pixilated Peeress. The early short stories were reworked into first novel.

Next let me praise his Harold Shea and Gavagan’s Bar stories, both written with his friend Fletcher Pratt.  There are five stories by them, another ten stories are written forty years later but not by them and I’m not at all fond of those. The original stories were first collected in The Compleat Enchanter: The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea. Treasure them. 

Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov, Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1944.

They say Gavagan’s Bar were patterned after Lord Dunsany’s Jorkens stories and that certainly makes sense. These are quite extraordinary tales. It appears the last printed edition is Tales from Gavagan’s Bar in 1980 on Bantam Books. Orion did a UK epub just several years ago but not for the U.S. 

They did a lot of Really Good Stuff, say The Incomplete Enchanter and The Land of Unreason. An amazing writing partnership it was. 

So what’s good by him alone. Surprisingly his Conan tales are damn good. Now stop throwing things at me, I’m serious. Some are stellar like “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” and “The Bloodstained God”. (Yes I’ve a weakness for this fiction.) The three Conan novels co-written with Lin Carter (Conan the Barbarian was also written with Catherine Crook de Camp) are remarkably resistant to the Suck Fairy. 

Shall I note how excellent his Viagens Interplanetarias series is? Well I will. Adventurous and lighthearted SF with great characters and fun stories, novels (much of which was written with his wife) and stories alike are great reads. I read a few stories a while back and even the Suck Fairy still liked them. All of his fiction holds up remarkably well despite being written upwards of six decades ago. 

Well, that’s my personal reading history with him. What’s yours? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side: Lise Andreasen says, “Something similar actually happened to me, when I and my family visited Odense (birth place of H.C. Andersen) and hit another car.”

(12) THE TEARS ARE BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. In the Guardian: “’I blubbed inconsolably for 20 minutes’ – your favourite ever Doctor Who moments”.

‘A giant maggot creeping towards Jo Grant’

I remember the sheer terror as I watched a giant maggot slowly creeping towards Jo Grant at the end of an episode of The Green Death in the Pertwee era. There are always mentions of “hiding behind the sofa”, but I literally did. I was so terrified that my mum, another Who fan, tried to explain that the maggot would probably turn out to just want to have a talk with Jo. I have no idea why this made any sense to me, but it did help calm me down. My second favourite moment was when Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant. The first series of the new Who was a shared experience with my eldest daughter and turned her into a lifelong fan. At the end of this episode, she fled the room in tears crying out “but I don’t want him to go!” We still watch together, but reply via chat. Doctor Who brings three generations of my family together and keeps them connected over a silly show about a blue box. Andrew Stephens, Swindon

(13) DRESSING FESTIVELY. The New York Times looks to a Hallmark Christmas movie costume designer to understand “Clothes that Conjure the Holiday Spirit”.

How do locations like Biltmore House influence your process?

I walked through the mansion to get ideas from the space. I remember looking at the colors of the wood paneling and of the limestone. Window shades are kept at a certain level and rooms are kept dimly lit to protect the things inside from light. It’s very romantic and cozy, and I wanted wardrobes that communicated warmth and coziness using colors besides red and green.

To create a gown and a kilt worn by the stars of “A Merry Scottish Christmas,” I pulled together a bunch of tartans that went with the tapestries, candles and dark wood at the castle. We settled on MacDonald of Glencoe, a tartan with holiday-like jewel tones. The pattern was digitally printed on the fabric used to make the gown, and the kilt was made with a traditional wool tartan.

What are some challenges with costuming holiday films?

It’s the little things. All clothing sizes have changed: Vintage shoes are narrower than shoes are today, jackets fit differently, and girdles are gone. It’s hard to find people to do embroidery and beading.

But I like classic and timeless looks because Christmas movies are watched over and over.

 (14) WHEN NO ONE IS AT THE WHEEL. Two companies operated hundreds of driverless cars in San Francisco at the peak: “‘Lost Time for No Reason’: How Driverless Taxis Are Stressing Cities” reports the New York Times.

…After five years, there are still no systematic state safety and incident reporting standards for driverless cars in California, Ms. Friedlander said. “This is such a dramatic kind of change in transportation that it’s going to take many years for the regulatory structure to really be finalized,” she said.

Last year, the number of 911 calls from San Francisco residents about robotaxis began rising, city officials said. In one three-month period, 28 incidents were reported, according to a letter that city officials sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

By June, autonomous car incidents in San Francisco had risen to such a “concerning level” that the city’s Fire Department created a separate autonomous vehicle incident form, said Darius Luttropp, a deputy chief of the department. As of Oct. 15, 87 incidents had been recorded with the form.

“We move forward with expectations that this wonder technology will operate like a human driver,” Mr. Luttropp said. “That did not turn out to be the case.”

Mr. Wood, the firefighter, attended a weeklong training session held by Waymo in June at the Fire Department’s training center to learn more about the self-driving vehicles. But he said he was disappointed.

“None of us walked away from the training with any way to get a stalled car to move,” he said, adding that manually taking over the car takes 10 minutes, which is too long in an emergency.

His main takeaway was that he should bang on the car’s window or tap on its door so he could talk to the vehicle’s remote operator, he said. The operator would then try to remotely re-engage the vehicle or send someone to manually override it, he said.

Waymo said it had rolled out a software update to its cars in October that would let firefighters and other authorities take control of the vehicles within seconds….

(15) RAW FOOTAGE. “Disneyland Park Guest Arrested After Stripping Off Clothes On ‘It’s A Small World’ Ride”Deadline tells what happened.

Disneyland park guest in Anaheim, California was arrested and escorted off the property by local authorities after stripping off their clothes during the It’s A Small World attraction.

The incident happened on Sunday afternoon during the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend. A Disneyland Resort representative told Deadline that the guest got off the ride while it was in motion and the attraction was stopped when park operators were made aware of the situation.

… “It’s a Small World” was shut down for about an hour as park operators inspected the attraction. No guests were harmed physically during the incident and the ride resumed operations at about 3 p.m. local time….

Here’s one of the videos taken of the incident: “This Family Survived the #Disneyland Its a small world #streaker#”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/23/23 I Can’t Scroll, Don’t Ask Me, My Heart Won’t Let My Pixel Do Things It Shouldn’t Do

(1) WRITERS STRIKE REPORTEDLY NEARS END. CNN reports“WGA strike: Writers Guild and Hollywood studios in ‘final phase’ of negotiations”.

The striking writers and Hollywood studios are in the “final phase” of negotiations and hope to strike a deal to end the historic work stoppage that has paralyzed the entertainment industry by the end of the weekend, two people familiar with the matter told CNN.

The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers spent Saturday negotiating for the fourth consecutive day.

The big four studio bosses — Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav, Disney chief Bob Iger, Netflix co-chief Ted Sarandos, and NBCUniversal studio chairman Donna Langley — were no longer in the Sherman Oaks room by Saturday afternoon, one person said, signaling nearly all the major issues had been resolved. The person stressed, while not directly in the room, the studio chiefs remained wholly engaged in the process….

(2) INCIDENTS AND ACCIDENTS, HINTS AND ALLEGATIONS. “New Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Teaser Hints at Return of Rose Tyler & Twelfth Doctor” at CBR.com.

As Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary draws closer, the BBC has started to post even more promotional images on social media ahead of the specials’ release, and the latest teaser may be a clue that both Rose Tyler and the Twelfth Doctor are coming back….

… On Sept. 17, the official X (formerly Twitter) account for Doctor Who shared a cryptic image that featured the Doctor’s TARDIS at the end of a long and narrow corridor. The walls are covered with posters hung by employers who are looking to hire workers for their businesses, and one poster clearly reads Henrik’s, the very department store chain Rose Tyler works at in the New Who’s first episode “Rose.” Fans are now saying that this Easter egg could easily mean that Piper will be returning to Doctor Who after all, at least for a cameo appearance in the anniversary episodes….

Another poster, situated right above the Henrik’s one, contains a reference to Glasgow, which some Doctor Who fans are ready to take in as an indication that Capaldi is coming back as well….

… Neither Capaldi nor Piper are confirmed to be part of the cast for Doctor Who‘s 60th-anniversary specials yet, but viewers believe that these Easter eggs offer strong evidence that they will be making cameo appearances. The show is known to be very careful and selective with the promo images and other teasers shared publicly, so there’s definitely hope that the former stars, who were both in Doctor Who‘s 50th-anniversary episode in 2013, will be making fans happy this November once more….

(3) DOCTOR WHO CLIP. And here’s a trailer for the “Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials”.

Destiny isn’t done with them just yet… The Doctor and Donna return for three special episodes

(4) LONGTIME PULP COLLECTOR. Joe Kloc introduces readers to Gary Lovisi in “The Golden Fleece” at Harper’s Magazine.

…Gary, I learned, was Gary Lovisi, a retired postal worker living in South Brooklyn who, since 1986, has edited and self-published more than one hundred issues of Paperback Parade, a near-quarterly journal in which he interviews midcentury noir and sci-fi writers, revisits the “girl-fight covers” of the “sleaze era,” and eulogizes longtime pulp book dealers as they pass on. I got Gary’s number through Gryphon Books, the publishing house through which he put out three issues last year, though he stopped updating its website nearly a decade ago….

… He went on to explain: they were talking about the first issue of Golden Fleece Historical Adventure, a pulp magazine created by Sun Publications in Chicago in 1938. Apart from its two stories by Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian, and its two covers by Margaret Brundage, an early master of the damsel-in-distress motif, it is an unremarkable periodical that folded after nine issues. It’s possible that Gary would not have given it a second glance if not for the circumstances under which they came across it: “It was maybe twenty years ago,” he began.

He and Lucille were at a flea market in Brimfield, Massachusetts, when swirling black rain clouds gathered overhead. The storm broke, and they ducked under a tent in which a man was selling items recovered from a house fire. Gary noticed a pile of burnt books on a folding table and started digging through them. He brushed one off, revealing the first issue of Golden Fleece Historical Adventure. Somehow, it had survived the fire unharmed, the only book to do so. He showed it to the vendor, who couldn’t make sense of it. Gary paid the man five dollars and drove back to Gerritsen Beach. He placed the book on a shelf in the basement and forgot about it for a decade. Then, in the fall of 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall. The water rose, filling subway tunnels, submerging thousands of vehicles, and killing more than one hundred people. Gary and Lucille’s basement flooded to the ceiling. Tens of thousands of their books were destroyed. Days later, as a city sanitation worker was hauling the remains of the waterlogged collection out to a garbage truck, Gary noticed that two books had swelled and fused together. He pulled the paperbacks apart to discover, wedged between them, in pristine condition, his Golden Fleece.

“It’s invincible,” said Gary….

(5) BANNED BOOKS WEEKS CHAIR. “LeVar Burton to Lead 2023 Banned Books Week as Honorary Chair”.

LeVar Burton

Beloved reading advocate, writer, and television and film star LeVar Burton will lead this year’s Banned Books Week, which takes place October 1–7, 2023.  Burton is the first actor to serve as honorary chair of Banned Books Week, an annual weeklong event that highlights the value of free and open access to information and brings together the entire book community in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas.

Recognizable for his groundbreaking roles in the landmark television series Roots and the Star Trek franchise, Burton’s work as a literacy advocate has inspired generations. Many in the book community can trace their love of reading and advocacy for the right to read to Burton’s treasured PBS children’s series Reading Rainbow. Burton has continued to inspire readers with the enormously popular LeVar Burton Reads podcast. A long-time champion for reading and access to books, Burton executive produced The Right to Read. This award-winning 2023 documentary film positions the literacy crisis in America as a civil rights issue. 

