Pixel Scroll 1/16/23 Magneto’s Cat Versus The Metal-Munching Moon Mice

(1) AI CONTENT CREATION. Brian Keene makes the argument that “The Machines Already Took Our Jobs”.

…Now, you might not think that’s a big deal, because who is reading those types of clickbait articles anyway? But there used to be a human writer churning out those things. And now that writer is just a little bit more financially insecure and scrambling to find another gig to replace it. 

But stick around, because it gets worse. It is one miniscule step from A.I. writing that sort of content to then writing an article for a magazine or a newspaper. And indeed, I know of magazines and newspapers whose owners are already looking into this possibility. As one person at a fairly decent-sized outlet told me, “From a cost-cutting perspective, it costs as much to pay an editor to look over a machine’s writing as it does to have them look over a human’s writing. But the difference is we don’t have to pay the human who wrote it. Just the editor. It’s a game-changer.”

That’s not the only place you’re reading A.I. generated content. I personally know of three companies that now use A.I. to write their posts for LinkedIn and Facebook. And because that sort of content is usually dry as a Saltine cracker anyway, it’s impossible to tell that a machine wrote it rather than a human….

(2) FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE. Meanwhile, Camestros Felapton finds services are being developed to detect AI-generated text, and uses his own writing to evaluate the results delivered by one of them in “The robot arms race”.

… With the text-generating services, the need to detect the role of these services in academic contexts has become an immediate issue. How does a teacher know that an essay is written by a student or by some GPT-fuelled website?

New online services intended to detect machine-learning generated text are appearing. I tried this one https://gptzero.me/

(3) THE GUNN SF CENTER’S BOOK CLUB. For the month of January, the Center has chosen Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award. Join them on Friday, January 27 at Noon (Central Time). Register for the virtual meeting here

Set in an underwater society built in the horror of the slave trade, the mermaids of this story must rely on their collective memories of the past in order to reimagine their futures. This novel, inspired by a rap song of the same name, is sure to captivate folks interested in the forthcoming live-action The Little Mermaid and other fantastical tales.

(4) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. NPR interviews James Cameron about the movies that are on the way: “Avatar 2 is taking over cinema, but how far away are we from upcoming sequels?”

On upcoming Avatar sequels and what exactly makes a good sequel

The shooting scripts are all written. We’ve already fully captured and fully photographed movie three. So, it’s essentially in post-production.

We’ve done the first act of Movie four, and all we have to do is, you know, kind of add water, so to speak.

The audience want some degree of familiarity. They want to be grounded in that which they liked from the first film. And some sequels change too much. The trick is to find ways to make it pleasantly surprising, unexpected. You know, I feel like I was able to do that with a completely unexpected direction.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1960 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] An excerpt from Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham

As you know by now, you know that I have an inordinate fondness for all thing things Seuss. Indeed in my bedroom on the nightstand sits Horton, Cat in the Hat and The Fish in His Teapot. 

I have also watched the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas so many times that I’m sure I’ve memorized the entire delightful affair. 

I thoroughly despised the twenty minutes I saw of the Jim Carey fronted How the Grinch Stole Christmas crap. But I am told that I should check out the newer Grinch animated film in which Benedict Cumberbatch voiced The Grinch. Any opinions here concerning it? 

Did you know that on the twentieth of September 1991 following Geisel’s death earlier that week, Jesse Jackson read an excerpt of Green Eggs and Ham on Saturday Night Live? Well he did. And here it is

Now let’s have the pleasure of an excerpt from it. 

Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like green eggs and ham.

Would you like them here or there?
I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Would you like them in a house?
Would you like them with a mouse?
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death. (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus the wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 75. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His gems include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to have done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 53 . Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. 
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 49. Yes she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 47. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THE HELICON SOCIETY. The 2023 “Helicon Awards” were announced January 14. It’s time again for Richard Paolinelli to give awards to people he publishes through his Tuscany Bay Books imprint, such as his fellow Scrappy-Doo Declan Finn, which now has a distribution deal with Baen, plus a couple of real bestselling sff writers he hopes will pay him attention.

Paolinelli and Finn still relentlessly advertise their Dragon Awards Finalist status, from the first years when the Puppies cornered the market, but they have solved the subsequent problem with the Dragon Awards being voted to other people by starting an award where – the public doesn’t have a vote!

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Linoleum comes to theaters February 24.

Cameron Edwin (Jim Gaffigan), the host of a failing children’s science TV show called “Above & Beyond”, has always had aspirations of being an astronaut. After a mysterious space-race era satellite coincidentally falls from space and lands in his backyard, his midlife crisis manifests in a plan to rebuild the machine into his dream rocket. As his relationship with his wife (Rhea Seehorn) and daughter (Katelyn Nacon) start to strain, surreal events begin unfolding around him — a doppelgänger moving into the house next door, a car falling from the sky, and an unusual teenage boy forging a friendship with him. He slowly starts to piece these events together to ultimately reveal that there’s more to his life story than he once thought.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/23 Suddenly, There Was A Knock On The Pixel

(1) 2023 HORROR UNIVERSITY ONLINE WINTER SESSION. The Horror Writers Association will run its Winter 2023 Horror University Online session from February 6 to April 3. They will present eight workshops for horror writers interested in refining their writing, learning new skills and techniques, or perfecting their manuscript presentation. Full descriptions and registration information is available in the Horror University School on Teachable.  
 
The Winter 2023 Session includes:

February 6: The Master Plotting Crash Course with John Skipp.
February 13: Decoding Screenwriting with L. Marie Wood.
February 27: Writing “Spooky” Stories for Younger Readers (Middle Grade and Young Adult) with Jennifer Brody.
March 6: Behind the Badge: Creating Realistic Law Enforcement Characters with Alicia Hilton.
March 13: What Makes a Good Scary Story with Patricia Marcantonio.
March 20: Graphic Horror: Creating Horror Comics and Graphic Novels with James Chambers.
March 27: Perfecting Your Pitch with Jonathan Maberry.
April 3: Upping Your Anthology Game with Michael Knost.

Registration is $65 for non-HWA-members, $55 for HWA members, and four- and eight-course bundles are available. Discount codes, available to HWA members only, can be found in the next Internet Mailer, which will be sent to all members shortly.

(2) HWA BLACK HERITAGE INTERVIEW ROUNDUP. There’s a “Complete List of 2022 Black Heritage Series Interviewees” at the Horror Writers Association blog. Links to 18 interviews.

As we prepare to roll out the 2023 Black Heritage Month Interview, let’s stop and take a look back at our first year of interviews from 2022

(3) PROVE YOU’RE NOT A ROBOT. David D. Levine has raised a new point of netiquette in this Facebook post.

Context: in a conversation about Y2K bugs, two different friends of mine (definitely real people) chose to post comments which were the output of chatbots. In one case the poster said “I posed your question to a chatbot and it said this,” in the other the poster posted a short story related to the question which was, to my eye, clearly the output of a chatbot, and when asked the poster confirmed that it was.

I do not find chatbot output amusing any more, except in the case where it goes hilariously wrong. And I find posting chatbot output into a conversation with friends, as though it was something you’d actually put any effort into, to be offensive. (I didn’t know this until it happened.)…

More exposition at the link.

(4) THE TIDE GOES OUT. “‘Avatar’: The Way of the Restroom”  — the New York Times

…“It was honestly all the water,” said Mr. Brizard, 29, who works in finance and lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The sea gushes, gurgles and sprays across the screen in James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel, which immerses viewers in the richly textured aquatic world of a clan of reef-dwelling Na’vi. These photorealistic ocean sequences make up the bulk of a lengthy epic that many are watching in theaters with vats of soda in hand, creating a perfect storm for moviegoers to need to take one or more bathroom breaks.

The water scenes are especially vivid in IMAX 3-D, according to Mr. Brizard, who moved to an aisle seat after his first trip to the restroom so he wouldn’t have to step over other audience members on subsequent visits. “All the splashing noises, it’s all a constant reminder,” he said.

Mr. Cameron, who has encouraged fans to see “Avatar” in theaters, saw this coming.

“Here’s the big social paradigm shift that has to happen: It’s OK to get up and go pee,” he said in an interview with Empire magazine. He added that he did not want anyone “whining about length” when people are perfectly willing to watch eight straight hours of television. (Television, it must be said, is easier to pause than a movie in a theater.)

In November, Mr. Cameron told The Hollywood Reporter that moviegoers should go to the bathroom “any time they want” during the movie. “They can see the scene they missed when they come see it again,” the director added….

(5) 2023 WESTERCON. Arlene Busby, chair of Westercon75, sent an update to the SMOFs email list. The con is being held June 30-July 3 at the Clarion Hotel Anaheim at 616 Convention Way, Anaheim, CA 92802. The GoH’s are Fantasy Writer Gail Carriger and Science GoH Dr Kevin Grazier. If anyone needs to reach her she can be emailed at [email protected] 

(6) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport appeals for subscribers by posting the free story “Our Lady of Tomorrow” by Natalie C. Parker.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1948 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Rex Stout’s recipe for his perfect omelet

I was intending to, and I will in this series of essays, go into Nero Wolfe’s rather deep fondness for food and drink. But I found something even better in And Be a Villain (British title, More Deaths Than One) the Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout that was first published by the Viking Press in 1948. 

It is Rex Stout’s recipe for his perfect omelet. Really it is. It’s also in The Nero Wolfe Cookbook as published by Viking Press in 1973 where the Viking editors then credit it to Wolfe a quarter of a century later. If you decide to purchase this cookbook, do not buy the 1981 paperback as it has but a sampling of the 1973 recipes. Boo, hiss! 

And now, here’s Stout’s perfect omelet recipe.

It is better to make two small omelets than a large one. Beat four eggs in a bowl, adding two Tbsps. of milk or cream if you wish; I don’t. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat one scant Tbsp. butter in a skillet over a hot fire. When the butter is hot but before it smokes, add the eggs all at once. Quickly, with a fork, pull the edges of the egg mass toward the center as they thicken. The liquid part will immediately fill the vacant spaces. Repeat until there is no more liquid but the eggs are still very soft. Gently press the handle of the skillet downward and let the omelet slide toward it. When 1/3 of the omelet has slid up the edge of the pan, fold it toward the center with a spatula. Raise the handle to slide the omelet in the opposite direction, and when 1/3 is up the far edge hold a dish (heated) under it. As the rim of the omelet touches the dish, raise the handle until the skillet is upside down. The result should be an oval-shaped light-brown omelet.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed because it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1924 Dennis Lynds. He only wrote two sf novels, probably pulp ones at that, Lukan War and The Planets of Death, but I’m intrigued that he also penned eight titles of The Shadow from 1964 to 1967 under the Shadow’s author by-line of Maxwell Grant. He also, and I count this as genre, under the name of Robert Hart Davis penned a number of Man from U.N.C.L.E. novellas that all ran in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. And over four decades he published some eighty novels and two hundred short stories, in both mystery and literary themes. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulnan Commander Spock gets involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 88.  I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. So what should I have read by him that I haven’t? 
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best-known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read has Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 78. One of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 58. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role. 

(9) LOOTING THE UKRAINE. “As Russians Steal Ukraine’s Art, They Attack Its Identity, Too” explains the New York Times.

…As Russia has ravaged Ukraine with deadly missile strikes and brutal atrocities on civilians, it has also looted the nation’s cultural institutions of some of the most important and intensely protected contributions of Ukraine and its forebears going back thousands of years.

International art experts say the plundering may be the single biggest collective art heist since the Nazis pillaged Europe in World War II.

… In Kherson, in Ukraine’s south, Ukrainian prosecutors and museum administrators say the Russians stole more than 15,000 pieces of fine art and one-of-a-kind artifacts. They dragged bronze statues from parks, lifted books from a riverside scientific library, boxed up the crumbling, 200-year-old bones of Grigory Potemkin, Catherine the Great’s lover, and even stole a raccoon from the zoo, leaving behind a trail of vacant cages, empty pedestals and smashed glass.

Ukrainian officials say that Russian forces have robbed or damaged more than 30 museums — including several in Kherson, which was retaken in November, and others in Mariupol and Melitopol, which remain under Russian occupation. With Ukrainian investigators still cataloging the losses of missing oil paintings, ancient steles, bronze pots, coins, necklaces and busts, the number of reported stolen items is likely to grow….

(10) BOOKSTORES SPOTLIGHTED. Hadassah Magazine’s list of “America’s Distinctive Jewish-Owned Bookstores” includes The Ripped Bodice, a romance specialty bookstore in Los Angeles.

“Books belong in a Jewish home,” affirms Leah Koch, who with her sister, Bea, owns the Los Angeles romance-focused bookstore The Ripped Bodice. Indeed, a section of the bright and enticing store looks like a living room, complete with shabby chic sofas and love seat.

For the Koches, bookselling fulfills a larger mission to promote diversity. While the six- year-old store’s white shelves are stacked with every type of romance book possible, from Regency (Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” series is a favorite) to erotica, the sisters deliberately showcase Jewish, LGBTQ and non-white storylines and authors, all of which are underrepresented in the romance genre.

Toward December, rather than putting up tinsel, the owners mounted a riotous blue-and-white Hanukkah display in the shop windows. Angelenos cruising by the pink Culver City storefront couldn’t miss the oversized dreidels, menorahs and posters of Jewish-themed books like Jean Meltzer’s The Matzah Ball.

(11) CURRENT EVENTS. Today Norman Spinrad reminded readers of his email list where to find a video of his performance at the Electric Circus in Paris. “Norman Spinrad chante sur la piste du Cirque Electrique”.

(12) WET WORK. These California storms have got water on everyone’s brain – which seems to be the source of these ideas from regular contributor Michael Toman.

QUEST TALES OF ATMOSPHERIC RIVERWORLDedited and written by Philip Jose Farmer & “Divers Hands?”

Or maybe another crossover with one of my other favorite PJF series, featuring Paul Janus Finnegan, aka “Kickaha?”

RED ORC’S OMEGA COAST MAKEOVER UNIVERSE?

With a J.M.W. Turner inspired cover by John Schoenherr?

First line?

“Didn’t it rain, Lords, Lords, didn’t it rain?”

Yeah, this Long-Time Farmerphile would buy that book in a Dayworld Nano-Second!

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Mysterious Galaxy bookstore’s YouTube channel includes videos of many virtual events, including the recently posted recording of “Author Seanan McGuire, in discussion with Nghi Vo”.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Review: Avatar: The Way of Water

By Craig Miller. [Reprinted by permission from Facebook.] It was back to the Directors Guild last night for a screening of Avatar: The Way of Water. Overall, I really enjoyed the film. Like the first Avatar movie, the story itself isn’t remarkable. It isn’t concepts you haven’t seen before. But that’s true for a lot of movies. And plays. And novels. West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet. It’s all in how you tell it.

