Pixel Scroll 6/19/23 Frenemy Mine

(1) BIOLOGY LESSON. We can learn along with Matt Wallace:

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has shared her photos from the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading on June 14 where “Nathan Ballingrud read from his novel The Strange and Dale Bailey read from his story ‘I Married a Monster from Outer Space’ and both made the crowd very happy.”

(3) COVER ART UNCOVERED. Alex Shvartsman has revealed the cover for The Digital Aesthete. See preorder information at the link.

We now have a cover for the anthology of stories about artificial minds interacting with art. The stories and the art are created by humans (the cover is drawn and designed by the spectacular K.A. Teryna!)

(4) NO, NO, IT WOULD BE A LITERARY SOCIETY. Norman Spinrad’s first attempt to explain his idea was completely successful. Everybody knew exactly what he meant. Now he tries to remedy that with a cagier post, “SFS and SFWA”.

I think I should this make this clear. SFWA means Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. SFS means Speculative Fiction Society. SFWA has existed for a long time and I was elected its president three times. Speculative Fiction Society is something that does not yet exist, it is something that may or may not exist in a possible future, it is, well, speculative fiction.

SFS is not an enemy of SFWA nor would it be mean to replace it. SFS is not a new invention. SFWA was born as society of speculative fiction writers. Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm invited writers of their choice to their large house in Milford annually to meet each other and bring stories of theirs to read his small society. Stories of which they were proud, stories they felt had literary problems, and to some extent, stories that they had trouble finding proper publication.

Although we all well knew that the price of liberty was taking care of business, this was primerily a literary society. The core was to help each other create better literature. But business being what it was, Damon said that we should create something that could also help writers take care of business. Not quite a union like the Screen Writers of America, but something that could act like one when called to, a Science Fiction Writers of America.

The SFWA.

The SFWA, now calls itself the Science Fiction and Fantacy Writers Association. As such, it sometimes does act like a union when it comes to the rights and economic problems of its members. But it no longer functions as a literary society devoted to the literary health and evolution of speculative fiction.

Indeed it has now become a legally non-profit corporation, whose bottom line is not literature, but the bottom line, dedicated to maximum numbers of various levels of memberships, selling various fandom goods like baseball or soccer teams, behaving more like the Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom Association.

An SFS, a Speculative Fiction Society, could never take the place of this Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom Associaton. It could not do it, it would not want to do it, it would not want to destroy it. It would not be a corporation, not-profit or not.

The literary concept of speculative fiction is at least as ancient as Plato’s REPUBLIC and it was captured as “science fiction,” “sci-fi,” and yes, SF, by publishing fluke, and the purpose of a Speculative Fiction Society would be to rescue what should be a central literature of any dynamic society.

A famous and almost you might say snotty French publisher that calls itself “Less Belles Lettres” wanted to publish a book celebrating its hundredth birthday. They wanted to publish a book called “Les Futures des Belles Lettres,” a double meaning in French, the future of the publisher and the future of serious literature.

They asked me to write whatever I wanted to as long as the story I did that. I wrote a story called BELLES LETTRES AD ASTRA. A hundred years in the future the central literature would have to be be speculative fiction

(5) HOWDY. Literary Hub delivers a post “In Praise of Sci-Fi Legend Connie Willis’s Cinematic Universe” inspired by her new book Roswell.

…Centered on Francie, a young woman traveling to New Mexico to stop her college roommate’s UFO-themed wedding, Roswell is a kind of self-learning punchline algorithm. A skeptic regarding all things flying saucer, Francie is of course abducted. From there on out, the novel’s escalation through repetition is unceasing. The way Monument Valley has been mislocated in old western films, the way playing solitaire invites unsolicited advice, the way language empties itself semiotically if explained for too many hours to a cute, terrifying little alien: all turn the plot forward like fine teeth in a gearbox.

Francie eventually helps her captor, a pretty decent non-humanoid fellow, learn English thanks to the aforementioned western films. “I AINT NEVER GULLED A PARDNER,” the alien initially repeats without understanding; astute readers will hear another turn of the machine. The idea of “PARDNERS” becomes vital not only for surviving Las Vegas hotels and an Elvis-themed wedding, but essential to Francie saving her friends and at least one planet….

(6) ABOUT GOLIATH. Abigail Nussbaum is one of the participants in a “Roundtable on Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi at Strange Horizons” which she discusses at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

I mentioned Tochi Onyebuchi’s Goliath in my Hugo ballot post, and reviewed it on my blog. But the further I get away from it, the more convinced I become that this is one of the major science fiction novels of 2022, and that neither I nor the fandom as a whole have done enough to promote or discuss it. I was therefore thrilled when Strange Horizons reviews editor Dan Hartland proposed a roundtable discussion of the novel. Along with A.S. Lewis, Archita Mittra, and Jonah Sutton-Morse, it was a thrill to go deep into this remarkable, challenging book….

And here’s the link: “Tochi Onyebuchi’s Goliath: A Roundtable By Dan Hartland, A. S. Lewis, Archita Mittra, Abigail Nussbaum, and Jonah Sutton-Morse”:

Jonah Sutton-Morse: Thanks for gathering us—I’m really looking forward to this.

I have, I think, an answer to what the book is “about,” and moreso to “where did your focus wind up landing,” but I’m not sure they’re particularly satisfying, so I’m looking forward to reading other answers to this.