“Books bring us together. They teach us about the world and each other. The ability to read and access books is a fundamental right and a necessity for life-long success,” says Burton. “But books are under attack. They’re being removed from libraries and schools. Shelves have been emptied because of a small number of people and their misguided efforts toward censorship. Public advocacy campaigns like Banned Books Week are essential to helping people understand the scope of book censorship and what they can do to fight it. I’m honored to lead Banned Books Week 2023.”

Burton will headline a live virtual conversation with Banned Books Week Youth Honorary Chair Da’Taeveyon Daniels about censorship and advocacy at 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 4. The event will stream live on Instagram (@banned_books_week). Visit BannedBooksWeek.org for more details….

(6) THEY, THE JURY. Niall Harrison touts the Sturgeon Award shortlist as the place to look for the best short sff. “The Year’s Best Is Dead, Long Live the Year’s Best: On the 2023 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award Finalists” at LA Review of Books.

…We might, then, turn our attention to awards, of which there is still an abundance. The invaluable Science Fiction Awards Database tracks the short lists and results of over 100 different awards, and a few dozen include short fiction categories. Through their short lists, they provide a kind of crowdsourced year’s best survey, not least because most of them are decided by some form of popular vote. This includes probably the two best-known SF awards—the Nebulas, which are voted on each year by members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA), and the Hugos, which are voted on by members of that year’s World Science Fiction Convention—and is one reason why, historically, it has been so useful to have both awards and anthologies.

Popular votes and editorial selection have different strengths and weaknesses, and one particular weakness of popular votes has become more noticeable in recent years. There has always been a degree of overlap between the Hugo and Nebula nominees, but in an era of more short stories than any one person can reasonably read, there is an incentive to read the stories that are most easily accessible and that other people are already talking about, leading to reinforcing cycles of attention. As a result, it is now the norm for at least half of the short fiction nominees for these two awards to be the same, and for them to come from a relatively small group of online magazines—and even allowing for Sturgeon’s sometimes-useful generalization, in a healthy ecosystem, you’d like more differentiation than that.

All of this is a long way around to justifying the ostensible subject of this essay: now is a particularly good time to pay more attention to the short story awards that are casting a broader net than the Hugos and the Nebulas themselves, and one that I find consistently interesting is the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. …

(7) MASTER BALLARD. Tom McCarthy justifies the distinction in his article “J. G. Ballard’s Brilliant, Not ‘Good’ Writing” in The Paris Review.

Putting Ballard on a master’s course list, as I’ve done a couple of times, provokes a reaction that’s both funny and illuminating. Asked to read Crash or The Atrocity Exhibition, the more vociferous students invariably express their revulsion, while the more reflective ones voice their frustration that, although the ideas might be compelling, the prose “isn’t good.” This is especially the case with students who’ve been exposed to creative writing classes: they complain that the books are so full of repetition they become machinic or monotonous; also that they lack solid, integrated characters with whom they can identify, instead endlessly breaking open any given plot or mise-en-scène to other external or even unconnected scenes, contexts, and histories, resulting in a kind of schizoid narrative space that’s full of everyone and no one.

This second group, of course, is absolutely right in its analysis; what’s funny (and, if I can teach them anything, reversible) about their judgment is that it is these very elements (repetition, machinism, schizoid hypermnesia) that make Ballard’s work so brilliant. Not only are his rhythmic cycles, in which phrases and images return in orders and arrangements that mutate and reconfigure themselves as though following some algorithm that remains beyond our grasp, at once incantatory, hallucinatory, and the very model and essence of poetry; but, mirroring the way that information, advertising, propaganda, public (and private) dialogue, and even consciousness itself run in reiterative loops and circuits, constitute a realism far exceeding that of the misnamed literary genre. If his personae are split, multiplied, dispersed, this is because they are true subjects of a networked and fragmented hypermodernity—ones for whom identification, if it is to amount to anything more than a consoling fiction, must come through man’s recognition of himself (as Georges Bataille put it) not in the degrading chains of logic but instead, with rage and ecstatic torment, in the virulence of his own phantasms….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 23, 1908 Wilmar House Shiras. Her story “In Hiding” was submitted in 1948 to Astounding Science Fiction, where it was published. She published two sequels in the magazine: “Opening Doors”, and “New Foundations”. The three stories would become the first three chapters in the novel, Children of the Atom. Other than a handful of short fiction, I think it’s her only work. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 23, 1920 Richard Wilson. Not a writer of much genre fiction at all. His really major contribution to fandom and to Syracuse University where he worked as the director of the Syracuse University News Bureau was in successfully recruiting the donation of papers from many prominent science fiction writers to the Syracuse University’s George Arents Research Library.  The list of those writers includes Piers Anthony, Hal Clement, Keith Laumer, Larry Niven and Frederik Pohl. And, of course, himself. It has been called the “most important collection of science fiction manuscripts and papers in the world.” (Died 1987.)
  • Born September 23, 1928 John S Glasby.English writer who wrote a truly amazing amount of pulp fiction of both a SF and fantasy under quite a few pen names that included  John Adams, R. L. Bowers, Berl Cameron, Max Chartair, Randall Conway, Ray Cosmic, John Crawford, J. B. Dexter, John Glasby, J. S. Glasby, Michael Hamilton, J. J. Hansby, Marston Johns, Victor La Salle, Peter Laynham, H. K. Lennard, Paul Lorraine, John C. Maxwell, A. J. Merak, H. J. Merak, R. J. Merak, John Morton, John E. Muller, Rand Le Page, J. L. Powers and Karl Zeigfried. It is thought but not confirmed that he produced more than three hundred novels and a lot of short stories in a twenty year period that started in the early Fifties. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 23, 1948 Leslie Kay Swigart, 75. Obsessions can be fascinating and hers was detailing the writings of Harlan Ellison. Between 1975 and 1991, she published Harlan Ellison: A Bibliographical Checklist plus wrote shorter works such as “Harlan Ellison: An F&SF Checklist“, “Harlan Ellison: A Nonfiction Checklist” and “Harlan Ellison: A Book and Fiction Checklist”. Her George R. R. Martin: A RRetrospective Fiction Checklist can be found in the Dreamsongs: GRRM: A RRetrospective collection.
  • Born September 23, 1959 Frank Cottrell-Boyce, 64. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Doctor Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek
  • Born September 23, 1956 Peter David, 67. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book: The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice.
  • Born September 23, 1967 Justine Larbalestier, 56. Writer, Editor, and Critic. An Australian author of fiction whose novels have won Andre Norton, Carl Brandon, and Aurealis Awards, she is probably best known for her comprehensive scholarly work The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction which was nominated for a Hugo at Torcon 3. Her Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, an anthology of SFF stories and critical essays by women, won The William Atheling Jr. Award.

(9) SMOFCON RATES TO RISE. SMOFcon 40, taking place December 1-3 in Providence, RI, is raising its membership rates on September 30. Register now and save.

Current rates are:

Attending $60

First Smofcon (never attended Smofcon in person) $40

Young Adult (Under 33 Years Old / Born After 1 December 1990) $40

Unwaged / Retired / Hardship $40

Virtual/Online $35

Family/Con Suite Only $30

On October 1 the attending rate will rise to $70 and the Virtual/Online membership will rise to $40. All other rates will remain the same. The new rates are good through November 27, when the Attending membership will rise again to at-the-door pricing.

Smofcon 40 also has published a Covid policy at the link. Short version: masks required in program space, recommended but optional in hospitality space. Up-to-date vaccines are recommended but not required. Corsi-Rosenthal boxes will be used to filter air in all spaces.

(10) OVERTHROWN. “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Claims ‘Armageddon’ Has Been Dethroned As Film Violating Most Laws Of Physics”Deadline names the new “champion”.

Armageddon‘s quarter-century reign as the Hollywood movie running afoul of the most physics laws is over. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson made the revelation during an interview on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show to promote his new book, To Infinity and Beyond, highlighting glaring scientific inaccuracies in another space film, the 2022 Moonfall starring Halle Berry.

Armageddon, you say, violates more laws of physics per minute than any other film ever made,” Cagle began.

DeGrasse Tyson agreed, adding, “That’s what I thought until I saw Moonfall. It was a pandemic film that came out, you know, Halle Berry, and the moon is approaching Earth, and they learned that it’s hollow and there’s a moon being made out of rocks living inside of it and the Apollo missions were really to visit, to feed the moon being, and I just couldn’t, so I said, “Alright, I thought Armageddon had a secure hold on this crown, but apparently not.”…

(11) NCIS AT 20. Compiled entirely from quotes by showrunners and producers (none of the actors), this oral history will still be of interest to those who like NCIS: “NCIS Oral History: CBS Show Team Talks Mark Harmon, Pauley Perrette” in The Hollywood Reporter.

(12) CARBON IN EUROPA MOON OCEAN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.

Two research teams have independently used the James Webb Space Telescope to look at Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

In this week’s Science journal, one team reports that carbon dioxide seems to have been transported from the ocean beneath the moon’s ice crust. The second team’s observations seem to corroborate this.  Both papers together have caused some in the media to speculate what this means for there being alien life in Europa’s ocean. With Earth.com saying, for instance, that “Alien life on Jupiter’s moon Europa just became a very likely scenario”.

(13) SHBOOM! “Video Shows Rare Bright Fireball on Jupiter, From Amateur Astronomer” at Business Insider.

Jupiter takes a lot of hits for the rest of the solar system, and new footage shows one of the biggest astronomers have ever seen.

About 14 seconds into the video below, you can see a bright flash appear in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. The flash is from an impact — likely an asteroid or comet slamming into the planet. The video was captured by amateur astronomer Tadao Ohsugi, in Japan, in August. It’s a rare sight….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Rick Kovalcik, Tammy Coxen, Steven French, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]

Pixel Scroll 5/11/23 This Pixel Scroll Is Bigger On The Inside

(1) TURNING A PAGE IN THE HUGO CALENDAR. Cora Buhlert’s first “Non-Fiction Spotlight” for a 2023 book is about a collection of essays which discusses and reviews every single one of the original Conan stories: Hither Came Conan, edited by Bob Byrne, Bill Ward, Howard Andrew Jones and Jason M. Waltz”.

Tell us about your book.

HITHER CAME CONAN is a compilation of two successful examinations of all of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan the Cimmerian stories (and one story fragment) with about 15 additional essays included. It is also the single most-inclusive repository of REH Conan story data to date. This alone makes this title invaluable; coupled with the almost 60 essays it makes this THE BOOK to shelve alongside your Wandering Star/DelRey Conan trilogy. The majority of essays (and opinions!) come from the Bob Byrne led ‘Hither Came Conan’ series hosted by Black Gate Magazine and the ‘Conan Re-Read’ of Bill Ward and Howard Andrew Jones in conversation on Howard’s blog. Data compiled for each story by Dierk Günther includes tidbits such as the probable age of both Conan and Howard, the location, the major characters, the word count, date and source of first publication, and the first recorded public reaction to be found. HITHER CAME CONAN is a wealth of all the information any reader of Conan could desire.

(2) JOHN MANSFIELD SERVICE ONLINE TOMORROW. Linda Ross-Mansfield has announced the Facebook link for the livestream of the funeral service for Pemmi-Con’s fan guest of honour, John Mansfield. Funeral begins May 12, 2:00 p.m. Central.

Murray Moore adds that at the convention there will be a special display and a memory book for fans who wish to share their memories with the family and others.