And James Cameron tells it quite well. As with Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual feast. Unlike the first film, there aren’t long sweeping pans lingering over beautiful, otherworldly vistas. The “beautiful” and the “otherworldly” are still there, but we’re seeing them incorporated into the action and storytelling.

At nearly three-and-a-quarter hours, the film is long though it doesn’t feel quite that long. And unlike a lot of sequels, it isn’t just a retelling of the first film but with bigger, meaner, or more bad guys. It’s new story. A continuation of what came before but taking us in new directions and to new locations. There’s a lot of storytelling going on, with longish sequences that don’t seem to be following the main story, but they pay off in the end. Though the film could certainly do with trimming.

There are a number of questionable things in the film but mostly they pass over you while you’re watching. (These are relatively minor. Like, in the first Avatar, was this the only spot on Pandora the upsidasium – oops, I mean unobtainium – was located? Weren’t there places where they wouldn’t have to go to war to get it? And what were even they going to use it for? They clearly had cheap and easy air and space travel.)

We saw the film in 3D and I’m not sure that added much to the enjoyment. Maybe it made the environment a little more vivid. The 3D wasn’t used for storytelling purposes. They didn’t talk about the format or projection at the screening but it seemed that some scenes were in standard 24 fps speed and others were 48 fps. Peter Jackson used 48 fps on The Hobbit and it gave the whole film an ultra-real “locker room interview” feel. Here, too, I found the faster filming speed sequences looked weird. And switching between the two filming speeds was jarring. I was thrown out of the movie because I was noticing a change to the images. I do not recommend seeing the film in that format.

But I do recommend seeing this film. Genny and I both liked it. (If you didn’t like Avatar, you probably won’t like this either. I think it’s actually somewhat better than its predecessor.)

There are three more Avatar films planned. Presumably the next one will be out sooner after this one than the gap between the first two films.

Pixel Scroll 12/13/22 The Megatherium Weighed The Pterodactyl Down

(1) COVER ART. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]Literary Hub featured a long list of “Best Book Covers of 2022” which included several of genre interest. But the most surprising to see was the final selection, Chuck Tingle’s Bisexually Stuffed by an Orgy of Sentient Thanksgiving Foods. “The 103 Best Book Covers of 2022”.

(2) PRESS THE BUTTON FOR SIXTY-TWO. Phil Nichols commences “The Second Annual Time Travel Expedition” in episode 24 of the SF 101 podcast.

It’s December, and so according to the tradition we invented this time last year, we go back into the past and review an old science fiction magazine – to see how the field has changed over time, and to see if those old stories still hold up. This year, we tackle the December 1962 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. If you’d like to skim the pages with us, you can find the entire issue online here.

We also have a science fiction cat quiz, believe it or not….

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Adam-Troy Castro tweeted about his surgery:

(4) NEXT VERSE. The next Spider-Man movie is coming to theaters June 2023: Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse.

(5) AXED BY HBO MAX. “‘Westworld’ & ‘The Nevers‘ Pulled Off HBO Max, Marking Victorian Drama’s Formal End” reports Deadline. But they’re expected to resurface elsewhere.

…Two other original scripted series, Westworld and The Nevers, are coming off HBO Max. Unlike others that we have reported on, Lionsgate TV’s Minx and Love Life and Sony TV’s Gordita Chronicles — all comedies — Westworld and The Nevers are high-end Warner Bros. Discovery drama productions for HBO proper, and I hear they are likely to resurface on other company platforms.

WBD CEO David Zaslav has spoken about his plan to enter the burgeoning FAST channel space, so Westworld and The Nevers would likely be offered in that form, I hear.

The removal of Westworld is a surprise as it remains one of the most recognizable HBO dramas of the last decade. The sci-fi series was recently canceled after four seasons so some of its fans may not have caught up on all episodes before it’s removed.

This marks the formal cancellation for the Joss Whedon-created The Nevers, whose six-episode Season 1A aired back in 2021, with the second part of the season yet to be scheduled. It will now end up in the show’s new home whatever that is. The storyline has been crafted in a way that it concludes with Season 1B, sources said….

(6) FOR A SPLIT-SECOND IT WAS CAMELOT. “Scientists Achieve Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough With Blast of 192 Lasers” and the New York Times offers an overview of how it was done.

…There was always a nagging caveat, however. In all of the efforts by scientists to control the unruly power of fusion, their experiments consumed more energy than the fusion reactions generated.

That changed on the morning of Dec. 5, just over a week ago, when 192 giant lasers at the laboratory’s National Ignition Facility blasted a small cylinder about the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen encased in diamond.

The laser beams entered at the top and bottom of the cylinder, vaporizing it. That generated an inward onslaught of X-rays that compresses a BB-size fuel pellet of deuterium and tritium, the heavier forms of hydrogen.

In a brief moment lasting less than 100 trillionths of a second, 2.05 megajoules of energy — roughly the equivalent of a pound of TNT — bombarded the hydrogen pellet. Out flowed a flood of neutron particles — the product of fusion — which carried the energy equivalent of about 1.5 pounds of TNT, or an energy gain of about 1.5.

This crossed the threshold that laser fusion scientists call ignition, the dividing line where the energy generated by fusion equals the energy of the incoming lasers that start the reaction….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

2000 [By Cat Eldridge.] Paddington Bear

One of the cutest bears in literature, alongside Winnie the Pooh is Paddington Bear. I hereby submit nominations for other extremely cute bears in fiction. 

Michael Bond first unveiled him to the world in 1958. He came up with him after he purchased a teddy bear as a Christmas present for his wife, and named the bear Paddington as the couple was living near Paddington Station, so he imagined the arrival of a real bear at the station in his first novel, A Bear Called Paddington

The sculpture was created by Marcus Cornish in 2000. Cast in bronze, the statue stands on Platform 1 under the station clock and was unveiled by Michael Bond on February 24, 2000. Interestingly the statue is owned by the Paddington Bear shop at the station.

Its present location is the second within the station, the statue having been moved from its original position at the foot of the escalators due to renovation work. He had been unceremoniously… oh let’s let journalist Marin Roberts tell the tale, “To my horror, a few months ago I discovered the Paddington Bear statue had been moved to a really dark, dingy corner on the other side of the station.” 

He enlisted the help of a lot of people including Hugh Bonneville, who played Mr Brown in the Paddington Bear films, and that’s he got moved to where he is. He’s supposed to have (eventually) a place in center court. 

Bond’s obituary in The Guardian described the statue as “one of the few memorials in London to inspire real affect.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 13, 1925 Dick Van Dyke, 97. Seriously you think I wouldn’t write him up? Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. in Mary Poppins followed shortly by being Caractacus Pott in the film adaptation in Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (No it’s not the same character as he is in the book.)  He voices the lead character in the animated Tubby the Tuba film and plays D.A. Fletcher in Dick Tracy.  He narrates Walt: The Man Behind the Myth whose subject matter you can guess. Played Commissioner Gordon in Batman: New Times as well. Shows up in both of the Night at the Museum films which sort of interest me. And yes he has a role as Mr.Dawes Jr. in Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time. Now Dreamscape was fun and well received. Skipping to General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang. I saw he’s was in Twelve Monkeys but I think I’ve deliberately forgotten that film and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (Died 2021.)
  • Born December 13, 1949 R. A. MacAvoy, 73. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope.  (Tea with the Black Dragon was nominated for a Hugo at L.A. Con II, the year David Brin’s Startide Rising won.) The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells, so do tell me about her other works. (OGH begins: there’s “R. A. MacAvoy’s Bear Stories”, half-a-dozen true life nature encounters collected here at File 770 in 2017.)
  • Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 68. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Yes, I’ve personally acquired signed copies of each. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want here.   She’s also been in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cats Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. And she’s on the dark chocolate gifting list. 
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 68. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, about her character Alanna going through the trials of training as a knight, sold very well and was well received by readers. That series is set in Tortall, a world akin to the European Middle Ages. What I’ve read of it I like a lot. She won the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction in 2005, a rare honor indeed. 
  • Born December 13, 1984 Amal El-Mohtar, 38. Canadian editor and writer. She won Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA, an Aurora and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award  for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Very impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past five years. 

(9) I CAN’T BE SURE, BUT I DON’T THINK THEY LIKED IT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Avatar: The Way of Water review – a soggy, twee, trillion-dollar screensaver” in the Guardian.

Drenching us with a disappointment that can hardly be admitted out loud, James Cameron’s soggy new digitised film has beached like a massive, pointless whale. The story, which might fill a 30-minute cartoon, is stretched as if by some AI program into a three-hour movie of epic tweeness….

(10) THE VERDICT. And the New York Times isn’t fond of the new Butler adaptation: “‘Kindred’ Review: Octavia Butler Comes to the Screen”.

…“Kindred” is finally coming to the screen, 43 years after its publication, not as a movie or a mini-series but as an eight-episode season meant to be the first in a series. (Made for FX, it premieres Tuesday on Hulu.) The ingenious premise is still there: Dana James (Mallori Johnson), now an aspiring television writer in 2016 Los Angeles, finds herself being zapped to 1815 Maryland whenever Rufus Weylin (David Alexander Kaplan), the young son of a plantation owner, feels his life is in danger and he needs saving. Only minutes or hours have elapsed in the present when she returns home, sometimes after perilous weeks or months in the past. Like other involuntary-time-travel stories, it is inherently suspenseful, generating cliffhangers at regular intervals, and the show takes full advantage.

The other side of Butler’s storytelling equation has gone missing, however. It is hard to believe much of anything that happens in FX’s “Kindred,” in either the skimpy, cardboard depiction of plantation life or in the clichéd presentation of modern city life. (The present-day plot has, unfortunately, been significantly expanded.) Butler grounded her speculation in historical and, crucially, psychological reality; the series takes her story elements and slices, dices and pads them in a way that keeps us from believing or becoming invested in the characters Butler worked so hard to build….

(11) REMEMBERING CARRIE FISHER. [Item by Dann.] Carrie Fisher is well known for her acting career.  Hello Star Wars!  She is somewhat less known as a Hollywood script doctor.  Her editing/writing skills were frequently employed in improving the character development and dialog of female characters.

She is also a songwriter.  Perhaps “co-songwriter” is more accurate as she co-wrote songs with Sean Lennon (John Lennon’s son), Harper Simon (Paul Simon’s son), and Jimmy Buffet. “3 Songs You Didn’t Know the Late Actress Carrie Fisher Co-Wrote” at American Songwriter.

Ms. Fisher edited scripts for a wide variety of films including Sister Act and Lethal Weapon 3.  Her work on one script in particular resulted in a very brief cameo.  The movie was Hook.  In the cameo, she is one of a couple enjoying a romantic kiss on the bridge as Tinkerbell flies by carrying Peter Banning/Pan.  After being sprinkled with a bit of pixie dust, the couple gently floats in the air above the bridge.  The other half of the snogging pair?  George Lucas. “George Lucas & Carrie Fisher’s Cameos In Hook Explained” at ScreenRant.

(12) ALL ABOARD. Nerdist has compiled a docket of evidence showing that “Some of the Best Sci-Fi ‘Ships’ Are Actually Living Beings”. Beware spoilers.

Space-faring ships that turn out to be alive are nothing new in science fiction. There’s more entries every year, but the leviathans often have similarities to previous versions. Many of them are whale-like, with interior corridors that look like the belly of the beast. Some even sing like whales. But while there’s plenty of overdone tropes in science fiction, what exactly constitutes life and sentience is one that is still interesting. As humanity’s understanding of non-human sentient life deepens over time, we continue to explore this concept in our entertainment as well. Here’s some of our favorite living “ships” from TV and film.

First example —

Jean Jacket (Nope)

Nope is the latest sci-fi movie to introduce a living ship. The flying saucer turns out to be an animal rather than a typical UFO. Technically it does carry passengers, for a little while at least. Then it eats them. If only we humans weren’t so delicious and nutritious. The real animals that inspired Jean Jacket’s design—urchins, cuttlefish, squid, and other ocean life— are not really a threat to us. But when a large alien shows those same unfamiliar behaviors, it’s a lot more scary.

Jordan Peele consulted scientists to make his predator more realistic and comment on the dangers of trying to control nature. That’s a tale many of the sentient ship stories that came before tell, and will likely remain a sci-fi theme for years to come since humanity hasn’t yet taken it to heart.

(13) TECH FOR GEEZERS. Admit it – you didn’t know all of these gadgets were obsolete! And neither do these folks who were interviewed by the Guardian: “‘My friends call me the BlackBerry queen!’ Meet the people clinging on to old tech – from faxes to VCRs”.

More than 40 years since the fax machine became an office mainstay, it seems the party is finally over. With telecom providers no longer required to offer fax services, these machines may soon be consigned to the dusty attic of bygone tech. But for the TikTok generation, who’ve never known life without wifi, concepts such as fax, dial-up internet and Friday night trips to Blockbuster Video aren’t just outdated, they’re completely alien. Even so, not everyone has forgotten about the charms of older technology. From the clattering keys of an old typewriter to the nostalgic joy of a chunky Walkman, some people have never left their favourite tech behind….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Bruce D. Arthurs, Danny Sichel, Rick Moen, Dann, Steven French, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern (offered with apologies to Peter S Beagle’s opening sentence in his A Fine And Private Place.)]

Pixel Scroll 12/4/22 A Fist Full of Pixels

(1) LIST OF 100. The Guardian analyzes the latest edition of the British Film Institute’s “The Greatest Films of All Time”, a recurring poll, in “The top 100 films… and what they say about our changing society”. At #6, 2001: A Space Odyssey is the highest ranked genre film.  

…This weekend, film lovers seem happy to salute this fresh list of 100 illustrious titles, published by Sight and Sound, the British Film Institute’s journal. It is a line-up compiled every 10 years from the votes of international directors, actors and critics, a constituency expanded this time to 1,639. Since the poll began in 1952, the results have been dominated by male directors, so the time was ripe, most concede, for a broader view.

True, a few commentators are quibbling about the usurping of the acknowledged “great movies” of the past in favour of more zeitgeisty offerings, such as 2019’s Oscar-winning Korean satire, Parasite, at number 90, Barry Jenkins’s story of queer identity, Moonlight, at 60, Jordan Peele’s racially astute horror debut Get Out, now at number 95, and the notable ascent of a three-year old film, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, now at 30. Others have grumbled about a suspected “tick box” instinct among voters, allegedly prompting them to make sure that more female directors made the grade.

