Pixel Scroll 8/14/22 I Am A Little Scroll Made Cunningly, Of Pixels, And An Angelic Sprite

(1) AURORA AWARD STATS. The 2022 Aurora Award Results and Hall of Fame Inductees were announced last night, and the CSFFA website now has the voting statistics and nomination totals available here.

It’s notable that in the Best Fan Writing and Publication category it was R. Graeme Cameron competing against himself, winning for Polar Borealis, while his Canadian SF&F book and magazine reviews in Amazing Stories (online) finished second.

(2) CONFUSION IS STILL WITH US. [Item by John Winkelman.] Con Chair Cylithria Dubois has posted an update about ConFusion 2022 and 2023. To sum up: Despite hardships and obstacles, COVID-related and otherwise, ConFusion 2022 ended in the black, financially, and there will be a ConFusion 2023, about which details will be announced soon. “2022 Rising ConFusion Final Report & Handoff to The Legend of ConFusion”.

Rising ConFusion 2022 took place January 21st – 23rd of 2022.  December & January were peak times for the  DELTA variant of the COVID-19 pandemic. As DELTA took hold, times looked very grim due to the pandemic, and on January 7th, 2022, I made a public plea to our community, alerting you of the dire financial straits ConFusion Convention faced due to lower attendance, higher costs, and lack of income from the postponed 2021 event. 

The day I made that plea, I was also packing to travel via car from my home in Kansas City, MO., to my Home in Bay City, MI. I posted that, went to bed, got up and drove the 14 hour journey. By the time I arrived in Michigan, I was gob-smacked at the community outpouring of support. Y’all have no idea how utterly stunned silent I truly was. (Lithie, Silent? Whoa)… 

In Quick Summary Form:

-The amount of income made by Rising ConFusion 2022 was $17,848.48. 
-The amount of Donation Income made from your generosity was $13,705.09. 
-Combined those total: $31,553.57! 
-Our total expenses (see note below) came to -$19,234.81.  
-The amount of money leftover was: +$12,318.76

In Short; Yes, you saved Rising ConFusion and there will be another ConFusion in 2023!…

(3) HEINLEIN BLOOD DRIVE. “The Heinlein Society Sponsors Chicago Blood Drive” for those wanting to donate blood while the Worldcon is happening. The Society says:

Worldcon chose not to sponsor a blood drive this year. For the convenience of those expecting to Pay It Forward by donating blood The Heinlein Society and Virgin Hotels, a block away from the Hyatt, will have a blood drive on Sunday. Schedule your appointment early as the drive is open to the public before Worldcon starts. More information will be available as well as a free book with a cool bookmark at The Heinlein Society Fan Table at Worldcon.

(4) WHERE IT BEGAN. Robert Charles Wilson told Facebook readers about a personal artifact he rediscovered.

I’ve spent the last few days putting my book collection in order, and yesterday I came across this, the first sf magazine I ever purchased: the March 1964 issue of F&SF, from a little shop in the town of Port Credit, Ontario.

J.G. Ballard, Kit Reed, Oscar Wilde, Avram Davidson’s haunting little story “Sacheverell”—pretty heady stuff for a precocious ten-year-old. But what had the greatest impact, looking backward from 2022, was Robert Bloch’s article “The Conventional Approach”—a pocket history of science fiction fandom. I was already nursing an ambition to write, specifically to write sf, and here was what looked like an invitation to a subculture of like-minded enthusiasts and maybe even a roadmap to a career.

A few more years would pass before I attended a convention or sold a piece of fiction to a professional market, but that little digest-magazine article had pretty profound consequences for me. What I eventually found by way of that subculture was, yes, a career, including a Hugo Award for my novel Spin, but also enduring friendships, two marriages and one long-term relationship, visits to Europe and Asia I would probably not otherwise have undertaken, and a more colourful and varied life than my 10-year-old self could have reasonably imagined.

All that, bought for 40 cents on a wintry Saturday in rural Ontario. Your money went further in those days, I guess.

(5) RUSHDIE UPDATE. “Salman Rushdie off ventilator and ‘road to recovery has begun,’ agent says” reports Reuters, quoting an email.

Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was stabbed repeatedly at a public appearance in New York state on Friday, 33 years after Iran’s then-supreme leader called for him to be killed, is off a ventilator and his health is improving, his agent and a son said on Sunday.

“He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” his agent, Andrew Wylie, wrote in an email to Reuters. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”…

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that author J.K. Rowling, after tweeting sympathy for Rushdie. received a death threat: “Police investigate threat to JK Rowling over Salman Rushdie tweet”.

Police are investigating a threat against JK Rowling that was made after she posted her reaction on social media to the attack on Salman Rushdie.

Rowling tweeted on Friday: “Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be OK.”

Twitter user under the name Meer Asif Asiz replied: “Don’t worry you are next.”

Rowling shared screenshots of the threat and thanked everyone who had sent supportive messages. “Police are involved (were already involved on other threats),” she wrote.

(6) HE KNOWS HORROR WHEN HE SEES IT. In MSN.com’s extract of The Sunday Times interview, “Stephen King talks politics: ‘Trump was a horrible president and is a horrible person’”.

…King, who is himself active on Twitter, also spoke to the Sunday Times about the role social media has played amid the current political and cultural climate. 

“It’s a poison pill. I mean, I think it’s wonderful, for instance, that in the wake of George Floyd’s death, his murder by police, that you could muster via social media protests in cities across America and around the world,” he noted. “But on the other hand, it’s social media that has magnified the idea that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. And there’s millions of people who believe that, and there are millions of people who believe that the COVID vaccinations are terrible things. Some of the things are good, some are not so good, and some are downright evil.”…

(7) THE BOOKEND. Rich Horton’s last 50’s Hugo post is “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1960”. (I don’t have to explain why 1960 is the last year in this series about the 50’s, I’m sure.)

… This was the height of the Cold War, and the height of fears of Nuclear War, and that is emphasized by the popular success of out and out “End of the World due to Nuclear War” books like Level 7Alas, BabylonA Canticle for Leibowitz; and On The Beach, all published in this time frame. For that matter, Providence Island is about a lost race resisting the use of their island for nuclear tests, and The Manchurian Candidate is surely a Cold War novel to the max!…

(8) FAN MAIL. Connie Willis writes in praise of “Favorite Author – Mary Stewart” on Facebook.

I just finished re-reading AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND and was reminded all over again what a wonderful writer Mary Stewart was. Many science-fiction fans will be familiar with her because of her trilogy about Merlin and King Arthur–THE CRYSTAL CAVE, THE HOLLOW HILLS, and THE LAST ENCHANTMENT–but when those books came out, I was already a long time admirer who’d discovered her through, of all things, Hayley Mills.

I was a huge Hayley Mills fan in high school and college and saw all her movies. I also was an inveterate reader of movie credits (this was how I found new books to read–and still do) and thus discovered Eleanor Porter’s POLLYANNA, Jules Verne’s IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS–and Mary Stewart’s THE MOONSPINNERS. I promptly ran to the library to check out the book.

…I said her novels had been the foundation for the modern romantic mystery genre, but that’s not really true. Even though they’ve been compared to Daphne DuMaurier’s and Jane Austen’s books, nobody else before or since has been able to do the sort of thing she did. What is true is that she “built the bridge between classic literature and modern popular fiction. She did it first, and she did it best.” And if you’ve never read her, you’re in for a treat….

(9) SUMMER HELL IS HERE. This sounds fascinating. At Black Gate, Joe Bonadonna introduces an anthology: “In Hell, Everyone’s Pants are on Fire: A preview of Liars in Hell.

Seven Degrees of Lying

The opening story in Liars in Hell is by Janet and Chris Morris, and it’s called Seven Degrees of Lying. Under Lord Byron’s protection for a night, Percy Shelley is abducted and drowned. Honor bound, Byron sets out to find and rescue him, dragging Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare, the Inklings, Satan, Lord Walsingham, and J, the mysterious Bible writer, into the first skirmish of the Liars War. Even Byron’s dog, Boatswain, gets in on the act.

…So come visit Hell and enjoy the company of our heroes and villains. There’s plenty of action, drama and gallows humor to go around. But bring your own pitchfork. It’s better to have it and not need it, than it is to need it and not have it. You never know when it might come in handy.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

2009 [By Cat Eldridge.] I like pulp films and the Sherlock Holmes films that Robert Downey Jr. did, Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, certainly are pulp. Expensively produced ones as I will note in a bit. 

Both films were directed by Guy Ritchie and were produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, and Dan Lin. Susan is the wife of Robert. They have their own production company, Team Downey. 

The story for the first one was by Lionel Wigram and Michael Robert Johnson. Eigram’s only other story was the The Man from U.N.C.L.E film, though he was the executive producer for the Potter films; Johnson genre wise only did three episodes of The Frankenstein Chronicles

The second film’s screenplay was written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, a married couple whose entire genre output otherwise is scripting together Next Generation’s “The Outrageous Okona” and Star Trek: Enterprise’s “Fortunate Son” episodes.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law portray Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, respectively. I really think that they do a great job but, I suspect very deeply, like the video Poirots from yesterday, that is very much a matter of personal taste. I like their takes on the characters a lot. No, Downey is not the Holmes in the stories. 

They were expensive to produce, ninety million and the sequel added thirty-five onto its cost. The first was shot at in part at Freemasons’ Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral. The former was where the Suchet Poirot shot part of its Murder on the Orient Express. For the second film, principal photography moved for two days to Strasbourg, France. Shooting took place on, around, and inside Strasbourg Cathedral as that in stood for the German city where it was supposed to be set.

They made money, oh did they make money, roughly a half billon apiece. 

Roger Ebert I think in reviewing the first nails it perfectly and I’m going to quote only him from the multitude of critics. Here’s his entire first paragraph of his Sherlock Holmes review: “The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes, the more I liked ‘Sherlock Holmes.’ Yet another classic hero has been fed into the f/x mill, emerging as a modern superman. Guy Ritchie’s film is filled with sensational sights, over-the-top characters and a desperate struggle atop Tower Bridge, which is still under construction. It’s likely to be enjoyed by today’s action fans. But block bookings are not likely from the Baker Street Irregulars.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give both films scores of seventy-seven percent which is a most excellent rating. 

They are available on HBO Max and Netflix.

There may or may not be a third film next year. The film company has announced such for Christmas but I hold little stock in that as the film hadn’t started production yet. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 14, 1910 Herta Herzog. At the Radio Project, she was part of the team of that conducted the groundbreaking research on Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds in the study The Invasion from Mars. The Radio Research Project was founded in 1937 as a social research project and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to look into the effects of mass media on society. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 14, 1932 Lee Hoffman. In the early Fifties, she edited and published the Quandry fanzine. At the same time, she began publication of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly which appeared regularly until ‘til 2006. It won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 which she shared with Geri Sullivan and Randy Byers. It was awarded after her death. She wrote four novels and a handful of short fiction, none of which are in the usual suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 82. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis.
  • Born August 14, 1950 Gary Larson, 72. Setting aside a long and delightful career in creating the weird for us, ISFDB lists a SF link that deserve noting. In the March 1991 Warp as published by the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, he had a cartoon “The crew of the Starship Enterprise encounters the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor”. 
  • Born August 14, 1951 Carl Lumbly, 71. I first encountered him voicing the Martian Manhunter on the Justice League series and he later played M’yrnn J’onzz, the father of the Martian Manhunter on the first Supergirl series.  His first major genre role was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Parker, and he later had a number of voice roles in such films as Justice League: Doom and Justice League: Gods and Monsters. He of course was the lead in the short lived M.A.N.T.I.S. as Miles Hawkins. 
  • Born August 14, 1956 Joan Slonczewski, 66. Their novel A Door into Ocean won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. They won a second John W. Campbell Memorial Award for their Highest Frontier novel. They were nominated for an Otherwise Award for The Children Star novel.
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga, 57. Writer, producer and creator for the Next Gen, Voyager, Enterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes in the Trek franchise than anyone else with one hundred nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo (1995), along with Ronald D. Moore.
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 56. Her first role genre was not as I thought Miss Stone in The Flintstones but a minor role in a forgotten SF series called They Came from Outer Space. This was followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchise and Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas. And she is Molly Woods in Exant, a Paramount + series that originally ran on CBS. Both seasons are streaming there now.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Popeye versus Cthulhu?
  • Thatababy shows what Alexa is up to after the owner leaves.
  • Tom Gauld covers all the options.

(13) THE REASON PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK. Politico’s Jenni Laidman interviews Kim Stanley Robinson: “Climate Catastrophe Is Coming. But It’s Not the End of the Story”.

…“This book has transformed my life,” Robinson said. “I’m doing nothing but talking about Ministry for the Future for the last year and a half, almost two years now. It’s also terrifying. It shows to me that people are feeling a desperate need for a story like this. They’re grabbing onto this book like a piece of driftwood, and they’re drowning at the open ocean.”…

Laidman: In your opening chapter, 20 million people die in an Indian heat wave and power failure, with several thousand of them poached to death in a lake as they try to escape the heat. Will it take this kind of climate horror to jolt the world into action?

Robinson: No. When I was at COP 26, Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, who had read Ministry, was talking about the power of stories. He said, “You don’t need to be in a plane crash to know that it would be bad to be in a plane crash.” Every year since I wrote the book — I wrote it maybe three years ago — it’s as if attention to the climate change crisis has more than doubled. It’s almost exponential.

We’re not at the point of solutions, but at every COP meeting the sense that, “Oh my gosh, we are headed into a plane crash” is intensified. We’re not doing enough. We’re not paying the poor countries enough. Rich countries are breaking promises made at earlier COPs. Disillusionment with that process is getting so intense that I fear for the COP process itself. I’ve been comparing it to the League of Nations. The League of Nations was a great idea that failed. And then we got the 1930s and World War II. The 2015 Paris Agreement was an awesome thing, like something that I would write that people would call utopian. But it happened in the real world.

Now, with Russia and the brutal Ukraine war, things are so messed up that the COP process and the Paris Agreement could turn into the League of Nations. I’m frightened for that. It’s not a done deal.

(14) WHAT DO YOU THINK? Book Riot’s Caitlin Hobbs calls these the “20 of the Best Science Fiction Books of All Time”.

Before we get started, let me define “best” for you real fast. In this context, best does not secretly mean my favorite science fiction that I’m calling best because I’m the one writing the article. The best science fiction books of all time — at least the ones on this list — are the ones that remain highly rated, are incredibly popular, or have made some sort of mark on the science fiction genre or its various sub-genres, even mainstream culture as a whole. There are also only 20 books on this list, meaning it is not conclusive, as I am one person. I will inevitably miss a book that you think belongs on this list. So many science fiction falls into the definition of “best” that I’m using.

Because that’s what science fiction is meant to do: push the envelope, show what things could be if we continue down the path we’re on, and make you question what’s possible…. 

(15) KHAW SHORT FICTION. Sunday Morning Transport has a story and an offer.

(16) BREAKFAST IN A GALAXY A LONG TIME AGO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Who thought this was a good idea?  The Mandalorian NEVER waffles! “The Mandalorian Galactic Homestyle Frozen Waffles”. (However, Martin confesses he bought these today.)

Start your adventure with a delicious breakfast including Eggo® The Mandalorian Galactic Homestyle Waffles. It’s our classic Eggo® taste featuring the Mandalorian & Grogu™ from the hit Star Wars™ series. Collect all Mandalorian cards, only available across three different hero pack designs while supplies last. It’s the quick and delicious breakfast that families across the whole galaxy love.

(17) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Inverse writer Jon O’Brien takes a, let’s say nostalgic, look at Stay Tuned—a 30 year old movie the columnist believes deserved a better reception than it got. Starring John Ritter (Three’s Company) and Pam Dawber (Mork and Mindy), the movie’s plot includes strong flavors of the metafictional tropes so utterly infused in the recent & much better received WandaVision. “30 years ago, a sci-fi flop beat Marvel to its smartest story idea”.

…In 1992, Stay Tuned was accused of failing to say anything substantial in its send-up of America’s TV addiction. But decades on, the film serves as a forewarning of the dark route TV went down. The prank show genre, for example, has gone to such extremes as staging fake ISIS abductions and simulating plane crashes. The macabre spoof “Autopsies of the Rich and Famous” pretty much become a depressing reality.

Alongside ads for warped products such as The Silencer of the Lambs (muzzles for annoying youngsters) and Yogi Beer (alcohol for kids), and an end-credits sequence that zips through teasers for “Beverly Hills, 90666,” “The Golden Ghouls,” and “I Love Lucifer,” these brief side gags only appear via the Knables’ new-fangled TV set. But most of Stay Tuned’s lampoons play out in full screen, with Roy and Helen front and center after the new satellite dish zaps the bickering pair into Hellavision….

(18) A LUCRATIVE REJECTION. Neil Gaiman reveals he first pitched Sandman to George R.R. Martin for a Wild Cards series and Martin turned him down in this video with Gaiman and Martin that dropped last week: “Why Neil Gaiman Has George R.R. Martin to Thank for The Sandman”.

(19) BILL NYE IS BOOKING. SYFY Wire shares an “Exclusive clip for ‘The End is Nye’ on Peacock”.

SYFY WIRE has an exclusive first look at the all-new clip for the six-episode event series set to debut at Peacock on Aug. 25, and it’s safe to say that Bill’s not backing down from some of the biggest CGI-realized effects ever to bring a science documentary to life. How big are we talking? Like, positively supervolcanic — as in Yellowstone Caldera exploding, mushroom cloud-forming, town-engulfing big.

Bill and his trademark neckwear are in serious jeopardy in the new clip, which finds him flooring it out of a Rocky Mountain hamlet in a frighteningly futile attempt to outrace a superheated, 500 mph pyroclastic flow. Can Bill and his little electric car make it? Well…stick around to the end: It’s definitely Bill Nye like you’ve never seen him.

The blurb for the YouTube trailer says this is what the series is about:

Synopsis: The End is Nye sends Bill Nye into the most epic global disasters imaginable – both natural and unnatural – and then demystifies them using science to show how we can survive, mitigate, and even prevent them. Each stand-alone episode takes a hell-bent dive into the mystery and terror of one specific threat. Every catastrophe is abundant with thrills, but also offers hope and a way forward —a scientific blueprint for surviving anything that comes our way. The series is hosted and executive produced by Emmy Award winner and renowned science educator, engineer, author, and inventor Bill Nye. Each episode also features a brief cameo by longtime science advocate and series EP Seth MacFarlane.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Horton, Daniel Dern, Clifford Samuels, John Winkelman, Dennis Howard, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JeffWarner returns, because he isn’t donne yet.]

Pixel Scroll 3/26/22 How Can You Scroll In Two Pixels At Once When You’re Not Online At All

(1) FUTURE TENSE. “’Empathy Hour,’ a short story by Matt Bell” at Slate is the newest story in the Future Tense Fiction series from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.