(3) BIG CONVENTION. At Galactic Journey, Alison Scott reports about Thirdmancon, the 1968 Eastercon: “[May 8, 1968] A Visit to Thirdmancon, the 1968 British Science Fiction Convention”.

It’s hard to overstate the anticipation I had for Eastercon 1968. It was going to be the largest national convention ever, with over 200 fans expected! In the end I understand that something like 150 people turned up; still the largest British national convention yet….

(4) RETRENCHMENT. Hard to believe there’s something Disney hasn’t figured how to make money from. But that’s their story, and they’re sticking to it: “Disney Pulling Some Content Off Streaming In Strategic Rethink” at Deadline.

… Pulling content off the service goes hand in hand with making less of it, or, as CEO Bob Iger put it on the call, “getting much more surgical about what we make.”

He said the company has spent a lot of time and money producing and marketing content that didn’t move the needle in terms of subscribers.

“When you make a lot of content, everything needs to be marketed. You’re spending a lot of money marketing things that are not going to have an impact on the bottom line, except negatively due to the marketing costs.”

Iger gave a shout-out to theatrical films, especially tentpoles, as great sub drivers. “But we were spreading our marketing costs so thin that we were not allocating enough money to even market them when they came onto the service. Coming up, Avatar, Little Mermaid, Guardians of the Galaxy, Elemental etc.. where we actualy believe we have an opportunity to lean into those more, put the right marketing dollars against it, allocate more basicaly away from programming that was not driving any subs at all.”

He called it “part of the maturation process as we grow into a business that we had never been in. We are learning a lot more about it. Specifically, we are learning a lot more about how our content behaves on the service and what customers want.”

(5) MAKING A COMEBACK. “Borges on Turning Trauma, Misfortune, and Humiliation into Raw Material for Art” in the Marginalian.

“Forget your personal tragedy,” Ernest Hemingway exhorted his dear friend F. Scott Fitzgerald in a tough-love letter of advice“Good writers always come back. Always.” It is an insight as true of writers as it is of all artists and of human beings in general, as true of personal tragedy as it is of collective tragedy — something Toni Morrison articulated in her mobilizing manifesto for the writer’s task in troubled times: “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

That is what Jorge Luis Borges (August 24, 1899–June 14, 1986) — born the same year as Hemingway, writing two decades before Morrison — conveys with uncommon splendor of sentiment in Twenty-Four Conversations with Borges: Including a Selection of Poems (public library) — the record of his dialogues with the Argentine journalist and poet Roberto Alifano, conducted in the final years of Borges’s life, by which point he had been blind for almost thirty years.

(6) EIGHTEENTH CENTURY TO THE RESCUE. “Sailing boat rescued by the Götheborg” – article and photo gallery on the Götheborg of Sweden blog.

…Imagine losing your rudder out at sea and sending out a distress call. And then the largest ocean-going wooden sailing ship in the world comes to your rescue. Or in the words of the sailors on the sailing boat: “This moment was very strange, and we wondered if we were dreaming. Where were we? What time period was it?”

You can see many more photos of the big ship on the Götheborg’s Instagram account.  

(7) MEMORY LANE.

2012[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Paul Cornell’s “The Copenhagen Interpretation” was published first in Asimov’s in their July 2011 issue. It was nominated for the Best Novelette Hugo at Chicon 7, and also for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. 

You know that I don’t do spoilers, so I won’t do any for this extraordinary well-written story. Annoyingly, while doing research found a number of descriptions of “The Copenhagen Interpretation” that gave everything away. Idiots.

And for the Beginning…

The best time to see Kastellet is in the evening, when the ancient fortifications are alight with glow worms, a landmark for anyone gazing down on the city as they arrive by carriage. Here stands one of Copenhagen’s great parks, its defence complexes, including the home of the Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, and a single windmill, decorative rather than functional. The wind comes in hard over the Langeline, and after the sun goes down, the skeleton of the whale that’s been grown into the ground resonates in sympathy and gives out a howl that can be heard in Sweden. 

Hamilton had arrived on the diplomatic carriage, without papers, and, as etiquette demanded, without weapons or folds, thoroughly out of uniform. He watched the carriage heave itself up into the darkening sky above the park, and bank off to the southwest, swaying in the wind, sliding up the fold it made under its running boards. He was certain every detail was being registered by the FLV. You don’t look into the diplomatic bag, but you damn well know where the bag goes. He left the park through the healed bronze gates and headed down a flight of steps towards the diplomatic quarter, thinking of nothing. He did that when there were urgent questions he couldn’t answer, rather than run them round and round in his head and let them wear away at him.

The streets of Copenhagen. Ladies and gentlemen stepping from carriages, the occasional tricolour of feathers on a hat or, worse, once, tartan over a shoulder. Hamilton found himself reacting, furious. But then he saw it was Campbell. The wearer, a youth in evening wear, was the sort of fool who heard an accent in a bar and took up anything apparently forbidden, in impotent protest against the world. And thus got fleeced by Scotsmen. 

He was annoyed at his anger. He had failed to contain himself. 

He walked past the façade of the British embassy, with the Hanoverian regiment on guard, turned a corner and waited in one of those convenient dark streets that form the second map of diplomatic quarters everywhere in the world. After a moment, a door with no external fittings swung open and someone ushered him inside and took his coat.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 11, 1920 Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into  SpaceTwilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 11, 1918 Richard Feynman. Ok, not genre as such but certainly genre adjacent. I wholeheartedly recommend Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick for an entertaining look at his life. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 11, 1935 Doug McClure. He had the doubtful honor of appearing some of the worst Seventies  SF films done (my opinion of course and you’re welcome to challenge that), to wit The Land That Time ForgotThe People That Time ForgotWarlords of the Deep and even Humanoids From The Deep. Genre wise, he also appeared in one-offs in The Twilight ZoneOut of This WorldAirWolfAlfred Hitchcock PresentsFantasy Island and Manimal. Some of which were far better. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 11, 1952 Shohreh Aghdashloo, 71. Best known genre role is Chrisjen Avasarala on The Expanse series. (I’ve not seen it, but have listened to all of The Expanse series.) She also had a recurring role as Farah Madani on The Punisher. She was also in X-Men: The Last Stand as Dr. Kavita Rao, but her role as The Chairman in The Adjustment Bureau didn’t make it to the final version. She was Commodore Paris in Star Trek Beyond, and she had a recurring role as Nhadra Udaya in FlashForward
  • Born May 11, 1952 Frances Fisher, 71. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on MediumX-Files, Outer LimitsResurrectionThe Expanse and has some role in the forthcoming Watchmen series. 
  • Born May 11, 1976 Alter S. Reiss, 47. He’s a scientific editor and field archaeologist. He lives in Jerusalem, he’s written two novels, Sunset Mantel and Recalled to Service. He’s also written an impressive amount of short fiction in the past ten years.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BREAKING THINGS THAT WORK. Today, via a comment on Seanan McGuire’s discussion of Patreon (thread starts here), I learned about the Trust Thermocline. John Bull’s thread starts here.

(11)  DO YOUR PULP HOMEWORK HERE. The Popular Culture Association’s Pulp Studies area now has a website with links and resources: “Pulp Studies”.

What is a “Pulp”?

Pulp magazines were a series of mostly English-language, predominantly American, magazines printed on rough pulp paper.  They were often illustrated with highly stylized, full-page cover art and numerous line art illustrations of the fictional content.  They were sold for modest sums,  and were targeted at (sometimes specialized) readerships of popular literature, such as western and adventure, detective, fantastic (including the evolving genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror), romance and sports fiction. The first pulp Argosy, began life as the children’s magazine The Golden Argosy, dated Dec 2, 1882 and the last of the “original” pulps was Ranch Romances and Adventures, Nov 1971.

(12) THE SOURCES OF HORROR. At CrimeReads, Nicholas Binge explains “What Teaching Shakespeare Taught Me About Writing Horror”.

…On the surface, no play epitomizes this more than his first tragedy, the grisly Titus Andronicus. It is the Saw franchise of Elizabethan theatre, filled with as much shock and gore as Shakespeare could possibly have packed into a single play. As well as a full complement of stabbings, hangings, and beheadings, the audience is treated to Aaron being buried up to his neck until he starves to death, seeing Lavinia’s hands removed and tongue cut out, watching on as Alarbus’s arms and legs are cut off and he is thrown into a fire, and finally, Shakespeare delivers the coup-de-grace as Chiron and Demetrius are baked into a pie and then fed to their mother. Let it not be said that gore is a new thing in popular entertainment.

And yet, for all these horrors, this play never quite captures an audience (or a classroom) like some of his later, less graphic, tragedies. Why is that? Seen through the lens of a horror writer, Shakespeare’s progression as an artist is not just in his ability to play with structure, form, and character, but rather that he gains a deeper understanding of how to really scare people. As he grew as a writer, he learned there are better ways to emotionally wound an audience than the surface kills and thrills, and it’s this that ends up really defining him as a playwright….

(13) THE TOWER OF BALLARD. Also at CrimeReads, Andrew F. Sullivan revisits High-Rise by J.G. Ballard: “If You Build It, They Will Profit: Reflecting on J. G. Ballard’s High-Rise 48 Years Later”.

J. G. Ballard’s modern fable High-Rise is almost fifty years old. In the past few decades, its potency has come closer to resembling prophecy, yet Ballard’s obsession with affluence and self-isolating communities isn’t limited to this novel alone. Novels like Super-Cannes, Concrete Island, and Cocaine Nights all invoke similar themes of alienation, isolation, and unrestrained affluence from the depths of his back catalogue, the rich coiling tightly around one another to block out the pressing realities of the wider, poorer world. Yet High-Rise remains a singular invocation, summoning a sturdy mental image with ease, a fraught zoo, a series of stacked cages, a social order imprinted on the quivering skyline in concrete—a book that has shaped its legacy at times with just a title and a stark image on the cover.

(14) DOUR TOWER. The New York Post is quite right about this! “New Brooklyn Tower divides NYC with its ‘evil’ ‘Sauron’ vibes”.

(15) FAILURE MODE. A Nature editorial says, “Space companies should not lose heart when things go wrong. The first Moon missions failed repeatedly — and provided lessons on how to achieve success in space and beyond.” “In space, failure is an option — often the only one”

 “Failure is not an option,” NASA’s legendary flight-operations director Gene Kranz is said to have remarked, as seen in the 1995 film Apollo 13. Actor Ed Harris portrayed Kranz as he guided his team to save a spacecraft that had run into trouble on the way to the Moon. In the movie, as in real life, the three astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission pulled off a spectacular fix and returned safely to Earth.

Not all space ventures have such a tidy ending. A 2019 attempt by Israeli company SpaceIL to land on the Moon crashed. On 20 April this year, a spectacular intentional detonation ended the first major test flight of Starship, the world’s largest rocket, which SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, is building to carry humans back to the Moon and to Mars. The craft had spun out of control four minutes after lifting off its launch pad in Texas. Five days later, a robotic mission from the Japanese company ispace, based in Tokyo, tried and failed to land safely on the Moon

“…The scientists and engineers involved should not be discouraged by these failures. Space is hard. This is a truism trotted out every time there’s an attempt to launch from this planet or land on another. But it is accurate. Those who wish to explore the cosmos should expect to fail — perhaps many times — before they can succeed.”

(16) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 83 of the Octothorpe podcast, John Coxon would like more drawers, Alison Scott uses the floor, and Liz Batty is okay with shelves. They also discuss fan funds briefly, and the 2023 Eastercon (Conversation) at some length. Listen here: “Efffffffff”.