But as the dust settles and the list is analysed for what it says about changing critical tastes, there is good news for the sustained power of British storytelling. …

(2) IRISH BOOK AWARDS. The winners of the 2022 An Post Irish Book Awards have been announced. They don’t have an SFF category, however, the book named “Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year (Senior)” is Girls Who Slay Monsters by Ellen Ryan, illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald.

There was a time when tales of Ireland’s mythical goddesses – their astonishing powers, bravery, and unbreakable bonds with nature – were famous, in Ireland and beyond. But over time, these stories were lost, often replaced or rewritten to make room for male warriors and kings.

UNTIL NOW.

Girls Who Slay Monsters brings these heroes of Irish mythology back to vibrant, magical life. From Éire, Ireland’s fierce namesake, and Bé Binn, a giant who overcame her bullies, to Badb, a gleefully gruesome death prophet, and Bé Mannair, a gender-fluid spy who challenged an entire army. These are goddesses of many shapes, skin shades and sizes, from every corner of ancient Ireland, whose daring still inspires today. Stand by their sides as they wield magic, fight monsters, and protect the powerless – and you might just discover that you, too, are a force of nature.

(3) WHAT THEY DO INCLUDES THINGS YOU DON’T WANT THEM TO. “Cory Doctorow Wants You to Know What Computers Can and Can’t Do” is an interview with the author in The New Yorker conducted by Christopher Byrd.

…In the eighties, in its metaphor stage, cyberpunk got people to realize how intimate technology had become in their lives. But you don’t think we need metaphors so much anymore?

I’ve been at this for long enough that I had to explain to people that I wasn’t speaking metaphorically when I said that they were headed for a moment in which there would be a computer in their body, and their body would be in a computer—by which I meant their car. And, if you remove the computer, the car ceases to be a car. And that they would have things like pacemakers and artificial pancreases, and just all manner of implants. I have a friend with Parkinson’s who now has a wire in his brain that’s controlled by a computer.

We think of computers as being a thing that sits on your desk and that you use to do your taxes. And then we think of it as a rectangle in your pocket that you use to distract yourself. Eventually we’re just going to think of a computer as being, like, a physics, right? The rules by which we make infrastructure will be our computer capabilities and policies.

Bill Gibson was going to arcades in Toronto and seeing kids thrust their chests at the video games while they pumped quarters into them and thought, What world are they trying to enter when they play these games? And he coined the term cyberspace. The thing that cyberspace gets us, as a metaphor, is the sense that our technology policy is going to be the framework in which our infrastructure, and thus our lives, emerge. And that enormity is difficult for people to grasp….

(4) GET ON BOARD. Sunday Morning Transport has posted this month’s free-to-read story, “Curses and Cake” by Sarah Beth Durst. “When it comes to certain kinds of curses—there’s often more than meets the eye.”

(5) READER BAIT. Dorothy Grant shares the secrets of “Building Better Blurbs” at Mad Genius Club.

… Then, I set to work – first with the hook.

The hook has gone in and out of style since Ad copy was first written. Back when you had a single line on the mail order form in the back of the paperback, it was supreme. Later, it was passed up for diving into the meat of the blurb. These days, some people use it, some don’t – but if you can come up with a catchy hook, it makes the reader attention stickier, and more likely to continue below the fold to read the rest….

(6) BEAGLE COLLECTIONS ON THE WAY. Tachyon Publications will bring out two volumes of collected short stories by Peter S. Beagle in May 2023: The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume 1: Lila the Werewolf and Other Stories and The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume 2: Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories.

Celebrating the storied career of bestselling author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), these essential hardcover volumes of short stories demonstrate why he is one of America’s most influential fantasists. With his celebrated versatility, humor, and grace, Beagle is at home in a dazzling variety of subgenres, evoking comparison to such iconic authors as Twain, Tolkien, Carroll, L’Engle, and Vonnegut. From heartbreaking to humorous, these carefully curated stories show the depth and power of his incomparable prose and storytelling. Featuring original introductions from Jane Yolen (The Devil’s Arithmetic) and Meg Elison (Find Layla) and gorgeous illustrations from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law (Shadowscapes), these elegant collections are a must-have for any fan of classic fantas

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1990 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fremont, Seattle Troll Under the Bridge

Trolls, definitely part of our shared folklore. So this Scroll, we’re looking at the Troll Under the Bridge in Fremont, Seattle. 

In proper troll fashion, it was erected to deter the presence of homeless people and antisocial behavior under the bridge after winning a competition held by the Fremont Arts Council. Well, it was a troll and they do tend to chase humans off, don’t they? 

It is a fantastic piece of work as done by a collaborative group of artists — Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter and Ross Whitehead. The artists retain copyright to the Troll images. They have sued businesses that use its image commercially without written permission. They have won every time they’ve sued. 

The massive statue, erected in 1990, is located on N. 36th Street at Troll Avenue N., under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge (also known as the Aurora Bridge). It is eighteen feet high, weighs six-and-a-half tons, and is made of steel rebar, wire, and concrete.

It is clutching a Volkswagen Beetle with a California license plate made to look as if it had grabbed it from the highway above. Originally, the car held a time capsule, including a plaster bust of Elvis Presley, which was stolen when the sculpture was vandalized.

The homeless and homeless advocates objected to the construction of the Troll claiming it was their space and they didn’t like the Troll one bit as they found him scary but the City was very concerned, I think rightfully, about the drug usage and overdose deaths there. (I lived in Seattle for a time and I know how bad things could get there.) The area was cleaned up shortly after the Troll came.

In 2005, the segment of Aurora Avenue North under the bridge, running downhill from the Troll to North 34th Street was renamed “Troll Avenue” in honor of the sculpture.

In 2022, the Seattle Kraken, the new NHL team, introduced Buoy, a mascot which was said to be the Fremont Troll’s nephew.

Here’s the Troll with a human companion to give you an idea of just how huge it is.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 4, 1949 Jeff Bridges, 73. Academy Award-winning Actor whose best genre role by far is, I’d say, was as the Oscar-nominated, Saturn-winning lead in Starman – but many genre fans would offer his Saturn-winning dual role as Keven Flynn/CLU in TRON and the followup TRON: Legacy as his main genre credential. Other genre work includes Kiss Me Goodbye, K-PAX, Tideland, King Kong (1976), the Saturn-nominated titular character in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man, and the voice of Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. He appeared also as an undead police officer in a film called R.I.P.D. (the Rest in Peace Department), which was either really bad or really, really bad. The studio actually made a sequel which amazingly scored even lower at Rotten Tomatoes. No, he wasn’t in it. 
  • Born December 4, 1949 Rich Lynch, 73. Writer, Editor, Historian, and Fan who with his wife Nicki produced the long-running fanzine Mimosa from 1982 to 2003, which was nominated fourteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, winning six of those years. He has been a member of several fan groups and APAs, chaired a Chattacon, and edited the 1998 Worldcon Souvenir Program Book. He and Nicki have been Fan Guests of Honor at several conventions, and were honored with the Phoenix Award by Southern Fandom. (JJ)
  • Born December 4, 1949 Pamela Stephenson, 73. Psychologist, Writer, Actor, and Comedian who was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, and emigrated to the UK. She may be recognized by genre fans as villain Robert Vaughn’s moll in Superman III, or as Mademoiselle Rimbaud in Mel Brooks’ alt-history History of the World: Part I. Other roles include the films The Comeback and Bloodbath at the House of Death, and guest parts on episodes of Space: 1999, The New Avengers, Tales of the Unexpected, and – of special interest to Ursula Vernon fans – a 3-episode arc as Wombat Woman on the British series Ratman. She is married to comedian Billy Connolly, with whom she has three children; she was the travel researcher for his film series Billy Connolly’s World Tour of…, which JJ highly recommends, as each trip includes visits to numerous interesting sites of quirky, bizarre, and supernatural reknown.
  • Born December 4, 1954 Tony Todd, 68. Let’s see… He was a memorable Kurn in Next Gen and Deep Space Nine, he plays Ben in Night of the Living Dead, he’s of course the lead character in the Candyman horror franchise, William Bludworth in the Final Destination film franchise, Cecrops in Xena: Warrior Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Those are just selected highlights. He reprises the lead role in the latest Candyman. And a most deep voiced Darkseid in the DCU animated films.
  • Born December 4, 1954 Sally Kobee, 68. Fan, Bookseller, filker. She has served on the committees for myriad conventions, and chaired both Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 and OVFF 10, and WFC 2010 and 2016. She was honored as a Fellow of NESFA and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon XXVII. She and her now late husband purchased a bookstore in the 90s. She continues to sell books at conventions.
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 65. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia, she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carr-led workshop. And she’s an editor as well having edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. She’s won three Ditmar Awards, an A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed! I’ve not read her, so who can tell us what they liked?
  • Born December 4, 1974 Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 48 . Engineer, Physicist, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan. Known in fandom as Netmouse, she was a member of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association, and has served on numerous convention committees and chaired three ConFusions. As a member of Midfan, which ran four Midwest Construction regional conrunner training conventions in the 2000s, she was editor of their publication MidFanzine. She is a past president of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. She is married to Brian Gray, with whom she won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2010; they went to Eastercon and Corflu in the UK and produced a TAFF trip reporta piece on the Sherlock Holmes museum, and a photo album. (JJ)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a Cecil B. DeMille moment.
  • Close to Home presents an overwrought moment in robot parenting.
  • Lio has a robot that doesn’t understand holiday decorations yet.
  • Get Fuzzy makes a dino-based pun and panics the pets.

(10) THE WEE OF WATER.  Huffpost takes notes as “James Cameron Weighs In On When To Pee During His Lengthy ‘Avatar’ Sequel”.

“Any time they want. They can see the scene they missed when they come see it again,” he said.

(11) KEEP WATCHING THE SPIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A Wall Street Journal opinion piece says that the whole military “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena“ phenomenon has been bunco all along—deliberate disinformation on the part of the Pentagon and/or US intelligence agencies. 

But then again, the same guy is of the opinion that the missing Clinton emails were the real story of the 2016 election, not potential Russian collusion.

But then, yet again, even a stopped calendar is occasionally correct. “The UFO Bubble Goes Pop”

Call it the buildup to a letdown, as the latest of the required intelligence reports to Congress on the UFO question undergoes a prolonged and likely angst-filled vetting before being delivered to the relevant committees.

A month has passed since its leaked contents were detailed in the New York Times, and still the document has not appeared and it’s not hard to guess why. Its findings will be surprising only to those who imbibed previous official disinformation on so-called UAP, or unidentified aerial phenomena. The most credible and widely trumpeted sightings by Navy pilots now are explained as illusions. Though Chinese surveillance drones do operate in areas where U.S. training flights occur, these are conventional drones, with no unusual capabilities. They aren’t the uncannily speedy, supernaturally maneuverable objects mentioned in previous accounts.

Bingo. Last year’s first mandatory intelligence report in what now seems a misdirection claimed several sightings “appear to demonstrate advanced technology.” A procession of current and former officials in the media hinted at secret and disturbing knowledge. The public was listening, with academics speculating that the long history of such now-validated sightings means aliens have been among us for decades if not millennia. America’s allies and adversaries were listening too, and reasonably wondered if our military pilots were actually recording encounters with secret U.S. super-capabilities that might tip the military balance….

(12) INSIDE JOKERS. Ranker offers “25 Jokes That Scientists Will Love”. You may laugh, too!

You wouldn’t think it from the lab coats and pale skin, but scientists are super funny. When you’re cooped up in a laboratory or a classroom, you’ve got to have a sense of humor to get you through the day. The jokes on this list of jokes for science geeks are the perfect one-liners and puns to get you through a long day of staring through a microscope. Whether you’re at Fermilab, CERN, or just your local university, feel free to try out any one of the entries on our list of funniest jokes for scientists. We hope you’ve got some med students down the hall, because guts are about to start busting….

Joke #3 –

Two Chemists Walk Into A Bar. The First Says “I’ll Have Some H20.”

The second says, “I’ll have some H20 too.” The second chemist dies.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, 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 Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/22 Hush, Little Pixel, Don’t You Cry; Papa’s Going To Sing You A Scroll

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Universal Waste” by Palmer Holton, a story about a small-town cop, a murder, and a massive futuristic recycling operation.

It was published along with a response essay, “The Laws of Thermodynamics Will Not Bend for Landfills” by Josh Lepawsky, a researcher on pollution and waste at Memorial University in Canada.

(2) WISCON 2023. Kit Stubbs, Treasurer of SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, rallies everyone with the hashtag Let’s #RebuildWisCon!

WisCon 46 in 2023 is happening!
We are thrilled to announce that Gillian Sochor (she/her, G is soft like “giraffe”, Sochor like “super soaker”) is joining Lindsey and Sherry as our third co-chair. This means we are going ahead with an in-person con for 2023!…

Finances
Thanks to everyone who donated and offered matching gifts last year, we were able to cover the cost of our 2022 hotel contract. We are now looking to raise $30,000 in this year’s annual fundraiser which will allow us to do all kinds of awesome things for WisCon 46 in May 2023, including:

Offset the cost of hotel rooms for members who need to isolate due to COVID-19 and who otherwise might not be able to due to the financial burden

Purchase more high-quality air filters for con spaces and masks for members

Expand the meal voucher program, introduced last year, which enables members in need to eat for free at local restaurants

Continue to offer CART services for transcription, now that the state of Wisconsin is no longer providing funds to offset that cost

And part of that $30,000 will go towards rebuilding WisCon’s savings after last year.

If you weren’t aware, WisCon can’t pay for itself with registrations alone. We try to keep the cost of registration down to make our con as affordable as possible. But what that means is that we’re counting on the members of our community who can chip in extra to do so! Please donate today to help #RebuildWisCon!…

WisCon Member Assistance Fund
This year we’re also looking to raise $3,000 for our WisCon Member Assistance Fund! The WMAF is a specially designated fund that can only be used to provide travel grants to help members attend WisCon. Please consider making a donation via PayPal.

(3) THIS COULD BE YOUR BIG BREAK! Daniel Dern says he won’t be covering Arisia 2023, and suggests I ask another Filer would be interested in getting a press credential to attend and reporting on the convention The upcoming Arisia will be held from January 13-16, 2023, at the Westin Boston Seaport hotel. Vaccination Verification required. If you’re game, email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will put you in touch with the con. 