My focus in Goliath wound up landing on the moments and edges outside the stories that the book tells. There’s a way that Goliath is straightforwardly a story about ecological collapse, capitalism scavenging on leftover fragments, and the destructive impulses of gentrification and racism that we can see in national US news stories every day. But it struck me that, while the book was aware of that story, and expected the reader to be able to follow it (and this is a book that I found hard to follow), my focus kept falling on the pieces outside that story. The impulse to scavenge the remnants of a city is less interesting than the people who do the basic manual work of hammering the bricks. The people who leave ecological collapse are less interesting than those who remain—and even among those who left, the most interesting are those at the margins who eventually return. The mechanics of living in climate collapse, and enduring the policing that comes with the intrusion of wealth, are acknowledged but less interesting than an adventure collecting wild horses, or a group of people playing Spades and talking trash.

I don’t really like saying that this novel is “about” the lives and details around the edge of the destructive forces that regularly lead my national headlines (and I realize that the “Winter” section that Dan puts at the heart of the book at least partly complicates my reading), but it is those lives and details that my focus landed on….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

2011[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

The author of tonight’s Beginning, Saladin Ahmed is an Eisner Award-winning comic book writer for the debut of the Black Bolt series. He also wrote the Miles Morales: Spider-Man series. He is currently writing Miles Morales: Spider-Man and Exiles. Finally in this vein, I want to note his work on The Magnificent Ms. Marvel series.

His only novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, where our Beginning is from, was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 7. Dublin 2019 saw him pick up a Best Graphic Story nomination for Abbot.

He’s written but a double handful of short fiction sff stories, six of which are collected in Engraved on the Eye: Short Fantasy & Science Fiction.

And now his Beginning…

NINE DAYS. 

Beneficent God, I beg you, let this be the day I die!

The guardsman’s spine and neck were warped and bent but still he lived. 

He’d been locked in the red lacquered box for nine days. 

He’d seen the days’ light come and go through the lid-crack. Nine days. He held them close as a handful of dinars. Counted them over and over. Nine days. Nine days. Nine days. If he could remember this until he died he could keep his soul whole for God’s sheltering embrace. 

He had given up on remembering his name.

The guardsman heard soft footsteps approach, and he began to cry. Every day for nine days the gaunt, black-bearded man in the dirty white kaftan had appeared. Every day he cut the guardsman, or burned him. But worst was when the guardsman was made to taste the others’ pain.

The gaunt man had flayed a young marsh girl, pinning the guardsman’s eyes open so he had to see the girl’s skin curl out under the knife. He’d burned a Badawi boy alive and held back the guardsman’s head so the choking smoke would enter his nostrils. The guardsman had been forced to watch the broken and burned bodies being ripped apart as the gaunt man’s ghuls fed on heart-flesh. He’d watched as the gaunt man’s servant-creature, that thing made of shadows and jackal skin, had sucked something shimmering from those freshly dead corpses, leaving them with their hearts torn out and their empty eyes glowing red.

These things had almost shaken the guardsman’s mind loose. Almost. But he would remember. Nine days. Nine…. All-Merciful God, take me from this world!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as  Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which included some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis JourdanFear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two TV horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then came the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known for his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd. : Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 78. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1952 Virginia Hey, 71. Best known for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape, series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film.
  • Born June 19, 1954 Kathleen Turner, 69. One of her earliest roles was in The Man with Two Brains as Dolores Benedict. Somewhat of a Fifties retro feel with that title. Of course, she voiced sultry Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of my favorite all time films. I still haven’t seen all of the Roger Rabbit short films that were done. She voiced Constance in Monster House a few years later, and was in Cinderella, a television film where she was the lead of the Wicked Stepmother Claudette.
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 66. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok, I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer.  
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 45.  She was born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the new Trek series and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film. I’ll confess that I’ve not yet seen the other Guardians of the Galaxy films. Should I? 

(9) THEY’RE NOT LOSING AN X-MAN, THEY’RE GAINING AN AVENGER. This September, Tony Stark and Emma Frost tie the knot in the X-Men #26 and Invincible Iron Man #10 crossover event.

Today IGN exclusively revealed the upcoming connecting covers for X-MEN #26 and INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #10, which feature the long awaited wedding between Emma Frost and Tony Stark. Debuting in September, both issues are written by Gerry Duggan with art by Stefano Caselli (X-MEN #26), Juan Frigeri (INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #10), and stunning covers by Lucas Werneck.

 First, in X-MEN #26, the moment we swore would never happen—heck, the moment EMMA FROST swore would never happen—is here at last! As the Frost/Stark knot is tied, Emma’s mutant family reacts to this surprise news! Then, readers are cordially invited to the wedding of Anthony Edward Stark and Emma Grace Frost in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #10. Come join the lucky couple as they exchange vows. Attire is Hellfire formal. Orchis raid to follow. Plus some exclusive wedding extras!

(10) ROMITA JR. Q&A. “’The greatest man I’ve met’: iconic comics artist John Romita Sr. remembered by his son” at the Gothamist.

To many of our listeners, your dad was an artist who created and designed characters at both Marvel and DC. He’s best known for drawing Spider-Man in the ’60s and ’70s. He had a hand in creating Wolverine, the Punisher and Luke Cage, among others. But who was he to you?

He’s the guy who taught me how to hit a curve ball, and that was almost as [important] to me as learning how to draw Spider-Man’s eyes properly. It was so much more than just the art. I was talking to my brother about the fact that when it rained on the weekends in the summertime, we would watch old movies together and he would tell us what was about to happen. And the scenes in “On the Waterfront” have stuck with me forever since. That’s the part I remember, is how much time he spent with us.

And then he taught us so many things. It was more than just the art mentor to me – and yet he never forced anything on me, as far as art went. He told me, “I’m not gonna tell you what to do. You come to me and ask me a question. If you do something wrong, I’ll proactively act that way.” So the man just did everything right with my brother and me. It was fantastic.

Like I said, as much as he helped with my art-world life, he was that way with all aspects of our lives. He was a brilliant man….