(17) ZELDA KEEPS ROLLING ALONG. EV Grieve has photos of “‘The Legend of Zelda,’ bus edition”. See them at the link.

Nintendo Switch gamers may be excited to see this promo bus for “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom,” the highly anticipated sequel to 2017’s “Breath of the Wild” parked on First Avenue by 12th Street… 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Doctor Who drops brand new teaser as fans decode clues” reports Radio Times.

…This appears to confirm that we’ll get another full trailer for the trilogy of specials at some point during the Eurovision Song Contest, as had previously been rumoured….

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Hampus Eckerman, Murray Moore, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/22 Objects In The Scroll Are More Pixelated Than They Appear

(1) THE MASTER’S VOICE. “Hoard of the rings: ‘lost’ scripts for BBC Tolkien drama discoveredreports the Guardian. These artifacts of previously lost radio history include notes in Tolkien’s hand.

Decades before Peter Jackson directed his epic adaptations of The Lord of the RingsJRR Tolkien was involved with the first ever dramatisation of his trilogy, but its significance was not realised in the 1950s and the BBC’s audio recordings are believed to have been destroyed.

Now an Oxford academic has delved into the BBC archives and discovered the original scripts for the two series of 12 radio episodes broadcast in 1955 and 1956, to the excitement of fellow scholars.

Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece was dramatised by producer Terence Tiller, whose scribbled markings on the manuscript no doubt reflect his detailed discussions with the author in correspondence and meetings. Among the typed pages is a sheet in Tolkien’s hand, with red crossings-out, showing his own reworking of a scene….

(2) RED DOG AT MOURNING. Vanity Fair takes readers “Inside the Succession Drama at Scholastic, Where ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Clifford’ Hang in the Balance”, where the infighting continues over control of Scholastic after the death of longtime CEO Dick Robinson, which is now led by an executive who refuses to speak to the press.

The bleak grind of the pandemic had been wearing Dick Robinson down, just like everybody else. He’d been working long days in the near-empty SoHo Headquarters of Scholastic, the $1.2 billion corporation he ran, which his father founded more than 100 years ago. He was trying to keep the business powering on as schools shut down across the country, taking with them Scholastic’s legendary in-person bookfairs. He began spending weekends and holidays on Martha’s Vineyard, where he and his ex-wife Helen Benham had bought a place in the ’90s. The house in bucolic Chilmark still served as a retreat for Benham and their adult sons, Ben and Reece. One Friday last June, the exes talked late into the night about their plans for the family’s future together as well as for the company. The next day, during a ramble on the island’s Peaked Hill trails with Helen, Reece, and the family dog, Darla, Robinson collapsed from a stroke.

His sudden death was shocking, but then came another seismic surprise: Robinson had left controlling shares of the family company to a Canadian executive named Iole Lucchese, the company’s chief strategy officer and head of Scholastic Entertainment—and now, in the wake of his death, the chair of the board. With Peter Warwick as newly minted CEO, Lucchese would oversee a children’s media empire crammed with beloved (and lucrative) franchises like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, Animorphs, and The Magic School Bus in an era when Hollywood eagerly devours literary properties to feed the ever-flowing streamers. A Wall Street Journal story aired plenty of dirty laundry about Scholastic’s “messy succession” and the ascendance of Lucchese, Robinson’s “former girlfriend,” who had also inherited all of Robinson’s personal possessions. Robinson’s two sons began to consider contesting the will.

While Scholastic publicly closed ranks around Lucchese, a protective corporate force field, current and veteran employees privately traded bewildered gossip. The executive suites had already been gladiatorial, people said, with shifting alliances and backstabbing betrayals more suited to Game of Thrones than a wholesome children’s media company. Now, they argued over whether Lucchese was suited to the job, whether she could keep the place from being chopped up or sold off. And they pondered the shadow Robinson’s personal life had cast over the innovative, far-reaching business he had built around his deeply felt mission to get children to read books.

“It’s worse than a normal death because of the sense of betrayal that everybody’s feeling,” says a longtime former employee. “A big mistake is what it was.”…

(3) NO SAINT. A new critical biography of Stephen Hawking is rebutted by a former student and friend, Bernard Carr, in “Underselling Hawking” at Inference.

STEPHEN HAWKING WAS an icon of twentieth-century science, renowned for both his contributions to physics and his inspiring battle against motor neuron disease. But four years after his death, Charles Seife’s Hawking Hawking paints a different picture. As indicated by its provocative title, this book is no hagiography. Seife disparages Hawking on three levels, arguing that his status as a great physicist has been exaggerated, cataloging his various personal failings, and suggesting that he was a genius at self-promotion, his iconic status being attributable to media manipulation.

As one of Hawking’s first PhD students and his friend for forty years, I do not share Seife’s views.

Although his status as a physicist was sometimes exaggerated by the media, Hawking was undoubtedly one of the brightest stars within the relativistic community. Indeed, his discovery of black-hole quantum radiation was one of the key insights of twentieth-century physics. Hawking certainly had his failings, as acknowledged by the people who loved and admired him the most, but it is misleading to elevate these above his strengths: his courage, sense of humor, and determination to live life to the full, despite the relentless progress of his illness….

(4) TWO MORE JOHN CARTER RETROSPECTIVES. “On its 10th anniversary, TheWrap goes inside the birth, death and rebirth of the sci-fi blockbuster” — “The Untold Story of Disney’s $307 Million Bomb ‘John Carter’: ‘It’s a Disaster’”.

…[Andrew] Stanton had been following the various iterations of “John Carter” for years. “That’s something I have spent my whole life wishing somebody would make, and when I was in the industry from maybe the ’90s on, if I ever heard even the slightest rumor it might get made, I would get all excited like a fanboy and go, I’ll be the first in line to go and see it,” Stanton said. “I never had the hubris to think that’s something I would want to do or could do.” But when the Favreau iteration fell apart, something stirred inside him. “It was one of those kismet moments where I’m like, It’s so crazy, it just might work, you know?”

Disney didn’t own the rights yet. But Stanton went to the top brass and made, as he says, “an impassioned plea.”

“I had nothing to lose because it wasn’t like I had to do this in the sense of I have no career or that I needed the next paycheck or something like that,” Stanton said. Instead, he told the execs, “I think these things are about to fall into public domain and I think you could reinterpret them to be something that could be digested today.” Stanton was envisioning a classic tale for modern audiences. “I remember saying, ‘Fine if I don’t make it, but you should be the ones making it,’” Stanton said. “And I meant it. I thought it had the potential to just be a big franchise.”…

“John Carter director Andrew Stanton reveals for the first time his plans for the opening scenes of the abandoned sequel, titled Gods of Mars” – “Cancelled John Carter 2 Story Revealed By Director” at Screen Rant.

…Stanton goes on to reveal that Carter arriving on Mars is actually later than the prologue would have audiences believe, and Deja has gone missing. He also compares the film’s plot to Beneath the Planet of the Apes, showing how the Therns control the whole planet. The opening description does align with the second novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs series, The Gods of Mars. Stanton has previously revealed the title of the second film would be Gods of Mars, and the third film would have been titled Warlord of Mars, yet this is the first time the writer and director has shared any major details about the sequel films….

(5) IN THEIR OWN WORDS. “An Urgent Mission for Literary Translators: Bringing Ukrainian Voices to the West” – the New York Times tells how it’s being accomplished.

As Russian forces breached the border with Ukraine late last month, Kate Tsurkan issued an urgent call for help on social media.

Tsurkan, a translator who lives in Chernivtsi, a city in western Ukraine, wanted to give international readers a glimpse of what ordinary Ukrainians are experiencing — and to counter President Vladimir V. Putin’s claim that Ukraine and Russia “are one people” by highlighting Ukraine’s distinct literary and linguistic heritage.

What she needed, she said, was to get Ukrainian writers published in English. She needed translators.

The response was swift and overwhelming: Messages poured in from translators and writers like Jennifer Croft, Uilleam Blacker and Tetyana Denford, and from editors who wanted to polish and publish their work. As the war escalated, so did their effort. Soon, they had a dedicated group of literary translators — who often spend years working on books for small academic presses — speed translating essays, poems and wartime dispatches.

“We need to elevate Ukrainian voices right now,” said Tsurkan, an associate director at the Tompkins Agency for Ukrainian Literature in Translation, or Tault.

 (6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-one years ago today, The Andromeda Strain premiered. It was based off the novel by Michael Crichton. This novel had appeared in the New York Times Best Seller list, establishing Crichton as a genre writer. The screenplay was written by Nelson Gidding, whose previous genre work was his screenplay for The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Robert Wise directed, who you’ll no doubt recognize for his earlier work on West Side Story and The Sound of Music.

The primary cast was Arthur Hill as Dr. Jeremy Stone, James Olson as Dr. Mark Hall, David Wayne as Dr. Charles Dutton and Kate Reid as Dr. Ruth Leavitt. 

Produced on what was considered a high budget of six point five million, with special effects designed by Douglas Trumbull, it made a profit of six million in the States. 

So how did it fare among critics? Roger Ebert in his syndicated column at the time said of it that, “On the level of fiction, ‘The Andromeda Strain’ is a splendid entertainment that will get you worried about whether they’ll be able to contain that strange blob of alien green crystal.” And Kevin Maher of The Times was equally enthusiastic: “The Sound of Music director Robert Wise executed a spectacular volte-face with this sombre and painstakingly realistic scientific procedural about an alien micro-organism that threatens all life on Earth.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a seventy two rating. 

It was nominated for a Hugo at the first L.A. Con, the year A Clockwork Orange won.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough forty years after I studied it to see that much of his work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.)
  • Born March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. Though he’s best known for his work with Disney, for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not the least for Fantasia, and The Little Mermaid be it thirty years after his death, I’d be remiss not to note his early work illustrating such works as East of the Sun and West of the MoonHansel and Gretel and Andersen’s Fairy TalesEast of the Sun and West of the Moon Is my favorite work by him. (Died 1957.)
  • Born March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty-year period: The Great BeastThe Magic of Aleister CrowleyThe King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that is his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room!, the genesis of Soylent Green (a film which won a Hugo at DisCon II). It garnered a Nebula as well.  He was nominated for Hugos at Seacon for Deathworld, then at Chicon III for Sense Obligation, also known as Planet of the Damned.  I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? See our anniversary post on the Alex Cox animated version of Bill, the Galactic Hero here. And he was named a SFWA Grand Master in 2009 — a outstanding honor indeed! (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Myrna Fahey. Though best known for her recurring role as Maria Crespo in Walt Disney’s Zorro, which I’ll admit is at best genre adjacent, she did have some genre roles in her brief life including playing Blaze in the Batman episodes of “True or False-Face” and “Holy Rat Race”. Her other genre appearances were on The Time Tunnel and Adventures of Superman. Cancer took her at just forty years. Damn it. (Died 1973.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 89. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series, who reprised her character in the TV movie Get Smart Again! (1989), and in a short-lived series in 1995 later also called Get Smart. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. She didn’t have that much of an acting career though she was in the pilot of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. It amazing how many performers guested on that show. 
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what a role it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs. (Died 2008.) 
  • Born March 12, 1960 Courtney B. Vance, 62. I know him best from Law & Order: Criminal Intent, in which he played A.D.A. Ron Carver, but he has some interesting genre roles including being Sanford Wedeck, the Los Angeles bureau chief of the FBI in the pilot of FlashForward, Miles Dyson: Cyberdyne Systems’ CEO who funds the Genisys project in Terminator Genisys, and The Narrator in Isle of Dogs. He had a recurring role in Lovecraft Country as George Freeman. He earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series nomination for that role.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) RED’S MOM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Domee Shi, director of Turning Red, which “is not only the first Pixar film to be solo-directed by a woman.  It also continues Pixar’s growth with personal stories along matrilineal lines.” “’Turning Red’ shows how Disney and Pixar movies are embracing mother-daughter relationships”.