(4) GOTHAM AWARDS. Everything Everywhere All at Once, the multiverse-spanning adventure, won Best Feature at the Gotham Awards 2022 reports Variety. And cast member Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Performance.   I don’t know why I’ve never heard of the Gotham Awards before, but if they keep going to sff movies I’ll be talking about them in the Scroll again.

(5) NEXT YEAR’S LOSCON. Loscon 49 will be held over Thanksgiving Weekend in 2023. The theme: “Enchanted Loscon”. Guests of Honor — Writer: Peter S. Beagle; Artist: Echo Chernik; Fan: Elayne Pelz. At the LAX Marriott Hotel from November 24-26, 2023. More information at: www.loscon.org.

(6) ZOOMIN’ ABOUT PITTSBURGH. The last FANAC Fan History Zoom of 2022 will be on December 10, about the major fannish breakout in Pittsburgh in the late Sixties and Seventies. Write to [email protected] if you want to get on the list to see it live.

(7) THE BARD IS OPEN. CrimeReads hears from Mary Robinette Kowal “On Writing a New Take on The Thin Man, Set in Space”, about the experience of creating her latest novel.

…Science fiction and fantasy, on the other hand, are driven by the aesthetic. They are about the look and feel. The sense of wonder. They don’t have an inherent plot structure. 

This means that you can map Science Fiction onto a Mystery structure easily. 

When I decided I wanted to do “The Thin Man in space,” I needed to understand the structure of the Nick and Nora movies specifically. So I began by watching all six of the films. This was a great hardship, as I’m sure you can imagine.  Here are some of the beats that are in all of the films: A happily married couple and their small dog solve crime while engaging in banter and drinking too much. Interestingly, they also contain the element that Nick does not want to investigate and Nora really wants him to.  Nick almost always gets along well with law enforcement. He has an uneasy relationship with the wealth of Nora’s family. There’s always a scene in which he goes off sleuthing on his own and carefully looks over a crime scene. More than one murder. 

From there, I started building the world of the novel. THAT is the hallmark of science-fiction and fantasy. We engage in worldbuilding in which we think about how changing an element or introducing a technology has ripple effects. For this, I knew I wanted to be on a cruise ship in space. There’s a writing workshop that my podcast, Writing Excuses, runs every year on a cruise ship. I based my ship, the ISS Lindgren on the types of things that happen on those and extrapolated for the future…. 

(8) UNDER THE HAMMER: GRRM SIGNED MSS. Heritage Auctions is taking bids the rest of the day on “George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts of Game of Thrones”. Bidding was up to $10,500 when last checked.

George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts of Game of Thrones. Includes: 1 box, 384 leaves. Typed, dated November 1994. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie. [Together with]: 3 boxes, 888 leaves. Typed, dated July 1995. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie.

Two early drafts of the first book from A Song of Ice and Fire, the hit HBO series and international phenomenon.

The impact that A Game of Thrones has had on the fantasy genre, both as a novel and a television series, is almost impossible to exaggerate. Named to the BBC list of “100 ‘most inspiring’ novels” in 2019 alongside C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, it almost single-handedly cemented “grimdark” as a fantasy subgenre and helped inspire the likes of Joe Abercrombie and Marlon James, both masters of fantasy in their own right. The overwhelming success of the HBO show redefined fantasy for the general public and has been lauded by both authors and publishers as responsible for boosted sales in fantasy and science fiction….

…As is his typical process, Martin created five copies of each draft of Game of Thrones. Two were kept for his personal files; one was sent to his editor; a fourth was given to Texas A&M University where the archive of Martin’s oeuvre resides; and this, the fifth and final copy, was initially donated to a ConQuesT charity auction, held annually in Kansas City. Parris McBride, Martin’s wife, hoped the charity would get “a few bucks for them;” alas, no one bid on the items. They were then picked up by one of the original book researchers for A Song of Ice and Fire, and from there found their way to Heritage….

(9) AMAZING STORIES KICKSTARTER FINAL WEEK ANNOUNCEMENT. Amazing Stories is in the FINAL week of raising funds through its Kickstarter for “Amazing Stories Annual Special: SOL SYSTEM by Steve Davidson”.

Our annual special issue – Amazing Stories: SOL SYSTEM – a double-sized issue, both in digital and print, of Amazing Stories. It will be chock full of stories set in exciting futures within our solar system. The publication is set for April 2023.

We’re also planning an online convention for April 2023 to celebrate this issue as well. Most of the contributing authors will be there!

We’re really excited about this and we know you’ll love it. Backers of our Kickstarter can choose digital copies of the magazine, print copies, convention memberships, and many more bonus add-ons as well.

(10) THE WATTYS. The winners of Wattpad’s 2022 Watty Awards have posted. The Grand Prize Winner, worth $5,000, is Nichole Cava’s The Vampire Always Bites Twice.

There are also Category Award winners for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, and Fanfiction, to name a few. The website’s format makes it hard to distinguish the shortlist and the winner – more work than I was willing to invest. If you want to try, they’re all at the link.

– Wattpad, the global entertainment company and leading webnovel platform, announced the 2022 Watty Award winners! With over 500 winners across nine languages, the 2022 Watty Awards were the biggest edition yet. This year’s USD $5,000 English-language grand prize went to Nichole Cava for The Vampire Always Bites Twice (55.1K reads), which follows a criminal necromancer and vampire private eye that unexpectedly team up to solve the case of a missing barista. 

In addition to cash prizes, 2022 Watty Award prizes included multiple publishing and entertainment adaptation opportunities from Wattpad WEBTOON Studios and the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group. Among the more than 30,000 entries for the 2022 Watty Awards, these winning stories were selected…

(11) PYUN OBITUARY. Albert Pyun, director of Cyborg, Interstellar Civil War, Tales of an Ancient Empire,  the Saturn-winning The Sword and the Sorceror and the 1990 version of Captain America, has died November 26 at 69, after several years of dementia and multiple sclerosis.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Dorothy and Toto in Oz Park (2007)

Fifteen years ago, a very special statue went up in Oz. No, not that Oz, but the park in Chicago, so first let’s talk about that park. It had been developed as part of the Lincoln Park Urban Renewal Area during the Seventies, and this park was formally named the Oz Park in 1976 to honor Baum who settled in Chicago in 1891 in an area west of the park. 

During the Nineties, the Oz Park Advisory Council and Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce hired Chicago artist John Kearney to do all the figures for the Park. 

He first created a sculpture of the Tin Man which he fashioned out of chrome bumpers. It was his last such sculpture done that way as the bumpers of chrome were increasingly scarce and thus way too expensive.

Next came the Cowardly Lion which was cast in bronze. Take a look at the detail in the fur — quite amazing, isn’t it? 

Next is the rather colorful Scarecrow that is a seven-foot-tall sculpture, cast in an amazing twenty-two separate pieces in Kearney’s own foundry on Cape Cod.  

Now we come to the last statue, Dorothy and Toto. This final statue to be completed was Dorothy and Toto, using the so-called lost wax technique which you can see an example of here being done. Kearney added paint for the blue dress and the iconic ruby red shoes. The final statue was installed fifteen years ago. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and a host of other awards, and has been made into a 2003 television film and a theatrical film directed by Ava DuVernay. She produced numerous loosely-linked sequels, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. In addition to her fiction, she wrote poetry and nonfiction, much of which related to her universalist form of Christian faith. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1997. In 2013, Crater L’Engle on Mercury was named for her. (Died 2007.) (JJ)
  • Born November 29, 1925 Leigh Couch. Science Teacher and Member of First Fandom. Active in fandom, along with her husband and children, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association and one of the editors of its fanzine Sirruish. She was on the committee for the bid to host Worldcon in Hawaii in 1981. She was honored for her contributions as Fan Guest of Honor at the first Archon, the long-running regional convention which grew out of that early St. Louis-area fandom. (Died 1998.) (JJ)
  • Born November 29, 1942 Maggie Thompson, 80. Librarian, Editor, and Fan who, with her husband Don, edited from the 1960s to the 90s the fanzines Harbinger, Comic Art, Rainy Days, and Newfangles, and wrote a column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom. When this became the professional publication Comic Buyer’s Guide in 1983, because of their extensive knowledge of comics, she and her husband were hired as editors; after he died in 1994, she continued as editor until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their editorial auspices, it won two Eisner Awards and the Jack Kirby Award. Together they were honored with the Inkpot Award, and twice with the Comic Fan Art Award for Favorite Fan Writers.
  • Born November 29, 1950 Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than 70 short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 53. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther / T’Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James.  I understand they did a stellar tribute to him in the new Black Panther film.  His Black Panther was nominated at Dublin 2019 for a Hugo but lost to another exemplary film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (Died 2020.)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN PANEL. The 2023 Oxford Literary Festival will host “The Great Tales Never End: in Memory of Christopher Tolkien” on March 28. Tickets available at the link.

The Bodleian’s Tolkien archivist Catherine McIlwaine, writer John Garth and academic Stuart Lee discuss the role of JRR Tolkien’s son, Christopher, in promoting the works of his father and furthering understanding about them.

McIlwaine is co-editor with Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden of The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher Tolkien, while Garth and Lee have both contributed essays. Christopher was his father’s literary executor and published 24 volumes of his father’s work over four decades, more than Tolkien published during his lifetime. The collection of essays includes reflections on Christopher’s work by world-renowned scholars and reminiscences by family members.

McIlwaine is the Tolkien archivist at the Bodleian Libraries. Garth is an author and freelance writer and editor. He is author of The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth and Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Lee is an English lecturer at the University of Oxford who lectures on fantasy literature with a focus on Tolkien. Discussions are chaired by Grace Khuri, a DPhil candidate at Oxford and the first Oxford postgraduate to write a PhD solely on Tolkien.

(16) HOW TO CONTACT THE CHENGDU WORLDCON. The Chengdu Worldcon posted this list of its “working emails”:

(17) DOING RESEARCH AND ASKING EXPERTS. Gideon P. Smith steers writers toward resources for “Writing the Science Right” at the SFWA Blog.

Getting the science right in SF can make the difference between writing cute stories and great science fiction. If you are a non-scientist writing SF and want to know how to do that, then this blog post is for you….

(18) LA ARTIST & WRITER. Some of you already know him, and All About Jazz invites the rest of you to “Meet Tony Gleeson”.

Tell Us A Bit About Yourself.

I’m an artist by vocation and a musician by avocation (I’ve played guitar all my life and picked up keyboards a couple of decades back). Music of all kinds has always been a major part of my life, but early on I made the choice to pursue the visual arts as my career. I spent my so-called formative years on the east coast, in upstate New York, Washington DC, and New York City. When I attended art school in Los Angeles, I fell in love with southern California and after a few years back in Manhattan, I persuaded my wife Annie to move there— quite an adventurous step for her as she’d never been on the West Coast. We’ve been Angelenos since 1977. We have three grown kids pursuing their own lives and adventures, but the house is hardly empty or still with our two cats, Django and Mingus, and our bird Charlie.

Annie’s been an NICU RN and I’ve run an illustration and design studio ever since we got here. I figure I’ve had around a thousand illustrations published: magazines, newspapers, book covers, catalogues and product illustrations. I’ve also done concept art for film, TV, advertising, and toy and product design.

I was a bookseller for several years early in the new millennium. I’m also a writer, with ten crime novels published in Britain and the United States. The most recent, A Different Kind of Dead, was released in the U.S. by Wildside in 2021. The new one, Find the Money, also by Wildside, is due for release before this year’s end. I’m kind of a polymath with a lot of interests (including film, baseball, classic mysteries, science fiction, and comic art) that tend to veer into obsessions….

(19) TAKEN BY SURPRISE, IN A GOOD WAY. “Slip Through Your Fingers: Thoughts on Andor by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Look, I was not expecting this. Two years and more than a dozen shows into the Disney+ experiment, I think we’ve all developed a decent enough sense of what to expect from the television incarnations of the two biggest entertainment franchises on the planet. And for the most part, these shows have been fine. Some fun moments. Some actors who are better than their material. Maybe a hint of a political idea. There was no reason for Andor—a prequel to a prequel whose original premise was already quite dodgy—to be any better.

And then it turned out to be good. Not just good for Star Wars, but just plain good. Best TV of the year good. I have to admit that I went a bit Kübler-Ross about this. First there was Anger—this show is too good to be Star Wars. No way does a story this smart, this thoughtful about the compromises of life under fascism, and the costs of rising up to resist it, exist only as a lead-in to a floppy-haired teenager doing an amusement park ride….

(20) FONT FOLLY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A memorable Saturday Night Live skit from 2017 poked a lot of fun at the “lazy choice“ of the font Papyrus for the mega-blockbuster movie Avatar. (You may not be familiar with the controversy, but it’s a real thing.)

The font designer — who was shortly out of school decades ago when he created the font — responded in good humor. Now director James Cameron finally has, too, and Slashfilm is there taking notes: “Avatar Director And Font Connoisseur James Cameron Finally Responds To SNL’s Papyrus Sketch”.

“Saturday Night Live” can be very hit or miss when it comes to their sketches, but it should come as no surprise that “Papyrus” will go down as one of their best. The bit features Ryan Gosling as a man who has disassociated from the world around him because he remembered that James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster “Avatar” used a variation of the Papyrus font for its logo. It’s the kind of thing you may think about for a second or two before moving on with your life, but the sketch from former “SNL” writer Julio Torres dedicates itself to making Gosling’s breakdown look as dramatic as possible.

Like the “Potato Chip” segment, it’s the kind of “SNL” bit that makes you laugh at how seriously everyone is playing their part with something so silly and bizarre. It’s just a logo, and yet Gosling plays it as if the material is worthy of a conspiracy thriller. Since the 2017 sketch, Cameron has given the “Avatar” logo a typeface facelift that gives the series more of an identity, although it’s not that different. It honestly looks as if the graphic designer took the modified Papyrus logo as is, and filled it with air.

The “Terminator 2” filmmaker can change the logo all he wants, but if the internet has taught me anything, it’s that it never forgets. For five years, Cameron has remained silent on the whole Papyrus conversation … until now. With the long-awaited “Avatar: The Way of Water” only weeks away, the blockbuster mastermind is finally breaking his silence.

In the January 2023 issue of Empire, James Cameron finally faces the logo demons that have been haunting him for minutes, as he jokes about how the graphic design choice got in the way of getting even more money. “Just think of how much we could have grossed if it wasn’t for that damn font,” says Cameron…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jeffrey Smith, Danny Sichel, Daniel Dern, Scott Edelman, Joey Eschrich, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 11/25/22 As Ghu Is My Witness, I Thought Pixels Could Scroll

(1) SFF WORKSHOP IN PAKISTAN. The first Salam Award Writers Workshop will be held March 6-10, 2023 in Lahore, Pakistan. Elizabeth Hand and Mary Anne Mohanraj are the lead instructors. Apply at the link – the deadline is December 31, 2022.