(11) IN ANOTHER FATHER’S DAY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here’s an interesting video about the cargo vessel MS München, which vanished in December 1978 and is believed to have been sunk by a rogue wave:  I remember this case very well, though I was only five when it happened. But my Dad worked for Hapag Lloyd, the shipping company which owned the München, at the time and so the search for the missing vessel was a big topic in our home. I’m not sure if my Dad helped to design the München — he was a naval architect for Hapag Lloyd —  but he definitely knew some of those who were lost and attended the memorial service for the crew and passengers.The loss of the München also overshadowed the launch celebration for the new Hapag Lloyd cruise liner MS Europa only 8 days after the München vanished. My Mom and many other women opted to wear black evening gowns for the launch banquet.

(12) COMING ATTRACTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I had only just alerted Filers as to Matt O’Dowd’s safe distance from a supernova (see (16) in the June 15 Scroll) in his PBS Space-Time video when new research indicates that the Red Giant Betelgeuse is in the late stage of core carbon burning, and a good candidate for the next Galactic supernova. It had been thought it might be many centuries away but it could be as close as a few decades. Fortunately Betelgeuse is hundreds of light years away.  Nonetheless it should be visible in the day time and maybe some Filers who are on the young side might just witness it.  In fact it may have already exploded just that the light has not reached us…! (See the pre-print Saio, H. et al (2023) “The evolutionary stage of Betelgeuse inferred from its pulsation periods”. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.)

(13) DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE. The Smithsonian Magazine says “Cats May Have Been Domesticated Twice”. You know, given the independent nature of cats that just sounds so likely. However, the headline meant something different than what I first assumed.

Whether they were being worshipped as gods or transformed into memes, the relationship between cats and humans goes back a long ways. There are more than 500 million domestic house cats around the world, all of which are descended from a single subspecies of wildcat. But according to new research, there might have been a second, more recent (and unrelated) instance of cats becoming domesticated in China.

Most archaeologists believe that cats probably domesticated themselves more than 10,000 years ago when the fluffy little murderbeasts realized they could get an easy meal by staking out Neolithic storerooms and farms for the rats and mice that were attracted to human settlements. More cats meant fewer rodents, which meant more crops for the hard-working humans. Over time, our ancestors started taking care of the felines, leading to the modern house cat, Grennan Milliken writes for Popular Science.

But this story of a second line began a few years ago, when researchers uncovered several cat bones near Quanhucun, an early farming village in central China. The bones were about 5,300 years old and analysis of their chemistry showed these felines likely survived on a diet of grain-fed rodents, suggesting they at least hunted for dinner near the town’s millet stores.

The scientists found a few indications of domestication, according to the study recently published the journal PLOS One. First, based on the wear of its teeth, the remains of one of the cats seemed much older than the others, perhaps suggesting that someone took care of the cat as it got older, writes David Grimm for Science. These cats also were all slightly smaller than their wild counterparts, and one was even buried as a complete skeleton.

“That’s evidence of special treatment,” study author Jean-Denis Vigne tells Grimm. “Even if what we’re seeing here is not full domestication, it’s an intensification of the relationship between cats and humans.”

Further analysis showed that these cats did not descend from the same subspecies as the modern house cat, but actually belonged to a species known as “leopard cats,” Grimm reports. This means that the leopard cat lineage is genetically distinct from our modern fuzz balls….

(14) BUSINESS IS BOOMING. Apparently this “New England theater one of just 30 in the world to see this Hollywood blockbuster as intended”.

…When Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ hits theaters in July, the Providence Place Cinemas 16 in Rhode Island will present the $100 million epic in IMAX 70mm film, one of just 30 movie theaters in the world to do so.

Without getting too technical, 70mm is regarded as the best possible projection for films. Frames are more than three times larger than a typical celluloid, allowing for a much richer and fuller picture than is typically found in modern theaters….

…In addition to the upscale picture, portions of ‘Oppenheimer’ were filmed in black and white, meaning Nolan had to practically invent a new format of film.

The film about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who oversaw the development of first atomic bomb during World War II, drops on July 21. The pristine film formats will be especially pivotal in viewing the Trinity Test, the first detonation of a nuclear weapon.

“We knew that this had to be the showstopper. We’re able to do things with picture now that before we were really only able to do with sound in terms of an oversize impact for the audience, an almost physical sense of response to the film,” said Nolan in a recent interview.

(15) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Media Death Cult’s Moid Moidelhoff has just made three mini-documentaries on science fiction.  There is nothing really new here for the seasoned SF fan but some of these were shot on location.  The first video looks at SF’s origins and includes a trip to Mary Shelly’s grave and Woking’s Martian tripod.

The second video examines SF’s Golden Era with the rise of the classic pulp magazines and the big three – Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein – before moving on to Wyndham.

 He ends with the interest in dystopias, autocratic dictatorships and mutually assured destruction.  Could Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 dumbed-down world ever come about? In part, shot on location at the Jodrell Bank radio telescope and an English village that could be Midwich… The final video ponders on SF’s present-day state. There was the rise of the new wave with Moorcock and then in the US with Ellison. And we also got Dick and cyberpunk before cyberpunk, and Gibson. Could we be about to embark on the most exciting period of science fiction?

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Alan Baumler, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/14/23 A Whiter Shade Of A Pail Of Air? Probably Too Much Dry Ice – Better Scoop A Few Feet Lower

(1) CHENGDU WORLDCON ON HUGO DELAY. The Chengdu Worldcon yesterday confirmed on Twitter what Hugo co-Administrator Dave McCarty said a week ago on his Facebook page concerning when to expect the ballot:

(2) SWIPER STOP SWIPING. Music conglomerates are asking for a quarter billion dollars:“Twitter Lawsuit: Music Publishers Claim ‘Massive Copyright Infringement’”. The Hollywood Reporter has full details.