This week, like every week, it’s the theme song that calls you to attention, the music simultaneously jaunty, patriotic, inspirational, commanding. As the fade-in begins, the tune gives way to the whup-whup-whup of unseen rotors, the familiar sound preceding your first glimpse of a helicopter’s wash rippling the dark water surrounding a half-drowned house, where this week’s family balances awkwardly atop their roof’s wind-peeled slope, desperate for rescue: a mother, a father, two preteen daughters, and an especially attractive Australian cattle dog….

Bell’s story is followed by a response essay “What are we going to do with more than 200 million climate refugees?” by Tim Robustelli and Yuliya Panfil.

It’s already happening. Millions in low-lying Bangladesh are fleeing stronger cyclones and increased coastal flooding. After Hurricane Maria, thousands of Puerto Ricans have left behind their blue-tarped homes for the mainland United States. And farmers from the Sahel to Central America are abandoning their dried-up fields in droves.

The increasingly dire effects of climate change are resulting in unprecedented levels of displacement globally. And it’s going to get worse: The World Bank recently estimated that there could be more than 200 million “climate refugees” by 2050. Experts suggest that about one-quarter of them will move overseas, while the rest will migrate within their own countries.

What will happen to these migrants as they leave their homes and livelihoods, and how will their new communities receive them?…

(2) SMALL CRAFT WARNING. “Puppet Makers Rise Up Against the Puppet Masters” – and The Hollywood Reporter is on the front lines.

As they push for unionization, craftspeople at the The Jim Henson Company say they are treated as an underclass, subject to abuse and unsafe conditions: “The job of the wrangler is eating sh** and taking blame.”

… There are only about 25 people in the world who work as full-time wranglers — and they are currently seeking union representation, something that has eluded them since the job first emerged with the rise of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show in the late 1970s….

(3) PULLMAN QUITS AS SOA PRESIDENT. “‘I would not be free to express my opinion’: Philip Pullman steps down as Society of Authors president” – the Guardian has the story.

Philip Pullman has stepped down as president of the Society of Authors (SoA) after comments he made about Kate Clanchy’s controversial memoir, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. In a letter sent to the SoA’s management committee this month, the children’s author said he “would not be free to express [his] personal opinion” as long as he remained in the role.

Pullman, who will remain a member of the trade union’s council, came under fire last year when he spoke out in support of Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, which was criticised for racial and ableist stereotyping. In response to a tweet that he incorrectly assumed was about Clanchy, Pullman, in a now-deleted tweet, said that those who criticised the book without reading it would “find a comfortable home in Isis or the Taliban”.

The SoA released a statement at the time distancing itself from Pullman’s comments, and Pullman later tweeted an apology for the harm he caused, saying criticism of Clanchy was “reasonable and balanced” and that people of colour “deserve every kind of respect”.

However, as the controversy around Clanchy continues – she and her publisher “parted ways” in January – Pullman clearly felt that he could no longer remain in his role….

(4) MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK. Another part of the story “J.K. Rowling hits back at Putin after he likened Russia to her in rant against cancel culture” that should have been mentioned here yesterday is how Rowling’s charity is doing matching donations in support of Ukraine.

…Rowling previously revealed that her children’s charity, Lumos, had been working with the Ukrainian government since 2013, and she launched a fundraising appeal the day after the Russian invasion to help “the thousands of children trapped by the fighting in Ukraine’s orphanages.”

“A reminder: I will personally match all donations to our emergency appeal, up to £1million ($1.3 million). If you’re able to, you can donate here. Again, thank you so very much to all who’ve already donated,” she tweeted Friday.

(5) WHO KNEW? Slate explains why “Cross-stitch stores disappeared after Etsy banned Russian sellers.”

Since Russia’s “special operation” began in Ukraine, Western brands have been exiting the country rapidly, making it much harder to find carsfurniturephones, and clothes. But the change has also affected more unexpected businesses. In early March, after PayPal announced shutting down its services in Russia, Etsy suspended Russian shops “due to expanding business restrictions, including multiple payment processors and credit cards ceasing operations in Russia.”

This is how many American fans of cross-stitch—a needle craft in which you stitch tiny X’s over and over to create a design on fabric—discovered that many of their favorite digital pattern designers are from Russia. Cross-stitchers will pay anywhere from about $3 for small, simple patterns to much more for large, complex designs, all of which can be downloaded instantly after purchase. They can also pay large sums for custom designs. After Etsy pulled the plug on Russia, shops with thousands of five-star reviews and large numbers of sales disappeared at once. “Did cross-stitch pattern makers go through a purge or something?” a Reddit user wondered. In a way, yes—and it’s a fascinating example of how even the digital supply chain can be concentrated in one geographic area….

(6) GARETH POWELL Q&A. FanFiAddict chatted with Gareth L. Powell, author of Stars and Bones.

Join FanFiAddict’s Adrian M. Gibson and author Gareth L. Powell for a chat about his new book Stars and Bones, its timely themes, the mentorship of Diana Wynne Jones and Helen Dunmore, paying it forward with a “field guide” on writing, the appeal of writing space opera and accessible sci-fi, social media and mental health and much more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gareth L. Powell is a BSFA award-winning author who writes science fiction about extraordinary characters wrestling with the question of what it means to be human. This includes works like the Embers of War series, the Ack-Ack Macaque series, the novellas Ragged Alice and Light Chaser, the latter of which he wrote with Peter F. Hamilton, and more. His latest novel, Stars and Bones, is out now through Titan Books.

(7) WHO’S GOT NEXT? Bleeding Cool has a wonderful article tracing the decades-long history of fake Who news: “When British Tabloids Made Up Stories About The Next Doctor Who”.

…But secondly, this is what British tabloids do. And have done for decades. When it was announced that William Hartnell would no longer play The Doctor, the British press asked the question, just didn’t suggest they had the answers….

The speculation would only really begin with the departure of Tom Baker at The Doctor in 1980. Which was also the time that the suggestion first arose about a female Doctor Who. Clearly, the “woke” 1980 for you there….

(8) FOR BETTER OR MULTIVERSE. At CrimeReads, Josh Weiss recommends alternate history novels, mostly of the “Hitler Wins” variety.  “10 Must-Read Alternate History Thrillers”.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon (2007)

This book was recommended to me by a friend in college. Hearing him describe the concept was a mind-blowing experience in and of itself. European-Jewish refugees settling Alaska at the outbreak of WWII? A thriving modern American town that speaks Yiddish? Ultra-Orthodox mafia bosses? This I had to see for myself….

(9) SWIFT WILL SPIN. “Tom Swift: The CW Confirms May Debut for ‘Nancy Drew’ Spinoff Series”Bleeding Cool describes the planned adaptation.

…’Tom Swift’ follows the serialized adventures of its titular character (Richards), an exceptionally brilliant inventor with unlimited resources and unimaginable wealth who is thrust into a world of sci-fi conspiracy and unexplained phenomena after the shocking disappearance of his father. Tom takes to the road on a quest to unravel the truth, leaving behind the comforts of his usual moneyed lifestyle while fighting to stay one step ahead of an Illuminati-scale group that’s hellbent on stopping him.

Ashleigh Murray plays Zenzi, Tom’s best friend, whose unabashed and unvarnished candor keeps him grounded while she forges a path for herself as a business visionary. Marquise Vilsón is his bodyguard Isaac, whose fierce commitment to his chosen family is complicated by his own simmering feelings for Tom. LeVar Burton voices Barclay, Tom’s AI, whose insights and tough love have been a constant throughout Tom’s life, Albert Mwangi is the mysterious and dangerous Rowan, who intersects Tom’s path with hidden motivations and undeniable mutual chemistry. Meanwhile, at home, Tom’s relationship with his mother Lorraine (April Parker Jones) becomes conflicted as she urges him to take his father’s place in elite Black society.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1989 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, the Quantum Leap series premiered on NBC.

Created by  Donald P. Bellisario (Tales of The Golden MonkeyAirWolf), it starred Scott Bakula as the time-travelling Sam Beckett and the cigar chomping Dean Stockwell as his holographic contact from the future, Admiral Al Calavicci. The series would air on NBC for five seasons and a total of ninety-seven episodes, gaining a large following after a very mediocre start. 

So what was the reception for it at the the time? The New York Times liked it with these parting words: “Overall, ‘Quantum Leap’ has the distinction of being unpredictable, which is the last thing that can be said about the vast bulk of television series. And Mr. Bakula and Mr. Stockwell make the most of their leaping opportunities.” 

It has generated an immense fictional universe with at least twenty authorized novels to date (edited by Ginjer Buchanan!) and a universe of fan fiction, some that would make even Al turn red. There are non-fiction works such as The Making of Quantum Leap and Beyond the Mirror Image which was done as a Kickstarter endeavor. And Innovation Publishing did a thirteen-issue comic series as well. 

A sequel series coming on Peacock later this year is set thirty years after the original series ended and attempts to figure what happened to Sam Beckett. 

Quantum Leap has a stellar 97% rating by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 26, 1924 Peter George. Welsh author, most remembered for the late Fifties Red Alert novel, published first as Two Hours To Doom and written under the name of Peter Bryant. The book was the basis of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 26, 1931 Leonard Nimoy. I really don’t need to say who he played on Trek, do I? Did you know his first role was as a zombie in Zombies of the Stratosphere? Or that he did a a lot of Westerns ranging from Broken Arrow in which he played various Indians to The Tall Man in which at least his character had a name, Deputy Sheriff Johnny Swift. His other great genre role was on Mission: Impossible as The Great Paris, a character whose real name was never revealed, who was a retired magician. It was his first post-Trek series. He of course showed up on the usual other genre outings such as The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits, Night Gallery and Get Smart. (Died 2015.)
  • Born March 26, 1942 Erica Jong, 80. Witches which has amazing illustrations by Joseph A. Smiths is very much still worth your time nearly forty years on. ISFDB also lists Shylock’s Daughter: A Novel of Love in Venice which is a time travel story but it certainly sounds more like a romance novel to me. 
  • Born March 26, 1950 K. W. Jeter, 72. Farewell Horizontal may or may not be punk of any manner but it’s a great read. Morlock Night, his sequel  to The Time Machine, is well-worth reading. I’ve heard good things about his Blade Runner sequels but haven’t read them. Opinions? And his wiki page says he coined the term “steampunk”. That so? 
  • Born March 26, 1953 Christopher Fowler, 69. I started reading him when I encountered his Bryant & May series which though explicitly not genre does feature a couple of protagonists who are suspiciously old. Possibly a century or more now. The mysteries may or may not have genre aspects (some such as Seventy Seven Clocks are definitely genre) but all are wonderfully weird. Other novels by him which I’d recommend are Roofworld and Rune which really are genre, and Hell Train which is quite delicious horror.
  • Born March 26, 1960 Brenda Strong, 62. First film genre appearance was on Spaceballs as Nurse Gretchen. The role you probably remember her was on Starship Troopers as Captain Deladier though post-death she shows up in Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation as Sergeant Dede Rake. She showed up on Next Gen as a character named Rashella in the “When the Bough Breaks” episode and she’s been a regular on Supergirl as Lillian Luthor.
  • Born March 26, 1966 Michael Imperioli, 56. Detective Len Fenerman in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and Detective Ray Carling, the lead in Life on Mars and Rosencrantz in a recent Hamlet.
  • Born March 26, 1985 Keira Knightley, 37. To my surprise, and this definitely shows I’m not Star Wars geek, she was  Sabé, The Decoy Queen, in The Phantom Menace.  Next up for her is Princess of Thieves, a loose adaptation of the Robin Hood legend. Now I didn’t see that but I did see her in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl as Elizabeth Swann. (She’s in several more of these films.) I saw her as Guinevere, an odd Guinevere indeed, in King Arthur. Her last role I must note was as The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in which she was the Sugar Plum Fairy! 

(12) NOT DEAD YET. The Comics Journal considers “The Strange Second Life of Legacy Comic Strips or: I Want Wilbur Weston Dead”.

…It was a bathetic end for a shlub of a man… or was it? Because only a few short days after Wilbur’s fall, [Mary Worth] readers were confronted with a single panel depicting a bedraggled, pink-shirted man, glasses still on his head and one shoe left on his feet, washing up on the shores of a desert island….

…“I WANT WILBUR WESTON DEAD” declared one reader, as if to will the outcome into the world. “We as a society need to organize a beach-storming on the scale of Normandy, all to ensure that Wilbur Weston remains dead,” offered another. Comics critic Tom Shapira put forward the still-intriguing hypothesis that Wilbur was about to undergo the origin story of a familiar DC Comics superhero. It was the brief, ephemeral, but powerful buzz of a minor comics Twitter zeitgeist, all of which led me to a single question: what in God’s name was going on here?…

…Mary Worth is therefore a prime example of what has been termed a legacy strip: a comic strip that has outlived (often literally) its original creators, and been passed along to new hands while maintaining continuity in syndication. Glance at the comic page of a daily print newspaper, if you can still find one, and you’ll see that the list is long and, arguably, ignominious: BlondieThe Family CircusHagar the HorribleThe Wizard of IdBeetle BaileyRex Morgan M.D. Not for nothing have these features been given the less charitable and more common description of zombie strips.

And yet: the Wilbur Weston episode intrigued me. Because if a strip like Mary Worth–a strip that, with one exception I’ll discuss a bit later, I had never had cause to consider anything more than an innocuous presence in my grandparents’ daily Los Angeles Times–could generate a week of Twitter conversation among pandemic-jaded millennials, then there was clearly some kind of life in this allegedly undead comic. I wanted to understand why this might have happened, and more than that, I wanted to know what Mary Worth’s current creators thought about it. So I asked them.

(13) ROSE AGAIN. Seventeen years ago today Doctor Who returned with the episode “Rose” on BBC One. Here’s a clip collage to help you celebrate.

(14) GROUNDBREAKING GROUND BEEF. Mashed remembers “Why Burger King’s ’70s Star Wars Promotion Was So Groundbreaking”.

… The relationship between the burger giant and the iconic media franchise goes back decades to when its original movie trilogy was released. According to Finance 101, the original “Star Wars” film (now referred to as “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope”) was released in 1977 and was the highest-grossing film of all time until “E.T.” — another iconic character from outside our world — came into the picture in 1982. Burger King then made its own groundbreaking move in connection with this first “Star Wars” movie. 

It may be hard to imagine a time when an onslaught of fast-food toy tie-ins seemingly accompanied the release of nearly every major animated motion picture. Yet according to Wide Open Eats, fast-food restaurants didn’t cross-promote movies prior to 1977, the year Burger King broke history by promoting “Star Wars.” The first-of-its-kind marketing strategy included “Star Wars” posters, stickers, and drinking glasses (via Fast Food Reference)…

(15) SPOT ON. They should end up with a better image as fire dogs instead of police dogs: “See ‘Spot’ Save: Robot Dogs Join the New York Fire Department” reports the New York Times.

… The Police Department cut short its contract with Boston Dynamics last April after critics raised concerns about privacy, data collection, aggressive police tactics and the generally dystopian vibes the robot gave off as it trotted through a public housing development during a hostage situation.

Fire officials and robotics experts say the way the department plans to use the robots might help reshape the perception of their use for public safety purposes.

At the command of a human operator, the device can provide vital information in the midst of a calamitous event. It has the ability to descend deep underground after a steam leak to collect images and data about dangerous debris. It can also be deployed moments after a building collapse to gauge structural integrity or measure the concentration of toxic, flammable gasses like carbon monoxide to better inform firefighters responding to the scene….

(16) SECOND STAGE LENSMAN. Filmmaking in Britain will continue to grow if the tax laws cooperate: “A Hollywood Production (Made in Liverpool)”  in the New York Times.

…The early “Star Wars” films and 10 years’ worth of Harry Potter movies helped Britain get here. Film productions were attracted by experienced labor and visual effects companies and, critically, generous tax breaks. In 2013, the incentives were extended to TV productions that cost more than £1 million per broadcast hour — so-called high-end TV series, like “The Crown” and “Game of Thrones.” In recent years, productions were offered a 25 percent cash rebate on qualifying expenditures, such as visual effects done in Britain. In the 2020-21 fiscal year, tax breaks for film, TV, video games, children’s television and animation exceeded £1.2 billion.

In Britain, film gets a level of government attention that other creative industries, such as live theater, can only dream of.

“I would not like to contemplate the loss of the tax incentive,” said Ben Roberts, the chief executive of the British Film Institute. Without it, Britain would become immediately uncompetitive, he added.

Most of the growth in production in Britain comes from big-budget TV shows, a staple of streaming channels. Last year, 211 high-end TV productions filmed in Britain, such as “Ted Lasso” and “Good Omens,” and fewer than half of them were produced solely by British companies, according to the British Film Institute. Compared with 2019, the amount spent jumped by 85 percent to £4.1 billion.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Says Sang Joon Kim, “Imagine if your life is stressed out now, but it would be much worse if everyone you run into is a pigeon!”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/25/22 Look At The Scroll Turn Hell-File Red! Someone’s Pixel’s Clicking Down, Down, Down

(1) THIS IS WILD. Brandon Sanderson invites you to watch as “We Back Every Publishing Kickstarter*”. As one commenter said, “Never thought I would watch a 30+ minute video of someone funding Kickstarters.” I had to watch the whole thing myself!

Today we are going to do something awesome. The Kickstarter has been successful beyond my wildest dreams, so I got my team together and I said what can we do to give back a little to this community that has supported us so well? So we are going to back every single Kickstarter in the publishing category. This is going to be awesome. …And indeed, some of these we’re going to pull out and we’re going to talk about why we’re backing them and what’s cool about them and so we’re going to do a time lapse for you and you can watch in real time as we back these all… 

In the middle of this, the Sanderson team tripped over a previously unknown-to-them Kickstarter function which sends all of their own backers an email every time they back another one. After a load of emails had gone out Kickstarter locked up their account! The team had to open a new account to keep going. (At first they worried that — doing the multiplication – they had unintentionally generated nine million emails. They soon learned it was a lot less – the emails only go to those who opt-in to receive such notices.)

(2) ELDEN RING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews FromSoftware’s release The Elden Ring.

Here is the DNA which defines a FromSoftware game: difficulty which borders on masochism; finely-tuned combat that rewards patience; and storylines told through text that necessitates elucidation in YouTube explainers. Elden Ring continues the tradition, weaving the classic ingredients through a storyline written with the assistance of Game of Thrones author George RR Martin.  You are ‘a Tarnished,’ tasked with venturing across the decaying ‘Lands Between to reunite pieces of a broken ring and become the ‘Elden Lord.’

It doesn’t matter.  For most players, the plot will come a distant second in a bold change in the FromSoftware formula:  a vast open world of great beauty where almost everything wants to kill you.  While the graphics look dated by current standards, the design is stunning: misty forests, golden cities, and rotting red deserts you race past on your trusty spirit-horse, Torrent.

