Pixel Scroll 5/7/22 Your Scroll, A Flame Of Pixel’s Desire

(1) BASFF 2022. Rebecca Roanhorse is the guest editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2022.

(2) PRO TIP. What’s the best writing advice J. Michael Straczynski’s ever been given?

(3) COMPLAINT: JUSTIFIED OR UNJUSTIFIED? [Item by Anne Marble.] This review of the new alternative history novel The Peacekeeper: A Novel by B.L. Blanchard might make an interesting discussion. There’s also a three-star review showing the same confusion. (This is one of the First Reads book for this month on Amazon, so the potential reviewers probably come outside of SFF, but still… Why can’t people just Google?)

(4) VIDEO GAME NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Norco, a point-and-click adventure game with magical realist elements based on the personal experiences of lead developer Yuts, who grew up in Norco, Louisiana near “a Shell oil refinery that exploded during his childhood in 1988, damaging his house.”

Norco‘s writing nods to Southern Gothic authors such as William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy alongside genre writers Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. Looking at a vehicle in your garden, you are told:  “This truck was your grandfather’s.  You remember hiding in his lap while he let you steer. The dead wasps that collected behind the seat. The smell of grease, whiskey and nicotine.’ This terse, stylish language is studded with sharply observed local vernacular and occasional bouts of impressionistic poetry whose adventurous metaphors only rarely stray into purple prose….

..If it all sounds sombre, the game leavens its storytelling with plenty of wackiness and wry humour.  There is a detective who wears clown make-up as a fashion choice.  A cat on a bookshop counter will, if stroked repeatedly, purr so ecstatically that it flies through the air, crashing through the ceiling.

(5) LIFEWRITING. [Item by Todd Mason.] Tananarive Due and Steve Barnes’s latest podcast features guest Patton Oswalt. All three are horror genre folks, among other things, including being screenwriters, and Harlan Ellison friends or acquaintances. “Lifewriting: Write for Your Life! Special Guest: Patton Oswalt!”

In this episode, Steve and Tananarive talk to comedian and actor Patton Oswalt about how horror helps us navigate difficult times, the horror-comedy connection, the late Harlan Ellison, and meditation as a tool for coping with stress.  

(6) GEORGE PERÉZ (1954-2022) George Pérez, the acclaimed comic book artist and writer known for his work on major DC properties, including Crisis on Infinite Earths and Wonder Woman, along with Marvel’s The Avengers, has died. The Hollywood Reporter noted his passing with a long tribute. He was 67.

Someone in touch with the family posted this emotional description about his last hours.  

To all of George’s fans and friends,

Constance here, with the update no one wants to read. George passed away yesterday, peacefully at home with his wife of 490 months and family by his side. He was not in pain and knew he was very, very loved.

We are all very much grieving but, at the same time, we are so incredibly grateful for the joy he brought to our lives. To know George was to love him; and he loved back. Fiercely and with his whole heart. The world is a lot less vibrant today without him in it.

He loved all of you. He loved hearing your posts and seeing the drawings you sent and the tributes you made. He was deeply proud to have brought so much joy to so many.

Everyone knows George’s legacy as a creator. His art, characters and stories will be revered for years to come. But, as towering as that legacy is, it pales in comparison to the legacy of the man George was. George’s true legacy is his kindness. It’s the love he had for bringing others joy – and I hope you all carry that with you always.

Today is Free Comic Book Day. A day George absolutely loved and a fitting day to remember his contributions to comics and to our lives. I hope you’ll enjoy your day today with him in mind. He would have loved that.

Please keep his wife Carol in your thoughts and again, I thank you for respecting her privacy. I remain available through the contact on the page.

George’s memorial service will take place at MEGACON Orlando at 6pm on Sunday, May 22nd. It will be open to all. Details to follow.

We will miss him always.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, The Fifth Element got its first theatrical exhibition at the Cannes Film Festival, an English-language French film directed by Luc Besson and co-written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen from a story by Besson. 

Artists Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, whose books Besson acknowledges are his inspiration for a great deal of the film, were hired for production design. The fabulous if admittedly over-the-top costume design was by Jean-Paul Gaultier who is not in the film. (I checked.) The filming took place in London and Mauritania when nothing in France was available. 

It is very much an adolescent fantasy, or fiction if you prefer, as he wrote it at sixteen though he was thirty-eight when it was actually produced. I love the cast which includes among many Bruce Willis, John Neville, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm and, in a role for the ages, Maïwenn Le Besco. Look I love this film — the casting is great, the story works and I love the universe here. I’ve watched it least a half dozen times so far. 

The budget was close to ninety million but it made back over two hundred and sixty million. Quite impressive indeed.

So what did the critics think at the time? Let’s as usual start with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune: “’The Fifth Element,’’ which opened the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, is one of the great goofy movies–a film so preposterous I wasn’t surprised to discover it was written by a teenage boy. That boy grew up to become Luc Besson, director of good smaller movies and bizarre big ones, and here he’s spent $90 million to create sights so remarkable they really ought to be seen.”

And let us finish with Marc Salov of the Austin Chronicle who obviously didn’t know how old Besson was he wrote the script: “The Fifth Element never takes itself too seriously. Oldman is hilarious as the effete, over-the-top Zorg; Willis plays essentially the same character he’s played in his last five films — ever the scruffy rebel; and Jovavich is gorgeous, charming, and thoroughly believable as Leeloo (thanks to some terrific post-English language skills). Even U.K. trip-hop sensation Tricky scores points as Zorg’s right-hand toadie. Although the film tends to suffer from a severe case of overt preachiness in the third reel (shades of James Cameron’s The Abyss), it’s still a wonderfully visual, exciting ride. Besson remains one of France’s great national treasures, and The Fifth Element is a surprising, delightful melange of old-school dare-deviltry and new-age sci-fi.” 

It has a very impressive eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for a Hugo at BucConeer, the year Contact won. It is streaming on Amazon Prime and Paramount +.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Oh, I loved him being Carl Kolchak on the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have I seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes, it was corny, yes, the monsters were low-rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in the Tales of Tomorrow series as Bruce Calvin in “The Duplicates“ episode which you can watch here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda, then she had the extended recurring role of Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. He’s won the BFA, Nebula, Skylark, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards but to my surprise has never won a Hugo though he has been nominated quite a few times. He has been honored as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. Another one taken far too young by the damn Reaper. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very, very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA-winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury, and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant and quite unsettling look at the theatre world. I’ve done several essays on her so far and no doubt will do more. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 71. SF reviewer for the LA Times, the unfortunately defunct as I enjoyed it quite a bit Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films. 
  • Born May 7, 1952 John Fleck, 70. One of those performers the Trek casting staff really like as he’s appeared in Next GenerationDeep Space Nine in three different roles,  Voyager and finally on Enterprise in the recurring role of Silik. And like so many Trek alumni, he shows up on The Orville.
  • Born May 7, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 53. They are the winner of a Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 with Charlie Jane Anders for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel, while winning a Lambda Literary Award. Very impressive indeed. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for their best short science fiction, “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. They are nominated again this year at Chicon 8 for a Best Fancast Hugo for their “Our Opinions Are Correct” podcast. 

(9) STRANGE HAPPENINGS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Olsen about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with Cumberbatch explaining that he thinks Stephen Strange is part of an ensemble and not necessarily the star. “Benedict Cumberbatch on Doctor Strange sequel: ‘It’s not all about him’”.

… Cumberbatch still gets opportunities to flex his own superhero muscles in the new film by playing multiple alternate universe versions of Doctor Strange. These include heroic, seemingly evil and zombielike versions of the superhero, who was created by the late Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and first appeared in Marvel Comics “Strange Tales” No. 110 back in 1963. Cumberbatch first dabbled with a Doctor Strange from a different world when he voiced the character in the animated series “What If…?” last year.

Ego seems to be the common denominator among the variants — he never works well with others. But Cumberbatch says Strange has to learn to rely on someone other than himself.

“These parallel existences have a similarity about them but there’s also key differences,” Cumberbatch said. “It was a challenge … to create something that’s different but at the same time recognizably Strange. There’s an element of him that’s constant. But he’s still really injured by his ego and his arrogance and his belief that he has to be the one holding the knife. This film really undoes that logic and stress-tests him in a way that means his evolution is such that he can’t operate as a solo entity. He has to collaborate.”…

(10) THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR HAWKING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Starfleet boots seen on the new series will be made available to the public and will retail for about $500 Cdn. “Vancouver designer’s boots on deck as official shoes of the Enterprise in new Star Trek series” reports CBC News. And there’s no stitching in them because in space no one can see a sewing machine!

Vancouver’s John Fluevog is joining the USS Enterprise this spring as Starfleet’s official bootmaker.

Fluevog, whose shoes have been worn by the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and even B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, designed footwear for the cast of the new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which premieres May 5. 

He said he feels a sense of connection to Star Trek in that both his shoes and the series offer a sense of escapism….

(11) CASTING COINCIDENCE. “West Side Story Actor Brings His Talents To He-Man” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Boston Dynamics’s Spot is a hard-working robot but he still likes showing off his latest dance moves! “No Time to Dance”.

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

Last Dangerous Visions Acquired By Blackstone Publishing

J. Michael Straczynski today announced that a deal to publish Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions, as well as its predecessors, Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions has been struck with Blackstone Publishing via Emma Parry at the Janklow & Nesbit Agency, and was announced at the London Book Fair. He says the book is slated for publication in 2023.

Straczynski also told Facebook readers:

Blackstone is a major, mainstream publisher, handling such authors as Cory Doctorow, Ben Bova and James Clavell, and has the capacity to get Harlan’s work out into brick-and-mortar bookstores as well as online retailers in mass market editions for the first time in many years.

The books will be published in hardcover, paperback, ebook and audiobook. They will be available for purchase individually and in a separate, unified edition. With TLDV formally finished and scheduled for publication, this completes the Dangerous Vision trilogy of anthologies.

[Thanks to John Mark Ockerbloom for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/22 Those Who Cannot Remember Past Pixel Scrolls Are Doomed To Re-File Them

(1) CAT RAMBO AT FUTURE TENSE. The new entry from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives. Cat Rambo’s “The Woman Who Wanted to Be Trees” at Slate.

“For someone like me,” Nefirah’s client said, “it’s not a question of whether or not I’ll be remembered. The question is precisely how.”…

Tamara Kneese, an expert on the digital afterlife, delivers a response in her essay “Is a Lasting Digital Memorial to a Dead Person Even Possible?”

I’m a death scholar and a sustainability researcher at a major tech company, so Cat Rambo’s “The Woman Who Wanted to be Trees” hit home. In the story, a death care worker is asked to memorialize clients in innovative ways, using cutting-edge technologies to blur the boundaries between life and death, and between humans and the natural world. For the past 15 years, I have been researching how people use technology to remember and communicate with the dead. My forthcoming book, Death Glitch: How Techno-Solutionism Fails Us in This Life and Beyond, explores the fundamental incompatibility between dreams of technologically mediated life extension and the planned obsolescence of material technologies…. 

(2) AUTHOR MAGNET. The inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will take place May 20-23, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, NM. The authors who are scheduled to appear include Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, Joy Harjo, Anne Hillerman, Craig Johnson, Phil Klay, Jon Krakauer, Emily St. John Mandel, George R.R. Martin, N. Scott Momaday, James McGrath Morris, Douglas Preston, Rebecca Roanhorse, Bob Shacochis, Colson Whitehead and Don Winslow.

Besides author readings and book signings, the festival will feature meals during which chefs and food writers will talk about the food they’ve prepared, their work and their books; Walk & Talks, during which attendees and authors will together explore parts of Santa Fe; and Tea & Tequila, featuring tea and tequila tastings. On Monday, the last day of the festival, attendees will be able to go on literary day trips in Santa Fe and nearby areas in northern New Mexico.

(3) FRESH VIEWPOINT. Artists & Climate Change’s “Wild Authors: Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki” is a Q&A with a 2022 double-Hugo-nominee and editor of The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

In your short story “Mercy of the Wild,” you wrote from the viewpoint of a lion. What inspired that story?

“Mercy of the Wild” was a point of experimentation for me. I love to experiment with forms and styles or speculative fiction, and that was one such experiment that I was delighted to follow up on. The story was inspired by an almost childlike, wide-eyed curiosity about what goes on in the minds of the creatures we share the planet with. What if we heard their story, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Or as the Igbo proverb says, “Until the lion learns to tell its story, the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” This got me wondering, what if the roles were reversed? Its telling impresses on me the need for people of diverse cultures to champion and find spaces for their stories to thrive in the world of today.

(4) GREAT LEAP FORWARD.  Cora Buhlert was a guest on the Dickheads podcast (as in Philip K. Dick) and discussed “‘The Big Jump’ – Leigh Brackett” with Grant Warmack and host David Agranoff.

In the first episode of this podcast, Solar Lottery, David said he would someday do this episode. So four years later, in January of this year, he sat down with a couple of colleagues and discussed the lesser-known novel The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett. The pair of talents he was privileged to have here are newcomer to Leigh Brackett writer/music manager/tarot reader Grant Wamack and long time ‘Bracketteer’ teacher/translator/writer and three time Hugo nominee Cora Buhlert. Enjoy.

(5) S&S: Here is more about the nascent New Edge sword and sorcery movement: “New Edge S&S Guest Post: Oliver Brackenbury” at Scott Oden’s blog.

[Scott Oden:] I put out the call, a few days ago, for a few guest posts relating to the New Edge of Sword & Sorcery. And here is our first victim . . . er, participant. Oliver is a podcaster, a screenwriter, and a novelist; he’s also one of the organizers of the whole New Edge movement. Oliver, you have the floor . .