Twitter’s longstanding refusal to secure music licensing rights has come to a head with a lawsuit accusing the company of mass copyright infringement.

The three major music conglomerates — Universal, Sony and Warner — joined by a host of other publishers on Wednesday sued Twitter for at least $250 million over the alleged infringement of roughly 1,700 works for which it received hundreds of thousands of takedown notices. They allege the company “consistently and knowingly hosts and streams infringing copies of music compositions” to “fuel its business.” Twitter has rebuffed calls for it to obtain the proper licenses, according to the suit.

Twitter is the lone major social media platform without music licensing deals, which permits those sites to legally host videos and other content featuring publishers’ music. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat have all entered into agreements that compensate creators of musical compositions for use of their work….

(3) AVENGERS LEGAL ENDGAME. The Hollywood Reporter reports new court filings as “Marvel Winds Down Fight Over Avengers Characters”.

Marvel has made a major move toward ending the battle for the rights to its most iconic characters — including the Avengers — but the fight isn’t over.

Back in 2021, Marvel filed a series of lawsuits in response to copyright termination notices from Larry Lieber and the estates of Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Don Rico.

U.S. Copyright Law gives authors or their heirs the ability to essentially claw back copyrights after a certain period of time. It doesn’t cover works made for hire, which has been Marvel’s primary argument in these matters.

At issue are the rights to titles including Amazing FantasyThe AvengersCaptain AmericaDaredevilIron ManJourney Into MysteryMarvel Super-HeroesStrange TalesTales to AstonishTales of Suspense and Tomb of Dracula.

In addition to the specific art and stories in the comics, the termination notices also targeted “any character, story element, or indicia reasonably associated with the Works.”

Collectively, an extremely long list of characters has been involved, including Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch.

Marvel, represented by Dan Petrocelli and Molly Lens of O’Melveny, has apparently reached deals that resolve four of the fights, as the parties have filed joint stipulations for voluntary dismissal.

There’s one exception: No such notice has been filed in the fight over Steve Ditko’s works…. 

(4) THE PTAO. “Pratchett and Philosophy: The Tao of Sir Terry” is related by J. R. H. Lawless at Tor.com.

…This is not an exhaustive survey of those various viewpoints and concepts. Rather, this essay is an attempt to provide a flying machine’s-eye overview of just a few of the major philosophical underpinnings of Pratchett’s Tao, or “way.” Let’s jump in…

(5) ASTEROID CITY GOES BICOASTAL. SYFY Wire tells fans how to “Visit Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City Pop-up in NYC and LA”.

Wes Anderson fans in New York City and Los Angeles, get yourself suited up and head to the exclusive Asteroid City Pop-Up activations at the Landmark Theatres Sunset and Alamo Drafthouse Lower Manhattan. Both theaters cater to the cinephile crowd and are celebrating Wes Anderson’s Focus Features sci-fi / dramedy, Asteroid City — out in limited theatrical release on June 16 and wide release on June 23 — by turning both theaters into the dusty little town.

… As the Landmark was still under renovation, Holloway said it was the perfect time for Focus to swoop in and wrap the whole lobby with signage, wallpaper and lighting grabbed straight from the film. Actual costumes and props featured in film are included in the display.The Pop-Up covers two floors of the cinema. Plus, there are social media-worthy photo ops, including reproductions of the two cabins where Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman) and Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson) have their deep conversations, and the podium where General Grif Gibson (Wright) hosts the Junior Stargazer awards….

(6) A WRITER’S HEALTH MEMOIR. Madeline Ashby shares vulnerably while introducing a recipe for “Betty’s Summer Surprise Fruit Dessert” at Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup.

…My illness enjoyed hiding behind my successes. It hid inside my carry-on and my hardshell. It hid under my gel manicure. It was a deceptively-worded clause in yet another contract I had failed to sign and scan until long after the work was done. Occasionally others glimpsed it peeking out from behind my glasses, which is, I imagine, why, in the greenroom at SXSW 2018, Bruce Sterling suddenly turned to me with the dread weight of his perceptiveness and asked, “But are you okay? Really?”

Reader, I was not.

A lot of my day was spent watching loops of soothing videos. There was something democratizing about video platforms, then. People were still nervous on camera. I listened to soft-spoken men explaining crypto and whispering women explaining crystals. What I was really listening to were people talking about the beliefs which had seen them through times of crisis. This is how I found the recipe I am about to share with you…

(7) JOHN ROMITA SR. (1930-2023). Legendary comic book artist John Romita Sr., who worked on The Amazing Spider-Man, and co-created Mary Jane Watson, Wolverine and the Punisher, died June 12 at the age of 93 reports Deadline. See also the New York Times’ obit:

…Mr. Romita’s interest in drawing was encouraged at home and in school, according to a 2007 biography by Sue L. Hamilton. In 1938, he purchased two copies of the first Superman comic, keeping one safely in a bag while using the other as a drawing guide.

After graduating from high school in 1947, Mr. Romita began working as a commercial artist. But a chance meeting with a friend and former high school classmate, who worked for Stan Lee, the comic book revolutionary, led to his first big break. Mr. Romita began secretly sketching comics in pencil for his friend, who would later go over them with ink and pass them off as his own work.

Mr. Romita took his career into his own hands in the 1950s and revealed the arrangement to Mr. Lee, who in turn gave him the opportunity to work, Mr. Romita said in an interview with The Comics Reporter in 2002….

The Guardian’s David Barnett adds these details: “John Romita Sr: the Spider-Man artist was a titan of the comic-book world”.

… Spider-Man, of course, wasn’t Romita’s first comics work; not even his first chance to stamp his mark on the Marvel Universe. The man often billed in the comic credits in Stan Lee’s Barnum-esque fashion as “Jazzy” John had started work in comics in 1949, aged just 19.