(3) ROWLING DECLINES PUTIN’S DEFENSE. “Vladimir Putin Claims West Is ‘Trying To Cancel’ Russia” reports Deadline.

Russian premier Vladimir Putin has delivered a TV address in which he claimed the West is “trying to cancel” his country.

During a deranged-sounding rant, translated and broadcast by Sky News, Putin at one point said that Harry Potter author JK Rowling had been similarly cancelled “just because she didn’t satisfy the demands of gender rights”….

Rowling’s response was carried by BBC News: “JK Rowling hits back at Putin’s ‘cancel culture’ comment”.

JK Rowling has hit back at Vladimir Putin, after the Russian president cited her in a wide-ranging speech that saw him criticise “cancel culture”.

At a televised meeting on Friday, Mr Putin compared recent criticism of the Harry Potter author to that faced by pro-war Russian composers and writers.

In response, Ms Rowling denounced the invasion of Ukraine in which she said Russia was “slaughtering civilians”.

Rowling has been criticised for her views on transgender issues.

“Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics,” the Harry Potter author wrote on Twitter.

In the lengthy speech, which was given to the winners of various cultural prizes, President Putin claimed Russian composers and writers were being discriminated against.

(4) POLL TESTS SUPPORT FOR BOOK BANS. “ALA Poll Finds Public Broadly Opposes Book Banning Efforts” reports Publishers Weekly.

By large majorities, American say they oppose recent efforts to remove books from schools and libraries, and say they trust in librarians to make appropriate collection decisions. The news comes from a national poll commissioned by the American Library Association, released this week at the Public Library Association conference in Portland, Ore.

Amid a proliferation of new legislation in some states and an uptick in efforts to ban books nationwide, the ALA poll found that 71% of voters oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries, including majorities of voters across party lines. Furthermore, 74% of parents of public school children expressed “a high degree of confidence” in school librarians to make good decisions about which books to make available to children. The poll also found librarians to be held in high in their communities….

(5) COVER REVEAL. [Item by Bence Pintér.] Valancourt Books unveiled the cover for Attila Veres’s debut collection in English: The Black Maybe. Attila is the top Hungarian weird/horror author, I am really glad to see him published in the US. The book will be released in October.

…This volume collects ten of his best tales in English for the first time, ranging from weird fiction like ‘In the Snow, Sleeping’, in which a couple’s vacation to a health spa erodes into a surreal nightmare, to folk horror like ‘Return to the Midnight School’, in which the things that emerge from the soil in one rural farming community are bizarre and horrific, to Lovecraft-inspired tales like ‘Multiplied by Zero’, written as a wry travelogue in which a man sets out on a deadly holiday tour to explore Lovecraftian landscapes. And in the title story ‘The Black Maybe’, which Steve Rasnic Tem calls ‘one of the weirdest tales I’ve read in years’, a girl and her family escape the bustling city to experience farm life, only to discover with unimaginable horror the truth of what is really being harvested there….

(6) ESSAY: FRITZ LEIBER’S HUGOS. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] I recently listened to one of the audio versions of Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time, the one narrated by Suzanne Toren, which was his first Hugo win for Best Novel or Novelette at Solacon (1958). It would be the first of six Hugos and two Retro Hugos that he would garner in a long and distinguished career. (A movie based on one of his books also won.) So let me recount these. 

After the win for The Big Time, he next picked two nominations at Detention (1959), one for a novelette, “A Deskful of Girls” and one for a short story, “Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee” (and may I say that I really, really love that title?); another short story, “Scylla’s Daughter”, was nominated at Chicon III (1962), the same year he picked a Special Award for “The Use of SF in Advertisements”. Anyone care to tell me about this award pretty please? 

At the first DisCon (1963) he picked up a short story nomination for “The Unholy Grail”. Also nominated for Best Dramatic Production that year was Burn, Witch, Burn, also known as Night of the Eagle, which as you know is based off Leiber’s Conjure Wife, 

Loncon II (1965) saw The Wanderer novel pick up a Hugo, and “Stardock” was a finalist at Tricon (1966) as a short story nominee. “Gonna Roll Them Bones” picked up the Novelette Hugo at Baycon (1968) with “Ship of Shadows” garnering the Best Novella at Heicon ’70. 

The first Noreascon (1971) would see his “Ill Met in Lankhmar” novella win a Hugo. (I truly love those stories, one and all.)  And then the first Aussiecon (1975) would see his “Midnight by the Morphy Watch” novelette nominated for a Hugo and the next year at MidAmeriaCon (1976), his “Catch That Zeppelin!” short story won a Hugo. 

That’s it for Hugos, though there’s the matter of Retro Hugos too. L.A. Con III (1996) would see his Destiny Times Three novel nominated and Millennium Philcon saw the “Coming Attraction” short story likewise. Another short story, “The Sunken Land”, got nominated at Worldcon 76 (2018). At Dublin 2019, where two of his novels were on the Retro Hugo ballot, Conjure Wife outpolled Gather, Darkness for Best Novel, while his “Thieves’ House” novelette was also a finalist.  

His last Retro Hugo was CoNZealand (2020) for Best Fan Writer. He’d also get a nomination that year for Best Related Work for The Works of H. P. Lovecraft: Suggestions for a Critical Appraisal.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 25, 1927 Sylvia Anderson. Film producer, writer, voice actress and costume designer, best known for her collaborations with husband Gerry Anderson on such Supermarionation series as ThunderbirdsSupercarFireball XL5 and Stingray. She was responsible for much of the actual shows and the characters on them, in particular creating the iconic characters of Lady Penelope and Parker in Thunderbirds. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 25, 1920 Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor, of course. Troughton had a long genre resume starting with Hamlet and Treasure Island early on before proceeding to such works as Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell later on. Telly-wise, I see him on R.U.R. Radius playing a robot, on a Fifties Robin Hood show being that character, and later on in The Feathered Serpent, a children’s series set in pre-Columbian Mexico where he starred as the scheming High Priest Nasca. H’h (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 25, 1939 D. C. Fontana. You know that I’m not going to be able to give her complete précis here? She’s that complex a writer and producer, so I’m sticking to her writing side here. She’s first of all a script writer and story editor, best known for her work on the original Trek franchise but she was also involved on Logan’s RunThe Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She was a story editor on the short-lived Fantastic Journey, and so many revisions made to her script for Battlestar Galactica’s “Gun on Ice Planet Zero” that her name is nowhere near it.  Oh, and she created the story that became “Encounter at Farpoint”. Impressive that. My absolute favorite work by her is “The War Prayer” episode for the first season of Babylon 5, based on a idea by Straczynski.  She even wrote an episode of the series Reboot! (Died 2019.)
  • Born March 25, 1942 Richard O’Brien, 80. He wrote The Rocky Horror Show forty-nine years ago which has remained in almost continuous production globally. He also co-wrote the screenplay of The Rocky Horror Picture Show film which came out just two years later. He appears in the film as Riff Raff. He’s in Casino Royale as a stunt performer and in the 1980 Flash Gordon as Fico. The Robin of Sherwood series had him in a recurring role as Gulnar. 
  • Born March 25, 1942 Jacqueline Lichtenberg, 80. She was nominated at the second DisCon for Best Fan Writer, the year Susan Wood won, and Neffy (National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Award) for Fan of the Year thirty-four years later. She’s written a number of Trek works and more fiction in the Sime/Gen ‘verse which I hadn’t known existed until now. If you’re so interested in the latter, she’s extremely well stocked at the usual suspects.
  • Born March 25, 1947 Paul Levinson, 75. “The Copyright Case” novelette would garner him a much deserved HOMer Award. It was the first work in a series of novels and short stories featuring the fascinating NYPD forensic detective Dr. Phil D’Amato who first appeared in Levinson’s “The Chronology Protection Case” novelette. You can purchase it from the usual digital sources.
  • Born March 25, 1964 Kate DiCamillo, 58. She is one of only six people to win two Newbery Medals for her novels The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. I’m not familiar with the latter work, but the former is a wonderful read that got turned into a remarkably good film as well, something that but rarely happens alas. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) PRINCE VALIANT ART. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is offering art from “The John Cullen Murphy Prince Valiant Estate” – bidding closes March 31.

We’re pleased to offer collectors nearly 400 lots of Prince Valiant artwork from the estate of John Cullen Murphy, the man handpicked by creator Hal Foster to continue Val’s epic journey of adventure, romance and bravery. Never before have so many lots of original Prince Valiant art been available at auction, ranging from preliminary sketches by Hal Foster, to full-page strips by John Cullen Murphy from the 1970s to 2000s. The result is a feast for the eyes and heart, the grand illustrations that Prince Valiant is known for, coupled with the characters and tales that have captivated millions of fans the world over.

(10) WHAT WAS THE NAME OF HIS OTHER LEG? (Come on, you’ve seen Mary Poppins, you don’t need the straight line.) “Why C-3PO Had a Silver Leg in the Original Star Wars Trilogy”CBR looks for the answer.

Over the decades, part of what has made the Star Wars franchise so interesting to its fans is the slew of questions that have arisen from the films. While some of them were answered in future movies and TV shows, others remained largely unanswered or unexplored in any form of media. However, that doesn’t mean that there may not be some history to it in some way, and a great example of that fact can be found in C-3PO’s silver leg from the Original Trilogy.

In an interview with Threepio actor Anthony Daniels, he explained the various changes and updates to his suits over the years and how they’ve adapted over time. For example, when he reached The Empire Strikes Back, he discussed how his shin was never gold but a shade of silver. While it was easy to see on the action figures, most of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back made it far more challenging to see. But Daniels also explained some clever behind-the-scenes reasons as to why the leg appeared gold on camera….

(11) INHALE, EXHALE, CRUSH. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I know it’s not SF-ish but I do like questions like this… “Why boa constrictors don’t suffocate when they squeeze their prey to death” at Science.

The fearsome boa constrictor (Boa constrictor) lives up to its name. Whenever it’s hungry, the 4-meter-long snake wraps itself around rodents, birds, or even pigs, literally squeezing the life out of them. So why don’t boas collapse their own lungs in the process?

To find out, scientists strapped a blood pressure cuff (like the one your doctor uses) around the midsections of eight boas in their lab…. 

(12) TOMBSTONE TERRITORY. This might be a spoilerCinemaBlend gives directions: “RIP James Bond: No Time To Die Fans Can Now Pay Their Respects To The Final Resting Place Of Daniel Craig’s 007”.

… Through the Guide to the Farroe Islands website, fans of Ian Fleming’s legendary creation can now book what’s being called “the official James Bond tombstone tour.” On this seven hour excursion, a guided tour will take participants through the sights and sounds of Kalsoy island, where No Time To Die filmed its sequences involving the evil lair of Rami Malek’s Safin. The main attraction is the very spot where James Bond stood in his last moments, as that is now the spot of a tombstone honoring the man himself….

(13) PHONE ON A LEASH. “Too Much Screen Time? Landline Phones Offer a Lifeline” reports the New York Times.

First came the rhinestone-encrusted rotary. Then the cherry-red lips. After that, the cheeseburger.

By last summer, Chanell Karr had amassed a collection of six landline phones. Her most recent, an orange corded model made as a promotional item for the 1986 film “Pretty in Pink,” was purchased in June. Though she only has one of them — a more subdued VTech phone — hooked up, all are in working order.

“During the pandemic I wanted to disconnect from all of the things that distract you on a smartphone,” said Ms. Karr, 30, who works in marketing and ticketing at a music venue near her home in Alexandria, Ky. “I just wanted to get back to the original analog ways of having a landline.”

Once a kitchen staple, bedside companion and plot device on sitcoms such as “Sex and the City” and “Seinfeld,” the landline phone has all but been replaced by its newer, smarter wireless counterpart….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Spider-Man–Best Picture Summary,” the three Spider-Men make fun of the Best Picture nominees.  With The Power Of The Dog, they say, “You want Dr. Strange acting like a jerk?  We have that!”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Melanie Stormm, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Bence Pintér, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/22 Marconi Scrolls The Mamba

(1) GRIMM TIMES AHEAD. The Brothers Grimm Society of North America launched this week. “The BGSNA promotes the study of all aspects of the legacy and the spirit of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and their works. Website and membership info forthcoming.”

(2) MARCON ENDING. Marcon, the annual Columbus, Ohio convention, is calling it quits. I was Marcon’s toastmaster in 1977. At least that didn’t kill it. The con chair posted on Facebook:

Due to many challenges with which we are all familiar the current staff are stepping down. One of the panel tracks for this year will be “how to run a convention”. If you are willing to travel to Columbus in May to impart your knowledge on how to run a con there will be an entire panel track on just that topic. Please consider sharing your wisdom and experience with the folks coming next and PM me about your desire to sit a panel this May 6-8 at the final MARcon.

The Marcon.org website shut down earlier this month.

(3) VINTAGE PNEUMA. Christianity Today’s Louis Markos reviews The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped a Great Mind by Jason M. Baxter in “C.S. Lewis Was a Modern Man Who Breathed Medieval Air…”

The British Boethius

Like his friend Tolkien, C. S. Lewis was a man who loved all things medieval and who infused all that he wrote with a premodern ethos that hearkened back to an older, more traditional understanding of technology, books, wisdom, and morality. In his new book, The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped a Great Mind, Dante scholar Jason Baxter unpacks the full extent of Lewis’s medievalism. Just as Michael Ward demonstrated in Planet Narnia that Lewis keyed each of his seven Narnia Chronicles to one of the medieval planets, so Baxter demonstrates that the medieval worldview colored not only Lewis’s apologetics and fiction but his scholarship as well….

(4) NO STACKS OF BOOKS WITHOUT STACKS OF BUCKS. Publishers Weekly hears “Librarians ‘Disheartened’ by FY2022 Federal Budget, Preparing for Tough FY2023”.

Signed into law on March 11, the reconciled FY2022 budget (which began on October 1, 2021) contained only flat funding for the LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) at $197.4 million—despite the House last summer approving a $9 million increase that would have taken LSTA funding to $206.5 million. LSTA funding, which is administered by the IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) through grants to states, is the primary source of federal funding dedicated to America’s libraries….

…Amid rising inflation and continued economic volatility and uncertainty as the country emerges from the pandemic, flat funding is essentially a cut.

(5) MARLON JAMES. Boston Review’s Nate File interviews Marlon James, who says: “’Representation doesn’t just mean heroes. We need the villains as well.’”

Nate File: When Black Leopard, Red Wolf first came out, you joked that this trilogy was like an African Game of Thrones. That took off as the elevator pitch for the books, but they’re really very different. Do you regret making that joke?

 Marlon James: No, if for no other reason than it got people to pay attention to it. But also, I’m inspired by this idea that you don’t have to let go of the world of make-believe to tell a serious story. This idea that persists in fiction and in storytelling that realistic fiction is the grown-up genre and that fantasy is child’s play, even though fantasy, at a certain point in our evolutionary history, was considered fact. At one point, Zeus was a fact. For a lot of people, Shango is a fact. Game of Thrones supported the idea of telling a story that is decidedly adult—although I have no problem with teenagers stealing this book—but retain the fantastical and even the supernatural. It liberated how I always wanted to tell a story but never felt I could.

 NF: Why do you think things shifted? When did fantasy become inappropriate for adults?

 MJ: Christianity had a lot to do with it, and it still has a lot to do with it, because we look at fantastical things as inherently demonic. We’ve been burning women as witches for centuries. And, for better or worse, the rise of the nineteenth-century novel reproduced some of those ideas where things that go bump in the night are things that children believe in.

Margaret Atwood said once that human nature hasn’t changed in a thousand years, and the way you know this is to check the mythologies. I agree. I think that we reach for the fantastical sometimes to explain things that we can’t explain in the real world. For Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, only the fantastical could explain the type of horror that they witnessed in World War I. We still reach for allegory, we still reach for myth, we still reach for tall tales in order to understand ourselves….

(6) RANDOMIZED TBR. James Davis Nicoll recommends these “5 Extremely Unscientific Methods for Picking Your Next Book”.

Anyone can apply logic, taste, and methodical research to the problem of selecting which limited subset of the vast number of books available one is to read. Conversely, one can half-ass one’s way through Mt. Tsundoku using methods of dubious reliability. Don’t believe me? Here are five methods I have used, each more ludicrous than the one before….

(7) TAKARADA AKIRA OBIT. Actor Takarada Akira, whose resume was filled with appearances in kaiju movies, has died at the age of 87. Variety’s profile says:

…He made an impression in a major role as a Navy diver in the original 1954 “Godzilla” and thereafter was cast in series follow-ups including “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (1964), “Invasion of Astro-Monster” (1965), and “Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” (1966).

…After the collapse of Japan’s studio system in the 1970s Takarada’s appearances in films became fewer though his career revived in the 1990s with supporting roles in the films of Itami Juzo. He also appeared in new entries in the “Godzilla” series such as the 1992 “Godzilla vs. Mothra” and the 2002 “Godzilla: Final Wars.” He is credited in the 2014 Garth Edwards “Godzilla” as a Japanese immigration agent, though his scenes were cut from the film….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Now I have come to praise Farscape which debuted twenty-four years ago this evening on on Sci-Fi Channel’s SciFi Friday. I won’t claimed to be objective as regards this series as I consider it to be the finest SF series ever done bar none. 

It was produced originally for the Australian Nine Network, and was, as if you didn’t notice, produced in that country with an all Australian cast save Ben Browder as John Crichton.  It was created by Rockne S. O’Bannon who would go on to be involved in seaQuest DSV, Defiance and Alien Nation. He and Brian Henson were Executive Producers (along with a number of other individuals).

And that brings me to the Jim Henson Company which was responsible for the amazing look of this series. They produced two of the characters here, Pilot and Rigel, plus produced the appendages on Ka D’Argo’s face and the Diagnostic Repair Drones or DRDs, and of course the makeup that created the various aliens. 

The characters here make use of slang such as frell, drad and dren as a substitute for English expletives. I particularly like frell as it’s so obvious what it really is. 

So how was the reception for it? Buzz-eye.com summed it up nicely this way: “The beauty of ‘Farscape’ for the uninitiated is in how surprising the show can be; you genuinely never know what the writers are going to throw at you next, and I truly envy anyone who gets to imbibe in the series for the first time via this box set.”

It currently holds an eighty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

It would run for four stellar seasons and get a proper send-off in The Peacekeeper Wars after it got cancelled on a cliffhanger. A weird cliffhanger at that. If you’re interested in watching it again, or amazingly haven’t seen it yet, it is currently airing on Amazon Prime. 