[Oliver Brackenbury]: …I’ve been in conversations like that before, in other scenes and settings, and I thought “Wouldn’t be nice if all this energy was directed at really changing the situation?”. So I proposed an open, yet specific question – “What could we do to get more young people into this genre we all love?”.

Now, I can take credit for asking the question, but I cannot take credit for the incredible amount of energy I unwittingly tapped into by asking it. The conversation that took off was galloping and enthusiastic and good-natured and productive and WOW!

Scott Oden’s own thoughts about the movement appear in “Putting a NEW EDGE on an Old Blade”.

A genre can grow dull. The accretion of old social mores — the misogyny, racism, and homophobia of bygone eras — can oxidize a genre, making it seem as graceless as a barnacle-encrusted hunk of metal drawn from the sea. A genre’s founders can (and will) die, leaving less-invested imitators to tease out only the surface tropes while its deeper meanings are lost to the ages. And, over time, that genre starts to become irrelevant to the world at large.

In today’s fiction market, this is largely the fate of sword-and-sorcery. Mainstream publishers are loath to market a work as S&S because they consider it a dead end market. Readers less concerned with genre labels use the term nowadays to describe any book with swordplay and magic, from Tolkien to Pratchett — and they’re unaware that it has (or had) a very specific meaning. In short, the term sword-and-sorcery has lost its edge. It has rusted, and is stuck in a very old and problematic scabbard.

There is, however, a nascent movement that has started in the small press sphere to remove that blade from its sheath, to clean the rust from it, sharpen it on a grinding wheel, and fashion a new scabbard — one free from the old problems of the genre. That movement is called the NEW EDGE of S&S….

(6) SUBGENRE GETS NEWSLETTER SOURCE. There’s now also a free weekly sword and sorcery newsletter with the delightful name “Thews You Can Use” from Sword & Sorcery News. It just started.

This week’s Roundup will be a little different—not that you’d know, since it’s the first. Rather than covering the week in S&S news, I’ll go back over the last couple months. Here’s a quick roundup of S&S news from February through April…. 

(7) MURDERBOT AND POLICY. The New America website will hold a gathering of its Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club to discuss All Systems Red on June 1 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the next, we have selected All Systems Red by Martha Wells.

The novel explores a spacefaring future in which corporate-driven exploratory missions rely heavily on security androids. In Wells’ engaging – at times funny – tale, one such android hacks its own system to attain more autonomy from the humans he is accompanying. The result is a thought-provoking inquiry into the evolving nature of potential human-robot relations.

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 1 to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book (though we picked a short one this time!).

(8) SPACE FORCE OFFICIALLY GROUNDED. I hadn’t realized the show wasn’t already canceled. Well, it is now: “Netflix cancels Steve Carell sci-fi comedy ‘Space Force’” reports SYFY Wire.

…In addition to Carell as General Mark Naird, the show also starred an A-list supporting cast of John Malkovich (Dr. Adrian Mallory), Ben Schwartz (F. Tony Scarapiducci), Tawny Newsome (Captain Angela Ali), Lisa Kudrow (Maggie Naird), and Diana Silvers (Erin Naird). 

That group is chock full of talent, which may have been part of its downfall — according to THR, the show’s large budget was reportedly in part because of the actors’ salaries, with Carell getting over $1 million per episode. That much built in spending, along with mixed reviews for both seasons, apparently resulted in a failure for Space Force to (ahem) launch into a third season…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1938 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Not his official appearance as Bugs Bunny that will happen in “A Wild Hare” on July 27, 1940. But a preliminary version of the character we now know as him first showed up in “Porky’s Hare Hunt” eighty-four years ago today. The Looney Tunes cartoon was directed by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway (do note his name) and an uncredited Cal Dalton. It stars Porky Pig as a hunter whose quarry is a rabbit named Happy. Yes, Happy.

Oh, I well know that most Bugs Bunny fans will tell you that July 27 is the day that he was created as that is the anniversary of the 1940 debut of the familiar rabbit and his adversary, Elmer Fudd. In that July debut people also heard for the first time Bugs’s famous line, “What’s up, Doc?”

But today is the real anniversary of the creation of this character.  He first appeared on the theater short called as I noted above “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” Perhaps the reason people don’t recognize, or indeed want to credit him as that rabbit, is Bugs in that early cartoon was credited as Happy Rabbit. And admittedly it really looks pretty much like any rabbit save the smirking face, doesn’t it? Or does he? 

It’s been uploaded to YouTube so go watch it. It may not look like him but it acts like him and it sounds like him. Several sources state that Mel Blanc voiced him here but the cartoon itself has no credits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 30, 1930 Bill Buchanan. A musician who was not a filker but might have been. Really. Truly. His most famous composition took place in 1956, when he and Dickie Goodman created the sound collage “The Flying Saucer”.  They then did “The Flying Saucer Goes West” which is a lot of fun. A short time later, they would do “The Creature (From A Science Fiction Movie)” / “Meet The Creature (From A Science Fiction Movie)”. With other collaborators, he did such works as “Frankenstein Of ’59/Frankenstein Returns”.  Checking iTunes, quite a bit of what he did is available. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 84. One of my favorites author to read, be it the Gil Hamilton the Arm stories, Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle (The Gripping Hand alas didn’t work for me at all), or the the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version as you know since I wrote an essay on them. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 and in turn by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976 which I admit surprised me. 
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 54. Son of Jane Yolen. One time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. (Which I just discovered has not released a recording in a decade. Damn.) He was the lead vocalist for Songs from The Gypsy which was based on The Gypsy, the novel written by Steven Brust and Meghan Lindholm. A truly great album.  With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are well worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as quite engaging.
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 49. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet read her Spinning Silver novelwhich won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, so opinions are welcome. She has a number of Hugo nominations starting at Nippon 2007 for His Majesty’s Dragon, then next at MidAmericaCon II for Uprooted, The Temeraire series at Worldcon 75. No wins yet which really, really surprises me. She’s twice been a finalist for Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book with A Deadly Education at DisCon III for  and this year at Chicon 8 for The Last Graduate.
  • Born April 30, 1982 Kirsten Dunst, 40. Her first genre role was as Claudio in Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise, voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode!
  • Born April 30, 1985 Gal Gadot, 37. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production Death on the Nile which is quite lovely but not genre adjacent, but I really don’t mind as they’re lovely mysteries. Oh, and she’s playing The Evil Queen in the forthcoming Snow White film.
  • Born April 30, 2003 Emily Carey, 19. Yes, nineteen years old. She has had a lot of roles for her age. First she played the twelve-year-old Diana in Wonder Woman followed by playing  the fourteen-year-old Lara in the rebooted Tomb Raider.  And then she’s in Anastasia: Once Upon a Time in the lead role of Anastasia.  She’s Teen Wendy Darling in the forthcoming The Lost Girls. She was in the genre adjacent Houdini and Doyle as Mary Conan Doyle, and finally she’s in the not-yet-released G.R.R. Martin’s House of the Dragon series as the young Alicent Hightower. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CHALK AROUND THE CLOCK. The Pasadena Chalk Festival returns June 18-19 at The Paseo.

The Pasadena Chalk Festival began in 1993 after a summer intern at the Light Bringer Project attended a street painting festival in Paris and brought back her amazing pictures and observations. The first “Chalk on the Walk” took place at Centennial Square at Pasadena City Hall with over 150 visual artists participating in the first Los Angeles-area event. All proceeds went toward community arts programs and HIV/AIDS resources.

In 2010, The Pasadena Chalk Festival was officially named the largest street painting festival by the Guinness World Record, welcoming more than 600 artists using over 25,000 sticks of chalk and drawing a crowd of more than 100,000 visitors in one weekend. 

Below is an hour-long video of last year’s Chalk Festival. And here is File 770’s roundup of sff art from the 2019 festival via Twitter.

(13) DON’T SAY PAY. The Florida legislature’s move to punish Disney for publicly opposing the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill fails to conform to other requirements of state law says the corporate giant: “Disney’s special tax district suggests its repeal is illegal” in the Miami Herald.

As Florida legislators were rushing through passage of a bill to repeal the special district that governs Walt Disney World last week, they failed to notice an obscure provision in state law that says the state could not do what legislators were doing — unless the district’s bond debt was paid off. Disney, however, noticed and the Reedy Creek Improvement District quietly sent a note to its investors to show that it was confident the Legislature’s attempt to dissolve the special taxing district operating the 39-square mile parcel it owned in two counties violated the “pledge” the state made when it enacted the district in 1967, and therefore was not legal. The result, Reedy Creek told its investors, is that it would continue to go about business as usual.

The statement, posted on the website of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on April 21 by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is the only public statement Disney has supplied since lawmakers unleashed their fury over the company’s vocal opposition to the “Parental Rights in Education” law, also known as the “don’t say gay” bill. The statement, first reported by WESH 2, quotes the statute which says, in part, that the “State of Florida pledges…it will not limit or alter the rights of the District…until all such bonds together with interest thereon…are fully met and discharged.”

… In essence, the state had a contractual obligation not to interfere with the district until the bond debt is paid off, said Jake Schumer, a municipal attorney in the Maitland law firm of Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand, in an article for Bloomberg Tax posted on Tuesday and cited in a Law and Crime article.

The law passed by the Republican Legislature on a largely party-line vote, and signed into law by the Republican governor, either violates the contract clause of the Florida Constitution, or is incomplete, Schumer told the Herald/Times on Tuesday. If the Legislature wants to dismantle the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it has more work to do.

(14) FLY YOU FOOLS! J. Michael Straczynski would like to tell you about the worst musical he ever saw. Thread starts here.

(15) DO TOUCH THAT DIAL. Tor.com’s Robert Repino beggars the imagination by reminding readers about “Six Bizarro Made-for-TV SFF Movies That Actually Exist”. Such as —

Gargoyles (1972)

Not to be confused with the prematurely canceled ’90s cartoon of the same nameGargoyles starred B-movie tough guy Cornel Wilde (from The Naked Prey). The opening voiceover raises the stakes pretty high: In the aftermath of the war between God and Satan, a race of creatures climbs out of hell to terrorize mankind every few centuries. In the modern age, the gargoyles are relegated to myth and statues, leaving humans completely unprepared for their next onslaught.

Whoa. That sounds serious. Until you notice that the gargoyles reemerge in a desert that is surely within driving distance of the studio. And it takes only a handful of armed townsfolk to quell the apocalyptic uprising. But those minor details aside, this movie remains a guilty pleasure for my generation, in part because of the Emmy-winning makeup wizardry of Stan Winston. The gargoyles aren’t that scary, but they look pretty darn cool, and some of them even fly. And by “fly,” I mean “slowly lift off the ground with a barely concealed cable.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King meets the evil emperor, who wonders why the people don’t love him!

What do you do when you’ve seized power and/or purchased a large social media company? You monologue.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/20/22 “Sorry We’re Late, Kate,” The Sweet Birds Sang

(1) FROM THE LIFE OF JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has released an unlocked Patreon post of a chapter he cut from his autobiography: “Chapter Cut from Bio: The Great Bible Battle”. Here’s his introduction:

As noted elsewhere, I cut a good chunk of material from my autobiography Becoming Superman because there was just too much stuff for one book and I didn’t want to do this in two volumes.  It was already almost too long.  

This is actually one of the better, and in part most heartfelt chapters in the whole book, but it was also one that could be cut without damaging the structure of the book because it was for all intents and purposes unconnected from what came before and what followed.  It also marks one the first times that something I’d done earned me death threats (yes, there were others).  

So I present this to you, good patrons, seen here for the first time anywhere, ever.

(2) AWARD RETURNING. Submissions are being taken for the 2022 IAFA Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Award through December 1, 2022.

The IAFA Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Award recognizes emerging authors who use science fiction to address issues of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.

(3) AWARD FLAMBEAU. Serge Ecker’s video takes you inside the foundry to witness the “Making of the European Science Fiction Award 2022 – LuxCon, the 2022 EuroCon”. Molten metal and flames aplenty.

(4) LOVE IS BLUE. Somtow Sucharitkul is creating “Terrestrial Passions: a Regency Romance with Aliens” on Kindle Vella. The wry titles of the first four installments set the tone — “A Most Peculiar Frenchman”, “Universally Acknowledged”, “Dissuasion”, and “Incense and Insensibility”.

The widowed Mrs. Dorrit lives a marginal existence with her brother, a vicar, and twin daughters in a cottage on the estate of her wealthy cousin, Lord Chuzzlewit, in the West London village of Little Chiswick. As the season dawns and a rakish Earl takes up residence in the once-abandoned Flanders House nearby, their lives, and the marital prospects of Emma’s daughters, become immeasurably complicated when a starship lands in her apple orchard. By World Fantasy Award winning author S.P. Somtow

Where did this art come from? Somtow says, “Hilarious cover created for my Vella Serial by an Austrian designer on Fiverr.” No name given.

(5) VERTLIEB HONORED. Steve Vertlieb shared today that he has been honored “for his dedication and tireless activity to keep Miklos Rozsa’s memory alive,” by the Hungarian Hollywood Council. Congratulations, Steve!

(6) HOW KENTUCKY LEGISLATION WILL AFFECT LIBRARIES. “New Kentucky Law Hands Control of Libraries to Local Politicians” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a move that has alarmed library supporters, a new law in Kentucky will give politicians control over local library boards in the state. According to a report in the Lexington Herald Leader, SB 167—which came back from the dead last week with a dramatic veto override—will empower local politicians to “appoint whomever they want to library boards and block major library spending.”