His first work was uncredited, a 10-page gangster story for Timely Comics, which was the forerunner of Marvel. He cut his teeth on war, horror, science fiction and romance comics throughout the 1950s, and then late in the decade moved to DC Comics where he worked mainly on the hugely popular teen romance titles such as Young Love, Heart Throbs and Girls’ Romances.

Hearing that Romita was thinking of getting into commercial illustration after DC pulled the plug on many of its romance titles as the genre declined in popularity, Stan Lee, ever the comic book puppetmaster, met him for a three-hour lunch and persuaded him to take on Daredevil, with issue 12 of the blind superhero’s title which came out in January 1966. It’s hard not to imagine Lee quietly moving the pieces around the chessboard of his masterplan as he wrote a Daredevil issue later that year with Spider-Man (who had debuted in Amazing Fantasy issue 15 in 1962) as a guest star, to see how Romita would handle the character who – by accident, or more likely Lee’s design – was shortly to become Marvel’s flagship superhero….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2018[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Sam J. Miller has been nominated for multiple Nebula Awards along with the World Fantasy and  Sturgeon Memorial Awards with one of his two Awards to date  is a Shirley Jackson Award for his “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” story. 

By my count, he’s written nearly fifty stories and his stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s Science FictionDaily Science FictionClarkesworldLightspeed and Uncanny Magazine along with being reprinted in over fifteen year’s best collections.

The other is the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Blackfish City: A Novel which is our Beginning this time.

And now for that Beginning..

People would say she came to Qaanaaq in a skiff towed by a killer whale harnessed to the front like a horse. In these stories, which grew astonishingly elaborate in the days and weeks after her arrival, the polar bear paced beside her on the flat bloody deck of the boat. Her face was clenched and angry. She wore battle armor built from thick scavenged plastic.

At her feet, in heaps, were the kind of weird weapons and machines that refugee-camp ingenuity had been producing; strange tools fashioned from the wreckage of Manhattan or Mumbai. Her fingers twitched along the walrus-ivory handle of her blade. She had come to do something horrific in Qaanaaq, and she could not wait to start. 

You have heard these stories. You may even have told them. Stories are valuable here. They are what we brought when we came here; they are what cannot be taken away from us. The truth of her arrival was almost certainly less dramatic. The skiff was your standard tri-power rig, with a sail and oars and a gas engine, and for the last few miles of her journey to the floating city it was the engine that she used. The killer whale swam beside her. The polar bear was in chains, a metal cage over its head and two smaller ones boxing in its forepaws. She wore simple clothes, the skins and furs preferred by the people who had fled to the north when the cities of the south began to burn or sink. She did not pace. Her weapon lay at her feet. She brought nothing else with her. Whatever she had come to Qaanaaq to accomplish, her face gave no hint of whether it would be bloody or beautiful or both.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 14, 1908 Stephen Tall aka Compton Crook. Stephen Tall was the most common pseudonym of American science fiction writer Compton Newby Crook. He wrote two novels, The Ramsgate Paradox (in his Stardust series) and The People Beyond the WallThe Stardust Voyages collects the short stories in that series. The Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award was established by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in his name for best first novel in a given year. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 14, 1909 Burl Ives. No, I’m not including because of being him voicing Sam the Snowman, narrator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in that film though I could argue it is genre. No, I’m including him because he was on The Night Gallery (“The Other Way Out” episode) and appeared in several comic SF films, Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Earthbound. He also appeared in The Bermuda Depths which is more of a horror film. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 14, 1914 Ruthven Todd. He’s here for his delightful children’s illustrated quartet of Space Cat books — Space Cat, Space Cat Visits Venus, Space Cat Meets Mars and Space Cat and the Kittens. I’m pleased to say they’re available at all the usual digital suspects and yes I’ve read them. He also wrote Over the Mountain and The Lost Traveller which are respectively a lost world novel and a dystopian novel.  Side note: he was an editor of the works of William Blake which must have a really interesting undertaking! (Died 1978.)
  • Born June 14, 1921 William L. Hamling. Author and editor who was active as an sf fan in the late 1930s and early 1940s. His first story “War with Jupiter”, written with Mark Reinsberg, appeared in Amazing Stories in May 1939. He’d write only short stories, some nineteen of them, over the next twenty years. Genre adjacent, his Shadow of the Sphinx is a horror novel about an ancient Egyptian sorceress. He would be the Editor of two genre zines, Imagination for most of the Fifties, and Imaginative Tales during the Fifties as well. He published four issues of the Stardust fanzine in 1940, and contributed to the 1940 Worldcon program. He was best known for publishing adult magazines and books, which led to First Amendment litigation, and also a criminal prosecution that resulted in a jail term. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 14, 1949 Harry Turtledove, 74. I wouldn’t know where to begin with him considering how many series he’s done. I’m fairly sure I first read novels in his Agent of Byzantium series and I know his Crosstime Traffic series was definitely fun reading. He’s won two Sidewise Awards for How Few Remain and Ruled Britannia, and a Prometheus for The Gladiator. Hugos? Well there was one.  ConAdian saw him win for his “Down in the Bottomlands” novella, and his “Must and Shall” novelette picked up a nomination at L.A. Con III, and Chicon 2000 where he was Toastmaster saw his “Forty, Counting Down” honored with a nomination. 
  • Born June 14, 1955 Paul Kupperberg, 68. Scripted more a thousand stories of which I’ll only single out a very few: The Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern, Justice League of America,  House of Mystery, Justice League of America, and Star Trek. One of my favorite scripts by him was his work on The Phantom Stranger (with Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell). 
  • Born June 14, 1958 James Gurney, 65. Artist and author best known for his illustrated Dinotopia book series. He won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at L.A. Con III for Dinotopia: The World Beneath, and was twice nominated for a Hugo for Best Professional Artist. The dinosaur Torvosaurus gurneyi was named in honor of him.