That it got no Hugo nominations is frelling beyond the pale. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. A member of First Fandom fondly remembered by OGH and others, he began publishing genre fiction with “Eyes of the Double Moon” in Planet Stories in the May 1953 issue. He would publish some thirty tales over the next fifty years including three with Ellison (including “Rodney Parish for Hire” in Partners in Wonder). Much of it is collected in Final Tales. He was also a writer of mystery fiction, at least twenty-four novels. I’m not seeing him really at the usual suspects in either genre in any meaningful amount. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Best remembered as Number Six as the ever so weird Prisoner series which he both created and produced. He was prior to that series, John Drake in Danger Man which might connect to this series or not. Did you know that he had a long-running connection with Columbo, directing, producing, writing, and appearing in several episodes? He appeared in “By Dawn’s Early Light” and “Identify Crisis”. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1932 Gail Kobe. She has genre appearances with the more prominent being as Jessica Connelly in Twilight Zone’s “In His Image”, in another Twilight Zone episode as Leah Maitland in “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross”, and two Outer Limits episodes, first as Janet Doweling in “Specimen, Unknown” and then as Janet in “The Keeper of the Purple Twilight”. (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 86. She was Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, and Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner.  Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 67. So do any of the Die Hard franchise movies count as genre? Even setting them aside he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird sh!t), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down), Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill).
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 58. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series and on The Great War of Magellan film.
  • Born March 19, 1969 Connor Trinneer, 53. Best remembered for his roles as Charles “Trip” Tucker III on Enterprise Michael the wraith on Stargate Atlantis though he only provided the voice later on.  He also was Tycho “Ty”Johns in Star Runners, one of those good awful Sci-Fi films. How awful? It rates twelve percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld shows Guardian readers the periods of reading in the garden.

(11) ELEVATOR PITCH. SYFY Wire warns that “‘Moon Knight’ Goes Full Horror Mode In First Freaky Clip From Marvel’s New Disney+ Series”.

Here’s a pro Marvel tip: Never let a terrifying Ancient Egyptian deity corner you inside an elevator. Judging by the first official clip from the Moon Knight TV series (coming to Disney+ at the end of the month), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness won’t be the MCU’s initial foray into the world of horror. And here’s another piece of advice: if you’re ever scared witless by what may be a hallucination of an inter-dimensional being, pretend you dropped your contact lens on the floor. It doesn’t exactly work here, but it’s better than nothing….

(12) EMMA VS. J.K. “People Are Praising Emma Watson’s Alleged Jab At J.K. Rowling, Just Days After J.K. Went On An Anti-Trans Rant On Twitter”Yahoo!’s article amplifies what they’re talking about with video clips and tweets.

Earlier this week, Emma Watson graced the BAFTAs stage to present the award for Outstanding British Film.

She was introduced by Rebel Wilson, who joked, “Our next presenter is Emma Watson. She’s proud to call herself a feminist, but we all know she’s a witch.”

Once Emma reached the podium, she immediately said, “I’m here for all the witches.”

Here’s why people kind of did a double-take after that comment. Emma’s “all the witches” remark comes just a few days after J.K. Rowling did one of her infamous anti-trans rants on Twitter….

(13) CLICKS WILL ABOUND. Frankenstein or Dracula? Star Trek or Star Wars? Delta or Omicron? Time for the latest duel: “Wordle vs. Elden Ring: Which is a better game?” asks Slate.

Two massive cultural juggernauts currently stand astride the video gaming landscape. One is Wordle, a minimalist word-guessing game that combines elements of hangman and Mastermind with 3 million total players, many of whom have logged on to play each day’s new puzzle for months and counting. The other is Elden Ring, a brutal fantasy role-playing game released in February, which has received near-perfect reviews from gaming critics and players since release. So far, estimates suggest the multiplatform game has sold 10 million copies on PC alone—a big feat for a game that’s not even a month old.

As games, they couldn’t be more different. Heck, Wordle doesn’t even have any graphics, and failing to solve Elden Ring’s puzzles results in (in-game) death, not a broken win streak. But their differences aside, no two games have generated more discussion and discourse in 2022 than these. They’re early Game of the Year contenders, not soon to be forgotten or toppled. We all know, however, that only one game can be the year’s best game—and while it may be too early to tell, it doesn’t hurt to ask ourselves: Is Wordle or Elden Ring more deserving of the title?…

(14) THEY’RE DYING TO BE INVITED. “Margaret Atwood’s Dream Dinner Party Features a Crystal Ball and Hammer”  at bon appétit.

You get to host any three people, fictional or real, dead or alive. Who’s invited?
I’ll stick to dead people. If I fail to invite some living people, they’d be very annoyed. (Not to say other dead people wouldn’t be. I’d expect to hear from Samuel Johnson and Oscar Wilde, who prided themselves on their dinner conversation.) But here’s my invite list…

(15) THE TRUTH IS SEMI-OUT THERE. This week’s Isaac Arthur video is a look at covert aliens.

Clandestine conspiracies and covert alien activity are popular theories involving UFO & UAP sightings as well as in science fiction, but what would covert alien activity look like?

(16) JAMES BOND DOES IT BETTER FOR COMIC RELIEF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Comic Relief Red Nose Day is an annual BBC charity bash where comedians and others in a funny way raise money for good causes (not for comedians). By midnight last night, more than £42.7m has been raised in Comic Relief’s latest Red Nose Day broadcast, with a host of stars taking part in sketches and stunts. The total will rise as donations continue to come in. Comic Relief: Red Nose Day raises £42m in star-studded show – BBC News. Though there was much new material, we did get a dusting off of a James Bond skit first performed last year.  So, here is 007 meeting Nan (Catherine Tate)…

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day “Everyone who can’t stand ‘We Built This City’”.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/22 By The Time You Scroll Your Pixels, I’ll Be Filing…

(1) AN UNEXPECTED ADDITION TO THE PANTHEON. [Item by rcade.] You’ll never guess who is on the cover of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2022 Calendar. Lots of fun in this thread (which starts here.)

(2) UK CONVENTION WILL SHIFT DATES. ChillerCon UK, the counterpart to StokerCon, announced today they will be moving their dates due to Omicron. The new dates are to be determined.

… However, with the current situation regarding the Omicron variant, especially with regard to the ongoing travel restrictions in many countries, it’s proving impossible to keep to the current dates of 10-13 March 2022, much as we’ve tried our best to do so. We apologise for any inconvenience, but feel it’s vital to wait until things are safer, travel is less problematic, and we can organise a fantastic weekend where you can all meet in person.

To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we are actively discussing with the two convention hotels the possibility of moving ChillerCon UK to a date later on this year. We can not guarantee a specific date yet, but hope to be able to advise a suitable, safe, date as soon as possible….

(3) MYSTICON CANCELLED. MystiCon, an event planned for February 25-27 in Roanoke, VA, will not be held the committee announced January 3.

MystiCon has always been as much of a “family” reunion as it has been a convention. Knowing that and looking at business, staffing, health and safety concerns, it has become apparent that we will not be able to have the MystiCon that we know and love in February of 2022. This was not an easy decision but one that is necessary….

(4) LIVE LONG AND PROSPER. The New York Times follows Adam Nimoy “To Boldly Explore the Jewish Roots of ‘Star Trek’” at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.

Adam Nimoy gazed across a museum gallery filled with “Star Trek” stage sets, starship replicas, space aliens, fading costumes and props (think phaser, set to stun). The sounds of a beam-me-up transporter wafted across the room. Over his shoulder, a wall was filled with an enormous photograph of his father — Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on the show — dressed in his Starfleet uniform, his fingers splayed in the familiar Vulcan “live long and prosper” greeting.

But that gesture, Adam Nimoy noted as he led a visitor through this exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center, was more than a symbol of the television series that defined his father’s long career playing the part-Vulcan, part-human Spock. It is derived from part of a Hebrew blessing that Leonard Nimoy first glimpsed at an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Boston as a boy and brought to the role.

The prominently displayed photo of that gesture linking Judaism to Star Trek culture helps account for what might seem to be a highly illogical bit of programming: the decision by the Skirball, a Jewish cultural center known mostly for its explorations of Jewish life and history, to bring in an exhibition devoted to one of television’s most celebrated sci-fi shows….

(5) ANOTHER STRIKE AGAINST ROWLING – OR NOT? Alma, a feminist Jewish culture site, was among many publications that reported the following story on January 3: “Jon Stewart Speaks Up About the Antisemitic Goblins of ‘Harry Potter’”.

…In the clip, Stewart explains the decadence of some b’nai mitzvah parties to “The Problem” writers Jay Jurden and Henrik Blix with the line, “It’s basically like saying, the Jews have arrived. And we are going to dazzle you.”

To which Jurden playfully replied, “What chapter of Harry Potter is that in? That’s when they get to Gringotts, right?”

What proceeds is Stewart thoughtfully explaining how, in his view, the goblins in Gringotts bank are a sign of how little progress has been made in eradicating antisemitism. He also goes on to speak about what it’s been like for him to have to explain to people that the Harry Potter goblins are antisemitic — and his reaction to seeing them for the first time.

“It was one of those things where I saw [the goblins] on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, holy shit! She did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the fucking underground bank. And everyone was just like, wizards!”

But Alma reported today that Jon Stewart denies the interpretation put on his words: “Jon Stewart Clarifies He Does Not Think ‘Harry Potter’ is Antisemitic”.

…In a clip Stewart posted to his Twitter account, he says, “There’s no reasonable person who could’ve watched [the clip] and not seen it as a lighthearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums, having a [laugh], enjoying themselves, about Harry Potter and my experience watching it for the first time in the theater as a Jewish guy and how some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible, even in a considered process like movie-making, right?”

Stewart also clarifies, “I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic. I do not think that the Harry Potter movies are antisemitic.”…

(6) IDEAL GOVERNMENT FOR MIDDLE-EARTH. Henry T. Edmondson, the Carl Vinson Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Georgia College, gives Tolkien a working-over in “Tolkien, the Mob, and the Demagogue” at Law & Liberty.

…It may come as a surprise that, if Lord of the Rings suggests a warning about political systems, it is not about one-man rule: after all, the novel celebrates “unconstitutional” hereditary monarchy as the ideal government for Middle Earth, hence the title of the last third of the book, “Return of the King.” In this, Tolkien follows Aristotle that monarchy is the ideal government—provided the right king or queen is available, an admittedly difficult prospect. It is not easy to find an Aragorn.

Tolkien also writes approvingly of a natural aristocracy, if indirectly, in his important chapter, “The Council of Elrond,” where the best minds of Middle Earth acknowledge the threat of Sauron and develop a strategy to destroy the One Ring. An approving view of aristocratic wisdom is evident much later in the book, if to a lesser extent, in the chapter “The Last Debate,” where, once again, a small but elite group hold a war council and plan a diversion that might give Frodo and Sam the best chance to destroy the Ring. More philosophically, they consider the nature of the evil that they confront and the need to be prepared for the next assault, in whatever form it might appear, even if Sauron, the immediate Middle Earth threat, is vanquished.

But if there is one form of government of which Tolkien seems to disapprove in the Lord of the Rings, it is democracy. He once wrote to his son Christopher, that democracy is “nearly equivalent to ‘mob-rule’” and that “Greece, the home of philosophy—did not approve of it” because it too often slipped into dictatorships….

(7) HE TAKES IT DARK. George R.R. Martin told Not A Blog readers highly approves the work being done on the latest adaptation of his work, in “Most Anticipated”.

…I am anticipating HOUSE OF THE DRAGON pretty eagerly myself, for what it’s worth.   Okay, I am hardly objective.   And I know a lot of what you will be seeing.  (I, um, wrote the book).   Also … mum’s the word now, don’t tell anyone… I’ve seen a rough cut of the first episode.   And loved it.   It’s dark, it’s powerful, it’s visceral… just the way I like my epic fantasy….

… I think the Targaryens are in very good hands. Anticipate away. I do not think you will be disappointed.…

(8) ACCESSIBILITY DIALOGUE. Teresa Nielsen Hayden engaged Mari Ness about the accessibility issues of DisCon III and Viable Paradise in a Twitter thread that starts here. Two excerpts —

(9) REVISIONS. Hear from Sheree Renée Thomas in Odyssey Writing Workshop Podcast #143.

Author and award-winning editor Sheree Renée Thomas was a guest lecturer at the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about editing, what she looks for in stories, how to work with an editor, and what she asks for in revisions.

(10) FRANK DENTON (1930-2022). Fanzine fan and author Frank Denton died January 5 his son reported on Facebook. A Seattle-area fan, he was best known for publishing the fanzines Ash-Wing, from 1968-1978 and The Rogue Raven, from 1975-1997, although he also worked on many others. Denton also participated in several amateur press associations including TAPS, The Cult, Minneapa, N’APA, Slanapa, and APANAGE.

He worked in education for 30 years as a teacher, college library director, and media director of a community college. Denton talked about working on his writing after he retired, however, ISFDB shows only one published short story, which appeared in a 1984 anthology. He enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival. Frank was a kind man who was a popular figure in West Coast fandom, He was GoH at MileHiCon 6 (1974), Westercon 30 (1977), Moscon II (1980), Intervention Gamma (1981), and Rustycon 7 (1990). Frank is survived by his wife, Anna Jo.

(11) ELIZABETH MILLER (1939-2022). Count Dracula and Bram Stoker scholar Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Professor Emerita at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, died January 2 at the age of 82. She wrote or edited Reflections on Dracula, Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow, A Dracula Handbook, Dracula: Sense & Nonsense, Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition (with Robert Eighteen-Bisang) and The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker (with Dacre Stoker).

Miller was made “Baroness of the House of Dracula” by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula in 1995. She twice won the Lord Ruthven Award for her books about the vampire (2001, 2009). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dracula Society.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago, 12 Monkeys premiered. It would be nominated for a Hugo as Twelve Monkeys at L.A Con III but Babylon 5’s “The Coming of Shadows” would win that year. It would be the fifth Hugo nomination for Terry Gilliam as he had previously gotten them for Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime BanditsBrazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. None of the previous nominations resulted in a Hugo win either, though three (Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) finished second to the eventual winner. 

12 Monkeys was inspired by Chris Marker’s thirty-year-previous short French film La Jeté. The screenplay was written by David and Janet Peoples who would later write scripts for the 12 Monkeys series. David wrote the Blade Runner screenplay. The primary cast was Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer. 

Box office wise, it did very well as it grossed one hundred seventy million against just under thirty million in production costs. (It had been capped at that budget after Waterworld went way, way over anticipated costs for the same studio.) Critics generally liked it with Roger Ebert saying that “The film is a celebration of madness and doom, with a hero who tries to prevail against the chaos of his condition, and is inadequate.” It currently has a most stellar eighty eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

Elizabeth Hand wrote the novelization of the 12 Monkeys film. Copies are readily available pretty much everywhere.

It spawned a Syfy series which ran for four seasons and forty-seven episodes starting in 2015. Terry Gilliam was not involved in this undertaking.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty-five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long-running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1929 Russ Manning. An artist who created and drew the Gold Key comic book character Magnus: Robot Fighter; who drew the Tarzan comic book from 1965 – 1969 and the Tarzan newspaper comic strip from 1967 – 1972; and the Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979 – 1980. (Credit to Bill here at File 770 for this Birthday.)  (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorists who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a genre connection that’s will take some explain. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that tome about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones. Among the genre folk that have had a role in the band are Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 63. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out as voicing Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of my best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle 
  • Born January 5, 1966 Tananarive Due, 56. I’m particularly fond of her short fiction which you can find in her BFA-winning Ghost Summer collection which also won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award. The Good House and The Between are novels are worth reading for having strong African-American characters.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 44. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I listened to the third of her Sparrow Hill Road stories which are excellent and earlier I’d read her InCryptid series, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a physics joke – in its own way.
  • Bizarro shows aliens consulting an expert for advice — and who would know better?

(15) HULK SMASH – SALES RECORD. The Guardian stands by the register as a “Rare first edition of The Incredible Hulk comic sells for $490,000”.

A 60-year-old comic featuring the Incredible Hulk – in which the superhero is depicted in his original grey, rather than his signature green – has been sold for almost half a million dollars.

The rare copy of Incredible Hulk #1, which was published in 1962, was bought by a private collector for $490,000 (£360,000). Comic Connect, an auction site which handled the sale, said it was the most expensive copy of the first Hulk story ever sold…

(16) TWO CHAIRS. The two chairs, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss, talk about the best books they read during 2021 in a variety of categories: SF, Fantasy, Crime, Literary, Non-Fiction and so on. A great year’s reading. Episode 68 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast: “The Endless Bookshop”.

(17) THEY’RE BACK. “Stolen Lord of the Rings books returned to Worcester charity” – the BBC has the story.

…The charity said the books were taken from a locked cabinet at the store…

Dan Corns, commercial director at St Richard’s, had said the hardbacks featured first-edition text from 1954, but were all published in 1957, so while first editions, they were not first printings and were estimated to collectively be worth about £1,500.

“I had a phone call yesterday from the store manager to say that he was just going round the store tidying up and found they had been placed on shelf, which was not normally where would have been, so someone had carefully come in and put them somewhere where we would not necessarily see them but see the books at some time, and luckily we did before someone else saw [and] walked out with them,” he said.

“Obviously someone has thought about it and through their conscience has decided perhaps they didn’t do the right thing.”

St Richard’s Hospice supports more than 2,900 patients, family members and bereaved people in Worcestershire with running costs of £8.75m over the last year

(18) LOTR RAP. Utkarsh Ambudkar freestyle raps about Lord of the Rings for superfan Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. The rap segment starts 5:50 into the video.

The star of the hit CBS comedy, “Ghosts,” Utkarsh Ambudkar tells Stephen about his role on the show and then treats our host to a freestyle rap about our host’s favorite topic, the “Lord of the Rings” films.

(19) THIS IS YOUR LIFE, EGO. Here’s a curiosity – “Arthur C. Clarke on This is Your Life (the UK version of the show) from 1995.

(20) WEBB KEEPS WEAVING. Good news from Yahoo! “James Webb Space Telescope: Sun shield is fully deployed”.

… Controllers on Tuesday completed the deployment of the space observatory’s giant kite-shaped sun shield.

Only with this tennis court-sized barrier will Webb have the sensitivity to detect the signals coming from the most distant objects in the Universe.

Commissioning work will now concentrate on unpacking the telescope’s mirrors, the largest of which is 6.5m wide….

(21) CLEAN AND LIFT. “Gravity Could Solve Clean Energy’s One Major Drawback” reports WIRED.

Finding green energy when the winds are calm and the skies are cloudy has been a challenge. Storing it in giant concrete blocks could be the answer.

… The concrete blocks are slowly hoisted upwards by motors powered with electricity from the Swiss power grid. For a few seconds they hang in the warm September air, then the steel cables holding the blocks start to unspool and they begin their slow descent to join the few dozen similar blocks stacked at the foot of the tower. This is the moment that this elaborate dance of steel and concrete has been designed for. As each block descends, the motors that lift the blocks start spinning in reverse, generating electricity that courses through the thick cables running down the side of the crane and onto the power grid. In the 30 seconds during which the blocks are descending, each one generates about one megawatt of electricity: enough to power roughly 1,000 homes.