Last week, the bill appeared to be killed after Kentucky governor Andy Beshear vetoed it, and the Kentucky House of Representatives fell short of the necessary votes to override. But in a surprise maneuver, supporters of the bill were able to revive the bill for another override vote—and this time, four representatives who had not voted in the previous effort voted to override Beshear’s veto, carrying the measure into law. The law is scheduled to take effect in January 2023.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader, Kentucky Republicans say the issue is “accountability,” pointing out that most of Kentucky’s public library boards can levy taxes and should therefore “answer to someone elected by voters.” But critics say the bill is in fact a thinly veiled effort to “politicize” library boards, and give unprecedented control over library operations to politicians….

(7) CAN IT BE THEY DON’T LOVE US? Lise Andreasen sends “A warm hug to everybody who feels physical pain at ‘it’s not science fiction’ and ‘it’s science fiction but’” in her roundup of critics’ slighting comments about the sff genre in “They Bellow… Dune edition”.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1955 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-seven years ago, George Pal’s fourth genre film premiered. It was the Conquest of Space and it had two firsts, our first trip to Mars and our first space station, a marvel in itself. It was based off The Conquest of Space by Willy Ley and Chesley Bonestell. The former author has a crater on the far side of the moon named after him. Later in life he became a believer In cryptozoology. Ohhh well. (I’ve actually met Loren Coleman, the prime proponent of that fake science. Don’t get me started on that subject.) 

Ley and Bonestell would win an International Fantasy Award for the book. Bonestell would be recognized with Special Award for Beautiful and Scientifically Accurate Illustrations at DisCon II (1974). He later won a Hugo for Best Related Work for The Art of Chesley Bonestell at ConJosé (2002). He’d also pick up a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4 (2004) for Best Professional Artist. 

(Pal had hired Bonestall to the technical adviser on Destination Moon buthe bought the book’s film rights at the urging of Ley.) 

The screenplay was by James O’Hanlon from an adaptation by Barre Lyndon, Phil Yordan and George Worthing Yates. O’Hanlon had done the Destination Moon screenplay which won a Retro Hugo at the Millennium Philcon.

It was directed by Byron Haskin who is best remembered for directing The War of the Worlds, one of many films where he teamed with producer George Pal. Bonestell who is known for his photorealistic paintings of outer space, provided the film’s space matte paintings.

So what did critics think about when it was released? 

The Variety said of it that, “When Byron Haskin’s direction has a chance at action and thrills they come over well, but most of the time the pacing is slowed by the talky script fashioned from the adaptation of the Chesley Bonestell-Willy Ley book by Philip Yordan, Barre Lyndon and George Worthington Yates.”

The New York Times likewise liked it: “THERE is very little doubt about who should receive a generous amount of credit and praise for ‘Conquest of Space,’ yesterday’s science-fiction entry at the Palace. They are the special effects artists, John P. Fulton, Irmin Roberts, Paul Lerpae, Ivyle Burks and Jan Domela. In telling the fanciful tale of man’s first trip to Mars, they created top-flight effects such as ‘the wheel,’ a self-contained station orbiting about earth, rocket flights in space and a horrendous near-collision with an asteroid. These facets of the Paramount production—and fortunately they are many and frequent—are much to marvel at. But then there is a story. As plots go in this type of unearthly entertainment—and it is nothing more than broad, undemanding entertainment—it is not offensive.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do not like it at all giving at just a twenty percent rating. Damned if I know why this is so. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 20, 1908 Donald Wandrei. Writer who had sixteen stories in Astounding Stories and fourteen stories in Weird Tales, plus a smattering elsewhere, all in the Twenties and Thirties. The Web of Easter Island is his only novel. He was the co-founder with August Derleth of Arkham House. He received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and he’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. Only his “Raiders of The Universe“ short story and his story in Famous Fantastic Mysteries (October 1939 issue) are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 20, 1937 George Takei, 85. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel. Is it canon? Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again.  Oh, and it won’t surprise you he played Sulu again in the fan fic video Star Trek: Phase II episode, “World Enough and Time.”
  • Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 83. I’ve known him for about twenty years now I realize, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back. His former agent is not so charming.)  My favorite works? A Fine and Private PlaceThe Folk of The AirTamsinSummerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is working on a new novel now I’m told by his editor Deborah Grabien, another friend of mine.
  • Born April 20, 1949 Jessica Lange, 73. Her very first role was Dwan in the remake of King Kong. Later genre roles are Sandra Bloom Sr. in Big Fish, Katherine Pierson in Neverwas, and the amazing run of Constance Langdon / Elsa Mars / Fiona Goode / Sister Jude Martin in American Horror Story
  • Born April 20, 1949 John Ostrander, 73. Writer of comic books, including GrimjackSuicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The SpectreMartian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad is available on the DC Universe app as is his absolutely amazing work on The Spectre.
  • Born April 20, 1951 Louise Jameson, 71. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed over at Green Man. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was in the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her role for Big Finish. 
  • Born April 20, 1964 Sean A. Moore. He wrote three Conan pastiches, Conan the Hunter, Conan and the Grim Grey God and Conan and the Shaman’s Curse. He also wrote the screenplay for Kull the Conqueror, and the novelization of it. All were published by Tor. He was active in Colorado fandom. He died in car crash in Boulder. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 20, 1964 Andy Serkis, 58. I will freely admit that the list of characters that he has helped create is amazing: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, King Kong in that film, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series, Captain Haddock / Sir Francis Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin (great film that was), and even Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Last year, he portrayed the character of Baloo in his self-directed film, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. His readings of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings are truly amazing as well. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro reports a shocking defection from a well-known superhero team.

(11) PANTHER CHOW. In the Washington Post, Emily Heil interviews Nyanyika Banda, author of The Official Wakanda Cookbook, who explains how they tried to come up with a cuisine that wasn’t just pan-African but actually might have recipes that would come from that imaginary country. “Wakanda cookbook brings Black Panther food lore to life”.

The fictional worlds spun in many TV shows, movies and video games can feel as real and as meaningful to fans as places with actual Zip codes. Think of Hogwarts, the magic-filled, honey-lit boarding school in the world of Harry Potter books and movies; the faraway galaxy of “Star Wars”; or even the lovably quirky small town of Stars Hollow in “Gilmore Girls.”

Wakanda, the wealthy, technologically advanced, mountain-ringed land of the “Black Panther” comics and blockbuster 2018 movie, though, occupies an even more rarefied role. It’s not just the setting for the action in a beloved franchise; it has become a symbol of African greatness, a mythical place that feels like an actual homeland to many people, and not just to comics geeks with posters of King T’Challa on their bedroom walls.

This week, the mythical country is seeing its culture expand with “The Official Wakanda Cookbook,” a collection of recipes sanctioned by “Black Panther” publisher Marvel….

… Aside from the challenges posed by satisfying an avid fan base and respecting a cultural touchstone, Banda faced another, more practical task. Often, a cookbook author writing about a region of the world is concerned about staying true to the dishes, the ingredients, the people and the history of the land. But what does it mean to be faithful to something that doesn’t actually exist?…

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned into Monday night’s episode of Jeopardy! and watched as contestants drew blanks on several items about the fantasy genre:

Category: Fantasy Fiction

Answer: In George R.R. Martin’s saga of Westeros, this blustery & bloody volume follows “A Game of Thrones” & “A Clash of Kings”

No one could ask, What is “A Storm of Swords?”

***

Answer: Set in ancient China, “A Hero Born” by Jin Yong takes place in a world where this martial art is practiced magically.

Wrong question What is Karate?

Right question: What is Kung-Fu?

***

Answer: Victor LaValle’s “The Changeling” tells the tale of a human baby switched at birth with one of these Nordic creatures.

No one could ask, What is  troll?

(13) FUTURE IS NOW FOR SJW CREDENTIALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Maria Luisa Paul discusses  ViaGen Pets, which will clone your dead cat for $25,000.  But while the clone may look like the original cat, it won’t have the personality of the original feline. “A woman cloned her pet after it died. But it’s not a copycat.”

… When the beloved 5-year-old cat died in 2017, there was nothing her owner, Kelly Anderson, could do — or so she thought.

Chai’s body had not yet turned cold when Anderson remembered a conversation with her roommate about the Texas-based ViaGen Pets, one of just a few companies worldwide that clones pets. The next morning, she called them.

Some $25,000 and five years later, Anderson — a 32-year-old dog trainer from Austin — has a 6-month-old carbon copy of Chai curled up in her lap. Belle is nearly identical to Chai, down to her deep-blue eyes and fluffy white coat. The two cats share a couple of quirks, like sleeping with their bodies stretched out against Anderson’s back. But that’s where the similarities end, Anderson said….

(14) PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER. What could be more wholesome? Mecha Builders is coming from the makers of Sesame Street.

Catch a sneak peek of an all-new series from Sesame Street in this official Mecha Builders Trailer! Together Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Abby are the Mecha Builders! The Mecha Builders are always ready to save the day, and while they may not get it right the first time, they won’t give up until they do! There’s no problem too big or too small for this super team to solve … all before snack time. New series coming to Cartoonito! Watch on Cartoon Network May 9th and stream the next day on HBO Max!

(15) SUMMERTIME, AND THE CONCATENATING IS EASY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The SF² Concatenation summer* edition is now up, which is a few days later than usual so as to capture news announced over Easter. This edition has its full news page, articles and convention reports, including:  Film NewsTelevision News;  Publishing News;  General Science News  and  Forthcoming SF Books from major imprints for the season, among much else.  Plus there is a tranche of stand-alone book reviews.  Something for everyone.

* ‘Summer’ season here being the northern hemisphere, academic year summer.

v32(3) 2022.4.20 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2022

v32(2) 2022.4.20 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v32(3) 2022.4.20 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(16) E.T. FAMILY REUNION. Dee Wallace played Drew Barrymore’s mom in the iconic film E.T. almost 40 years ago. They will be reuniting at the 40th Anniversary screening of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on Opening Night of the: 2022 TCM Classic Festival. And Wallace got a head start by appearing on Drew’s TV show. Yahoo! has the story: “Drew Barrymore Reunites with E.T. Onscreen Mom Dee Wallace Ahead of Film’s 40th Anniversary”.

Drew Barrymore is taking fans on a trip down memory lane.

The Golden Globe winner, 47, reunited with Dee Wallace, who played her mother in 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, as they reminisced about the film ahead of its 40th anniversary Monday on The Drew Barrymore Show.

“That was the first day on the set and I’m sitting in this really high director’s chair,” Wallace, 73, recalled of a photo of the two of them. “And Drew comes up to me and she says, ‘Hi, I’m going to sit on your lap now.’ And I said, ‘Well, come on up Drew.'”

“I mean, I knew you were going to be a director/producer back then,” she told Barrymore.

Barrymore raved about how “sexy” Wallace looked in the cheetah costume her character wore for the Halloween scene. “I still fit in it too,” Wallace proclaimed….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Neil deGrasse Tyson was on Colbert last night to talk about his new book Welcome To The Universe In 3D. “Aliens May Have Been Watching Earth’s TV Shows For The Last 80 Years – Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Thor’s Greatest Writers and Artists Return to Asgard for Thor’s 750th Issue

Fans will get to celebrate the long and storied history of the God of Thunder with the writers and artists who helped build his legacy! Coming just in time for Thor’s 60th anniversary, Thor #24 will be a 74-page epic honoring 750 thunderous issues. When the milestone issue arrives April 27, some of Thor’s greatest legends will return to tell thrilling new tales set during their landmark runs.

Thor #24 will take place in the aftermath of “God Of Hammers,” the latest epic in writer Donny Cates and artist Nic Klein’s hit run on the title. After a scorched-earth victory that cost the God of Thunder both his hammer and his father, Thor and all of Asgard mourn Odin, unaware that the former All-Father lives on in Thor’s newly reforged hammer!

In addition to the main story by Cates and Klein, here are the all-new tales readers can look forward to:

  • Writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Oliver Coipel reunite for a story set during their redefining Thor saga
  • Legendary comics creator Dan Jurgens writes and draws an incredible Thor and Balder teamup
  • Comics icon Walter Simonson makes his grand return to Thor, writing and drawing an all-new adventure that explores the origin of his beloved creation, Beta Ray Bill
  • Al Ewing and Lee Garbett collaborate for the first time since LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD to bring you an all-new chapter for the god of mischief that leads directly into Ewing’s upcoming DEFENDERS BEYOND series
  • And prepare for a revelatory tale about Odin that only writer Jason Aaron and artist Das Pastoras can deliver!

Following the jump, check out variant cover art and Nic Klein’s design sheet for Mjolnir’s new look.

Continue reading

Review of Becoming Superman

By Martin Morse Wooster: Horror writer/director Larry Cohen was once the subject of a New Yorker profile, and the interviewer asked him how he still had a career when he was in his mid-sixties.  Cohen explained that in Hollywood, no one cares what you did 20 years ago.  The primary question producers ask is:  what have you done lately?  Keep coming up with salable projects and the people with money will keep giving it to you.

Having a long career in Hollywood is a lot harder than in other forms of publishing; you’ve got to have the relentless drive to pursue your vision and keep making sales.  To an outsider, what is astonishing about J. Michael Straczynski’s career is that it has had a third act and may well be in the middle of a fourth.  His career could have faded after Babylon 5.  The roars that greeted him at the 1996 Los Angeles Worldcon (where, it seemed, every conversation had to include the words, “Where’s JMS?”) would have faded and he could have scratched out a living signing autographs at media conventions. 

But instead, Straczynski pursues new projects, including his realization of The Last Dangerous Visions and a reboot of Babylon 5 currently under development at the CW.  He tells his story in his memoir Becoming Superman, published in 2019.[1]

Straczynski has two purposes in his very readable autobiography:  telling his life story and explaining why his parents—and particularly his father—were world-class jerks,

Do you think you have toxic parents?  However badly your parents treated you, Straczynski’s were much worse.  His grandfather who routinely killed and ate pigeons from the parks as a free protein source.  His mother was committed to mental hospitals five times and underwent electroshock more than once.