(10) INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR WGA STRIKE. Variety checks in around the world: “’Screenwriters Everywhere’: Writers Strike Gets Global Support”.

From Argentina to New Zealand, support for the Writers Guild of America is officially going global.

Wednesday marks an International Day of Solidarity for the writers strike that is being branded “Screenwriters Everywhere,” with events taking place in major cities including Paris and London.

The Writers Guild of America has enlisted members from the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, Federation of Screenwriters in Europe and UNI Global Union to demonstrate global support for the union’s strike against Hollywood’s largest producers. The unprecedented rallying behind the WGA is especially relevant during this strike given the globalization of content, and the fast-growing international outposts of many “struck” companies, such as Netflix and Prime Video….

In London —

Titans of television turned up for the U.K. rally in support of WGA: “Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker, “Succession” creator Jesse Armstrong, “Doctor Who” showrunner Russell T. Davies and “His Dark Materials” writer Jack Thorne were among those who came to show solidarity with their U.S. counterparts.

Russell T Davies said:

…Russell T Davies was typically forthright about why he had made the effort to come down to London for the rally. “This is a fight to the death for drama,” he told Variety. “We’re looking at processes and software and attitudes and hostility that could drive these people into other jobs. These could be teachers and clerks and shop assistants in a few years time because our jobs are being erased. Absolutely erased with a happy smile on the accountants’ faces.”…

(11) STARFIELD. Forbes contributor Paul Stassi tries to wrap his brain around an elaborate video game that arrives in three months: “I Don’t Even Understand How ‘Starfield’ Exists”.

Microsoft promised that after all this time, we would finally get a proper look at Bethesda’s Starfield, set to be released in just over three months. No more in-engine footage, no more brief previews. Starfield instead did a showcase that was nearly as long as Xbox’s entire show. And I don’t think anyone expected it to be as wild as it was.

Very clearly, Starfield is using elements of No Man’s Sky as a base. A thousand planets, instead of infinite ones, but the same concept: exploration. Plus mining, plus cataloguing wildlife, plus building homes and finding ships to sail the stars.

But soon enough, the similarities stop, and you remember that oh wait, there’s also an entire mainline Bethesda RPG layered on top of this, and also, they are doing some things that almost sound too insane to be real….

Believe me, I understand how AAA video game hype works. We all remember being fooled by early looks at Cyberpunk 2077 or the aforementioned No Man’s Sky. But this feels different, namely because this game comes out in three months. This is not some years-early preview, and Bethesda has famously barely shown us anything about the game to this point outside of a few scarce minutes of gameplay and proofs of concept. What we’re seeing here is what the game is. Nothing is going to be cut or reduced in scale at this point.

There are questions, sure. How many of the thousand planets will have two neat buildings and then you move on? Or is there true exploration to be found? And just how buggy will this game launch, given that A) it’s this absolutely massive and B) it’s a Bethesda game, home of the most voluminous and hilarious bugs in the industry?

But it is hard not to be blown away by what was shown yesterday….

(12) DIDJA SEE THAT?! Inverse says “A Nearby Supernova Could Be Our Chance to Hear From Aliens”.

… The trick, of course, is that interstellar communication isn’t quick. Imagine there’s a three-car pileup on your street; you look out your window and see it, then yell downstairs to your neighbor, telling them to go take a look. All of that can happen within a matter of seconds.

But the space version takes a lot longer. Let’s say a star 21 million light years away explodes; it takes 21 million years for the light to reach you so that you can see the explosion. You send a radio message to your interstellar neighbor about 100 light years away, but that message will take 100 years to reach them.

Meanwhile, you’ve got to consider how far from the supernova your interstellar neighbor lives. Will the light from the explosion have reached them by the time they can hear your radio message?

As an example, Cabrales suggested that 32 star systems should already have seen the bright afterglow of SN 1987A, a supernova in our own Milky Way galaxy that lit up Earth’s skies in (you guessed it) 1987. If there’s anyone manning radio telescopes and transmitters on a planet around any of those stars, they’d have had time to see it and send a signal, and that signal would have had time to reach us here on Earth….

(13) MOVE OVER HABITABLE ZONES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] When considering the possibility of extraterrestrial life (exobiology) around other stars, astronomers often use the concept of the star’s ‘habitable zone’. There is now a new proposal put forward by three astrophysicists and a microbiologist all of whom are based in the US. This new concept is what they call the ‘photosynthetic habitable zone’.  

The ‘photosynthetic habitable zone’ is the overlap between two other zones: the ‘photosynthetic zone’ and the ‘habitable zone’. The ‘photosynthetic zone’ is different from the ‘habitable zone’.  The former, as the researchers define it, is where Earth-biology-type oxygen generating photosynthesis can take place, while the latter is where liquid water can exist on the planetary surface. (I mention Earth-biology-type photosynthesis which uses two non-oxygen generating photosynthetic systems – one gives a leg up to the other to get the energy to split water – as it has been hypothesised that a three photosystem mechanism might evolve around slightly redder stars than our own but the researchers do not include this.)

The photosynthesis zone is actually bigger than the habitable zone (as, for example, on Earth there are microbes that can photosynthesise while living in snow and ice).  So what you need to do is to look at the overlap between the two to get the ‘photosynthetic habitable zone’.

The researchers have done this plotting graphs for planets of varying atmospheric thickness (the thicker the atmosphere the less light reaches its surface for photosynthesis) with one axis of the graph being the star’s size and the other the distance of the exoplanet’s orbit from its star.  The graph shown here is for planets whose atmospheric thickness is similar to Earth’s.  There is a further refinement in that the planet should not be tidally locked to its star. (In the graph the upper limit is for those planets that take a billion years to become tidally locked.)