This tower is a prototype from Switzerland-based Energy Vault, one of a number of startups finding new ways to use gravity to generate electricity. A fully-sized version of the tower might contain 7,000 bricks and provide enough electricity to power several thousand homes for eight hours. Storing energy in this way could help solve the biggest problem facing the transition to renewable electricity: finding a zero-carbon way to keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. “The greatest hurdle we have is getting low-cost storage,” says Robert Piconi, CEO and cofounder of Energy Vault….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Dragon Age,” Fandom Games says that this prequel to the Dragon Age series has so much gore that you wish someone could conjure up a paper towel to wipe the characters; blood-specked faces.  And while there are many Tumblr accounts with people fantasizing about being one of the game’s many sexy characters, no one has sex with dragons, and “not being able to romance a dragon in a game called Dragon Age is like going to Pizza Hut and finding there’s no pizza.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/22/21 There’ll Be Time Enough To File When The Clicking’s Done

(1) WORLDCON PROGRAM. DisCon III has posted a basic outline of the times programming will take place – on their website here. They’ve also included specific times on significant events and for important DisCon III locations, such as Registration and the Exhibit Hall.

(2) OP-ED. Nicholas Whyte writes about the “2021 Worldcon Business Meeting agenda: my comments” at his LiveJournal, From the Heart of Europe. Here’s an excerpt:

A.3.2: Hugo Awards Study Committee – I was one of the original proposers of this committee. I am very disappointed with the results. The only concrete output that it has achieved in four years of existence is the addition of the words “or Comic” to the category title of “Best Graphic Story”. In the meantime other proposed changes have been killed off by referring them to this committee, which has then failed to consider them. I would not support the continuation of this committee’s mandate. I do not blame anyone, especially in the circumstances of the last two years, but I think we have proved that this is not a format that will deliver change.

On the other hand, if it is renewed, I would prefer to continue as a member, and I strongly urge (yet again!) that it takes the reform of the Best Artist categories as a priority. This was the main motivation for my proposing the committee in the first place. It is the single issue that has caused most headaches in my four years of Hugo administration. The Artist category definitions are very out of date, and present a risk to the future reputation of the awards because it would be very easy to make a public and embarrassing mistake. A bit more on this further down….

(3) C.J. CHERRYH HEALTH UPDATE. In a public Facebook post, C.J. Cherryh discusses the effects of her chemotherapy.

Coming to grips with chemo and change…

I’ve decided to go with the Gandalf look. I had reconciled myself to the Yul Brynner or Zhaan look, but I didn’t lose the hair with chemo. It just went snow-white and brittle. It’s not bad, now that I’m not trying to be Cher. I think I’ll let it grow and see if I can rock the look. I have a light hat I can wear when the wind’s blowing, so I don’t look like sfx surround me—it’s super light, and doesn’t stay put.

Complexion—well, that’s aged a whole lot. Dropping 40 sudden pounds will do that to you: I am developing…character. That’s my take on it. Always wondered where the lines would go. Not too bad.

Strength: that’s the big one. I don’t have much stamina for standing upright—or for walking very far…

She is getting a portable powered scooter and plans to attend cons as they continue to open up again.

(4) ROWLING DOXXED? “J.K. Rowling condemns activists for posting her address to Twitter” reports Yahoo!

…[On] on Friday, …activist-performers Holly Stars, Georgia Frost and Richard Energy held a protest ahead of Saturday’s Trans Day of Remembrance in front of Rowling’s Scotland home to protest what many see as the author’s anti-trans viewpoints. They held signs that read “Don’t Be a Cissy” and ‘Trans Liberation Now” and, while there, took a photo in front of Rowling’s house in which the address was visible, then posted it on Twitter.

Rowling’s thread starts here.

Rowling’s response included the Twitter URLs of the three who had tweeted the picture – they have since deleted their accounts.

Forbes has subsequent developments: “J.K. Rowling Slams ‘Activist Actors’ Who Doxxed Her During Trans Rights Protest”.

… According to Pink News, their demonstration outside Rowling’s home in Edinburgh, Scotland, was in support of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event to memorialize the scores of trans and gender nonconforming people murdered every year.

The Post Millennial reported Stars, Frost and Energy stood by their tweeting of the photo, but Stars tweeted they made the decision to delete it after a backlash from Rowling supporters:

“Yesterday we posted a picture we took at JK Rowling’s house. While we stand by the photo, since posting it we have received an overwhelming amount of serious and threatening transphobic messages so have decided to take the photo down. Love to our trans siblings.”

(5) PLAYING MONOPOLY. Kristine Kathryn Rusch thinks about what-might-have-been if the DOJ had been on the job sooner: “Business Musings: The If-Only Lawsuit”.

The United States Justice Department is suing to stop the big merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. That I can write about without a lot of research, because I’ve been following this merger for a long time….

All the promises in the world mean nothing when large companies merge.

I read the complaint for the suit the day the suit was announced. The complaint is worth reading because, if nothing else, it’s a what-if. What if the DOJ had been on this as the mergers started twenty years ago? What would the traditional publishing landscape look like now?

I can tell you: It would look completely different. Instead of the traditional part of the industry being dominated by five large conglomerates, the traditional part of the industry would look the same or better than it did in the early 1990s. There would be a lot of publishing houses, a lot of working editors, a lot of imprints, and a lot of competition….

(6) DC METRO NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This article about the problems of the Washington Metro is important because it’s going to affect DisCon III attendees.  The short version: one of the 7000 series of Metrorail cars derailed on October 12 and Metro pulled these cars out of service.  They haven’t brought them back yet. So Discon attendees should factor in extra time when using the troubled Washington D.C. subway. “Metro extends limited rail service through December”.

Metro will operate with reduced rail service through the end of the year as it works to return its 7000-series rail cars to the tracks, the transit agency announced Monday.

The trains, the newest in Metro’s inventory, make up 60 percent of the transit agency’s fleet but have been sidelined since the October derailment of a Blue Line train near the Arlington Cemetery station….

[Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld] said a more likely scenario would be a gradual ramp-up of service as trains are cleared to resume carrying passengers. In all, Metro has 748 rail cars in the series. The transit agency is operating with about 45 trains using its older 2000-, 3000- and 6000-series rail cars.

Wiedefeld said rail ridership, which had been around 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels, has dipped to about 28 percent in recent weeks.

No one was injured in the Oct. 12 incident, but an initial investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found defects in the trains’ wheelsets that could make them more prone to derailment. 

(7) OKORAFOR IN THE NEWS. In the Chicago Tribune, an article (which you may find blocked by a paywall) refers to fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor in reporting on Black residents who have moved out of the Chicago area. “Black residents leaving Chicago with few regrets”. Here are the paragraphs about her:

Award-winning fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor said she moved from the south suburbs to Phoenix earlier this year, drawn there by its year-round warmth. The author of 19 books, Okorafor said her resolve to stay in the Southwest grew after her daughter, Anyaugo, was accepted at Arizona State University.

“Each time I’ve gone (to Arizona), I’ve gradually fallen in love with the area because I love heat and the desert,” she told the Tribune. “Once (my daughter) got into ASU, it all just lined up and made sense.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1996 — Twenty-five years ago, Star Trek: First Contact premiered. It was the eighth film of the Trek films, and the second of the Next Gen films following Star Trek Generations. It was directed by Jonathan Frakes from the screenplay by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore. The story was written by Rick Berman, Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore.  It of course starred the Nex Gen cast plus guest stars Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell and Alice Krige, the latter as the Borg Queen. 

First Contact received generally positive reviews upon release. The Independent said “For the first time, a Star Trek movie actually looks like something more ambitious than an extended TV show.”  And the Los Angeles Times exclaimed, “First Contact does everything you’d want a Star Trek film to do, and it does it with cheerfulness and style.” It did very well at the box office making one hundred fifty million against a budget of fifty million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent rating of ninety percent. 

It was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2, the year that Babylon 5’s “Severed Dreams” won. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 22, 1932 Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being in Teenage Caveman, Starship InvasionsThe Lucifer ComplexVirusHangar 18Battle Beyond the StarsSuperman III C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that awful title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 81. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else.  Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his work for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had the staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes. Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  He’s not won any Hugos though he has been nominated for four — Monty Python and the Holy GrailTime BanditsBrazil and Twelve Monkeys. My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
  • Born November 22, 1943 William Kotzwinkle, 78. Fata Morgana might be in my opinion his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories of which there are many are quite excellent too.  Did you know Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of the screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? The usual digital suspects are well stocked with his books.
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Encyclopedia of Fantasy which won a Hugo at BucConeer.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo at Noreascon 4 for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of His short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 22, 1957 Kim Yale. Married to John Ostrander until 1993 when she died of breast cancer, she was a writer whose first work was in the New America series, a spin-off of Truman’s Scout series. With Truman, she developed the Barbara Gordon Oracle character, created the Manhunter series, worked on Suicide Squad, and was an editor at D.C. where she oversaw such licenses as Star Trek: The Next Generation. For First Comics, she co-wrote much of the amazing Grimjack with her husband.
  • Born November 22, 1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, 63. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978 Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well, that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Night. In all, she’s the only character that survives.  She would reprise the role of Laurie in six sequels, including Halloween H20Halloween: ResurrectionHalloween II and Halloween III: Season of the WitchHalloween (a direct sequel to the first Halloween) and Halloween Kills.  She shows up in one of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version. Is True Lies genre? Probably not, but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say.  No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career. 
  • Born November 22, 1979 Leeanna Walsman, 42. Spoiler alert. She’s best known as the assassin Zam Wesell from Attack of The Clones.  Being Australian, she’s shown up on Farscape, a Hercules series (but not that series), the BeastMaster and Thunderstone series, and Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord
  • Born November 22, 1984 Scarlett Johansson, 37. Best known perhaps for her role as the Black Widow in the MCU films including the present Black Widow film but she has other genre appearances including playing Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell which was controversial for whitewashing the cast, particularly her character who was supposed to be Japanese. 

(10) REUBEN WINNER. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a profile of Ray Billingsley, creator of “Curtis,” who is the first Black winner of the Reuben Award, given by the National Cartoonists Society for best cartoonist of the year. “Cartoonist Ray Billingsley has been portraying Black family life for decades — and now he’s getting his due”.

Ray Billingsley didn’t much like his second-floor Harlem home on Bradhurst Avenue back then. It was affordable — this being the mid-’80s — but he felt isolated, and he knew crime was a threat: “One evening while in bed with the window open, I actually heard three guys planning on burglarizing my apartment.”Yet this setting was also where, later that night after going to bed, Billingsley drew inspiration. He awoke with a creative burst. “I had a vision of these two kids. I sketched them down in the dark and went back to sleep. That morning, I found the first images of Curtis and Barry.”

There they were, two cartoon brothers — the taller one wearing Curtis’s signature ball cap, the shorter one in suspenders. With minimal line work, he had rendered his future….

(11) TAKE A BOW (WOW). “League of Super-Pets: John Krasinski Teases Role as Superman” at Comicbook.com.

…When DC’s League of Super-Pets comes to theaters next year, fans will get an odd pairing as Superman and Lex Luthor: facing off against Marc Maron’s scheming Luthor will be a Man of Steel voiced by The Office star John Krasinski. Sharing a still from the upcoming, animated movie, Krasinski revealed not only that he is Superman, but what his Superman will look like. The costume owes a debt to the one from the Max Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s — a look that recently popped back up again in flashbacks of Tyler Hoechlin’s character on Superman & Lois.

While the Super-Pets getting their own feature film may seem strange, the movie has an absolutely stacked cast providing the voices for its characters. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is starring in the film as Krypto the Superdog, the canine pal of one Superman. Kevin Hart, Johnson’s friend and frequent collaborator, will be voicing Batman’s four-legged friend, Ace the Bat-Hound….

(12) FAMOUS LIGHTSABERS AND WANDS. Julien’s Auctions “Icons And Idols: Hollywood” auction starts December 2. “I am almost grateful that I don’t have unlimited funds,” says John King Tarpinian, who sent links to such items as this lightsaber.

Collectors Hype ran a feature about some items on their “Original Movie Prop and Costume Blog”:

From the Harry Potter franchise: David Thewlis’ wand in his role as Professor Remus Lupin from the 2004 installment Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban ($5,000-$7,000), a wand used by Death Eater “Alecto Carrow” in the 2011 film Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows and Rupert Grint’s hero wand in his role as “Ron Weasley” from the same film as well as signed stamp sheets by the cast members, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, call sheets and Hogwarts acceptance letter;

Julien’s is also hawking “Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck voice artist Mel Blanc’s personal memorabilia” according to the Daily Mail.

Also included in the collection is a signed animation cel from 1958 featuring five of Blanc’s famous characters, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Bugs Bunny, Sylvester the Cat, and Daffy Duck. 

The cel is inscribed in black fountain pen ink on the background page, which reads, ‘For Pat/ with love from/ ‘Uncle’ Mel Blanc/ 4/8/58.’

(13) FIRST BLACK VOICES MATTER ACQUISITION. Angry Robot Books has officially announced their first signing through the Black Voices Matter unagented submissions.

Denise Crittendon

Denise Crittendon is a former editor of NAACP’s The Crisis, and her debut Where it Rains in Colour infuses romance, mystery and the mythology of the Dogon tribe of Mali, West Africa in a magical mythological retelling. Significantly inspired by her time in Zimbabwe, Crittendon questions and plays with universal beauty standards, and challenges the structure and system in which they live. Where it Rains in Colour will be published in December 2022.

Launched as an open submissions program for sff novels by Black authors in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, this window was originally meant to run from July to September 2020, but Angry Robot Books has since announced it would be extended indefinitely. For more details, click through here.

(14) ZERO GRAVITY NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport talks about how he experienced weightlessness for only $7,500 on a Zero-G flight from Dulles Airport, as he talks about adapting to weightlessness and how these flights give a lot of encouragement to disabled people who get to stand for the first time in years. “You don’t have to go to space to experience weightlessness”.

… I did the flips, flew arms wide like Superman, did the Spider-Man crawl along the ceiling, all in an airplane with a couple dozen others as part of a flight organized by Zero Gravity Corp. (Zero-G) that flew out of Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia earlier this month.

For years, the company has been able to create an experience for customers that mimics the weightless experience of going to space by flying in parabolic arcs. The plane flies up on a pitched ascent, and then crests over like a roller coaster into a steep dive that allows passengers to float for about 30 seconds at a time.

In a hollowed-out cabin of a 727 jet, with padding all around, your body rises involuntarily, and you float, effortlessly, as if you were a molecule in a state of matter that suddenly went from a solid to freewheeling gas, pinging around with abandon….

(15) ACRONYMS IN SPACE. “The Search for Life Around Alpha Centauri Just Took a Major Leap Forward”Gizmodo tells how.

Our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, is 4.37 light-years from Earth, which is super close from a cosmological perspective but achingly far from a human point of view. A new telescope promises to bring this intriguing star system, and any habitable planets it holds, into closer view.

The new mission, called TOLIMAN, was announced today in a press release. TOLIMAN is the ancient Arabic name for Alpha Centauri—the closest star system to Earth—but it’s also an acronym for Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighbourhood. Once in space, astronomers will use the orbital observatory to search for potentially habitable exoplanets around Alpha Centauri.

The international collaboration includes teams from the University of Sydney, Breakthrough Initiatives, Saber Astronautics, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Peter Tuthill from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney will lead the project.

(16) PUSHBACK. NPR tells how“NASA’s DART spacecraft will smash into asteroid to test planetary defense tool”.

…In the first real-world test of a technique that could someday be used to protect Earth from a threatening space rock, a spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Tuesday at 10:20 p.m. PST.

The golf-cart-size spacecraft will travel to an asteroid that’s more than 6 million miles away — and poses no danger to Earth — and ram into it. Scientists will then watch to see how the asteroid’s trajectory changes.

NASA has identified and tracked almost all of the nearby asteroids of a size that would cause world-altering damage if they ever struck Earth. For the foreseeable future, none that big are headed our way. But there are plenty of smaller asteroids, the size that could take out a city, that still haven’t been found and tracked.

It’s a space rock of that smaller size that the DART mission — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — will take head-on…

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Jim Meadows III, Chris Barkley, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 11/18/21 Always Pixeling And Never Scrollmas

(1) DOUBLE-BARRELLED VOTING DEADLINE. November 19 is the deadline for DisCon III members to vote for the Hugos, and ASFA members to vote for the Chesley Awards!

(2) HOW THE NYT BESTSELLER LISTS WORK. John Scalzi stepped in to set the record straight.

The Reddit link to his six-point commentary is here.

So, actual New York Times best selling novelist here.

One: The New York Times list very generally tracks sales, but also employs other criteria in order to mitigate “gaming,” — so, for example, they tend to disregard “bulk buys” of a book and will otherwise asterisk books they think have manipulated sales. Gaming the list is a moving target, so the criteria change over time. The point of the list is to give a snapshot of what people are actually purchasing but also, hopefully, reading (or at least giving to others to read).

(3) THE DOCTOR IS OUT. Radio Times knows we thrive on every crumb of info about the series – even the episode titles: “Doctor Who Flux unveils final episode title: The Vanquishers”.

The title of Doctor Who: Flux‘s sixth and final episode has been officially confirmed.

The Vanquishers will premiere on Sunday 5th December and will see the conclusion of the series’ “massive arc”, which has been spread over all six episodes in a Doctor Who first.

There’s a synopsis too, which hints at what’s in store for Thirteen and her companions. It reads: “In the final epic chapter in the story of the Flux, all hope is lost. The forces of darkness are in control. But when the monsters have won, who can you count upon to save the universe?”

(4) WOULD YOU LIKE TO GUESS? In the Washington Post, Adela Suliman says Warner Bros. is planning a big special for HBO Max for the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film, but no one will say why J.K. Rowling won’t be there. “Harry Potter stars ‘Return to Hogwarts’ in 20-year HBO reunion missing J.K. Rowling”.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who played the trio of best friends Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively, came of age on screen where they began as child actors on the fabled Hogwarts school set. The actors grew up in front of a global audience of ardent fans. Now in their 30s, they will join cast members and the films’ makers for a nostalgic TV special.

British author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the books the movies are based on and worked closely with the film’s producers, is absent from the lineup for the Warner Bros. television show. Representatives for Rowling told The Washington Post on Wednesday that they would not be commenting. Warner Bros.also declined to comment.

… Rowling caused a social media storm last year after she shared her opinions on Twitter and months later wrote a lengthy personal essay on transgender issues, and some in the LGBTQ community accused her of transphobia. Grint, Watson and Radcliffe publicly distanced themselves from Rowling’s comments at the time and said they stood with the trans community….

Watson, who played bookish Hermione Granger, shared the news of the television reunion on her Instagram page along with a photo of the young cast, and thanked loyal fans known as “Potterheads.”