His father, Charles Straczynski, is the book’s villain.  The secret of the book—which I’m not going to reveal—is what he did in Poland to survive World War II. After coming to America, Charles Straczynski was a drunken jerk who beat his wife, beat his children, periodically moved between the east and west coasts to flee his creditors, and was, more frequently than not, in a perpetual drunken rage.  By the time J. Michael Straczynski was 10, he had been in five schools. 

Worst of all, Charles Straczynski ripped up his son’s comic books, which would have been quite valuable if. J. Michael Straczynski had kept them.

Straczynski’s refuge from his toxic father were comics.  Two of the high points of a particularly dismal year came when Straczynski received the membership packets from Supermen of America and the Merry Marvel Marching Society.

“Our frequent moves had denied me the chance to make lasting friends,” he writes, “but as I covered the walls with posters of Superman, Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man, and the Hulk, everywhere I turned, the face of a friend was looking back at me.”

Straczynski also discovered science fiction paperbacks, beginning a lifetime of reading and talking about the field,

Becoming Superman is the story of a writer who made his own breaks and steadily rose in Hollywood thanks to years of producing copy at 10-20 pages a day.  Straczynski sold The Complete Book of Scriptwriting to Writer’s Digest Books because he tried to find a book on writing scripts and couldn’t find one.  At the time, Straczynski’s experience in Hollywood was very limited.  He got some doors to open in Hollywood and kept them open through his talent.

Like most Hollywood memoirs, Straczynski has stories.  My favorite was in his last assignment in animation, where, for the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters he had a script that made a reference to The Necronomicon.  The suits said he had to change the book’s name because The Necronomicon was popular with Satanists.  Straczynski tried to explain that the book was made up by H.P. Lovecraft.  He lost[2] and decided to write an article denouncing the animation industry, which he sold to Penthouse.  When their nonfiction editor asked him why he submitted the piece there, Straczynski said so that “tight-assed consultants and editors” who wanted to read what Straczynski wrote would have to buy “a magazine full of racy photos.”

Perhaps the saddest story in the book is when Straczynski got a job on Jake and the Fatman by noticing that star William Conrad, who did not play Jake, didn’t like to move very much. So he came up with a story where Conrad’s character is kidnapped.  “He’s taken hostage and tied to a chair for the entire episode,” Straczynski said in his pitch.

Showrunner David Moessinger’s “eyes lit up like a Las Vegas slot machine.  ‘That’s terrific!’ Moessinger said. “Bill hates to walk!  He’ll love it!”  Straczynski got the job.

Straczynski devotes three chapters out of 34 to Babylon 5.  He tells us some things, including how hard it was to write all the scripts (except for one by Neil Gaiman) for Babylon 5’s last three seasons and how he had to deal with the mental breakdown of star Michael O’Hare after the first season.  He credits Sandra Bruckner, head of the Babylon 5 fan club, for her help with O’Hare and other Babylon 5 stars who were in trouble.  But there are some questions he glosses over, including what, exactly, Harlan Ellison did as the show’s “creative consultant.”

The reason Straczynski doesn’t dwell on Babylon 5 is that he wants to tell us about life after that show, including the three fallow years where everything he wrote was rejected: and he nearly quit writing.  But Straczynski had long been interested in the story of Christine Collins, whose struggle to determine what happened to her son in 1920s Los Angeles ultimately led to exposing massive corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department.

Straczynski submitted his script to his agent in 2006.  The agent sold the script to Ron Howard for $650,000, and Howard passed the script on to Clint Eastwood. Straczynski describes his meeting with Eastwood, when Eastwood to promised to film Straczynski’s script exactly as he wrote it.

Changeling appeared in 2008, but after the sale of his spec script in 2006, Straczynski’s plate was full, with credits on five other movies and stints as the lead writer on Spider-Man and Superman.  A script he wrote on the friendship between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini (which hasn’t been produced) sold for a million dollars.  But the point of Straczynski’s readable and informative memoir is to tell writers that however successful you may become, there will always be lumps and down periods in your career which you will need to overcome.

“We have no control over who beats us up or knocks us down, or the obstacles that stand us and our dreams,” Straczynski concludes.  “But we have absolute control over how we choose to respond.”

So the answer to how to deal with rejection or a closed door, Straczynski writes, is a simple one: “get up and keep fighting.”


[1] Thanks to able bookseller Michael J. Walsh for selling me a copy at the 2021 Capclave.

[2] The book in the episode was changed to “The Nameless Book.”

Pixel Scroll 3/3/22 In Just Seven Days, I Can Make You A Pixel

(1) CALLING BLACK SFF WRITERS. The 2022 BSF Writer Survey conducted by FIYAH closes March 4 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. See complete guidelines at the link.

The BSF Writer Survey is back! FIYAH will be inheriting Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports, and this survey will be used to provide context to those results in a report being released in the fall of 2022.

We invite Black SFF writers to submit information about their practices and insights on submission to SFF short fiction markets with a focus on the 2021 calendar year, as well as the impact of and experience with special offerings made during the summer of 2020. The responses we receive will allow us to:

  • Quantify the existence of Black speculative fiction writers seeking publication.
  • Provide submission context to existing publication data.
  • Expose the impact of doleful publication statistics on Black writers.
  • Enable markets to pinpoint their failings in attracting or publishing Black writers.

(2) FIYAH GRANTS. FIYAH is taking applications for The FIYAH Literary Magazine Grant Series Rest, Craft, and Study grants until May 15. Full information at the Grants – FIYAH link.

The FIYAH Literary Magazine Grant Series is intended to assist Black writers of speculative fiction in defraying costs associated with honing their craft. 

The series includes three $1,000 grants to be distributed annually based on a set of submission requirements. All grants with the exception of the Emergency Grant will be issued and awarded as part of Juneteenth every year. The emergency grant will be awarded twice a year in $500 amounts.

Applications for the Rest, Craft, and Study grants close May 15th.

1: The Rest Grant

The FIYAH Rest Grant is for activists and organizers with a record of working on behalf of the SFF community, but who are in need of respite or time to recommit to their personal projects.

3: Study Grant

This grant is to be used for defraying costs associated with attending workshops, retreats, or conducting research for a writing project.

4: Craft Grant

This grant is awarded based on a writer’s submitted WIP sample or project proposal, in the spirit of assisting with the project’s completion.

(3) AUCTION TO AID RED CROSS UKRAINE. Fan and editor Johnny Mains has set up an online auction of genre-related items in support of Red Cross Ukraine; it runs until March 12: “Authors And Artists Auction For The Ukraine” at Will You Send a Dinghy, Please? Lots include signed books from Kim Newman, Ramsey Campbell, Nicholas Royle, and participation in an online interview with Ellen Datlow. 

I, like many, have been shaken by Russia’s horrific attack on Ukraine. I stand in solidarity with all Ukranians. I’m aware I have a miniscule public profile, but if I can do some good with it, then it’s a privilige and my duty. Plus, children in Ukraine being put through that? It’s sickening. So I’m doing a charity auction – with all proceeds going to directly to Red Cross Ukraine as you’ll be donating the money directly to them after the auction ends. 95% of goods will be posted by those donating them – in one or two cases I’ve been asked to post on that person’s behalf.

For the next two weeks, until the 12th of March, I’ll be running a live auction. I have asked people to donate things and I’ll be donating stuff myself….

(4) SANDERSON KEEPS ROLLING. Brandon Sanderson’s editor at Tor, Moshe Feder, sounds like he’s in a bit of shock: “To say it’s a massive surprise is a massive understatement. While the immediate overwhelming response on Kickstarter is quite a coup for Brandon and his team. I hope I get to be involved.” 

“Surprise! Four Secret Novels by Brandon Sanderson” approached $20 million in pledges today. At this rate it could become the number one Kickstarter of all time by tomorrow night.

(5) GUESS WHO LEARNED IT’S HARD RUNNING A BOOKSTORE. Even building your house of brick can’t keep it from being blown down. Shelf Awareness reports “Amazon Closing All Amazon Books Stores”.

Big news from Amazon: the company is closing all of its Amazon Book books and electronics stores, as well as all of its pop-up and “4-star” stores, a move that was first reported yesterday by Reuters. Altogether, 68 stores are involved–66 in the U.S. and two in the U.K. There are some 24 Amazon Books stores around the country.

The company said it was making the move to concentrate its bricks-and-mortar efforts on Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods, Amazon Go and a new venture, Amazon Style fashion and accessories stores, the first of which is set to open in Los Angeles this year, and will feature a variety of high-tech touches, including “just walk out” cashierless technology….

(6) CAN’T KEEP UP. Charles Stross admits how hard it is to stay ahead of reality.

(7) DOCTOR WHO. RadioTimes.com sees the next Thirteenth Doctor special on the horizon: “Doctor Who Legend of the Sea Devils new writer, director and cast”.

We’re finally getting to learn a bit more about upcoming Doctor Who special Legend of the Sea Devils, with the episode’s co-writer, director and other new details confirmed in the latest edition of Doctor Who Magazine.

“It’s a bit of a swashbuckler,” executive producer Matt Strevens told DWM. “It’s the last ‘regular’ adventure story before you go into the machinations of a regeneration story.”

So who is behind this penultimate peril for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor? Well, co-writing the episode with Chibnall is Ella Road, a playwright and screenwriter who wrote Olivier-nominated play The Phlebotomist (later adapted for BBC radio) as well as episodes of upcoming Call My Agent remake Ten Percent. Legend of the Sea Devils marks the first time a guest writer has co-written a special alongside Chibnall, as well as Road’s Doctor Who debut….

And a RadioTimes.com writer thinks “Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary special should go full nostalgia”.

… David Tennant or Matt Smith coming back for a quick victory lap, on the other hand, is something everyone can enjoy, no matter how casual their relationship with the show. The polar opposite of fan-serving indulgence, it’s actually the biggest, most populist, most crowd-pleasing, big tent move Doctor Who could possibly make. (And this was true even in the 1980s, by the way, when the return of the Cybermen after an absence of seven years was an exciting event for everyone – including the kids who’d never heard of them.)

Even the return of Paul McGann, whose Eighth Doctor has had only fleeting screen-time, would be pretty simple to explain to viewers who aren’t familiar with him. And not just simple, but funExciting. A strange man in strange clothes rocking up and telling everyone he used to be the Doctor? That’s drama. That’s a story. Who on Earth is going to take flight at that?…

(8) ONCE LESS INTO THE BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS. In “The Sci-Fi Crime Novel That’s a Parable of American Society”, The Atlantic’s Cullen Murphy points out “What China Miéville’s The City & the City tells us about the state of the nation.”

… A few weeks ago, a long-ago conversation with a friend came to mind as I tried to bring some order to my bookshelves. My friend was not yet of a certain age, but he had, he confessed, crossed a line: He had made a transition from the curating stage of life to the editing stage. He was no longer collecting; he was deaccessioning. I lack his wisdom and maturity, and rather than editing as I sorted, I instead paused to thumb through and scan. And then I came across a book that made me stop and reread: The City & the City (2009), by the British writer China Miéville. It is a police procedural novel with a background environment that recalls Philip K. Dick. A crime needs to be solved in a society where two different cities—two separate polities, with separate populations, customs, alphabets, religions, and outlooks—coexist within the same small patch of geography. The names of the overlapping cities are Beszel and Ul Qoma….

(9) DID YOU MISS THIS WORLDCON PROGRAM? Morgan Hazelwood posts her notes about the DisCon III panel “Breaking A Story: Hollywood Style” at Writer in Progress. (Hazelwood also has a YouTube video version.)

The panelists for the titular panel were: Michael R Underwood, Nikhil Singh, Sumiko Saulson, and Rebecca Roanhorse as moderator….

(10) NEXT FANTASTIC BEASTS. “Set in the 1930s, the film centers on the lead-up to Wizarding World’s involvement in World War II” says IndieWire about the “’Fantastic Beasts 3’ New Trailer”. See it on YouTube.

Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) knows the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is moving to seize control of the wizarding world. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to lead an intrepid team of wizards, witches and one brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers. But with the stakes so high, how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines?

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1940 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Eighty-two years ago this day, Larry “Buster” Crabbe starred in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, a black-and-white twelve-part movie serial from Universal Pictures. It would be the last of the three such Universal serials made between 1936 and 1940.

It was directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor, neither of whom had any background in genre undertakings of this sort beyond Taylor directing Chandu on the Magic Island and its sequel The Return of Chandu, serials which starred Béla Lugosi. This serial was written by George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey and Barry Shipman. George H. Plympton would go on to write the Forties versions of The Green HornetBatman and Robin and Superman.

The primary cast beyond Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon was Carol Hughes as Dale Arden, Frank Shannon as Dr. Alexis Zarkov and Charles B. Middleton as Ming the Merciless. It actually had a very large cast for such a serial.