The researchers have plotted photosynthetic zone and habitable zone exo-planets on the graph. They identify just five that are in the photosynthetic habitable zone (PHZ) that are not tidally locked: Kepler-452b, Kepler-1638b, Kepler-1544b, Kepler-62e, and Kepler-62f, that are consistently in the PHZ. Of these, Kepler-452b seems to have conditions most like Earth. Kepler 452b was discovered in 2015. It is around 1,400 light years away (430 parsecs away) from Manchester’s Festival of Fantastic Films and a decent pint of beer. It is suggested that Kepler-452b be the focus of study looking for biosignatures. However, it is a long way off.

The primary research paper proposing this new concept is Hall, C. et al (2023) “A New Definition of Exoplanet Habitability: Introducing the Photosynthetic Habitable Zone”. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 948, L26.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George knows what it’s like to be going through airport security before the crack of dawn. You probably know, too. So how come you didn’t make this video instead of him? “Early Flights When You’re Not A Morning Person”.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/20 Old Possum’s Scroll Of Practically Universal Robotic Cats

(1) DITMAR NOMINATIONS OPEN. Nominations for the 2020 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, March 1, 2020 (ie. 11.59 p.m., GMT+8). The current rules, including Award categories can be found at: here.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 2020, the 2020 Australian National SF Convention.

A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here.

(2) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. Genre triumphed: “Jordan Peele and Lupita Nyong’o Win Big for Us at NAACP Image Awards”ComicBook.com has the story.

After many thought Lupita Nyongo’o and Jordan Peele were snubbed from Oscar nominations this year for their work on Us, the duo ended up winning big at the NAACP Image Awards. By the time the annual gala was over Saturday night, Peele had won Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture while Nyong’o won Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.

…Despite receiving zero nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Peele-directed horror flick also managed to win big elsewhere this awards season. Peele won Best Director at this summer’s Saturn Awards while Nyong’o won Best Actress with the Hollywood Critics Association and more. As a whole, the movie’s biggest award came during the Critics’ Choice Awards, where it won Best Sci-fi/Horror movie.

(3) ORIGINAL COMICS ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions is in the internet bidding phase of its 2020 March 5 – 8 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction – Dallas #7224. This Spider-Man cover has already been bid up to $135,000.

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #51 Cover Kingpin Original Art (Marvel, 1967). One of the finest Amazing Spider-Man covers we have ever had! It was the Kingpin’s very first cover appearance, and it set the image of the character in many fan’s heads for decades to come….

(4) SEND THE TARDIS TO DUBLIN. Nicholas Whyte wishes Doctor Who spent more time in Ireland – like any at all. He has written a rundown on the Irishness of the TV show, book adaptations, audio dramas, and comics. You might say there is more green in Tom Baker’s trademark scarf than the rest of the show combined.

It is a sad fact that up to the present day (choosing my words *very* carefully here), not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, hitherto the Doctor spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

However, the real life relationship between Doctor Who and Ireland is much stronger. Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s grandmother was from Northern Ireland – his grandfather was a professional footballer, whose record of 57 goals for Derry City in a single season still stands. Lalla Ward, who played the second incarnation of Romana and was briefly married to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, is the daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor; their family home was Castle Ward in County Down, better known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell.

And lucky kids in Belfast and Derry were thrilled one day in 1978 when the Fourth Doctor himself turned up at their school…

(5) CHEWHACKA. ComicBook.com points readers to a video that teaches how “Disneyland Guests Unlock Secret ‘Chewbacca Mode’ on Millenium Falcon Ride, and You Can Too”.

…The hack has to be done like an old video game cheat code. You need to make certain inputs by a certain time in order to bring “Chewie mode” online. Here is a video and written instruction from the FreshBaked YouTube Channel, which specializes in Disneyland tips and tricks:

(6) TRIBBLES BY THE NUMBERS. Although now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, that wasn’t enough. Ars Technica learned that scientists wanted the answer to yet another question: “Physics undergrads crunched numbers for Star Trek’s tribble problem”.

Chalk this one up to fun scientific papers we inexplicably missed last year. A group of undergraduates at the University of Leicester in the UK calculated the growth rate of the fictional Star Trek critters known as tribbles. They published their results in a short paper in the university’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating just how long it would take for there to be enough tribbles to fill up the USS Enterprise….

(7) VENUSIAN ROVER DESIGN CHALLENGE. NASA is summoning the public to help create new technology for a mission to a “hellish” planet: “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover”.

…Imagine a world hot enough to turn lead into a puddle, where the atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine. Now imagine sending a rover to explore that world. 

Venus, ancient sister of Earth with a planetary environment just this side of hellish, has been visited by a handful of probes since the early days of space flight.  Of the many missions to our celestial neighbor, only about a dozen have made contact with the surface of the planet. The longest-lived landers only managed to function for a couple of hours before succumbing to the relentlessly oppressive heat and pressure.

… Current, state-of-the-art, military-grade electronics fail at approximately 125°C, so mission scientists at JPL have taken their design cues from a different source: automatons and clockwork operations. Powered by wind, the AREE mission concept is intended to spend months, not minutes, exploring the landscape of our sister world. Built of advanced alloys, AREE will be able to collect valuable long-term longitudinal scientific data utilizing both indirect and direct sensors.

As the rover explores the surface of Venus, collecting and relaying data to an orbiter overhead, it must also detect obstacles in its path like rocks, crevices, and steep terrain. To assist AREE on its groundbreaking mission concept, JPL needs an equally groundbreaking obstacle avoidance sensor, one that does not rely on vulnerable electronic systems. For that reason, JPL is turning to the global community of innovators and inventors to design this novel avoidance sensor for AREE. JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity.