“Harry Potter was my home, my family, my world and Hermione (still is) my favorite fictional character of all time,” she said Tuesday. “I am proud not just of what we as group contributed as actors to the franchise but also as the children that became young adults that walked that path.”…

(5) DECEMBER THE FIRST IS (NOT) TOO LATE. Yesterday the Authors Guild sent a warning to members along the same lines SFWA recently did, in respect to the National Library of New Zealand’s plans, and how authors whose books are included can opt-out. (Which they’ll also be able to do after December 1.)  

Despite strong opposition from the New Zealand Society of Authors and international groups including the Authors Guild, the National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ) is moving ahead with its plan to donate 400,000 books from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive for digitization and lending through its Open Library platform. This collection likely contains tens of thousands of books written by American authors—many still protected by copyright—and may include your books.

While it is unfortunate that New Zealand officials are choosing to partner with the Internet Archive—an entity that has consistently flouted copyright law—over our objections, the NLNZ is allowing any author whose book is included in the collection to opt out of the scheme in response to the concerns raised about the legality of “controlled digital lending.”

Authors who do not wish their books to be digitized by the Internet Archive and loaned out through Open Library have until December 1, 2021, to opt out and withdraw their books.
 

Here’s how to opt out:

      1. Check whether your books are included in the collection. NLNZ has provided an Excel spreadsheet of all titles it intends to donate. The spreadsheet is available on this page. Click the link labeled “List of candidate books for donation to the Internet Archive” (it is a large Excel file, so we suggest downloading it and then searching for your name by running a Ctrl+F search). 
      2. If your books are available, send an email to opcmanagement@dia.govt.nz and ask that they be withdrawn. Your email must include the NZNL’s “unique number” (column “I” on the spreadsheet) of each title you would like withdrawn, and proof that you have rights in the titles (emails from persons or organizations whose names correspond with rightsholders’ names will be sufficient proof of rights).

 If you need assistance, please send us an email staff@authorsguild.org.

(6) PETERSON OR HARKONNEN? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Can you tell which statements were said by a Canadian pseudophilosopher, and which ones are said by a fiendish villain from the novel Dune?  Honestly, I couldn’t pass this test even if the Reverend Mother held the Gom Jabbar to my throat.  “Who Said It? Jordan Peterson or Baron Vladimir Harkonnen”.

(7) A NEW HOPE. Orange County (CA) is getting rid of library fines starting next week. The library will still collect for lost or damaged items. 

Orange County Board of Supervisors approved to indefinitely eliminate library late fines. Beginning November 23, OC Public Libraries will take its 100 years of service in a new direction by removing late fines for overdue items. 

“Public libraries play an essential role in providing safe, accessible, and free educational resources for every member in our community,” said Chairman Andrew Do, First District Supervisor. “Eliminating late fines will incentivize residents to take advantage of county library resources once again and not be hesitant to take a book home during their next visit.” 

…OC Public Libraries wishes to reflect its vision of ‘Open Doors, Free Access and Community’ and welcome back patrons that have refrained from coming to the library due to outstanding fines. 

(8) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED FANZINES. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Ian Cooke with the British Library tweeted a link to an article calling for contributions to a doctoral research project about UK football fanzines from the 1970s to the present. The accompanying picture of a spread of typical football fanzines reminded me of some of our own generation of fanzines, with mimeo reproduction, some fairly crude art, and layout & design marked more by enthusiasm than talent. Parallel evolution among almost completely unconnected subjects. The direct link is here.

(9) MINUTE MAN. Marc Scott Zicree offers up the Twilight Zone Minute – “The Man in the Bottle”.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 — Thirty-six years ago today, Calvin and Hobbes first appeared in serialization from the Universal Press Syndicate. (The very first strip is available here to view.) Created by Bill Watterson, it was his first and only such strip after working in advertising and political cartooning. The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December 31, 1995. At the height of its popularity, it was featured in over twenty four hundred newspapers worldwide. Despite the overwhelming popularity of the strip, the strip remains notable for the complete lack of official product merchandising as Watterson is absolutely opposed to it being marketed that way. If you’ve purchased any Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, it’s bootleg. Everything by him is copyrighted, so I’m not including any images here. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 82. Well, there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that’s garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I wholeheartedly recommend, and I’ve heard good things about The Penelopiad. What else do you like of hers? 
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 75. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so that I read oh-so-long ago were superb. The Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his Stars Wars work as I never got into it. Though I’m glad the Evil Mouse is paying him for it finally. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 71. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction is quite excellent, and I see the usual suspects have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 71. I’d say that he’s best known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs, a neat feat indeed. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 68. His best book is Voice of the Fire which admittedly isn’t genre. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very close. Pity about the film which surprisingly has a forty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. His worst work? The Lost Girls which is genre in an odd manner. A shudderingly pornographic manner. Shudder. I’m also fond of The Ballad of Halo Jones and Swamp Thing work that he did as well. And let’s not forget that the The Watchmen won a well-deserved Hugo at Nolacon II. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 60. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards.
  • Born November 18, 1970 Peta Wilson, 51. Wilhelmina “Mina” Harker in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, a bit role as Bobbie-Faye in Superman Returns. Inspector in the “Promises” episode of the Highlander series. Though The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was not well received, she received a Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress for being in it which is rather surprising I’d say. 
  • Born November 18, 1981 Maggie Stiefvater, 40. Writer of YA fiction, she has myriad series, of which I recommend The Dreamer trilogy, The Wolves of Mercy Falls and the astonishing Raven Cycle. With her sister, Kate Hummel, she writes and records a piece of music for each novel she releases. These are released in the form of animated book trailers. She’s had five Mythopoeic Fantasy Award nominations but so far no wins. 

(12) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. The New York Times’ Michael Tisserand reviews American Comics: A History by Jeremy Dauber in “A Sweeping History of American Comics”.

…Dauber is particularly nuanced in dealing with the many controversies buffeting comics past and present, from debates over comics codes and depictions of sex and violence to questions of diversity, representation and authority “played out through the stretch of spandex.” He identifies comics’ “original sin” as the publishers’ failure to give creators proper credit, compensation and rights to their work. From there, he digs deep into comics economics, beginning with the $130 once paid to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for Superman and landing at the current multi-platform, multi-billion-dollar industry. There is no shortage of bitter ironies in this part of the tale: “In something that felt like an overdetermined symbol, the original check for $130 made out to Siegel and Shuster for Superman, the site of the grandest battle between creator and corporation, netted $160,000 at auction in 2012.”

(13) SAFETY CONCERN. Seanan McGuire, a GoH at last weekend’s Windycon in Chicago, tweeted about a problem she observed with people behaving like they’d found a loophole in the con’s mask-wearing requirement. Thread starts here. [Via Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News.] 

(14) ESSENCE OF WONDER. The Essence of Wonder team’s Zoom with 2021 Astounding Award Finalist Lindsay Ellis can be seen now on YouTube.

Lindsay Ellis is so cool! Astounding Award Nominee Lindsay Ellis author of Axioms End and Truth of the Divine joined Alan and Karen this last Saturday to discuss her work, nomination, and a lot of fun was had!

(15) BATTLE ROYALE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This trailer, which dropped today, asks, “What if all the DC superheroes, all the Looney Tunes characters, Tom, Jerry, and the Scooby-Doo gang were in one incredible universe where they could fight each other?”

(16) FLAKEY NAMES. Boston.com invites everyone to “Meet ‘SNOWbegone Kenobi,’ ‘Jennifer Snowpez,’ and the 160 other snowplows named by Vermont kids”. The full list can be found at VTrans’ “Name A Plow Program” webpage.

In October, Vermont elementary students were tasked with naming the VTrans snowplows as part of their Name a Plow Program. From “Jennifer Snowpez” to “Mr. Pushy” and even “Steve,” their responses did not disappoint.

The state’s elementary schools were tasked with submitting names for VTrans’ 250 snowplows from Oct. 4 to Oct. 22, according to VTrans. The named plow would then be assigned to cover the respective school’s district, according to the state.

…Some schools gave their plows intense names as they prepare to battle the stormy months ahead. The Lunenburg School’s “The Lion’s Snow Destroyer,” Rutland Area Christian School’s “RACS Snow Destroyer,” and “Snowcrusher” from Sustainability Academy to name a few….

The force (of snowplows) must be strong in Vermont this year, as there were six Star Wars referenced plows. “Luke Snow Walker” will be joined by both “Snowbegone Kenobi” and “Obi-Wan KenSNOWbi,” “Storm Trooper,” “Darth Blader,” and of course, “Baby Snowda.”

Other names also had creative references: “Perry the Plowerpus” was the “Phineas and Ferb” inspired plow name from The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales and “Edgar Allen Snow” was the poetic name of Pacem School’s plow….

(17) CATS NOT DECEIVED BY TELEPORTATION. We’re not talking about the “two to beam up” kind of thing, however, today’s Nature reports “Experiments involving ‘impossible teleportation’ reveal the cognitive powers of the house cat” — “A cat can track its human by voice — if it can be bothered to”.

Pet cats seem to be able to track their human companion’s every move — through sound1.

Domestic house cats (Felis catus) use visual cues to create a mental map of their environment and the whereabouts of any other creatures nearby. However, our feline familiars also have keen ears, which could assist with their mental cartography when their prey — or person — is out of sight.

To investigate this, Saho Takagi at Kyoto University in Japan and her colleagues attempted to hoodwink dozens of house cats through ‘impossible teleportation’ experiments. The researchers placed each cat in a room with two widely spaced audio speakers. First, one speaker played a recording of the cat’s owner calling its name. Then, the second speaker played the same recording after an interval that would be too short for a human to travel between the two locations. Video cameras recorded the cats’ reactions.

The team found that house cats were noticeably surprised by auditory evidence that their people had been ‘teleported’. The cats’ astonishment suggests that they can keep mental notes of their humans’ presence and map that person’s location by voice.

(18) LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENEY BRANDING IRONS FOR ANTS. If you can just find the little holes they made…. “Black holes slamming into the moon could end the dark-matter debate” according to MSN.com.

…A black hole half the size of a golf ball would have a mass equivalent to Earth’s. Even microscopic black holes, with masses comparable to asteroids, would’ve unceasingly sucked in and destroyed everything along their path. 

Slowly, as the universe progressed, swarms of them would have seen planetary systems rise and fall, and billions of years ago there’s a fair chance they’d have even whizzed through our corner of the cosmos. Eventually, these mini black holes would’ve sailed away from each other. But if they did exist, experts think they’d still be roaming in and around the galaxies right this second. 

They are, scientists believe, our newest lead on dark matter — perhaps the greatest mystery of the universe.

Dark matter quests that hope to unveil the strange, invisible particle or force that somehow binds the cosmos together often reach a wall. Solving the puzzle requires, well, actually… finding dark matter. 

So to ensure this innovative hypothesis isn’t a dead end, we’d need to locate unseen, miniature versions of black holes. But how? We have enough trouble finding supermassive, visible ones with high-tech equipment tailored to the search.

That’s where the moon comes in.

“There’s this funny estimate that you can do,” says Matt Caplan, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois State University and one of the theorists behind the research published in March. Caplan contends that if dark matter can indeed be explained by these tiny black holes, then at some point, they would have punctured the moon. 

Yes, you read that correctly: The moon might’ve been bombarded by atomic-sized black holes. Taking it a step further, the wounds they inflicted should still be up there; if these mini-abysses are proven to exist, dark matter may no longer be an everlasting enigma….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bruce D. Arthurs, Olav Rokne, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowrie, Michael J. Lowrey, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Story’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) COZY CATASTROPHES. James Davis Nicoll told me this is “A happy Monday piece.” Makes me worry about what the rest of the week is going to look like: “Five Classic SFF Novels About Environmental Disaster” at Tor.com.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)

This cozy catastrophe stands out because it’s a rare book in which humans are not to blame for deadly environmental changes. The novel begins quietly, as a meteor shower splashes down in Earth’s oceans. English Broadcasting Company reporters Mike and Phyllis Watson, who document the escalating crisis, see nothing alarming. Initially.

Unfortunately for the former rulers of Earth, the objects were spacecraft, delivering the planet’s new owners to Earth’s oceans. At first these enigmatic beings limit themselves to sampling the inhabitants of an occasional village to better understand their new home. Once they’ve settled in—and particularly once humans attempt to nuke the settlers—the aquatic aliens decide to conduct planetary improvements. Which is to say, they begin melting ice caps, providing themselves with more aquatic lebensraum. This also drowns the coastlines where atom bomb-wielding, land-dwelling pests tend to congregate.

(2) TWICE THE SPICE. Boing Boing spotted an Instagram post that edits the new Dune trailer into a comparison with David Lynch’s adaptation from the Eighties: “Watch: A spicy side-by-side of Dune (1984) and Dune (2021)”. See it at the link.

The newest sci-fi spectacular that is Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune might not include David Lynch’s battle pugs, but it does include some startling similarities with the original 1984 film.

(3) UNTRUE GRIT. A ZDnet writer says he got suspended for this: “On Facebook, quoting ‘Dune’ gets you suspended while posting COVID and vaccine misinformation gets you recommended”.

…[A] managing editor for commerce of our sister site, CNET, was beaming on Facebook about how he was able to get in to see a sneak preview of Dune, the Denis Villeneuve-directed film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic that is due for a late October release.

I’m sure many other people are as excited as I am about this movie. So I quoted [in reply] the duel scene in question, in which Sting, playing the charismatic and psychotic Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, shouts, “I -WILL- kill you.” I even put it in quotes so that there was no question I was quoting the film.

I thought nothing of it. I went about the rest of my evening. About an hour later, I was notified by Facebook that I was suspended for three days due to violating Community Standards.

I was shocked. Suspended for quoting a film? Without even using any obscenities? This seems… extreme.

Obviously, I had no intention of killing Russell Holly, envious as I was that he got to see this film months before anyone else. I am also not in the practice of murdering my editorial colleagues with poisoned daggers, as anyone at ZDNet will tell you….

(4) LEVY HASKELL HONORED. Stinson, a nationwide legal firm, recognized employee Fred Levy Haskell, a Minneapolis fan, with an award: “Stinson Staff Honored as Unsung Legal Heroes in Missouri and Minnesota: Stinson LLP Law Firm”

Stinson LLP is proud to announce 2021 Unsung Legal Heroes award recipients for Missouri and Minnesota. 

…Levy Haskell, work product support specialist, is based in Minneapolis. He is recognized for the guidance and optimism he provided to his team, as well as the complex tools he implemented during the transition to working remotely. Fred is appreciated for his upbeat nature and willingness to help anyone at the firm.  

(5) J.K. ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] J. K. Rowling seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym and confirmed she conceived his series on a delayed, crowded rail train.  The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed is a BBC Radio 4 series in which the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, talks to poets and writers in his garden shed.  An episode this weekend had J.K. Rowling as the guest. (You can also listen to extended version.)

She revealed that she too writes in a shed-like outhouse in her garden. Like Simon’s, it too is devoid of internet access so as to rid distraction.  She revealed that she had seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym using the name ‘Oliver’. She also said that she and her publisher decided to use the gender neutral ‘J. K.’ abbreviation.  She confirmed the story that the idea for Harry Potter came to her on a long-delayed and crowded train from Manchester to London.

She said that she always wanted to be a writer ever since she realised that the stories her mother read to her were written by someone.

With regards to writing, she says that her drafts are all hand written and outlines are in notebooks (which nobody has ever seen). The advantage, she said, of hand writing drafts is that using a word processor sees early versions deleted and once gone, are gone. The problem here is that sometimes she finds dialogue or a scene simply has not worked and that she realised that an earlier version had a better staring point for taking in a slightly different direction. Hand-written records are therefore very valuable. Simon Armitage confirmed that he too writes by hand. He said it was important for a writer to access the archaeology of the writing process.

Subsequent to the ‘Potter’ books, J. K. Rowling had been writing crime novels as Robert Galbraith. (The lawyer who outed her was fined £1,000 for breaching privacy rules.) Initially, though the Galbraith books had had critical acclaim, they had no commercial success, that came following the outing.  Simon Armitage asked Rowling as to choose her favourite of two other well-known crime writers: Ruth Rendall or P. D. James. Rowling, with difficulty went for P. D. James.

(6) SHELL GAME. Atlas Obscura ponders “Why Is the World Always on the Back of a Turtle?” Yes, Discworld gets mentioned.

ANYONE WHO’S EVER HEARD THE expression “it’s turtles all the way down” is probably familiar with the image of the world being carried on the back of a giant turtle. While that philosophical one-liner is of relatively modern vintage, the cosmic turtle mytheme has appeared in disparate cultures across the globe for millennia. In honor of everyone’s favorite intellectual quandary, let’s take a moment to celebrate the tortoises that hold up the world.

In his book Researches Into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization, the turn-of-the-20th-century anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor writes that the world turtle concept likely first appeared in Hindu mythology. In one Vedic story, the form of the god Vishnu’s second avatar, Kurma, is a great turtle, which provides a celestial foundation upon which a mountain is balanced….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2008 – Thirteen years ago this month, Robert Holdstock’s Avilion would be published. Set in his Ryhope Wood series, it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It would be the final work from this author as he died in-hospital at the age of sixty-one from an E. coli infection on the 29th of November 2009. He would be honored with The Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society the following year.  And they would rename their best fantasy novel award in his honor – now called the BFS Robert Holdstock Award. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class a very long time ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? I see his Time Must Have a Stop novel was on the long list at CoNZealand. (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 76. She first graces our presence as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellar’s last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. She was recently in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms as Mother Ginger, regent of the Land of Amusements. Her next genre role is in the forthcoming Shazam! Fury of the Gods as Hespera.
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 76. Winner of the Otherwise Award. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s also a major critic for the past thirty years reviewing fiction and nonfiction for The GuardianThe Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. He’s lightly stocked at the usual suspects though TheViriconium sequence is there at a very reasonable price. 
  • Born July 26, 1954 Lawrence Watt-Evans, 67. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve not read “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” which won him a short fiction Hugo at Conspiracy ’87. It also was nominated for a Nebula and won an Asimov’s Reader’s Poll that year. It’d be his only Hugo. So I’m curious what Hugo voters saw in it. Yes, I’ve read him — his War Surplus series is quite excellent.
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor, 64. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the second best of the Trek series to date and I’m including the present series in that assessment. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit. And she had a brief role in Torchwood: Miracle Day.
  • Born July 26, 1964 Sandra Bullock, 57. First film role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man, Practical Magic and Gravity to name but three of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 52. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. I’ve got his Firefly novel, Generations, in my Audible queue.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side depends on a literary reference – which I’m confident you’ll all get.

(10) WORKING TOGETHER. Literary agent Mark Gottlieb posted the interview that he conducted with Willam F. Nolan and Jason Brock shortly before Nolan’s death on July 15: “In Memory of Award-winning Author and Creator of Logan’s Run William F. Nolan”.

What is it like working together in a collaboration as two authors?