I couldn’t find any contemporary reviews but our present day reviewers like it with the Movie Metropolis reviewer saying of it that “Of course, it’s corny and juvenile but that’s the point”, and one Audience reviewer at Rotten Tomatoes noted “Of curiosity value to film buffs. Those who want to see how these old matinee serials influenced George Lucas’ Star Wars films will enjoy this.”  It doesn’t get a great rating over there garnering only a fifty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 3, 1863 Arthur Machen. His novella “The Great God Pan” published in 1890 has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as “Maybe the best horror story in the English language.” His The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations 1895 novel is considered a precursor to Lovecraft and was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books in the Seventies. (Died 1947.)
  • Born March 3, 1876 David Lindsay. Best remembered for A Voyage to Arcturus which C.S. Lewis acknowledged was a great influence on Out of the Silent PlanetPerelandra and That Hideous Strength. His other genre works were fantasies including The Haunted Woman and The Witch. A Voyage to Arcturus is available from the usual suspects for free. And weirdly it’s available in seven audio narratives. Huh.  (Died 1945.)
  • Born March 3, 1920 James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was I think in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch, followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. His first genre series would’ve been Space Command where he played Phil Mitchell. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E. film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which he played Phillip Bainbridge, during the first season of Trek. After Trek, he was on Jason of Star Command as Commander Canarvin. ISFDB notes that he did three Scotty novels co-written with S.M. Stirling. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 3, 1936 Donald E. Morse, 86. Author of the single best book done on Holdstock, The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction which he co-wrote according to ISFDB with Kalman Matolcsy. I see he also did two books on Kurt Vonnegut and the Anatomy of Science Fiction on the intersection between SF and society at large which sounds fascinating. 
  • Born March 3, 1945 George Miller, 77. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road Warrior (nominated for a Hugo at ConStellation), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road. He also directed The Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of the Twilight Zone film, The Witches of Eastwick (nominated for a Hugo at Nolacon II), Babe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming
  • Born March 3, 1948 Max Allan Collins, 74. Best remembered for writing the Dick Tracy newspaper strip for many years and has numerous novels featuring the character as well. He’s novelized Waterworld and all of The Mummy films. He won the Faust Award for Lifetime Achievement. 
  • Born March 3, 1955 Gregory Feeley, 67. Reviewer and essayist. Clute says of his reviews “Sometimes adversarial, unfailingly intelligent, they represent a cold-eyed view of a genre he loves by a critic immersed in its material.” Writer of two SF novels, The Oxygen Barons and Arabian Wine, plus the Kentauros essay and novella.
  • Born March 3, 1982 Jessica Biel, 40. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw MassacreBlade: TrinityStealthThe Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and the animated Spark: A Space Tail

(13) FANAC.ORG FANHISTORY ZOOM. The latest fanhistory Zoom at Fanac.org is now online: “Death Does Not Release You – LASFS Through the Years (Pt 1 of 2).”

From the YouTube description: “Legend (and John Trimble) has it that the slogan “Death Does Not Release You” came about when Ray Bradbury gave a talk at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and was asked to pay his dues. When Bradbury said his membership had expired,  Ernie Wheatley told him “death does not release you, even if you die”. Bradbury paid his 35 cents… 

This notable group of panelists, including artist Tim Kirk, TV writer and producer Craig Miller, filmmaker Ken Rudolph and convention runner Bobbi Armbruster are all current or former members of LASFS. They are fan artists, convention runners, fanzine editors and club officers. 

In part 1, the panelists talk about how they were welcomed into science fiction fandom and into LASFS (including how Ray Bradbury talked teenager Craig Miller into going to his first club meeting). There are stories about the drug culture of the 60s and its barbarian invasion of the club, as well as about the big movers and shakers of the 60s and 70s, many no longer with us, such as Bruce Pelz and Len Moffat. Even if you’ve never been to a LASFS meeting, this feels like a nostalgic family reunion. See Part 2 for the continuation.”

(14) ASK JMS ANYTHING. J. Michael Straczynski did an Ask Me Anything for Reddit yesterday: “I’m J. Michael Straczynski, aka JMS, here for an AMA about my new novel Together We Will Go and my work across TV series like Babylon 5 and Sense8, films like Changeling, graphic novels, comic books, and more.” One person asked for an update about Harlan Ellison’s house:

…I will be taking photos and videos for my patrons (I don’t actually mean to keep flogging that, isn’t my intention, just came up thrice in a row in answer to this.) We’re busy fixing the place up, doing repairs, making it tour-friendly. It’s been a ton of work, as well as setting up the Harlan and Susan Ellison nonprofit foundation that will ensure his work and legacy are protected long after I’ve gone to dust. This is important because some writers’ estates have been ransacked in the past, but by setting up a nonprofit that is directly answerable to state and federal regulators, with a strong board of directors, it guarantees that not a dime goes in or out that’s unaccounted for or unchecked. Will have a lot more on that count to say soon.

(15) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 52 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Who’s Robert Picardo?”, celebrates an award nomination with a victory lap.

John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty have been nominated for a BSFA Award! (Also, Liz is on holiday, naturally.) We discuss that with worse audio quality than usual, before normal service is resumed and we talk about Hugo nominations and Eastercon bids.

(16) DAVID M. KELLY. Meet David M. Kelly, the author of Kwelengsen Storm, Book One of the Logan’s World Series.

Originally from the wild and woolly region of Yorkshire, England, David emigrated to Canada in 2005 and settled in Northern Ontario with his patient and supportive wife, Hilary. Foot surgery in 2014 temporarily curtailed many of his favorite activities – hiking, camping, piloting his own personal starfighter (otherwise known as a 1991 Corvette ZR-1). But on the plus side, it meant a transition from the world of IT into life as a full-time writer—an opportunity he grasped enthusiastically.

David is passionate about science, especially astronomy and physics, and is a rabid science news follower. Never short of an opinion, David writes about science and technology on his blog davidmkelly.net. He has supported various charity projects such as the Smithsonian’s Reboot The Suit and the Lowell Observatory Pluto Telescope Restoration. He also contributes to citizen science projects such as SETI@home.

What’s his book about?

When Logan Twofeathers takes on the job of head of engineering on Kwelengsen, the first habitable planet discovered by Earth, he thinks he’s leaving conflict far behind. But when he investigates the loss of a deep-space communications relay, his ship is attacked and crash-lands back on the planet.

With his new home destroyed by the invaders, Logan is stranded deep in the frozen mountains with an injured sergeant who hates him almost as much as the enemy. Against the ever-present threat of capture, he must battle his way through icy surroundings in a treacherous attempt to find his wife.

And when he’s forced to ally himself with a disparate group of soldiers and their uncompromising captain, Logan must face the reality that he may have lost everything—and everyone—he loves. Will he choose to fight? And what will it cost him?

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca,

(17) WAVES HELLO. If Mars is the Red Planet, could we call Venus the Infra-Red Planet? Well, not exactly. But this New York Times article prompted the question: “Venus Shows Its Hot, Cloudy Side”.

Venus is so hot that its surface glows visibly at night through its thick clouds.

That is what pictures taken by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe have revealed.

The planet’s average temperature hovers around 860 degrees Fahrenheit, and thick clouds of sulfuric acid obscure the view. Until now, the only photographs of the Venusian surface were taken by four Soviet spacecraft that successfully landed there in the 1970s and 1980s, operating briefly before succumbing to the hellish environs.

During flybys of Venus, the Parker spacecraft pointed its cameras at the night side of Venus. It was able to see the visible wavelengths of light, including the reddish colors that verge on the infrared that can pass through the clouds.

“It’s a new way of looking at Venus that we’ve never even tried before — in fact, weren’t even sure it was possible,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary division.

In the Parker photographs, hotter locales like low-lying volcanic plains appeared brighter while those at higher altitudes like Aphrodite Terra, one of three continent-size regions on Venus, were about 85 degrees cooler and darker.

(18) THE SKY’S NO LIMIT. “Asteroid With Three Moons Sets A Record” reports Nature.

Astronomers have discovered an unprecedented three moons in orbit around an asteroid.

‘Binary’ asteroids, which have one moon, are fairly common. Triple asteroids, with two moons, are rare. Now, the identification of the first known quadruple asteroid — Elektra, which orbits the Sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — shows that two is not the limit.

Previous observations had shown that two moons circle Elektra, which is roughly 200 kilometres wide. A team led by Anthony Berdeu at the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand in Chiang Mai re-assessed Elektra by analysing images of the asteroid taken in 2014 by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope at Cerro Paranal, Chile. The scientists used sophisticated image-processing techniques to detect the third, faint moon….

(19) ELDEN RING. George R.R. Martin had a hand in the Elden Ring video game, which is now available.

…Of course, almost all the credit should go to Hidetaka Miyazaki and his astonishing team of games designers who have been laboring on this game for half a decade or more, determined to create the best videogame ever.   I am honored to have met them and worked with them, and to have have played a part, however small, in creating this fantastic world and making ELDEN RING the landmark megahit that it is…

View a short live-action intro trailer below, or see the full six-minute overview trailer here.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 2/4/22 Mrs. File You’ve Got A Lovely Pixel 

(1) “POINTLESS” QUIZ SHOW. [Item by Christian Brunschen.] I was just watching a repeat of the quiz show “Pointless” on BBC – where questions have been previously asked of 100 people who are given 1 minute to give answers; and the contestants have to try to find answers that are not only correct, but which as few as possible of the 100 polled people knew!

In this episode the final category was “Award-winning authors in specific genres” – and the three options were “Hugo Award for Best Novel”, “Wodehouse Award for Comic Literature” and “Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction”.

The contestants are allowed to give three possible answers, from any of the three options, and in order to win they need to give at least one answer which nobody else among the 100 knew – one “pointless” answer.

They chose to go for three answers from the Hugo Awards category:

  • Frank Herbert
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Brian Aldiss

Each one of those was then counted down to see how many of the group-of-100 had given that answer. 

The counter for Frank Herbert went down to 1 – only a single one of the 100 had given Frank Herbert as an answer – so just 1 away from being pointless.

Neither Robert Silverberg nor Brian Aldiss were correct – so the contestants did not win.

It was mentioned that Robert Silverberg had the most nominations without winning.

Pointless answers in the Hugo award category included Mary Robinette Kowal, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Susanna Clarke, William Gibson, Robert A. Heinlein; big scorers (known by many of the 100) were Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick.

This was apparently season 25 episode 17 broadcast in April 2021, which can be seen by viewers in the UK (only) on BBC iPlayer right here.

(2) MAKING WORLDS AND PUZZLES. Host Kate Elliot discusses a worldbuilding topic with Karen Lord in Narrative Worlds Season 2: Ep. 3 now available on SFWA’s YouTube channel.

Welcome to Episode 3 of Season Two in the Narrative Worlds Webinar Series, hosted by author Kate Elliott! Featuring guest author Karen Lord, this month’s topic is “The Puzzles Inside Worldbuilding: Constructing Narratives at Various Lengths.” This monthly series digs into the theory and practice of building the worlds in which stories are set. Rather than focusing on a survey of basics like “What elements do you need to create a setting?” Elliott discusses a specific single topic in more depth each month with a guest.

(3) WAITING AT THE LIGHT. J. Michael Straczynski, in a public Patreon post, today announced that while the Babylon 5 reboot wasn’t greenlighted for fall 2022, it has been retained in active development at the CW and Warner Bros. for fall 2023. “B5 CW News”.

Anyone who knows the history of Babylon 5 knows that the path of this show has never been easy, and rarely proceeds in a straight line. Apparently, that has not changed.

About a month or so ago it was announced that the CW Network, B5’s home for the last year while the pilot script was in active development, was up for sale. When news of this broke, the immediate question was: will this have any effect on B5? Situations like this have a way of upending development because new owners usually want to put their imprimatur on what programs go forward. Like everyone else, I’d hoped there would be no immediate impact, and that progress on the project would continue onward unabated.

A few days ago, I heard from inside Warner Bros. that there were a number of High Level Conversations taking place with the CW to determine how many pilots, and what sort, could be picked up during this transition, especially given pre-existing deals and commitments. This made sense given the preceding paragraph, but I remained optimistic.

Today, about an hour ago, Deadline Hollywood announced the slate of pilot scripts being picked up for production by The CW. Babylon 5 was not on that list.

When a pilot script is not picked up to production, 99.999% of the time, that’s the end of the road for the project, the script is dead.

However: shortly before that piece was published, I received a call from Mark Pedowitz, President of The CW. (I should mention that Mark is a great guy and a long-time fan of B5. He worked for Warners when the show was first airing, and always made sure we got him copies of the episodes before they aired because he didn’t want to wait to see what happened next.)

Calling the pilot “a damned fine script,” he said he was taking the highly unusual step of rolling the project and the pilot script into next year, keeping B5 in active development while the dust settles on the sale of the CW….

(4) CANDIDATES FOR CHAIR OF GLASGOW IN 2024. Alice Lawson, on behalf of the board of the Glasgow in 2024 bid, has called for anyone who intends to put themselves forward to chair the convention to let the board know by February 7. Bid chair Esther MacCallum-Stewart is already a candidate. Her letter was shared with Glasgow in 2024 supporters.

Dear Alice, the Board of Glasgow 2024, all staff members, and pre-supporters.

I would like to put myself forward as Chair of the Glasgow 2024 Worldcon.

I have been working towards a third Worldcon in Glasgow since 2016, announcing an intention to bid at Novacon alongside Emma England and Vanessa May. Since then I have led the bid team, first as a Co-Chair, and then as Chair. We are currently approaching just under 1000 pre-supporters, and the Bid has had tremendous support from the SFF fan community and beyond.

I have been a volunteer for Worldcon since 2011, when I joined the Loncon 3 team as an AH for games. Since then I have worked as Programme manager and admin (Loncon, MAC II), DH for Facilitation (Dublin 2019), and co-DH for Facilities (ConZealand). I have also volunteered for Eastercons (the UK national convention) and Octocon (the Irish National Convention). Elsewhere I have been Vice-Chair of DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) and am currently Chair of the UK chapter, which runs events on a yearly basis. In 2021 I was made a Professor of Game Studies at the University of Staffordshire.