…Since 2017, The Salam Award has honored the best Pakistani and Pakistani-diaspora writing in the SFF genre. This workshop will exclusively focus on enhancing and furthering speculative fiction writing and authors.
Over the four days, participants will receive intensive instruction from award-winning writers and editors, participate in critique workshops of an existing manuscript, and craft exercises.

Applications are competitive as the seats are limited. If accepted, conference fees are PKR 40,000 and cover three meals, accommodation at LUMS, instruction costs, and all materials. Limited scholarships are available!

Highlights of the event include:  

  1. Clarion/Milford style workshop focused on Speculative Fiction genre writing
  2. SFF craft lectures and talks
  3. Participants will arrive on March 5th and depart on March 11th

(2) AN EXPERT EYE. Charlie Jane Anders’ picks for “The 9 best science fiction and fantasy novels of 2022” appeared last week in the Washington Post.

This was the year our dreams grew teeth. The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2022 managed to combine mournfulness and rage. In them, we’re seeing the first indication of how the pandemic and our recent political turmoil might change our stories, in the form of work that’s sharper, funnier and weirder….

The list includes –

‘How High We Go in the Dark,’ by Sequoia Nagamatsu

At first, “How High We Go” — a novel in interconnected stories about the devastation from a strange disease that comes from ancient corpses unfrozen in Antarctica — seems like a simple plague tale. But Nagamatsu’s ambitions reach higher and deeper, taking the story in some truly weird directions. Each of its narratives explores human grief in new ways, and each captures something about how technology and corporate interests can distort it. But throughout, human connection provides a saving grace.

(3) A TALE OF TWO TURKEYS. Walter Jon Williams shared his “best Thanksgiving story” yesterday on Facebook. Whew!

(4) CALLING FOR HELP. Chessiecon, held in Maryland, is a Thanksgiving weekend convention with a 45-year history that continues the tradition of DarkoverCon, emphasizing the work of women creators in sff literature and art.

It is having problems this year, in particular they expect to be hit with a contractual financial penalty for failing to fill their hotel room block. A GoFundMe — “Friends of ChessieCon Unite” — has been started to raise $11,000.

After several years of shutdown and a year of staff and volunteers battling health concerns, this intimate, esoteric fan convention has found itself seriously impacted. Though they have strived to power on, attrition caused by these health issues and a diminished volunteer base has left this year’s convention and its organizers falling short of meeting the convention’s needs and obligations. Most hard-hitting is the fact that this year they have not filled their contractually obligated hotel block. There is a stiff financial penalty levied against the convention by the hotel.

We very much would like to see Chessie and her crew survive these trying years to come back strong in 2023, but to do that, we must meet our obligations for this year. Can you help us?

(5) MAKE YOUR CORNER OF THE INTERNET A GARDEN. In “How to Weave the Artisan Web”, John Scalzi, inspired by a Pablo Defendini tweet, encourages people in sff to resume blogging. Includes lots of suggestions about what to do, but first he answers the question “Why?”

Everyone should start blogging again. Own your own site. Visit all your friends’ sites. Bring back the artisan, hand-crafted Web. Sure, it’s a little more work, but it’s worth it. You don’t even need to stop using social media! It’s a “yes, and” situation, not a “no, but” one.

… Now, why should we bring back that artisan, hand-crafted Web? Oh, I don’t know. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a site that’s not run by an amoral billionaire chaos engine, or algorithmically designed to keep you doomscrolling in a state of fear and anger, or is essentially spyware for governments and/or corporations? Wouldn’t it be nice not to have ads shoved in your face every time you open an app to see what your friends are up to? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when your friends post something, you’ll actually see it without a social media platform deciding whether to shove it down your feed and pump that feed full of stuff you didn’t ask for?…

(6) SHINY. Witness History’s episode “How cat’s eyes were invented” is available at BBC Sounds.

In 1934, the late Percy Shaw almost crashed while driving home from the pub on a foggy night in West Yorkshire, in England. 

He was saved when his headlights were reflected in the eyes of a cat and it gave him a brilliant idea. 

He invented reflective studs for the road and called them cat’s eyes. 

And wasn’t this invention behind Will Jenkins’ (aka Murray Leinster) subsequent invention of front-screen projection? Or is that just a trick of my memory? He wrote about it in an Analog science article a loonnng time ago. I see this much on the Murray Leinster official website:

Will F. Jenkins was an active inventor and most notably on December 20, 1955, patented the “Front Projection” filming method, and he sold the patent to Sherman Fairchild of Fairchild Cameras, who widely produced the method, and “Front Projection” was first used in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1970 [By Cat Eldridge.] Star Trek’s “Amok Time”

“Jim, when I requested to Spock that it was time for his routine check-up, your logical, unemotional first officer turned to me and said: ‘You will cease to pry into my personal matters, Doctor, or I will certainly break your neck!’.”

“Spock said that?” – McCoy and Kirk, about Spock

And now for a true classic episode of the first Trek series. Fifty-two years ago on this date “Amok Time” premiered across the pond in the United Kingdom (having first aired in the U.S. in 1967).

It followed what I thought was a good awful episode, “Operation — Annihilate!”, and was written by Theodore Sturgeon whose other Trek script was the stellar “Shore Leave”. I mean seriously, what a wonderful episode that was!

It had a number of things that made it unique. It is the only episode of Trek, and when I say Trek I always mean the original series, to show scenes on Vulcan.  It was the first episode to show Ensign Pavel Chekov as the navigator, and it was the first episode to list DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy in the opening credits.

I’m going to assume that each and everyone here has seen it, right? Ok. You’re fans. So let’s not deal with the story at all. 

It has two firsts that cannot be overlooked — Leonard Nimoy first used his signature Vulcan salute and “Long live prosper” in this episode. Ok, Sturgeon was a brilliant writer, wasn’t he? 

Memory Alpha says “In Theodore Sturgeon’s original script, Kirk did not have to depend on T’Pau’s influence to justify the departure to Vulcan. He knew the officials on the other planet, and asked them to delay the ceremonies until he got Spock back from Vulcan. This planet (Altair VI in the episode itself) was named Fontana IV in the original script, as a tribute to writer and then-story editor D.C. Fontana.” 

Finally a cat version of “Amok Time” was featured in Jenny Parks’ 2017 book Star Trek Cats. Really she did. She did the same for Picard and his crew as well.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 25, 1920 Ricardo Montalbán. Khan Noonien Singh and the first Mr. Rourke. Armando and Grandpa Valentin Avellan as well. I’m picking those as four most memorable roles he’s played and they just happen to all be genre in nature. Oh, and is Khan Noonien Singh one of the few occurrences of a non-crew character carrying over from the original series into the films? I suspect not but I can’t think of who else who did. If there is, I’m sure one of you will tell me who else did. (Died 2009.)
  • Born November 25, 1926 Poul Anderson. My favorite ones by him? Orion Shall Rise for the mix of a personal scale story with his usual grand political stories, and all of the Flandry and van Rijn stories. I also enjoy his Time Patrol stories as well, and the two Operation Luna tales are quite fun. Not to forget the ever so entertaining The Unicorn Trade that he wrote with his wife Karen. He was quite honored with seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards. I am told by reliable sources that Lis will reviewing all of the Flandry and van Rijn stories for us.  (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 25, 1926 Jeffrey Hunter. Best known for his role as the first Captain Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek and the later use of that material in “The Menagerie” episode which won a Hugo at NyCon 3.  Other genre work included Dimension 5A Witch Without A Broom, Strange Portrait (never released, no print is known to exist), Alfred Hitchcock HourJourney into Fear and The Green Hornet. Hunter suffered an intracranial hemorrhage while walking down a three-stair set of steps at his home in Van Nuys, California. He died in-hospital despite brain surgery. (Died 1969.)
  • Born November 25, 1941 Sandra Miesel, 81. She has described herself as “the world’s greatest expert” on Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson. She’s written such works as Against Time’s Arrow: The High Crusade of Poul Anderson on Borgo Books and she’s written the front and back matter for many of their books. Oh, and she was recognized early as a serious fan being nominated thrice for Hugos for her writing in zines such as Yandro and Granfalloon. She co-authored The Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children’s Fantasy with Catholic journalist and canon lawyer Pete Wer. 
  • Born November 25, 1950 Alexis Wright, 72. A Waanyi (Aboriginal Australian) writer known for winning the Miles Franklin Award for her novel Carpentaria which might well be genre. She has one definitely genre novel, The Swan Game.
  • Born November 25, 1951 Charlaine Harris, 71. She is best known for the Southern Vampire series starring Sookie Stackhouse which was adapted as True Blood. I know I’ve read several of this series and enjoyed them. She has two other series, nether genre or genre adjacent, the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard series. 
  • Born November 25, 1953 Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey, 69. A fan, free citizen of the ImagiNation, husband, daddy, union leader, Esperantist, wearer of orange garments, Quaker, feminist, Irishman, Mac user, Wobbly, Hordesman, Wikipedian. He’s been active in fanzines (Vojo de Vivo) and apas, the N3F, mailing lists, Usenet, social media. The 2020 TAFF delegate. Frequent Filer! 
  • Born November 25, 1974 Sarah Monette, 48. Under the pen name of Katherine Addison, she published The Goblin Emperor which garnered the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the NebulaHugo and World Fantasy Awards. She won the Spectrum Award in 2003 for her short story “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland”.  Her first two novels Mélusine and The Virtu are quite wonderful and I highly recommend her Iskryne series that she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear. 

(9) SOMETIMES THEY DO GROW WEARY. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Shouldn’t the writer of this article realize there’s a simple solution to this so-called fatigue? Don’t watch all these series. Certainly no one is forcing anyone to do so. “Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special Is Answer to Marvel Fatigue” in The Hollywood Reporter.

… As the MCU continues its rapid growth, both on the big-screen and on Disney+, keeping track of back-to-back movies and weekly series has become cumbersome for some audiences. While the notion of franchise fatigue when it comes to superhero movies is as much of a non-issue as it was a decade ago, with the films consistently accounting for the most ticket sales and highest box office each year, even amidst the pandemic, the number of releases leaves little breathing room to catch up before the next thing….

(10) ANTICIPATION. A famed genre filmmaker says Avatar 2 is something we should be looking forward to: “Guillermo del Toro Reviews ‘Avatar 2’ — Raves James Cameron Is a ‘Master at the Peak of His Powers’” at Yahoo!

Critics won’t weigh-in on James Cameron’s highly anticipated “Avatar” sequel for few more weeks. But if Guillermo del Toro is to be believed, then the boundary-pushing water adventure will surely dazzle audiences and the box office come December 16.

“A staggering achievement,” del Toro tweeted on Thursday. “[‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ is chockfull] of majestic Vistas and emotions at an epic, epic scale.  A master at the peak of his powers…”

That’s big praise for the director behind “Titanic,” “Aliens,” and “The Terminator,” made even more meaningful by del Toro’s own cinematic chops. The Mexican filmmaker’s most recent project — a stop-motion “Pinocchio” for Netflix — is a frontrunner for Best Animated Feature at the 95th Academy Awards. Cameron and “Avatar 2” are similarly positioned in the Oscar race for Best Visual Effects….

(11) MUST COME DOWN. “Scientists Glimpse Incoming Asteroid Just Hours Before It Makes Impact” reports MSN.com.

For just the sixth time in recorded history, astronomers managed to catch a glimpse of an asteroid before it slammed into Earth.

On 19 November 2022, nearly four hours before impact, the Catalina Sky Survey discovered an asteroid named 2022 WJ1 on an inbound trajectory. A network of telescopes and scientists sprang into action, accurately calculating exactly when and where on the globe the asteroid would fall.

This is excellent news. 2022 WJ1 was too small to do any serious damage, but its detection shows that the world’s asteroid monitoring techniques are improving, giving us a better chance of protecting ourselves from falling space rocks – the big ones that might actually do some damage….

(12) BOGUSAURUS? “Christie’s Pulls T. Rex From Auction, Citing Need for ‘Further Study’” reports the New York Times. The exact problem seems to be that it is a too much of a model specimen.

…The T. rex, which the auction house called Shen, had been billed as the first skeleton of its species to appear at auction in Asia. A Christie’s news release touted the specimen as “museum standard” and “a world-class specimen.”

But questions about the fossil were raised in recent weeks, when a lawyer for the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, a fossil company in South Dakota, reached out to Christie’s about similarities between Shen and another T. rex skeleton, named Stan, which Christie’s had sold in 2020 for a record $31.8 million.

Although Stan was auctioned off, the Black Hills Institute retained intellectual property rights on the specimen, allowing it to continue selling painted polyurethane casts of the skeleton, which are currently priced at $120,000 each.

Peter Larson, the company’s president, said in an interview that when he first saw a photo of Shen, the skeleton Christie’s was preparing to auction in Hong Kong, he noticed that the skull looked similar to Stan’s skull, including holes in the lower left jaw that Mr. Larson said were unique to Stan. Mr. Larson and his colleagues at Black Hills had examined the particularities of Stan’s bones over three decades after excavating the specimen starting in 1992.

Mr. Larson said that it appeared to him that the owner of Shen — who was not identified by Christie’s — had bought a cast of Stan from Black Hills to supplement the original bones….

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dan’l Danehy-Oakes.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/22 Listen: There’s A Hell Of A Good Pixel Next Door; Let’s Scroll

(1) RAMBO ACADEMY. Cat Rambo asks:

Want to move from promising rejections to actual acceptances? The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers offers live and on-demand classes as well as a virtual campus featuring daily co-working sessions, weekly story discussion, and other Zoom-based social events and a Discord server for chatting with other writers and exchanging story critiques.

She has just released the latest round of classes, and people can find details here She will also be adding a Nisi Shawl class on August 25, which will be up on the website as soon as possible). There’s also a giveaway for a live class. “All the June-August Classes, Plus Some Others! And a Delightful Giveaway.”

(2) BLUE WATERS. Variety introduces “’Avatar 2′ Trailer: James Cameron’s Long-Awaited Sequel”.

After 13 years and numerous delays, 20th Century Studios has finally released a glimpse into James Cameron’s “Avatar 2,” due Dec. 16. This marks the long-awaited sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time. The sequel’s official title is “Avatar: The Way of Water.”…

(3) CORA BUHLERT NEWS. Best Fan Writer nominee Cora Buhlert’s Hugo Voter Packet submission is now online as a free download for those who want to check it out or get a headstart on their Hugo reading: 2022 Hugo Voter Packet.