…For “Turning Red,” Shi mined her own life for a story set in early-aughts Toronto, as 13-year-old Meilin “Mei” Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) rebels against the hovering control of her mother, Ming (Sandra Oh). The supernatural secret in this Chinese-Canadian family, though, is that Mei suddenly begins turning into a giant red panda when her emotions are inflamed.

“I was her,” says Shi, who is in her early 30s. “I was Mei when I was 13 — I was this dorky, confident, obsessive girl who thought she had her life under control. I was her mom’s little perfect daughter and then one day woke up, and everything changed: my body, my emotions, my relationship with my mom — I was fighting with her every day.”…

(10) PULP WARS. Lots of inside stuff the actor’s Star Wars career in this article based on his TV interviews: “Samuel L. Jackson says he didn’t ask for a ‘Pulp Fiction’ engraving on his ‘Star Wars’ lightsaber: ‘They did that because they loved me’” at Yahoo!

…During the interview on “The Graham Norton Show,” Jackson said he asked George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” for his fictional weapon to be purple so that he would be able to find himself in the battle scene in the second prequel movie, “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.”

“I said to George, ‘You think maybe I can get a purple lightsaber?'” Jackson said. “He’s like, ‘Lightsabers are green, or lightsabers are red.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I want a purple one. I’m like the second-baddest Jedi in the universe next to Yoda.’ He’s like, ‘Let me think about it.'”

The “Shaft” actor added: “And when I came back to do reshoots, he said, ‘I’m going to show you something. It’s already caused a shitstorm online.’ And he had the purple lightsaber, and I was like, ‘Yeah!'”

(11) HE’S EVEN STRANGER. Marvel explains Baron Mordo, nemesis of Doctor Strange in the comics.

Langston Belton explains how Baron Mordo becomes a villain and primary enemy of Doctor Strange by aligning himself with monsters of the multiverse like Dormammu, Mephisto, and more!

(12) A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A MILE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] After initial calculations that showed a newly-discovered 230-foot asteroid will hit the Earth next year, we’ve been given a reprieve. The initial data looked bad, then the asteroid disappeared from view because its line of site was close to that of the bright Moon.

After a little while on pins and needles, additional data showed that it will miss in 2023 by over 5 million miles. That’s good, since it could’ve caused an explosion the size of the atomic bomb leveled Hiroshima. “230-foot wide asteroid initially expected to hit Earth in 2023 was false alarm” at USA Today.

… Astronomers had been concerned that there wasn’t enough time to prepare a defense system against the asteroid had it been on track to strike Earth. In November, NASA launched the DART system, which will seek to determine whether crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid could change its course. The spacecraft is expected to hit the asteroid moon of Didymos in September. 

(13) CATCH ‘EM ALL. If he didn’t feel sick before, he does now. “Georgia man gets 3 years in prison for spending nearly $60,000 in COVID-19 relief money on a Pokémon card” at Yahoo!

… 31-year-old Vinath Oudomsine has been sentenced to 36 months in prison after admitting he used nearly $60,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to buy a Pokémon card, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Oudomsine applied for a COVID-19 relief loan from the Small Business Administration, supposedly for an “entertainment services” business, and he received $85,000, prosecutors said. But he allegedly lied on the application and spent $57,789 of the relief money he received to buy a Charizard card.

Oudomsine was ordered to pay restitution of $85,000, and he was fined $10,000 and given three years of supervised release after his prison sentence is completed. He also agreed to forfeit the card….

(14) A TICK AWAY. J.G. Ballard discusses his fictions set “five minutes into the future” in the 2003 BBC profile hosted by Tom Sutcliffe.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Batman Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, says that The Batman is dark–so dark “They have one lightbulb per household” in Gotham City.  The next Batman movie, says the writer, will be so dark “we can show a completely black screen” and have the characters read a Batman audiobook to save money.  Also, in The Batman, while Batman is “dark and brooding” Bruce Wayne is “brooding and dark.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Jeffrey Smith, Alan Baumler, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer, in creative conversation with Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/20 May The Luck Of The Seven Pixels Of Gulu Be With You At All Times

(1) COVID-19 VACCINATION. First responder and noted fanzine fan Curt Phillips posted a photo on Facebook of him receiving the injection —

First Covid 19 vaccination accomplished this morning. Fast, simple, easy. No adverse reactions at all. *Everybody* should get one!

Soon as we can, Curt! He’s followed up in the intervening hours with a couple of posts to say there were no complications and there was no more arm soreness than there is with his annual flu shot.

(2) IN OVERTIME. “An earlier universe existed before the Big Bang, and can still be observed today, says Nobel winner”, quoted in Yahoo! News.

…The timescale for the complete evaporation of a black hole is huge, possibly longer than the age of our current universe, making them impossible to detect.

However, Sir Roger believes that ‘dead’ black holes from earlier universes or ‘aeons’ are observable now. If true, it would prove Hawking’s theories were correct.

Sir Roger shared the World Prize in physics with Prof Hawking in 1988 for their work on black holes.

Speaking from his home in Oxford, Sir Roger said: “I claim that there is observation of Hawking radiation.

“The Big Bang was not the beginning. There was something before the Big Bang and that something is what we will have in our future.

“We have a universe that expands and expands, and all mass decays away, and in this crazy theory of mine, that remote future becomes the Big Bang of another aeon. 

“So our Big Bang began with something which was the remote future of a previous aeon and there would have been similar black holes evaporating away, via Hawking evaporation, and they would produce these points in the sky, that I call Hawking Points.

“We are seeing them. These points are about eight times the diameter of the Moon and are slightly warmed up regions. There is pretty good evidence for at least six of these points.”

(3) MULTIPLE CHOICES. The Guardian’s “Can you crack it? The bumper books quiz of 2020” includes a question about Iain Banks which I missed, so to heck with it anyway. (It’s a wide-ranging quiz. There are several more sff-themed entries. I missed almost every one of them, too, so double to heck with it.)

What day job did the Booker winner have while writing his novel? Who was rejected by Mills & Boon before becoming a bestselling author? Test your wits with questions from Bernardine Evaristo, Jonathan Coe, David Nicholls and more

(4) FAN SERVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from Isaac Asimov’s In Memory Yet Green.

In The Early Asimov, I included “Big Game” among the list of those stories of mine that disappeared.  Not so.  I had it all these years and, without knowing it, had included the manuscript with papers of mine that I had donated to the Boston University library.  A young science-fiction enthusiast, Matthew Bruce Tepper, who had prepared an accurate and exhaustive bibliography of my science fiction, went through my papers at BU, uncovered the manuscript, and sent me a Xerox copy.  I had the story published in Before The Golden Age (Doubleday, 1974).

(5) IN MEMORY YET BROWN. Scott Edelman asks for help in tracing the history of this DC in 1974 Worldcon bid promotional shopping bag.

I found this among my late sister-in-law Ellen Vartanoff’s collection of science fictional memorabilia — an item I’d never seen before, promoting both Disclave and the 1974 D.C. Worldcon. You, who know all and see all, surely know when and where this might have been handed out — right?

And if not you, perhaps one of your readers.

(6) SOUNDS HAPPY. In “Christopher Eccleston opens up on returning to Doctor Who”, Radio Times interviews the actor about his audio roles for Big Finish.

…Eccleston went on to praise the scripts, which he described as “beautiful” – adding that the care and knowledge that had gone into them had played a huge part in easing him back into the role after such a long time away.

“That’s what made it feel seamless,” he said. “I felt that you [Briggs] understood what he was all those years ago – and so it was like putting on a pair of old shoes. Running shoes!

“Doing the scripts, you do get the sense of somebody who’s completely immersed in the lore of the show. I think what I realised, with all my writers, when I did the 13 episodes – and with this – is basically you’re playing the writer.

“You’re playing Steven Moffat, you’re playing Russell T Davies, you’re playing you [or] Rob Shearman… you’re playing them, their projected self, as the Doctor – and that’s what’s nice, because he has a slightly different voice from episode-to-episode while having continuity, of course. You all wanna be the Doctor!”

(7) GEISER OBIT. Artist David Geiser died in October.  The East Hampton Star  traced his career.

David Geiser, an artist whose career ranged from the underground comics he created in San Francisco in the late 1960s and 1970s to heavily textured mixed-media works he focused on after moving to New York in 1979, died unexpectedly of heart disease in his sleep at home in Springs on Oct. 14. He was 73.

A prolific artist, his work from the underground comics early in his career to recent drawings such as “Snail Ridin’ the Mouse” and “Dog Boy (a Young Cynic)” reflect his not only his wit and the eccentricity of his vision but also his remarkable draftsmanship….

“David left behind scores of underground comics from his early years in San Francisco, and hundreds of drawings and paintings,” as well as sculptures ranging in size from five inches square to 10 feet by 10 feet, according to Mercedes Ruehl, his partner since 1999. “In his spare time he was an avid reader of contemporary fiction from a wide array of cultures and nationalities,” she added….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 – Twenty five years ago, Elizabeth Hand won the Otherwise Award for Waking the Moon. It would go on to win the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature the next year. And Terri Windling would in her fantasy summation in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Eighth Annual Collection select it as of her best books of the year. The American first edition cuts one hundred pages out of the British first edition. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 20, 1897 – Susanne Langer, Ph.D.  First woman popularly and professionally recognized as an American philosopher.  Fellow of the Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Cellist.  Five short stories for us, in The Cruise of “The Little Dipper”.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1930 – Tom Boardman, Jr.  Son of the founder of UK’s Boardman Books, managing director after it left the family, SF advisor to Gollancz, Four Square, Macdonald, New English Lib’y.  Edited five reprint anthologies 1964-1979.  An ABC of SF got Aldiss to Zelazny if we allow its pseudonymous B.T.H. Xerxes.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best remembered as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger ManThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 68. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. (The Jason Isaacs fronted series is superb.) The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. (CE) 
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price in An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all-time fav films which is Darkman, and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1957 – Angela Hunt, Ph.D., age 63.  Two novels, five shorter stories for us; a hundred fifty books, children’s, middle-graders’, adults’; some nonfiction; five million copies sold.  Romantic Times Book Club Lifetime Achievement Award.  A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.  Also Angela Hunt Photography.  One of her dogs was on Live With Regis and Kelly as second largest in America.  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 60. Named a SFWA Grand Master this year. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual? (CE) 
  • Born December 20, 1967 – Jukka Halme, age 53.  Chaired three Finncons.  Guest of Honor at Eurocon 33 (Stockholm) and 37 (St. Petersburg).  GUFF (Going Under Fan Fund when southbound, Get Up-and-over Fan Fund northbound) delegate, attended the 55th Australian national convention (“natcon”) in Brisbane.  Chaired the 75th Worldcon (called simply “Worldcon 75”; opinions expectably differ on naming these things).  Seen in fanzines e.g. ChungaTwinkThe White Notebooks.  Served on the 2020 Tähtifantasia (“star fantasy”) Award jury.  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 50. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine (1998–1999), and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond RealityForever KnightTekWarOuter LimitsPoltergeist: The LegacyPsi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian? (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1981 – Nick Deligaris, age 39.  Digital artist.  Two dozen covers, and much else.  Here is Bypass Gemini.  Here is Skykeep.  Here is Nova Igniter.  He did the cover and is interviewed in this issue of Deep Magic.  He has an interior on p. 5 of this issue of Tightbeam (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1990 – Ashley Dioses, age 30.  Five short stories; a hundred forty poems in The Audient VoidThe Literary HatchetRavenwood QuarterlySpectral RealmsWeirdbook; collection Diary of a Sorceress.  Inspired by Poe.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SEASON’S READINGS. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar suggest “The perfect science fiction, fantasy and genre-bending tales for the chilly days ahead” in their column for the Washington Post.