I am hugely proud of the Bid Team and their passion for Glasgow 2024. Every day I see something original, funny or hard working from them, and this continues to grow. I have seen friendship, bravery and more than my fair share of armadillos in the last few years, as more people join and add their own sense of wonder and creativity to the bid. We would not be so strong if it were not for all these working parts, in which every single one counts towards something brilliant. I am constantly amazed at the goodwill and passion to create an event that is inclusive, caring and extraordinary. I would be honoured to lead such a group forwards as Chair, towards a Worldcon in Glasgow, a city I love, in 2024, a year which has special importance to me.

/s/ Professor Esther MacCallum-Stewart

(5) SPACE GHOSTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Isabel Hilton reviews The Subplot: What China Is Reading And Why It Matters by Megan Walsh, a book about fiction popular in China and what Chinese tastes in fiction have to say about the Chinese.  Among the topics Walsh discusses is sf in China.

For many authors who must navigate the uncertainties of shifting official red lines, science fiction offers a safe haven. It is a genre in which to address the disruption and dislocations between past and present, and between official narratives and reality, and to explore otherwise dangerous themes such as social injustice.

Liu Cixin, a computer engineer and bestselling sci-fi author, locates real world problems such as pollution and human greed on distant planets, while in the story “Underground Bricks,” Han Song describes recycling the rubble of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which contains victims’ remains, into ‘intelligent bricks’ for space colonization, thus populating distant planets with unhappy ghosts.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble noodles with Daryl Gregory in Episode 164 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Daryl Gregory

It’s time for you to join Daryl Gregory and me as we have lunch at Dolan Uyghur restaurant.

Daryl Gregory’s first novel, Pandemonium (2008), won the Crawford Award and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. His novella We Are All Completely Fine (2014) won the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. His short story collection Unpossible and Other Stories was named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly. His novel Spoonbenders (2017) was a Top 20 Amazon Editor’s Choice, an Audible.com’s editors choice for the year, and an NPR best book of the year. His most recent novel is Revelator, which was published last August. His comics work includes Planet of the ApesThe Green HornetDracula, and the graphic novel The Secret Battles of Genghis Khan.

If you’d like a tiny taste of Daryl before taking a seat at the table for our full meal, check out what he had to say while eating a raspberry coffee cake donut during the 2018 Nebula Awards weekend.

We discussed how he celebrated the two books he published during the pandemic, what caused him to say about his latest novel, “I like to split the difference to keep everyone as unsatisfied as possible,” the narrative technique which finally unlocked the writing of that book (and why it made Revelator more difficult to complete), how our mothers responded to our writing, the way marketing affects the reading protocols of our stories, how listening to Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm argue about one of his stories freed him as a writer, the promise a murder mystery makes to a reader, his “Mom Rule” for Easter eggs, the way he tortured a comic book artist with an outrageous panel description, how to play fair when writing a science fiction mystery where anything can happen, what Samuel R. Delany told him which helped him make his first sale to F&SF, how he doesn’t understand why everybody doesn’t want to be writers, the way his writing gets better during the times he isn’t writing, Gardner Dozois’ “ladder of sadness,” and much more.

(7) SHIPPING SCHEDULE. The Orville: New Horizons will now arrive on June 2.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1998 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty-four years ago, Morn apparently had died on “Who Mourns for Morn?”, an episode of Deep Space Nine. Yes, that character in Quark’s Bar, the one what never spoke on the series despite ninety-one appearances as Morn plus several more as Morn on Next Generation and Voyager

The actor had another eleven appearances as other characters on the DS9 series. Indeed Shepherd makes an appearance (still uncredited as all of his Morn appearances were) as a Bajoran mourner at Morn’s memorial service who sits in Morn’s chair, thus showing the actor’s actual appearance.

Can I spoil a twenty-year-old episode really? I think not. Morn had faked his death to escape some legal troubles and this dealt with aftermath of him doing so. It was a quite funny episode as written by Mark Gehred-O’Connell for season six after previously writing “Second Sight” and “Meredian” for the series.

Critical reviews of it are almost non-existent with the only one being the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch by Keith R. A. DeCandido for Tor.com who said that “Still, this is, ultimately, a gag episode about a gag character, and the gag loses steam at the end when we get the full story, but Quark has to say all of it in order to keep the gag going. It doesn’t work at that point, and the ending falls flat because we can see the strings.” I never thought of Morn as being a gag. He’s somehow sweet despite never saying a word. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1922 William Phipps. He started off his genre career by being in both The War of The Worlds and Invaders from Mars. He’d later be in Cat-Women of the MoonThe Snow Creature,The Evil of Frankenstein, and the Dune series. He’d have one-offs in BatmanGreen HornetThe MunstersWild Wild West and a lead role in the Time Express series which would last four episodes according to IMDB. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Author of a number of genre novel of which the best by far is Riddley Walker. Indeed, ISFDB some fifteen such novels by him, so I’m curious how he is as a genre writer beyond Riddley Walker. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1936 Gary Conway, 86. Best remembered I’d say for starring in Irwin Allen‘s Land of the Giants. You can see the opening episode here. He was also in How to Make a Monster, a late Fifties horror film which I’m delighted to say that you can watch here. He’s the Young Frankenstein in it. 
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 82. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest-starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn in “The Maquis: Part II”, on Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh. and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George Romero. Dubbed by many as Father of the Zombie Film. Certainly his Night of the Living Dead from just over fifty years ago is the root of the Zombie movie craze. He also created and executive-produced Tales from the Darkside. No, I’m not listing all of his films here as I’m assuming you tell me what your favorite film by him is as you always do.  (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 4, 1951 Patrick Bergin, 71. If he had done nothing else, he’d make the Birthday list today for playing Robin Hood in the 1990 Robin Hood which for my money is the finest such film made. Go ahead and argue, I’ve all night. Now as it turns out he has a very long career in this community starting after playing Robin Hood by being in Frankenstein as Victor Frankenstein, then Benjamin Trace In Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (a film universally despised), George Challenger in The Lost WorldTreasure Island as Billy Bones, Merlin: The Return as King Arthur, Dracula as, well, Dracula Himself, Ghostwood as Friar Paul and Gallowwalkers as Marshall Gaza. 
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 63. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters), voicing a role in The Cat in the Hat short, Night GallerySealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO.She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 61. I’m been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I recently finished off Jack Four, his latest novel in that series, and it’s typically filled with his usual mix of outrageous SF concepts. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro eavesdrops on the confessions of a garden gnome.
  • When social distancing should be enough….

(11) IF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE WERE DINOSAURS, MY LOVE. “DC Comics Turns Justice League Into Dinosaurs For Jurassic League” and Bleeding Cool has sample art.

… In the world of Jurassic League, Superman was still sent to Earth on a rocket ship from a dying planet. And he was still raised by humans. It’s just that he’s also a man-shaped brachiosaurus. Batman (rather, Batsaur, Gedeon clarifies for Polygon) is an allosaurus. Wonder Woman is a triceratops. The Joker is a dilophosaurus….

(12) QUESTRISON Q&A. Space Cowboy Books will host a reading and interview with J. Dianne Dotson, author of The Questrison Saga on Tuesday, February 15 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration at Eventbrite.

The Questrison Saga is an epic four-book space opera beginning at the edge of our solar system and expanding out into the galaxy. Within its pages: Love and war. Spaceships and exotic worlds. Aliens, androids, ecosystems. Mages and presidents. Long cons. Family feuds that led to galactic destruction. Family ties that could save the galaxy.

(13) ASK HARRIS. And Space Cowboy Books will also host an interview with Brent A. Harris, author of the science fiction novel Alyx: An AI’s Guide to Love and Murder, on Tuesday, February 22 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration here.

What if your home wanted you dead?

Tech-loving teen Christine makes fast friends with her home’s AI, Alyx. But when a real-world romance threatens their bond, Alyx turns from friend to foe.

Alyx is a positive LGBTQ+ coming-of-age techno-thriller trapped inside a monster-in-the house horror where the home itself is the monster.

(14) THE EYES HAVE IT. Clarion West is offering a “Draw Your Way Out with Julie E. Czerneda” online workshop on March 3 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific. Cost: $75. Register at the link.

Use visual means to organize and connect information about characters, setting, and movement, expand plot options using a flowchart, then combine all into a single large diagram outline.

 Every writer has their approach to resolving plot problems and generating new ideas. One that Julie Czerneda has used successfully for years is to “draw her way out.” In this workshop, you’ll use this technique to work through different story challenges, from character development to plotting. There is no advance preparation required.

Materials Required:

Attendees will be emailed worksheets to be used during the workshop and must have their own large sheet of paper (minimum 40X40cm).

(15) TAKING OFF THE DARK HELMET. Vox is ready to tell you “How fandom sent Boba Fett from minor character to leading man”.

…About 1.7 million households tuned into The Book of Boba Fett’s premiere last December, and a second season seems inevitable. Han Solo might be sabotaging the Death Star, Luke Skywalker might be forging the fate of the Force, but currently, Star Wars fans are far more fascinated with this obscure C+ player in a green visor. Back when I was a preteen Star Wars fan, my friends and I shared an innate understanding that Boba Fett was uncommonly cool, even if we didn’t know much about him. Twenty years later, I’m still trying to figure out why.

James Clarke, 36, is well equipped to answer that question. He’s a longtime editor of the Boba Fett Fan Club, which sports over 14,000 members and is the single most comprehensive repository of Fettian facts, tributes, and theories on the internet. Like me, Clarke fell in love with the bounty hunter as a child, and pursued his fascination to the point of writing reams of Boba-themed fanfiction in middle school. “I probably have 25-year-old stories still on the site somewhere,” says Clarke. (Minutes after our interview, he sent me a photo of himself in full Boba Fett cosplay, a confirmation of his bona fides.)…

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

Pixel Scroll 1/30/22 Abracapixel

(1) STABBYCON. Reddit’s r/Fantasy section will host “StabbyCon” (named for their annual award, the Stabby) from January 31 through February 11. (Incidentally, voting for the 2021 Stabby Awards will open on Monday January 31 and close on Monday February 7th, at 10 a.m. EST. The link to vote will be posted on Reddit at the appropriate time.)

Our vision for StabbyCon is to celebrate what makes r/Fantasy and the speculative media community so great, and to bring a diverse group of creators into the spotlight through a series of virtual panels, roundtables and AMAs. We hope you’ll enjoy the range of events we’ve got scheduled, and help give a warm r/Fantasy welcome to all of our StabbyCon participants.

Schedule

To accommodate various time zones, each event will start at a scheduled time but will run throughout the day to allow all of our panelists and as many of you as possible a chance to participate. Even if you miss the start of an event, we’d love as many people to drop in as possible.

We will also update this post through Stabbycon so that you can check back in on anything you may have missed. You can also browse the Stabbycon collection to see all of our events.

We’ll also be running daily social threads so you can drop in and chat about each of our events, or anything else SFF related. Our regularly scheduled posts will also continue as per normal throughout the StabbyCon period.

Here’s the first three panels:

Panels

  • Jan 31st, 4pm EST | 9pm GMT – Worldbuilding from the Real World with Krista D. Ball, R.B. Lemberg, Rowenna Miller and Tasha Suri
  • Feb 1st, 12pm EST | 5pm GMT – Unusual Biology with RJ Barker, Sue Burke, Sascha Stronach and Cadwell Turnbull
  • Feb 3rd, 12pm EST | 5pm GMT – Visible Cracks: Personal and Intergenerational Trauma with K.D. Edwards, Akwaeke Emezi, Tyler Hayes, Charlotte Kersten and Virginia McClain

(2) ONYEBUCHI Q&A. [Item by Olav Rokne.] NPR has a very good interview with Tochi Onyebuchi about his new novel Goliath. Some very interesting thoughts about the books commentary on the intersection between race and class. “In ‘Goliath,’ only the rich and white can escape to space as the Earth collapses”.

SUMMERS: So in the book, the mostly white occupants of these space colonies, they take some classes to learn about their privilege, and they end up being classes that don’t really translate into much action. And I’m curious, is that any reflection on the conversations about racial justice that are happening right now in our world?

ONYEBUCHI: Short answer, yes. You know, the very first draft of this book, I think, was completed in 2015. You know, there was a little bit of that there – you know, that idea of white people who were cognizant of their privilege and who were cognizant of, you know, social and socioeconomic divides, that sort of thing. And then, you know, looking at the ways in which the events of the summer of 2020 sort of rippled out into all these different industries and professions, it was fascinating, albeit dispiriting to see all the ways in which people can say all the right things. Corporations on Twitter can say all the right things, and yet, you know, a year later, you know, summer of 2021, you know, you’d look around and you’d ask yourself what had changed. And more often than not, the answer would be nothing.

(3) ALTERNATE REDSHIRTS. John Scalzi signal boosted a reminiscence about covers Redshirts might have had.

(4) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. Walter Jon Williams’ “Plot Rant” begins —

I just finished listening to an audio book, a mystery/thriller thingie with an interesting, somewhat science-fictiony premise. The writing was on the high end of competent, and the characters held my interest, and the novel’s milieu was interesting and fresh, at least to me.

What finally broke my patience was the author’s method of building suspense, which was to have one of his characters do something bone-stupid in order to get into jeopardy.

We see this on TV all the time, where police routinely charge into villain-rich environments without calling for backup, or people poke sleeping monsters with sticks, or go into a dark cave in search of treasure and/or a kidnap victim. It makes me crazy when I see it on television, too….

(5) LAUNCH PAD IS READY. Rocket Stack Rank has hooked up its ratings links to the various awards people will be voting on.

(6) NOT TO BE MISSED. Tangent Online has posted the “Tangent Online 2021 Recommended Reading List” based on their ratings for short fiction from the past year.

As with previous years, this list is not meant as comprehensive, there being a number of items we didn’t see, especially at the novella length. As was the case with the last several years, we narrowed our focus (with some exceptions) to those stories published in professionally paying markets as defined by SFWA.