Cora also has been a guest on the Retro Rockets podcast and was interviewed by Andrea Johnson of Little Red Reviewer: “RetroRockets With Cora Buhlert”.

(4) A RIVERDALE UPDATE. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] BEWARE SPOILERS. Riverdale is currently under the control of Percival Pickens, an evil British person who became mayor with the aid of Betty’s mother, Alice Cooper. Pickens has decided he wants Archie and the gang to return overdue library books, and if the characters don’t return an exact copy of the book they checked out decades ago they will have to pay thousands of dollars in fines and possibly serve prison time.  He asks all of the characters to give him something personal as collateral–Archie’s guitar, Betty’s diary.  Jughead offers to give up his signed copy of Don DeLillo’s Underworld, but instead gives a copy of a book written by his grandfather.

Pickens is a sorcerer who uses these personal treasures as tools to control Archie and his friends.  Luckily Jughead uses his internet skills, and fans of Manhattan’s Strand Bookstore will find the Strand is namechecked here. Jughead finds copies of the overdue books, and Pickens returns the items. Cheryl Blossom says the only way to break the spell is for everyone to throw the possessed items in a fire and burn them.

Jughead doesn’t want to burn his grandfather’s book.  “It’s a book and I won’t burn it,” he says. “What would Ray Bradbury say?”

(5) MERRIL COLLECTION PODCAST. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The new season of the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast kicks off with host Oliver Brackenbury discussing sword and sorcery with Brian Murphy: “Sword & Sorcery”.

Upcoming subjects on the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast are:

  • Scifi Digests
  • Haunted Houses
  • Norse Mythologies
  • Alternate Histories
  • Graphic Novels
  • Beyond Lovecraft
  • Folklore and the Four Winds Storytellers Library

New episodes drop every two weeks.

(6) LAUNCHING A MAGAZINE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] On his personal podcast So I’m Writing a Novel, Oliver Brackenbury interviews Nat Webb, who just started a new fantasy magazine: “Founding a Literary Magazine, with Nat Webb”.

Returning champion Nat Webb joins us to discuss his recent founding of a literary magazine, Wyngraf!

Their discussion covers alternate titles for the magazine, defining cozy fantasy & backpack fantasy, conflict in stories and other things that can drive story, writing delicious food scenes, the cozy fantasy scene on Reddit and elsewhere, getting into short stories, his first submission and rejection and what he learned from it all, self-publishing a novel, discovering a love for the technical side of publishing, taking submissions in for the first time, putting one of your own stories in your own magazine, being transparent about the numbers behind your business, paying forward all the writing advice you’ve been given, working with an artist on a cover commission, choosing to pay authors and how much, deciding how often to release new issues, the importance of actually finishing a project, knowing when to stop with a project, Legends and Lattes and other reading recs, refreshing sincerity vs ironic distance, “coffee shop AU” explained, “numbies” explained, how sometimes the thing you bang out quickly resonates with people far more than the thing you slaved over forever, ins and outs of the Kindle Select program, the merits of publishing flash fiction, and more!

(7) JEWISH HERITAGE IN HORROR. The Horror Writers Association blog has posted two more Q&As in one of its thematic interview series:

What has writing taught you about how to express your Jewishness or the experiences you’ve had as someone who is Jewish?

I have been writing about stories for as long as I can remember. As a student, I took many courses analyzing literature, and one thing that always came up was applying a “Jesus” lens to stories. As a kid who grew up in the Jewish tradition, spending 2 days a week at Hebrew school, and having most of my family’s social life revolve around the synagogue, I had to teach myself about Jesus in order to keep up in these classes and add to the discussion. Interestingly, I never thought of this as problematic; it was just the way things had to be, I thought. This is a common issue for those with marginalized identities; systemic oppression means we must conform, and yet we don’t question that we have to.

Do you make a conscious effort to include Jewish characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

The book I wrote immediately after Bird Box is called Bring Me the Map, and with that one I was thinking in terms of “Jewish horror story.” I was thinking lofty then, that I might write the essential Jewish horror novel, as The Exorcist seems to be that for Catholics. But the book changed organically as it went, and became less about Judaism and more about this family affair, but still, Jewish characters, all. And one of my more recent books, Forever Since Breakfast, is absolutely Jewish-centric. I’m hoping both these books come out soon. And, yes, it was a conscious effort to highlight Jewish characters in both. No doubt. And it felt good to do so. I should probably examine what that means and do it more often.

(8) DELANY IN NYT. [Item by Steven Johnson.] “Samuel R. Delany’s Life in Books” is a feature/interview on Samuel Delany in the New York Times T Magazine, April 24. The quote I liked best: “My library makes me comfortable.” And I do not recall the anecdote about reading Bob Kane Batman comics at a critical age. 

(9) PÉREZ FAREWELL. The New York Times has published its obituary for a famous comics writer and artist: “George Pérez, Who Gave New Life to Wonder Woman, Dies at 67”.

…Mr. Pérez was also at the helm of the 1986 reboot of Wonder Woman, which presented the character, who had originally appeared in 1941, as a new superheroine. His version was younger, and he leaned into the Greek mythology rooted in her origin story.

“Wonder Woman had to rise or fall based on me,” Mr. Pérez said in a telephone interview in December. “It was a great success that gave me an incredible sense of fulfillment.”

His editor on the series, Karen Berger, said in an email, “What set George apart on Wonder Woman was that he really approached the character from a woman’s perspective — I found her relatable and authentic.” Patty Jenkins, the director of the “Wonder Woman” films, cited this version of the character as an influence…

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1973 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-nine years ago, Soylent Green was in general distribution in the States. (It had premieres earlier in LA and NYC, respectively, on April 18th and April 19th.) 

The film was directed by Richard Fleischer who had previously directed Fantastic Voyage and Doctor Doolittle, and, yes, the latter is genre. Rather loosely based off of Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! Novel, it starred Joseph Cotten, Chuck Connors, Charlton Heston, Brock Peters, Edward G. Robinson in his final film role, and Leigh Taylor-Young. 

The term soylent green is not in the novel though the term soylent steaks is. The title of the novel wasn’t used according to the studio on the grounds that it might have confused audiences into thinking it a big-screen version of Make Room for Daddy. Huh? It’s worth noting that Harrison was not involved at all in the film and indeed was was contractually denied control over the screenplay. 

So how was reception at the time? Definitely mixed though Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune liked it: “Richard Fleischer’s ‘Soylent Green’ is a good, solid science-fiction movie, and a little more. It tells the story of New York in the year 2022, when the population has swollen to an unbelievable 80 million, and people live in the streets and line up for their rations of water and Soylent Green.” 

Other were less kind. A.H. Weiler of the New York Times summed it up this way: “We won’t reveal that ingredient but it must be noted that Richard Fleischer’s direction stresses action, not nuances of meaning or characterization. Mr. Robinson is pitiably natural as the realistic, sensitive oldster facing the futility of living in dying surroundings. But Mr. Heston is simply a rough cop chasing standard bad guys. Their 21st-century New York occasionally is frightening but it is rarely convincingly real.“

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a sixty percent rating. It was nominated for a Hugo at DisCon II, the year Sleeper won.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that “From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.” That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. He’s very, very well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago so will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Are any of the various Watership animated affairs worth seeing? Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  I have heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Ottman Neville. His most famous work, the novella Bettyann, is considered a classic of science fiction by no less than Barry Malzberg who wrote a detailed remembrance in Locus. He wrote four novels according to ISFDB over a rather short period of a decade and a number of short story stories over a longer period. Clute at EoSF says that “He was one of the potentially major writers of Genre SF who never came to speak in his full voice.” (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1926 Richard Cowper. The Whit Bird of Kinship series is what he’s best remembered for and I’d certainly recommend it as being worth reading.  It appears that all of here are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a really deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. A deeply strange affair. Oh, and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 9, 1951 Geoff Ryman, 71. His first novel, The Unconquered Country, was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. I’m really intrigued that The King’s Last Song is set during the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, grim times indeed for an SF novel. And let’s not overlook that The Child Garden which bears the variant title of The Child Garden or A Low Comedy would win the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best SF Novel. 
  • Born May 9, 1979 Rosario Dawson, 43. First shows as Laura Vasquez in MiB II. Appearances thereafter are myriad with my faves including being the voice of Wonder Woman in the DC animated films, Persephone in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and her take as Claire Temple across the entire Netflix Marvel universe. She played Ahsoka Tano on The Book of Boba Fett on Disney + in “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” which has led to her being the lead in upcoming Ahsoka Tano series on the same streaming service. (Editorial comment: I wish I liked the Star Wars universe well enough to subscribe to Disney + to see all of this stuff  but I really don’t.) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WHICH IS IT? “Whether you think it’s one of the best sci-fi movies ever or one of the worst, you’re never going to forget it.” An Inverse writer considers the possibilities: “25 years ago, Bruce Willis made the most divisive sci-fi movie ever”.

… The initial response to The Fifth Element, which celebrates its 25th anniversary on May 7th, was divisive. It was recognized just as much at Cannes and the Oscars as it was the Razzies. Even those who appeared in its gleefully insane world have contrasting opinions, with Milla Jovovich hailing it as “one of the last hurrahs of epic filmmaking” and Gary Oldman admitting he “can’t bear it” and only signed up for the paycheck….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In which SNL host Benedict Cumberbatch discovers the multiverse is real. At least in TV Land. “The Understudy”.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/14/20 An Unexpected Afternoon Nap

(1) BIG MONEY IS WATCHING. NPR shows how “Fortnite Uses Apple’s Own ‘1984’ Ad Against It In Dispute Over Payments” — includes both videos for comparison.

Epic Games, the video game developer behind the mega popular online game Fortnite, just posted a video criticizing Apple for removing the game from its App Store. Using imagery directly referencing Apple’s own iconic “1984” ad, Epic Games’s video (titled “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite”) positions Apple as a soulless corporate entity, shouting from a screen and demanding obedience from a black and white crowd. That is, until a woman in color shows up, and throws a Fortnite axe at the screen and shatters it. The following copy reads, “Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984.’”

Epic Games (also being a corporate entity themselves) is making this charge over money. The company introduced a direct payment option within Fortnite to bypass Apple’s 30% fee on in-app purchases. In retaliation, Apple pulled the popular game from its app store. Epic Games responded with both this video, as well as an antitrust lawsuit, alleging that Apple takes anti-competitive actions in order to “unlawfully maintain its monopoly.”

In a statement to The Verge, Apple said that Epic had benefited from the App Store’s ecosystem for years.

“The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users.”

It’s unclear, really, what George Orwell has to do with any of this.

(2) SFF LIMERICKS SOUGHT. Fantasy Literature has opened their “Ninth Annual Speculative Fiction Limerick Contest”.

Your task is to create an original limerick that has something to do with speculative fiction. It could be about a character, a series, an author, or whatever fits the theme. Here are the rules for creating a good limerick (quoting from this source). 

…The author of the limerick we like best wins a book from our stacks or a FanLit T-shirt (sizes avail are S – XL). If you live outside the US, we’ll send a $7 Amazon gift card.

(3) FANS IN THE NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Abha Bhattarai has an article on the online Washington Post titled “Grocery workers say morale is at an all-time low: ‘They don’t even treat us like humans anymore’” in which the title quote comes from Fox Wingate, a 24-year-old who works at Safeway.

I have known Fox since he was a baby.  His parents, Charles Wingate and Melissa Williamson, are long-time members of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society and hosted meetings three times a year until the pandemic.

“At the beginning they valorized what was deemed a dead-end job, but four months later they don’t even treat us like humans anymore,” said Fox Wingate, 24, who works at a Safeway in Maryland.

(4) NEW ZEALAND PUMPS THE BRAKES. Variety explores “What New Zealand’s COVID-19 Curveball Means For Its Booming Hollywood Productions”.

…“Everyone was very gung-ho,” adds the film’s production designer Grant Major of his first day back on set. “We all loved the film, actors and director, so were pumped to get going and do the best job we could.”

That can-do attitude is what will likely tide the industry over despite Tuesday’s late-night announcement that the country will enter a three-day lockdown, which went into effect at midday Wednesday local time. The measures came after Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern confirmed four members of an Auckland family tested positive for COVID-19, acquiring the virus from an unknown source. The cases ended the nation’s 102-day streak of having no new community infections (cases have been limited to the strictly-quarantined border).

While New Zealand dropped to level one — the lowest of a four-level alert system — on June 8, the Auckland region is now on level three restrictions until Friday, meaning residents are asked to work from home, only interact with people in their household “bubble,” and practice social distancing and mask-wearing in public. Filming can continue if strict health and safety protocols are followed.

Several international productions were in pre-production in Auckland at the time of the announcement, including “LOTR,” Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sweet Tooth,” anime adaptation “Cowboy Bebop” and “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” directed by Peter Farrelly. The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) tells Variety that the Auckland projects are now continuing with pre-production, but working from home.

The remainder of the country — including Wellington, where the “Avatar” sequels are filming — has been placed in level two, which encourages mask-wearing and social distancing and allows social gatherings of up to 100 people. Large-scale productions such as “Avatar” can continue under level two screen production rules, such as physical distancing among crew and following recommendations for scenes involving intimacy or fighting….

(5) CHANGES ON THE WAY. “Avatar 2 Will Change Movies Forever” on YouTube is a video from ScreenRant that explains one reason why Avatar 2 is taking so long is that James Cameron is working on a way of shooting motion-capture scenes underwater and may also be coming up with a way to see 3D effects without special glasses.

(6) DEFINING SF. Adam Roberts, in “How I Define Science Fiction” on Neotext says that he defines science fiction by showing the bone and a spaceship from 2001 and that much of the sense of wonder from sf can’t be rationally explained in a definition. However, he also supplies the thousand words that a picture is reputed to be worth. Because, as someone said, “This f***ing job is not that f***ing easy!”   

In those occasions when people ask me to define science fiction, I reference the above. Probably the most famous jump-cut in cinema. You already know the context, so I don’t need to spell it out for you: millions of years BC, an apeman throws a bone into the sky. It flies upward. The camera pans with it, following it a little shakily into the blue sky. The bone reaches its apogee and, just as it starts to fall back down, Kubrick cuts to a shot of a spaceship in orbit in AD 2001.