Nolan: Well, I have collaborated quite a bit in my career. I worked on the screenplay to Burnt Offerings with producer/director Dan Curtis, for example. I did most of the adaptation of Marasco’s novel, but Dan and I worked on other elements together. Of course, I co-wrote Logan’s Run with my dear friend George Clayton Johnson. That started as an idea of mine, but as the book took shape George added some fine elements. We literally typed the whole thing from notes in three weeks! We spelled one another on the typewriter in a hotel. I did the final polish later. Jason and I have worked on a lot of pieces together, also, but I’ll let him talk about that.

Brock: I come from a background in music, and having a band is quite collaborative. Also, I am a filmmaker, having completed two documentaries and working on others, and film in general is extremely collaborative. So, writing is a pretty easy way to work together as there are fewer people involved, at least in the active writing phase, as opposed to editing and preparing for publication. As long as the coauthors share roughly the same vision for the outcome, getting there can be a lot of fun, actually. It’s surprising the places a piece can go when you write something, then have the other person take your concepts and spin them, then you do that to theirs, etc. It’s a rush.

(11) A DIFFERENT TAKE ON D&D. Areo’s Christopher Ferguson restrains his enthusiasm, but what do you think? “Sensitive Masters and Wheelchair Accessible Torture Chambers: Dungeons & Dragons in the Culture War Era”.

…The collection is, indeed, progressive in tone. It has been noted that it includes a wheelchair accessible dungeon (a cause celebre for progressive members of gaming communities, though wheelchairs aren’t specifically mentioned in the book) and numerous nonplayer characters who use they/them pronouns. The collection also signals progressivism in other ways—for example, the new adventures de-emphasise the idea that good or evil motives are inherent traits of monster races. (This is a response to those who have protested that the attribution of inherent bad traits to this group is analogous to racism in real life.) And it includes a trigger warning of sorts: the accompanying book begins with a section titled “Be a Sensitive Dungeon Master,” which uses progressive buzzwords such as trigger and unsafe….

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Let the BBC break it to you: “Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson may not be astronauts, US says”.

…The Commercial Astronaut Wings programme updates were announced on Tuesday – the same day that Amazon’s Mr Bezos flew aboard a Blue Origin rocket to the edge of space.

To qualify as commercial astronauts, space-goers must travel 50 miles (80km) above the Earth’s surface, which both Mr Bezos and Mr Branson accomplished.

But altitude aside, the agency says would-be astronauts must have also “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety”….

I think this reminds me of a scene in The Right Stuff where test pilots insisted the Mercury capsule needed a window and some flight control capability. Because they weren’t just the human counterparts of the monkeys that had been shot into space.

(13) HEY, I GREW UP HERE. “This quirky L.A. museum is dedicated to San Fernando Valley history” – the Washington Post has the story.

…Of the thousands of artifacts displayed here, Gelinas says, it’s the extensive collection of electric and neon signs, some with graffiti still intact, that are the museum’s biggest draw. A neon sign from the now-defunct, iconic, Palomino Club, a famed North Hollywood country music venue that hosted talent such as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Tanya Tucker, is a crowd favorite, he reports. Other signs in the extensive collection include one from a Jewish deli, a Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery complete with windmill and a galloping horse that once advertised a local liquor store.

…Of the collection, Gelinas says, 25 percent is donated while the other 75 percent is “rescued,” as in Gelinas and his team get a call to come take an item that might be destroyed. These “History Watchdogs,” as he refers to them, call when beloved area signage or iconography is in danger of being torn down. When that happens, Gelinas says, he and his team of loyal museum volunteers, many of whom have been specially trained in removal techniques, take great pains to make sure things are done well.

(14) DC AT SDCC. During the DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow Comic-Con@Home panel on Sunday, the cast and showrunners unveiled a sneak peek at the remainder of the show’s sixth season — think bowling, board games, aliens, weddings, magic mushrooms, and a whole lot of dark drama involving John Constantine.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/21 All Scrollnanas Make A Pixel, And So Do Many More

(1) NEW PANEL FOR CORDWAINER SMITH REDISCOVERY AWARD. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Robert J. Sawyer and Barry Malzberg have retired as judges for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. A new panel has been created to select the honorees.  The new panel includes Rich Horton, Steven H Silver, and Grant Thiessen.  The new panel’s first selection will be announced at Readercon the weekend of August 13-15.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman declares “It’s pure pandemonium — peanut butter pandemonium! — with John Wiswell” in Episode 149 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Wiswell

Over the past year, you joined me as I’ve baked and shared homemade scones and pizza, or ordered takeout weiner schnitzel and sushi, my guests and I doing our best to seize those moments of community COVID-19 tried to steal from us. In this case, John Wiswell and I pretended we were sitting across the table from each other during the Nebula Awards weekend.

John Wiswell won a Nebula Award earlier this month for the short story “Open House on Haunted Hill,” which had been published last year by Diabolical Plots. He’s also appeared in NatureUncannyWeird TalesFiresideDaily Science FictionFlash Fiction OnlineCast of WondersPodcastle, and Pseudopod. In an astonishing show of prolificacy, he managed to posted fiction on his blog every day for six straight years, which I find astonishing. I found his Nebula acceptance speech astonishing as well; it was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

John and I were supposed to enjoy specialty hamburgers together this time around, only … something went wrong, as you shall hear. Why did I end up eating a chuck roast, brisket, and short rib burger while John only got to nibble on ice cream and carrots? For the answer to that question, well … you’ll have to listen.

We discussed his motivation for giving one of the greatest acceptance speeches ever, how he learned to build meaning out of strangeness, the way writing novels taught him to make his short stories better, his dual story generation modes of confrontation vs. escape, why what we think we know about the Marshmallow Test is wrong, the reason we’re both open online about our rejections, how the love of wallpaper led to him becoming a writer, why we’ve each destroyed our early writing from time to time, what he learned writing a story a day for six years, and much more.

(3) GARCIA APPEARANCES. Chris Garcia will be doing presentations at two Mystical Minds convention gatherings in the coming year.

Mystical Minds is a new Pagan, Paranormal, and Metaphysical convention created to expand our minds as well as our networks! 

Witches, Pagans, Paranormal investigators, psychics, mediums, metaphysical practitioners, UFO experts, cryptozoologists, mystics, and other free-thinking spiritual seekers will come together in person this fall and spring for two conventions in the beautiful Bay area of Northern California! 

For the Fall Gathering / Mystical Minds convention this October in Dublin, CA he’ll present:

History of Paranormal Research in the Bay Area

Before Ghost HuntersMost Haunted, or even Ghostbusters, San Francisco and the Bay has been home to research into the unknown. From occultists and de-bunkers in the early 20th century, to TV personalities in the 70s and 80s, to hard core particle physicists, research into the paranormal has happened here! Join Chris Garcia as he tells their stories! 

At the Spring Gathering / Mystical Minds convention next February in San Jose, CA he’ll speak about —

The Winchester House

An architectural marvel, containing a story of American eccentricity, and a debate over the potential paranormal aspects. We will look at the history of the House, the stories surrounding its building, the recounting of what people have experienced, and how development in the area may have something to do with all the fuss… both before and after Sarah Winchester showed up!  

(4) HARD DRIVES OF IF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the July 16 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses “interactive fiction” or IF, a genre between a video game and a novel.

After a few wilderness years (around 2000), IF re-emerged among a niche community of writers and intellectuals who organised around the annual Interactive Fiction Competition, founded in1995.  This renaissance as partially triggered by  progress in technology.  Writers developed methods for inactivity such as multiple choice as an alternative to the intimidating grammar rules of the text parser. New tools such as Twine, ChoiceScript and Inklewriter empowered those without coding skills to create their own games.  This contributed to a diversification of the creator pool, particularly encouraging queer writers who have broached provocative topics not tackled in the gaming mainstream, ranging from gender dysphoria to clinical depression to unconventional kinks…

…One of the most remarkable IF writers is Porpentine, author of the vivid story With Those We Love Alive.  On this tale of an artist enslaved by an insectoid empress, you roam an alien world of ‘glass flowers on iron stalks. Canopy of leafbone.  Statues sunk into the earth.’  Porpentine asks you to swap words out, wipe them away, and — most intimately — to draw symbols on your arm which represent emotional responses to the narrative.

(5) FREE DOWNLOAD FROM TAFF. Willis Discovers America and other fan fiction by Walt Willis is the latest addition to the selection of free ebook downloads at David Langford’s unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please. Here’s the download page.

An attempt to collect all Walt Willis’s short fan fiction, in the old sense of invented stories about real-life fans and fandom. This omits the long and much-reprinted The Enchanted Duplicator (1954 with Bob Shaw) and its sequel Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator… To the Enchanted Convention, both already in the TAFF ebook library.

The title piece is a wildly silly imagining of Walt’s first trip to the USA in 1952, written and serialized in multiple fanzines before he actually began the journey; the text used here is from the collected edition of 1955, which included a new preface and annotations explaining some of the more arcane in-jokes. Further items range from scripts for two recorded “taperas” or tape operas that had fans rolling in the aisles at 1950s conventions, to a 1987 recasting of The Enchanted Duplicator as a computer text-Adventure game. Most of this material has never before been collected.

Edited by David Langford, who has added a few more explanatory notes; research work by Rob Hansen and others; proofreading by Pat Charnock. Cover artwork by Bob Shaw, drawn on to stencil for the collected Willis Discovers America (1955). 45,000 words.

(6) YOU COULD LOOK IT UP. John Scalzi tweeted this response to an item screencapped here the other day:

(7) ELVISH. The On fairy-stories website interviews Elvish linguistic scholar Carl F. Hostetter, editor of The Nature of Middle-Earth, a new J.R.R. Tolkien book: “From Linguistics to Metaphysics”. The book proposal with many of the edited texts was seen and approved by Christopher Tolkien, who passed away last year.

In your opinion, why did Tolkien not develop completely the Elvish languages?

For much the same reason that he never completed The Silmarillion: at first, because things grew and changed in his imagination and their expression on paper, and then, after the intervention and completion of The Lord of the Rings, because he had to revise everything to make it consistent with the published book and the thousands of years of “new history” that the introduction of the Second and Third Ages required, a task he was never able to achieve. With the languages, this was because whenever he attempted to make “definitive” decision on some point of phonology or grammar, he would almost inevitably start revising the whole system, which makes sense since any language is a complexly intertwined system, such that a change in one feature or detail can and almost always does affect other aspects. Nor, I think, was it ever Tolkien’s intention to make the Elvish languages “complete” or “finished”: they were primarily an expression of his linguistic aesthetic, and its changes over time. Unlike, say, with Zamenhof and Esperanto, Tolkien had no utilitarian purpose in mind for his languages.

(8) THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the latest issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. Issue 7 features a piece on The Expanse by science, technology, and society scholar Damien P. Williams, and a piece on “Sultana’s Dream,” a 1905 Bengali feminist utopian speculative fiction story, by musicologist and media scholar Nilanjana Bhattacharjya.

One of the most engrossing things about the small-screen adaptation of The Expanse is how viscerally it examines the human costs of life in space. After being exposed to a massive dose of radiation, starship captain James Holden gets a permanent anticancer implant, like a far-future successor of a Port-A-Cath. And from the first episode, we’re made to understand that the Belters—descendants of humans who have worked, lived, and started societies on asteroids or the moons of other planets in our solar system—have different physiologies than the humans who still call Earth home. Gravity weighs heavier on Belters: it constricts their blood vessels, strains their hearts, and cracks their bones….

(9) HENDRIX INTERVIEW. See Kevin Kennel’s video interview of author Grady Hendrix on Facebook.

Author Grady Hendrix (‘Horrorstör’, ‘We Sold Our Souls’ and more!) graciously took time out of his busy schedule for an interview with our very own library staff member Kevin Kennel, to discuss his new book, ‘The Final Girl Support Group’ and his experiences as a writer and author. …Please note: this video contains adult content and is an interview about an adult horror novel.

(10) VISITING UTOPIA. Kim Stanley Robinson explains the usefulness of “The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction” in The Nation.

… But in this world, we are never going to get the chance to start over. This was one of the reasons Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels objected to 19th-century utopias like that of Charles Fourier, the French designer of small communes living in perfect harmony: They were fantasy solutions that served only to distract people from the real work of politics and revolution. They were also in competition with Marx and Engels’s own ideas, so there was the usual left infighting. But it was a legitimate complaint: If utopia isn’t a political program, then what is it for?

The answer should be obvious. Utopias exist to remind us that there could be a better social order than the one we are in. Our present system is the result of a centuries-old power struggle, and it is devastating people and the biosphere. We must change it—and fast. But to what?

Utopias are thought experiments. Imagine if things ran like this: Wouldn’t that be good? Well, maybe…let’s live in it fictionally for a while. What problems crop up in this system? Can we solve them? What if we tweak things this way, or that? Let’s tell this story and then that story, and see how plausible they feel after we spend some imaginative time in them….

(11) STEPHEN HICKMAN (1949-2021). Famed sff artist Stephen Hickman died July 16 reported his friend and colleague Ron Miller on Facebook: “Lost one of my best friends, Steve Hickman, this morning and the world lost one of its best artists and finest human beings.” Hickman had over 350 book and magazine covers to his credit. He won the 1994 Best Original Artwork Hugo for his Space Fantasy Commemorative Stamp Booklet. He was a six-time Chesley Award winner.

(12) JUDI B CASTRO OBIT. Judi Beth Castro died July 15 of a sudden illness. She was 58. Her husband, author Adam-Troy Castro, announced her passing on Facebook.

The love of my life, Judi Beth Castro, lost her fight for life at 10:50 PM Thursday night. The illness was sudden, and she was always in critical danger, but between Tuesday night and Wednesday evening her numbers were improving at such a steady rate that we thought there was hope. Alas, the decline began on Thursday morning and by afternoon there was no doubt….

Her genre credits include Atlanta Nights (2005; a parody which she contributed to with many other co-authors), and the short fiction “Unfamiliar Gods” co-authored with Adam-Troy Castro.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered as a black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures. It was originally going to be a syndicated television series. It was directed by Harry Keller, Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon as written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman. Its cast was Judd Holdren, Aline Towne, Gregory Gaye and Craig Kelly.  It would last but one season of twelve twenty-five minute episodes. And yes, it was syndicated to television on NBC in 1955. Some sources say Dave Steven based his Rocketeer character off of Commando Cody. And there’s a clone trooper named Commander Cody who serves under Jedi general Obi-Wan Kenobi, an homage that Lucas has openly acknowledged as he watched the series as a child. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his  short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri S. Tepper. Nominated for an Austounding Award way back when, she had a long career, so I’m going to single out BeautyThe Gate to Women’s CountrySix Moon Dance and The Companions as my favorites knowing very well that yours won’t be the same. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 70. She’s won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She won the 1994 Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, for lifetime contributions to science fiction, “both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late ‘Doc’ Smith well-loved by those who knew him,” presented by the New England Science Fiction Association. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one is depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 58. Ok, so her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and  Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Yes, I’ll admit that they’re two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. Update: I’ve discovered since I last noted her Birthday that she was in Drop Dead Fred, a dark fantasy. She also stopped acting six years ago. 
  • Born July 16, 1965 Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, 56. Best remembered genre wise as Tommy Webber in the much beloved Galaxy Quest though his longest acting role was Patton Plame on the cancelled NCIS: New Orleans
  • Born July 16, 1966 Scott Derrickson, 55. Director and Writer of Doctor Strange who also had a hand in The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Director), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Director and Writer), Urban Legends: Final Cut (Director and Producer) and the forthcoming Labyrinth sequel (Director and Writer). 
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 54. His last genre film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favourite Award,  Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. He also was in two of the Austin Powers films as well. Oh, and he voices Ted / The Man with the Yellow Hat, a tour guide at the Bloomsberry Museum in Curious George.

(15) BANNED FROM ARGO. Larry Correia told Monster Hunter Nation readers that he’s gotten his “7th or 8th” 30-day ban from Facebook. He posted screenshots from his appeal to FB’s Oversight Board in “Fun With The Oversight Board -Or- Better Sign Up For The Newsletter Before I Get Perma-Banned” [Internet Archive link].

…Facebook is a time suck garbage site that exists as the propaganda arm of the DNC/Corpo-Uni-Party, to spy on you to sell to advertisers, and to steal everyone’s personal information. After bamboozling all the content creators to go over there to build “community” they now hold them hostage because the content creators are scared to leave because they’ll take a financial hit (The Oatmeal’s got a great cartoon about it)….

(16) WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. FOREVER. Hackaday memorializes the “End Of An Era: NTSC Finally Goes Dark In America”.

A significant event in the history of technology happened yesterday, and it passed so quietly that we almost missed it. The last few remaining NTSC transmitters in the USA finally came off air, marking the end of over seven decades of continuous 525-line American analogue TV broadcasts. We’ve previously reported on the output of these channels, largely the so-called “FrankenFM” stations left over after the 2009 digital switchover whose sound carrier lay at the bottom of the FM dial as radio stations, and noted their impending demise. We’ve even reported on some of the intricacies of the NTSC system, but we’ve never taken a look at what will replace these last few FrankenFM stations….

(17) SUSTAINABLE USE OF SPACE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science:

Last month, at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, the leading industrial nations addressed the sustainable and safe use of space, making space debris a priority and calling on other nations to follow suit. This is good news because space is becoming increasingly congested, and strong political will is needed for the international space community to start using space sustainably and preserve the orbital environment for the space activities of future generations.

There are more than 28,000 routinely tracked objects orbiting Earth. The vast majority (85%) are space debris that no longer serve a purpose. These debris objects are dominated by fragments from the approximately 560 known breakups, explosions, and collisions of satellites or rocket bodies. These have left behind an estimated 900,000 objects larger than 1 cm and a staggering 130 million objects larger than 1 mm in commercially and scientifically valuable Earth orbits.

(18) SUPERPRANKSTERS? Isaac Arthur’s video “Annoying Aliens” contends, “Fictional portrayals of alien invasion or reports of alien sightings and abductions often imply motives which on inspection make little sense… unless perhaps the true purpose was mischief.”

(19) DISCWORLD COMMENTARY. YouTuber Dominic Noble says he has finally overcome his “sense of loss and deep sadness at the tragically too early passing of the author [Terry Pratchett] due to Alzheimer’s disease” and  is planning to do videos on the Discworld books. He begins with this overview of Discworld and his appreciation for it and for Pratchett.

(20) POTTER IN PERSPECTIVE. YouTuber Eyebrow Cinema considers“Harry Potter – 10 Years Later”.

It’s been a decade since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two arrived in theaters and brought an end to JK Rowling’s saga of witches and wizards. Like most 90s kids, I too read all the books and saw all the movies as a kid and teenager but have completely left the series behind since. Ten years later, how does Harry Potter hold up? In this video essay, I try to get to the heart of Harry Potter as while as examine my own relationship to the series.

No official works cited for this video, though I imagine my criticisms of Rowling’s transphobia will draw some ire. I have no intention of arguing the ethics or legitimacy of Rowling’s claims….