There are 300 stories on this year’s list (down 72 from last year’s 372): 235 short stories (down 78 from last year’s 313), 53 novelettes (up 8 from last year’s 45), and 12 novellas (up 2 from last year’s 10).

(7) ALREADY MISSED, BUT YOU COULD CATCH UP. At GeorgeTakei.com: “People Break Down The Most Underrated Television Shows”.

Back in the day, the generations before us only had five channels, or less to chose from for their tv entertainment.

And even then there were stills shows that got overlooked, thank goodness for the idea of implementing reruns.

Now here we are, with more television than we’ll ever be able to watch. Thousands of shows on thousands of channels, worldwide.

So of course, tons of great work will go unnoticed. But maybe we can remedy a few situations….

For example:

“Reaper. On his 21st birthday, Sam discovers his parents sold his soul to the devil before birth and he must now be a bounty hunter for the devil until he dies.” ~ EnigmaCA

(8) FREE TAFF BOOK. The Incompleat Burbee, a digital edition gathering some of Charles Burbee’s finest fanwriting, is the latest addition to TAFF’s library of free downloads. Following on the heels of the Francis T. Laney collection released last month, here is another familiar name to all who read about the 1940s LASFS in Rob Hansen’s Bixelstrasse. The Burbee collection is available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they also hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund. 

Charles Burbee and his comrade-in-arms Francis Towner Laney (see Ah! Sweet Idiocy! and Ah! Sweet Laney!) were among the original “Insurgents” of 1940s Los Angeles fandom, opting for the motto FIJAGH or Fandom Is Just A Goddamn Hobby rather than the then prevailing mood of FIAWOL or Fandom Is A Way Of Life. Burbee in particular preferred humour, sarcasm and sometimes unforgivable put-downs to the solemn worship at the altars of SF and SF professionals that he thought he saw in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society of that era. No wonder he was fired as editor of the club’s official fanzine Shangri-L’Affaires.

The Incompleat Burbee is a selection of his best and funniest work produced as a Festschrift for his birthday in 1958 by Pete Graham, Ron Ellik, Terry Carr, Dave Rike and “Carl Brandon”, with cover art by William Rotsler. It was twice reprinted, mostly from the same stencils though with some corrections and small additions, in 1959 and 1974. A second, reset edition was published by Arnie and Joyce Katz in 1993.

First published as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 1 February 2022, based on the third printing as scanned by Joe Siclari (to whom many thanks) and available online at Fanac.org. The ebook uses the original William Rotsler cover art. 56,500 words.

(9) HOWARD HESSEMAN (1940-2022). Actor Howard Hesseman died January 29 at the age of 81. He was best known for his non-sff work on the TV series WKRP in Cincinnati and Head of the Class.

He was in all kinds of genre adjacent films like the counter culture drama Billy Jack (as a drama instructor), and comedies such as Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie, the disaster movie parody The Big Bus, and This Is Spinal Tap,

As for genre films, he was in Flight of the Navigator, Amazon Women on the Moon, Martian Child, Halloween II, Bigfoot. On TV he appeared on Ray Bradbury Theater (“Downwind From Gettysburg” as Bayes, creator of the Lincoln robot), The Outer Limits, and Level 9.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1992 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty years ago at Magicon where Spider Robinson was the Toastmaster, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Barrayar wins the Hugo for Best Novel. It had seen print first in Analog from July through October of 1991 and then in book form from Baen in that year. Other nominated works were Emma Bull’s Bone Dance, Anne McCaffrey‘s All the Weyrs of Pern, Joan D. Vinge’s The Summer Queen, Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide, and Michael Swanwick’s Stations of the Tide. It also won the Locus Award for Best SF Novel and was nominated for a Nebula Award.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 30, 1911 Hugh Marlowe. First, let me note that he was first to play the title character in the very first radio version of The Adventures of Ellery Queen. No, it’s not even genre adjacent but neat none-the-less. As regards genre roles, he’s Tom Stevens in The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Dr. Russell A. Marvin in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. He was also Harold McPherson in Seven Days in May if you want to count that as genre. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 30, 1920 Michael Anderson. English Director best remembered for Around the World in 80 Days, Logan’s Run, and perhaps not nearly as much for, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Yes, I saw it. It was, errrr, interesting. He also directed The Martian Chronicles series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 30, 1924 Lloyd Alexander. His most well-crafted work is The Chronicles of Prydain. Though drawn off Welsh mythology, they deviate from it in significant ways stripping it of much of its negativity.  To my belief, it is his only genre writing as I don’t hold the Westmark trilogy to actually be fantasy, just an alternative telling of European history. Splitting cat hairs? Maybe. He was also one of the founders of Cricket, an illustrated literary journal for children. The late illustrator Trina Schart Hyman whose art I lust after, errrr, adore was another. (Died 2007.) 
  • Born January 30, 1926 Peter Brachacki. Set designer for the very first episode of Doctor Who. Everything I’ve been able to read on him and that work says that he was not at all interested in working on the series and did so reluctantly under orders. Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert would later recount that she was impressed with Brachacki’s work on the TARDIS interior even though she personally did not like him at all. His design elements persist throughout the fifty years the series has been produced. His only other genre work that I’ve been able to find was Blake’s 7 and a short series called the The Witch’s Daughter done in the late Seventies. The BBC wasn’t always great at documenting who worked on what series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 30, 1941 Gregory Benford, 82. His longest running series is Galactic Center Saga, a series I find a little akin to Saberhagen’s Beserker series. I’ve not read enough of it to form a firm opinion though I know some of you of have done so.  Other novels I’ve read by him include Timescape (superb) and A Darker Geometry: A Man-Kzin Novel which was actually was quite excellent. Yes, I do read Baen Books. 
  • Born January 30, 1955 Judith Tarr, 67. I’m fond of her Richard the Lionheart novels which hew closely to the historical record while introducing just enough magic to make them fantasy. The novels also make good use of her keen knowledge of horsemanship as well. Her Queen of the Amazons pairs the historical Alexander the Great, with a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. Highly recommended. 
  • Born January 30, 1973 Jordan Prentice, 49. Inside every duck is a self-described person of short stature. In the case of Howard the Duck from the movie of the same name, one of those persons was him. He’s not in a lot of SFF roles after his performing debut there though he shows up next as Fingers Finnian in Wolf Girl, playing Sherrif Shelby in Silent But Deadly, Napoleon in Mirror Mirror and Nigel Thumb in The Night Before the Night Before Christmas
  • Born January 30, 1974 Christian Bale, 48. First enters our corner of the mediaverse in a Swedish film called Mio in the Land of Faraway where he plays a character named Yum Yum. Note though that he doesn’t speak in this role as his Swedish voice is done by Max Winerdah. So his playing Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his first speaking role. Next up is American Psycho in which he was Patrick Bateman, that was followed by a role in Reign of Fire as Quinn Abercromby. He was John Preston in Equilibrium, and he voiced Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle, a film well worth seeing.  Need I say who he plays in Batman Begins? I thought not. He’d repeat that in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Amidst being Batman, he was also John Connor in Terminator Salvation. His last genre role to date was voicing Bagheera in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle asked off Kipling’s All the Mowgli Stories. He’s got a television genre credit, to wit Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island off the Robert Louis Stevenson of that name.

(12) RIDING ON THE CITY OF COCOA BEACH.  Here’s a fun concept – the Lionel Union Pacific Rocket Booster Train. For a mere $1,699.99 you get a Legacy ES44AC locomotive, 6 Standard O boxcars including one with special clearance bars, 5 Heavy duty flatcars with loads and protective covers, and a 21″ sleeping car. And the rocket in the cargo can be assembled into a 30-inch tall scale model. Heck, that’s even taller than a Hugo Award!

(13) TIME FOR REFLECTION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] From Saturday Night Live — Be careful what you wish for when a magic mirror shows up in Beauty and the Beast!

(14) HEAVIER THAN AIR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post Magazine, David A. Taylor tracks down Bill Suitor, who was one of Sean Connery’s stunt doubles in the jetpack scene in Thunderball. He also interviews Air and Space Museum senior curator Mike Neufeld, who explains that rocket belts did not develop because they only had 20 seconds flying time and were very loud at 130 decibels. “Man flies rocketpack more than 1,000 times”.

For many years, I wasn’t sure if what I saw was real or some sort of hopeful childhood vision: I was in a large crowd on the National Mall and a figure in a white spacesuit wearing a jetpack suddenly floated off the ground. He was flying! After rising straight up, he swept forward, then swooped back above the crowd.I was about 5 years old. Was it a “Jetsons” phantom memory? I grew up in a white-bread Virginia suburb and my father was working as a NASA engineer. But this was way cooler.

Then I forgot about it, for decades. But about a year ago, the image popped into my mind and I decided to do some research. I came across a 1967 newspaper clipping with a black-and-white photo. Billed as fun for children, the Pageant of Transportation included a “rocket belt” flying man.

The caption named the rocket man as Bill Suitor. In the photo he floats midair with a balloonist near the Washington Monument. I wondered if Suitor was still around. …

(15) FAN MADE CINEMA. This Star Wars fan film dropped two days ago: The Battlefield – A Star Wars short film made with Unreal Engine 5”.

A new recruit discovers that the Imperial Academy might not have been entirely truthful about the realities of war.

‘The Battlefield’ is part of the series ‘For the Empire’ and was created entirely in Unreal Engine 5 as a workflow test for the upcoming AFK miniseries ‘A Hole in the World’.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. J. Michael Straczynski has made public another Babylon 5 commentary: “The Coming of Shadows”.

For every new B5 commentary video I post on my Patreon page, I release a prior one into the wild. The other day I posted a full-length sync-up commentary on COMES THE INQUISITOR, so that means I can now release the next one in line, THE COMING OF SHADOWS. The Patreon page is where all the Cool Kids hang out, and in return for their support get first news on all of my upcoming projects, the inside track on development, access to scripts, audio, these commentaries, photos and other spiffiness. There’s also a writer’s tier where those who want an intensive program of group critiquing (by me and the other members) and original essays on the craft of writing hang out.

All of that being said, here’s the free link to my full-length video commentary on THE COMING OF SHADOWS.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/21 Of All The Pixels In The World, She Scrolls In To Mine

(1) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC 2021. The New York Times reports “Hochul Urges Anime NYC Conference Attendees to Get Tested Due to Omicron”.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said on Thursday that everyone who attended a recent anime convention in Manhattan should get tested for the coronavirus, after it was announced that an individual who tested positive for the Omicron variant in Minnesota had attended to the conference.

Ms. Hochul said the individual, a Minnesota resident who was vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, had attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center in Midtown Manhattan. She urged people who attended the event, which was held from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, to get tested and said that health officials would be in contact with attendees. The convention hosted 53,000 attendees over three days, according to a spokesman for the Javits Center….

The Mayor of New York City also put out a statement:

(2) VARLEY MEDICAL UPDATE. In “The Two Johns”, John Varley tells why he’s home from his third stay in the hospital this year. Much as he works to lighten it up, this is serious, plus some touching moments about his last roommate. The digest version about his health is in this excerpt of the last three paragraphs:

…So I’m back home now. My final diagnosis, like a slap on the butt as I went out the door, was C.O.P.D. (That’s #5.) It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. My guess is that it has something to do (ya think?) with over fifty years of a pack-and-a-half per day smoking habit, only recently terminated. Used to be, it was easy to find me at SF conventions. Just look for the very tall guy whose head was obscured by the smoke that encircled his head like a wreath. That was in the early days. More recently I could usually be found outside the hotel, huddled against the rain, the cold, and the howling gale with a couple other hopeless addicts.

I was sent home with a couple bottles of oxygen and an oxygen concentrator, but it’s possible I won’t need them after a while. Lee and I were enrolled in classes at something called the Transitional Care Clinic, TCC, a really smart and nice service of the Clinic where you record all your vital signs and come in weekly for consultation. I hate trailing the coiled tubing for the O2 all around the house, but so be it. I am able to do most things I always did, and get around in the car. I still tire quickly, but I don’t pant like an overheated hound dog.

Thanks again to all who sent money after my heart attack at the beginning of the year. I can’t tell you how much those dollars have helped take a heavy load off both our minds….

(3) MOBY WORM. Michael Dirda, well-known Washington Post critic who started there writing sf book reviews, has written an introduction to the new Folio Society edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune. An excerpt appears at Literary Hub: “What Accounts for the Lasting Appeal of Dune?”

… Even now, half a century since it first appeared in 1965, Dune is certainly still “the one”—it continues to top readers’ polls as the greatest science-fiction novel of modern times. Many would say of all time. Before Star Wars, before A Game of Thrones, Frank Herbert brought to blazing life a feudalistic future of relentless political intrigue and insidious treachery, a grandly operatic vision—half Wagner, half spaghetti western—of a hero discovering his destiny. Characters include elite samurai-like warriors, sadistically decadent aristocrats, mystical revolutionaries, and, not least, those monster worms, which barrel along under the desert surface with the speed of a freight train, then suddenly emerge from the sand like Moby Dick rising from the depths….

(4) MISSING A FEW THINGS. A.V. Club’s M.L. Kejera’s “Comics review: The History Of Science Fiction is bad history” contends “This reprehensible graphic novel could have been so much more, but instead spends time covering up history, not unpacking it.”

… Presented with an index and a list of principal art sources, the book is clearly attempting to be of some academic or referential use, on top of its wider appeal. But the English translation of Histoire De La Science Fiction fails utterly as a proper historic work—and worse, ends up functioning as weak hagiography.