Now, this seems to me an extremely beautiful and affecting thing, a moment both powerful and eloquent even though I’m not sure I could lay out, in consecutive and rational prose, precisely why I find it so powerful or precisely what it loquates. It is, I suppose, something ‘about’ technology, about the way humans use tools, our habit of intrusively (indeed, violently) interacting with our environments, about the splendor but also the limitation of such tools, the way even a spaceship is, at its core, a primitive sort of human prosthesis. But when you start explaining the cut in those terms you become conscious that you are losing something, missing some key aspect to what makes it work so well.

It works, in other words, not by a process of rational extrapolation, but rather metaphorically. I mean something particular when I say that, and I explain what I mean in detail below; but for now, and to be clear—I’m suggesting this moment actualizes the vertical ‘leap’ from the known to the unexpected that is the structure of metaphor, rather than the horizontal connection from element to logically extrapolated element that is the structure of metonymy. Kubrick’s cut is more like a poetic image than a scientific proposition;——and there you have it, in a nutshell, my definition of science fiction. This genre I love is more like a poetic image than it is a scientific proposition.

Now, if my interlocutor needs more, and if the picture doesn’t make my point, I might add something Samuel Delany-ish: about how science fiction is a fundamentally metaphorical literature because it sets out to represent the world without reproducing it….

(7) RICHARD POWERS SET TO MUSIC. Tomorrow night: “Scott Robinson with Richard Powers: Sat 8/15 at Me, Myself & Eye”.

This Saturday August 15 at 8 PM, multi-instrumentalist phenomenon Scott Robinson will be improvising music to the work of one of his heroes, Richard Powers, whose work graces the covers of all of Scott’s ScienSonic Laboratories releases (which can be seen at www.sciensonic.net). Scott will be sharing from his personal collection of Powers’ work, along with other pieces — some unpublished. These paintings are shown with the kind permission of the artist’s estate. In a nod to the series’ name, for this performance Scott has chosen only works containing an eye!

(8) GOOD THING OR BAD? It’ll be inexpensive, anyway: “AMC to offer 15-cent tickets on first day of reopening”AP News has the story.

AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, will reopen in the U.S. on Aug. 20 with retro ticket prices of 15 cents per movie.

AMC Entertainment, which owns the chain, said Thursday that it expects to open the doors to more than 100 cinemas — or about a sixth of its nationwide locations — on Aug. 20 with throwback pricing for a day.

AMC theaters have reopened in numerous international countries but have remained shuttered in the U.S. since March. The chain touted the reopening as “Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices.”

After several false starts due to a summer rise in coronavirus cases throughout much of the U.S., widespread moviegoing is currently set to resume in late August. Regal Cinemas, the second largest chain, is to reopen some U.S. locations on Aug. 21.

During its opening-day promotion, AMC will show catalog films, including “Ghostbusters,” “Black Panther,” “Back to the Future” and “Grease.” Those older films will continue to play afterward for $5.

AMC confirmed that Disney’s much-delayed “New Mutants” will debut in theaters Aug. 28, with Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” to follow Sept. 3. Warner Bros. is planning to release “Tenet” a week earlier internationally, including in Canada. A handful of smaller new releases are also planned for late August, including “Unhinged,” a thriller from Solstice Studios with Russell Crowe; and Armando Iannucci’s “Personal History of David Copperfield,” from Disney’s Fox Searchlight.

AMC said Thursday is expects about two thirds of its theaters will be open in time for “Tenet.” Several states, including California and New York, are yet to allow movie theaters to reopen.

(9) A SHORT HISTORY WITHOUT TIME. Elisa Gabbert, author of The Unreality of Memory and Other Essays, interrogates “The Unreality of Time” in The Paris Review.

…[John] McTaggart does not use “unreality” in the same way I do, to describe a quality of seeming unrealness in some­thing I assume to be real. Instead, his paper sets out to prove that time literally does not exist. “I believe that time is unreal,” he writes. The paper is interesting (“Time only belongs to the existent” … “The only way in which time can be real is by existing”) but not convincing.

McTaggart’s argument hinges in part on his claim that perception is “qualitatively different” from either memory or anticipation—this is the difference between past, pres­ent, and future, the way we apprehend events in time. Direct perceptions are those that fall within the “specious present,” a term coined by E.?R. Clay and further devel­oped by William James (a fan of Bergson’s). “Everything is observed in a specious present,” McTaggart writes, “but nothing, not even the observations themselves, can ever be in a specious present.” It’s illusory—the events are fixed, and there is nothing magically different about “the pres­ent” as a point on a timeline. This leads to an irresolvable contradiction, to his mind.

Bergson, for his part, believed that memory and percep­tion were the same, that they occur simultaneously: “The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devour­ing the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.” He thought this explained the phenomenon of déjà vu—when you feel something is happening that you’ve experi­enced before, it’s because a glitch has allowed you to notice the memory forming in real time. The memory—le souvenir du présent—is attached not to a particular moment in the past but to the past in general. It has a past-­like feeling; with that comes an impression one knows the future.

(10) LET THE RECORD REFLECT. This typo is from the Loncon 3 (2014 Worldcon) Souvenir Book.

Nobody’s copyediting (outside of File 770’s own) has ever challenged the record left by the ConDiego NASFiC of 1990. Neither a fine speech by pro GoH Samuel Delany, an excellent Masquerade, a well-stocked Dealer’s Room, a top-quality Press Relations department, nor a successful Regency Dance, could divert the avalanche of sentiment which quickly made ConDiego a byword for haphazard convention-running. Not after fans were handed a typo-riddled Program Book which misspelled the hotel’s name, the guests of honors’ names and even the con’s own name – that in headline type: ConDigeo.

(11) BOOK ANNIVERSARY.

  • August 1998 — Delia Sherman and Terri Windling released The Essential Bordertown anthology. (The first one, Elsewhere, would garner a World Fantasy Award.)  A follow-up on the three earlier Borderlands anthologies, it featured such writers as Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Terri Windling doing a Rough Guide of sorts to Bordertown along stories from the likes of Patrica McKillip, Micole Sudbeg, Ellen Steiber , Felicity Savage and Charles de Lint. It would be successful enough that Welcome to Bordertown would come a decade later though the publisher would shift from Tor to Random House. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 14, 1929 Richard Carpenter. Responsible for the simply superb Robin of Sherwood series. He also created Catweazle, the children’s series about an unfortunate wizard from the 11th century who is accidentally transported to the present day. And he was an actor who appeared in such shows as the Sixties Sherlock Holmes series, The Terrornauts film and the Out of the Unknown series as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 80. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis. (CE) 
  • Born August 14, 1932 – Lee Hoffman.  Among our finest fanwriters, and a fanartist who showed with her “lil peepul” that in fandom too – although I never asked her about Buckminster Fuller – one can do more with less.  Had she only done her fanzine Quandry (note spelling; she was also responsible for the famous typo poctsarcd) it would, as the saying goes, have been enough for us.  She also brought forth Science Fiction Five-Yearly, published on time for sixty years, in whose last issue I was proud to be, and on the back cover, even.  Also four novels for us, a dozen shorter stories; among much else a superb Western The Valdez Horses, winning a Spur Award.  At first she appeared only by mail; after we eventually learned she was not male, she was sometimes known as Lee Hoffwoman.  Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1940 – Meade Frierson III.  President, Southern Fandom Confederation 1970-1983.  SF on Radio.  Active in Myriad and SFPA (Southern Fandom Press Alliance).  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon IV, Balticon 11, Coastcon 1978 (with wife Penny).  Rebel Award.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1949 – Pat York.  A dozen short stories.  “Moonfuture Incorporated” in the teachers’ guide Explorer (J. Czerneda ed. 2005); “You Wandered Off Like a Foolish Child to Break Your Heart and Mine” in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2002.  Poem “A Faerie’s Tale” in the 1998 Rhysling Anthology.  Cory Doctorow’s appreciation here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1950 Gary Larson, 70. Ok, setting aside long and delightful career in creating the weird for us, ISFDB notes a SF link  that deserve noting. In the March 1991 Warp as published by the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, he had a cartoon “The crew of the Starship Enterprise encounters the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor”. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1962 – Tim Earls, 58.  Set and concept designer, visual effects art director, for Babylon 5 and Crusade; then VoyagerMission Impossible IIISerenity.  An Earth Alliance Olympus Class Corvette (B5here.  Design for the Borg Central Plexus in “Unimatrix Zero” (Voyagerhere.  Some Serenity sketches here.  IMDb (Internet Movie Database) bio here.  [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga, 55. Writer, producer and creator for the Next GenVoyagerEnterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes than anyone else with one hundred and nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Hugo Award at Intersection for excellence in SF writing, along with Ronald D. Moore. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 54. Her first genre role was not as I thought Miss Stone in The Flintstones but a minor role in a forgotten SF series called They Came from Outer Space. This was followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchiseand Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as the lead in Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1973 Jamie Sives, 47. First, he played Captain Reynolds in a Tenth Doctor story, “Tooth and Claw” where the Doctor encounters Queen Victoria and saves her from a werewolf. Great tale! Second, he had a recurring role as Jory Cassel on A Games of Thrones. His fate like so many there is tragic. And third, he was was Valhalla Rising which is a decidedly oddDanish financed Viking magic realism film. (CE) 
  • Born August 14, 1974 – Raphael Lacoste, 46.  A score of covers, half a dozen interiors; games, films.  Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed for Ubisoft.  Here is The Windup Girl.  Here is Shadow Run.  Here is “Nanthis City”.  Here is “Wind Towers”.  Artbooks WorldsLignes.  Two VES (Visual Effects Society) Awards.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1981 – Karen Healey, 39.  Five novels, as many shorter stories; ten essays in Strange Horizons.  “I wanted to be an astronaut, or possibly a dinosaur-hunting cowgirl…. I was a bit vague on the concept of extinction….  we moved to Oamaru, where my mother’s family has lived for five generations … good for white people in New Zealand … ridiculous in comparison to one’s family being there for a thousand years….  I had this vague idea of becoming a lawyer…. it turned out being a lawyer is not a lot of fun arguing with people and shouting OBJECTION but a lot of boring and distressing paperwork….  applied to the JET [Japan Exchange & Teaching] Programme (even though I had failed second-year Japanese) and went to Japan to teach English for two years…. currently training to be a high school teacher… and, of course, being a novelist.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) MAYBE THE MAP IS THE TERRITORY AFTER ALL.  In The Paris Review, Ivan Brunetti considers “Comics as Place”.

Most comics focus on the actions of a figure, and the narrative develops by following that figure as it moves through its environment, or as it is commonly referred to by cartoonists, who have the often tedious, time-consuming task of actually drawing it, the background. One widely used cartoonist’s trick is to draw/establish the setting clearly and then assiduously avoid having to redraw it in subsequent panels, or at least diminish the number of background details as the sequence progresses. After all, once this setting/background has seeped into the reader’s brain, the reader can and will fill in the gaps. Moreover, sometimes drawing the background would only clutter the composition and distract the reader from the emotional core of the narrative, and so the background might judiciously disappear altogether, having outlived its graphic usefulness, until the next shift in scene.

Robert Crumb’s 1979 “A Short History of America” upends all of the above. It is a small miracle of concision and grace, consisting of a mere twelve panels that span across four pages (of three horizontal panels each) and roughly a hundred and fifty years of history….

(15) FIGHTING FOR WHO YOU LOVE. In the Washington Post, Helena Andrews-Dyer interviews Lovecraft Country star Jonathan Majors, who explains how he interpreted the series’ heroic lead and discusses his other work in The Last Black Man In San Francisco and Da 5 Bloods. “Jonathan Majors is your new American hero”.

The hero’s journey is a circuitous one. After setting out into the great unknown, battling monsters and men, our protagonist inevitably winds up at Point A again, ready to slay whatever Big Bad sent them packing in the first place.

That’s a familiar road for Jonathan Majors, the 30-year-old actor who’s quickly becoming that guy — the one you can’t stop seeing in .?.?. well, everything.He started acting because of a fight in middle school; he had a bunch of big emotions and a blocked vent. Now, a decade and a half later, in his first leading role, Majors is playing the kind of hero his younger self (and the boys he used to “cut up with”) could’ve used. Someone who’s learned how to harness his hard-earned rage for good.

(16) ON FIYAH. Stephanie Alford’s “REVIEW: FIYAH LIT MAGAZINE #13 – OZZIE M. GARTRELL” is short, but more than enough to mak you want to read the story.

In 7,900 words Ozzie M. Gartrell’s The Transition of  OSOOSI  gives us a cyberpunk story of an audacious idea to eradicate bigotry.

(17) HEADS WILL ROLL. Camestros Felapton makes it to the finish line — “I finished the Wolf Hall trilogy” – and shares an insightful review.

…The Tudor period looms large in English national mythology of greatness and Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I are two of the most fictionalised and dramatised British monarchs (Queen Victoria being the third but Elizabeth II is getting higher in the charts I’d imagine). Although I often read Booker prize winners, when Wolf Hall won I was originally uninterested. Another book about Henry and Anne Boleyn? Is there seriously anything new to say about all that? Turns out there was a lot of new things to say about it, and by employing a story people know at least in sketch form, Mantel could focus on an aspect that makes the Tudor period fascinating.

(18) SUPERVERSIVE WAKES. The Superversive SF blog will become active again, led by columnists L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright and John C. Wright.

It has been some time since we have had regular posts on this site, but, God willing, that is all about to change!

In the coming months, we hope to have more posts about Superversive Matters, but we also hope to unveil two new regular columns. I will announce the second column separately, but, before we can begin, the first column needs a name!

The column is to be stories, observations, and insights about the meeting of life and our genres—writing with children; writing with cats (a whole subject in itself!); sharing your favorite books, shows, and movies with offspring, parents, friends; and other stories of the intersection of reality and fantasy (or science fiction.)

The purpose is to share light and fun stories, as well as poignant or bittersweet ones, about our life and experience as readers and writers of science fiction and fantasy—stories that remind us of our shared experience as human beings as well as our joy in the wonder of our wonderful genre.

The Superversive Press shut down in January (item 13). Since then the blog has mainly been signal boosting authors’ buy-my-book posts.

(19) PALS WHO BITE. NPR learned “Everyone Needs A Buddy. Even Sharks”.

Sharks are often maligned as Hollywood monsters, the lone wolves lurking in the deep, hunting for prey. (Cue Jaws theme song).

But that caricature of sharks is increasingly out of step with what scientists are learning about the animals. Instead, they say, some species of sharks are social creatures who return day after day to a group of the same fellow sharks.

“They form these spatially structured social groups where they hang out with the same individuals over multiple years,” says Yannis Papastamatiou, who runs the Predator Ecology and Conservation Lab at Florida International University.