This sensor will be the primary mechanism by which the potential rover would detect and navigates through dangerous situations during its operational life. By sensing obstacles such as rocks, crevices, and inclines, the rover would then navigate around the obstruction, enabling the rover to continue to explore the surface of Venus and collect more observational data.

CNN assures everyone:

Don’t have an engineering degree? Doesn’t matter. Never seen a spacecraft in real life? No problem.

“JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity,” NASA said.

The 1st-place winner of the design contest will get up to $15,000, the 2nd-place winner will get up to $10,000, and the 3rd-place winner will get $5,000.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire premiered.  It was a Western serial film with elements of SF and musical theater as well. It was directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason. It starred the singing cowboy himself Gene Autry along with Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross. In 1940, a feature film edited from the serial was released as either Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. It was a box office success earning back its seventy-five thousand dollar budget.  The very few audience members who gave it a rating at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it hence the 27% rating there. You can see the first chapter here.
  • February 23, 1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered. This was the first science fiction television show to be entirely pre-filmed (instead of being televised live as was the case with Captain Video, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett.) It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and rather decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it, unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. You can see the first episode here.
  • February 23, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that it’s birthday but let’s skip past that please. It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialized in satirizing popular SF series and films — the Wiki article states that three episodes were based upon actualTrek episodes, though that can’t be confirmed. It lasted but eight episodes beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here. here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.  Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which I highly recommend. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties story editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 55. Founder, Tachyon Publications, which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 37. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Muppets, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, The Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 18. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • And let’s catch up with Tom Gauld –

(11) LEAP BEER. On February 29 Ology Brewing Company in Tallahassee, Florida will combine the debut of their Tropical Habitat beer – “inspired by the Southern Reach trilogy” – with a book signing by Jeff VanderMeer.

To honor our friendship with Jeff VanderMeer, Tallahassee resident and author of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we are releasing Tropical Habitat, a tropical, otherworldly Hazy Double IPA at a special Book Signing and Meet & Greet event alongside the release of three other beers (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged American Sour, and Fruit Beer).

A portion of Tropical Habitat sales (both cans and tap pours) will benefit the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (The Salamander Project) and honor the setting of the trilogy book series and one of our team’s favorite places – the North Florida Coast.

(12) BEHIND THE VEIL. Cora Buhlert put up another evaluation of a Retro-eligible work: “Retro Review: ‘The Veil of Astellar’ by Leigh Brackett”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Uncommon for Leigh Brackett, “The Veil of Astellar” begins with a framing story about a manuscript found inside a message rocket sent to the Interworld Space Authority headquarters on Mars. This manuscript offers an explanation of the space phenomenon called “the Veil” which comes out of nowhere and swallows spaceships in the asteroid belt. The space police officers are initially sceptical about the account, but eventually manage to determine that it is authentic. Furthermore, the much feared Veil has vanished and the message inside the rocket explains why….

(13) HEARTFIELD CLASS. Cat Rambo shared “Highlights from Writing Interactive Fiction,” taught online by Kate Heartfield.  Thread starts here.

(14) QUINN AGAIN, BEGIN AGAIN. A.V.Club: “DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is coming back for another season in April”.

We’re going through a Harley Quinnaissance at the moment, even if Birds Of Preydidn’t light up the box office, and it looks like DC Universe is eager to keep it going. As announced on Twitter, the streaming service (which still exists and has yet to be swallowed up by HBO Max!) will already be getting a new season of the Harley Quinn animated series in April. The first season just premiered at the end of 2019, so this will be a surprisingly short wait for a chance to hear more DC comic book characters say “fuck” and get beat up in surprisingly violent ways. Also, maybe this time Harley and Poison Ivy will end up together? Or maybe they won’t and that’s okay too? Either way, DC Universe has to hold onto something that fans want to see, or else HBO Max will just quietly roll up and take over. Then Harley Quinn’s going to have to hang out with the Friendsinstead of Poison Ivy, and nobody wants that.

(15) IF YOU DON’T SLING THE LINGO. BBC asks: “Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films”.

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

(16) THE CALL OF THE UNWILD. Yours truly used to live a few blocks from where this happened: “Wild bear roams streets of California neighbourhood” (video). The bears didn’t come down to our block, but coyotes, skunks, and possums did.

A wild bear has been sedated and captured after it was seen roaming in a residential area in Monrovia, California.

The 28.3 stone (180kg) elderly female walked through residential areas close to Angeles National Forest.

A mild California winter could be a possible reason for the sighting, as warmer weather causes bears to leave their dens in search of food.

(17) HOMEMADE ASTRONAUT AND ROUND EARTH SKEPTIC DIES. The earth may not be flat, but now he is: “‘Mad’ Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket”.

A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.

A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.

Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.

Video at TMZ.

(18) SEEKER. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe: “Until the End of Time: Physicist Brian Greene on the Poetry of Existence and the Wellspring of Meaning in Our Ephemeral Lives Amid an Impartial Universe”.

…Although science is Greene’s raw material in this fathoming — its histories, its theories, its triumphs, its blind spots — he emerges, as one inevitably does in contemplating these colossal questions, a testament to Einstein’s conviction that “every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist.”

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. Jeffrey Lyles succumbs to the Hasbro advertising — “Check out the incredible trailer for Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege” – at Lyles Movie Files.

I’ve been impressed with my ability to not get sucked into Hasbro’s Transformers’ Siege line. Those figures really look impressive, but I’m trying to keep my Transformers purchases to the Masterpiece line. But now with the release of Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy trailer, I’m thinking my resolve is about to crumble especially given how good this series looks.

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