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, Chris M. Barkley, Jennifer Hawthorne, Steven H Silver, StephenfromOttawa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/21 No One Is Born A Pixel, Except In A French Scroll Where Everyone Is

(1) FANTASY ART EXHIBIT AND SYMPOSIUM. The “Enchanted” fantasy art exhibit opened at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA last weekend:

Donato Giancola: St. George and the Dragon (2010)

Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration explores fantasy archetypes from the Middle Ages to today. The exhibition will present the immutable concepts of mythology, fairy tales, fables, good versus evil, and heroes and villains through paintings, etchings, drawings, and digital art created by artists from long ago to illustrators working today. Mythology explores the adventures of Apollo and Thor, Perseus rescuing Andromeda with the head of Medusa, and the labours of Hercules; fairy tales depict the worlds of elves, fairies, and mermaids, and conjure dreams of Little Nemo in SlumberlandAlice in Wonderland, and Cinderella; heroes and villains follow the exploits of Arthurian legends, Prince ValiantConan the Barbarian, and The Lord of the Rings; and haunting images of sorcerers and witches, and battles between angels and demons embody the struggle between good and evil.

James Gurney has a report on his site Gurney Journey “Fantasy Art Exhibition Opens in Massachusetts” – including photos from the artists’ reception.

… Rather than setting up the exhibit chronologically, curator Jesse Kowalski arranged it thematically, with rooms full of new and classic paintings devoted to mythic themes, such as dragons, faeries, mermaids, and monsters. ….

This weekend they’re holding an on-line symposium: “Enchanted: Epic Adventures in Fantasy Illustration” with opening remarks from Sara Frazetta, granddaughter of Frank Frazetta, and two artist panels. RSVP at the link – there is a charge.

Artist Panel One: The Frazetta Legacy in Contemporary Fantasy Illustration: A Family of Artists

Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, Anthony Palumbo, and David Palumbo are gifted artists who have been inspired by the notable legacy of fantasy and science fiction illustrator Frank Frazetta. This panel will explore their art, their position as the first family of fantasy illustration, and the creative and technical approaches that has inspired the acclaim and admiration of many fans.

Artist Panel Two: The Epic Fantasy Adventure

The rich histories relayed by the storytellers, writers, artists, historians, and philosophers have helped to define epic adventures and fantastical characters through time, from The Epic of Gilgamesh in 2100 BCE to the dynastic rivals of The Game of Thrones. Alessandra Pisano, Donato Giancola, and Gregory Manchess will discuss their work as well as the fantasy narratives that have inspired it.

(2) TWO NGHI VO INTERVIEWS. “Nghi Vo gets the green light” – a Q&A conducted by Noah Fram at Bookpage.

When F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby entered the public domain in 2021, it became free game for adaptation. But unfortunately for any future reimaginings of the iconic Jazz Age novel, it’s going to be hard to top Nghi Vo’s historical fantasy, The Chosen and the Beautiful.

Shifting narrators from Nick Carraway to Jordan Baker, Daisy’s best friend and a fan favorite, Vo adds even greater power to Fitzgerald’s depiction of the haves and have-nots of American capitalism by making Jordan the adopted Vietnamese daughter of a rich, white couple. We talked to Vo about Jordan’s idiosyncratic allure, the dangers of Hemingway and more.

The Chosen and the Beautiful is a stunning book in its own right, but I’m essentially obligated to ask: What led you to adapt The Great Gatsby and why did you choose this particular genre?
Well, I’m absolutely a fantasist, so of course I was going to write it as a fantasy, and plus, it’s just too much fun to miss. The ’20s were wild to begin with, and the temptation to imagine people drinking demon’s blood cocktails, trading faces and chasing ghosts was far too strong for me….

One of the challenges of adapting a widely known work of fiction is creating something new and vital on a well-established canvas. How did you go about finding spaces to add intrigue, twists and surprises, especially since your readers will most likely be familiar with the events of The Great Gatsby itself?
So in writing The Chosen and the Beautiful, I more than doubled Fitzgerald’s word count. This actually makes a lot of sense to me because when I went back to read The Great Gatsby, what I found from a mechanical perspective is that Gatsby is a brick of a book in disguise. Fitzgerald doesn’t spell things out so long as the reader walks away with the general point. There are a ton of spaces to explore in the original. The ones that stand out most significantly to me are the secret conversations Jordan Baker is canonically having with Jay Gatsby, the ones that actually set the whole thing into motion, but those are far from the only ones! (cough, lever scene, cough)…

The Los Angeles Daily News probes “How this queer ‘Great Gatsby’ remake finds magic in reimagining a classic novel”.

Nghi Vo was halfway through writing a novel about “a young woman who was raised by dead people” when her agent suggested she begin work on what would become the novel “The Chosen and the Beautiful.”

The book she had been writing is still on her computer. “I haven’t gone back to it yet,” says the Milwaukee-based author, whose previous works include the novellas “When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain” and “The Empress of Salt and Fortune.”

With “The Chosen and the Beautiful,” which will be published June 1 by Tor, Vo reimagines “The Great Gatsby” from the perspective of Jordan Baker, who in this version is a young, queer woman who was born in Vietnam and raised in White, American high society. Vo also incorporates elements of the fantastic in the story, aiming to make the story seem true even if it ventures into the unreal.

“Which means that this could absolutely never happen in the real world at all. It defies physics. It defies logic, but somehow, it’s still true,” she says on a recent phone call. “That’s the grail for me when it comes to writing.”…

(3) SF SPARKLE SALONS. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched a new video series today: Science Fiction Sparkle Salons, hosted by Malka Older. The first episode features Karen Lord, Amal El-Mohtar, Arkady Martine, astrophysicist Katie Mack, and Annalee Newitz having a wide-ranging, informal conversation about a variety of issues in fiction and science, enhanced by factoids and graphics in the style of VH1’s “Pop-Up Video.”

(4) BRUSH UP YOUR INKLINGS. Brenton Dickieson tells “5 Ways to Find Open Source Academic Research on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

… Therefore, partly in response to student need and partly to encourage great research by you, dear reader–who also may not have a university behind you–I thought I would feature some places where you will find open-access Inklings research beyond my little website.

5. Free Materials Among Print Journals

Finding the right open-source material is always a challenge. Even though I am a faculty member at several libraries, I am always using my networks to find things that I need. There are some resources that we use as go-to places for accessible research:

  • Open JSTOR and Artstor, offering tools for search for materials online and in partnership with the libraries where you do have access
  • Also check out Open Access On MUSE
  • DOAJ.org lists open-access journals and articles
  • Google Scholar, a weirdly dated but moderately helpful resource for materials where you have specific texts or search-words; it does not distinguish between reviews, articles, and other academic resources–though it does list most of what I’ve done in the last 10 years (not everything is linkable)
  • Google Books, deeply limited but sometimes quite helpful in searching a phrase or two or finding an outdated resource, and includes the Books Ngram Viewer–a visual history of term usage
  • Kindle Samples are a good way to get a sense of what books might be helpful in your research and often includes a copy of the introduction or preface
  • Universities usually archive their MA and PhD thesis and dissertations, though some may be embargoed; and check your national research resources: Canada, for instance makes all of their publicly funded major projects searchable (see here, where there were four dozen results each for “C.S. Lewis,” “Tolkien,” and “L.M. Montgomery”)

(5) BAD TO WORSE. Camestros Felapton advances the Sad/Rabid Puppy saga to May 2015 in “Debarkle Chapter 42: May”.

… April had been a mixed month for the public-relations campaign of the Sad Puppies. Their apparent victory in the nomination stages was more than the leaders had expected and the scale of the controversy was possibly more than they had planned for. Nevertheless, they had started as winners. Brad Torgersen had gained some sympathy after the error-prone Entertainment Weekly article (see chapter 41) had falsely claimed that the Sad Puppies had only nominated white men. After anti-Gamergate campaigner Arthur Chu had referred to Torgersen’s wife and child as “shields”[2], Torgersen compared himself to a prisoner in a gulag[3]. However, both Correia and Torgersen had used April to argue with George R.R. Martin and his posts about the Puppy campaigns. Correia, in particular, followed his normal style of internet argument in an attempt to discredit Martin’s characterisation of the Sad Puppies[4]. While their responses pleased their followers, they reacted to Martin’s posts on “Puppygate” as if he were a major opponent rather than a potential ally in opposing the No Award Strategy[5].

The Sad Puppy campaign needed to start May with some positive presentation of their views. Unfortunately, things quickly went badly wrong….

(6) ROWLING REP’S NEW LITIGATION REVEALS OLD SETTLEMENT AMOUNT. A lawsuit in the UK has led to the discovery that Neil Blair at The Blair Partnership paid his former employer Christopher Little £10 million as a settlement fee in January 2012 after Blair set up his own agency in 2011 and took over representation of J.K. Rowling. Blair borrowed the money for the lump sum payment from Rowling herself. “Revealed: £10m payout for Harry Potter agent after Rowling fallout” at Evening Standard.

The only previous report of the settlement, in the Daily Mail in 2012, was based on a statement from reputation and crisis-management firm Project Associates indicating the parties had settled for an unspecified amount “believed to be worth millions of pounds.”

Publishers Lunch says Blair is now suing his former accountant, alleging negligence “in connection to advice relating to the restructuring of his business,” apparently related to tax treatment of that settlement payment to Little.

(7) DON’T TICK HIM OFF. “Q returns in time-hopping teaser” for Picard Season 2. (Can Federation time be broken any worse than it is in my comments software?)

In celebration of “Picard Day” (named for the celebration thrown on the Captain’s behalf by the children of the Enterprise-D back in the Next Generation days) on Wednesday, Paramount+ released the first intriguing teaser for Star Trek: Picard Season 2, and in the process set up a confrontation we’ve long been waiting for. The series has already revealed that the great John de Lancie will reprise his role as the enigmatic Q for Season 2, but that doesn’t stop the goosebumps when he finally appears, looking as mischievous as ever as he prepares to put Picard through yet another test. It seems all of time is broken, and Jean-Luc and his crew may be our only hope of putting it back together.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1996 — Iain M. Banks wins the BSFA for Excession, a Culture novel, published by Orbit Books. It would be his second genre Award and last English language genre Award for a novel following garnering another BSFA Award for Feersum Endjinn, one of four SF novels that he wrote that’s not set in the Culture, the others being The AlgebraistTransition and Against a Dark Background.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 16, 1894 — Mahlon Blaine. Illustrator who’s largely of interest here for his work on the covers of the Canaveral Press editions in 1962 of some Edgar Rice Burroughs editions. He told Gershon Legman who would put together The Art of Mahlon Blaine “that he designed the 1925 film, The Thief of Bagdad, but Arrington says that his name doesn’t appear in any of the published credits.” He also claimed to have worked on Howard Hawks’ Scarface, but IMDB has no credits for him. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 16, 1896 — Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 Hugo winning “First Contact” novella which is one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator in science fiction. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 16, 1939 — David McDaniel. A prolific writer of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels, penning seven of them with such names as The Vampire Affair and The Hollow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director, writing various APAs and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” which is to say he financially support the a Club. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 16, 1920 — T. E. Dikty. One of our earliest anthologists and publishers. At Shasta Publishers, with E. F. Bleiler, he published the first “Best of the Year” SF anthologies, The Best Science Fiction, which ran from 1949 until 1957. He did a handful of later anthologies. He also edited two issues of Fantasy Digest in 1939, and as the editor of Tenth Anniversary Program of World Science-Fiction Convention. (Died 1991.)
  • Born June 16, 1940 — Carole Ann Ford, 81. Best known for her roles as Susan Foreman in  Doctor Who, and as Bettina in  of The Day of the Triffids. Ford appeared in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born June 16, 1957 — Ian Buchanan, 64. Best remembered as Dick Tremayne on Twin Peaks. He’s done one-offs on the first Flash series, Quantum Leap, voice roles on GargoylesBatman: The Brave and the BoldBatman Beyond and Justice LeagueCharmed and Stargate SG-1
  • Born June 16, 1962 — Arnold Vosloo, 59. His best remembered role is as Dr. Peyton Westlake / Darkman in Darkman II and Darkman III, andImhotep inThe Mummy and The Mummy Returns. He’s done several notable voice roles, first as Black Adam in Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, and Abin Sur in Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
  • Born June 16, 1972 — Andy Weir, 49. His debut novel, The Martian, was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal“ which is only available as an Audible audiobook. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows two well-known comics antagonist trying to shrink their problems.
  • Tom Gauld’s cartoon, one fan claimed, is what attending this year’s ConFusion Eastercon was like. (Click on image.)

(11) BOOSTING GRAPHIC NOVELS IN LIBRARIES. [Item by Michael Toman.] Am pleased to report that the Overbooked (Overwhelmed?) Undersigned has had a pretty good success rate with his “Suggestions for Purchase” for Graphic Novels at all of the local Los Angeles area libraries where he has cards over the years. Would be delighted to have more Interested Library Users get involved, too! “Libraries Look to Sustain Surge in Graphic Novels” reports Publishers Weekly.

…In February, the GNCRT accomplished one of its key goals with the release of the first Best Graphic Novels for Adults list. Nominations were taken throughout 2020, and the final list includes more than 50 titles. It’s a big achievement because adult librarians have traditionally been reluctant to start graphic novel collections and have had the burden of starting to build them from scratch with fewer resources than children’s librarians.

“The adult list was needed, because adult librarians are among the last holdouts of librarians who don’t want to buy graphic novels,” Volin says. “This list has been incredibly helpful for librarians who don’t know anything about the format and who rely on selection lists, or for librarians limited by their collection policy to only purchase things that have been reviewed positively. A book showing up on a selection list like this almost guarantees that they’re going to be able to purchase it.”

Matthew Noe, lead collection and knowledge management librarian at Countway Library at Harvard Medical School and incoming president of the GNCRT, helped launch the adult graphic novel list. He has already seen displays at his local libraries with books from the 2020 list. He confirms that this is a big step for recognizing the category within libraries. “We harp on the legitimacy thing all the time, but this lends some weight to the medium,” he adds….

(12) KNOCK ON SPOCK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the June 12 Financial Times, Tim Harford discusses Julia Galaf’s The Scout Mindset, which has extensive discussion about Spock.

Spock’s model of other minds is badly flawed.  For example, in an early ‘Star Trek” episode, ‘The Galileo Seven’. Spock and his subordinates have crashed a small ship and face hostile aliens who kill one crew member. Spock decides to deter any future attacks by firing warning shots.  The aliens respond not by retreating in fear, but by attacking in anger, killing another member of the crew.

‘Most illogical reaction,’ comments Spock. “(When) we demonstrated our superior weapons, they should have fled…I’m not responsible for their unpredictability.’

To which Dr  McCoy   rages in response:  ‘They were perfectly predictable, to anyone with feeling.’

Spock is not being rational here, but the problem is not that he lacks feeling, rather he lacks the capacity to learn from experience.  He should have realised aggression is often met with aggression.

(13) MOVING UP TO THE WEST SIDE. New York YIMBY specializes in eye-catching architecture, like this eye-catching plan for some Manhattan condos.

…“Era is unlike any building on the Upper West Side with its unique cantilever structure that was developed to provide spacious residential layouts with various exposures to maximize fresh air and natural light, a collection of luxury amenity offerings, and a rooftop complete with a rare outdoor pool and expansive views of the Hudson River and Manhattan skyline,” said Omri Sachs, co-founder of Adam America Real Estate.

(14) THE DINO EGG IS IN THE MAIL. “Italian Customs Authorities Seized a Dinosaur Egg Hidden In a Package” reports Vice.

Italian authorities discovered an authentic fossilized dinosaur egg during a routine customs check, the Customs and Monopolies Agency announced on Sunday. 

In a Facebook post, authorities said that the egg had been found at Milan Bergamo Airport in Northern Italy in a package sent from Malaysia. A video embedded in the post appears to show a large and strikingly intact, pasty-colored egg. 

“Even dinosaurs pass through customs,” the Facebook post reads. “As part of [customs] checks on e-commerce goods aimed at fighting the illegal import of goods, we found an authentic fossil egg embedded in a rocky sediment inside a package […] This discovery was accompanied by a certificate of origin with dubious authenticity issued by an organization which was later found to be non-existent.”… 

(15) THE TITLE IS ACCURATE. Old West meets magic in Wizard With a Gun, a multiplayer survival adventure game announced at Devolver’s MaxPass+ showcase. Wizard With a Gun is coming to Nintendo Switch and PC in 2022.

(16) THEY FORGOT TO DUST. “Mystery of Betelgeuse’s dip in brightness solved”European Southern Observatory has the details. [Hat-tip to Paul Weimer.]

Betelgeuse’s dip in brightness — a change noticeable even to the naked eye — led Miguel Montargès and his team to point ESO’s VLT towards the star in late 2019. An image from December 2019, when compared to an earlier image taken in January of the same year, showed that the stellar surface was significantly darker, especially in the southern region. But the astronomers weren’t sure why.

The team continued observing the star during its Great Dimming, capturing two other never-before-seen images in January 2020 and March 2020. By April 2020, the star had returned to its normal brightness.

“For once, we were seeing the appearance of a star changing in real time on a scale of weeks,” says Montargès, from the Observatoire de Paris, France, and KU Leuven, Belgium. The images now published are the only ones we have that show Betelgeuse’s surface changing in brightness over time.

In their new study, published today in Nature, the team revealed that the mysterious dimming was caused by a dusty veil shading the star, which in turn was the result of a drop in temperature on Betelgeuse’s stellar surface.

Betelgeuse’s surface regularly changes as giant bubbles of gas move, shrink and swell within the star. The team concludes that some time before the Great Dimming, the star ejected a large gas bubble that moved away from it. When a patch of the surface cooled down shortly after, that temperature decrease was enough for the gas to condense into solid dust.

“We have directly witnessed the formation of so-called stardust,” says Montargès, whose study provides evidence that dust formation can occur very quickly and close to a star’s surface.

(17) TIME ENOUGH FOR ROVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new simulation claims to show that even taking slow ships there has been far, far more than enough time since the era of galactic formation for an advanced civilization to spread throughout a Milky Way sized galaxy. Gizmodo has the story: “Aliens Wouldn’t Need Warp Drives to Take Over an Entire Galaxy, Simulation Suggests”. At the link you can see a video clip.

…A simulation produced by the team shows the process at work, as a lone technological civilization, living in a hypothetical Milky Way-like galaxy, begins the process of galactic expansion. Grey dots in the visualization represent unsettled stars, magenta spheres represent settled stars, and the white cubes are starships in transit. The computer code and the mathematical analysis for this was project were written at the University of Rochester by Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback. Astronomer Adam Frank from the University of Rochester also participated in the study….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Biomutant” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Biomutant is an example of the rare “cute furry animals with guns” genre where the protagonist is “basically Sid from the Ice Age movies as a mass murderer.”

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