.. Lavie: Let me throw the first snowball here: I’m going with Tove Jannson’s “Moominland Midwinter” (translated from the Swedish by Thomas Warburton), one of the true greats and my favorite moomin book. Moomintroll wakes up alone from hibernation to find the world transformed, and everyone he knows is gone or sleeping (apart from Little My, who’ll never miss the fun). If you don’t cry over “The Squirrel With the Marvelous Tail,” you’re a monster. I reread it a few weeks ago and it’s just as wonderful as ever.

(12) NIVEN’S GENESIS. Fanac.org adds constantly to its online fannish collection. Among the latest gems are the programs from the series of LASFS Fanquets the club used to hold to honor members’ first pro sales. Larry Niven is now a Grand Master, but once upon his time he made his first sale to If. Read about his early career and what Fred Pohl liked about his work in Fanquet 13 edited by Bruce Pelz.

(13) ANOTHER ONE OF THE GREATS. Also deserving of praise is Fanac.org’s success in filling out its online collection of John Bangsund’s zines Australian Science Fiction Review and Scythrop.

Australian Science Fiction Review was nominated for Best Fanzine in 1967 and 1968. In 1968 (in the first year the Ditmars were presented), it won the award for best Australian fanzine. We now have a complete run under that name. The zine changed its name to Scythrop in 1969, and we added 5 issues of Scythrop: #21-24 and #28. We just lost John Bangsund to Covid-19 this year.

(14) PARIS, BUT NOT IN THE SPRINGTIME. Could be news to you, too – J. G. Ballard’s interview in The Paris Review, Winter 1984: “The Art of Fiction No. 85”

BALLARD

I take for granted that for the imaginative writer, the exercise of the imagination is part of the basic process of coping with reality, just as actors need to act all the time to make up for some deficiency in their sense of themselves. Years ago, sitting at the café outside the American Express building in Athens, I watched the British actor Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa) cross the street in the lunchtime crowd, buy Time at a magazine kiosk, indulge in brief banter with the owner, sit down, order a drink, then get up and walk away—every moment of which, every gesture, was clearly acted, that is, stressed and exaggerated in a self-conscious way, although he obviously thought that no one was aware who he was, and he didn’t think that anyone was watching him. I take it that the same process works for the writer, except that the writer is assigning himself his own roles. I have a sense of certain gathering obsessions and roles, certain corners of the field where the next stage of the hunt will be carried on. I know that if I don’t write, say on holiday, I begin to feel unsettled and uneasy, as I gather people do who are not allowed to dream.

(15) GAMING CASUALTY. The curse of 2020 continues.Mashable reports “’Cyberpunk 2077′ has been removed from the PlayStation Store, and Sony is offering refunds”.

Cyberpunk 2077‘s launch has been the kind of disaster we now expect from 2020. Released on Dec. 10, the ridiculously hyped roleplaying game was swiftly and widely derided for having more bugs than the Montreal Insectarium, with flying cars and glitchy penises dominating the discourse. Now, Sony Interactive Entertainment has announced that not only will it offer refunds to anyone who bought the game from its PlayStation Store, it will also stop selling Cyberpunk 2077 altogether….

(16) YOUR COMEDY MILEAGE MAY VARY. From last night’s Saturday Night Live.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/1/20 This Is Not
A Pixel To Be Put Aside Lightly…It Should Be Scrolled With Great Force

(1) TAKING THE LEAD. One of my favorite reviewers has been stepping up in her community, and has a book out encouraging others to do the same: “Why You Should Run For (Local) Office, by Adrienne Martini” at Whatever.

Author Adrienne Martini knows just a little about this: she ran for local office, and then chronicled the experience in her 2020 memoir Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Now she’s here to talk a little bit about that experience, and why it’s something you might consider thinking about as well.

(2) PLAYWRIGHTS SUMMONED. You have until January 15 to enter: “Accepting Submissions for 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards”.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is accepting play submissions for the 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.

The fourth annual Neukom Award for Playwriting will consider full-length plays and other full-length works for the theater that address the question “What does it mean to be a human in a computerized world?”

Playwrights with either traditional or experimental theater pieces, including multimedia productions, are encouraged to submit works to the award program.

The award includes a $5,000 honorarium and support for a two-stage development process with table readings at local arts festivals. Works that have already received a full production are not eligible for the competition.

The deadline for all submissions is January 15, 2021. The awards will be announced in the spring of 2021.

(3) IT DOESN’T TAKE A WEATHERMAN. James Davis Nicoll lets his hair down in a Tor.com post “Five Hippie-ish SF Novels Inspired by Sixties Counterculture”. He starts with–

The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson (1967)

This book is set in an imagined futuristic New York, which oddly enough has remained stuck in an eternal 1960s. There’s still a vibrant hippie community in Greenwich Village. Youngsters from across square America travel to New York to discover themselves; there they are mentored (or at least observed) by old hands like Chester Anderson and his close friend Michael Kurland. This Greenwich Village is populated by nonconformists as eccentric as they are kind-hearted—for the most part.

The most notable exception is shameless grifter Laszlo Scott. For once, Scott’s most recent pharmaceutical offering is entirely authentic: his “Reality Pills” can make dreams real. The aliens supplying Scott have a malign intent: they may not want to actively unleash the heat rays, but they are counting on human nightmares to exterminate us all, leaving the world ripe for alien appropriation. Standing between humanity and certain doom: sixteen Greenwich Village potheads and hipsters. Two of whom are missing….

(4) A DECADE OF GOOD BOOKS. Happy birthday to the Fantasy-Faction review site – “Fantasy-Faction Turns 10! Help Us Spread the Love of Reading!” They’re asking fans to celebrate by contributing to organizations that support reading among the economically disadvantaged.  

…We couldn’t have made it ten years without all of you. And we can’t wait to see what the next ten years brings. Let’s close out this year of sadness and insanity with the best December this world has ever seen. Let’s give the gift of reading and share the love of fantasy, together!

(5) REEDPOP ABANDONS BOOK EXPO. “BookExpo and BookCon Are No More”Publishers Weekly attends the funeral.

U.S. book publishing’s biggest trade show is being “retired,” show organizer ReedPop announced today. BookExpo, along with BookCon and Unbound, will not be held in 2021 after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

ReedPop, the pop culture event–focused subdivision of Reed Exhibitions, said that, given the “continued uncertainty surrounding in-person events at this time,” the company has decided “that the best way forward is to retire the current iteration of events as they explore new ways to meet the community’s needs through a fusion of in-person and virtual events.”

In order to try to hold the event earlier this year, Reed moved the date from its usual spot at New York City’s Javits Center in late May to late July, but as the coronavirus continued to make larger meetings impossible, Reed cancelled the live conference and held six days of free virtual programming from May 26-31, the original dates of BookExpo and BookCon. 

…Reed Exhibitions’ convention business has been hammered by Covid-19. Through the first nine months of 2020, revenue was down 70%, parent company RELX reported. It expects full year revenue of £330m-£360 million and after a range of cost-lowering initiatives—including layoffs—total costs for the year are expected to be £530m-£540 million, excluding one-off costs related to restructuring and cancellations. Total Reed Exhibitions revenue in 2019 was £1.3 billion.

(6) ELDRITCH CHARITY APPEAL. Weird Providence asks for support on Giving Tuesday: “Lovecraft Arts and Sciences 2020 Fundraiser”.

…We at the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council work hard to bring people together from around the world, to cultivate a sense of community through exciting and unique programming, and to foster camaraderie among kindred souls. We strive to provide a welcoming home here in Providence for all members of the vibrant and diverse Weird community, and we’re proud of our success over the past eight years.

NecronomiCon 2019, our biggest event yet, saw over 2,000 folks gather in Providence to share their passion for the Weird. And our retail store continues to garner rave reviews as a “must-visit” and “treasure” for its unique selection and helpful staff. These are just a few ways that our organization enriches our city and the global Weird fiction community. 

Today, on this Giving Tuesday, we’re asking for your help. 

The Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council is a nonprofit organization. We manage to do what we do with minimal staff – just two paid employees that help run our storefront in Providence. The rest of our operation relies on a squad of dedicated volunteers — of which I am one, squeezing in work for the organization between the tasks of my real job…. 

(7) ARECIBO OBSERVATORY DESTROYED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Sadly, the iconic radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory has collapsed. The suspended platform at the focal point broke loose and crashed into the main reflector below. This follows earlier breaks in the supporting cables. Business Insider has the report: “The Arecibo telescope’s 900-ton platform has crashed into its disk below and destroyed the iconic radio observatory”.

The second-largest radio telescope in the world is no more.

The Arecibo Observatory’s 1,000-foot-diameter telescope collapsed at 8 a.m. Tuesday in Puerto Rico. The telescope’s 900-ton platform, which was suspended 450 feet in the air to send and receive radio waves, crashed into its disk below, pulling down with it the tops of three support towers.

(8) WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Nicholas Barber, in the BBC story “How a Spider-Man musical became a theatrical disaster”, notes that Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark had its first preview ten years ago.  Barber discusses the many reasons why this musical became one of Broadway’s biggest money-losers, including many failures of its special effects and the fact that composers Bono and the Edge had never heard a Broadway musical when they accepted the assignment to write the score and had to be sent an emergency care package of CDs with songs on them so they would know what to do.

It’s been 10 years since one of the most momentous nights of Glen Berger’s life. He was already an established off-Broadway playwright and children’s television writer, but on 28 November 2010, a musical he had scripted had its first preview at the Foxwoods Theatre in New York – and it was shaping up to be an international smash.

The musical was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Its friendly neighbourhood title character had been a beloved pop-cultural icon for five decades, and had just featured in three Hollywood blockbusters. The songs were written by rock’n’roll royalty, U2’s Bono and The Edge. And the director was Julie Taymor, who had masterminded the record-breaking stage adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King. Turn Off the Dark couldn’t go far wrong with a pedigree like that. Could it?

Which is not to say that Berger wasn’t nervous. Speaking to BBC Culture from his home in upstate New York, he remembers how strange it felt to be unveiling something he and his collaborators had been devising together for years. “We were opening the door,” he says, “either to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or some sort of slaughterhouse.” The show relied on complicated aerial stunts in which the performers were suspended from wires, and so the first preview was bound to keep stopping and starting as technical hitches were addressed….

(9) HEADHUNTER THWARTED. TMZ, in the story “Darth Vader’s Original ‘Star Wars’ Helmet Stolen” says that Frank Hebert (note spelling) allegedly broke into Bad Robot Productions and left with a shopping cart full of Star Wars stuff, including an original Darth Vader helmet, but all the stolen stuff was returned.

…Law enforcement sources tell us … 38-year-old Frank Hebert was arrested Monday night after he allegedly broke into the Bad Robot Productions building in Santa Monica and made off with ‘Star Wars’ movie memorabilia … including Darth’s helmet.

We’re told cops responded to the scene and were told by security personnel that Hebert had been captured on surveillance video illegally entering the building through the rooftop, and casually walked out with a shopping cart full of stuff.