Papastamatiou’s team studied gray reef sharks populating the waters off Palmyra Atoll, a sunken island ringed by coral reefs, in the central Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian Islands and Fiji. They attached small location transmitters to 41 sharks, which allowed them to track the animals’ movements around the reef. They also outfitted two sharks with small video cameras on their fins, to get what Papastamatiou calls a shark’s-eye view of their daily lives.

After tracking the sharks for four years, the researchers found that the same groupings of sharks — ranging from a couple up to as many as 20 — frequently returned to the same parts of the reef over and over again. They also found that some of the groups stuck together for the duration of the study — longer than previous studies have observed.

(20) HEY, THAT’S A FALSE COLOR! NASA believes the Red Planet is really quite green when considered in the proper light: “NASA’s MAVEN Observes Martian Night Sky Pulsing in Ultraviolet Light”.

Mars’ nightside atmosphere glows and pulsates in this data animation from MAVEN spacecraft observations. Green-to-white false color shows the enhanced brightenings on Mars’ ultraviolet “nightglow” measured by MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph at about 70 kilometers (approximately 40 miles) altitude. A simulated view of the Mars globe is added digitally for context, with ice caps visible at the poles. Three nightglow brightenings occur over one Mars rotation, the first much brighter than the other two. All three brightenings occur shortly after sunset, appearing on the left of this view of the night side of the planet. The pulsations are caused by downwards winds which enhance the chemical reaction creating nitric oxide which causes the glow. Months of data were averaged to identify these patterns, indicating they repeat nightly.

(21) IT’S NOT JUST THE PANDEMIC. The Critic sadly anticipates “The demise of the second-hand bookshop” for several reasons.

In 1973, Graham Greene wrote an introduction to a bookselling friend’s memoir. As Greene was one of the most respected writers of his day, this was no small gesture, but the author was also a committed bibliophile. The book dealer and biographer John Baxter’s memoir A Pound of Paper contains treasurable glimpses of Greene deliberately signing obscure copies of his works in far-off locations, in the certain knowledge that these items would become hugely sought-after rarities, and he remains one of the few serious literary figures who also understood the glamour and romance of the bookselling trade. In his introduction, he openly acknowledged this, writing ‘Secondhand booksellers are the most friendly and most eccentric of all the characters I have known. If I had not been a writer, theirs would have been the profession I would most happily have chosen.’

If Greene was alive today, he would look at his beloved second-hand and antiquarian bookshops with an air of sorrow, leavened with a touch of bewilderment. The recent news that one of Charing Cross’s most famous booksellers, Francis Edwards, was to close after 150 years, maintaining only a presence in Hay-on-Wye, was greeted without the anguish that it might have been otherwise….

(22) MOTHRA CHOW. “First-Ever Godzilla Museum Now Open In Japan”ScreenRant checked out everything, including the thematic food.

The first museum dedicated to Godzilla is open in Japan for a limited time. TOHO launched its official English Godzilla website back in May 2019, complete with a “Monsterpedia” for the kaiju’s friends and foes. One can never overstate the pop culture impact of the Godzilla series. Although the King of the Monsters wasn’t the first giant monster on the big screen, he would headline a long-running franchise, the longest of any movie series to date.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is how the character changed over time. He went from being a grim allegory for the nuclear bomb to a Japan-saving hero, not unlike Ultraman. As a franchise, Godzilla has ventured into multimedia. He has battled the Avengers in a Marvel comic and even received his own version of Jenga. For a limited time, fans can enjoy the franchise in a museum format.

(23) MEET THE PARENTS OF THE YEAR.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Points for sneaking Newton’s third law in there.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cliff, John Hertz, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credt goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/20 Sir! I’ve Isolated The Reverse Pixel Flux Coupling!

(1) CAN VIRTUAL CONS BE MADE BETTER? In “What Lessons Can Future Conventions Learn From Virtual San Diego Comic-Con?”, Io9 staffers Beth Elderkin, Jill Pantozzi, Cheryl Eddy, James Whitbrook, Charles Pulliam-Moore, and Germain Lussier assess what didn’t work about SDCC 2020, “from a lack of support for the artists and vendors who would usually be on the show floor, to the lack of fan involvement, to how to create a sense of energy that the convention’s swath of ‘family Zoom call’ style pre-recorded panels were lacking.” 

(2) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. HBO showed its Lovecraft Country trailer to San Diego Comic-Con’s @Home audience.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Ars Technica offers “An Ars roundup of the many trailers unveiled this weekend during [email protected] where you can see all the others.

People might not be able to flock to San Diego Comic Con this year in person, but the virtual convention, [email protected], has been running all weekend, with countless panels, sneak peeks, and teasers and trailers for upcoming TV shows—but not many films, because let’s be honest: it’s not looking so good for major theatrical film releases in the fall. On Thursday alone, we got the full trailer for Bill and Ted Face the Music, a teaser for the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost horror comedy Truth Seekers, and the first trailer for S2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials. Rather than continue to cover each individually, we decided to compile the remaining trailers of interest into a single roundup post.

(4) A CAUTIONARY TALE. Linda D. Addison offers her experience with Covid-19 as a warning in this public Facebook post.

I’m sharing what my life has been like since June 8 because I’ve seen too many people not taking Covid-19 serious. This virus is real. If sharing this wakes even one person up, it’s worth it.

I’ve been as safe as possible, going to the supermarket every two weeks for supplies, wearing a mask, sanitizing everything, however, 7 weeks ago I got very sick for 9 days with symptoms of mild coronavirus, talked to my doctor and stayed in self isolation for more than 2 weeks. I was fortunate that my temp never went high enough or my breathing bad enough that I had to go to the hospital. Since then, I’ve lived with continued cough, fatigue, shortness of breath (using inhaler from doctor helps).

This is happening to many people in recovery (look up Covid Long Haulers). So I’m sleeping a lot, healing will come, but this is so new there’s not much the medical field can do at this point. I’m ok. My friend, Jill, lives around the corner and has been helping by dropping off stuff.

PLEASE, wear a mask (if not for yourself, for anyone who crosses your path)!

(5) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Vulture’s Mark Harris, in “The Neverending Story of Those Neverappearing Avatar Sequels”, contends that although James Cameron says Avatar 2 has been delayed because of the coronavirus, the guy is suh a perfectionist that it’s highlyunlikely we will see Avatar 3,4, or 5.

…The wait for more Avatar has become something of a running joke, so much so that a Twitter thread I started when it was already a running joke is now well into its sixth year. The first sequel was originally announced almost a decade ago, in October 2010, with a projected release date of December 2014. Since then, its opening date has, at regular intervals, been moved back one year at a time — except once, in 2017, when it moved back two years. But the film has also morphed from a two-sequel series into a four-sequel series, with a lingering sense that the mountain was being made bigger as a way of justifying the length of the climb. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 27, 1997 Stargate SG-1 premiered on Showtime where it would run for its first five seasons. The show which was created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. It’s based rather loosely off the Stargate film. The initial core cast was Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping and Christopher Judge.  It would run for a decade with the last five years being on Sci Fi. Two spinoff series, Stargate Atlantis which would run five seasons, and Stargate Universe which would last two seasons. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a stellar 91% rating. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 27, 1870 – Hilaire Belloc.  Orator, poet,correspondent,sailor, satirist, soldier, activist.  Cautionary Tales for Children includes “Jim, who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion” and “Rebecca, who slammed doors for fun and perished miserably”; 1907 readers would quickly recognize the parody.  A hundred fifty books; we can claim half a dozen novels (illustrated by G.K.Chesterton!), as many shorter stories.  (Died 1953) [JH] 
  • Born July 27, 1874 Frank Shannon. He’s best remembered now as the scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940.  The serials themselves were Flash GordonFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. (Died 1959.) (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1891 – Ruth Plumly Thompson.  Following Frank Baum’s death, she wrote two dozen Oz books.  Three other novels, six dozen shorter stories, ten dozen poems.  Also wrote for The Smart SetThe Saturday Evening PostLadies Home JournalJack and Jill.  Many regard her as a worthy successor.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1908 – W.I. Van der Poel, Jr.  Art director for Galaxy 1950-1960.  A score of covers – but not, it seems, appearing there.  He is however on this famous 1952 Emshwiller cover – see the key here.  Look at The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1927 – Mel Hunter.  A hundred book and magazine covers, eight dozen interiors.  Here is the May 53 Galaxy.  Here is The End of Eternity.  Here is Double Star – the Great Lorenzo at right.  Here is the Jun 58 If.  Here is the Mar 61 F & SF.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best-known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost-beyond-counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1939 Sydney J. van Scyoc, 81. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. For all practice purposes, she’s not available in digital format. (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1948 Juliet Marillier, 72. She’s a New Zealand born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She’s a regular contributor to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1949 – Cora Lee Healy, 71.  Fanartist, has done some pro work.  Here is a cover for Algol.  Here is “Starward”.  Here is another astronomical.  She has been in Energumen and Granfalloon; she did the Ace of Cups in the Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (see this review by a Tarot collector; although the reviewer says the Deck is out of print; copies can still be obtained; if all else fails, ask me, John Hertz, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057).  [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1950 Simon Jones, 70. He’s well known for his portrayals of Arthur Dent, protagonist of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He first portrayed the character on radio for the BBC and again on television for BBC Two. Jones also featured in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film in a cameo role. He’s in Monty Python’s The Meaning of LifeBrazil and 12 Monkeys as well.  (CE) 
  • Born July 27, 1952 – Bud Webster.  Our Gracious Host has done better than I could.  (Died 2016) [JH] 
  • Born July 27, 1958 – Kate Elliott, 62.  Two dozen novels (some under another name), a dozen shorter stories; interviewed in ApexLightspeedLocusMindsparks.  “The Sword of Heaven [in two parts, An Earthly Crown and His Conquering Sword] I call my Mozart novel because of the speed it flowed out of me….  my Beethoven novel The Law of Becoming was like hacking through the jungle into unknown country….  Being a parent has made me a better writer.”  Unconquerable Sun just released this month.  Mills College woman.  [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 52. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein which I’m reading now, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein which is up for a Hugo next week. Her work Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1979 – Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, 41. Three dozen short stories; poems; essays, reviews, interviews, in AnalogClarkesworldFoundationNY Review of SFStrange Horizons.  Anthology (with Robert Silverberg), When the Blue Shift Comes.  Traveler of Worlds, conversations with Silverberg.  Good moderator of the Asimov centenary panel at Loscon 46.
  • Born July 27, 1984 – Hao Jingfang, Ph.D., 36.  Vagabonds just appeared in English and Spanish this year.  A score of shorter stories; Best-Novelette Hugo for “Folding Beijing”, first won by a Chinese woman.  Translated into English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish.  Interviewed in LightspeedMonde chinois (in French).  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) NEW TUNES TOON. SYFY Wire’s points out you can watch the new cartoon as part of this [email protected] video panel: “Boo! Looney Tunes Cartoons Debuts New Porky And Daffy Short At [email protected],

“We wanted to tap into the zany energy of the 1940s stuff,” added supervising producer Alex Kirwan. “That was our favorite era of the shorts and we just wanted more of that. We didn’t want to set out to reinvent it and we didn’t want to set out to put new sensibilities on it … What we love about the shorts is that they’re wonderful slapstick humor and we just wanted to get back to [that] and be really true to the way they paired the characters and the way they built comedy dynamics.”

(10) WATCH ALEX ROSS AT WORK. Over the last two months, Marvel has revealed 28 “Timeless” variant covers created by Alex Ross, which will begin to hit local comic shops in September. See Ross craft his iconic painted covers, and see how his timeless imagery was made into a magnificent mural in Marvel’s NYC offices in this video.

(11) FROM BACK STORY TO NO STORY. “Peter Shinkoda says Marvel exec claimed ‘nobody cares’ about Asian people” – BBC has the story.

Daredevil actor Peter Shinkoda says his storyline was cut after a Marvel executive said “nobody cares about” Asian characters.

Shinkoda played Nobu in the Marvel Netflix series, which was cancelled at the end of 2018.

But he says his character’s “back story was dropped” on orders from former Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb.

“I’m kind of reluctant to say this, but… I’m going to take this moment,” Shinkoda said during a virtual talk.

“Jeph Loeb told the writers’ room not to write for Nobu and Gao – and this was reiterated many times by many of the writers and show runners – that nobody cares about Chinese people and Asian people,” he alleged.

The Canadian actor, who was taking part in a #SaveDaredevil roundtable discussion with actors from the show, said a storyline about Nobu’s journey to America ended up being dropped.

(12) THE SUN SHINES ON EVERYBODY. And some take more advantage of that than others:“What the heroin industry can teach us about solar power”

If you have ever doubted whether solar power can be a transformative technology, read on.

This is a story about how it has proved its worth in the toughest environment possible.

The market I’m talking about is perhaps the purest example of capitalism on the planet.

There are no subsidies here. Nobody is thinking about climate change – or any other ethical consideration, for that matter.

This is about small-scale entrepreneurs trying to make a profit.

It is the story of how Afghan opium growers have switched to solar power, and significantly increased the world supply of heroin.

(13) RETURN TO SENDER. “Nasa Mars rover: Meteorite to head home to Red Planet”.

A small chunk of Mars will be heading home when the US space agency launches its latest rover mission on Thursday.

Nasa’s Perseverance robot will carry with it a meteorite that originated on the Red Planet and which, until now, has been lodged in the collection of London’s Natural History Museum (NHM).

The rock’s known properties will act as a calibration target to benchmark the workings of a rover instrument.

It will give added confidence to any discoveries the robot might make.

This will be particularly important if Perseverance stumbles across something that hints at the presence of past life on the planet – one of the mission’s great quests.

“This little rock’s got quite a life story,” explained Prof Caroline Smith, head of Earth sciences collections at the NHM and a member of the Perseverance science team.

“It formed about 450 million years ago, got blasted off Mars by an asteroid or comet roughly 600,000-700,000 years ago, and then landed on Earth; we don’t know precisely when but perhaps 1,000 years ago. And now it’s going back to Mars,” she told BBC News.

(14) I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING. NPR reports “Lottery Winner In Jamaica Avoids The Spotlight Dressed As Darth Vader”.

It’s not uncommon for lottery winners to want to avoid the spotlight, right? But showing up dressed as Darth Vader to collect your check is a new one. It happened in a galaxy not so far away, in May Pen, Jamaica, when a man claimed his $95 million prize in a dark lord of the Sith costume. 

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that Saruman is spinning Gandalf around, he “forces Gandalf to learn breakdancing against his will.”

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