… For example, though objects and ideas from Japanese sci-fi litter the futuristic museum, no Japanese author is given anywhere near the depth as writers from the aforementioned countries. Considering that one of the primary sources for this book is able to be precise about its purview (La Science-Fiction En France Dans Les Années 50, or Science Fiction In France In The ’50s), it’s a baffling decision on the part of everyone involved here to not specify this—especially while calling itself history.

Additionally, there is an ugly tendency in the book to gloss over the more reprehensible aspects of the writers featured….

(5) CLARK DEPARTS. SFWA bid “A Farewell to SFWA Blog Editor C.L. Clark”.

As of November 30, our blog editor, C.L. Clark (Cherae) has stepped down from her role for personal reasons. Clark joined SFWA’s staff in the summer of 2020. Her editorial perspective has brought many new voices to the blog over the past year, voices with a lot of insightful and fresh perspectives on the publishing industry today and the craft of science fiction and fantasy writing in the many mediums in which our members work. She’s also provided essential assistance with the release of The Bulletin #216 and our other SFWA Publications projects…. 

(6) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a “Call for Artists 2022” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2022.  Full guidelines at the link.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats. The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s first open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fifth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

(7) HOST CITY WANTED FOR 2023 WESTERCON. Kevin Standlee posted an announcement at the Westercon.org website: “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2023 Westercon”.

Because no groups filed to host Westercon 75, selection of the site of the 2023 Westercon devolved upon the 2021 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 73 (in conjunction with Loscon 47) in Los Angeles on November 27, 2021. The Business Meeting voted to appoint Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Westercon 74 Head of Hospitality Lisa Hayes as a committee to select a site and committee to run Westercon 75. Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75.

To submit a bid to the “Standlee-Hayes Commission” to host Westercon 75, write to Kevin Standlee at chair@Westercon74.org, or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee.

The initial deadline for applications is January 31, 2022.

(8) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Rosemary Claire Smith encourages writers to do what they want to anyway: “Reasons to Publicize Your Award-Eligible Works” at the SFWA Blog. Here’s the second of four points:

2. Award Eligibility Posts Are for All Writers, Not Only the Big Names.

Don’t believe me? Consider how many writers won a Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award or another prestigious literary prize with the first story or novel they ever got into print. Think about the “newcomers” awards such as the Astounding Award for Best New Writer given to someone whose first professional work was published during the two previous calendar years. It’s been a springboard launching a number of careers. Also, keep in mind that your audience may nominate and/or vote on readers’ choice awards given by Analog, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and other periodicals. 

By now, some of you are saying to yourselves, “Why bother when I’ll never win an award…or even be nominated. Or if I am, it’ll be as a list filler.” Others are thinking, “I only published one story. It came out in an obscure publication.” Then there’s, “My novel didn’t sell all that well,” not to mention the perennial, “The reviewers don’t know my book exists.” Are you thinking about waiting until…what? You’re better known? You sell more copies? You get published in a top market? Your sales figures improve or your social-media following grows? Your work attracts a glowing review? 

To every one of your objections, the answer is the same: Your fiction merits more attention right now. Even in better times, writing is a difficult enough business without running ourselves down. As writers, we are notoriously NOT the best judge of our own work. We’re too close to it. Sometimes words flow quickly and effortlessly. Other pieces fight us for every sentence we succeed in wringing out of them. Critical and popular acclaim aren’t tethered to the ease or difficulty of creation. Besides, our assessment of particular pieces may evolve as we gain the advantages of time and distance. In short, you never know how a story will fare….

(9) A TOP SFF BOOK COMES TO TV. Station Eleven will air starting December 24 on HBO Max.

A limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, #StationEleven is a post-apocalyptic saga that follows survivors of a devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew while holding on to the best of what’s been lost.

(10) GAIMAN ON TOUR. Neil Gaiman will be visiting many cities in the U.S. in April and May next year – see the schedule on Facebook.

(11) OSBORN OBIT. [Item by Bill.] I am saddened to pass on that Darrell Osborn has died of heart issues. He’s the husband of Stephanie Osborn. They’ve made a number of appearances at SF cons in the Southeast, with Stephanie as a writer and Darrell doing magic and balloon animals. Darrell’s day job was as a graphic designer for an aerospace contractor, and he did cover art for SF books.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

1996 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age wins the Hugo for Best Novel at L.A. Con III where Connie Willis was Toastmaster. The other nominated works that year were The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, Brightness Reef by David Brin, The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer and Remake by Connie Willis. The Diamond Age would be nominated for Nebula, Campbell Memorial, SF Chronicle, Clarke, Locus, Prometheus, BSFA and HOMer Awards, winning the SF Chronicle and Locus Awards. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. He wrote a lot of SFF novels, none of which I recognize from the ISFDB listings. A lot of his genre novels are available from the usual suspects for very reasonable prices. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.  He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 84. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 75. British-born American illustrator and writer who is at least genre adjacent I’d say. (Motel of the Mysteries is genre.) Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 69. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. She too loves dark chocolate. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1952 Keith Szarabajka, 69. Quite a few genre roles including Daniel Holtz in the Angel series, voicing the demon Trigon in the Teen Titans series, Gerard Stephens in The Dark Knight and a recurring role as Donatello Redfield on Supernatural. That’s just a small sample of his genre roles down the decades. 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 50. Writer and illustrator, best remembered as creator of the most excellent Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. It’s available from the usual suspects. In French only for some reason. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full’s joke really has nothing to do with Tom Baker. Honestly.

(15) BEEBO, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A.V. Club declares, “Beebo Saves Christmas is one of the oddest holiday specials ever”.

You don’t (apparently) have to have been watching the WB/”Arrowverse” series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; indeed, it’s not clear that will help or otherwise make any difference. Beebo is a small furry toy that’s appeared as a character in several LofT episodes, ranging from as a mild joke to a malevolent something-or-other.

… For those who aren’t invested in Arrowverse lore, Beebo Saves Christmas was spun out of a running joke on DC’s Legends Of Tomorrowthe show about loser superheroes traveling through time and trying to save the day without making anything worse. In one episode—arguably the show’s best—a talking Tickle Me Elmo-style toy called Beebo is sent back in time and ends up in the possession of Leif Erikson and a group of Vikings who worship the talking toy as their new god of war….

If you can find it. On the CW, it apparently aired last night, “with an encore presentation airing on December 21, 2021.”  JustWatch.com doesn’t have this in its database. This Decider article has some other how-to-watch-it suggestions: “What time is ‘Beebo Saves Christmas’ on The CW?”

I’m thinking that an hour might be overmuch, but there’s only one way to find out…

(16) LAUREL & HARDY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2017 podcast Leonard Maltin did with Mark Evanier on Laurel and Hardy (Maltin on Movies: Mark Evanier.)  As kids, both of them watched Laurel and Hardy two-reelers after school and when John McCabe’s Mr Laurel And Mr Hardy came out in 1961 both checked out copies from the adult section of the library.  Because the Los Angeles public library didn’t have a copy, Evanier persuaded his aunt to get the Beverly Hills library’s copy.

Both men are really knowledgeable on silent film history, and if you know enough to argue about whether Snub Pollard was funnier than Charley Chase, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.  But their points are simple ones: all of Laurel and Hardy is worth watching except for the last five years of their careers, and it’s best to see them in a theatre or with friends because the laughter produced by a group adds to the joy these great comedians provided.

Fun facts: The stairs used in the 1932 short The Music Box still exist, and you can visit them in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.  Two Oscar-winning directors: Leo McCarey (as director) and George Stevens (as cinematographer) got their start on Laurel and Hardy shorts.

I thought this was a fun hour.

(17) THREE’S A CHARM. The first two were cursed. “BABYLON 5 The Geometry of Shadows commentary/reaction by Straczynski Third Version”. Why was this the third version? Straczynski spends the opening minutes explaining the problems that trashed the first two attempts:

…I’m recording the commentary for the Geometry of Shadows for the third time. The first time turned out that the new lavalier i was using wasn’t exactly hooked up right and did the entire recording sounding like Marvin the Martian — if Marvin the Martian were a raging drunk. Same applies to the Sense-8 commentary I did the same night. The second time I did it to redo the technology of the first one everything went fine. The sensitive microphone picked up all the sound in the room which was great, until I found out that it also picked up enough of the dialogue from the screen that it showed up on the recording and Youtube, when it did its search, said you cannot use this, Warner Brothers television has a claim on this, you can’t use it, you can’t post it. From 26 minutes to 42 minutes we can hear it. This is now my third run at this. I am beyond annoyed. I’m so – I wore a B5 cap from the pilot. I had a whole story about this. Screw it. I’m not telling you what it was because i don’t care anymore…

(Is this what really happened to the first four Babylons?)

(18) NOT SF. AT ALL. But if you read the Jack Reacher books you might want to see this trailer for Amazon Prime’s Reacher series. If it’s important to you that the new actor be taller than Tom Cruise, they have that covered. However, the trailer makes this Reacher look a bit of a showoff and dipshit, which isn’t his psychology in the books.  

(19) LIKE A DOG WITH A BONE. Can’t let go of it. But why couldn’t his passion project turn out great? Maybe someday. “Guillermo del Toro Wants to Make a ‘Weirder, Smaller’ Version of ‘At the Mountains of Madness,’ Possibly at Netflix” at Yahoo!

Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has long held that his passion project is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” and while he still hopes the opportunity arises to make the film, he now has a different version in mind than the one he nearly got off the ground a decade ago.

Appearing on the Stephen King-centric podcast The Kingcast to discuss “It,” del Toro was asked about the multiyear deal he signed with Netflix in 2020 and whether he might finally make “At the Mountains of Madness” at the streamer. “Take a wild guess which were the first projects I presented, you know?” del Toro replied. “I went through the cupboard and found ‘Monte Cristo’ and ‘Mountains of Madness.’ Those were a couple of the ones I presented first.”

(20) NEUTRON BEAMS, FAITH AND MAGIC.  In today’s Nature: “Neutron Beam Peers Into Medieval Faith And Superstition”.

A Norwegian amulet more than 700 years old has been hiding a runic inscription that holds religious and magic significance.

When archaeologists found the rectangular metal object during an excavation in Oslo’s medieval town in 2018, they saw that it was covered with runes and folded several times. Hartmut Kutzke at the city’s Museum of Cultural History and his colleagues wanted to study what was inscribed inside, but they feared that manually opening the talisman, known as the Bispegata amulet, would damage it. Because it is made out of lead — a heavy metal that blocks most X-rays — using X-ray tomography to make the hidden runes visible would not work either. Instead, the researchers used a neutron beam to peek inside the amulet and create a detailed reconstruction of it.

They found that some of the runes spell out Latin and Greek phrases, whereas others signify repetitive sequences of seemingly meaningless words. Some of the comprehensible phrases might carry religious meaning, whereas the abstruse abracadabra was probably thought to have a magic effect, the researchers say.

(21) IT’S A YOUNG MOON AFTER ALL. From “Robotic sample return reveals lunar secrets” in today’s Nature:

A mission to unexplored lunar territory has returned the youngest volcanic samples collected so far. The rocks highlight the need to make revisions to models of the thermal evolution of the Moon.

The wait is over for more news from the Moon1. Three studies in this issue, by https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04119-5.pdf  Tian et al.   https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04107-9.pdf   Hu et al. and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04100-2.pdf ;Li et al., together with one in Science by Che et al. report data on the lunar samples brought back by China’s robotic Chang’e-5 mission — the first to return samples since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. These data shed light on volcanic eruptions that occurred more than one billion years more recently than those known about previously, and provide information on the cause of the volcanism that cannot be obtained from orbit. The results raise questions about the structure and thermal evolution of the lunar interior, and could help to improve methods for estimating the age of planetary surfaces throughout the inner Solar System.

In December 2020, the Chang’e-5 lander set down in the Rümker region near the northwest corner of Oceanus Procellarum on the side of the Moon closest to Earth (Fig. 1). Like the sites visited by Luna and by NASA’s Apollo missions, the Rümker region consists predominantly of a magnesium-rich volcanic rock known as basalt, but the difference from previous missions is that the Rümker basalts are potentially as young as 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion years old, which makes the Chang’e-5 samples the youngest taken from the Moon so far.

(22) NERD ART. “’Selfie with Godzilla’?! Artist Fuses Reality and Science Fiction in Multimedia Gallery Show” — some entertaining images in Houston City Book.

…Houston artist Neva Mikulicz, a self-described “nerd” with an alter ego named Commodore Mik, who once ordered Kirk to the Star Fleet Fat Farm so she could board and evaluate the condition of the Starship Enterprise, smartly and humorously blurs that line between science and science fiction in her new exhibit, Declassified, a collection of beautifully realized Prismacolor pencil on paper drawings, complemented by archival videos and LED and sound module technology. The show opens Saturday at Anya Tish Gallery.

UFOs, robots, and monsters both prehistoric and imagined are recurring subjects in Mikulicz’s artwork, which radiates with a 1950s “vintage-y” vibe, the decade when the automobile, rock’n’roll and television took hold of the country’s collective imagination.

But Declassified is no nostalgia trip. Some drawings mirror the look of our world as it is photographed and disseminated by handheld consumer gizmos, while other works are composed like panels in a graphic novel, a medium that many contemporary fine artists find inspiring. One features a T-Rex chasing an iconic orange-and-white-striped Whataburger cup; another is titled “Selfie with Godzilla.” Mikulicz also created a comic book to accompany the exhibition….

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  No Time To Die,” the Screen Junkies say the film shows that Bond has gone beyond silliness (remember Roger Moore driving a gondola?) to be a movie “about a divorced dad who wonders what to feed a French kid for breakfast.” Also, why should characters care who is 007, since that’s basically “an employee ID number?”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rob Thornton, Bill, Michael J. Walsh, Kevin Standlee, David K.M. Klaus, Will R., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]