Our sources say cops quickly found a guy pushing a cart down the street not too far away, which we’re told was full of ‘Star Wars’ stuff — as in, original props used in the actual movies.

(10) NO DOUGHS. SYFY Wire sets the frame of this video designed to encourage charitable giving: “Broke Batman parody from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crew boosts COVID relief”.

The video is a way for Ward and the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew to raise awareness for a good cause: lending a financial hand to entertainment workers whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic-related shutdowns across the industry. Through the associated #fundthebat social media campaign, fans can chip in a little moolah to bolster the Motion Picture Television Fund’s Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund. The clip links to a GoFundMe page where anyone can donate — regardless of which side they’re on in the Marvel-versus-DC debate.

The fund says it’s using “every dollar” contributed through the campaign to “support the thousands of out of work carpenters, hair stylists, drivers, make up artists, painters, set dressers, electricians, editors, grips, camera people, actors, writers and directors who created the shows and movies that have kept you entertained during this difficult time.”

(11) FANZINE FAN OBIT. Ansible® 401 released today relayed this notice from Robert Lichtman:

Miriam Dyches Carr Knight Lloyd, US fan active in the 1950s and 1960s with fanzines including various ‘Goojie Publications’ titles as Dyches or Carr, Klein Bottle and later issues of Fanac with her first husband Terry Carr, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Poughkeepsie with her second husband Frank Knight, died on 23 October.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 1, 1995The Adventures of Captain Zoom In Outer Space premiered on television. Directed by Max Tads from a script by Brian Levant, Rick Copp, and David A. Goodman, it starred Daniel Riordan, Ron Perlman, Nichelle Nichols, Liz Vassey and Gia Carides. It follows the adventures of Fifties actor Ty Farrell who plays the title character in a Captain Video-like program, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space. Although you’ll find references on the net for a series having been made and for fans having seen it, there wasn’t such a series. Only the TV movie. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rating of, well, they don’t have a rating for it. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 1, 1886 — Rex Stout. ISFDB says his Nero Wolfe’s “The Affair of the Twisted Scarf” which was also published as “Disguise for Murder”” and also “Poison à la Carte” are SF. Now I’ve read each of them quite some years back but I don’t recall anything in them that makes them genre. Now I adore Nero Wolfe but never even thought of these novels as being genre adjacent. (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1942 — John Crowley, 78. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? (CE)
  • Born December 1, 1964 — Jo Walton, 56. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in which dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other.  Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others which won a Hugo and Nebula is she says about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. (CE)
  • Born December 1, 1964 — Alisa Kwitney, 56. Daughter of Robert Sheckley and Ziva Kwitney. Editor, Vertigo Books. Contributing author, The Dreaming: Beyond The Shores of Night, set in Gaiman’s Sandman multiverse, scriptwriter for the Vertigo Visions: The Phantom Stranger graphic novel and editor of Vertigo Visions: Artwork from the Cutting Edge of Comics  Currently an editor at Brain Mill Press. (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1965 — Bill Willingham, 55. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not being a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals,  and he later write the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always ambivalent about the Jack of Shadows series that he spun off of Fables. His House of Mystery was rather good as well. (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1971 Emily Mortimer, 49. She was the voice of Sophie in the English language version of Howl’s Moving Castle, and Jane Banks in Mary Poppins Returns. She was the voice of Lisette in the superb Hugo animated film, and was Nicole Durant in The Pink Panther. (CE)

(14) GOO GOO GUY. Start running now – Vulture brings word that “Peter Dinklage to Reportedly Star in Toxic Avenger Reboot”.

…Based on the four-film franchise and Marvel comic-book series, Dinklage’s Toxic Avenger will reportedly retain the character’s origin story (hapless underdog pushed into toxic waste and reborn with superpowers, naturally) while exploring “environmental themes” with a take on “the superhero genre in the vein of Deadpool.” Because God help superhero movies if we force Toxie into a gritty reboot, too.

(15) YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW. At Monster Movie Music, they’re putting together episode recaps of old black-and-white TV sff with screencaps and connective text, like “TALES OF TOMORROW / ‘Appointment On Mars’ – 1952”. Interesting idea.

Here’s a wild one from the TOT gang. In this episode, three men man a rocket and go to Mars where they will mine for rare minerals and ore to take back to Earth to cash in. But, things don’t go as planned…

(16) MONOLITHS: EASY COME, EASY GO. The Utah monolith and its Romanian imitator vanished less mysteriously than they arrived, in that the people who took them down are at least known to someone.

Salt Lake City’s Fox13 repots “Well-known Moab slackliner says he took down Utah monolith”.

“On the night of November 27, 2020, at about 8:30pm– our team removed the Utah Monolith,” [Andy] Lewis wrote, in a Facebook post. “We will not be including any other information, answers, or insight at this time.”

And in Europe: “Romanian monolith mystery solved: two blokes carried it off” says Yahoo!

You wait for ages for an era-defining monolith created by an unseen alien race to appear out of nowhere, then two turn up at once.

After the mysterious emergence of a shiny metallic plinth in the Utah desert piqued the imaginations of sci-fi fans across the world last week, another appeared just a few days later in rural Romania.

And just like its American cousin, it has vanished – seemingly without a trace.

The mayor of the Romanian town where the local monolith was planted seems to know more than he’s saying:

…The mayor had hoped that the structure could potentially become a tourist attraction for Piatra Neamt, a picturesque mountainous town with a population of around 100,000. But he offers up a more sobering theory as to why the monolith disappeared in a matter of days.

“Whoever placed the monolith would have suffered legal consequences because we can’t allow structures without legal authorisation,” he said.

“It’s quite a mystery that this came up in a week that I had a chat with some local investors who don’t obey construction laws — it’s absolutely a bizarre coincidence,” he added.

(17) SJW CREDENTIAL COMMUTE. [Item by JJ.] Alexander Perrin’s “Short Trip” is an interactive cat adventure on a trolley line. Better with the sound on. Use right/left arrows to move faster/slower forward/backward. if you stop at the tram stops, cats will get on and off. The details are best enjoyed if you don’t run it at full speed

(18) ON THE ROAD WITH J.G. BALLARD. “Crash! (1971) by J. G. Ballard” on YouTube is a short film, originally broadcast by the BBC in 1971, in which J.G. Ballard drives a car and obsesses about crashes.

(19) PARTY POOPERS. Maria Temming reports in the Washington Post that researchers at the University of Georgia, the Florida Institute of Technology, and the Colorado School of Mines have tried growing crops on Martian soil and discovered “Farming on Mars will be a lot harder than ‘The Martian’ made it seem” thanks fo the soil’s high scidity and the presence of the potent microbe killer calcium perchlorate in high quantities.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Demon’s Souls” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Sony revised the 1990’s game Demon’s Souls without consulting the original developers, which meant that “Sony treats the Demon’s Souls IP like Gollum treats the One Ring.”

[Thanks to JJ, John Hertz, James Davis Nicoll, Paul Di Flippo, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, David Doering, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day David Goldfarb.]

Pixel Scroll 10/2/19 Many That Scroll Deserve Pixels. And Some That File Deserve Titles. Can You Give It To Them?

(1) TERMINATOR TERMINATED? The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner tracks a major development in copyright litigation: “Real-Life ‘Terminator’: Major Studios Face Sweeping Loss of Iconic ’80s Film Franchise Rights”.

Since its 1984 bow, The Terminator has spawned five sequels grossing $1.8 billion globally. The latest, Terminator: Dark Fate (Nov. 1), again will have the future messing with the past. And that plot extends into real life as Gale Anne Hurd, the original’s writer, has moved to terminate a copyright grant made 35 years ago, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. 

As a result, per records filed at the U.S. Copyright Office, David Ellison’s Skydance Media — which acquired the rights from his sister, Megan Ellison, who bought them for $20 million in 2011 at an auction — could lose rights to make Terminator movies starting in November 2020.

Terminator isn’t an anomaly, it’s a preview of what’s to come. In the late 1970s, Congress amended the law to allow authors to grab back rights from studios after waiting a few decades. Until now, the termination provision has largely been exploited by musicians, not screenwriters. But records show a flurry of termination notices in the past year — under law, they can come 35 years after publication — which threatens to unsettle who owns the ability to make sequels and reboots of iconic films from the mid- to late-’80s.

More works that could change hands: Gary K. Wolf is looking to terminate Disney’s rights to the book that became Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The heirs of Beetlejuice screenwriter Michael McDowell aim to do the same for the script to the 1998 Warner Bros. film. The family of novelist Roderick Thorp is terminating Fox’s grip on Nothing Lasts Forever, aka Die Hard. Other works subject to termination include Predator and Nightmare on Elm Street, with authors like Stephen King and David Mamet also on the warpath.

Why now is probably best explained by the statutory clock (termination notices must be sent at precise time during the copyright term), though a judge’s decision last year confirming the validity of a termination notice sent by Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller certainly raised awareness among authors. (The producer of that film is appealing on grounds that Miller’s script was penned as a work-for-hire with no termination rights.)

(2) URRPP! I thought this kind of thing only happened in space opera — ScienceFiction.com reports an entire fantasy universe has been eaten alive: “Floo The Coup: J.K.Rowling’s ‘Pottermore’ Site Moves to ‘Wizarding World’”

Harry Potter fans have some adjusting to do, as it was recently announced that J.K. Rowling’s ‘Pottermore’ site would be shutting down, and moving over to the new ‘Wizarding World’ site, claiming that with new site enhancements and expansions, Pottermore could not longer sustain the needs of the fans of ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ and WizardingWorld.com would be an upgrade. Check out the full news release from the website itself below:

Engorgio Pottermore… We’re moving to WizardingWorld.com – our new, bigger home for all of the magic you love. Here’s everything you need to know….

(3) SHOULD CLARKE’S NAME STAY ON AN AWARD? Jason Sanford’s post “Yes, Arthur C. Clarke was likely a pedophile” reviews two decades of press coverage about the issue. His closing lines are:

Now that we’re finally examining the issues around people like John W. Campbell, James Tiptree Jr., and Marion Zimmer Bradley, we should do the same for Clarke. Especially since a major genre award is named for him.

None of this changes how important Clarke’s stories were to my development as a writer or his impact on the field of science fiction. This doesn’t mean you can’t still love his books.

But the SF/F genre simply can’t ignore this issue any longer.

(4) HYPE OR WISE PRECAUTION? “The NYPD Will Be Stationed At All NY City Theaters Screening ‘Joker’ This Weekend”ScienceFiction.com supplies the details:  

…In New York City, the police department is taking a “precautionary measure” by positioning uniformed officers at every theater in the city that is screening ‘Joker’.  These officers will not be stalking up and down the aisles.  In fact, they won’t be in the theaters at all.  They will simply be patrolling in front of the theaters.  It should be stressed that there have been no “credible threats” made that anyone is planning to shoot up screenings of ‘Joker’, but just in case…

Elsewhere, ‘Joker’ won’t screen in the Aurora, CO theater where the 2012 mass shooting occurred.  Landmark Theaters has banned any Joker cosplay, masks, face paint, etc. for the weekend….

(5) FAN-FIC. Julie Beck investigates “What Fan Fiction Teaches That the Classroom Doesn’t” at The Atlantic.

N. K. Jemisin, the only author to win the prestigious Hugo Award for best science-fiction or fantasy novel three years in a row, partly credits fan fiction for her ability to draw in readers.

Jemisin started writing fan fiction, in which authors imagine new stories based on preexisting fictional works, while in grad school for counseling. “I was miserable and lonely. I didn’t have a lot of friends, or stress relief,” she told me. “Around then was when I became internetted, and one of the first communities I discovered was a fan-fic community.” Through talking  with other authors and writing her own stories about Dragon Ball Z (among other things), she found friends, got feedback, and, as she put it, “blew the cobwebs off writing abilities I hadn’t used since college.”

For instance, this writing helped her hone her ability to hold readers’ interest. “Fan fiction tends to have a built-in hook because it’s written in a world you’re a fan of; you’re predisposed to like it,” she said. “You have to find a way to make it not just the world that people are tuning in to read, so they are interested in your story.” To this day, Jemisin said, she still writes fan fiction, and treats it as a way to try out new genres and skills, such as using the second person, which she does in the Broken Earth trilogy, which earned her the three Hugos.

(6) DACRE STOKER TO APPEAR. The Rancho Mirage Writers Festival (January 29-31, 2020) has a lineup of writers including Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, and Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great-grand-nephew.

(7) ANGRY ROBOT PUBLISHES SHORT FICTION. Angry Robot’s “first foray into short-form fiction” will be released October 8.

The first novelette being produced by Angry Robot, Duchamp Versus Einsteinwhich is releasing in a few weeks’ time on the 8th October. This science fiction tale depicts a surreal chess match between two of the twentieth century’s greatest minds that could change the course of history. Within its 100 pages, several questions are posed – is science greater than art? Or is art an extension of science? And if this epic game could ever take place, would you be Team Einstein or Team Duchamp?

(8) HOLMES IS FRAMED. In “18 Best Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novels To Read Now: 2019 Edition” at Mystery Tribune there’s news of graphc novels where Holmes battles the Phantom of the Opera and Harry Houdini, as well as Sherlock Frankenstein and adaptations of the BBC Sherlock series.

(9) THE FUTURE IS NOW. Andrew Liptak’s October book list is now on Polygon. At the front of the line is –

Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow edited by Kirsten Berg, Torie Bosch, Joey Eschrich, Edd Finn, Andres Martinez, and Juliet Ulman

Over the last couple of years, some of the best short science fiction has emerged from a joint project between Slate, New America, and Arizona University. The Future Tense brings together some of the best science fiction authors writing right now, and this book collects a number of those stories in one volume. Authors here include the likes of Charlie Jane Anders, Paolo Bacigalupi, Madeline Ashby, Hannu Rajaniemi, Annalee Newitz, Nnedi Okorafor, and more. This is an essential book for those wanting cutting-edge fiction about our near future. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s full of “Provocative, challenging stories that project the tech innovations of today onto the moral framework of tomorrow.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 2, 1950Peanuts comic debuted.
  • October 2, 1959 — Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone aired its first episode, “Where Is Everybody?”.  Starring cast for this episode is Earl Holliman, James Gregory and Garry Walberg. 
  • October 2, 2000  — Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda took flight in television syndication. Starring Kevin Sorbo, it would run for five seasons. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry is listed as executive-producer. 
  • October 2, 2009 Stargate Universe debuted. The third series in the Stargate series franchise, it lasted two seasons and forty episodes before ending on a sort of cliffhanger. Robert Carlye, the lead in the Hamish Macbeth series, was Nicholas Rush here. 
  • October 2, 2016 — HBO aired the much more adult Westworld as created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.  Based on the nearly fifty year old film of the same name which was a Michael Crichton endeavour, it counts J. J. Abrams among its executive-producers. It’s still going strong.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 2, 1897 Bud Abbott. Abbott and Costello did genre films, to wit Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man and Abbott and Costello Go to Mars just to list a few of them. (Died 1974.)
  • Born October 2, 1906Willy  Ley. He was a science writer who designed the rocket used with Fritz Lang’s 1929 film Die Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon). It was so accurate that in 1937 that the Gestapo confiscated not only all models of the spaceship but also all foreign prints of the picture. The crater Ley on the far side of the Moon is named in his honor. (Died 1969.)
  • Born October 2, 1909 Alex Raymond. Cartoonist, generally only known for creating Flash Gordon for King Features in 1934. The strip was has been adapted into many media, from a series of movie serials in the Thirties and Forties to a Seventies TV series and the Eighties feature film not to be confused with the American-Canadian tv series of the same vintage. Radio serials, myriad films, comic books, novels — any medium that exists has seen Flash Gordon fiction. There are at least fifteen authorized strips and a number of bootleg strips as well. Needless to say there are bootleg films and serials too. (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 2, 1911John Finney. Author of The Body Snatchers and Time and Again, two truly great novels. Of course there’s also the awesome Fifties Invasion of the Body Snatchers film too. (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 2, 1931Edmund Crispin. He’s well remembered and definitely still read for his most excellent Gervase Fen mystery series. It turns out that he was the editor of the Best SF anthology series that ran off and on between 1955 and 1972. Writers such as Kuttner, Moore, Blish, Bradbury and Von Vogt had stories there. These anthologies alas are not available digitally or in hard copy. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 2, 1944Vernor Vinge, 75. Winner of five Hugo Awards, none for what I consider his best series which is the Realtime/Bobble series. I’m also very fond of his short fiction, much of which is collected in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, though the eighteen years worth of his work remain uncollected.
  • Born October 2, 1948 Avery Brooks, 71. Obviously he’s got his Birthday Honor for being Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine, but I’m going to note his superb work also as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk. He retired from video acting sixteen years ago but is an active tenured Theatre professor at Rutgers. 
  • Born October 2, 1948 Persis Khambatta. Indian model and actress who played Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She made mostly low-budget films, some genre (Warrior of the Lost WorldShe-Wolves of the Wasteland) and even showed up in the pilot of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. She died of a massive attack at the age of 49. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 2, 1950Ian McNeice, 69. Prime Minister Churchill / Emperor Winston Churchill on Doctor Who in “The Beast Below,” “Victory of the Daleks,”  “The Pandorica Opens,” and “The Wedding of River Song,” all Eleventh Doctor stories. He was an absolutely perfect Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune series. And he voiced Kwaltz in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 
  • Born October 2, 1951 Sting, 68. Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in the Dune film. Far, far too old for the character who was supposed to be sixteen years old. He worked as a Heroic Officer in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. And he’s Martin Taylor in the horrific Brimstone & Treacle.
  • Born October 2, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 66. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend. I also like his Metropolitan novels, be that Sf or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. What else by him is worth my time? 
  • Born October 2, 1972Graham Sleight, 47. Editor of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction between 2007 and 2011, and was a Locus reviewer 2005 to 2012. He is the Managing Editor of the 3rd edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and was so when the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Related Work was given to it. He oft times writes about Doctor Who. He co-edited (along with Simon Bradshaw and Antony Keen) The Unsilent Library, a book of essays about the Russell T Davies era. His other Doctor Who work, The Doctor’s Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who, is now available in a trade paperback edition. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot recommends Dungeons & Dragons to motivate your studying.

(13) SOUNDS FAMILIAR. Nobody would tease someone about this, would they? “Harry Potter and the famous name”.

“It’s probably a good thing overall, a light-hearted conversation starter,” says Harry Potter.

Far from being a wizard, Harry is a neuroscientist from the University of Manchester.

When he responded to a question on Twitter asking, “What piece of pop culture has ruined your first name?” he didn’t expect the reaction he got.

“I take your ‘first name’ and raise you my full name,” has conjured up more than 267,000 likes and 33,000 retweets.

…At work Harry’s research looks at how a woman’s immune system during pregnancy affects the development of a baby’s nervous system later in life.

But some people online have suggested some other academic papers he might have written had he branched out of his field of research.

The article includes a graphic of a real paper titled “Fantastic yeasts and where to find them”.

(14) SHORE THING. “Tsunamis linked to spread of deadly fungal disease” – BBC has the story.

A major earthquake in Alaska in 1964 triggered tsunamis that washed ashore a deadly tropical fungus, scientists say.

Researchers believe it then evolved to survive in the coasts and forest of the Pacific Northwest.

More than 300 people have been infected with the pneumonia-like cryptococcosis since the first case was discovered in the region in 1999, about 10% fatally.

If true the theory, published in the journal mBio, has implications for other areas hit by tsunamis.

(15) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. BBC says science is learning “How to weigh a whale without a scale”. Which is important, because whales don’t have scales.

How do you weigh the largest animals on the planet?

Until now it has only been possible to weigh whales once they have washed up dead on beaches.

Now scientists have solved the conundrum, with the help of aerial photographs taken by drones.

Their model accurately calculated the body volume and mass of wild southern right whales. Already being used to assess the survival of calves, it has many potential uses in conservation.

Body mass is a key factor in the success of whales as a group, determining their energy uses, food requirements and growth rates.

Yet most of what we know about the body size of whales comes from old whaling literature or from animals that end up stranded on the beach or caught in fishing gear.

“It is very difficult to measure a whale on a scale – I mean you have to kill it to do it and that’s exactly what we’re avoiding here,” said study researcher Fredrik Christiansen from the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark.

(16) HALLOWEEN SUPPLIES. While out shopping, John King Tarpinian encountered Audrey’s offspring:

(17) VERY SLOW FACT CHECKING. Somebody has far too much time on their hands: “The Signature Dish in Disney’s ‘Ratatouille’ Wasn’t Actually Ratatouille” at MyRecipes.

In the climactic scene of the 2007 Disney film Ratatouille—during which the movie’s main characters, Remy the rat and Linguine the human chef, attempt to impress an important culinary critic—Remy and his animal pals diligently prepare a mouthwatering dish of sauce and vegetables that reminds the tough food commentator of his mother’s homemade meals. The delectable-looking animated spread is presented in the film as ratatouille, a Provençal recipe that originated from Nice, France. But while we can’t fault Disney for the use of a clever pun, the beautifully arranged vegetarian dish shown during the movie isn’t, in all technicality, ratatouille. Rather, it’s a variation on another, very similar Provençal dish: tian

(18) ABOUT A MASTER OF MODERN SF. Hear a “Special Report: D. Harlan Wilson on J.G. Ballard” in this podcast at The Projection Booth.

D. Harlan Wilson discusses his book from the University of Illinois Press, J.G. Ballard. Part of the Masters of Modern Science Fiction series, Prof. Wilson provides a look at Ballard’s literary career as well as some of the adaptations of his work for the cinema.

(19) TRICK OR TREAT? Delish tells you “How To Order An Oogie Boogie Frappuccino Off The Starbucks Secret Menu”. That is, if you still want to after reading the description.

If you haven’t noticed, fall seems to be when Starbucks fans let their freak flags fly and come up with all sorts of amazing Halloween-inspired creations. Recently, we had the Jack Skellington Frappuccino, but now another Nightmare Before Christmas character is getting his (its?) time to shine with the Oogie Boogie Frappuccino.

If you’re not familiar with the film, Oogie Boogie is described as a “burlap sack filled with insects, spiders and a snake for a tongue,” which…same.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B3CosroALJ5/?utm_source=ig_embed

(20) ATTENTION CHURRO LOVERS. Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge attraction features thematic food: “Disney World is launching new ‘Star Wars’ treats for the opening of ‘Galaxy’s Edge’ including lightsaber churros”.

Disney is launching “Star Wars” treats for the opening of “Galaxy’s Edge,” a new 14-acre immersive “land”  based on the “Star Wars” universe and located within Hollywood Studios in Disney World.

The offerings at the Florida park include dishes such as churros that look like lightsabers, Millennium Falcon-shaped Chocolate Pops, and Chewbacca-inspired cupcakes. 

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dead End” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Victoria Vincent about a depressed high school guidance counselor.

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